Interview with Roland Gladushenko, British-Latvian political student, Labour Party activist and former case worker for Rachel Reeves, shadow chief secretary to the treasury. By Joe Wood


The following interview is an exchange between myself and British-Latvian political student Roland Gladushenko. Away from university Roland is a Labour Party activist and former case worker for Leeds West MP Rachel Reeves. Roland is a keen amateur commentator on European affairs with a particular interest in federalism, banking integration and eastern European enlargement. In this interview we will discuss Britain’s future within the single market and the problems facing enlargement of the EU.

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Joe: Mr Gladushenko first of all thank you for taking time to answer these questions, I was wondering if we could start by having your thoughts on the ‘British’ problem within the EU. Why now?

Roland: The biggest and most important reason is so that David Cameron can throw this idea into the next election cycle. Promising a referendum after the next election is seen within the Conservative Party as a vote winner especially as they have been losing votes to UKIP. Secondly it is thought within the government that a British threat to leave the EU will give the UK more power in negotiations about the future of the EU and the direction the government wants to take it in.

Joe: So this is mainly a tactical ploy by David Cameron? There is no real threat of a UK exit?

Roland: In David Cameron’s mind, I would imagine, no. However there are numerous back benchers in the Conservative Party who are hoping this could lead to a British exit.

Joe: How is this seen on the continent? Do they take this threat seriously?

Roland: Relevant threat yes however, as a significant change in the Union no. Many people on the continent see the UK as only a part-time member there is of course a general will that the UK will stay but nobody is prepared to give concessions to keep the UK. Of course this is seen differently across the different member states. There is a general view within the French political elite that an unconstructive Britain is more damaging than not having the UK within the Union. The Germans on the other hand would see a British exit as far more damaging.

Joe: Why do the Germans fear it? Why is their opinion on Britain in such conflict with the other members?

Roland: Germany does not want to be left as the only large EU member defending liberal economic policies which the British have been defending in Brussels. Throughout its existence the EU has had a balance of power between the more economic liberal North and the more social democratic South thus Germany’s opposition mainly derives from the fact that Britain’s exit would undermine this balance.

Joe: Ok slightly shifting the parameters of this discussion. The UK has always been the biggest supporter of EU enlargement and recently there has been a flurry of interest coming from the Balkans in joining the EU. How is this continuing enlargement seen across Europe?

Roland: Well I would like to share with you a quote by Catherine the great cited by Barroso who said ‘the only way to defend my empire is to expand it.’ Enlargement is seen by many of the EU leaders as the only way to keep Europe safe and prosperous. For example the accession of Croatia to the EU in July is keeping and promoting stability in the Balkans.

Joe: But is this support for enlargement really uniform across the EU? An enlargement involving Turkey has certainly been a controversial topic in recent years.

Roland: The short answer is no. Support for enlargement in the western Balkans is very much based on the small populations as well as our experience with the wars in the Balkans. So I do not think the accession of a country of 80 million who will be amongst the poorest in Europe will be on the agenda in the short to medium future.

Joe: Ok so looking further down the line, is a Turkish accession to the EU inevitable or are the limits of the EU on the shores of the Bosphorus?

Roland: This is largely still unknown and will depend on the developments within Turkey in the next decade. Firstly we still haven’t resolved the dispute over northern Cyprus and perhaps more importantly there are still major doubts regarding Turkey’s legal system and its protection of minority rights in particular.

Joe: Ok I would like to change the subject due to some breaking news coming in on a topic I know you are very interested in. Latvia’s sovereign credit rating has been upgraded by the S&P to BBB+. About time?

Roland: Yeah it has been a long time coming. Many have predicted that this would happen straight after the commission’s recommendation to the council regarding Latvia’s adoption of the euro. Even during the Eurozone crisis the rating agencies believe that euro membership is still increases financial stability, especially in small and open economies. I would expect Moody’s and Fitch to follow shortly.

Joe: Ok final question where do you think the future of the EU lies? Is it doomed to failure or will the current crisis strengthen the case for integration?

Roland: Throughout the last 60 years every single crisis Europe has faced has been followed by an acceleration of integration. I do feel that due to the current circumstances and the magnitude of that acceleration it will be more challenging than the crises we have had in the past. However in saying that, there are reasons to be optimistic that we are moving forward with the establishment of the ESM (European Stability Mechanism), with the signing of the fiscal compact and creation of the banking union. There is now a general recognition in Europe that the further economic and political integration of Europe is necessary to safeguard our future interests.

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