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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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Top tips for renting a car in Malaga

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The Costa del Sol is a great choice of holiday destination. With many great places to see, absolutely glorious weather and a chance to enjoy the famous Mediterranean lifestyle it is perfect whether you are travelling with friends, as a couple or with a family.

Whether you are heading to Torremolinos, Marbella, Nerja or the city of Malaga, where the international airport is, the best way to make the most of your stay and give you the freedom to really explore the region is to rent a car. There is a lot of choice for car hire in Malaga airport, so here are some tips for getting the deal that is right for you.

Choose the right car for your group

Thinking about your budget, you can aim for a smaller car, such as the Toyota Aygo or the Fiat 500. Absolutely perfect for solo travel or as a couple.

However if you are travelling as a family, these smaller cars might not be right, especially when you have a lot of luggage to carry. But there are still some very good deals to be had on medium size cars like the Ford Focus or Nissan Juke.

However, if comfort is your top priority, and you want to drive around in style, then consider models like the BMW X5 or Range Rover Evoque.

Don’t forget the extras

You will need to be sure to add on any additional items you might need for the length of your hire. For example, if you would like more than one driver you will need to let the rental company know so that they can be included in the hire and therefore included in the insurance cover.

You should also be sure that you ask for child car seats, and that those car seats meet safety standards. It is often possible to hire a GPS loaded with local maps as well, that can be very handy when driving in a new country.

You should also double check the insurance details. The basic insurance might be great value, but it will usually only cover injury to passengers or theft of the vehicle, and won’t cover any damage. Event the theft cover will likely mean a very large excess will need to be paid. However opt for a package with full cover and excess protection and you will have far great peace of mind.

Book online for better deals and guaranteed availability

There is nothing worse than finally reaching your destination, queuing at passport control, waiting at the baggage collection point and then having to spend ages in a queue for car hire , when all you want to do is go and enjoy your holiday.

If you book online in advance you will not have to worry about all of that. You can simply head to the car pick up point, usually via a free shuttle bus that online takes a few minutes, and then be on your way to enjoying yourself.

Choose a car hire company with good service and 24 hour availability

This can make all the difference to your holiday. There are over 100 car hire companies at Malaga airport, however not all of them are able to offer good prices, good quality vehicles and excellent service.

Also if you are travelling at night, or your flight ends up delayed you want to be sure that this will not cause any problems for your rental. So be sure to choose a company that has a helpline telephone number open 24 hours a day and seven days a week.

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ETIAS, the new permit you will need to travel to Europe from the US starting 2021

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Last April the European Parliament and the European Council confirmed at the final agreement for the creation of the European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS), a registration system for all visitors from third countries that are now exempt from visa. In order to strengthen border security, the European Commission proposed the creation of this system which will enter into full operation in 2021.

The ETIAS authorisation is not a visa. Once operational, it will carry out pre-travel screening for security and migration risks of travellers benefiting from visa-free access to the Schengen area. When arriving at the EU borders, travellers from the United States of America will need to have both a valid travel document and an ETIAS authorisation.

What countries will require it?

The ETIAS will facilitate access to countries within the Schengen Area to travelers from third countries that do not currently require a visa in order to improve security and to prevent irregular immigration. Therefore, to know if you need to use ETIAS or not, you will first have to find out if the country you want to visit falls within the Schengen Area, and you will also need to know if your country was visa-exempt until now.

Schengen Area Countries

It is important to remember that not all 28 countries of the European Union (EU) are part of the Schengen Area and that not all Schengen countries are part of the European Union. Great Britain and Ireland, for example, are part of the EU (Great Britain is scheduled to leave after Brexit), but not the Schengen Area; while Norway, Switzerland, Iceland and Liechtenstein are part of the Schengen Area, but not members of the EU.

Therefore, an ETIAS waiver will be required to visit the following countries: Germany, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Estonia, Finland, France, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Norway, Holland, Poland, Portugal, Czech Republic, Sweden and Switzerland.

Countries’ citizens who will need to apply for ETIAS.

As stated above, ETIAS will be required to travelers from countries that do not require a visa. Currently, individuals from the following 57 countries do not require Schengen visas to visit countries in the European Union. However, with the arrival of ETIAS expected in 2021, passport holders of these countries will require an ETIAS waiver to travel to Europe for the purposes of tourism, business or transit for a short 90 days stay in any 180-day period.

How is it going to work?

Prior to traveling, those interested in acquiring an ETIAS waiver must fill out an online application providing with basic information (name, age, occupation, passport number, country of entry in Europe). In addition, they must answer a few questions on safety and health issues, among others. Approval often takes minutes once your ETIAS application is complete, and the maximum amount of time for approval is only four days.

What do I need to apply?

All you need to apply is a valid Passport, a credit or debit card to pay the fee and a completed ETIAS application. Since it’s a visa waiver, you won’t need any further paperwork. And, unlike visa applications, ETIAS doesn’t require an interview at any embassy or consulate.

How do I apply?

