Estonians come to Latvia to stock up on fuel, nappies and alcohol.
"Our taxes are going to Latvia" could be a sense translation of the protest motto. A family in Rõngu, on the way from Tartu to Rīga, buys almost everything in Latvia. The family are participating in the protest as well. "Our government has raised the taxes too much. [They've raised] the excise tax on fuel and alcohol - which we don't use - but all other prices are going up as well. And we don't like it. That's why we joined this protest," said Eneli, an Estonian woman. Her husband Vahur agrees: "It's only become worse. Fuel has become even more expensive!"
They regularly go to Latvia to pack their van with Latvia-bought wares. "We go two to three times a month. As even the nappies and baby products are cheaper in Latvia!" Eneli said.
On February 24, the Independence Day of Estonia, thousands of disgruntled Estonians arrived in a motorcade protest against their country's tax policy.
"The main reason for the protest is the Estonian government's excise policy, which results in losses to the Estonian state.. and I'm not talking exclusively about alcohol excise taxes," said the organizer Taavi Lepik.
Estonia has seen its alcohol tax income to shrink €80m below the expected, largely due to cross-border trade, or Estonians coming to Latvia to stock up on booze, which is much cheaper here. As a result, Estonia has backtracked, halving the excise tax hike planned for this year. Estonian alcohol sellers are nevertheless rapidly expanding on the Latvian border.
It should be noted that while excised products are cheaper in Latvia, Estonia has higher wages and benefits for families, as well as significantly lower labor taxes paid by employees.