The following article was written in November 2013:
In January 2014 Latvia will totally join the European Community by taking the Euro as the official currency. It’s quite interesting that in the current moment the European Union accepts another member in the Club of Euro-Countries. The crisis disappointed many people over the whole European Union and many doubts about the Euro and in the peace-project of the European Union. The Union itself was as designed in the 1950s as a project that should give long-term peace and prosperity through Western Europe. Through the finance crisis and the following banking crisis the dream is becoming weaker and is almost forgotten. The EU is associated with crisis, too much regulation from Brussels, youth unemployment, great demonstration in the states which go through the strongest austerity politics a western state ever faced. The consequence of this hard policy is that the trust and believes in the dream of a united and peaceful Europe is getting weaker. In spite of all the doubts and fears that the crisis constructed is the adopting of another member a symbol to all Latvians, all Europeans and the whole world as well. The symbolic importance is even stronger when you look on Latvia’s special position and history. Not many post-soviet countries adopted the Euro yet. Together with Estonia this high level of Integration in the European community is quite an exception in Eastern Europe.
Prosperity via funding
I think Latvia has many reasons to create such a good relationship to the EU. The fear and the doubts about the Russian politics towards the western countries and especially to Latvia itself, is always a reason for the improvement of the Relationship to the West and the EU. Also the financial aid that Latvia receives from the European Union and especially from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). This fund is very apparent in the streets of Latvia. The emblems of the fund are trough Riga very visible, what is quite different to Germany, where are almost no signs of the co-financing; however Germany takes the most money of the ERDF.
The doubts about the membership
Unfortunately most of Latvians look quite doubtful and sceptical to the introduction of the Euro and so to the European Union. The Eurobarometer 2013 found out, that just 17% of Latvian citizen believe that they have political power in the EU, while in Denmark with the highest trust in their own political power it’s 56%. Latvia is even under the average data of 28%. The numbers are even worse if you take a look on the opinion about a common economic-and-currency-union, because just 43% of Latvia’s citizens agree to that. I think this pessimistic view on the upcoming new currency and on the European Union is because of the strict austerity policy that Latvia went. On the other side, Latvia is a thankful example for the European Commission and the Member States which stood for a strong austerity policy. When the crisis began Latvia was one of the crisis states, what unfortunately almost nobody in the rest of Europe recognized. So there were many cuts in the wealth system and when I asked Latvians about this topic they were quite sad and didn’t talk much about that. They just said, that things changed and since then the European Union looks like the old regime, the Soviet Union.
A new occupation?
I think Latvians don’t fear a new occupation by the “new Union” or too much regulation from Brussels. Of course are the Latvian’s in fear of inflation, crisis and the increasing of prices just like the people are all around Europe, but that’s nothing special at all. Laws were adopted which should provide the increasing of prices in shops, especially for commodities, however the fear remains. But I don’t think that’s the real problem the EU and in particular the Euro has to face. We always forget that Latvia is a very young, proud and also patriotic country. The fear of losing their own currency is a fear of losing the own culture, nationality and traditions. Just like the Euro, the Lats is not just a currency which you can randomly change without any consequences. I would say that Latvia is changing a symbol of the promise of prosperity and peace against a European wide promise of wealth and peace. The question is just, how good will they really adapt that new symbol and if they will even start to love it.