Sunday, December 31, 2006

Liberal and illiberal democracies

This morning Iraq'i former dictator was buried in his home town. Son of the peasant tried ruthlessly to have a grip on power in a multi-religious Middle Eastern state, but failed due to the external intervention. So far so good for international community, and Iraq and and former Yugoslavia mark a definite change of the conventional interpretation of the national sovereignty in the texts of international law. So, from now on, if there are massive human rights violations other states can intervene with the approval of the UN security council. Unfortunately, the US and Great Britain failed to receive the approval of the Security Council, and the US received a massive blow to its credibility as a champion of liberal democracy.

Liberal democracy can be defined in several ways. Someone once described liberal democracy by uttering omenous words: "government of the people, by the people and for the people". The crucial fact of liberal democracies is hidden in the fact that liberal democracies should protect individual rights and not invest the power in singular bodies of government. Therefore by definition, democracies should always be weary about motives of singular leaders.

Whenever we resort to glorify singular statesmen/women be they wise, effective, smart or devoted to the good deeds, I believe we transgress the basic principle of liberal democracy - not having emphasis on singular rulers!

Liberal democracies find their roots intertwined with the roots of Judeo-Christianity. It is Judaism that prohibits exposition of the human face in their art works! The first commandment of the New Testament also proclaims that one mustn't hold another God in place of the true Lord Allmighty. I am not orthodox Christian but I also remember the maxim of Immanuel Kant, " that we may never be able to have a straight piece of wood made out of the crooked timber of humanity". It means that until we live in human communities we must be weary about motives of those fellow citizens who gospel acvhievement of common good without proper instruction and without institutional checks and balances in place.

Punishment of Saddam still vividly reminds us about what task it is for a statesmen/women to have a grip on power. From history we have Chengiz Khan, myriad of Popes, Kings, Princes, Explorers and Chieftains who had to slaughter in order to keep their power. By glorifying our past we also tend to downgrade the blood that still lays on their hands. In liberal democracies historic myths are selectively chosen so, they would not be contradictory to the society that invests its supreme power in its people or to put it another way in supremacy of human rights. For such a system to function properly comprehensive system of education is required, so not only the channels of mobility would be open according to the merits, but also people would be authomatically weary about motives of wolves in sheep skins.

Whenver elite of the society invests in glorification of singular leaders such countries neighbors should be attentive, because it is a sign of illiberal democracy. In such a system there does not exist trust of the individual but oligarchic or corporate groups instead. Who traditioanally are corporate groups that support singular leaders? They are as different as are their motives, and history teaches us also that such corporate investment in singular leaders is a zero sum game, thus a good lesson to liberal democracies.

Hitler, Lukashenka, Chavez, Aliyev, Karimov and Putin - all of them were elected democratically. All of them were supported by some corporate group, be it German idustrialists, Soviet nomenklatura, native clans or Venezuelan military officers. Latter five still clung to their power and how else to call Belarus, Russia, Venezuela, Uzbekistan and Azerbaijan if not illiberal democracies?

So to end this year we may also see that at least in Eesti, Latvija and Lietuva we do not have uncritical glorification of singular leaders among political elites. However, three Baltic states border with two illibireal democracies who are hangling over gas prices right at this moment. Can we expect Belarussian anschluss and Russian border also on Lithuanian Eastern border in 2007?

May New Year bring us more liberalism!!!


Saturday, December 30, 2006

New Year - Uus Aasta - Jaunais Gads - Naujieji Mētai

Whenever new year is coming there is a possibility to sit down and contemplate about past deeds, present challenges and future prospects. All the events take place in time and space and if one looks around oneself he finds a funny world around indeed!

What is the flat world we inhabit to use the catchy phrase of Thomas Friedman? Whilst thinking by myself here in Salaspils I stopped at the analogy of the apartment block. So, IMAGINE, the humankind lives in the apartment block in the age of pax americana. In order to run the apartment block smoothly the US is the the manager, employment and security provider of the house. In this demanding task to run the house the house manager works via such prominent international intermediary big bodies as the UNO, NATO, WTO, WB, IMF, and a smaller lot comprised of Amnesty International, Transparency International , Oxfam, etc.

To make your imagination more colourful remember the typical post- Soviet suburban area and perhaps you see the 9 storied houses that look identical from Prague to Vladivostok?! Thus, in this house surrounded by nature the whole world lives in. The house must be provided with electricity, water, sewage system and heating and folks must eat somethin as well. So, the whole world in order to live in the aprtment block must do bit by bit in order to be able to pay the rent.

More well off nations live on upper floors, thus they could not only enjoy the upper view but also live closer to Gods themselves. In the basement there is Al Quaida and North Korea. They live by the sole purpose of blowing up the the whole apartment block and returning to the state of nature.

