Latvia. At the New Year, the government reached its major economic target as Latvia became the eighth member of the euro zone. But after cuts required for the euro entry, and in the shadow of the euro crisis in the EU, only a quarter of the Latvian people were positive to the euro, while about half were opposed.
According to Countryaah.com, Latvia population in 2020 is estimated at 1,886,209. Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis had announced his resignation before the New Year, and in January, the President appointed Agriculture Minister Laimdota Straujuma as the new governor. Latvia’s first female prime minister broadened the coalition by bringing in the League of Green and Peasants.
The crisis in Ukraine with the Russian annexation of the Crimean peninsula had repercussions in Latvia, which in the east has borders with the Russian Federation. Russian military planes made many flights near the border of Latvia, and there were concerns about Russian actions against Latvia. The annexation of Crimea was described by Moscow as a protection for local Russians, and the Kremlin at the same time criticized Latvia’s policy of Russian-speaking about one-third of the population.
Due to the sensitive security policy situation, the government was on full range for the annual march in Riga in March of veterans from a Latvian SS legion. The Minister for the Environment from the National Alliance intended to defy the participation ban for ministers but was then forced to resign. The government urged all residents to avoid political activity that risked tensions and discontent, a concern that Russian-speaking people would have reason to demonstrate with support for the Russian uprising in Ukraine.
Authorities banned the Russian Russian TV channel Rossija RTR from broadcasting in Latvia following allegations of propagandistic reporting on the Ukraine crisis. The government also decided to create a so-called strategic communication center to respond to Russian information/ propaganda.
Against the background of the Ukraine crisis, the Baltics requested NATO troops, and in April the United States sent 150 NATO soldiers to each of Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania. At its September summit, NATO decided to strengthen its presence in the Baltic States and create a response force for rapid emergency response in crisis. After the summit, a NATO exercise was conducted in Latvia.
Latvia, in turn, decided to double defense spending by 2020 to reach NATO’s requested 2% of GDP. Former Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis was running for election to the European Parliament, and his party Unity won by more than 46% and half of Latvia’s eight seats. The Latvian-speaking voters seemed to be in favor of Dombrovski’s party in times of turmoil. At the same time, the Russian-dominated Harmonic Center made a poor choice and took only one mandate, which was also interpreted as a result of unrest in the East.
Dombrovsky was then nominated as Latvia’s new EU Commissioner and was appointed Vice-President of the Commission responsible for Euro Affairs and Social Dialogue.
EU sanctions against Moscow because of the war in eastern Ukraine led to problems for Latvia. When Russian counter-sanctions hit Latvia’s large exports of food east, the government gave tax exemptions to companies with significant sales to the Russian Federation.
Transit traffic through Latvia accounts for about one-eighth of GDP, and the government influenced the EU not to trigger sanctions on the Russian transport sector.
In the shadow of the Ukraine crisis, the three right-center parties of the Latvian nationalist government emerged in the parliamentary elections in October, while the Russian-dominated social-democratic opposition declined. At the same time, two new government-critical parties came into Parliament.
Despite the decline, the Opposition Harmonic Center was the largest, with 23% of the vote, followed by the governing Liberal Conservative Unit with close to 22%, the League of Green and Peasants 19.5% and the National Alliance 16.6%.
The government negotiations were delayed, but in November Parliament approved Laimdota Straujuma as prime minister for a continued tripartite coalition.