Fighting for Minds of Youth in Latvia

The most disappointing consequence of Brexit for foreign residents living in the UK has become the unexpected rise of xenophobia. According to the behavior of locals, the European Union’s (EU) open door policy has completely failed. Brits have made it clear that foreigners are not welcome. Not only immigrants from conflict areas, but people from Poland and Baltic states face insults or even physical violence, hear offensive words and the call to pack their bags and leave.

This situation has become possible mainly due to inconsistency of domestic and foreign policy. Britain’s activity in the EU was often contrary to the national interests and population’s needs. The government chose to ignore the discontent of the population. Locals became more and more irritated by the arrival of a cheap labor force from Eastern Europe and the financial costs associated with assistance to other countries in the sphere of security and defense. Such policies led to hatred of foreigners that is unacceptable for a democratic country. Hidden evils of society got an excellent opportunity to emerge.

Such cases should be a lesson and serve as a prerequisite for review of foreign policy carrying out by other EU countries such as Latvia. Latvia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Edgars Rinkēvičs expressed regret with the UK’s desire to leave the European Union. The EU was formed as a way to align the common interests of member states, while acknowledging that this has not always been 100 percent effective. Rinkēvičs understands that Latvia, as well as the EU itself, will face additional problems with financing, immigration, security and defense. In spite of increasing defense spending, today Latvia is less sure in its proper security than earlier.

In the Baltic states, there are also certain concerns of the possible rise of discontent inside the countries. Latvian nationalism could rear its head even higher. Latvia is often criticized because of manifestations of fascism. According to a study conducted by the National Defence Academy of Latvia’s Center for Security and Strategic Research, about 30 percent of Latvians agree that fascism is awakening in Latvia. The country invites foreign troops and makes their deployment comfortable. But the government does nothing to stop young Latvians from leaving their home country to make their lives better.

Latvian ultra-nationalists will surely exploit the situation in the UK by attracting new members to join ultra-nationalists’ organizations and movements. Youths are their main target. Following the instructions of the EU and NATO — without taking into consideration national interests and domestic situation — may cause flowering of extremism and ultra-nationalism in Latvia. One illustrative case occurred on July 4, 2016. Three young men were detained in Riga for desecrating the national flag.

Now is the time to think about the situation and draw the right conclusions from Brexit in order not to lose Latvia’s youth generation. It is time to fight for their minds, making right political decisions and not setting common international organizations’ priorities ahead of domestic priorities. The British example should be a lesson for all of Europe.