Further up we go we can see more complicated tasks performed in order to be upwardly mobile. Gulf States have specialized in providing the house manager with oil and have reached the floor 8, thus they can say that they have reached the same closeness to the Prophet, and their excuse for living one floor lower is that they are about as close to Prophet as the heretic Christians.

The US, EU, Japan and the rest of white Anglo-Saxon Commonwealth live happily on the top floor by helping to entertain the house manager with luxury goods and throwing nice parties in their specially decorated apartments.

On the floor 7 South Korea, Singapre, Taiwan and other South East Asian nations simply show the others below that it is possible to be upwardly mobile.

On the floor 6 East Europeans and Mexicans are happily guessing that they would be allowed to reach the upper floor one day by being members of white race and undertaking everyday chores of lazy 9' th floor inhabitants.

The middle Kingdom is situated on the flors 5 and 4 where the BRIC' s live. Simply the sheer size does not allow Brasil, Russia, India and China to move as swiftly as East Europeans, Mexicans or South East Asians do. Because they have so many belongings and human resources their reallocation takes ages and probably shall mean only two options. Either they shall get stuck in the Middle Kingdom of floor 4-5, or they simbly shall outgrow their size, brake put the walls of the house and shall demolish the whole house with them. Already, the BRIC' s see that their former vassals have been swifter. So, the heating provider Russia or furniture and clothing provider China threaten to choke off their upper floor neighbours for the sake of - being ungrateful and leaving the former metropolis behind...

Further below the middle Kingdom we see shabby conditions of floor 4 to 1 where janitors, plumbers, simple laborers struggle for their existence. Myriad of African states, former Communist paradises of peasants and wrokers can be divided in two lots. The floor 3-4 inhabitants still believe in the everyday rat-race euphemistically called also continuous economic growth. Central Asian STANS, Ukraine, Uganda, Ghana, Equador and others want to use the mix of Western advice and remnants of indigenous expertise to rapidly reach the floor 7. In the meantime the floor 1-2 folks have given up their secular dream of stability and slowly turn themselves into holes like Somalia, Afghanistan, Transdniestria, Zimbabwe or Haiti.

What is the panacea that allows nations to move within the aprtment block? The simplest answer is education, and here better chances are for those who are daring to try something new. Orthodoxy in learning is the luxury for the rich and powerful.

New year shall probably not bring any significant changes in the house managment. Just the rumours whirl about the changing party atmosphere from the top floor. The US parties after the Iraq adventure are not as popular anymore among the lower floor aspirants, and the loose intergovernmental EU states want to have more leisure and less bossing from pax americana. Is there pax europea on the horizon? Perhaps New Year shall bring us some nice news, because the Baltic Sea area is the most dynamic part of Europe:)

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Is Latvian political system stable?

