The President of Latvia Vaira Vike - Freiberga during her Presidency (1999-2007) has:
Returned 36 draft laws to the Saeima (Parliament) for second reviewing;
Initiated 10 laws, the major ones among these pertaining to the Ombudsman, election and dismissal of the President, improvement of the system of official decorations, the relevant paragraphs of Constitution concerning Latvia’s membership in the EU etc.;
On one occasion exercised the presidential right under Paragraph 72 of the Constitution to suspend the publishing of a law for two months;
Nominated five Prime Ministers;
By a co-signing the relevant resolutions with the Prime Minister, established four independent academic commissions, which in the course of her Presidency have co-ordinated the work of almost 300 scholars, researchers and public figures of Latvia on topical issues pertaining to Latvia’s interests in the fields of the official language, history, foreign policy, economy and social sphere. As a result countless volumes of research findings have been published, numerous conferences and discussion forums organised, the respective materials being available on the President’s website. The activities of all commissions have been highly appraised internationally (the membership of the Historians’ Commission includes many internationally acknowledged scholars, the Language Commission has developed good co-operation with its counterparts in the other Baltic States, the Commission of Strategic Analysis has co-hosted the academic conference during the NATO Summit in Riga and other international events, etc.);
Through the Military Council and visits to the National Armed Forces (NAF) stimulated development of NAF, transition from compulsory military service to a professional army and implementation of NATO integration tasks;
Encouraged public activity pertaining to Latvia’s accession to the EU and in discussions with the executive power, parliamentary commissions and members of the Saeima facilitated processes related to harmonizing of legislation;
Encouraged consolidation of democracy and institutions and understanding of human rights, including gender equality in Latvia and elsewhere in the world; Under the auspices of the President’s institution created legislation on Ombudsman in Latvia, stimulated the Saeima to establish this institution;
Assiduously called for the implementation of the reform of the judicial system and the consolidation of this system;
Triggered a broad public debate in Europe and the world on the complicated post-war history of Europe, tirelessly explicated issues related to the history of Latvia. On 12th January 2005 issued a statement to the world leaders and the public that elucidated the history of the Baltic States and the future of Europe from Latvia’s perspective. The Historians’ Commission subsequently published a volume with the responses from foreign heads of state;
Advocated the interests of Eastern Europe regarding the administration of the United Nations; as a candidate officially nominated by the Baltic States, she was the first Eastern European to run for the position of the UN Secretary General. V. Vike-Freiberga stood out also as a woman candidate, since the UN during more than 60 years or its existence has never had a woman as its Secretary General; In the course of two weeks the President of Latvia won the high 3rd place in the election process and received broad support from world media, public organisations and politicians.
V. Vike-Freiberga has established the tradition to:
Deliver state-of-the-nation speeches in the last session of the Saeima before the summer vacation;
In the President’s Chancery to convene advisory meetings pertaining to requests for the second reviewing of laws, involving participants from different state institutions and NGOs;
To deliver a public speech on the National Day on 18th November and make this day a broadly celebrated public holiday in Riga and elsewhere in Latvia.
The Place of Latvia in the World
Foreign affairs, security, human rights
Situation of Latvia before the election of Vaira Vike-Freiberga:
At the time of her election on 1999 Latvia, figuratively speaking, stood at the crossroads. Latvia’s prospects of accession to the EU and NATO were uncertain and vague. Politicians of the most influential European and North American states openly doubted Latvia’s readiness for the membership of the EU and NATO. Latvia, unlike Estonia, did not receive the invitation to start the EU accession negotiations in 1998. US politicians actively discussed the possibility in the next round of NATO enlargement to accept Lithuania, Slovakia and Slovenia. Latvia was regarded as the weakest link of the chain among the Baltic States in terms of both the military (in 1999 defence budged constituted 0.84% of GDP), administrative and socio-economic development. OSCE mission followed the process of democratisation in Latvia. International Jewish organisations questioned Latvia’s wish impartially to assess the crimes of totalitarian regimes. Latvia was considered to be one of the most corrupt states in the region. On 3rd March 1999 Latvia-Russia bilateral relations reached the freezing point.
Achievements during the presidency of Vaira Vike-Freiberga:
Latvia gradually but consistently continued to consolidate its statehood. V. Vike-Freiberga has been at the head of increasingly deep integration of Latvia in Western democratic structures that are based on democracy, the rule of law and respect for human rights. The President played a fundamental role in the field of legislation pertaining to the rule of law, consolidation of the political nation, defence and security;
Fundamental reforms have taken place in the Armed Forces of Latvia since 1999. Financing has increased manifold, Latvia has taken part in international co-operation projects both in the Baltic and in more remote regions;
Latvia has become a member of NATO. During V. Vike-Freiberga’s presidency Latvia’s membership in NATO from an issue that many international partners regarded as a “taboo” became a reality. Similarly, NATO Summit in Riga from a far-flung possibility became a reality: in Riga Summit 26 world leaders adopted essentially important decisions for the consolidation of the Alliance.
Pertaining to the defence field: in 2007 the publication of laws related to the operation and supervision of security services was suspended for two months, this being the first time that this presidential right was exercised. The President’s decision received broad public support as attested by the number of signatures collected in favour of holding of a referendum.
