Latvian president talks economy

In the aftermath of the global economic meltdown, nations will need to recognize that they are interdependent in order to return to prosperity, Latvian President Valdis Zatlers said Monday.

In front of an audience of 90 in Luce Hall, Zatlers said cooperation has already proved to be beneficial in resolving world conflicts and should continue to be practiced even in the face of financial crisis. Institutions such as the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization should be strengthened and be given a larger role in global discourse, Zatlers argued.

Latvian President Valdis Zatlers addresses an audience of 90 people in Luce Hall on Monday afternoon.
Jane Long
Latvian President Valdis Zatlers addresses an audience of 90 people in Luce Hall on Monday afternoon.

“Today’s world is the world of definite crisis,” said Zatlers, who spent a semester as a visiting scholar at Yale in 1990. “Economic, financial, political — [for] any crisis we are looking for solutions. How close should we be? At present we should stay as close as possible.”

The foundations of transatlantic relations began when the first ship arrived in America, Zatlers said, and these relationships have only become more important since then.

Latvia, for example, derives enormous financial and military benefits from its membership in the EU, he said. And through the EU, Latvia helps maintain global security, he said, pointing to the presence of Latvian troops alongside American troops in Afghanistan.

Zatlers, who was elected president in 2007 by the Latvian parliament, said his training as an orthopedic surgeon has helped him develop the skills necessary to be a politician, including listening carefully and leading a team.

After a 20-minute speech, Zatlers took 35 minutes of questions from the audience on topics including the role of the EU, the nature of Baltic identity and Latvia’s role in Afghanistan. After being told by the event organizer that he had time for only one more question, Zatlers asked, “Honorable chairman, can I take three?” He did.

The five students interviewed all said they did not know much about Latvia going into the talk but found it informative.

“I’m from Poland and am interested in Russia and Eastern European studies,” Jolanta Jasina GRD ’11 said. “Latvia is not very well represented in the media.”

Giovanni Esposito, a student from Branford High School who attended the lecture as part of an AP European History course, said the experience of seeing a world leader in the flesh was a memorable one.

Before becoming president of Latvia, Zatlers was a member of the International Society of Arthroscopy, Knee Surgery and Orthopaedic Sports Medicine and a participant in international research on knee joint endoprosthetics.

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