“We are looking forward to recovery” – Latvian president
In 2014, Latvia will join the Eurozone as planned, and there are no obstacles that could possibly interfere, shared the president. “I do not like the division: young members [of EU] and old members, big members and the small members, because the EU was created to be a common market for 500 million people and everyone has to benefit from that. For the small and open economy like Latvia, being in EU market is very important.”
“Of course there was some euphoria because of all the time catching up with the welfare level of the big states, but when the crisis come, we are in a position that we really also get the benefits of being in the EU, because our assistance was effective and very quick,” he continued.
“Frankly, there are no disadvantages [in joining the EU]. We are happy with what we have done, but we are not happy with our homework, how we managed our country and our economy in 2005-2008,” acknowledged Valdis Zatlers, adding that “the crisis now is a good chance to correct mistakes.”
The Latvian president assured that there is no loss of national identity for a small country like Latvia in joining the EU, because a person that belongs to Latvia also belongs to the Baltic and to Europe itself. “It is the 21st Century. We have to live in double-layer identities,” he added.
Answering a question about marches of the former Latvian Waffen SS in the country’s capital, Riga, Valdis Zatlers said that “we are living in a democratic state and have the freedom of free, peaceful assembly.” He pointed out that “if there would be any sign of Nazi ideology – they will be outlawed immediately. But we have the decisions of the court that they are peaceful assembly.”
Valdis Zatlers assured that there is no rise of nationalism in his country, because “in EU the diversity of nationalities is so high we should not speak about nationalism,” and that “in Europe we are all Europeans.”
The president believes that the situation with the Russian minority in the country, who do not have full citizens’ rights, has greatly improved over the last five years, and put forth the idea that the improvement of relations between Russia and Latvia lies in the field of security, saying that “we should really have the same goals in [the] relationship [between] Europe-Russia [and] Latvia-Russia.”