Latvia may give Europe its first-ever Green prime minister

  • 2004-03-04
  • By Aaron Eglitis
RIGA - Since President Vaira Vike-Frieberga nominated Green Party member Indulis Emsis two weeks ago for the position of prime minister, the prospect of Europe's first Green prime minister has excited Greens across the continent.

But with Latvia's largest party, New Era, backing out of any possible coalition, it was unclear whether Emsis would give Europe's environmentally conscious reason to cheer.
Viesturs Silenieks, co-chairman of the Latvian Green Party, first announced news of Emsis' nomination at the European Federation of Green Parties' congress in Rome on Feb. 23, to the ecstatic applause of fellow delegates.
European Greens, from German Foreign Minister Joschka Fisher to Daniel Cohn-Bendit, a well-known leader of the 1968 uprising in Paris, lauded the nomination and sent a letter congratulating Emsis.
"We lost one very meaningful person from the joint European Green Party voting list, because this man has been nominated for the position of prime minister - the first Green prime minister in all of European history," Cohn-Bendit said at the conference.
"This would never happen in Western Europe," Elisabeth Schroedter, a German Green Party member, and Latvia's rapporteur for the European Parliament, told The Baltic Times.
She explained that Emsis would face hurdles in the future.
"It gives encouragement for our campaigners, but it will be difficult for him," she added.
Latvia's Greens agreed with Schroedter and were cognizant of the challenges they faced. "It's a very big task for us. Now it is our turn to work, and it will not be easy," Silenieks told The Baltic Times.
"For the Greens this is already a big win," he added.
Still, it was unclear whether Emsis would be able to form a coalition or whether, with the president's backing, he would prove capable of leading a minority government. With NATO and EU memberships approaching, the stakes are high.
"Latvia needs a government," Aiva Rozenberga, the president's press secretary, said. "Of course a minority government is not ideal, but at the moment we need a functioning one."
As things stood when The Baltic Times went to press, three center-right parties were willing to work together in an Emsis-lead Cabinet: the Greens and Farmers Union (which has 12 seats), the People's Party (20 seats) and Latvia's First Party (14 seats). Together they wouldn't give Europe's first Green prime minister enough leverage in Parliament to lead effectively.
However, the center-left National Harmony Party has said it could work with an Emsis-led coalition, and the far-left For Human Rights in a United Latvia also expressed a willingness for cooperation provided the coalition drop Latvia's controversial education reform. (For a fuller analysis on the situation, see Page 18.)
For Fatherland and Freedom, which has seven seats in Parliament, has also declined to form a coalition with Emsis, although the prime minister nominee holds out hope that the nationalistic party could work together with the minority government on common issues.
A vote on an Emsis' nomination could take place as early as March 4 or 5.
In the meantime, Europe's Greens want to build on their Latvian inspiration. The new European Green Party that they founded last month in Rome is eager to assume leadership roles throughout the continent.
"Beautiful ideas are all very well, but we must fight for power. It is a challenge," Fischer told the congress in Rome.
The new European Green Party will gain from European funds and will represent every EU country except Poland, Lithuania and Slovenia, as well as seven countries outside of the union.