RIGA - Foreign Minister Sandra Kalniete was unanimously confirmed as Latvia's commissioner to the EU in a Cabinet vote on Jan. 13. Before assuming her new position in May she must meet with EC head Romano Prodi later this month and be confirmed by the European Parliament in April.
Kalniete's nomination came as a surprise to many when Prime Minister Einars Repse announced it on Jan. 8, coming days after an earlier announcement that he would wait until March.
Coalition partners said they were angered to learn of Repse's choice through the media, but the prime minister said that Prodi had approved the choice.
Guntars Krasts, head of Parliament's European affairs committee, reportedly called the secretive selection process proposed by Prodi a "failure," while Oskars Kastens, acting head of Latvia's First Party, called the process "totally unacceptable."
Still, the decision was hailed around Latvia by analysts and commentators, including President Vaira Vike-Freiberga, who cited Kalniete's prowess in foreign affairs, knowledge of French and English and her experience dealing with European institutions.
Kalniete, who is unaligned with any political party, is expected to breeze through the confirmation process in Parliament.
Kalniete who grew up in Siberia was a former ambassador to France and the U.N. and played a prominent role in the independence movement of the early 1990s.
Regarding Kalniete's successor at the ministry, rumors circulating this week held that New Era parliamentary faction leader Krisjanis Karins might get the job.
Kalniete will leave the Foreign Ministry in the second half of April, and the prime minister has promised a decision on her successor will be made only after she leaves her post.
Repse has publicly stated that he wants the successor to come from New Era and not a coalition party since his party originally nominated Kalniete. In the prime minister's opinion, New Era should retain control of the ministry portfolio.
Ainars Slesers, deputy prime minister and member of Latvia's First Party, told the press that his party would like to see someone with experience take Kalniete's job, which would disqualify Karins.
A possible fight over the open post could emerge as past experience has shown volatility within the coalition, and unpredictable results regarding confirmations.
Repse warned that a vote against his party's nomination for foreign minister would be a vote against the Cabinet.