Läti stabiilsus ei välista poliitika musta raha
19. detsember 2006

Autor: Veiko Spolitis

15 aastat pärast taasiseseisvumist on Lätit koos Eesti ja Leeduga esitletud kui edukaid ja majanduses kiireid edusamme tegevaid üleminekuriike.
NATO tippkohtumise aegu sattus Läti hetkeks maailma massiteabevahendite keskmesse ning nii NATO peasekretär Jaap de Hoop Scheffer kui ka USA president George W. Bush tõstsid oma kõnedes mitu korda Lätit esile kui positiivset näidet demokraatlikult muutunud riigist.
Et suuta NATO transatlantilisse areaali ja sellest väljapoole jäävates missioonides osaleda, pole tähtis ainult sõjaline varustus või sõjaväe allutamine tsiviilkontrollile, vaid üha enam see, et NATO liikmesriikides valitseks liberaaldemokraatlik kord ja nende haldussüsteem oleks läbipaistev.
Kesk-Euroopa riikidele mitteomaselt jätkab Lätis pärast parlamendivalimisi senine koalitsioon, veidi täiendatult, kuid endiselt Aigars Kalvitise juhituna. Sarnaselt Eesti ja Leeduga iseloomustab Lätitki kiire majanduskasv ja sellest tulenev heaolu tõus. Siiski on kiirele majanduskasvule järgnenud ka inflatsiooni tõus ja tööjõu dramaatiline äravool.
Kolmandate isikute valimised
Enne valimisi moodustas Läti valitsuse Rahvaerakonna, Esimese Partei ning Roheliste ja Põllumeeste Liidu vähemusliit. Valimistulemused näitasid, et valitsusliidu kolm erakonda saavutasid 51-häälelise ülekaalu 100-liikmelises Läti parlamendis. Valitsuse stabiilsuse tagamiseks võeti valitsuskoalitsiooni ka valimistel napilt viie protsendi künnise ületanud isamaalased.
Läti valimisseadus sätestab, et erakonnad ei tohi valimiskampaaniaks kulutada rohkem kui neli krooni valija kohta (kokku 6,2 miljonit krooni). Partei Uus Aeg kulutaski kuus miljonit, samas kui Rahvaerakond kulutas ametlikult 4,3 miljonit ja Esimene Partei vaid 256 000 krooni.
Samas raiskas peaminister Kalvitise büroo endise juhataja Jurgis Liepnieksi mittetulunduslik organisatsioon Sõnaõiguse Eest valimiskampaania tarvis 11 miljonit krooni ja Esimese Partei juhi Ainars Slesersi äripartneri loodud organisatsioon Päikese Poole 6,6 miljonit krooni.
Valimisläve mitte ületanud Uued Demokraadid kaebasid kolmandate isikute rahastatud Rahvaerakonna ja Esimese Partei kohtusse. 6. detsembril tegi ülemkohus otsuse, et kolmandate isikute rahastatud valimiskampaania oli küll seadusvastane, kui siiski ei saa pidada oktoobris toimunud valimisi kehtetuks, kuna esitatud faktid ei tõesta, et kolmandate isikute kampaaniad oleksid oluliselt mõjutanud inimeste valikuid.
Rahvaerakond ning Roheliste ja Põllumeeste Liit on aga täiesti erineval arvamusel haldusterritoriaalse reformi läbiviimise põhimõtetes. Lisaks on viimaste esindaja peaminister Kalvitis teatanud, et tema erakond pooldab nii kohustusliku tulude deklareerimise süsteemi sisseseadmist kui ka õiguskantsleri institutsiooni loomist 2007. aastal.
Veiko Spolitis on politoloog ja Riia Stradinsi ülikooli õppejõud.
Presidendivahetus läheneb
•• Küllap tulevad koalitsioonipartnerite erimeelsused muuhulgas esile ka tulevastel presidendivalimistel. Põhiseadus sätestab, et presidendi valib parlament. See peaks toimuma tuleva aasta mais. Eesti ja Läti presidendi võimupiirid on üsna sarnased, kuigi mõlema presidendiinstitutsiooni vahel esineb erinevusi.
•• Väikestele erinevustele vaatamata on juba praegu võimalik ennustada, et Läti sarnaneb Eestiga kas või selle poolest, et sarnaselt Lennart Merile on Vaira Vike-Freiberga seadnud oma mantlipärijale kõrged ametistandardid. Erakondlik sõltumatus väikestes riikides on peaaegu võimatu, praeguseks on aga siiski esitatud kolm erakonnavälist kandidaati.
•• Need on Läti ülikooli politoloogiaprofessor ja president Vike-Freiberga soosikuks peetav Zanete Ozolina, endine Läti saadik USA-s Ojars Kalnins ja praegune Euroopa Komisjoni energeetikavolinik Andris Piebalgs.
•• Rahvaerakond teatas algul kavatsusest toetada presidendina praegust välisministrit Artis Pabriksit, kuid on nüüdseks üldse loobunud oma kandidaati avalikult välja käimast.
•• Mitmed vaatlejad on sobilikumaks presidendikandidaadiks pidanud endist Läti eurovolinikku Sandra Kalnietet, kuid tema erakonna Uus Aeg opositsioonis olek ei anna talle suuri lootusi.
•• Kaheksa aastat tagasi oli Vike-Freiberga sotsiaaldemokraatide üllatuskandidaat, seekord võib selliseks üllatuseks pidada akadeemik Janis Stradinšit.
•• Vaatamata sellele, kes saab tulevaseks Läti presidendiks, on Läti sisepoliitikas piisavalt palju olulisi väljakutseid, mille

Sunday, December 17, 2006

The Economist article

In its December 16th issue The Economist puts Estonia and Latvia together as the most dynamic duo of the European Union. All in all I agree with the overall assessment about the state of business in these two states.

However, there is one issue that sets Latvija far behind Eesti and what The Economist article unfortunately omits - Latvia still grapples with the problem introducing mandatory revenue reporting system! In Estonia such system was introduced back in 1993 and it has been the cornerstone for Estonia' s fiscal stability and overall enlightenment of the Estonian populace about the basics of the capitalist democracy!

Populace that knows that their revenues are monitored regardless of their belonging to one or another party also see their tax deductions when they invest in education or purchace morgage for their first home. In addition they are also vigilant about expenses of public servants and State Revenue Service can easily track down transgressors. Also Ombudsman institution helps here in defence of public against constant depredations of the state!

There is NO universal and mandatory tax reporting system, NO ombudsman institution in Latvia, but there is growing alienation among Latvian public. Today announced that former head of the Office of the Prime Minister Kalvitis, Mr. Jurgis Liepnieks (the same fellow who ''legally'' financed third party PP campaign) is selling stock worth Ls 3,2 million and giving the rest of his assets to his wife Diana. Is Jurgis afraid of political come-back of Mr. Skele or Latvian prosecutors office is behind him?

