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Latvia in the Aftermath of 1991

Alexandra Goman

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Riga Latvia 1991

Latvia along with other Baltic States was the first to break ties with the Soviet Union in 1990-1991. It has been West-oriented ever since, trying to move away from Russia as far as possible.  It had been rapidly modernizing its economy to bridge the gap with other European countries. The results of such reforms were, first, joining the NATO in March 2004, and then, becoming a part of the European Union two months after.

Such distance from Russia resulted in a new driving force for Latvian rhetoric. It started to represent Russia as an aggressive massive neighbour, trying to return its borders. Ever since the collapse of the USSR, the Soviets were shown as occupants who replaced Nazi-regime. Following this approach, it meant that Latvia placed the Soviets at the same level with the Nazis. This way of thinking has been evolving and becoming more powerful each day.

Following the events in Ukraine, especially after the Crimean annexation, these assumptions seem to be on the rise. The relations with Russia have begun rapidly deteriorating.  However, these interpretations of the events are different between Latvia and Russia. This, unfortunately, impairs any positive developments between the countries.

This article presents Latvian political discourse after 1991 through post-structuralistic approach (a theory in international relations). The theory itself has caused many controversies in the international relations. Many claimed that it is not a reliable theory, because it failed to establish any new theoretical basis that is able to provide scholars with an authentic framework to comprehend relations between countries (Blair, 2011; Jarvis, 2000; Selby, 2007). However, the very fact that it has generated so much heated arguments makes an immense contribution to the school of IR.

To briefly give an outline of the theory, we can start by saying that relations between countries may be understood by means of a structure that is different from reality and abstract ideas. It claims that there is no neutral point of view from which anyone can access knowledge. As Scott Burchill (2013, p.190) writes, “There is no ‘truth’, only competing interpretations. Knowledge is dependent on power. Though in philosophy and social frameworks, it has to be free from any external influences and be based on rationality, it was Kant (1991, p. 115).  who cautioned that “the possession of power inevitably corrupts the free judgment of reason”.

In Nietzsche works, for instance, it is noted that by saying something about the world, a person inevitably says something about the perception of the world (Bleiker and Chou 2010, p. 9). That means that people treat facts and phenomena according to their assumptions and previous knowledge, acquired over time and later codified in language (Ibid.). Peoples’ mind is reflected by the means of language; in its turn, how the mind works depend on language. Our mind is able to construct and produce knowledge. Further, this knowledge constructs reality in which society lives.

The reality of the people who live in Latvia (yet, hardly of the people with the status of “non-citizens”[1]) is that Latvia was occupied by the USSR. On 22 August 1996, the Latvian parliament declared that the Soviet Occupation of Latvia in 1940 was a military occupation and, therefore, illegal under the law (Case of Kononov v. Latvia, 2010). Moreover, along with the government of Latvia, it has been recognized by the United States of America and the European Union. The occupation of Latvia is usually supported with the provisions of the 1939 Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact and its Secret Additional Protocol of August 1939 with Nazy Germany[2], when both countries divided their spheres of influence. However, Russia itself did not acknowledge the impact of the pact on the sovereignty of Latvia, therefore did not admit the occupation.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Latvia says that “The Latvian Government of 1940 had to decide between a hopeless, bloody resistance and acquiescence to an ultimatum under the threat of overwhelming military force. The regime was… under the guise of legality”[3]. It concluded that its destiny over the next 50 years was sealed by external secret treaties, protocols and agreements. This trauma drives the current political discourse after it 1991. It does not recognize the Soviet input into economy and aims to erase the history that unites Russia and Latvia.

This knowledge drives political discourse of Latvia for a long time as well as it is being delivered in all the schools of Latvia. It is told on the streets, written in the newspapers and shown on the walls of the Occupation Museum of Latvia. Yet, another historical point of view is often disregarded.

