Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 120

Vaira Vike-Freiberga, the first female president of a Central or East European country, has by and large emphasized continuity in Latvia’s policies following her election last week (see the Monitor, June 18). Her initial statements, however, also contain some new emphases and nuances which reflect a strong sense of confidence in Latvia’s title to fair international treatment. Concerning relations with Russia, Vike-Freiberga has asserted that Latvia “never created obstacles to friendly relations. The difficulties have come from Russia, but we are prepared to wait for a Russian offer to improve bilateral relations.” With regard to language policy, she has stressed that its primary goal is to protect the Latvian language, also pointing out that some European countries promote their national languages more strongly than Latvia, and that “consequently there is no cause for alarm over possible reproaches” to Latvia on that account. Such statements represent an effective response to Moscow’s tactic–passively condoned at times by some Western officials–to place on Latvia the onus of improving relations with Russia.

Vike-Freiberga has criticized the European Union (EU) for failing to send adequately clear and timely signals about Latvia’s admission qualifications and timeframe. “Things are dragging out. There is a sense of being led by the nose, a sense of being ordered about regarding the requirements without being given the benefits. This is not a healthy situation.” The assessment reflects confidence in Latvia’s case for admission to the EU, which has thus far kept the country on the slow track of the admission process even after Latvia had led the region in qualifying for membership of the World Trade Organization (LETA, ETA, June 18-19; see also the Monitor, June 21).