Remarks by President Donald Tusk before his meeting with Latvian Prime Minister Māris Kučinskis

Met dank overgenomen van Europese Raad i, gepubliceerd op donderdag 8 september 2016.

Good afternoon. I am very happy to be back in Riga. In fact, it is my third visit here since becoming President of the European Council. I wish to thank Prime Minister Kučinskis for his warm welcome.

Today we will discuss the prospects for our summit next week in Bratislava. I am convinced that the summit must be about bringing back political control of our common future. And that it must be about bringing back a strong sense of political community.

It is a clear lesson from the outcome of the referendum in the UK - but one which is equally valid across Europe: people are worried about the phenomena which seem to be out of control - migration, terrorism, external threats, or the negative consequences of globalisation. We have to confront those issues and demonstrate our determination, and our capacity, to ensure on the one hand the openness of Europe, while on the other the protection of our citizens. Much of this is under the responsibility of Member States, but the EU can assist them. The European Union must help provide a renewed sense of security and stability to Europeans.

Earlier today I was in London, where I met Prime Minister May. I informed her of our meeting in Bratislava, and she informed me of the current thinking in the British government regarding Brexit.

I know that Brexit is a particular concern for Latvia, because so many of your citizens reside in the UK. Our goal is clear: to establish the closest possible relations between the EU and the UK. It is obvious that, once the negotiations begin, securing the rights of EU citizens living in the UK will also be a key objective for us. And it is equally clear that our future relationship with the UK requires a balance of rights and obligations - any access to the Single Market must be based on the four freedoms, including the freedom of movement.

But the negotiations cannot begin until the UK activates the process for withdrawal. Article 50 of the Treaty is very clear. In fact, it is there to protect the interests of the countries remaining in the EU. I told Prime Minister May that I am convinced that it is in everyone's best interest that we start negotiations soon, to reduce and eventually end the uncertainty. Thank you.