For example, according to the editor of the book in IV volumes “Latvians and Latvia”, Janis Stradins, during the Soviet time there were not only repression and oppression, but also positive things (Freecity, 2014). Apart from the presence of attributes of a sovereign state, Latvia was developing as a nation. “Latvians and Latvia” represents Soviet time only from one negative aspect. What it does not mention is that during that time many economic sectors were thriving. For instance, the largest factory of electronics and the leading communication technology producer in the USSR, Valsts elektrotehnikas fabrika (State Electrotechnical Factory) was rapidly developing. In addition, new medicine was being discovered and new technologies were being created. “Latvians have had an ability to express themselves”, says Stradins (Ibid.).

The way how one piece of history is represented results from the notion of genealogy that expresses relation of knowledge and power. As Roland Bleiker (2000, p. 25) says, “genealogies focus on the process by which we have … given meaning to particular representations of the past, representations that continuously guide our daily lives and set clear limits to political and social options”. Likewise, interpretations of the Soviet past by Latvia leave strong imprint on its society and guide peoples’ thinking and attitudes towards modern Russia. This, therefore, leads to the particular behavior when it comes to international relations.

Following the theory, these formed attitudes have been possible because power and knowledge are mutually supportive. In 1991 when Russia was recovering from its own political and economic decline, Latvia was enthusiastically celebrating its independence, freedom from the enemy. Textual construction of the USSR began with horrors and violence of the past, omitting many advantages, because it was not beneficial for political power. Russia, on the other hand, was not politically strong to be involved on that matter. This rhetoric remained in the hearts of the Latvian people that is why the nationalist political party received so much support from its population.

In this way, political power seeks its support in knowledge and at the same time it creates knowledge. Thus, knowledge and power are always interconnected. Foucault (1987, pp. 80-85) writes that one implies another: power does not exist without knowledge; knowledge does not exist without power.

This type of thought has been produced by many other scholars. Ashley (1989) draws attention to Foucault’s interrelation between the state and knowledge by referring to the principle of “statecraft is modern mancraft”. He further claims that it is man who originates knowledge, meaning that it is man’s responsibility to give meaning to events (Ibid. p. 264). Indeed, the interconnection of power and knowledge is undeniable.

Yet, a renewed Russia, which returned to the world stage after the sharp decline of the 90s as a strong political player, does not seem to be able to reverse these past and current attitudes. As powerful as it might be, Latvia has gone through almost 30 years of certain textual reconstruction that shaped the reality in which its society lives. These textual representations are fuelled by other countries who suffered from the USSR (for example, other Baltic States). All in all, interpretation of history written by many victims (and let us not forget about a strong negative image, constructed by the USA) is more powerful in the terms of influence than a single history of one country. This might be a reason for a strong political and social response after the events in Georgia in 2008 and in Ukraine recently.

However, coming back to Latvia itself, it should be highlighted that the Latvian Government has drawn a distinct line between “self” and “other”. The notion of “us, Latvians” and “them, Russians” is deeply felt because of the history and continuous political reminders that USSR undermined their independence, therefore, is to be treated as an enemy.

Scott Burchill (2013, p. 205) describes this threat for difference as a constitution of political identity. These distinctions between “self” and “others”, “us” and “Russians” are integral for Latvia which national identity has not been entirely formed. This approach significantly implicates the situation with the Russian minority. According to statistics, only around 61% of the population is Latvians. Other 32% comprises the Belarusians, Ukrainians and Russians, i. e. Russian-speaking population (The remaining 7% are people of other nationalities)[4]. Still, the majority of the former still has a passport of nepilsoņi, namely, non-citizens.

Even a sharp separating line between Russian and Latvian languages has been drawn in order to maintain Latvian identity and independence. In this scenario, all that comes out of domestic space is treated as alien, foreign and dangerous (See Campbell, 1992; 1999). Thus, the danger should be excluded.

