ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MAN: Despite considerable diplomatic experience, Eduards Stiprais is a new name to most in Latvian politics
INCOMING Latvian President Valdis Zatlers has made his first major move on the political scene by appointing the head of his private office.
The new president's right-hand man is Eduards Stiprais, currently serving in Brussels as Latvian ambassador to the European Union, a post he has held since December 2004, though he has been mainly based in the Belgian capital since March 1995.
The appointment emerged during the course of a TV interview with the president-elect, who revealed: "I have reached agreement with Eduards Stiprais that he will be head of the chancery. He is a very good candidate, he has diplomatic experience from the beginning of the restoration of Latvia's independence... and has excellent knowledge of Europe. But most important of all - he is politically neutral."
The media was quick to pick up on that last phrase, speculating that it signals Zatlers' intention to re-assert the independence of the presidency. Though never straying into overt party politics, the final months of Vaira Vike-Freiberga's presidency have been notable for an increasingly tense stand-off between parliament and president over a number of issues.
Stiprais is due to start work on Wednesday 4 July, four days before his new boss officially takes the helm of the ship of state.
Stiprais is 38 years old, married, and originally from Riga. Educated at Riga Secondary School No 84 and the University of Latvia faculty of economics, he is fluent in Russian and English as well as his mother tongue, he began his diplomatic career in May 1991 as a trainee at the Ministry of Social Maintenance, rapidly working his way up through the ranks.