It's difficult to come to any one, steadfast conclusion as to the latest upheaval in Latvian politics. As opposed to the recent government crisis in Estonia that was sparked by the People's Union's budgetary gripes, or the one in Lithuania - now in its fourth month - that was caused by an intelligence report on national security threats, the Latvian gridlock appears more messy, convoluted and at times, shamelessly childish.
Unfortunately, it seems many Latvian decision-makers have yet to learn how to keep personality out of politics. Instead of straightforward partisan posturing, Latvians are forced to endure endless personal bickering. As President Vaira Vike-Freiberga admitted in an interview on television: "Personal incompatibility and emotions have definitely played their role" in the current crisis. Watching the drama unfold on the screens and in the newsprint, one is reminded of immature children - immature because they fail to see that by getting along they stand to gain more over the long haul.
Perhaps what is most astonishing about the Latvian - and the Estonian and Lithuanian crises as well - is how little they have impacted the economy. Industry, trade and finance continue to expand at an impressive clip, heedless of the political infighting. The announcement that Lithuania's GDP grew 8.9 percent last year - and a breathtaking 10.6 percent in the month of December year-on-year - is exemplary of the "politically oblivious" Baltic economies. And although the official numbers have not been announced yet, it is expected that Latvia's and Estonia's economic growth will amount to 7.5 and 4.5 percent, respectively. Furthermore, all analysts agree that the trend will continue - and in all three countries - in 2004 and beyond.
To be able to survive one political tumult after the next and yet watch as the economy soars is truly stunning. This is testimony to the hard work, dedication and perseverance Baltic leaders have shown since gaining independence just over 12 years ago. This is the long-awaited fruit of a decade of labor. This, after all is said and done, is what joining European civilization is all about. Crisis, you say?