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Government and governance of the Baltic states.

While the word "government" is generally understood, the term "governance" is often misinterpreted and it generally acquires the wrong qualities while being translated into other languages. In social science literature governance is generally perceived as a process with a set of rules and norms that the participants in the governing entity generally accept. Thus, the process of governance in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania (3B) implies the accepted norms and rules that enable the operation of three distinct states within an environment of numerous international authorities.

The fact that 3B are members of the EU allows me to use the novel approach of looking across the conventional domestic/international divide. If we find some authority in the international realm, and a consequent depletion of national governmental power of capacity, does this count as more government, or more governance? For example, one may ask whether, in a Europeanized world where Brussels' institutions take over sovereign responsibilities from the EU member states, this constitutes more government (of the EU), or more governance of the EU member states?

While focusing on the traditional Cold War divide between the domestic/international arena, we miss the depth and scope of transformations in the EU. After all, governance acquired global preeminence as a concept used in the social sciences only in the early 1990's. Governability of any state is possible only when the ruled consider the rulers as legitimate authorities, and to acquire legitimate authority rulers must use the full arsenal of governance. If one analyzes the Eurobarometer semi-annual surveys one may notice that the Estonian population considers its governors as legitimate, while Latvians and to a certain extent also Lithuanians, governability is limited.

Also, the World Competitiveness Report 2009-2010, as well as the Bertelsmann annual survey of Transitional Democracies show the trend that Estonia, in all major indices, is leaving its Baltic neighbors far behind. Now, when several high ranking EU officials announced somewhat contradicting statements about Estonia's readiness to join the eurozone, one could legitimately ask whether the Estonian success in comparison with its Baltic cousins was due to its better government, or governance? James Rosenau, in The Study of World Politics, concluded that governance (deriving from the word "kybernan"--to steer, in Greek) is a process whereby a social organization steers itself, and the dynamics of communication and control are central to that.

Rosenau pinpoints also to two very essential points concerning democracy. First, the conclusion about society steering itself denotes incremental requirements of democracy--self rule, and second, the self-organization of society requiring communication and control denotes relational aspects which lead to the conclusion that legitimate authority in such a hypothetical framework can be achieved only through democratic debate. One may also conclude that technocratic decisions, a hierarchical approach to statecraft and lack of mutual interaction between the state and civil society representatives allows bad governments to ossify. Latter examples are entrenched due to the disregard for good EU governance principles that traditional elites usually fail to translate. If one combines the negative conclusions of bad governance with increased numbers of Latvian and Lithuanian citizens leaving to find employment in Western parts of Europe, it becomes evident that governance matters.

Several reports have revealed that not only remuneration, but first and foremost the environment of corruption and an unfriendly atmosphere in the workplace, serve as major reasons for people from 3B deciding to leave their domicile. Such reports should make governing circles in Riga and Vilnius alert. Instead, traditional politicians very often baselessly blame Brussels' regulations and directives for their own mistakes failing to explain dynamic rules of the EU governance. Latvia's traditional government clique (People's Party, Union of Greens and Farmers, Fatherland Party and Latvian First/Latvian Way Party Union) in particular blame the IMF for their own incapacity to govern. Latvia's traditional authorities, commonly known as the AAA team, probably underestimated the conditionality of EU membership.

Thus, morally bankrupt politicians in Latvia have opted to Eurasianize, instead of meticulously learning how Estonia emulated the EU governance rules that Europeanized Estonia's political culture. EU membership and the Lisbon Treaty in particular galvanized principles of sound public administration and the rule of law on multiple levels of EU governance. In the short run the dynamics of EU governance should create upheavals in badly governed states--particularly in Latvia where the civil society is slowly waking up from its cheap credit boom-infused complacent slumber. In the long run emulation of best practices of EU governance could eliminate the vestiges of anachronistic rule in 3B, because without EU level governance principles it is impossible to achieve good government. Ironically, there is a very ugly, though the only other tangible, alternative to this last point--switching off the lights after the last taxpayer leaves the badly governed EU state. Veiko Spolitis--lecturer at the Riga Stradins University (
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Title Annotation:Opinion
Author:Spolitis, Veiko
Publication:The Baltic Times (Riga, Latvia)
Date:Dec 17, 2009
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