Over the course of the past twenty years the priority of Latvia’s foreign policy has been to enter the western society. Among all of the former Soviet republics, only the Baltic States have managed to do this. There is only the final stretch ahead before Latvia can become a member of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.
However, the Union of Greens and Farmers questions the necessity of this.
This kind of opinion came as a surprise to coalition partners – National Alliance and Unity. This has put the most difficult challenge for the coalition to date. OECD requires strengthening corruption-combating measures and higher degree of independence for KNAB. Unfortunately, Latvian governments have not been able to provide this since the creation of the bureau in 2002. Now this has to be done within one month’s time, as reported by Nekā personīga programme of TV3.
Entering OECD has been Latvia’s strategic goal for twenty years. Among the three Baltic States, only Estonia has so far managed to join OECD, which was done in 2010.
«Any Latvian resident will feel definite improvements to the overall quality of life once Latvia becomes a member of OECD, because membership in this organization will force Latvian institutions to improve education, so that it is possible to further develop the country’s business environment,» – explains Latvian Foreign Ministry’s press-secretary Raimonds Jansons.
Growth of Latvia’s credit rating will be an immediate benefit from joining OECD. Interest rates will reduce for state debts. Benefits will measure in several dozen million euros annually. Entrepreneurs will also have reduced expenses.
Controversies with OECD principles are one of the reasons why Saeima’s tax policy sub-committee failed the initiative to attract offshores last week. It was planned to motivate foreign offshores to register in Latvia with 2.25% Corporate Income Tax. It would provide the state budget up to one hundred million euros every year, the banks said. Some of the deputies were even excited about this plan. UGF Chairman Armands Krauze even said it would be worth risking with OECD membership for this.
«If you ask me personally, then, personally, I think we should pay more attention to taxes in Latvia’s State Treasury, to people and jobs, not seek membership in international organisations with benefits I don’t understand,» – said Krauze.
Leader of Saeima faction of UGF Augusts Brigmanis does not agree with the thought that offshores would be good news for Latvia. He is also skeptical about the country’s possible benefits in OECD. ‘[…] Twenty years have passed. Did something bad happen all this time we were not part of OECD? Did I miss something?’
National Alliance, Unity and even opposition party Harmony were shocked with such an opinion from one of the coalition parties.
«It should be said that the sceptisism coming from coalition parties regarding membership in OECD is somewhat odd,» – said Saeima deputy and deputy head of Unity’s faction Karlis Sadurskis.
Latvian politicians should overcome difficulties they have not been able to address lately. OECD demands strengthening Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau so that there is no room for doubts about possible involvement of politicians in the work of this institution.
In December Latvia will have to inform OECD members states of the progress with the completion of recommendations in the field of corruption combating. One of the most serious complaints OECD has about Latvia is the extent of political influence over the dismissal procedure of the Chief of KNAB, as well as unspecified and widely interpreted reasons behind the dismissal. OECD does not like the statement regarding supposed ‘non-compliance with official post’. This was the formulations used by the Saeima to dismiss Aleksei Loskutov and Normunds Vilnitis. This formulation was used by two Latvian prime ministers in hopes of dismissing the current Chief of KNAB – Yaroslav Strelchenok. This initiative was not supported in the Saeima. There have been talks in the Saeima about liquidating KNAB altogether lately. Now the parliament will have to do the opposite – reinforce the independence of the head of KNAB. And this has to be done within one month’s time.