Ex­pert: there are no rea­sons to be­lieve Latvia could change its Euro-At­lantic di­rec­tion

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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.

Ieva Čīka/LETA

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