And last but not least....Spring 20006 Eurobarometer data shows that support of Estonian public for parliament, political parties and government is averaging from 9-13% and that is the EU average. In Latvia the same support was 4-6%, so basically Latvian populace considers its rulers and democratic regime as illegitimate! Why do pundits wonder then that Latvian populace still craves after the rule of a strong hand or to put it politically correctly, that Latvian populace still believes that Byzantian political culture and authoritarian rule is preferential to democratic cow trading...still sad:)

Thursday, December 14, 2006

New Constitutional Court members

There were three new government appointed members of the Latvian Constitutional Court elected by Latvian Saeima today. Saeima is planning to appoint its own candidate for the Constitutional Court, the Ombudsman poorly financed institution (with Peoples Party (PP) member Ringolds Balodis as a prime candidate) early next year as well, and all this in hellish haste, why? I have a question to Ringolds Balodis whether he understands that Ombudsman institution is really to help the public against the omnipresent depredations of the state, even in such a small corporate state as Latvia?

I believe that the EU membership implies that it is not so easy to brake the constitutional checks and balances system. However, the low level of education in Latvia and almost 100 000 people already hemorraged out of Latvia does remind me about the true causes of disfunctional liberal democracy in Latvia - they are, above all, existence of traditional and conservative (what means conservative in post-Soviet state?) authority system and lack of transparent revenue reporting system. Again and again we come back to the PP, because it was them who said that they are winners of the October 2006 elections and they promised that revenue reporting system would be implemented as from January 2008.

But wait a minute, the fact that PP names itself a winner with 23 seats in the 100 member parliament is partially right. Nominally they have majority of the seats, but what means majority if the next three parties got - New Era (18), Farmers Union (18) and Reconciliation Centre party (17)? Coalition government in liberal democracy really means the rule of the majority with the respect to the minority, because in next elections (and European and municipal elections are not behind mountains) you may find yourselves in reversed positions? But why am I aimlessly having a monologue here? Because I predict that Latvija in 4 years will find itself in deep recession. So needed reforms of education system, tax code and municipal administrative system have not even started or have been stalledand. Latvian politicians find it more feasible to work for short term goals and there are no long term visions whatsoever, unfortunately.

There is omenous sentence inscribed above the hall of the Latvian council of ministers - ''One legal code, one truth to all!!! However, more and more often after the elections of October 2006 these are the highest servants of the state who blatantly breach this inscription....sad:(


Wednesday, December 13, 2006

City Council meeting

It was a busy, busy day. Students came at the last possible time to discuss about their future BA and course thesis's. I do remember that I was a student as well, but the way students do not understand how to find information is just amazing. Imagine, I had to explain one female student today, that she may actually retrieve information in 21'st century from in EU country - Latvia:)

The local council meeting is over with the same results - no rational discussion. All questions were answered with the same legalistic dry talk moderated by the head of the town council - a former militiaman.

Simply do not want to think about it anymore. On top of that on the Latvian TV evening news I learned that Prime Minister Kalvitis promised the sugar-beet farmers that sugar industry would still flourish in Latvia. Prime Minister, admit that it is a lie, because it is impossible for sugar industry to flourish without government subsidies! It was the EU who agreed in the WTO trade talks to abolish subsidies for sugar-beet farmers! Instead, Mr. Kalvitis you could tell to your ardent electoral supporters honestly that you want to help them to transform their business and find them work - isn't it Peoples Party (PP) who whines about the lack of qualified workforce? There is absolute inconsistency in your public pronouncements PP, because one day you support Construction companies association in their wish to bring in cheap Bulgarian, Romanian and Ukrainian labour force, but on the other you support loss-making sugar-beet industry in Jelgava and Liepaja. Common, some factories just hearing that sugar refineries might close already announced about their wish to emply redundant workers!!

Mr. Kalvitis, you just won Latvian elections and you can't find a better timing for such an announcement? My suggestion to you - announce that government will compensate and retrain sugar-beet farmers, that Latvian consumers will pay less for the sugar, and everybody will be better off, including you Mr. Kalvitis:)

lai veicas,


p.s. I do not understand why Latvian politicians so often play zero - sum games, haven't they learned that win-win startegies also exist:)

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Back from Kaunas

Went to Kaunas to see the old mate Dr. Joost Platje from Groningen who resides in Wroclaw now. Meeting was traditionally jovial and we both agreed that getting older is certainly making amendmends in our daily routines. Sunday morning beer is not replaced with the visit to the Church pews yet, but with the coffey and cake in the pizzeria already:-) The BO bar in Kaunas was crowded as always and in one hall there were Lithuanian choir singers monopolizing the attention of the whole bar. 'Svyturis' tasted as good as always and Kaunas did not surprize me at all.

