In 2021, the country has faced situations reminiscent of the internal security system lagging behind the overall progress of the country. The current institutions are unable to effectively investigate serious crimes in the country, as well as have inadequate technical and financial support for the performance of work duties. The different authorities are poorly equipped, have inadequate workspaces and equipment. Those working in defense, public and national security services are poorly paid compared to employees in other divisions. Consequently, the domestic affairs sector now needs additional funding to sufficiently guarantee national and public security.
In recent years, the institutions under the Latvian internal affairs system have faced great challenges, which have drawn the attention of the public and politicians to the growing inability to ensure adequate security of the state, society and individuals. In the context of these events, there is a need for operational activities and funding, which has also been highlighted by President Egils Levits and Minister of the Interior Marija Golubeva. The current situation on the country’s eastern border has also highlighted the lack of security for the State Border Guard, which is being examined in the light of the ongoing migrant crisis. In today’s age, the risk of cybercrime and cyber-attacks is also increasing, which makes it necessary to establish a state cyber police. The global threat to the country’s internal security is growing and deserves a lot of attention from policy makers and ministries, from whom urgent action is important.
I The current home affairs policy strategy
The work of the Ministry of the Interior on the operational strategy for 2020-2022 was started in the beginning of 2019, when the management of the ministry created a map of goals. The strategy consists of 5 directions of action:
- Public order and safety;
- State border security;
- Prevention of and fight against crime;
- Civil protection, fire safety, firefighting and rescue;
- Citizenship, migration, population registration and identity documents.
With its vision, the Ministry intends to improve Latvia’s security rating by developing the country into one of the five safest countries in Europe. In 2020, according to the rating of the Security section of the Institutional Pillar of the Competitiveness Index of the World Economic Forum, Latvia was ranked 23rd in the European Union.
However, optimistic expectations are overshadowed by broad risks. The Ministry of the Interior itself has pointed out the possible lack of funding for the necessary technological, material, technical and infrastructure improvements, as well as for the attraction of staff as potential risks. Labor shortages due to declining population and the outflow of workers from the public sector are already contributing to the increase in workload. One of the external risks is the decline in public confidence in the institutions of the home affairs sector, as well as negative external rhetoric on the part of the public.
The industry is increasingly facing global risks, such as migration, border protection and the fight against crime; changes in EU-level policies that need to be implemented urgently in national policies; Climate change has made it necessary for the home affairs sector to respond to the growing number and scale of natural disasters. Latvia is facing a growing threat of cybercrime and cyber-attacks, as well as the rapid aging of available technology.
II Problems of the internal system and performable solutions
In 2021, the country has faced situations reminiscent of the internal security system lagging behind the overall development of the country – the migrant crisis at the Eastern border of the European Union, inability to effectively investigate serious crimes in the country, as well as inadequate technical and financial support for the performance of work duties. The President of the Republic of Latvia Egils Levits has stated several times during 2021 that the abolition of the Police Academy 11 years ago has been a huge mistake that needs to be corrected, pointing out that the 2022 budget would be reasonable and effective in creating a national internal security system. There is a need in the country for one internally coordinated educational institution for police and similar officials. Internal security issues will not be resolved within one year and a concept is needed to improve the system in the longer term. This system is necessary for competent and educated police officers and everyone else who ensures internal security.
The cornerstones of the state cyber security system and its management must be laid in the Latvian state, and appropriate financial and human resources must be invested. In the internal system, it is necessary to form a properly prepared and educated cyber police unit in a timely manner. Given that the country is currently in the focus of a hybrid war, according to the President, it is high time to form such a unit, as the state’s preparedness for various threats is insufficient and far from it. The country needs a modern training center for investigators and operatives – it is hoped that this year’s budget will provide adequate funding.
The large pay gap between home affairs workers and the National Armed Forces also needs to be gradually closed. It is important to note that a soldier in Latvia receives a gross salary of 950 euros per month, an entry-level employee in the field of home affairs receives around 1000 EUR per month (gross), while, for comparison, builders in the country tend to earn around 1000 EUR per month (gross).
III The problems in the context of current challenges
The shortcomings of the interior system and the inability to cope with various challenges were highlighted in April 2021, when a football agent was assassinated in the middle of the day in the center of Riga. The events of April reminded the Latvian society of May 2018, when the insolvency administrator was assassinated on May 30. Up to the date of this article, little progress has been made in investigating both cases.
