Last Saturday, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier presented the Westphalian Peace Prize to presidents of three Baltic countries: Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, in German Munster. Reinhard Zinkann, chairman of the Westphalian Economic Society, which, in fact, awards this award, explained to Deutsche Welle: “Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania are the northern outposts of the European Union, because of their geographical position, these countries are vulnerable today. It is necessary to appreciate their efforts to integrate into Europe and provide them with support. ”
Political conjuncture and real story
The Westphalian Prize was awarded to the Baltic countries by the influential German economic association Westphalia and Lippe in January. Then it was announced that the solemn act of presenting the international award will be held in July. Now the event has come true by replenishing the photo library of the leaders of the Baltic states with a joint photo with statuettes, according to the idea of the organizers of the award, symbolizing European integration.
The Westphalian business community established its ambitious award exactly 20 years ago. Like any regional association, it is somewhat constrained in means. Therefore, the prize is awarded once every two years, and its cash equivalent is only 100 thousand euros.
This amount is substantial enough for individual reward applicants. At various times, it was honored by the first Czech President Vaclav Havel, the former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, the former French President Valerie Giscard d'Estaing, the former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, and other reputable politicians in the world.
However, even for such small countries as the current winners, the award serves not primarily financial support, but a symbol of recognition of the merits of these states, in this case “in their European integration”. Moreover, the international prestige of the Westphalian Prize was not given to the money of the local business association, but participation in the jury of such political heavyweights as President of Germany Frank-Walter Steinmeier, head of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker and Bundesbank Chairman Jens Weidmann.
In short, the political component of the Münster event was evident even before it began. The special character was given to her by the fact that this year Estonia and Latvia are celebrating a hundred years of independence, and Lithuania is the centenary of the restoration of statehood.
The founders of the prize do not conceal that its current award is directly related to these significant events for the Balts, which today are interpreted as “gaining independence from the Russian statehood and its influence”. This thesis, like the rabid Russophobia of the Baltic politicians and their leaders, became the motivating factor in awarding the German award to all Baltic countries at once.
It is appropriate to recall the already mentioned Zincann with its “northern outpost of the European Union”. It sounds relish, but slyly. Anyway, most of the national history of the Baltic states is still connected with Europe, and not at all in the best way. The world is well aware of the times when the Germans ruled in Latvia.
For the most part, they constituted the local nobility, and the Latvians were only serfs, who were even forbidden to enter Riga. A similar story was with the neighbors of the Estonians. With the only difference that the Danes held the upper hand. Now, the old history was rewritten under the new conjuncture, and the heirs of the German nobles presented the Baltic leaders in gratitude for their confrontation with Russia, premium statues and piles of euros.
One of the organizers of the action in Münster, the managing director of the Westphalian Economic Society, Jost Springsgut, tried to explain to the public how the Baltic countries are so different from their Eastern European partners who joined the EU in the same 2004 year (Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia and the Czech Republic ).
In his opinion, the European integration of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania is more convincing. “All three countries, after a tough course of economy, showed good economic results, and because of this, as well as the political will of their leaders, they have already introduced the euro into circulation,” noted Springergut at Deutsche Welle and called them “exemplary countries in terms of democracy, economic development and digital technology. "
But another point of view, little popular in the West. In the hot embrace of the European Union, the Baltic economies suffered serious losses. The share of agriculture in GDP here has more than doubled, and industrial production has also declined around. Separate industries crushed by European quotas disappeared altogether from economic circulation. Latvia, for example, completely stopped sugar production.
Advanced economists are pleased with this situation. In their opinion, the structure of the Baltic economy has now become consistent with the European, with a predominance of services over commodity production. How this relates to real life can be judged by the recent information from the press service of the Krasnoyarsk regional department of the Rosselkhoznadzor.
Practically on the day when the Baltic presidents posed with the figurines of the Westphalian Prize, this press service reported that the Krasnoyarsk citizens began supplying wheat to Lithuania. Only in May, Siberians sent Lithuanian 5,9 thousands of tons of food grain.
But in the Soviet Union, the Baltic republics were among the most developed. They were even called "the showcase of socialism." Here was a powerful ocean trawling fleet, built thermal and nuclear power plants. In large volumes, cars, radio receivers, telephones, tape recorders, devices and semiconductor chips, washing machines, refrigerators and many other things useful on the farm went to the all-Union market.
There was a job. She provided a decent salary. As Ernest Buived noted in his book The Latvian Way: Towards a New Crisis, in 1990, in the Baltic republics, the share of the population with a monthly income of more than 300 rubles (in the new time this corresponds to 2000 euros) was the maximum.
In Estonia, with such an income was every fifth resident. In Latvia - every sixth, in Lithuania - every seventh. Given that in the whole country this indicator was at the level of 8,8% - approximately one highly paid person at 12. Obviously, the Baltic was guided by a repetition to the European Union to repeat this.
Brussels really helped its new countries with subsidies and subsidies. Together with the money of Baltic migrant workers, they accounted for a substantial part of the gross domestic product - about 10 percent. However, happiness is not brought. For this, we had to pay the very industry that provided a high income in the Soviet era.
As a result, now the level of wages in the Baltics is only 60 percent of the average European. For high incomes, people moved to the West. Eurostat indifferently records that, for example, people from Lithuania, for example, are now leaving for 120 to earn money every day.
The flow of people heading to more prosperous western countries is only increasing, creating a real threat to the depopulation of the Baltic states. After all, many expatriates are no longer planning to return, but over time they expect to receive the citizenship of the host country.
This problem is known. They are fighting with her. In Estonia, for example, the authorities adopted a law, according to which only those who “officially registered with the population register, having notified this authority of their departure for more than a year, are considered to be an emigrant. Not everyone follows this rule, as many work in neighboring Finland, which is 100 kilometers by sea. Now these people are registered as permanent residents of Estonia, seriously correcting the local emigration statistics.
Of course, in the Westphalian economic community they are aware of such features of the Baltic European integration. However, the Germans did not bother with these problems. They are mainly interested in one function of the Baltic countries - an outpost of deterrence in Russia.
For her, the heels of the Baltics is not enough. So we decided to cheer them up with a special award, the meaning of which is the only award - to encourage confrontation on the continent. And inexpensive ...
Outpost of the European Union. German award for the Baltic trio
- Gennady Granovsky