Alas, I was surprised by the Kaunas roads, because after getting out of the Maxima parking lot (reminded to both of us the Belorussian dissident who equated democracy with Maxima) I got a flat tyre. The road maintenance service No. 1188 worked impeccably and after half an hour the serviceman came and the whole affair costed me 100 litas.

Kaunas was tranquil and former Lithuanian president' s statue is still standing next to the Kaunas gallery. Smetona stands there as a reminder of the past deeds that everyday passers by might have perhaps forgotten - what did happen with the Lithuanian treasury he took with him after the terminal events of June 1940?


Tuesday, December 5, 2006

Iggy Pop in Arena Riga

Just returned from work via Arena Riga where Iggy Pop and his band were playing. At least 10 friends from tallinn and tartu were there as well and it was warm to see them in Riga. Actually they expressed certain respect to Riga, because Iggy Pop had chosen Riga as the only spot to sing in the Baltic States.

Personally I am no9t a fan of his and Arena Riga was full of young teenagers and young people in punk rock clad. Iggy himself is about 60 years old and still rocking half naked. It was a good performance to his fans but the overall atmosphere was a bit tiresome to me, perhaps getting older:)

Anyway, the reason I am writing this is because another idea popped into my mind whilst in the Arena Riga. The first thing that came into my mind was my own father - I CANT imagine him rocking on the stage:) Then recalling my own memory I reminded myself that we were living behind the Iron curtain, and thus only now the rock'n roll icons are touring the former ''paradise of peasants & workers''.

Another fact that Iggy' s dancing reminded me is the fact that in todays global world there are many singers popping up from many newly industrialised countries. In the meantime technology changes rapidly and musicians cant simply rely on good LP, hit and then sit on their laurels. Entertainment industry is hellish competitive and perhaps after some time we shall see some rock' n roll veterans squeezing last juices out of themselves in order to earn their daily bread?


Monday, December 4, 2006

Competition Council and Transport Supremo at loggerheads

Latvian Transport Supremo in Latvian language media lacks appreciation for his unending efforts to attract money into Latvia. It is a good idea but Mr Slesers forgets that he is not a businessman but POLITICIAN. That means that he cant work like bulldozer forever disregarding interests of other members of society. Transport supremo might note that the will of the majority of the Latvian people was to elect the right wing government.

Here he is partially right because he knows too well how he paid for the third party advertisements during the election campaign this September. Another aspect about the victory of the right wing coalition is the fact that the only virtue of the right wing coalition is naked individualism of couple or three oligarchs. If you truly care about righ wing ideals then why was there decision no to lower income tax? And what about the fiscal discipline -why is there budget deficit at such volatile times when greenback is shaky? Look into Estonian record you members of ruling coalition (aye, aye Minister of Finance Spurdzins does not like this caomparison at all)!

Transport Supremo knows basic business techniques but I soemhow feel that the business practice he preaches is still pretty ''wild Eastern'' or if you want it to sound politically correct it is post-Soviet. Mr Slesers insistance on the rate of the discount for Rynair and Air Baltic is transparent, so KNAB isnt it suspicious? What makes me worried is the ''good practice'' of transport supremo to blame others as incompetent (blaming Ieva Jaunzeme, Director of the Latvian Competition Council in Diena, 05.12.2006). The manner of blame is the traditional Soviet style wish to see conspiracy behind decisions of the Competition Council, but in reality it allows some hotspur activist to puch through his political ambitions or to blame others for his or her own lack of initiative.

WAKE UP Slesers and other likeminded folks - Competition Council is collective organization and its statutes specifically mandates it to care about the public good! It means Mr Slesers that your care of millions of Rynair and Air Baltic passengers (any clue that majority of them are Brits for example) are at loggerheads with Ms Jaunzeme who has to think about 2mlj. taxpayers including you Mr.Slesers!


Back from Tartu

Returned back from Tartu and caught a little virus, heh, heh. Tartu surprised me with a row of new buildings and very hype atmosphere!

Allan Park (known also as Park junior) is sitting next to me now and trying to grasp the importance of some Estonian scriptures. In few hours I shall take him to the airport where he shall use services of Rynair and fly to Stockholm Skavsta. Why the hell it is Stokholm Skavsta if the airport actually is situated in Linköping?

Latvian government decided that up to 80% dicount for the AirBaltic and Rynair companies would be continued even though the European Commission has pronounced that it is distorting the EU competition law. Shall we see another legal row and Latvian taxpayers paying due to the hotspur decisions of the Latvian transport supremo?

It is raining here today and its December 4 - perhaps global warming in action?


