An ACRE conference on the future of the EU after Brexit packed a room in Riga, Latvia on the 31st of March.
During the conference the Alliance's members from the Eastern EU countries laid out their case on the priorities for the negotiation talks as well as for the Union's future relationship with the United Kingdom.
Roberts Zīle, member of the ECR group in the European Parliament, also took part in one of the two panel discussions. According to Zīle, the EU's Eastern Member States have a number of priorities when it comes to Brexit negotiations and the final outcome.
"To date, the UK has stood for the interests of the so-called new EU Member States -- whether that be the defence or other policies. Moreover, Britain has also often been a noticeable counterweight to other interests in the EU. It is thus important for the EU's Eastern Member States to ensure that Britain remains as close a partner to us as possible," noted Zīle.
Mr Zīle also noted the importance of having Britain a close partner to the EU.
"The EU itself also has to understand that the UK has been and will be a European country. The talk of punishing the country in the Brexit talks is unhelpful at the very least as that is souring the mood even before the actual negotiations have even begun. It is in the EU's interests, too, to work out an amicable deal as Europe is stronger together -- whether that be from trade or policy point of view. And let us not forget that the UK arguably has the closest relationship with the United States which is an important aspect when considering the continent's defence capabilities," said Mr Zīle.
Other speakers, including Sarah Harper, Deputy Head of Mission to Latvia as well as Zanda Kalniņa-Lukaševica, Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Latvia, discussed the political, economic and social aspects of Brexit and the withdrawal's short- and long-term impact on Latvia, the Euro Area, the European Union and indeed the wider world.
The timing of the event is important as on March 29 the United Kingdom officially triggered the Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union and thus formally began the process of withdrawal from the European Union.