New Latvian Coalition Seeks Financial Reform, Foreign Policy Continuity
The Saeima, Latvia’s parliament, approved a five-party coalition headed by Krisjanis Karins’s center-right New Unity party on January 23. Counterintuitively, the New Unity party is the least-represented party in the Saemia, holding a mere eight of 100 seats.
The approval brought four-month-long parliamentary negotiations, which saw the failure of two proposed government coalitions led by the New Conservative party and the KPV LV party, to a close. Campaign divisiveness derailed cooperative talks from prospective coalition members and led to Karins’s unlikely victory.
Karins, though born and educated in the U.S., served as Latvian economic minister from 2004 to 2006, and served in the European Parliament as a member of the Christian Democrats until his appointment as prime minister.
The five-party coalition holds a wide variety of views, ranging from the KPV LV’s anti-establishment Euroscepticism to the Euro-reformative position of the National Alliance. Despite these juxtaposed views, Karins has made his goals as prime minister clear: to clean up a scandal-ridden financial sector rocked by allegations of money laundering and to maintain Euro-Atlantic cooperation on geopolitical issues.
Reining in fiscal misbehavior takes the first spot on Karins’s agenda. A report published in July 2018 by the Council of Europe highlights the Baltic country’s failure to understand the perils and severity of money laundering, especially as a potential haven for dirty money travelling across the Russian border. Nearly one percent of U.S. dollars moving internationally in 2015 travelled through Latvia, a suspiciously high statistic for a minor actor in global financial markets. As it is, many high-level officials have already been investigated by Latvian high courts. Failing to further address this corruption, said Karins, would be “a threat to the whole of society.”
On foreign policy, Karins supports Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics’ goal of maintaining relations with the West and advocating for democracy, rule of law, and human rights. He further stated that these policies and values are supported by the government as a whole. European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker expressed the European Union’s continued support of Latvia and its new administration via Twitter immediately following the parliamentary vote.
Other issues on Karins’s agenda include deepening the rule of law, continuing previously initiated healthcare and education reforms, and reining in an escalating demographic crisis of Latvians pursuing more lucrative employment in other countries.