Euro Notes from the Baltics

Further to my report in October it seems that the luminaries of the Baltic states are still living in cloud cuckoo land.

In Estonia Finance Minister Aiver Sõerd says in today’s Äripäev: “Both, the state as well as private business must continue with the aim to be fully prepared to adopt the euro from the beginning of 2007.” The hectoring tone might be understandable when you remember that the latest opinion polls put opposition to the Euro at 48% and support at 47%. As Matthew Lynn at Bloomberg states:

In Estonia, a poll showed more than half the population opposed euro membership, according to an AFP report last week. And only 38 percent of people in the 10 new countries expect “positive consequences” from the euro, down 6 points from last year, according to a European Commission report last week.

Quite reasonably, many analysts have concluded that eastern European leaders aren’t planning to walk up this particular aisle. “The EU attracted accession states on account of the relative prosperity it enjoyed through the 1990s,” said Stephen Lewis, chief economist at Monument Securities Ltd. in London, in a note to investors. “More recently, the euro zone has, rightly or wrongly, become a byword for economic stagnation. It is not surprising, therefore, that the forward momentum of European integration has been lost.”

Meanwhile, Toomas Hendrik Ilves, an Estonian member of the European Parliament, who is the former Estonian Foreign Minister, has come up with some prize drivel masquerading as an attack on the Estonian Prime Minister. Writing in this weekend’s Päevaleht, he attempts to dissect Estonia’s current existence: “The main reason for Estonian problems is – being self-centred and unable to perceive the broader context of processes.”

So it seems that the bottom line is that in his eyes the government are to be condemned for lacking in a communitarian spirit, and being solely concentrated on Estonian interests. Now there is a failing in a politician.

“The Prime Minister must ‘establish’ himself as the leader of European issues,” emphasises Mr Ilves as he smells the EU pork barrel. The government might consider employing experts from other countries in order to make better use of the “EU assistance money.”

My round up finishes with the latest news out of Lithuania, where despite the Government’s commitment to Euro entry in 2007 the polls are now looking very bad. Indeed, a poll taken in early November by the Vilmoris Institute states that more than half of Lithuanians reject Euro membership. Only 34% claimed to support entry. However, the government are still planning to join, without a referendum in the beginning of 2007.

Who they think they are

This sort of thing seems largely a matter of where the Finance Minister and former Foreign Minister find their identity and so the point of view from which they look at things.

It seems clear that they look at themselves most basically as top-level functionaries and not as Estonians. As such, they take the TLF point of view, watch out for the collective interest of TLFs, and think it's quite clear that the most important thing Estonia or anybody else can possibly do is bring everything in line with what's wanted by the international TLF union, otherwise known as the EU. After all, the whole point of the communitarian spirit is that it sets TLFs free from boring local influences and lets them run everything just as they think it should be run.

One might ask why Estonians generally should look at things that way. Admittedly the TLFs are experts and know better, but don't other things, basic loyalties for example, sometimes count?