Levits warns West against making strategic mistakes in relations with Russia in future

  • 2023-02-14
  • LETA/TBT Staff

RIGA - Europe and the West as a whole, must no longer make such strategic mistakes as moving purposefully towards dependence on Russian energy sources, Latvian President Egils Levits said in address to the European Parliament on Tuesday.

The Latvian president told MEPs that it would also be good to reflect on how such a mistake was even possible, despite warnings. Certainly, the ‘Putinversteher’ in think-tanks and policy-making circles had a role, as did business interests, Levits believes. 

The Latvian president indicated that one should be realistic and without false sentiments about Russia.

The rule of law in Europe must not be weakened, Levits stressed. A modern constitutional democracy is based on a carefully balanced system - a democratically legitimized parliament on the one hand and government on the other. 

"The democratic process itself, free elections and political freedoms – the very core of the European Union’s political identity – can only be guaranteed by such a system of checks and balances. I say this with my 24 years of experience as a judge at the European Court of Human Rights and at the Court of Justice of the European Union," Levits said. 

He noted that the upsetting of this balance, which the proponents of constitutional populism are seeking to achieve, may ultimately lead to the weakening or even the complete loss of democracy itself, Levits said, adding that Europ is united in its diversity, and so it should remain.

"Here Europe must not interfere. Here diversity is Europe’s strength. However, the principles of the rule of law must be the same everywhere. Here, diversity is permissible only in the concrete manifestations of these principles. The European legal system is based on mutual trust that these principles apply in all member states in the same way, without exception. If there is a problem with the rule of law in one member state, it affects the entire European Union," Levits told MEPs. 

In his words, in some cases, these populist tendencies have already led to disputes that are now difficult to unravel in a purely legal way. In order to avoid an impasse, I think that there could also be a political solution that would cut this ‘Gordian knot’. This would give the involved parties an opportunity to start afresh, Levits said.

The Latvian president indicated that democracy and the rule of law are under threat not only from within. Today, it is also threatened by Russia’s aggressive ideology, which is behind their attack on Ukraine – a sovereign, democratic European country. 

"The authoritarian Russian regime has gone back 200 years in its thinking. It has regressed back to the imperialist, colonialist and racist ideology of the 19th century. As the German example shows, renouncing an aggressive, toxic ideology requires a huge collective effort. And it takes a long time. But it can be done. Until Russian society evaluates, overcomes, condemns and clearly renounces this ideology, we have to reckon with Russia as an aggressive state," Levits said.