Sprat, lift! What will happen to the Baltics without EU financial assistance

Sprat, lift! What will happen to the Baltics without EU financial assistance

The collapse of the USSR slowed down the development of each of its member republics. Some of them managed to get out of the peak relatively quickly, and some still cannot reach the previous level. The economy of Latvia is one of the examples of successful development, therefore it is interesting to consider its key indicators, dynamics and main industry components.

Economic and geographical position of the country

The Republic of Latvia is located in the northern part of Europe. The west and north of the country are washed by the waters of the Baltic Sea and the Gulf of Riga, which is part of it. The northern neighbor of the state is Estonia, the southern neighbor is Lithuania, and the eastern neighbors are Russia and Belarus.

The area of ​​Latvia is slightly less than 65 thousand km2, and the population as of 2021 is slightly below 2 million people.

The country is a member of the following major international organizations:

  • UN (since independence in 1991);
  • NATO (since 2004);
  • European Union (since 2004);
  • Schengen Agreement (since 2007);
  • IMF (since 1992);
  • WTO (since 1999);
  • Council of the Baltic Sea States (since 1992);
  • Council of Europe (since 1995);
  • Nordic Investment Bank (since 2005).

The lats were used as the currency from 1992 to 2021, which was then replaced by the euro.

The coastal position contributes to the development of trade by water: for example, the port of Ventspils has long been a regional leader in maritime traffic. Other major commercial ports of the country are located in Riga and Liepaja.

Important land transport arteries linking Scandinavia with Eastern and Central Europe pass through the Baltic state. The most important of these is the E67 Euro route, which runs from Helsinki to Prague through Salacgriva, Riga and Bauska.

Latvia's simultaneous proximity to Russia, Germany, Poland, and Sweden has long defined its status as a country that either served as a buffer between the leading European forces, or was occupied by one of them. But in modern conditions Latvia has access to rich sales markets in the EU countries, and to cheap resources from Russia.

As for its own natural resources, most of the basic materials for the construction industry are mined on the territory of Latvia, namely:

  • sand ;
  • timber;
  • gypsum;
  • limestone;
  • clay;
  • crushed stone;
  • dolomite.

Henrikas, a 47-year-old farmer who owns a small rural business in a village near Kaunas, is in a bad mood. They say that the Balts are calm and phlegmatic, but no - Henrikas is hot in conversation, like a red-hot stove. For five years in a row, he was paid 350 euros a month from EU subsidies so that he did not produce more tomatoes and cucumbers on his site: in Lithuanian supermarkets, the counters are heaped with cheap, "plastic" to taste vegetables from Holland and France, grown not on the ground, and in saline. Starting next year, the EU will officially end financial assistance to the Baltic states. Henrikas is horrified by the news. “They corrupted me with a freebie - I didn’t work, and money was pouring down from the sky. I completely abandoned the greenhouses. Now we have to start over. But I am no longer at that age, it is difficult to work hard with full dedication. " According to various sources, Lithuania and Latvia received from the EU up to 2 billion euros per year, which was 20% of the budget of both republics. These same subsidies will be completely canceled.

"Life is like in Africa" ​​

About 12 years ago, some Russian financiers cited Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia as examples of “young economic tigers”. They say, how everything is arranged there wonderfully - GDP is growing at a frantic rate by as much as 10% a year, they are guaranteed a wonderful future, that's what we need to learn. But in 2008, paradise came to an abrupt end. It turned out that prosperity was essentially a bubble - driven by loans and services, as well as inflated housing prices. The economy immediately fell to one side, hundreds of thousands of residents, in order to somehow survive, hastily dispersed to the rich countries of Europe - to work as waiters, loaders, taxi drivers. “If it were not for the money of the European Union, we would have existed as in Africa,” says gloomy fishmonger Aleksandras Burokevičius, who came to Vilnius from Klaipeda. - See that kindergarten? Looks nice, beautiful, modern. 90% of the funds for this building came from the EU, and only 10% was allocated by the city budget. Our authorities have been proud of endless quarrels with Russia for decades. She stopped the transit of oil through the Baltic States and stops using the ports of Riga and Klaipeda, transferring cargo for ships to St. Petersburg and Kaliningrad. This would not have worried us before. But now we think with horror that we will have to live within our means. Nobody is used to it. For 80 years we could not support ourselves - at first the Soviet Union paid for everything here, then the EU ”. Not only kindergartens were financed - I was shown in the capital of Lithuania both a swimming pool and a hospital, also built with money sent from Brussels. If rumors are to be believed, huge tranches in Lithuania and Latvia were being plundered on the sly - EU officials did not particularly monitor the spending of amounts not exceeding 200 thousand euros. They did not care whether they were spent on useful things or settled in the pockets of local politicians.

