An exclusive interview with the Ph.D. in Political Science Mr. Andrejs Berdnikovs (Riga)
1. Please give your evaluation of the positions of Latvia in Baltic dimension of European integration?
During the independence struggle and the process of accession to the European Union, the Baltics countries were united and cooperative: actually, they acted as a single unit. Europeanization trend – understood as a practice of transferring EU policies, norms and values into national agendas – was clearly overwhelming in all the three Baltic States.
Over the whole period following the collapse of the USSR, the Baltic countries have always presented and promoted a unanimous view of (“reserved”) relationship with Russia and shared a common geopolitical orientation towards the West. It has been the case despite occasional disagreements in economic and energy fields.
Unfortunately, in the context of the ongoing refugee crisis, things have started to change for the worse. Apart from the still prevailing Europeanization trend, Euroscepticism is increasingly coming to the fore in Latvia. There are government coalition’s politicians who routinely call for Latvia to join the Visegrad group in promoting anti-immigrant sentiments and opposing “EU technocrats”.
The Baltic countries still remain united in the face of the Russian hybrid threats, but it seems there is the rise of new cleavages regarding the future of Europe and the EU. Should Europeans defend the values of open and multicultural Europe and strengthen the emancipatory Western tradition that has been shaping the European identity since the end of the Second World War? Or do they rather need a more conservative and hierarchical Europe, hostile to newcomers and suspicious of foreigners? There are concerns that the Baltic States won’t be unanimous soon in answering these questions.
2. How successful is Latvia’s foreign policy in the regions of South Caucasus and Central Asia?
It has been quite successful. In many ways, the relationship with these countries is a symbolic embodiment of success and accomplishment achieved by Latvia through years of its Europeanization efforts. This is because, after the accession to the EU in 2004, Latvia turned from the recipient society into a donor country. Now it promotes European values in the societies of South Caucasus and Central Asia itself, and shares its knowledge and expertise on how to succeed. Apart from the value transfer policies, Latvia has developed close economic relationship with these regions as well.
3. Which is the core of energy security assurance for Your country?
Following the annexation of Crimea by Russia and war in the Donbass, the Latvian authorities started paying particular attention to security issues worrying about threats coming from the country’s eastern neighbor. As one of the most important challenges for Latvian national security was ranked the energy dependence on the Russian Federation.
Generally, the Latvian politicians have been repeatedly advocating and emphasizing the significance of the common EU energy policy which should be targeted at (1) diminishing energy imports from a single source of supply and (2) diversifying supply sources, both geographically and by energy type.
A number of Latvian politicians and high-ranking civil servants have been very optimistic – especially before the Donald Trump's victory as the President – about importing liquefied gas from the U.S. Others have been looking more towards the prospects for energy cooperation with the EU Eastern Partnership countries, for example, with Azerbaijan.
In sum, the future of energy security in Latvia at the moment is not clear enough and Latvian politicians are still looking for a solution. What is evident, however, is that the Latvian authorities believe that the key to long-term success lies in strengthening the common EU energy policy and diversifying supply sources.