Valdis Zatlers

Valdis Zatlers

Annual Report 2009

The President’s Patronage and Public Activities

The Youth Cabinet of Ministers

In 2009, President Zatlers supported and was involved in a new project - the Youth Cabinet of Ministers. Over the course of 10 years, 15 young leaders became involved in the work of government ministries, expressing the views of young people and offering alternative solutions to issues that were on the agenda of the Cabinet of Ministers. President Zatlers met regularly with representatives of the Youth Cabinet to hear about practical ways of improving the system of national governance. These types of projects are of major importance, because they bring young leaders into public and political life. The youngsters worked actively to help in shaping a favourable image of Latvia among the country’s residents.



Patriotic education 


Patriotic education and finding appropriate ways for young people to spend their free time have been priorities for President Zatlers. In 2009, he supported the Young Guard and the Latvian Boy Scout and Girl Scout movement. These are organisations which help to instil patriotism among young people with respect to their families, villages, cities and country. Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and members of the Young Guard worked actively with the President all year long on various environmental projects and social activities.


Establishment of memorials 


As patron of the “Garden of Destiny” project on the Daugava River’s Koknese Island, President Zatlers was the first donor toward the project in March 2009, receiving a special donation certificate in return. This will be a cultural and historical monument of commemoration of those people in Latvia who fell victim to the totalitarian regimes of the 20th century. On May 23, President Zatlers and his family helped to establish the “Garden of Destiny” as part of Forest Days events. On August 23, he took part in the Latvian Television project “The Garden of Destiny is Emerging!” While travelling abroad, President Zatlers has called on Latvians to support the “Garden of Destiny” actively. Organisations of young people – the Young Guard, the Boy Scouts, and the Girl Scouts – have been actively involved in the development of this unique memorial.



President Zatlers is also patron of a project to restore the Cemetery of the Brethren in Rīga. On September 5, he joined soldiers, members of the Home Guard and members of their families in cleaning up the cemetery in honour of the 90th anniversary of the Latvian Army. The event was organised by the Latvian Armed Forces.



On September 17, one day before Independence Day, President Zatlers became the first donor toward the installation of a memorial to former Latvian President Kārlis Ulmanis in the city of Turkmenbashi in Turkmenistan. That is where Latvia’s last pre-war leader spent the last days of his life in prison, where he died. The project is being organised by the Rīga Latvian Association and the National Cultural Development Fund. On September 23, President Zatlers, while at the opening session of the United Nations General Assembly, met with Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov to talk about the memorial. The President gave his Turkmen colleague a model of the bust of Ulmanis that is to be installed. Berdymukhammedov restated his support for the project, and the two leaders agreed on further steps to be taken in this regard.



Heartbeats for the Baltics


On August 23, 2009, at the initiative of President Zatlers, residents of all three Baltic States engaged in a relay race in honour of the 20th Anniversary of the Baltic Way. The project was known as “Heartbeats for the Baltics,” and the start for the race was given by the Presidents of Estonia and Lithuania. The race took all day and all night, and President Zatlers joined the runners during the last kilometre in Rīga. The “Heartbeats for the Baltics” project reinstated Baltic unity, recalling the battle of the three Baltic States for freedom and showing that the national consciousness of the Baltic peoples is alive and well. President Zatlers hoped that everyone who could not take part in the Baltic Way event 20 years ago could take part in the commemorative event in 2009, because only a sense of participation really allows someone to feel the unity of the Latvian people and the Baltic peoples on their way toward freedom. The international expert council of UNESCO’s Memory of the World Programme voted this year to include documentation of the Baltic Way in the programme’s international register.



Candidates to become the European Cultural Capital


Latvia’s name was heard internationally in 2009 in the context of it being nominated as one of the countries for the European Cultural Capitals of 2014. Before the final decision was taken, President Zatlers met with representatives of the three cities that were vying for the honour – Cēsis, Liepāja and Rīga, to express his support for the project and to encourage people to think about 2014, not about the financial difficulties of the present day. In the Autumn of 2009, the President actively supported the establishment of the Song Festival Association, attending its founding meeting, and became a member of the organisation to encourage people to perceive the Latvian Song and Festival not just as a festive gathering once every four years, but also as a product of our national self-esteem.



A green, clean and dynamic Latvia


There were several “green thinking” projects in 2009 which gained a great deal of response from the public. President Zatlers took active part in these, calling on everyone in the country to join it. The most popular, unifying and positive project has been the Great Working Bee, which is aimed at turning Latvia into the cleanest and greenest country in the world. Also in 2009, the President joined the Worldwide Nature Fund’s “Earth Hour,” during the course of which the lights on the Rīga Castle’s Three Star and Holy Spirit Tower were switched off, and lighting at the President’s residence in Jūrmala was dimmed. The President monitors the economic use of lights and electric equipment every day, because that is a way of reducing climate change.


During traditional Forest Days and other events, the President planted trees – fir, oak, and larch trees, as well as lilac bushes – at least one tree for each year that he has lived. At the suggestion of the Danish Embassy in Latvia, the President also tested the advantages of bicycles – for the first time in his life he rode a bike through Old Rīga. Also in 2009, President Zatlers and his family helped to install the “Garden of Destiny” on the Koknese Island in the Daugava River – a project that is to be completed in 10 years’ time. In 2009, all of the work was meant to prepare the island’s landscape and plant trees.





President Zatlers’ active support for various charity programmes has become a lovely annual tradition. In 2009, President Zatlers and First Lady Lilita Zatlers took part in a project called “Come Along,” which supports children with special needs who have particular talents. They also supported the “Hero of the Year” project, which honours courageous people in Latvia who have saved someone else’s life. The “Angels over Latvia” project helps to finance medical procedures, operations and therapy for seriously ill children. The First Couple supported that project, as well as the “Day of Kindness” and its concluding events.