Monday 7 February 2011

Baltic Nights And Days

Not that many years ago those watching the “Last Night Of The Proms” may have noticed someone standing in the second row of the Arena waving the flag of Estonia.

He was happy to talk to us (we were in front of him) because I was the only person who had recognised the flag. By him were Japanese girls waving their flag and not away the flag of Northumbria could be seen. It all added to the occasion.

Since then things have not been going quite so well in Estonia or the Baltic States and this article tells of some of those affected:

Clearly what happens to people in Estonia during austerity or difficulty is quite different from the UK today, although my parents and previous generations would have found things much the same.

It explains why in the last three years or so there has been an influx from these new nations of the EU into the UK where a different situation exists. It is also more complicated than it might seem because some of those who have arrived are people from the Russian and other minorities in those countries.

In our own immediate district many of the cars now have Baltic and Polish number plates. A number of properties now house groups of men many of whom are of an age to be married and have families. There is every chance that they are declaring their families for child benefit and sending a fair part of their earnings home.

This will enable those families to stay in their homes and get by on a reasonable basis given prices in their countries. How many there are in this category in the UK now I do not know but my guess is that there are a lot and probably most are legal and within the EU rules.

Necessarily, they are competing with UK subjects for work, especially at the wage levels at the lowest levels and it has been interesting to see the change in the make up of the work force in some of the most menial jobs as the East Europeans increase in numbers.

In ethnic terms their DNA is much closer to those of UK long term origin than many from other places. It is arguable that not so long ago in geophysical terms some of them moved West after the Ice Age and some moved North.

So while we might feel that they are “new” they are closer cousins to us that many others. When Bolingbroke (later King Henry IV) and his entourage joined the Lithuanian Crusade they knew they were amongst kin of a sort.

As the financial crisis rolls on and austerity comes to the UK as well as other places one of the key financial issues is the level of government borrowing, notably to fund benefits and NHS and social services.

At present, it looks like we will be borrowing to fund an increasing part of the income of the poorer people of the Baltic populations.

Is anyone trying to work out the implications?

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