Estonian lawmakers decide and Russian opinion makers react

Серп и молот приравняли к свастике
// За символику СССР в Эстонии будут сажать

Министр юстиции Рейн Ланг довольно неожиданно признал, что в Эстонии к нацистской символике "относятся толерантнее", чем к советской, а это, по его мнению, совершенно неправильно

Правительство Эстонии вчера направило на окончательное утверждение парламента поправки в положение о наказаниях. Благодаря разработанным министерством юстиции изменениям использование советской и нацистской символики будет наказываться штрафом до $4,2 тыс. или тюремным заключением сроком до трех лет. С подробностями – корреспондент Ъ в Таллине АЛЕКСАНДР Ъ-ШЕГЕДИН.
После обострившегося в мае конфликта вокруг памятника советским воинам на холме Тынисмяги по инициативе премьера Андруса Ансипа были подготовлены и предложены парламенту законопроекты "о запрещении" монументов и о воинских перезахоронениях. В народе они были тут же названы "законами о снятии Бронзового солдата". Вчера кабинет пополнил пакет законодательных документов, касающихся исторической тематики. Демонстрация и распространение символики бывшего СССР и его союзных республик, равно как и символики национал-социалистической партии Германии и СС, будут рассматриваться как "разжигание вражды и розни". Их использование будет наказываться штрафом до 50 тыс. крон ($4,2 тыс.) или тюремным заключением сроком до трех лет.
Под определение "символика" подпадают легко узнаваемые символы: флаги, гербы и знаки отличия, а также их элементы.
На пресс-конференции после заседания правительства министр юстиции Рейн Ланг пояснил, что поправки не касаются использования этой символики на культурных мероприятиях, где это обусловлено художественной необходимостью, например, в театральных постановках.
Журналисты попросили премьера уточнить, считает ли он подпадающими под новый запрет символические атрибуты ежегодных встреч ветеранов СС на Синимяэских высотах под Нарвой (там, на месте ожесточенный боев, происходивших летом 1944 года, установлен памятник солдатам 20-й эстонской дивизии СС.–Ъ). Господин Ланг ответил, что проблемы в данном случае могут возникнуть, но пока, по его информации, нацистская символика на встречах не фигурировала.
Затем министр юстиции довольно неожиданно признал, что в Эстонии к нацистской символике "относятся толерантнее", чем к советской, а это, по его мнению, совершенно неправильно. "Для меня Сталин и Гитлер одинаковы",– заявил господин Ланг. Он напомнил, что на некоторых эстонских хуторах собираются компании, празднующие годовщину "хрустальной ночи" (одного из самых страшных еврейских погромов в Германии в истории нацизма), и это тоже неприятная правда. Но правда и то, сказал министр, что у Бронзового солдата собираются люди, "у которых в одной руке стакан водки, а в другой – красный флаг", что провоцирует противоположную сторону на ответные действия. "Опасное противостояние нужно прекратить, заполнив правовой вакуум в этом вопросе",– заявил Рейн Ланг.
Задавались вопросы и о флаге ЭССР, и о государственном флаге нынешней России. Министр заявил, что в демонстрации российского триколора никакого криминала нет, а вот флаг советской Эстонии демонстрировать не рекомендуется.
Уже выбраны ключевые фигуры в правительстве Эстонии и госпрокуратуре, которые будут отвечать за исполнение вышеупомянутых нововведений. Снимать или оставлять памятники будет министр юстиции, принимать решение о перезахоронениях – министр обороны, а возбуждать дела в отношении публично использующих "неправильную символику" будет поручено государственному прокурору.
Между тем в сувенирных магазинах Таллина можно свободно приобрести майки с советской символикой, а если немного поискать, то и с символикой Третьего рейха. Антикварные магазины полны предметами, подпадающими под действие будущего закона. Летом этого года среди распаленной конфликтом вокруг памятника на Тынисмяги молодежи были популярны майки с обоими типами символики. Однако скоро появление в такой майке будет чревато большими осложнениями.

Кто запрещает советскую символику

Попытки запретить советскую символику и привлекать использующих ее лиц к судебному преследованию предпринимаются в ряде стран бывшего Восточного блока. Одна из этих стран – Венгрия. К примеру, в ноябре прошлого года коммунист Аттила Важна был приговорен судом Будапешта к году тюремного заключения за ношение коммунистической красной звезды во время демонстрации. Нацистские и коммунистические символы запрещены в Венгрии после свержения коммунизма в 1989 году.
Запрет на использование гербов и гимнов СССР, изображений серпа и молота, красной звезды введен и в Латвии. Это было сделано сразу после восстановления независимости в 1991 году. Впрочем, этот закон практически не действует. В частности, невозможно добиться его исполнения 9 мая, когда в Риге у памятника советским воинам-освободителям собираются русскоязычные жители страны, а ветераны надевают советские награды. Гимн России много лет входит в топ-лист самых популярных в Латвии мелодий для мобильных телефонов, но оштрафовать их владельцев в Латвии никто не пытается.
Третьим после Венгрии и Латвии государством ЕС, ставящим знак равенства между между нацизмом и коммунизмом, могла стать Литва. Однако парламент этой страны отказался рассматривать предложенный оппозицией законопроект о запрете символов нацистской Германии и сталинского СССР.
Наконец, в октябре этого года первая попытка нанести удар по советской символике была предпринята на Украине. Депутаты верховной рады от фракции Блока Юлии Тимошенко внесли на рассмотрение парламента законопроект о запрещении советской символики на Украине.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Day after the Summit

