Latvia Report


Main Actors

There is fairly well-established formal and informal coordination and cooperation in the framework of national security and state defence. Though it is difficult to pinpoint a distinct approach in regard to external crises and conflicts from (internal) national security and state defence, all relevant ministries and other institutions are covered by the respective regulations and mechanisms.
Most engaged in dealing with external crises and conflicts are the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Defence, and the Ministry of Interior as well as their subordinate institutions, such as the National Armed Forces and the State Border Guard.
The Saeima, as the parliament is called, is in charge of the main strategic decisions regarding national security and state defence, including adopting laws and strategies related to national security and state defence, as well as approving deployments of Latvian troops abroad. Meanwhile, the Cabinet of Ministers is tasked with implementing the policies adopted by the Saeima and operational tasks, as well as deciding on deployments for international rescue and humanitarian operations (Saeima 2000).
The National Security Law tasks the Cabinet of Ministers with dealing with threats to the state, while each ministry is responsible for planning for and countering threats to the state in its respective field of responsibility (ibid.).
Among the national inter-institutional coordination mechanisms, two have to be underlined. First, the National Security Council, tasked with coordination of national security policy, consists of the president of Latvia, the chairperson of the parliament, the prime minister, chairpersons of two committees of the parliament, and the ministers of defence, foreign affairs and the interior. Second is the Crisis Management Council, which is tasked with operational-level coordination issues. It consists of the prime minister and the ministers of defence, foreign affairs, economics, finance, the interior, justice, health, transport and communications, environmental protection and regional development (ibid.).
Issues related to significant external crises and conflicts are dealt with by the National Security Council, whose work is usually not discussed in detail publicly. It is generally considered to be an effective coordination mechanism at the highest political level. The Crisis Management Council tends to be seen as a reactive rather than a proactive mechanism for operational-level issues (Official of the Ministry of Defence of Latvia 2019).
Coordination is also formalised in the aforementioned institutions. In the Saeima, the main committees involved with issues related to external crises and conflicts are: the Foreign Affairs Committee; the Defence, Internal Affairs and Corruption Prevention Committee; and the National Security Committee. Furthermore, ministries have internal structures that are responsible for focusing on internal and external crises and conflicts. For example, in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, there is a NATO and European Security Policy Division as well as an International Operations and Crisis Management Division (Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Latvia 2019a), whereas there is a Crisis Management Department in the Ministry of Defence (Ministry of Defence of Latvia 2019).
Informal mechanisms, such as those between the ministries of Foreign Affairs and Defence, are functioning fairly well. Since the number of persons working on the respective issues is not vast, officials often participate in the same exercises and jointly coordinate their draft legislation, policy or operational issues (Official of the Ministry of Defence of Latvia 2019; Official of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Latvia 2019).
Engagement with civil society actors regarding external crises and conflicts, however, is unbalanced. Experts from thinktanks and universities are involved in consulting with the authorities on external affairs in general terms, while non-governmental organisations are involved in consulting on and implementing development-cooperation activities (Cabinet of Ministers of Latvia 2016). At the same time, non-governmental actors do not have any significant impact on major decisions regarding external crises and conflicts, such as whether Latvian troops should be deployed on international missions or operations abroad. To be fair, such decisions regarding participation have not been widely contested by civil society, apart from forms of activism regarding the Second Iraq War.
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