Recently, the Centre of National Language (CNL) has obliged the citizens of Latvia to speak only Latvian language at the workplaces and even in the breaks. These restrictions are not only common in daily life but also in the social networks. For instance, mayor of Riga, Nils Usakovs has been fined by the CNL because of using Russian on his facebook page (ves.lv, 2016).  Further, the CNL voiced its concerns regarding the decision of the US Embassy in Latvia to use Russian language along with Latvian and English (DELFI, 2016).  On the one hand, there is comfortable environment which is inside of the country. On the other, there is a threat, posed by outside environment (See Ashleey, 1988).

Many key points of post-structuralism are issues of power and authority. It is power and authority that is able to impose certain knowledge (in the case of Latvia, the Latvian Government). It is power that may interpret events and persuade people into this. If Soviet legacy is thought to be impairing Latvian identity, then authorities will try to construct certain political discourse in order to distant itself from unwanted factors. They will consider specific time frame, choose significant facts to support arguments as well as certain perspective. This is the reason why the same facts of history (or events) are interpreted differently.  After all, it is human nature to perceive, interpret and give meaning to different events.

Whether the Latvian political discourse will remain, it probably depends on the situation with migrants. After all, willing or not, Latvia has more in common with the Russian people than with incoming refugees of different culture and religion (this has been repeatedly said by the Latvian newspapers for the last months). In the end, the Soviet time, no matter how difficult it was, has left its imprint on Latvian identity. Whether Latvia will accept it is yet to be seen.

References

  1. Ashley, R. K., 1989. Living on Border Lines: Man, Poststructuralism and War. In: J. De Derian and M. J. Shapiro (eds.). International/Intertextual Relations: Postmodern Readings of World Politics. Lexington, Mass: Lexington Books.
  2. Ashley, R. K., 1988. Untying the Sovereign State: A Double Reading of the Anarchy Problematique. Millennium, 17 (2). Pp. 227-262.
  3. Blair, B. 2011, Revisiting the “Third Debate” (Part I). Review of International Studies, 37 (2), pp. 825 – 854.
  4. Bleiker, R., 2000. Popular Dissent, Human Agency and Global Politics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,
  5. Burchill, S. et al., 2013. Theories of International Relations. 5th Ed. Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan.
  6. Campbell, D., 1999. Violence, Justice and Identity in the Bosnian Conflict. In: E. Edkins, N. Persram and V. Pin-Fat, Sovereignty and Subjectivity. Boulder: Lynne Riener.
  7. Campbell, D., 1993. Writing Security: United States Foreign Policy and the Politics of Identity. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
  8. Case of Kononov v. Latvia, May 17, 2010. European Court of Human Rights. [online] Available at <http://hudoc.echr.coe.int/eng?i=001-98669#{“itemid”:[“001-98669”]}> [Accessed 18 June 2016].
  9. DELFI, 2016. US Embassy Began Using Russian Language While Communicating with the Latvians. [online] Available at: < http://rus.delfi.lv/news/daily/latvia/posolstvo-ssha-v-socsetyah-nachalo-obschatsya-s-latvijcami-na-russkom-yazyke.d?id=47806159> [Accessed 30 July 2016].
  10. Foucault, M., 1987. Nietzsche, Genealogy and History, In: M. T. Gibbons ed. Interpreting Politics. London: Oxford University Press.
  11. Freecity, 2014. Academician Stradins: During the Soviet time Latvia has Preserved the Attributes of a Sovereign State. [online] Available at: <http://www.freecity.lv/obshestvo/17182/> [Accessed 25 July 2016].
  12. Jarvis, D.S., 2000. International Relations and the Challenge of Postmodernism: Defending the Discipline. Columbia: South Carolina.
  13. Kant, I., 1991. Political Writings. H. Reiss, eds. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  14. Selby, J., 2007. Engaging Foucault: Discourse, Liberal Governance and the Limits of Foucaudian IR. International Relations, 23 (3), pp. 324-345.
  15. Secret Supplementary Protocols of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Non-Aggression Pact, 1939. [online] September 01, 1939, History and Public Policy Program Digital Archive, Library of Congress. Available at <http://digitalarchive.wilsoncenter.org/document/110994> [Accessed 18 June 2016].
  16. lv, 2016. Usakovs is Punished. The Centre of National Language Has Fined Him on the Grounds of his Facebook Posts in Russian. [online] Available at: < http://www.ves.lv/ushakov-nakazan-tsentr-gosyazyka-oshtrafoval-ego-za-posty-v-facebook/> [Accessed 27 July 2016].

