The Friedrich Ebert Foundation (FES) has operated in Latvia since 1993. Its office in Riga is also responsible for coordinating FES activities in all three Baltic States: Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.
Initially, FES projects accompanied Latvia’s transformation from planned to free market economy and from a communist dictatorship to a parliamentary democracy. After the restoration of national independence, this included the creation and development of a parliamentary democracy, a pluralist party system and supporting political and civic institutions, as well as the institutional embedding of a social market economy.
Now, more than 25 years after the restoration of Latvia’s independence, the civil society in this country remains weak, and a democratic political culture aimed at universal participation has taken little root. The trust of the Latvian public in politics and political institutions is low. Similarly weak is the ability of trade unions to influence the social and political development of the country. The party system is overall very volatile and superimposed by ethnic questions. The integration of the large Russian-speaking minority is one of the central challenges for Latvia, which also has security and foreign policy dimensions in terms of the country’s relations with Russia.
One of the core concerns of FES is to strengthen Latvian democracy by promoting civil society and political participation, and to support dialogue with German politicians and representatives of public institutions.
FES also believes that a higher level of social security and the inclusion of ethnic minorities should also be guaranteed. The high level of poverty, the social divide, weak social security systems, the emigration of young and educated citizens, and related demographic transformation all present Latvia with a difficult challenge of achieving socially just and sustainable economic growth, and creating a future-proof welfare state.
With the goal of supporting Latvia in being a stable democracy and a constructive member of NATO and the EU, FES projects are aimed at promoting international, German-Latvian and domestic political dialogue, strengthening prominent figures of civil society and increasing political participation of the country’s citizens. Furthermore, it is the goal of FES to use political consulting and education together with representatives of politics, academia and civil society to facilitate discourse about the democratic system in Latvia, the integration of the country in the EU, issues of security policy and the necessary social and economic reform processes.