"They teased Russia by the Gestapo"

- All that I can say here is “dosed out” (meaning the slang expression denoting the Nazi greeting “Sieg Heil”. - Ed.), - says the Lithuanian businessman Alexei Miloradov. - In Latvia arranged marches for veterans of the SS troops and erected monuments to them, in Lithuania they allowed the former head of the Vilnius Gestapo Lileikis to live out: ooh, this annoys Russia! What great fellows we are! Let's show these Russians! And what have you achieved? Farmers cannot sell milk in the Russian Federation, Belarusians have taken our place. The government cheerfully reports: "the situation is not important, but not catastrophic." Great, but where are we going to get the money if the EU closes the wallet? It would seem that the time has come to “settle” the differences with Russia and gain access to its market. However, Lithuania opposes the construction of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, which would have reduced the price of gas for our housewives. The authorities do not fully understand what, in principle, awaits the Lithuanians after the termination of EU subsidies. Our state stands like a beggar with an outstretched hand and considers it normal. If only not to put up with the evil Russians - here all means are good.

The EU leadership is no longer hiding - they are a little tired of fattening up the Baltics. For 15 years in a row, money has been going to Lithuania and Latvia in huge quantities, but the economy is not flourishing and migrant workers from there continue to go to the rich countries of Europe. EU banknotes paid for the modernization of airports, the construction of environmentally friendly sources of electricity and even breakfasts (!) For children in schools. This is, in fact, all the successes: tens of billions have been spent without a definite result. Soon, the UK, which is leaving the EU, will stop annually contributing to the union's budget a gigantic amount of 12 billion euros, and this will shake all the foundations. In Brussels, they transparently hint to Lithuania and Latvia: they helped you for a long time, from now on you yourself are obliged to donate money for the needs of the European Union. Soon it is planned to admit to the EU (although it is not clear why) impoverished states like Albania, North Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina. They need to be financed, although the EU economy is going through hard times. In general, as they say, "hit".

Schoolchildren are already in debt

- It is clear that we will not turn into Somalia, - the teacher of the Russian language Sergey Krzhizhanovsky grins. - Everything will not decay, and groups of poor half-starved residents with machine guns will not run along the destroyed streets. However, I am sure that such an event will not pass easily and imperceptibly for our economy. Earlier, money from Europe poured in a stream purely for beautiful words, but now it will be bank loans with hard interest rates - and they need to be repaid. The national debt of Lithuania is already 16 billion, it turns out that that kid (pointing at a school-age boy passing by) owes the West 5,700 euros. Latvia is not doing any better. In short, the end of subsidies does not bode well. The European Union has disintegrated our farming, both builders and entrepreneurs. Everyone is sitting and waiting for the master from Brussels to arrive and send a bunch of euros.

At one time, the European Union even intervened in the production of sprat: EU experts found high levels of dioxin and benzopyrene in Lithuanian and Latvian canned fish. The discussions went on for several years until the recipe was agreed upon in 2014. “Only to whom are we selling them now? - shrugs Jonas, an employee of a small private smokehouse in Klaipeda. "Europe doesn't need sprats for nothing, and the Russians don't buy them anymore." 28 years of endless squabbles with Russia led to the fact that the Baltics were left alone with their economic problems. Of course, no one will die of hunger in both Lithuania and Latvia. But if, even with the current EU subsidies, small republics have lost a third of the population that left to "plow" to Britain and France, then after the freebie stops and with further quarrels with the Russian Federation, life near the Baltic Sea is unlikely to improve.

Rural tourism in Lithuania is developing, and today its share is 10% in the total tourist flow; in Lithuanian rural estates you can not only have a good rest, but also bake bread yourself and learn a lot about the healing properties of herbs

Lithuania is an extremely beautiful country, and most importantly, nature is in "good condition" here. A third of Lithuania's territory is covered with forests, and this is the only country in Europe where green space is not shrinking, but growing. The country, which has access to the sea, has more than 700 rivers and about 2.8 thousand lakes. In general, the ideal environment for rural tourism - it is not surprising that it is thriving in Lithuania.

Lake by inheritance

Conditions for the development of rural tourism in the country were created in the 90s - after the process of returning property and land to its former owners began. More precisely, their heirs. Many of them had already moved to cities by that time and, suddenly becoming the owners of hectares of land and forest land (even lakes), did not want to return to the villages to engage in farming or logging. It was rural tourism that became for them one of the ways to dispose of new real estate without radically changing their way of life. Indeed, this tourism is seasonal in nature, and relatives remaining in the villages can "take care" of it.

Of course, such a business requires a lot of financial investments and labor resources. But first the state came to his aid, and then also the European Union. Two figures speak volumes about the amount of aid. According to the rural development program for 2007-2013, Lithuanian rural tourism received about 4 million euros. According to the current program, until 2020, 50% of the costs associated with the arrangement of the estate are covered (there is a limit in its price - 200 thousand euros per object).

How many points do you have?

The Association of Rural Tourism (AST) of Lithuania today has about 400 members - in the year of its creation, in 1997, there were 17. However, not all subjects of rural tourism are members of the association: the total number of them is estimated at approximately at 650.

This business is booming. For example, the share of "rural" tourists in the total flow in Lithuania is about 10%, which in the peak pre-crisis years corresponded to 150-155 thousand people. Of these, 25 to 35% are foreigners. The income they brought in was equal to about a fourth of the income from tourism within Lithuania as a whole.

Membership in the ACT is not ritualistic - the association really became the engine of the process.