[1] Non-citizens are individuals who possess neither Latvian nor any other citizenship. These are immigrants (or their descendants) who lost their USSR citizenship after its dissolution and resided in Latvia after it. Although these people are protected by Latvian law, their rights in some cases are restricted (for example, they cannot travel without a visa in the European Union).

[2] Secret Supplementary Protocols of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Non-Aggression Pact, 1939. [Online]. September 01, 1939, History and Public Policy Program Digital Archive, Library of Congress. Available at http://digitalarchive.wilsoncenter.org/document/110994 [Accessed 18 June 2016].

[3] Museum of the Occupation of Latvia, 2004. Occupation of Latvia, Three Occupations: 1940-1991. Riga: Occupation Museum Foundation. [online] Available at <http://www.mfa.gov.lv/data/file/e/P/Occupation%20of%20Latvia.pdf> [Accessed 18 June 2016]

[4] Centrala statistikas parvalde. Population Census, 2011. [online] Available at <http://www.csb.gov.lv/en/statistikas-temas/population-census-30761.html> [Accessed: 19 June 2016].

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Specialist in global security and nuclear disarmament. Excited about international relations, curious about cognitive, psycho- & neuro-linguistics. A complete traveller.

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Economy

Hungary And Poland To Lose Up To 25% Allocation Of EU Funds

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Hungary and Poland are set to be hit with new cuts in cohesion support after EU commission proposed new radical changes. This came to light after a series of propositions were published recently by the EU executive. Eastern European countries will be hard hit by the propositions, but more impact will be felt in Hungary and Poland.

The changes come in light of the immigration policies that certain countries have chosen to adopt. The two most affected countries will lose nearly 25% in cuts due to their problematic policies. The repercussions of the cuts could be felt very soon especially if the Eastern European countries decide to take on Western Europe.

Even though the commission has maintained that the new changes are not meant to be punishment for inconsistency and criticism, there is a general feeling that the countries will not take the changes well. The commission also argued that there is no need to compare the allocations between EU member states as each country has their own share of prosperity.

The proposed changes will also affect more countries in Eastern Europe including Lithuania, Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Malta. Germany will also get a reduction in the allocation to the tune of 20%. There are some countries however that will get a raise in their allocation including Greece, Romania, Bulgaria, and Italy.

The EU commission, through its commissioner for regional development, Corina Cretu, says that the recent changes have no political bearing behind them.

How the commission arrived at the figures

In previous years, the commission had an established formula for calculating the allocation of funds. This year though, it seems like there was a break from tradition since the calculation method was visibly adjusted. The GDP would be used to determine prosperity in the region during the past, for instance. This criterion seems to have been adjusted in addition to the inclusion of other factors like climate, education levels, employment levels, and of course the attitude of the countries towards immigrants.

It is yet not clear how these changes will affect the forex market in Europe. What is clear though is that the aftermaths of major decisions in recent years have often caused some disturbances in the stocks and forex markets. At times like these, stock and forex traders need to be on the lookout for any major breaking news. Admiralmarkets.pl suggests using the current forex and stock platforms to get market feeds in real-time.

The current feeling from the Eastern European countries is that the commission is finding ways of diverting money from the region to other regions that have faced challenges in recent years. The southern part of Europe has for instance been in the red for a couple of years now. The crisis in Greece and Spain is yet to completely settle.  The sentiments of Eastern Europe do not seem to bother the commission, however. The commission argues that these countries have seen major growth in recent years and that they would even handle stiffer cuts. This, the commission argues, would especially be true if issues like GDP per capita were to be considered.

