RIGA - A group of Latvians vented their frustration over the recent nomination of Ingrida Udre, speaker of Parliament and a Euroskeptic, as the country's European commissioner. Approximately 150 people of various ages gathered outside Parliament on Aug. 10 to protest her nomination by Prime Minister Indulis Emsis.
The protest, organized by Delna, the local branch of Transparency International and European Movement in Latvia, a pro-EU NGO, had not been sanctioned by the City Council, forcing organizers to refer to it as "a coincidental walk by the Parliament building."
The protesters carried a variety of signs and symbols - "How much does a commissioner charge?" "Resign from the post," and "Time to go, girl" - though the dominant exhibit was a grim reaper hauling a wheelbarrow with a woman sitting on a bed of straw. A sign on the wheelbarrow said, "Euroskeptic - Eurocommissioner?"
Several MPs, such as New Era's Krisjanis Karins and Leopolds Ozolins of the Greens and Farmers Union, of which Emsis and Udre are also members, took time out to mingle with protesters.
Emsis told reporters on Aug. 10 that he did not take the protest seriously and would not bother commenting it.
Emsis nominated Udre last week after the minority coalition he leads failed to come to a consensus on a figure who would take over the prestigious, five-year job in Brussels. The other two coalition partners, the People's Party and Latvia's First Party, had put forward their own candidates.
The previous government, led by New Era, had nominated former Foreign Minister Sandra Kalniete for the job, which she had begun to carry out before being recalled.
Delna Chairman Roberts Putnis voiced hope that the demonstration would lead to a recall of Udre's candidacy.
Putnis said the commissioner should be nominated in an open manner, amid discussions with political partners and with a consideration of the public's opinion. By forcefully nominating Udre, Emsis had "grossly evaded explaining his position to society," Putnis said.
In the meantime, Udre has been gearing up for her new post.
Last week she met with European Commission President Jose Manuel Durau-Barroso to discuss possible responsibilities she might have on the commission.
She declined to share Barroso's thoughts on the matter, saying the two had agreed not to reveal any information until a final decision was made. She did, however, say she believed economy, finances and tax policy were her strongest points.
She also said she shared her "healthy Euroskepticism" to the EC president, especially regarding the Common Agricultural Policy, which she said was essential in making decisions.
Udre said she believed the policy should be constructed so that "no one would suffer."
The parliamentary speaker said Barroso was well informed about her candidacy and therefore she did not spend much time explaining her biography. She said she was particularly satisfied with Barroso's promise that there would be "no large and small commissioners" on the commission. Rather, the whole commission will work as one team to ensure growing welfare and security in the EU.
"I find this team principle as being very correct," said Udre, who presently holds the post of Parliament speaker.
Regarding her confirmation by the European Parliament, she said she did not expect any problems. First, the EP will vote in support of the whole commission and not specific commissioners, she said, and second, Latvia's Greens and Farmers Union has been supported by Europe's centrist parties.
As far as Kalniete, Udre told reporters she thought it was unethical to compare the two women. "Everyone is unique, and each has his strong points. Each candidate is respectable, therefore it is a still bigger honor that I was chosen for the post," she said.