Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga engages British audiences at the Centenary discussions in London and Edinburgh

On 27-28 March, Dr. Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga, former President of Latvia (1999-2007) and currently President of the World Leadership Alliance – Club de Madrid, visited the United Kingdom to take part in events that marked the Centenary of Latvia’s statehood in London and Edinburgh. The events focused on the fundamental values of the Latvian state – freedom, democracy and equality.

On 27 March, the Embassy of Latvia and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) held a discussion at which Dr. Vīķe-Freiberga shared views with Sergei Guriev, EBRD Chief Economist, and Alexia Latortue, EBRD Managing Director for Corporate Strategy, on the theme of “Women, Development and Democracy”. They covered a broad range of topics – from the formation of the Latvian nation and the state of Latvia to the impact of new technologies and artificial intelligence on gender equality and other issues. Dr. Vīķe-Freiberga explained the mechanisms of social stigmatisation and their negative influence on the development of society.

At the University of Edinburgh on 28 March, Dr. Vīķe-Freiberga delivered a lecture on “Values and Democracy in the Contemporary World”. At one of the university’s most visited events in recent years, which had brought together a large number of students and young professionals, former President of Latvia led a discussion on challenges that need to be overcome in order to preserve and foster democratic values.

Dr. Vīķe-Freiberga explained to her audience the place of the Latvian people in the context of the development of European civilisation and values. Despite centuries-long oppression, the Latvian people have been able to preserve their values and moral principles. In 1918, the nation seized a unique historical opportunity to establish its democratic state based on the principle of equality, fought for its freedom and won international recognition.

Dr. Vīķe-Freiberga underlined that the Latvian people, even at the hardest moments, retained its attitude towards an individual human being as a value. The President highlighted one more aspect of primary importance for ensuring harmony and coherence between the values of a nation and those of an individual: integrity or the ability to hold on to one’s core values and moral tenets under any circumstances.

Referring to present-day developments, Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga noted the controversial debate on the application in Latvia of the Istanbul Convention (the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence). She strongly emphasised that liberal values did no run counter to family values.

The event in Edinburgh launched celebrations of the Centenary of the Latvian state in Scotland; it was organised by the Embassy of Latvia in the United Kingdom and the Honorary Consul of Latvia in Scotland, John McGregor in association with the University of Edinburgh. Welcoming addresses were delivered by Alan McKay, Deputy Vice-Principal International at the University of Edinburgh, John McGregor, the Latvian Honorary Consul in Scotland, and Kaspars Krumholcs, a diplomat at the Latvian Embassy in the United Kingdom.

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