Milkman to become Interior Minister

  • 2005-11-02
  • By Aaron Eglitis
RIGA - After threatening the ruling coalition's stability, parties New Era and Latvia's First Party agreed on Oct. 31 to support Dzintars Jaundzeikars to succeed Eriks Jekabsons as minister of the interior.
In the day prior to the meeting, New Era officials had said they might not support Jaundzeikars' candidacy and called for a rigorous examination. This led to a salvo between the two parties, who have had not gotten along since New Era coalition fell in early 2004.
The war of words reached a nadir when both parties claimed the coalition could function fine without the other.

Ainars Slesers of Latvia's First promised to hit back if New Era insisted on drilling Jaundzeikars. If his candidate did not receive New Era support, Slesers said, he would bring in a few party ministers for an interrogation.

He said that New Era founder Einars Repse will be the first "to flunk the exam" because he did not have a military education. Repse is currently defense minister.

Slesers, who is transport minister, also said that Special Task Minister for Integration Ainars Latkovskis would also fail since he "has no understanding at all about integration affairs."

But all the saber-rattling came to an end after a meeting between New Era and Jaundzeikars, after which the latter appeared alongside New Era faction head Karlis Sardurskis, with both men smiling.

Repse said that Jaundzeikars had not been impressive, but he must have been the best Latvia's First Party could offer.

"The biggest tragedy is that the festering sores in the interior ministry are due to Latvia's First Party's neglect 's therefore we hope the party will offer solutions," Repse added.

When Jaundzeikars takes over the Interior Ministry, he will inherit an organization that has been rocked by scandal and suffered a staggering attrition. Hundreds of personnel have left since the beginning of 2005 due to low pay.

Perhaps even more pressing is the country's sluggish pace at meeting criteria for the Schengen accords, the European agreement that removes internal border controls. The state is in danger of losing millions of euros in financing from the European Commission.

Parliament's European Affairs committee has called for greater oversight of procurement procedures involving the implementation of the Schengen accords, fearing possible graft due to the sums involved.

In the background of the fight to replace Jekabsons, questions linger about a probe into an alleged leak on the National Security Council, which recently held a meeting on whether to recommend barring exiled Russian tycoon Boris Berezovsky from entering Latvia.

The country's secret service issued its report to Prime Minister Aigars Kalvitis, who ordered the investigation, but the contents have remained classified.

Still, speculation has been rife in the media. One of the latest theories is that Jekabons' head of office, Ilona Lice, might be mentioned in the report. Lice previously worked for Parliamentary Speaker Ingrida Udre, who also met with Boris Berezovsky, and Indulis Emsis.

Jekabsons' sudden resignation remained shrouded in mystery, with classified information, media speculation and few offering any details other than possible conspiracy. During an interview with Latvia's radio SWH, Kalvitis said that Jekabsons had still not revealed the true reasons for his resignation, though the prime minister declined to speculate what those reasons may be.

Berezovsky has resorted to blaming his nemesis, rival and fellow billionaire George Soros for his blacklisting. The charge has been echoed by Ventspils Mayor Aivars Lembergs, who is closely aligned with the Greens and Farmers Union, the party which Udre and Emsis belong to.