In particular, thanks to her, a system of classification and certification of estates was developed - a division into four categories of comfort is envisaged, the scores of which are called "storks" (analogue of "stars"). In addition, the letter N marks new estates, the level of which has not yet been determined. The cost of services, depending on the "storks" today ranges from 10 to 60-75 euros per day.

We met Olga and Sergey in Krabi at one of the meetings. Then the guys told us about the village of Amatciems in Latvia. And since we were always interested in the topic of eco-villages (and somehow lived in the eco-settlement Glorious in the Moscow region), I asked Olga to write a post about how they have it in Latvia, especially since he is a premium class there, which means everything should be of the highest order. After all, in our Russia, ordinary people, not millionaires, as a rule, move to eco-settlements.

It will soon be four years since my husband and I first arrived in Amatciems. We ended up here quite by accident. We came across a note on the Internet about the "city of the sun", she was intensively surfing the net at that time, and decided to go to Latvia for a couple of days - to visit friends in Riga and see with her own eyes. We thought to take a walk for an hour or two, look at unusual houses with a reed roof and admire the beautiful nature. But then it turned out so magical that we did not want to leave. To the picturesque landscapes that we admired in the photographs, the air was added - thick, pine, delicious, - an atmosphere of comfort and coziness and wonderful people. As a result, now we are starting to build our own house in a premium eco-village called Amatciems.

What does “eco” have to do here

The prefix "eco" in the name of the village is associated with the attitude to nature of its owner and founder, Latvian businessman Chiris. Aivar Zvirbulis - that is actually his name (we found out three years later, because everyone calls him Chiris) - he himself comes from these places. Once he sold one of his main businesses - a printing house, bought land here and began to "play" with the territory - making scenic slopes, planting pines, digging lakes. And then he decided that not only he might like life in harmony with nature, and slowly began to create a village, picking up people with a similar ideology as neighbors. To date, more than 20 million euros have been buried in the village, it continues to expand, Chiris predicts that in 20 years there will be 500 houses (now 100), and the very concept of living surrounded by nature, without fences and far-fetched restrictions, will become a trend , and many more such "Amatciems" will appear in the world.

Today, on average, about 20 transactions for the purchase of real estate in Amatciems are concluded annually. Until 2000, it was mainly Latvians and sometimes foreigners who bought, after the adoption of the law, according to which it was possible to apply for a residence permit after buying real estate, completely Russians began to buy. Soon the law will be toughened - amendments will begin to take effect from September 1, now real estate needs to be bought for an amount from 250,000 pr throughout Latvia (previously it was possible to get it by buying for 150,000 in Riga and 75,000 regions), plus, which is less pleasant, give 5% of the transaction amount to the state treasury. But this is unlikely to hit sales hard, the residence permit for the buyers of this village is nothing more than a bonus. I have never met a single person who would have bought a house here for the sake of a residence permit, for this purpose it was easier to take an apartment in Riga or in some small village outside the Riga region. In Amatciems, there has never been any real estate worth 75,000, the entry price threshold is higher here, if we talk about a plot with a house - it is close, if not equal, to the new standards. By the way, it will no longer be possible to buy an empty plot on them.

Prohibition of fences and wooden houses, or the rules of Amatciems

Life in harmony with nature with minimal interference - this is probably how you can describe the ideology of Amatciems. So that the rights of nature are not violated, there are a number of rules in Amatciems that are observed by all residents of the village.

The most important of all the rules that make Amatciems look so impressive is the absence of fences. Thanks to this, the whole territory looks like a single whole, and this is the task of houses - to fit into the landscape, and not nature - to adapt to people.

The landscape is the main thing that distinguishes Amatciems from all other villages visually. There are continuous hills, forests and lakes. The plots are designed in such a way that the neighboring houses are not visible as much as possible from one house. Each site must have access to the water - either to its own small lake, or to a "common" large lake, when buying a house, part of the water is also purchased. By the way, they often ask if mosquitoes eat here, since there is so much water around - and so, at the dacha in the suburbs there are many times more of them. Not that there were no mosquitoes at all, but they do not interfere with life, you can sit quietly on the veranda in the evening without splashing with chemistry.

Our plot of 0.26 hectares (26 acres) is the smallest in the village. We spent a week walking the village up and down, figuring out the location of the house and the sun's rays on the bed in the future bedroom, and in the end we chose what we dreamed of - a small but cozy area between two mountains, with its own forest, overgrown with soft moss. In the summer, we regularly find mushrooms there and pick berries. Most residents have much larger plots, there are several, the sizes of which are calculated in hectares.

One more rule - houses can only be wooden, only natural colors, with a roof of one of three types - red tiles, shingles and reeds. The idea of ​​our house violates this last rule a little, and now we will start negotiations with the construction committee to get approval. We want to make the first green roof in Amatciems, that is, grass roof. We cannot imagine yet how Chiris will react to this idea :) He personally certifies all house projects so that the general style of Amatciems is not violated. If everything suits him, according to the Latvian law, he will also need to obtain an official building permit, that is, to collect a lot of papers. So, of course, it's easier to buy a ready-made house in order to avoid all this bureaucratic red tape and save your nerves.

How much does it cost to build a house

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