EU officials have spent much of the time explaining how their recent propositions are in no way related to the crisis in the south. Instead, the commission has used every opportunity to highlight the changes in GDP as the key reasons for the allocation cuts. It is indeed easy to find reason in this rationale when you analyze the economies of Eastern European countries.

Poland has for instance seen a lot of positive growth in the past few years. In 2017, the economy grew by 4.6%. This growth came in the backdrop of a similarly strong growth the previous year where the GDP growth was recorded as having been 3%. The forecasts for this year do not look bad either. The GDP is expected to grow by at least 4.3% as per what the commission has established on its forecasts. The growth pattern in Hungary was also comparable, being 3.3% in 2016, 3.45% in 2017 and with a projected growth of 4% year.

Looking south, the economy of Italy recorded growths of 0.9% and 1.5% in 2016 and 2017 respectively. The forecast does not look any different also as a projected growth of 1.5% is expected. In order to argue their case, the commission argued the case of Portugal, which is still struggling but which got some cuts due to its strong performance recently.

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Hungary Economy: Population, GDP, Inflation, Business, Trade

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The Hungarian economy is ranked as the 55th freest according to 2018 statistics. This economy has undergone a lot of transformation and it has particularly improved in the areas of the judiciary, labor freedom and investment. There are some realms however that have not seen great improvements especially in the areas of business freedom, government integrity, and property rights. In overall, Hungary is below average in most metrics in Europe compared to other peers in the region. The country is also just above the world average on the global scale.

Looking at its recent past, this country has seen a bit of relapse into some laws that were previously abandoned. The country has definitely seen much freer and liberal laws in recent years just before the government began to intervene in the areas of policy. Much of the changes over the years have been instituted to support economic growth and to balance out the budget while steering clear of areas that might cause conflict with the European Union. There are many targets that the government has including reducing public debt. It plans to achieve all of them by taking an active role and instituting sectoral laws.

The history of Hungary is long and colorful. It was once part of the communist realm until 1990 when it became completely independent. The country is currently a member of NATO having been in the organization since 1999. When the EU was formed, Hungary was not among the founding members and only joined the organization in 2004. There have been numerous economic reforms in the last decade and today, the economy is supported by strong local demand as well as exports. In recent years, things have been looking very optimistic for the country. The construction industry has boomed and there is a hands-on approach by the government on economic matters. The unemployment rate in the country is low.

Despite these improvements, there are still some challenges that face the government. It is for instance not as open as it ought to be and the judiciary is weak and subject to government interference. The policies surrounding land tenure are pretty straightforward and the government keeps updated records. Because of its somewhat domineering government and a weak judiciary, there are always concerns about corruption. The business sector is thus highly affected by the apparent indifference in the government towards corruption. A lot more needs to be done by the government to deal with prominent figures who have been a menace to business.

Moving on to the financial sector, there is a generally fair support by the government to the financial markets. The tax for corporates is maintained at 19% and tax for individuals is at 15%. The stock market is pretty vibrant with the Budapest SE index enjoying some good figures in recent years. Forex traders can do many things in this country even though the market is not as developed especially compared to the West. Forex trading is supported a lot and there are dedicated providers that allow Hungarians to access tens of thousands of markets.

As a country that is still developing many sectors, Hungary has a government that has a direct oversight over some sectors. You will thus often find direct government support for some industries. There are some sectors where there is not enough manpower. The labor regulations are somewhat basic which makes mobility a little difficult. Most of the product prices are market-determined but some goods’ prices are regulated by the government. Some of the areas in which the government has a hand on the prices include the markets of pharmaceuticals, tobacco, digital money, some machinery and electronic appliances and telecommunication products.

