Normunds Grostiņš on life in EU and Belarus' politics

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Normunds Grostiņš on life in EU and Belarus' politics

Today’s special guest at Simple Questions TV program is Normunds Grostiņš , an administrative member of the European Alliance for Freedom.

Normunds Grostiņš, board member of the European Alliance for Freedom:
If the European Union wanted to join the European Union on its democratic criteria, it wouldn’t be accepted. Unlike Latvia, Belarus has working plants and developed space technologies; Belarus has a mechanism of national presidential elections. As well as Poland, Belarus managed to defend its interests.

Good afternoon, Mr Grostiņš!

Normunds Grostiņš:
Good afternoon!

Thank you very much for finding time and coming to the program. I’d like to start off with some questions concerning your work as a European politician. A referendum has been held in the Netherlands, and the citizens of the country are against Ukraine entering the EU. What does it mean?

Normunds Grostinish:
First of all it is evaluation of comprehensive debates in the Netherlands, evaluation of the situation in Ukraine itself. It means that Ukraine is not wanted in the European Union right now. That’s the citizens’ point of view. Yes, Europe is ready to rob Ukraine a little bit and maybe even more. Large corporations are located in Ukraine and that is why this agreement was pushed forward. And being a presiding country, the Netherlands also moved the agreement forward. But the citizens used their democratic right. They had to collect 300,000 online signatures and they managed to collect 450,000 in just a couple of weeks. And the government had to hold a referendum.

If corporations benefit from it, then why isn’t it an advantage for the citizens of the Netherlands? Are they afraid of Ukrainian manpower?

Normunds Grostiņš:
It is just that they don’t want to give their money away. It is evident that if a country has such relations with the EU, tax payers pay and corporations benefit out of this. The EU is a structure that doesn’t serve ordinary citizens. Of course they still get something but they have to fight for it. Therefore, corporations lobby only those laws that are beneficial for them. Some 3,000 secret working groups in Brussels write laws. Nevertheless, large corporations are well represented there. Taking Latvia as an example, these laws are higher than the Constitution of the country. Judicial power is beyond the country as well.

Is it right that the well-being in such countries as the Netherlands and Germany has significantly dropped over the past 20 years?

Normunds Grostiņš:
Yes, that’s right. Diagrams show this. It even concerns the United States. If we subtract inflation, the growth of salaries is insignificant. If we take the productivity of labor, profitability, and manpower, these indices have grown. It also goes for the West, where a lot of Eastern Europeans work, many of whom are from Latvia. When the USSR fell, it was unnecessary to convince manpower about the advantages of capitalism. But in developed countries, unlike the Eastern European countries in the EU, people fight for their interests. I think that this example will lead to an incomplete failure of the association between Ukraine and the EU, because corporations are interested in this collapse and they want to take advantage of the situation. They’ll find a way of doing it. Big money can be taken from Ukraine. The EU needs it. The point is that the citizens of the Netherlands have defended some exclusion for themselves. It means that tax payers of other countries, but not the Netherlands, will be paying for these benefits of corporations and Ukraine’s top officials . And when Latvia joined the EU, I noted that the farmers in the Netherlands were working with Latvia at flat prices and at single market without customs. But they got six times more per capita annually than Latvia did. In other words, Latvia agreed to join the Union on the terms that are six times worse. The country was practically destroyed: land ownership went to foreigners; they were then able to lobby better than Latvian politicians some 10-15 years ago. And, accordingly, the subsidies grew for the country, and in practice agricultural subsidies grew for foreign owners of Latvian land.

What is life like in Latvia? What is the average income if you work in the social sphere as a teacher or a doctor? And what pensions do Latvians get?

Normunds Grostiņš:
The majority of pensioners get 200 euros. However, the prices are sometimes a lot higher than in Belarus. Pensioners are not well-off.

And what about teachers?

Normunds Grostiņš:
Salaries of teachers can go up to 500-600 euros a month, and sometimes even up to 1000 euros if a teacher takes extra working hours. The quality of education in Latvia suffers as it is impossible to pay due attention to everything, because it is the quantity and not the quality people pay for. Schools shut down because the population is decreasing. Some 17 schools are to shut down this year. And these schools are in rural areas. If schools shut down in such areas, then families with children have to move to places where schools work. And so on.

I’ve read several articles on how the European Union helped to develop the infrastructure and plants in countries like Poland. My Lithuanian colleagues have told me about how money from the EU helps some plants and how roads in Poland were built with the Union’s support. What examples are there in Latvia?

