esmaspäev, juuni 09, 2008

mission statements

The Economist's Edward Lucas has an interesting piece up about Latvia, dubbed "The Latvian Puzzle." Puzzling is the appropriate word.

I have no idea what to write about Latvia. Its politics are dominated by parties with names that don't seem to mean anything. I mean, who isn't in favor of a new era? Who doesn't wish for a country governed from the harmony center? And a union of greens and farmers? That sounds adorable. Do they also sell organic lemonade and rhubarb pies?

I think the opaqueness of reading Latvia comes down to this: Estonia, for all its warts, has a mission statement to become a wealthy, northern European country that exports its sheer brilliance. This mission statement is embraced by all political parties. The Reform Party uses it, the Social Democrats use it, even the Center Party will tell you that Estonia needs to adopt progressive taxation policies, because Estonia should follow the Nordic model more closely.

In my opinion, some questions that could help to solve the Latvian puzzle are:
  • what is Latvia's mission statement?
  • And, also, how do recent Latvian positions either contribute to or detract from that mission statement?
  • For good measure, we might also include, how does Latvia's mission statement, or lack thereof, impact Estonia's mission statement?
Daugavpils blogger Pēteris Cedriņš has been turning over this question in a number of posts in recent months. There doesn't seem to be an answer. But if you are looking to solve the Latvian puzzle, it might help to begin by asking questions about how Latvia envisions its future first.

11 kommentaari:

Jens-Olaf ütles ...
Autor on selle kommentaari eemaldanud.
Jens-Olaf ütles ...

For me. I know a lot of Latvians. They are stubborn, they are doing the things that are important for them: Family, job, making a living, going out of the city if possible. You will see it at the end of June. And they do it like many Estonians do it. Don't talk too much. Kaurismäki could fit to Latvia too.

Jens-Olaf ütles ...

Ah, and about politics. I think the majority of Latvians have not reached the point of disagreement yet. Or are very close to it.
Imagine if Savissar would have a second chance. He was close.

Giustino ütles ...

Imagine if Savissar would have a second chance. He was close.

He, or someone connected to him, probably will. But, I see him staying in Tallinn and letting someone else do the dirty work of being PM. A party boss, if you will. And Savisaar will never be able to do it alone. There will have to be some consensus from other parties.

Jim Hass ütles ...

Mission statements seem to be those kind of bland, idealistic statements that express the least common denominators of ambition. With a disparate population of Russians outside of Russia, and Ethnic Latvians, not really dominating the Republic, what common aspirations or goals can they decide, other than to leave each other in peace, and try to enforce good public order and manners?
Other than the usual public good ubiquitous in the EU, why should they aspire to granduer. I recall that many in post-Soviet Europe just wanted to live in a normal country. What's wrong with that?

Giustino ütles ...

Other than the usual public good ubiquitous in the EU, why should they aspire to granduer. I recall that many in post-Soviet Europe just wanted to live in a normal country. What's wrong with that?

I'll give you an example, Jim. In Estonia, politicians warn that the transit trade with Russia will never come back, and that Estonia needs to invest in producing a highly capable workforce that can compete in services-oriented markets -- IT, biotechnology, financial services, et cetera.

Latvia, though, may look at itself and say, "we're an interface for east and west," a natural meeting place for its two largest trading partners, Germany and Russia. Therefore, they may be less fazed by big deals between Berlin and Moscow if they can squeeze some money for Latvia out of the deal.

It may explain why nobody bats an eye at Kalvitis building a hockey team that will play in the Russian leagues, you if read the Lucas piece.

Kristopher ütles ...

It wouldn't be a bad idea for a country to agree on one succinct mission statement, almost like an adjunct to the Constitution. For ten years at a time.

Many people in Estonia actually decry the fact that there are way too many strategies, mission statements, development plans, kontseptsioons.

In any case, a mission statement should not read like a laundry list of certain words that lack negative associations.

There is no negative association with IT, sustainable, service-oriented, Nordic, knowledge-based. (Perhaps biotechnology might get some people thinking about GMO and stem cells.) It all sounds like some kind of highly-mindful advanced civilization of Sindarin elves sitting in trees with laptops, but what does it really mean? What about energy? Do the parties agree on that? (No.) Are we any closer to direct democracy? Is Estonia going to do this system of 101 overpaid legislators for ever, now that we have ID cards?

I'm a big believer in treating countries as they are, not as they want to be.

Jim Hass ütles ...

While you may not agree with politicians accommodating corrupt forces to the East, they are doing what they can in the market, political and economic, that they find themselves. Latvia a different state, with different problems, Not every one comes from a state with the strong social solidarity that Estonia has.

It seems to me from afar that Latvia is really the weakest state of the Baltic trio, despite strong institutions. It depends more on Russian transit trade, Ventpils, the oil refinery etc.

it has a larger Russophone minority. Less exposure and more distance from the pre-92 period with the west. Lower income levels, larger borders (if you don't count those island shores of estonia)

In a democracy, politicians listen to their voters. If those voters agree on less in fact, maybe this LCD approach is not so bad.

You could still hope for more than a baltic version of Indiana's slogan "crossroads of america". Am I so wrong?

Pēteris Cedriņš ütles ...

I suppose these lines, from one of my very first blog posts, still apply:

"In Diena last year, Vita Matīss considered the relations between America, Europe, and Latvia. Taking Timothy Garton Ash's remarks on the four faces of the UK, she saw Latvia as having seven. Britain has one face turned to the world, one to its navel, one to America, and one to Europe. Headaches are guaranteed -- but Latvia has three additional faces: a fifth face looking back to Russia, a sixth turning in any convenient direction like the cock atop Saint Peter's steeple, and a seventh determinedly buried in the sand.

"'The sixth and seventh faces have often been the standard positions of the Latvian Janus, shown to the world, since it hasn't reached even a minimum consensus on which of the faces, one through five, is the real one -- and doesn't know whether it's possible for a few faces to look in one direction at the same time without hurting its head or breaking its neck.' (My crude translation.)"

Hirnu-Hrnx! ütles ...

Anyone who thinks too much about mission statements ends up damaging their mental health.

Thus:

Life shoud be mission-statement free!


Oh, no, I did not come up with another mission statement, did I?

egan ütles ...

It may explain why nobody bats an eye at Kalvitis building a hockey team that will play in the Russian leagues, you if read the Lucas piece.



Well, Latvia doesn't have much of a hockey league, and the Russian Open League (a new set-up, not the normal Russian league) is going to be a big thing. It is perfectly sensible for a Latvian who wants to set up a hockey club to join the ROL. Harry harkimo would like to take Jokerit there, but he just doesn't have the money and even if he did, it would be a massive risk: doubling the current budget of 5meur to meet the minimum, and even then only be one of the poorest clubs in the league with long trips to Omsk and Kazan instead of derbies with Espoo Blues and HIFK.

Latvia has no such tradition of big matches against Daugavspils, so the ROL is a very sensible move for a hockey fan. Unless you're completely paranoid and see Putin's hand in eveything. I'd be interested to read Lucas's thoughts on Gazprom's all star team, who play lots of matches in North America. No doubt that signifies an imminent capitulation on the part of the Bush administration, or something.