The ETIAS application form is already available online, although its use won’t enter into force until 2021. You can apply for your ETIAS until 5 days before your trip, but the sooner you start the process, the better. Once in the application form, you’ll be prompted to provide your passport details and asked to answer a list of security questions. It’s vital that your application be error-free and that the information is an exact match to your passport. Any discrepancies between your ETIAS application and your passport could cause a delay in processing and/or approval You’ll also need a credit or debit card to complete the process.

Once you’re finished, the form is submitted immediately and you will receive an email with the information of you of approval status. You should receive the email within minutes, although sometimes issues on approval status could take up to four days to be sorted out.

How much is it going to cost?

Each applicant over 18 years old will have to pay a 5€ travel authorization fee. The payment must be done online during the application process.

How long can I use it for and when does it expire?

The ETIAS can be used for stays up to 90 days in a period of 180 days. The travel purposes covered by ETIAS are tourism, short-term business such or conference and qualifying medical procedures. Your approved ETIAS will last for three years, but it might expire sooner if your passport does. You will have to re-apply for ETIAS when you get a new passport.

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Dawn Ellmore Employment reviews the shock defeat for McDonald’s as it’s stripped of its ‘Big Mac’ EU trade mark

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For more than half a century McDonald’s has been a recognisable brand in just about every country you can think of. According to its website, the chain has restaurants in 101 countries. Its 36,000+ restaurants serve around 69 million fast food fans every single day.

With stats like this, and McDonald’s easily recognised by just about anybody, the recent EU trade mark ruling has surprised many. McDonald’s has just lost its EU trade mark for the Big Mac in what is dubbed a ‘David and Goliath’ battle with a small Irish chain.

How did McDonald’s lose its Big Mac EU trade mark?

When Supermac’s took on the might of McDonald’s in a trade mark battle, it was assumed by many that the smaller chain would lose. While Supermac’s may not be a household name in the UK, however, it’s much loved in Ireland.

Now the largest fast food chain in Ireland, Supermac’s began in 1978 and today has more than 110 franchises and restaurants all over the country. Founded by Pat and Una McDonagh, it was named after his nickname, ‘Supermac’ when he played Gaelic football. They also own Claddagh Irish Pubs & Restaurants through Supermac’s Ireland Ltd.

The EU trade mark battle

Supermac’s has been locked into an ongoing fight with McDonald’s since 2015, when it announced plans to expand into the EU and UK. McDonald’s initially objected to Supermac’s registering a number of trade marks for products and its name. They argued that the names McDonald’s and Supermac’s are too similar and would cause customer confusion. McDonald’s further argued that the Supermac’s brand name is visually too similar to their trade mark.

Supermac’s responded by pointing out that they had happily traded at the same time as McDonald’s in Ireland for more than 30 years with no signs of confusion on the part of customers.

Initially, McDonald’s won a part-victory when the European Union’s Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market (OHIM) decided that Supermac can continue to trade in its own name within the EU. However, it rejected the Irish company’s trade mark applications for various products and menu items, saying that consumers might “be confused as to whether Supermac’s is a new version of McDonald’s”, given that there are near-identical products sold by both restaurant chains.

Revoking McDonald’s EU trade marks

In January 2019, the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) made a decision that allows victory to Supermac’s after all. By ruling that EU trade marks owned by McDonald’s are to be revoked, Supermac’s is clear to expand into the rest of the EU.

The landmark decision went into effect immediately, on the basis that the EUIPO rules that McDonald’s had failed to prove “genuine use” of its Big Mac trade mark as a restaurant or menu item.

Unsurprisingly delighted, Pat McDonagh says: “Never mind David versus Goliath, this unique landmark decision is akin to the Connacht team winning against the All Blacks. This is the end of the McBully. Just because McDonald’s has deep pockets and we are relatively small in context, doesn’t mean we weren’t going to fight our corner.”

How the fight played out

In April 2017, Supermac’s requested that the EUIPO cancel McDonald’s trade mark for ‘Big Mac’ and ‘Mc’. The chain also accused the US giant of “trade mark bullying” by registering and gaining protection for names, but not actually using them to stamp down any potential competition.

On its part, McDonald’s legal representatives provided signed affidavits from high level executives and showed examples of packaging and adverts to demonstrate it serves Big Macs right across the EU, and therefore deserves to retain the EU trade mark for that specific product.

However, the EUIPO deemed this “insufficient” in its judgement. As trade marks are registered at national level and at the EU, McDonald’s does not lose all of its protection for the Big Mac. They also have the right to appeal, which we suspect they are likely to do.

Supermac’s forges ahead

For Supermac’s, all eyes are on the future. Mr McDonagh says: “This now opens the door for the decision to be made by the European trade mark office to allow us to use our SuperMac as a burger across Europe.”

A representative from EIP, an intellectual property law firm, Carissa-Kendall Windless, says: “This decision is a significant one, partly because it serves as a warning to multinational companies that they can no longer simply file trade mark applications without a genuine intention to use it”.

It’s inevitable that McDonald’s will exercise its right to appeal, and it will be interesting to see how this David and Goliath battle goes on this year.

About Dawn Ellmore Employment

Dawn Ellmore Employment was incorporated in 1995 and is a market leader in intellectual property and legal recruitment.

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