The prerequisite for the following of the national interest is the interest aggregation of similarly minded ideological groups of people and the ability of state entities to govern efficiently. Interest aggregation is a continuous process that stems from the foundations of the republic. Efficient government is based on promoting the best possible human resources, thus the virtues of meritocracy and home grown elites would prevail. Interest aggregation and efficient government in the Baltic States (3B) until 2004 were focused on overhauling their antiquated governance systems and fulfilling strategic goals.
In hindsight, one may determine that those alarmists in Riga and Vilnius, who blamed Tallinn for using public relations strategies in order to be invited to start EU membership negotiations after the Luxembourg Summit in 1997 were wrong. Estonia used membership in the Western Club organizations as a means to an end, and such strategy has served Estonia well so far. In May 2010, Estonia was invited to become a member of the OECD and probably in early 2011 would become the member of Euroland.
There are academics and politicians who caution Estonia against entering into the eurozone at a time when the unique currency is undergoing its biggest crisis since its introduction in 1999. There are authors with apocalyptic visions about the demise of the Euroland and EU, but representatives of moderate views are gaining consensus about the roots of the economic and financial governance in the EU - the lack of leadership and inability of the domestic actors to adapt to the dynamic change that is endogenously formulated.
Development strategies have been formulated in the UN and EU, and, since the end of the Cold War, also in the World Bank and IMF volumes of literature have been written about the different policy mix needed to achieve the desired results. The bottom line for achieving tangible results, however, is the ability of domestic political forces to adapt to the dynamic international environment and thus continuously reformulate opportunities that the global marketplace of ideas
Writing of new constitutions in Estonia and Lithuania, differently from Latvia, allowed elites to reemphasize the ideals of their republics and establish generally accepted rules of the game, thus they could readjust their national interest within a level playing field See net neutrality. after major strategic achievements.
Since the early 1990s the power in Lithuania has oscillated between conservative and social democratic majority coalitions. Upgrading of the Lithuanian polity culminated in establishing a mixed voting system as well as in establishing the semi-presidential system. The Estonian coalition of liberal, conservative and moderate political forces have traditionally united against the political depredations of the founder of the Center Party, Mr. Edgar Savisaar. Since the last parliamentary elections, and particularly since local elections in 2009, one may notice that the Estonian party system is transforming after the leadership change among the Social Democrats and heavy disagreements in the People's Union party. The upcoming parliamentary elections in 2011 will probably be hard fought.
It will be interesting to see whether development strategies of the right wing coalition will have credible alternatives coming from the Estonian center left coalition. The absence of mutually accepted rules of the political game differentiates Latvia's development from its Baltic neighbors. The Eurobarometer survey shows that in terms of general distrust in their representative institutions, Estonia is a positive exception among the 3B. Therefore, present Latvian negative exceptionalism is explained with the avoidance of insolvency, doubling of the rate of national debt and continuous political crisis.
Navigating the national economy in times of global economic and financial crisis is a formidable task. The efforts of Mr. Kubilius' government, with President Grybauskaite, to balance formulation of the national interest and to cut red tape do not make him popular. However, the task of Mr. Kubilius is made understandable for the average voter because it was the coalition government, led by the Lithuanian Social Democrats which governed Lithuania into recession and lost in the elections as a result. Latvia's dilapidated governing coalition is unnatural, and ethnic Latvian vs. Russian as well as democratic vs. oligarchic cleavages cut across Latvia's political spectrum.
It is nearly impossible to agree on future development strategies when blackmail, filibustering and populism prevail in the Latvian political culture. In such an environment sound advice of Western partners is not heard, short term policies are embedded, and external enemies are continuously reframed in order to consolidate undecided voters. It only fosters resentment and apathy, when politicians with questionable credentials are pushed through the political machinery to become members of the Constitutional Court, or when the work of the Corruption Prevention Bureau is undermined with the appointment of a heavily indebted person at its helm.
Latvia's ageing population is waiting for unequivocally understood rules of the game, while the younger generation adds to the increasing brain drain. A positive outcome of the October 2010 elections is a prerequisite for the formulation of long term national interests. Traditional political parties in Latvia This is a list of political parties in Latvia.
Latvia has a multi-party system, where no one party often has a chance of gaining power alone, and parties must work with each other to form coalition governments. continue to rely on questionable strategies of spin-doctors, and clearly defined economic programs for stopping deindustrialization and eradicating roots of political crisis that would transcend existing cleavages in society are not yet presented. With such a strategy Latvia's political class continues to fall behind its vexed Baltic neighbors, and gives ample tools to the folks who question the very existence of Latvia.
P.S. Originally this article appeared in the Baltic Times May 27, 2010 issue.
P.P.S. The June TBT article you can access here, latest piece for Estonian readers you may find here, and for the Latvian readers there is something here.