RIGA - The marking of the first year in office for Latvian President Andris Berzins - July 8 - has come and gone. Berzins was elected by the 10th Saeima on June 2, 2011, and took his oath of office on July 8 last year. Fifty-three parliament members voted for him, while 44 voted against.
In the days leading up to the anniversary, President Berzins said that organization of the disbanded parliament’s work, the 11th Saeima elections and the government formation process were a real baptism of fire in his first year of presidency.
Berzins says that his work during the year in office was very different from the previous president’s work. “The very beginning of my presidency dealt with organization of the work of the dissolved 10th Saeima and the subsequent 11th Saeima elections, as well as the government formation process. It was an unprecedented situation, which may be considered my baptism of fire,” said the president.
He did not comment on his performance during the first year in office, saying that others should appraise it. “I have emphasized in the past that I will evaluate my work only according to one criterion: if, after my presidency, people’s lives will have improved, if the people are better off and more confident about their future, if even a small part of those who have left Latvia to work abroad want to return to their country, if activity will have resumed in Latvia’s rural areas and towns, and local governments have more authority in their respective areas, if Latvia’s education system will have become competitive in Europe, if people want to live and raise children in our country, then I will believe that I have kept my oath of office,” said Berzins.
In the first year of Berzins’ presidency, the president has promulgated 163 laws, returned two bills to the parliament for repeated review, called four extraordinary meetings of the 10th Saeima, and submitted six legislative initiatives, said his press secretary Liga Krapane.
The president defined several priorities regarding employment and economic and business development: improved access to quality education, regional development, more power to local governments, attracting investments and European Union funds for sustainable economic development and creation of new jobs. The Strategic Development Commission was established to ensure the involvement of society, academicians and local governments.
Already upon taking office, Berzins stressed that cooperation in the region and defending its interests in the EU and NATO were highly important. These were the main foreign policy priorities in the president’s work during hiss first year in office. The president paid two visits to Estonia, two to Lithuania, as well as two visits to Poland and one to Finland.
Pursuing Latvia’s interests in the EU, especially regarding the next multi-annual EU budget, Berzins had meetings with a number of top-level officials in Brussels to discuss payments from the Cohesion Fund and direct payments to farmers. Berzins also participated in discussions on the ISAF mission in Afghanistan and extension of the Baltic Air Policing Mission at meetings with NATO leaders in Brussels and with NATO state and government leaders during the NATO summit in Chicago. Berzins also visited Afghanistan to meet with Latvian soldiers and ISAF commanders. Also, a number of foreign leaders have visited Latvia in the past twelve months.
The president also presented a number of social initiatives following eleven visits to the regions of Latvia, where he met with local government representatives. Berzins organized several events in support of the large families of Latvia.
The president, believing that society consolidation in Latvia will be impossible without a joint understanding of the complicated history of the country, attempted to bring closer the contradicting interpretations about various periods in Latvia’s history, and otherwise encourage the societal integration process, for instance, by signing the so-called Good Will Manifesto.