RIGA - Ventspils Mayor Aivars Lembergs last week sharply criticized the government for the way in which it nominated its European commissioner, saying state officials acted like "lambs in the slaughterhouse."
In Lembergs' opinion, Latvia should have focused on an area of specialization first and not personalities.
"Can anyone work as the agriculture commissioner? Latvia should have fought to get an influential office [on the European Commission] and only then discuss suitable candidates," he said in an interview with the Latvijas Avize daily.
Prime Minister Einars Repse threw his support behind Foreign Minister Sandra Kalniete, a nomination which EC President Romano Prodi, who had said he wanted to see at least three women on the 25-member executive body of the EU, fully supported.
On Jan. 13 the Cabinet supported Kalniete's nomination.
"We behaved like lambs in a slaughter house, waiting to be assigned a number," said the Ventspils mayor, a frequent critic of the government.
It is still unclear exactly what sphere Kalniete will be responsible for on the commission, yet she stated last week that she would ask Prodi to allow her to serve as some sort of specialist in external relations. The two are scheduled to meet on Jan. 26.
Commissioners from the 10 new EU member states will not have a specific portfolio initially but will each act as an apprentice or a "shadow" to a certain commissioner.
"Being a shadow is a vague notion," Kalniete told reporters Jan. 15 following her meeting with President Vaira Vike-Freiberga.
She said that during her upcoming meeting with Prodi she would insist that each commissioner have "a small albeit specific area of responsibility," so that every commissioner could pick in which area to specialize.
Kalniete said the external relations portfolio would most likely be divided and would include near-neighbor policy, development policy and human rights.
Vike-Freiberga agreed with the foreign minister's position. She said the initial period of work for the new commissioners should be "much more than just a training phase," and they should think over the role of the EC and its division of responsibilities so that "serious, active work starts" as of May 1.