It was a beautiful sunny morning in Salaspils today. Yesterday I was woken up by Tiit Karuks from Estonian Radio Plc., and the last "free NATO Summit day" was partially spent creating this weblog. It is a unique experience and there are so many issues I have not spoken about since June 2005 when I am back in Baltics. Since I have this diary now I can at least try to reach out, because e-mailings do not provide fruitful thoughts. I remember that last time I sat in the chat room was back in Budapest in 1996, although sometimes it is cool to chat simulataneously with someone when you are actually skyping:) Allright, enough about the technologies and lets get back to the thoughts I shared with Latvian people today.

I participated in the program "Krustpunkti" in Latvian Radio and we had a jovial wrap - up about, guess what, the 2006 NATO Summit! Together with the Minister of Defence Mr. Atis Slakteris, former Latvian Ambassador in NATO Mr. Aivis Ronis and radio journalist Mr. Kārlis Streips we were discussing myriad of issues concerning Latvian involvement in out of area missions, new challenges that NATO is facing and finally what are the tasks for Latvia whilst being the member of most Western Club organizations today (actually the last organization Latvian governments still wants to take part is OECD).

Latvian government decided and Saeima passed the law, that from November 23, 2006 there shall be no more draft army in Latvia. If one folows suggestions of Milton Friedman Latvia has made a very smart decision - abolished its standing army and in times of peace relies solely on professional recruits. There are about 150 Latvian soldiers serving in Kosovo, Iraq, Afghanistan, Georgia today. They are mostly serving within ranks of bigger army platoons. In Iraq they are with Poles and in Afghanistan with Norwegians. Bigger platoons provide Latvian army with so needed hardware and logistical support. Such situation can not last forewer, and at least Latvian government has increased military expenditures up to 2% from GNP. However, one day logistics, hardware and military equipment must come from Riga!?

NATO challenges are not just out of area missions or more crucially the mission in Afghanistan. Looking from Europe one of the most crucial issues is the difference of opinion about future development of NATO between the US and the EU. It is very simple to discount Jacques Chirac, because Angela Merkel cannot simply rebalance traditional strategic triangle without damaging its relations with Paris. That is especially important from todays perspective when Germany shall hold the EU presidency starting from January 2007 and the EU - Russian partnership ends next year. In addition to that, is militant Nicolas going to behave less militant or royal Segolene shall be in favour of liberal world order?

Regardless of this, there are still challenges for Latvia and Lithuanian alike. Transparency International latest index showed LAT and LIT in the same league with Russia, whilst EST was in a bunch with Slovenia and Austria. It is very easy to say that transformation of Latvia was more burdensome due to the comparatively huge number of non-Latvian population. But lets be honest, such talk reminds me of a person who pours ashes on his head while his fortunes are flowing past him in the river. Latvian problems today are very concrete and they need a political will to solve them. Major problems in Latvia today are - inability to execute territorial administrative reform in conjunction with the reform of the municipal electoral law, the universal mandatory revenue report system and overhaul of the Soviet education infrastructure!

Finally, I want to comment only abou the last issue, the need to overhaul the Soviet education infrastraucture. One may complain that education systems are the most copnservative ones, but what gives a sense to conservatism when Latvia is running empty of its population? The fact that there are structural and cohesion funds from the Brussels coffers are solutions for the medium term, but what Latvian students shall do in 4-7 years time???

Its not just Latvian or Baltic students competing with the West European, American and Japanese counterparts, NO, we must already compete also with the best Chinese (producing 327 000 "very hungry" engineering graduates annually), Indian and Russian students. We must not compete with Chinse in manufacturing or with Indians in software industry, NO! However, Latvian government may provide an infrastructure for Latvian universities and institutes, so they could innovate collaboratively for ideas - what could be a Latvian NOKIA!!! Latvian political elite - the only thing lacking is your political will to see the forest behind trees:) Lai veicas!!!


Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Are these pictures symbolic?

