top_img
Valdis Zatlers

Valdis Zatlers

Annual Report 2010

The domestic political activities of the President

The main duty for President of Latvia Valdis Zatlers in 2010 was to facilitate domestic political stability so as to ensure the implementation of the government’s programme for economic and financial recovery. This was particularly important in that in March 2010, the government was a minority government, and also that 2010 was a parliamentary election year. President Zatlers helped the government as much as he could, and he asked the new Cabinet of Ministers to focus on three major subjects – unemployment, demographics, and policies related to the energy sector. The President also made sure that Parliament did not take decisions during the election campaign season that were excessively populist, imbalanced, or based on the lobbying of narrowly drawn interests. The President took advantage of his constitutional right to resubmit laws to Parliament for secondary consideration six times during the course of the year.
 
In order to ensure the principle of succession in the work of the Latvian government and the continuation of economic stabilisation in the country, President Zatlers said in advance of the 10th Saeima [Parliament] election that he would have three criteria with which he would just potential candidates for the post of prime minister. He repeated these as the new government was being assembled in the wake of the election -- the ability to continue implementation of the economic stabilisation programme, the ability to ensure succession in foreign policy, and the ability to ensure succession in security policy, as well.
 
President Zatlers did everything that he could to call on the people of Latvia to take a responsible and active part in determining the future of the country by voting in the 10th Saeima election. On the eve of the election, the President appeared on public television and radio to discuss this matter.
 
President Zatlers called on politicians to organise a high-quality election campaign, offering clear and understandable answers to the questions which the electorate posted with respect to issues that were of importance to it. In advance of the 10th Saeima election, the President also called on candidates to talk about important public issues in their campaign programmes and in public debates so as to allow voters to express support on election day for specific positions in terms of authorising people who would represent them in pursuit of the relevant goals.

 

 

Another priority for the President in 2010 was to facilitate patriotism in Latvia. As the 20th anniversary of the restoration of Latvia’s independence approached, the President chaired an honorary committee to organise the relevant celebrations. In May, in celebration of the 20th anniversary of the restoration of Latvia’s sovereignty, the President called on Latvian schools to devote one history class to the events of May 4, 1990, so that young people who did not experience the day themselves could learn from eyewitnesses about its historical importance. President Zatlers taught one such class in advance of May 4, talking about his memories about the date. He also called for the law on education to be revised so as to make Latvian history a separate subject of study at school.
 
On several occasions – celebrating the 20th anniversary of the restoration of Latvia’s independence, addressing the outgoing 9th Saeima, and speaking to the media about major challenges in 2011 – the President listed priorities in terms of making sure that Latvia could continue to develop as a well governed and economically successful country. He called for an adequate evaluation of the issue of demographics, for effective and creative management and economic development, sensible national governance, and the development of mutual co-operation in these areas.

 

 

In relation to demographic issues, President Zatlers called for all necessary prerequisites for the future of the Latvian state and its next generation. He said that fundamental changes were needed in the country’s social policies, and he called for a considered strategy for rural development so as to prevent the emigration of people from Latvia, as well as to encourage earlier émigrés to come home with their new knowledge and experiences. For that reason, the President called on the government to develop a proper demographic policy for the country very quickly, indeed.
 
In the area of the national economy, President Zatlers has insisted that we must learn to manage our country in an effective and innovative way, also arguing that although people in Latvia often express scorn about their country, the fact is that Latvia is in a comparatively very fine situation when it comes to future development and growth. Latvia is one of the greenest countries in Europe in terms of energy issues, and it can create many more jobs in the area of the “green economy,” the President has argued.

 

 

President Zatlers has said on numerous occasions that during the process of economic recovery over the next several years, it will be fundamentally important to avoid the mistakes that were made in the past – excessively rapid growth, a lending boom, soaring inflation, and a substantial current accounts deficit. The future of Latvia’s economy must be sustainable and based not on borrowed money and consumption of imports, but instead on the ability to ensure significant export volumes, the President has said.
 
Third, the President called on the government finally to learn how to run the country in a sensible way. Latvia, like many other countries, has increased national debt and undertaken obligations to increase labour productivity and effectiveness in the public sector and in the system of governance to a very substantial degree. For that reason, President Zatlers insisted in 2010 that in continuing structural reforms, the government must ensure changes and greater effectiveness in the health care and higher education sectors, as well as improve the quality of secondary professional education so as to bring it closer into line with the requirements of the labour market.

 

 

 

 

President Zatlers has often said that the people of Latvia must be far more active in taking part in the governance of their country. This represents not just the people’s opportunities and rights, but also the obligations which must be undertaken by any civically educated individual who receives support and encouragement from the state to take part in civic activities.
 
At various public appearances and in meetings with government officials, the President has insisted on the need to implement high-quality changes in the system of governance by updating the fundamental law of the country with amendments that are in line with the spirit of the times and also to ensure sensible governance in the country.
 
President Zatlers has also called for constitutional amendments to create a greater number of smaller election districts than is the case at this time, to create an electoral register for all elections that take place in Latvia, and to expand the rights of the Latvian President when it comes to nominating and approving politically independent government officials so as to make sure that competent and politically neutral professionals are appointed to the relevant offices without the unnecessary politicisation of this process.
 
The President has also spoken in favour of amending the Constitution to provide for a nationally elected President. He believes that this would strike a better balance in terms of better co-operation and responsibilities among the various branches of governance, also encouraging the citizens of Latvia to become involved in and to take responsibility for important aspects of political life in Latvia. The President has asked his Constitutional Law Commission to prepare views as how to improve the balance and co-operation among the branches of governance and to achieve a more efficient decision making mechanism.

 

 

In an address before Parliament, President Zatlers pointed to several problems which must be addressed: There is a lack of an effective mechanism to deal with parliamentary crises; legislative decisions about issues such as the election of high-ranking officials are not sufficiently explained to the public, etc. The President called on MPs who at that time were running for re-election to provide voters with competent, thorough and justified proposals and to compete over the best long-term economic development vision whilst, at the same time, avoiding populist decisions.
 
Fourth, the President has called on people to learn how to identify and make use of the opportunities which occur when people work together. His idea is that over the next few years, Latvia can become a country of greater mutual co-operation and support, as opposed to self-isolation and pushing others away.
 
Also during the course of 2010, President Zatlers has dealt with the issue of how the positions of the state language can be strengthened. At the same time, however, he has also said that those residents of Latvia for whom Latvian is not their native language nevertheless belong to and are needed by the Latvian state, which means that there must be greater mutual co-operation and support among the people of Latvia. In his address before Parliament on June 17, 2010, the President insisted that residents in Latvia who are of other nationalities must understand their belonging to the Latvian state and to the state language.