Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Winter in Baltics

When I departed for Otepää then there was no snow in Latvia. It was snowing throughout Southern Estonia and after arrival back to Riga also Salaspils was covered with snow. It is cold and nice - finally winter!

The last month of lecturing started this Monday and I am already looking forward to the end of February. Simply too much of lecturing does not leave me time for anything else. The lack of sun also has certain impact and I start feeling the same as during my years in Geneva - I have a feeling that constantly greyish sky is pressing me to the ground. There will be sauna on the weekend and perhaps that will make any good:)

Former Estonian ambassador of Berlin, Ms Riina Kionka, who happened to be also oponent of my BA thesis in Tartu, was chosen by Mr Javier Solana as his secretary responsible for human rights. There is very little transparency in the way how the EU civil service works, and there was no open competition for this job. But that is the way the intergovernmental EU works and even there were reforms proposed, we can blame French and Dutch for failing to do that:)

Latvian transport supremo is in the news even in winterly Latvia. being minister Mr Slesers replaced the whole management of the Riga International Airport. Nobody denies transport supremo credits for attracting low-fare airlines to Riga. However, to announce that personally he is responsible for the increase of passanger turnover is a bit megalomaniac.

First, there was the head of the RIX airport Mr Pomers and other civil servants and ministers before him who made it possible to have trasnport supremo springboard policy possible. Second, simply to presume that Riga would become the centre for transcontinental aviation industry because it has favourable geographical position makes me think that Mr Slesers listens to the advisers who have gone through the Russian school of geopolitics. Third, even though there are direct links established with the major European capitals does not mean that people from Asia and America would be as interested to visit Latvian opera, Riga Art Nouveau, untouched countryside or Riga bars, horrendously numerous strip bars and casinos (I dont even want to speak about the Christian ethics of Mr Slesers here:).

It is very tempting to have path dependency thinking a' la Riga is popular among European tourists now, and, then Americans and Asians would also start flocking in. Never say never some critic might say. Nevertheless, how come transport supremo is going to justify these heavy investments to the taxpayers (have not see ANY costs benefits analysis yet)? If Mr Slesers reiterates that he does not want to rise taxes (he prophessed this in tonight' s Latvian TV evening news) it means that money would come from the EU cohesion funds! In addition to that, I cannot imagine that with the rising petrol prices Asian and American tourists would start flying into Riga for the weekends. So, shopping spree of the present Latvian governing coalition continues and one day taxpayers would start paying for that, how??


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