Latvia in the EU - 10 years later. A different Latvia? 3

A mini assessment of the most significant changes in 10 policy areas that took place since 2004.

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On May 1, 2004 Latvia officially joined the European Union (EU). Today it seems worthwhile taking a look back at those 10 years and provide an objective assessment.

In this brief report, we - researchers of various Latvian think-tanks and other experts – have not attempted to highlight only those changes that can be explained by the EU membership. We were driven by a different goal. We intend to take a snapshot of the moment when Latvia joined the EU, and compare it with a snapshot of the country taken today, thus providing a basis for discussion about changes that have taken place or that have
been achieved – our fulfilled and unfulfilled homework, as well as the overall impact of the EU.

In trying to establish if the changes have been for better or for worse, or whether they have taken place at all, we searched for comparisons in 10 different sectors, from foreign affairs to environment and energy.

This approach provides a bird's eye view of the broader picture, which is sometimes missed in our daily rush or completely forgotten about.

What are the most important findings in this big picture? It is probably a realisation that in the course of 10 years Latvia has become more secure and prosperous. In present-day Latvia the number of serious crimes - murders, robberies and even serious road traffic offences - account for half of what it was in 2004. Air quality has improved, consumption of thermal energy has decreased and a growing number of businesses choose the
"green way” of operation.

Overall, the people of Latvia have become more productive; they earn significantly more and live a few years longer.

There are more people who are self-confident, taking pride in, or perceiving themselves as being part of the common European identity, and who would not attempt to bribe a traffic police officer. Latvia has also become more attractive to foreigners.

Although the number of people who cannot afford healthcare has decreased, this figure is still too high - almost five times above the EU average. We are still a society with a high degree of social stratification and a profound income gap between the well off and the needy. There are also acute discrepancies in the
knowledge-based sectors.

On the one hand there are considerably more people in Latvia with higher education and the knowledge of English, with fewer young people leaving school early, and exports rising rapidly in the aftermath of the crisis.

However, at the same time, innovation based revenue of our businesses is smaller than it used to be 10 years ago. We invest too little in science and fewer adults get involved in lifelong learning, compared to 2004.

The relatively low indicators of public trust in various institutions – from the Parliament and the Government to the European Parliament - have remained constant. In the meantime, unemployment figures have fluctuated considerably over the years, and at the moment are returning to the same level as they were 10 years ago.

The full mini-assessment of Latvia's 10 years in the EU, including data visualisations in available here. It was first published in Latvian, and discussed in a public event in May, 2014.

PROVIDUS lead the work of this analysis, and was nominated for the Best Publication of the Year Award of the international think tank network, Policy Association for an Open Society (PASOS).

The publication was funded by the Management Partnership between the European Commission and the Government of Latvia. Its goal is to provide public information on the issues of the European Union. The author of this publication takes full responsibility regarding its contents, and the European Commission is not liable for use of information included in the publication.

The publication also received the support from the Europe for Citizens program of the European Union.

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