The health of the economy is definitely good considering that the trading industry is pretty vibrant. Hungary relies a lot on both exporting and importing goods. The total value of goods that either leave or enter the country comprises of up to 175% of the GDP. There are no strict tariff regulations and there is a general preservation of a 1.6% tariff rate. While there is much more government presence in many areas of the economy, the impact is not too big to disrupt economic activities. The financial sector is still in its formative years and it will take sometime before the banks get the necessary regulatory policy that supports growth.

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Navigating legal matters in Spain

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Starting or expanding your business or investments into a new country can be daunting. The task of understanding and complying with legal obligations and tax commitments can be very difficult, especially when regulations are not in your first language, or you have little experience of the country you are expanding into.

Doing business in Spain can be incredibly rewarding, but it can be tough. Legal bureaucracy runs through every aspect of day to day life, and the smallest mistake can have far reaching consequences for your business. This is why you will need to decide carefully when choosing Legal services in Spain. You need the very best multilingual experts, that can advise and guide you through each task with professionalism and care. You need to look for a partner who can help establish and grow your business.

A one-stop shop for legal services

A business needs to be able to have absolute trust in their legal service provider and will not want to be working with multiple companies for different specialisms. Being compliant with the law is already hard enough without navigating through four or five different law firms.

This is why choosing a one-stop shop for legal services is the best options, especially if you are new to conducting business in Spain. By choosing someone who can advise on everything, you can be sure that you will not suffer the consequences of something being missed. Afterall, whether it is finance, tax, employment law or any other legal formality, you cannot manage each one in isolation, they are all key parts of running your business successfully.

Not only that you want a partner, who can help grow your business and maximise opportunities to do so. One that understands the complexity of the issues your business may face, and can give a sincere and honest opinion.

Get the formalities covered and spend more time doing what you do best

Nobody likes to spend their time struggling with paperwork,but it is a necessary evil with any business. By choosing an expert in legal services in Spain to cover the formalities, you can spend more time doing what you do best and running your business.

Whether it is registering your business successfully, trademarks and patent registration, opening of bank accounts, or managing the hiring and possible expatriation and visa applications of employees, by hiring an expert you can leave all these worries in very capable hands.

The only certainties in life are death and taxes

Tax is always tricky to manage. Not just ensuring you pay what is due, but also being able to make the right business choices that means you do not pay too much. Every business knows it needs specialists to advise  and assist with tax planning, VAT returns, financing and raising funds and mergers and acquisitions. But when starting out in a completely new country you need local experts who know the rules inside and out.

The last thing any business needs is an unexpected tax bill causing chaos with cash flow, especially in the early days.

There is always the challenge of day to day accounting and payroll to consider also. That is why using a service that not only understands the legalities but can actually manage your bookkeeping, payroll and invoicing for you will be worth its weight in gold.

Expert help with all aspects of law when you need it

No matter what area of law you need support with, a good legal service should be able to provide assistance with any aspect. You have the usual corporate law, with things like contract management, corporate compliance, bylaws and shareholder agreements, insolvency. But also commercial and employment law. You will likely also need assistance with real estate law and sometimes even more personal issues that family law and your own residency.

A good service will make it easy for you. They should look to gather a complete understanding of how your business operates. This should include detailed information gathering and design a plan on how to ensure compliance for your review and approval.

They will likely speak to many areas of the business to get a feel for business context and aims in order to properly assess where the business is now, and what recommended strategy should be deployed.

Communication with you and the key stakeholders of your business is paramount. On delivering the agreed actions for you there should be regular updates on progress and important decisions that are needed and clear reporting at the end of the review and delivery. This will give you the reassurance you need that the service is being delivered to suit your exact business model and concerns, leaving you safe and compliant.

One thing is for sure – do not try to go it alone, it could prove disastrous for your business and jeopardise your success. If you want to avoid costly mistakes, find a legal services partner you can trust, can provide a holistic service and is expert in all aspects of running and managing a business. The investment will prove its worth over and over.

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