Normunds Grostiņš:
Poland is the best example for Latvia. Poland joined the EU exactly the same way as Latvia did. Exactly the same agreement was signed, exactly the same day, exactly the same hour… Poland was refusing to sign the agreement for a whole hour, when everyone else had already signed it and got better conditions. I was on my way to Copenhagen that day where a demonstration of eurosceptics was held. The Prime Minister of Latvia had already signed the agreement and was travelling on the same plane as I was. We were going to protest against this agreement but everything dragged on. Poland wanted to get another billion otherwise they wouldn’t join the EU. And they got their billion. And for 10 years, they got double the amount that Latvia got per capita, even though the signed documents were exactly the same. This is what the Netherlands wanted. You have to fight to be treated well. Joining the Union on any terms means on terms that are lots of times worse than others have. It is six times worse than in the Netherlands and twice worse than in Poland. I can’t comment on how money is distributed in Poland but the infrastructure speaks for itself. Therefore, plants that are close to the ruling parties receive this money in Latvia and Lithuania. Conditionally speaking, if a relative of a prime minister launches a business, then he or she is likely to get some financial support from Europe. It doesn’t even matter whether or not the business is profitable. But I can’t see an ordinary person getting this money. The only criterion in Latvia is to be close to power.

I had a possibility to talk to a Lithuanian colleague of mine. He said that the mechanisms of the EU have suppressed all the possible variants of corruption because the situation is open.

Normunds Grostiņš:
The situation may be open but Latvia doesn’t have opposition press. Moreover, new amendments to the law read that government criticism and actions against the state will be suppressed. The EU always had double standards. There is even a joke which is actually true. If the European Union wanted to join the Union, it wouldn’t be accepted.

Let’s recollect the story of one sensational documentary fantasy film… “World War Three: Inside the War Room”. The film was shown on BBC a couple of months ago. According to the script, Russia attacks Latvia because one of the regions there created its own squad, just like Donbass did.

Normunds Grostiņš:
The eastern region is Latgale, where many Belarusians live . It will be some kind of a rebellion between Russians, Belarusians, and Latgales.

And then the whole NATO bloc gets together to protect Latvia and the Baltic States. And it actually enters war. An interesting phrase was said in the film, “How many people are there in Latvia? Two million. Do you really think that someone is going to start World War Three because of 2 million people?” How did people in Latvia react to the fantasy that their country could be a subject to World War Three?

Normunds Grostiņš:
The reaction was very nervous. Does a fantasy film have to be made to show how Latvian troops march? But there was another phrase in the film, “What, are you going to give your lives away for Daugavpils?” Belarusians and Latvians know what Daugavpils is. But no one in London or Washington is going to die for this city. It’s just a densely populated area on the map for them. Russia has practically no influence whatsoever on the situation in Latvia. I was at a State Duma (the Federation Council of Russia) session and I even saw the process of planning. Probably the best experts of Russia on the matter were there. It was evident that the planning process was unfinished. To my mind, Russia doesn’t have a distinct policy in relation to the neighboring countries. I mean Eastern European countries in the EU. It turns out to be a fraught for Russia because these countries, just like in the 13th century , enter NATO (an analogue of a knightly order) and Russia is then out of the game. Exactly the same situation happened between the German Teutonic Order and the troops of Alexender Nevsky. Russia then mobilized, took flags, swards, and shields instead of conducting a distinct policy to prevent enemies from coming to their territory.

Making forecasts for the future is ungrateful. Practically no one managed to succeed in predicting the most frightening catastrophes in the world. And it can’t be said what will happen in 20 years’ time. Some 20 years ago, Belarus was left in the tail of the USSR and will always stay there. And happy future awaits Latvia in the EU. Could anyone have predicted then why it all happened? How can the position of Belarus be commented on now?

Normunds Grostiņš:
It is necessary to clearly understand that in 1991, things could be done differently. But everything changed when the President was elected. This is the mechanism of national presidential elections. Latvia doesn’t have such a mechanism. You are lucky to have such a President. Unlike Latvia, Belarus has working plants and developed space technologies. In some spheres Belarus is stronger but in some Latvia is still in the lead. Vectors of development of Belarus and Latvia are completely different. If Latvia’s vector is more or less level, the vector of development in Belarus is going upwards. And if correct actions are taken, then further development is on the cards.

What perspectives does Belarus have in cooperation with the European Union?

Normunds Grostiņš:
Belarus managed to defend its interests, just like Poland did. Belarus defended its interests as a country despite the fact that the West tried to get the country out of the way. And now foreign leaders come to Belarus and sanctions are being suspended. If such developments continue, then more people not only from Ukraine but from Latvia will start coming to Belarus.

Thank you very much for coming to the program because only points of view from around give the full picture of what is happening in your country. Thank you once again, you’ll always be welcome in Belarus.