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Europe but not quite Europe? : a poststructuralist perspective of Latvia’s liminal Europeanness through the annual foreign policy debate over 2011 to 2021

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Title: Europe but not quite Europe? : a poststructuralist perspective of Latvia’s liminal Europeanness through the annual foreign policy debate over 2011 to 2021
Author(s): Stuklis, Elizabeth
Contributor: University of Helsinki, Faculty of Social Sciences
Degree program: Master's Programme in European and Nordic Studies
Specialisation: Social Sciences Study Track
Language: English
Acceptance year: 2021
Historically, Latvia has held a marginal position within the political geography of Europe. Yet, with the restoration of the state and in moving away from the Soviet Union, Latvia reorientated its national identity towards Europe and the West. In doing so, the European Union (EU) was one of the main foreign policy objectives. In the accession process to the EU, Latvia underwent a process of Europeanization, with changes at the domestic level and was placed in an inferior position to the EU. Since 2004, Latvia has further integrated into the EU, yet different geopolitical events have also created tensions between Latvia and the EU. Considering these developments, this thesis explores how Latvia has discursively constructed its national identity in relation to the EU over the last ten years. The theoretical framework of poststructuralism assumes that national identity is discursively and relationally constructed in a complex relationship to the Other. Adding to this, the concept of liminality which refers to the in-between space between the Self/Other is utilised. Through poststructuralism, foreign policy draws on national identity constructions and national identity is constructed through foreign policy. Therefore, in order to analyse Latvia’s national identity in relation to the EU, the thesis will examine the discussions on EU related topics within the annual foreign policy debate held in the Latvian parliament of the Saeima from 2011 to 2021. In examining the empirical material, the thesis utilizes Lene Hansen’s methodology of poststructuralist discourse analysis and approach of deconstructing articulations of differentiation within relational identity. In conducting the poststructuralist discourse analysis, three main findings of Latvia’s national identity construction in relation to the EU are identified. Firstly, Latvia’s national identity is on an equal level with the EU, but as shaped through its national context. Secondly, the Latvian Self is placed in an inferior position to the EU, as Latvia remains within the liminal space and becoming fully European is unreachable. Thirdly, the Latvian Self is superior to the EU, as Latvia goes beyond and against the positionings of the EU. These results indicate the historical continuity of Latvia’s liminality and how marginal actors contribute to their own ambiguous position. Latvia’s contemporary national identity is articulated as being ‘Europe but not quite Europe’, as the Self is constructed to the Other through shades of differentiation. Latvia reinforces its own liminal identity as the EU continues to define what it means to be ‘European’.
Keyword(s): Latvia European Union integration Europeanization National identity Foreign policy debates Latvian parliament Liminality Poststructuralism Poststructuralist discourse analysis

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