After the shocking events of April 2021, the President of Latvia Egils Levits mentioned to journalists that the internal security sector is in a critical state. In June 2021, the new Minister of the Interior Maria Golubeva was elected, who acknowledged that modern and high-quality training of young police officers throughout the career of a police officer is very important. Another priority is to find a solution to the inability of both the police and other services to detect and prevent hate crimes. It was already clear to the Minister at the time that many services were poorly equipped, for example, the police had inadequate premises and equipment, and there was a lack of modern technology.
The state of emergency on the Latvian-Belarusian border was declared on August 10, 2021. In September 2021, as a result of the crisis of migrants on the border of the European Union, the President of Latvia Egils Levits repeatedly called on the government to pay attention to the internal affairs system. The President contextually mentioned that a hybrid war was facing the external border on the part of Belarus, where, according to international events, refugees could apply for asylum upon arrival in the first safe country from their own country. In the case of refugees, it is Belarus where they are not persecuted, but on the contrary – tourist visas are issued. This flow of migrants is a stress test for the State Border Guard. The President urged that strengthening internal security be made a multi-annual priority, including when deciding on the budget this year. The country’s external security has been strengthened for some time, but now it is important to take action to strengthen the country’s internal border.
The current strategy for the development of the sector, as well as the rhetoric of polititians already provided that the integrity of the home affairs system had been compromised and has become critical over time. The different authorities are poorly equipped, have inadequate workspaces and equipment, which can be classified as obsolete by modern day standards and needs. Modern and high-quality training of young police officers throughout the career is of the utmost importance. Those working in defense, public and national security services are underpaid compared to employees in other sectors. Thus, the home internal affairs sector urgently needs additional support to adequately ensure national and public security.
- Iekšlietu Ministrija. (n.d.). Iekšlietu ministrijas darbības stratēģija 2020.–2022. gadam. Retrieved September 7, 2021, from https://www.iem.gov.lv/sites/iem/files/content/strategija-iem.pdf
- Karavīri algas pieaugumu varētu gaidīt 2023. gadā, lēš ministrs. (2021, September 3). Skaties.Lv. https://skaties.lv/zinas/bizness/ekonomika/finanses/karaviri-algas-pieaugumu-varetu-gaidit-2023-gada-les-ministrs/
- Līcīte, M. (2021, September 3). Valsts prezidents atkārtoti aicina veltīt lielāku uzmanību iekšlietu sistēmai. LSM.LV. https://www.lsm.lv/raksts/zinas/latvija/valsts-prezidents-atkartoti-aicina-veltit-lielaku-uzmanibu-iekslietu-sistemai.a419794/
- lv. (2021a, April 22). Prezidents: Policijas akadēmijas likvidēšana bija liela kļūda, kas jālabo. https://www.lsm.lv/raksts/zinas/latvija/prezidents-policijas-akademijas-likvidesana-bija-liela-kluda-kas-jalabo.a401611/
- lv. (2021b, July 19). Levits: Iekšējai drošībai jābūt vienai no budžeta prioritātēm. https://www.lsm.lv/raksts/zinas/latvija/levits-ieksejai-drosibai-jabut-vienai-no-budzeta-prioritatem.a413455/
- lv. (2021c, September 2). Levits mudina izlīdzināt algu atšķirības starp iekšlietu jomu un NBS. https://www.lsm.lv/raksts/zinas/latvija/levits-mudina-izlidzinat-algu-atskiribas-starp-iekslietu-jomu-un-nbs.a419577/
- lv. (n.d.). LV portāls – Cilvēks. Valsts. Likums. Retrieved September 7, 2021, from https://lvportals.lv/norises/331187-izsludina-arkartejo-situaciju-latvijasbaltkrievijas-pierobeza-2021
- Redakcija, L. Z. (2021, June 4). Jaunā iekšlietu ministre: Policistu atalgojuma pieaugumam jānotiek drīz. LSM.LV. https://www.lsm.lv/raksts/zinas/latvija/jauna-iekslietu-ministre-policistu-atalgojuma-pieaugumam-janotiek-driz.a407496/