RIGA - President Vaira Vike-Freiberga said that despite pressure from the press she was sticking to her critical position on the recent protest against Parliamentary Speaker and European Commission-er-designate Ingrida Udre organized by the local chapter of Transparency International.
Speaking to the Neatkariga Rita Avize daily, the president voiced confusion as to the "illegal activities of the public organization," especially considering that Delna, the name of the chapter, has declared the promotion of democratic standards as its goal.
"I was surprised by the very emotional and heightened reaction that even lead to an unsanctioned protest. It is especially unacceptable that an organization acts illegally, though its goals are the promotion of democratic standards in the country," the president said. "This I feel is inadequate and surprising. I think it is strange that an official's resignation is being demanded only because a group of people doesn't like her as a Eurocom-missioner candidate - futhermore, resignation from the post of parliamentary speaker, a post legitimately obtained by an elected Parliament and constitution."
The president said that NGOs could express their opinion, but that doesn't mean that others must listen.
"We have a representative democracy - we can slander our representatives but can not recall them until the next elections," said Vike-Freiberga.
Speaking of how Udre was nominated as Eurocommissioner (see story on Page 4), the president again said that there were no procedural violations.
"I saw no significant violations or deviations from the generally accepted norm. There is no strict procedure in this case, as it is a political nomination and the prime minister has all the responsibility. That's the system, and these rights cannot be taken away from the PM. Maybe some don't like it, but the procedure is the same elsewhere in Europe," she said.
The president added that by criticizing Prime Minster Indulis Emsis' choice for European commissioner, Delna has taken up the functions of a political party. Delna made claims of corruption in the protest, and the president said that it should now give concrete evidence.
In a democracy, she suggested, people must be responsible also for their words.
Asked by the daily whether the politically tense situation has been caused by upcoming municipal elections or by attempts to topple the current government, the president said, "Let them topple and go if they can. This process takes place behind the scenes in negotiations. I see no reason for NGOs to get involved in the process."
Vike-Freiberga also admitted that she has felt pressure from the media to take a specific siding to political issues, which she would not do.
Delna and the European Movement in Latvia said they were appalled that a declared Euroskeptic such as Udre could be nominated as Eurocommissioner, especially one that has trouble with the media. The NGOs also hinted that the secretive way in which Udre was nominated suggested political corruption.