Eugene Eteris, BC's International Editor
The Baltic states have experienced two great events this spring, joining two renowned "unions" almost at once, i.e. first the military (NATO) in the beginning of April and within a month the second – an economic one (the European Union).
We share estimations that economic integration into the EU will do a lot of good for the Baltic economy. Even now economic development in these countries is growing, the GDP value in all the Baltic states in recent years was around 5-6 percent. Couldn't it be better?
But still these events are probably arousing more questions than answers; thus, the new "EU in the Baltics" commercial policy, would it outweigh previously so favourable Baltic taxation regime with the outside world? The Baltic states' political leaders with good reason are worried that the EU funds (how scarce they are, it's another question) can't be used in full just because local businessmen are not able to make proper applications.
The Baltic states joining the EU family and that of NATO, their internal instability is becoming a constant headache for Western politicians. It seems that the closer these countries are to the West, the more tough political agenda in the Baltic states gets. For example, there have been 11 governments since restoration of Latvia's independence in 1991 (about a government each year). There are other countries in Europe with unstable political structures, but, mind you, it has not had any negative effects on economic situation. For example, Italy's frequent government shuffles in the post-war history, e.g. within about half a century there were more than 40 governments. Political systems in the three Baltic states are inherently unstable, and Latvia is not an exception. In Estonia there have been 11 governments under seven prime ministers since 1990. And if in Italy it is the population's detest of politicians' "dirty tricks" that drives political instability, then in the Baltics the reasons are different, i.e. too many small inexperienced political parties, weak democracy traditions, low political culture, etc. And on top of this, the first in the Baltics presidential impeachment procedure in Lithuania ended in dismissal of the President. Any other political scandal expected in the region?
I just think what sort of a new reality the enlargement changes can bring to Baltics? People here are quite aware that they "belong to Europe", and they actually do. But what do these states have to offer to united cultural and economic "European family"? What are the Baltics' strongest points in order to exert any influence on the European development? The European Union has already won peoples' hearts in the Baltics, but how about the other way round? The Baltic governments tried hard to work up enlargement negotiations with the Union, now it's the peoples' turn to make them work. We are going to cover all these issues in our magazine, so stay tuned!
I extend my most sincere congratulations to our readers living in the Baltic states!