A new building will be constructed for the State Security Service in an area in Riga where Marss velodrome was formerly located, which means that the proposed development of a park in the area, suggested by residents of the VEF neighborhood, will most likely not happen.
The Security Service told LETA that the decision to build a new Security Service building at this location was made in 2017, but construction would begin this year. The Security Service has not informed the public about the intention until now, because it was not entitled to disclose information in order not to violate the provisions of the Law on State Secrets. Now however, it has been decided in the public interest to declassify some of the information about the Security Service development project.
The Security Service needs a new building because at the moment, various departments of the service are located in several buildings, some of which are dilapidated. “In view of technological development and ever-increasing security challenges,” the current facilities of the Security Service will become inadequate in the near future to meet the needs of a NATO and European Union member country’s special service. For this reason, the service needs “new, suitable facilities to meet today’s security challenges”.
“The mission of the State Security Service is to protect the security of the Latvian state and society, which is the basis for the development of the Latvian state and the well-being of its residents. Therefore, construction of a modern building for the service’s purposes is in the public interest,” the Security Service said in a statement. Taking into account the aggressive foreign policies and activities of special services of countries hostile to Latvia, strengthening of the Security Service’s capacity is very important in the current geopolitical context, and it is also in the collective security interests of NATO and the EU.
Construction of the new building of the Security Service is to start this year in order to prevent the risk that the premises currently used by the service may become inadequate for the protection of state secrets and the EU and NATO classified information. That would make it very difficult for the Security Service to cooperate with Latvia’s allies, the service said in its media statement.
The Cabinet of Ministers approved construction of a new building for the State Security Service already back in 2008, but the project was put on hold in 2009 due to the general financial crisis. “Over the years, the need for new and up-to-date premises for the service has become increasingly pressing,” which is why in August 2017, the government decided to allot financing for the construction of the Security Service’s building at 207 Brivibas Street in Riga.
Since then, a lot has been done for implementation of the project – an engineering geological survey has been carried out, a construction project has been prepared, cooperation with construction supervisors has commenced and other preparatory work has been done, which has cost several million euros. The State Security Service points out that designing the new facility, given the high security requirements, is very specific, complicated and time consuming.
The Security Service’s statement also makes several disparaging remarks about the activists who want to establish a park in the area. According to the service, the area designated for the construction of the building is degraded and unused, and according to the current Riga territorial development plan, which has been in force since 2006, this land plot has always been intended for construction of a building there. “The public has been deceived by allegations that a park could be developed in the area,” the Security Service said.
As for the possibility of reconstructing an unused, state-owned building to meet the needs the Special Service, the service said that, from the standpoint of security, it would be technically more complex and also more expensive to rebuild an existing facility, therefore construction of a new building is the optimal solution.
The Security Service also points out that it is untrue that the degraded area is “full of centuries-old trees”. According to the service, most of the area is currently covered by thick overgrown shrubs. “The large oak tree as well as several other trees in the area will be preserved,” the Security Service points out, adding that new trees will be planted around the building.
Meanwhile, a public initiative calling for preservation of trees and setting up a park in the former velodrome Marss area has been submitted to Saeima earlier this week, Linda Sleja, a spokeswoman for innovation movement Vefresh, told LETA.
In just one month, several nongovernmental organizations have managed to collect more than 15,500 signatures in support of the initiative. The signature drive was launched “to prevent the felling of dozens of decades-old trees and to restore a public green area where the Mars velodrome used to be”.