Latvia has joined the EU. The majority of the members of the European Parliament voted in favour of the accession treaty with Latvia. The President actively supported Latvia’s interests during the negotiations. As a result of her letter to the President of the European Commission Romano Prodi on Latvia’s interests in the field of agriculture, negotiations yielded considerably better results.
The accession of both to the EU and NATO required the President’s initiative on sensitive domestic policy issues (Official Language Law, Election Laws): their compliance with international standards was something like an “entrance ticket” to the EU and NATO.
During V. Vike-Freiberga’s presidency good co-operation had taken place among the Baltic States: the joint support of the three states to her candidacy in the elections of the UN Secretary General is the best proof of that.
During her presidency V. Vike-Freiberga has visited all EU member states.
Latvia has developed its relations with the EU powers with unprecedented activity. France: constant dialogue and regular exchange of visits with President Jacques Chirac, the address of Latvia’s President at the French Parliament; V. Vike-Freiberga was the patroness of festivals “The Amazing Latvia” and “The Spring of France”, which was a French cultural event of unprecedented scale in the North-European region; Germany: visits of Johannes Rau and Gerhard Schroeder to Latvia. The first state visit of Latvia to Germany. The UK: the state visit of queen Elisabeth II to Latvia. The official visit of the President of Latvia to the UK; The strategically important relations with the US have consolidated. As a special honour V. Vike-Freiberga was invited to address the two houses of the US Congress in June 2006. Throughout the years of her presidency V. Vike-Freiberga has consistently emphasised the need for strong Transatlantic ties.
V. Vike-Freiberga has channelled relations with the Russian Federation towards businesslike co-operation, yet reminding RF of the past. She has urged politicians to sign and ratify the border treaty that was done in 2007. Gradual balance has been achieved in the relations between Russia and Latvia. Meeting with President V. Putin in February 2001. Participation in the EU-Russian Federation Summit on 30th -31st May 2003, in the 300th Anniversary of St. Petersburg celebrations and the commemoration of the end of the Second World War in Moscow in 2005.
Appreciating the role of multi-lateral diplomacy, V. Vike-Freiberga has many times addressed the sessions of the UN General Assembly. In 2005 she was invited to become one of the five Special Envoys of the UN Secretary General on the UN reform issues. V. Vike-Freiberga brought in a new spirit in the elections of the UN Secretary General: it was the first time ever that a candidate from Eastern Europe and a woman had been nominated for this post. V. Vike-Freiberga received considerable support in the vote in the Security Council. Participation in the UN Conference in Durban, in Refugee Convention Conference in Geneva and the World Information Summit in Tunisia.
V. Vike-Freiberga hosted the Informal Meeting of Eight Presidents (Austria, Italy, Latvia, Poland, Portugal, Finland, Hungary and Germany) in 2007 to discuss topical issues related to the future of Europe and the Constitutional Treaty of Europe. The Riga meeting was the first time ever when all eight presidents were present.
V. Vike-Freiberga has been an active and public advocate of the approaching of Georgia, Moldova and the Ukraine to the European and Transatlantic structures.
V. Vike-Freiberga has contributed to positive international image of Latvia: she is one of the few East European leaders who are seen as a moral authority. As a result V. Vike-Freiberga has constantly been invited to address high-level events, including the fact that she is the only Baltic leader who has been invited to the World Economic Forum in Davos every year. It is attested also by her international recognition and “Non-Governmental awards”, such as Hannah Arendt Award, the Small Countries Award and Kaiser Otto Award.
The President has initiated a public debate on and stimulated international co-operation for combating of corruption.
V. Vike-Freiberga on regular basis has elucidated the history of Latvia. In 2005 her letter to the European and world leaders triggered a broad debate in Europe on the Second World War and contributed to the understanding of the fact of the occupation of Latvia. It was attested by 19 letters from world and European leaders.
Active harmonisation of Latvian legislation with international standards has taken place. The President has actively stimulated amendments to the Language and Election Laws and Regulations of the Citizenship Law.
During V. Vike-Freiberga’s presidency international mechanisms of the supervision of Latvia in the field of human rights have been withdrawn, which fact reflects Latvia’s achievements in the field of human rights. OSCE mission in Latvia was closed, the political criterion for the EU membership was met, the monitoring process of the Council of Europe as well as the CE post-monitoring dialogue were finalised.
V. Vike-Freiberga has followed the public integration processes, encouraging the ethnic minorities to study the official language and non-citizens to naturalise for citizenship.
V. Vike-Freiberga has maintained a dialogue with the religious denominations represented in Latvia and attended their festivals. Upon V. Vike-Freiberga’s invitation in 2006 Latvia received the visit Patriarch of All Russia Alexy II.
Latvia has launched active research into and education in the tragic events of the Second World War, V. Vike-Freiberga has maintained a dialogue with the Jewish community: research into the Holocaust has taken place within the Historians’ Commission, in 2006 a large-scale international conference dedicated to this theme took place in Riga. V. Vike-Freiberga has maintained a long-standing dialogue with international Jewish organisations; in 2007 she received an award from the American Jewish Committee in recognition of Latvia’s achievements.
V. Vike-Freiberga is one of the still few women world leaders and a member of Council of Women World Leaders.
To make the hosting of large-scale events - NATO Summit, IIHF World Championship, the Summit of the Eight Presidents - in Latvia possible V. Vike-Freiberga lobbied Latvia’s candidacy with the decision makers.
Countless interviews with foreign media, spelling out and defending Latvia’s interests.