Latvia turns Euroskeptic

  • 2007-07-30
  • By Mike Collier

FLAGGING SUPPORT: Latvian enthusiasm for the EU has plunged since accession in 2004

RIGA - Three years on from the euphoric scenes that accompanied the Baltic States' accession to the EU, Balts have become much more varied in their attitude to Brussels, according to a new survey.

The annual Eurobarometer survey includes responses from more than 1,000 citizens of each Baltic State, and reveals some trends that will be of major concern to national and european institutions.

Asked whether or not they believed that their country's membership of the EU is a good thing, Estonians rank among the most europhile countries with 66 percent believing that it is.

Lithuanians are slightly more sanguine at 63 percent, whereas Latvians are among the most euroskeptic countries with just 37 percent giving the EU their unqualified backing.

A larger number of Latvians 's 46 percent 's are of the opinion that the EU is neither good nor bad, displaying a 'take it or leave it' attitude that should cause eurocrats to sit up and take notice.

However, the report's authors are quick to lay the blame for the crisis in Latvian confidence a long way from Brussels: "Latvian respondents' attitude to the EU became more negative reflecting dissatisfaction with Latvian domestic issues," they say.

"The increasingly optimistic trends in Latvia shown in the last few surveys are not apparent in the latest survey."

That conclusion seems to be borne out by news that the level of trust in the Latvian national government has decreased dramatically by 12 percentage points to just 20 percent, well below the EU average.

The survey suggests that differences between the Baltic States' attitudes are growing. Estonia has changed from being the most euroskeptic country to the most europhile. Lithuania, in the past year and a half, had become more negative towards the EU, but now is becoming more positive and has reached the same level as when Lithuania joined the EU.

In Latvia there has been an increase in negative attitudes turning it into the third most euroskeptic country in the EU, behind the UK and Austria.