Iezīmējot Latviju globālajā mārketinga kartē

Latvia, as with the other two Baltic States, has come a long way in terms of international admittance since it regained its de facto independence in 1991. After breaking away from the Soviet Union, the small country reoriented its foreign policy towards Western integration. The goals of European Union (EU) and NATO membership were the primary targets. Latvia reoriented and restructured its economy, politics, legal system and society to fit the acquis communautaire and to prove that it is a trustworthy partner on the international arena. After 2004, Latvia aimed to become an OECD member state[1], changing its status in multilateral development cooperation organizations from a “recipient” country to a “donor” country and becoming a Eurozone member state, thus completing its integration into the EU. Now, when it is clear that Latvia will be achieving its tasks in the coming years, a question similar to the one in 2004 is raised again: what next?

After the successful introduction of euro and becoming a full partner in the OECD, for the first time in its modern history Latvia will be a country without the nominal necessity to adapt and comply. That will cause and facilitate Latvia’s already growing self-awareness of its role and place on the international arena. The final official occasion to prove its professionalism and reliability and the first major step in the “new status” for the country will be its presidency in the European Union Council in the first semester of 2015. After that, Latvia will be on its own regarding its new diplomatic goals.

Following the idea presented earlier[2], the interests of countries like Latvia with a significant degree of similarity can be attributed to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs[3] and some role theorists in international relations[4]. Moreover, these countries tend to seek self-realization after they have been assured security, autonomy and potential for welfare. As the classical realist would claim, the fourth interest of countries is status or prestige[5]. And that is what Latvia will seek. Thus, Latvia’s most logical option is to pursue growing visibility on the world stage. Hence, this article will address the main spheres where this could be done: media/ public diplomacy/ culture, business, and international politics. Latvia can demonstrate and emphasize its unique language and centuries-old cultural traditions, folklore and experiences in a permanently undermining environment. The country and society, with its many bidirectional influences, has accumulated its cultural capital over the last thousand years. The capacity to struggle and achieve is typical for Latvians when they set their mind to it. The promotion of Latvia’s uniqueness and putting the country on the world’s cultural and media map is essential for building familiarity of the country among the world public. The “Live Riga” or “Latvia – country that sings” projects are not sufficient and are not the place to stop. The story of Latvia and Latvians has intriguing twists and turns not only for the movie industry and novels. The stories and sights that have not been heard or seen in the Americas or Asia are an important step toward increasing the popularity of Latvia and Latvian-ness. Making the country and its society recognizable in the world media is necessary not only for the accumulation of sympathy, but also for the promotion of business opportunities. Namely, “being stylish” attracts investments and tourism. So, let’s put Latvia in movies, not just the movies in Latvia.

Latvia’s economic recovery and the “success story” that is been popularized in the world media is the first step towards emphasizing Latvia’s modern achievements. In spite of serious down sides of the austerity policy, Latvian society has returned the country to a fast recovery. The capacity to adapt is responsible for the emergence of the “success story”. The capacity to adapt was accumulated over centuries, and in particular since Latvians regained their independence. The “know how” surrounding the transition from totalitarian planned economy system to democratic open liberal market economy is an additional asset. Especially during the current attempts to introduce democracy and a more private-sector based economy in some of the “Arab-spring” countries, the documentation of Latvia’s experiences (illusions and realities) is a potential point of interest and leads to the potential for business investments. Latvia’s capacity to use its limited resources, create high-demand niche products, advance its IT infrastructure and innovations, while still presenting itself as the second greenest country in the world[6], are attractive characteristics of any country.

Finally, the marketing of the country and its successful examples of economic achievements are missing a third corner stone – the political potential. Latvia’s future international image is constituted by an ability to attract different political, military, environmental, technological and other summits and conferences. Contributing to this would be an increased willingness for, and the training to exercise, its potential for international mediation. Being a small Northern/Eastern European country that is a member of the EU, NATO, the OECD, the WTO, the Eurozone, the Council of Europe and other international organizations already creates substantial credibility for Latvia on the global scale. Latvia’s membership and say in these organizations gives Latvia additional possibilities to voice its concerns as well as the concerns of the others.

One can easily see that Latvia has been growing its own credibility in the eyes of Western partners for 20 years. Now the time has come to grow the credibility and popularity of its achievements and capacities. Of course, the international communications of the country should run parallel to the ongoing piecemeal domestic improvements – most importantly, the struggle with social inequality. Therefore, it appears to be rather clear what the consequent foreign policy priorities for Latvia should be, already starting from its presidency of the European Union Council. Improving the international communications of Latvia is a logical next goal to achieve for the Latvian diplomatic service. Latvia is about to be put on the global map. And it deserves and needs a properly equipped diplomatic service for that.

[1] The Cabinet of Ministers of the Republic of Latvia adopted the principles of cooperation between Latvia and OECD on August 25th, 2004 (MK rīkojums, 25.08.2004., Nr.589), stating the interest of Latvia’s to become a full member of OECD. Latvia has been invited to start the accession negotiations on May 30, 2013.

[2] Bukovskis, K. Pārdomas par Latvijas post-eiro ārpolitiskajiem izaicinājumiem. – 14.08.2013. -

[3] Maslow, A.H. A Theory of Human Motivation// Psychological Review. - 1943. – 50 -  pp. 370-396.

[4] See for instance, Role Theory in International Relations/ Ed. by Sebastian Harnisch, Cornelia Frank, Hanns W. Maull. London, New York: Routledge, 2011.

[5] See for instance, Morgenthau, H. Politics Among Nations. - New York: McGraw-Hill, 1948.

[6] Malik, O. What Makes Latvia a Leader in the 2012 Environmental Performance Index? - New Haven: Yale Center for Environmental Law & Policy. – 28.01.2013. -

Publicēts 20. septembris, 2013

Autors Kārlis Bukovskis