After Britain’s vote on leaving the European Union, Latvian residents generally support deeper integration in Europe, as concluded in Latvian President Raimonds Vejonis’ initiated public discussion on Latvia’s security in the 21st century.
The president opened the ‘Brexit lesson for Latvia and Europe’ discussion with a speech. In it, the president reminded that state security does not solely consist of military protection and strengthening of borders. «Security also consists of economic development, judicial power, protection of human rights, love of motherland and other factors,» – Vejonis emphasized.
In the discussion’s introduction, Director of the International Research Centre Gunda Reire said that «Brexit had created a shock moment for Britain and the entire European Union. Now that the dust has settled, it is necessary to analyse all factors that had led to Brexit. We also need to consider that the European identity is now part of Latvian residents – our people expect Latvia to remain in the European Union and become more deeply integrated with it,» – said Reire.
Director of SKDS Arnis Kaktins presented participants of the discussion with data that shows even after Brexit Latvian residents support deeper integration within Europe. The survey performed by SKDS shows that 45% of respondents see Latvia’s integration in Europe as very positive or positive. 23% said they feel more negative towards European integration. «Similar to Britain’s case, Latvians are concerned about immigration. Unlike the British, however, Latvia’s residents see economic benefits in EU membership. They also see it as an important tool to help resolve foreign and military matters, which is especially important in the wake of the events in Ukraine,» – said Kaktins.
It was mentioned during the discussion that matters of migration had been one of the breaking points for Brexit. They remain high on the list of priorities for the European Union. Doctoral candidate in migration studies Agnese Lace emphasized that it is important for Latvia to form a coordinated refugee integration policy in line with its long-term perspective. «A comprehensive approach will help use the socio-economic potential of those people and improve society’s cohesion and Latvia’s growth,» – said Lace.
«In Latvia’s case, one of the most shocking aspects of Brexit is the hate speech and growing level of inter-national intolerance of Latvians living and working there. Citizens of the Republic of Latvia are under the protection of their home country anywhere in the world. Latvia’s government has to be prepared to make diplomatic steps to prevent or stop any harm dealt to its citizens,» – said lecturer of the University of Latvia Maris Lejnieks.