Expert: there are no reasons to believe Latvia could change its Euro-Atlantic direction
There are no reasons for concerns that Latvia’s new government may change the country’s Euro-Atlantic direction. Nevertheless, the question how Latvia positions itself in the Euro-Atlantic community will remain topical, says director of the Latvian Institute of International Affairs Andris Sprūds.
He believes Latvia has stabilized sufficiently. He believes the recent elections did not turn out decisive in relation to the possible change of the foreign policy course. At the same time, Latvia still has certain foreign policy challenges. One of them is the way Latvia wishes to see itself in the Euro-Atlantic community.
«A choice is outlined between the model used by Nordic Countries and the Central European model used by Poland and Hungary. Sweden has absolute media freedom, horizontal society in which integration is important. Sweden functions as a well-oiled mechanism. In Central Europe, on the other hand, Poland and Hungary for example use a degree of verticality in their governance. Media are controlled and opposition limited. Elements of nationalism are present, as well as attempts to form policy through conflict, not politics based on cooperation,» the expert explains.
The institute’s director says that followers of the two models might clash within the potential government. In this case, Latvia may experience a problem with approval of Latvia’s position in regards to the vote to application of sanctions against Poland or Hungary.
Sprūds notes that the image is the most important factor for small countries will small budgets. According to him, there is a risk of the next government having a harder time creating a positive image for Latvia in the next four years. Taking a similar political course as those in Poland and Hungary would hurt Latvia’s image. «If we do not want to be referred to as post-Soviet countries, taking such a course would only remind other countries of our Soviet past,» said the expert, adding that a small country’s resources include its image, residents, government and the entire government structure working together.
«We have seen that in many previous crises, such as the one in 2014, when Latvia had to react to the crisis in Ukraine, just how much our political elite was ready for dealing with extreme situations. If the next government is hastily put together, we may have to question its readiness to resolve crisis situations. At the same time, we do have a very professional foreign affairs service. But this is not just about institutional elements but the political element in crisis situations,» says the director. According to him, Latvia should avoid choosing between Poland and Germany. «The ability to manoeuvrer between large countries and regional formations is important. Generally speaking, it is clear that Europe is the main front for foreign policy, because European Parliament elections are steadily drawing closer. After that, we will have to elect a new European Council. Latvia will have to consider its new representatives in EC,» says Sprūds, adding that the next prime minister, foreign affairs minister and president will have to know several languages, understand the environment and form networks, which is vital for a small country.