Sintija Bernava, European Union Coordinator,  Working Group 4 ”Contacts between People” Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum, Steering Committee Member, Chairwoman of the Board NGO”DONUM ANIMUS” (Latvia), addressed the UNP EaP CSF members.

Dear Ruslan and  the Ukrainian National Platform members,

Latvia has started its  Presidency of the Council of Europe and this is Latvia’s second presidency since joining the organisation in 1995. The Latvian Presidency will keep the issue of Russia’s accountability for its crimes committed against Ukraine. Latvia emphasizes – Ukraine must receive all the support it needs and we stand in full solidarity with Ukraine. The ongoing aggression of the Russian Federation against Ukraine threatens the rules-based order and undermines democratic values. 

The priorities of the Latvian Presidency: strengthening democracy and the rule of law; promoting freedom of expression, journalists’ safety and the digital agenda of the Council of Europe. The Member States of the Council of Europe have reaffirmed their unwavering support to the sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity of Ukraine and call on the Russian Federation to comply with its international obligations and withdraw its forces from Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova.  Russia must bear full legal and financial responsibility for its aggression and violations of international law.

Attacks against civilian population and critical infrastructure are deplorable. The destruction of the Nova Kakhovka dam in the Kherson region of Ukraine is another example of Russia’s brutality. The first practical step towards a future international  compensation mechanism have been taken  and  Latvia is proud  to be among the founding members of the Register of Damage. During Presidency, Latvia will  advance its operational launch and the first meeting of participants of the  Register of Damage at the end of June must address the practical steps  going forward.  We should continue the implementation of already existamage and   Latvia invites  all member States of the Council of Europe  and beyond to join this initiative. We should continue the implementation of already existing initiatives  in support of Ukraine.  The Action Plan on Resilience, Recovery, and  Rebuilding of Ukraine being one of these. Latvia recently provided a  financial contribution to this action plan.International efforts must continue to establish a special tribunal for the  crime of aggression. 

The Latvian Presidency will diligently work towards strengthening democracy and the rule of law, promotion of freedom of expression, safety of journalists. Latvia as Presidency is  committed to promote the freedom of speech,  protection of journalists and media professionals, including during  conflicts and wartime. 

Latvia will devote particular importance to the rule of law through a more  effective functioning of justice system. The resilience of the Ukrainian  judicial system at the time of war and post-war reconstruction will be  amongst the topics of the Justice Ministers’ conference in September.

More needs to be done  on the issue of forcible  transfer of Ukrainian children and  to investigate  these unlawful practices by Russia, and to ensure children’s return 
home.  In September, Latvia will organize an Informal Conference of European Justice Ministers to provide a platform for discussion on how to advance Russia’s accountability, as well as the issue of reuniting Ukrainian children with their families.

The Presidency will address the crucial role of education and youth in promoting democracy and the rule of law. The Latvian Presidency will focus on increasing the transparency, and the civil society and youth must be involved in the policy discussion processes.

Latvia will stand with Ukraine as   long as it takes.

Слава Україні!

Sintija Bernava

Steering Committee Member, Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum 
European Union Coordinator,  Working Group  ”Contacts between People”

Chairwoman of the Board
Non Governmental Organization “DONUM ANIMUS”