A chat over coffee (with Veiko Spolitis, Latvian MEP candiate)
That the Latvian public is the most eurosceptic in the EU is very much due to a flawed legislative process and complacent politicians. The public’s distrust vis-à-vis the democratic regime is being transmitted into distrust against the EU institutions. Rather ironically, Eurobarometer polls show that for the last four years the EU institutions were trusted more than Latvian political parties, Latvian governments, and the national Parliament (known as the Saeima).
Distrust could describe the overall mood of the Latvian urban population, whilst apathy and indifference could be said to characterise the countryside. Stagnation of the Latvian political elite has lead to a mushrooming of political parties during the past year. New parties have appealed for transparency, the rule of law, and the “Europeanisation” of Latvian post-Soviet political culture.
While touring Latvia during the election campaign I witnessed a significant amount of indifference and distrust. One of the many questions people asked me was whether they would need to go to Brussels to elect the European Parliament! Such questions made me thoughtful, but in the meantime I also witnessed hope among the younger generation that the EU could assist Latvian civil society in cleaning up the mess. To rid the Latvian political system from its complacent politicians and to upgrade its legal system would take some time. Pan–European party groups could be more instrumental in this process, but they are also institutionally tied with existing political parties.
Two weeks ago I was in a TV debate with Rihards Pīks (MEP – People’s Party). It was a sheer coincidence that the “Guide to Open Europe’s League Table of MEPs” was published at that time. The Honourable MEP in the TV studio – contrary to the results of the study (he was the worst performer among the MEPs from the Baltic States) – tried to convince the audience that the European Parliament must embody transparency and openness if it is to become a credible institution. With such hypocrisy, it is impossible to raise the credibility of EU institutions. It was rather symptomatic that, while the TV host engaged us in a debate about energy security, climate change, and Europe-wide migration, I was preoccupied by the notion that Latvian voters want to see politicians who do not lie and are able to deliver.