chapter  8
Latvia: on the push- pull effects of a small state in the EU
Pages 15

Introduction The Republic of Latvia returned to the world stage in August 1991 after 60 years of Soviet occupation, having strived for Western consensus and fortitude in their approach to Latvia’s right to exist as an independent nation once again. Following independence Latvia, along with its Baltic neighbors to the north and south, sought entry into Western organizations such as the EU, NATO, and Council of Europe, as guarantees of perpetual independence. Within this context, the new Latvian government set out on a foreign policy of engaging the “West” while disengaging with Russia in terms of political communication and economic trade. Through successive governments with rotating center-right political parties, Latvian foreign policy was entirely focused on these twin goals. This devotion and focus bore fruit when Latvia joined the EU and NATO in the spring of 2004. Latvia had become a member of the largest trading bloc in the world and the most powerful military alliance the world had ever seen all at once. As much as this may have solved Latvia’s existential foreign policy needs, entry into the EU and NATO also represented a new set of foreign policy challenges. As we discuss elsewhere (Galbreath and Lamoreaux 2007; Galbreath et al. 2008; Lamoreaux and Galbreath 2008), the new foreign policy agenda following accession was focused on using Latvia’s new role as a bridge to other parts of the former Soviet Union, where democracy and market economies were just beginning to flourish despite Russian designs to the contrary. And herein lies a natural tension between the foreign policy goals of small states in the EU and NATO, in that their ability to craft Union or Alliance agendas is restricted by size and geopolitical design. Thus the key challenge for Latvia, as for many other CEE states, has been to develop the capacity to capitalize on Western institutions and procedures in order to maximize its interests and preferences, and strategies and actions. With this in mind, this chapter looks at Latvia’s post-accession foreign policy along the lines of the analytical framework set out by the editors in Chapter 1. First, we look at the institutions and procedures of Latvian foreign policy. We ask the question, how has Latvia’s membership in the EU affected domestic

institutions? For example, what has been the impact of CFSP on foreign policy staff and resources? Second, we look at post-accession interests and preferences. How have Latvia’s foreign policy interests and preferences changed as a result of EU and CFSP membership? How have the interests and preferences of those in Brussels and Latvian society filtered into Latvian foreign policy? Finally, we look at strategies and actions. We ask to what extent and effect has Latvia sought to work through the EU and utilize the mechanisms of CFSP for their own foreign policy agenda? In the Conclusion we ask to what extent has Latvia been successful in preserving a separate national foreign policy identity, profile, and agenda within the context of EU membership and CFSP?