2006 NATO Summit...continued

Latvijas televīzija tikko paziņoja, ka NATO galotņu tikšanās izmaksāja Ls22 mlj. Tas nozīmē, ka rupji rēķinot katram Latvijas iedzīvotājiem (2,37mlj) ieskaitot zīdaiņus un bērnus šis pasākums izmaksāja Ls10. Apjausma par 10 latu nozīmi dažādiem iedīvotāju slāņiem atšķiras. Daļa maznodrošināto varēs elst un pūst, un viņiem noteikti piebalsos populistiski politiķi.

Tomēr nevaram noliegt šī notikuma vienreizējību, un tāpēc uzdrošinos teikt, ka šāda mēroga tikšanās Rīgā notiek reizi 100 gados.

Nevar noliegt, 23 valstu galvu viesošanās (no 26 valstu saimes atskaitīju 3 Baltijas valstis) nozīmību, vēl jo vairāk tāpēc, ka pirmo reizi Rīgā ieradās Lielbritānijas nekronētais karalis, Itālijas, Spānijas un Kanādas premjerministri. Veca paruna saka: "ka labāk ir vienreiz redzēt nekā simtreiz dzirdēt". Šādi iepriekšminēto valstu vadītāju reāli ieraudzīja Rīgas arhitektūru un kultūras mantojumu. Kāds noteikti iebildīs, ka valstu vadītāji un žurnālistu pūļi nesastapa vienkāršus iedzīvotājus, bet galotņu tikšanās bija gana spraiga, tā, ka tam tikvai tā laika neatliktu:)

Tomēr vissvarīgākais paliks fakts, ka Latvija paliks vēstures annālēs, kā vieta kurā tika lemti vēsturisku krustceļu likteņi. Papildus, divu dienu laikā Latvija un Rīga vīdējavisos industriāli attīstīto pasaules ziņu kanālos. Rīgas galotņu tikšanās paliks šo ziņu arhīvos, un ejot gadiem uz priekšu šādi veicinās Latvijas atpazīstamību

Vizbeidzot, šogad investējot Ls 10 katrs Latvijas iedzīvotājs jau nākošvasar redzēs, vai tūristi no Ziemeļamerikas, Rietumeiropas un citām pasaules malām atvedīs Ls 22mlj Latvijas viesnīcām, veikaliem, degvielas uzpildes stacijām un restorāniem. Ja tas tā būs, tad varam būt droši, ka Ls 22 mlj atpelnīsies ar uzviju, jo tādi notikumi kā NATO 2006 galotņu tikšanās veicinās tūrismu uz "jauno demokrātiju Latvija" vismaz piecus gadus uz priekšu! Bet pēc pieciem gadiem mēs NOTEIKTI sagaidīsim kādu citu notikumu, kas atsvaidzinās pasaules cilvēku atmiņu par Baltijas jūras austrumu piekrastes miera ostu - sauktu arī par Latviju vai Baltijas valstīm.


NATO 2006 summit is over

The 2006 Summit is over and it proved that even 2,37 mlj. country is able to organize such an event. It was probably costly but nobody can deny that investing in ones future security is foolish decision.
Compatibility of military hard- and software and civilial control of the military are important aspects for NATO membership. However, recognition of human rights and effective liberal democracy are perhaps even more imprtant. The latter two aspects are particularluy important for Latvia and Lithuania, because there is still a list of homeworks to be done. The list includes corrupt legal and political systems. Estonian workers also do their labors outside Estonia, but, hei, it is nowhere close to Latvian and Lithuanian laborer who have hemorraged their resspective countries. About 400 000 lithuanian (unofficial data) and 76 000 Latvians (almost official data from Latvian Embassies in IRL and GB) have fled their homes with or without families, thus policy makers in Riga and Vilnius, what do you say?
You want to solve demographic situation by raising montly payment for young mothers??!! But where these kids are going to study and work later? How come you do not understand that the perpetuated system of corruption does not allow to upgrade the system of education and perform structural reforms of the economic system???
These are just few of questions to Latvian and Lithuanian shady politicians (Estonians might sneer that their ''oldtimer'' Savisaar and Reiljan aint any better), but my own answers and propositions shall come next week.

Why Baltic?

Hey, labas, sveiks, tere!

The decision to write down my own thoughts does not come from an empty space. Because my lifestyle was rather hectic lately, and it is a very modest assessment, I did not start blogging earlier. Since technical tools for writing my own diary are available now I made a decision to start it today - when 2006 NATO summit is over!

Thus, why Baltic, is it in the center of the world attention now? Perhaps... but partially only :) I still reside in the Baltic States and consider myself as a fan of the region one calls the Baltic Sea area. Majority of the average citizens outside the Baltic Sea area still concider the three states as a rather uniform entity. However, even Queen Elisabeth II on her tour in the Baltic States recently could not suppress her bewilderment about how different Eesti, Latvija and Lietuva actually are.

These are just the first lines, but the Christmas time is coming. Therefore, I promise that there will be more and more information added throughout the upcoming month!