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!