|6th President of Latvia|
8 July 1999 - 8 July 2007
1 December 1937
|Alma mater||University of Toronto|
Vaira Ve-Freiberga (born 1 December 1937) is a Latvian politician who served as the sixth President of Latvia from 1999 to 2007. She is the first woman to hold the post. She was elected President of Latvia in 1999 and re-elected for the second term in 2003.
Dr. Vaira Freiberga is a professor and interdisciplinary scholar, having published eleven books and numerous articles, essays and book chapters in addition to her extensive speaking engagements. As President of the Republic of Latvia 1999-2007, she was instrumental in achieving membership in the European Union and NATO for her country. She is active in international politics, was named Special Envoy to the Secretary General on United Nations reform and was official candidate for UN Secretary General in 2006.
She remains active in the international arena and continues to speak in defense of liberty, equality and social justice, and for the need of Europe to acknowledge the whole of its history. She is a well-known pro-European, as such, in December 2007 she was named vice-chair of the Reflection group on the long-term future of the European Union. She is also known for her work in psycholinguistics, semiotics and analysis of the oral literature of her native country.
After her presidency Vaira Ve-Freiberga served as the President of Club of Madrid, the world's largest forum of former Heads of State and Government, from 2014 to 2020. She is also a member of the International Programme Board of the Prague European Summit.
Vaira Ve was born in Riga, Latvia. At the end of 1944, as the second Soviet occupation of Latvia began, her parents escaped to Nazi Germany. There she received her first education in Latvian primary school at a displaced persons camp in Lübeck, Germany, where her baby sister died. Then her family moved to Casablanca in French Morocco in 1949. In Morocco she attended French primary school at Daourat hydroelectric dam village where she learned the French language. She then went on to attend Collège de jeunes filles de Mers-Sultan in Casablanca. In 1954 her family moved to Toronto, Ontario, Canada, where she completed high school.
Vaira Ve attended Victoria College of the University of Toronto, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in 1958 and a Master of Arts in 1960, in psychology. She worked at the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce as a teller and part-time as a supervisor in Branksome Hall Boarding School for Girls. In 1958, being fluent in English, French, Latvian, Spanish and German, she worked as a translator and the next year went on to work as a Spanish teacher for grades 12 and 13 at Ontario Ladies' College. Upon completion of her master's degree, Ve became a clinical psychologist at the Toronto Psychiatric Hospital in late 1960. She left in 1961 to resume her education at the McGill University in Montreal while also lecturing part-time at Concordia University. She earned her PhD in psychology from McGill University in 1965 with a dissertation supervised by Dr. Virginia Douglas, entitled "Concept Learning in Normal and Hyperactive Children."
From 1965 to 1998 Vaira Ve-Freiberga pursued a professorial career at the Department of Psychology of the French-speaking University of Montreal, where she taught psychopharmacology, psycholinguistics, scientific theories, experimental methods, language and cognitive processes. Her experimental research focused on memory processes and language, and the influence of drugs on cognitive processes. At the same time she did scholarly research on semiotics, poetics and the structural analysis of computer-accessible texts from an oral tradition--the tradition of Latvian folksongs. During this period she authored ten books and about 160 articles, essays or book chapters and has given over 250 speeches, allocutions and scientific communications in English, French or Latvian, and gave numerous radio, TV and press interviews in various languages.
During that period Dr. Ve-Freiberga held prominent positions in national and international scientific and scholarly organizations, as well as in a number of Canadian governmental, institutional, academic and interdisciplinary committees, where she acquired extensive administrative experience. She is the recipient of many medals, prizes and honours for distinguished work in the humanities and social sciences.
In June 1998 she was elected Professor emerita at the University of Montreal and returned to her native land, Latvia, after a 54-year absence. On 19 October the Prime Minister named her Director of the newly founded Latvian Institute.
Vaira Ve-Freiberga became President of Latvia in 1999. Although not a candidate in the first ballot, she was drafted by the Saeima (Latvian Parliament) and was elected to the office of President of Latvia on 20 June. She was sworn in on 8 July. Her approval rating ranged between 70% and 85%, and in 2003 she was re-elected for a second term of four years with 88 votes out of 96.
She actively exercised the powers conferred on the President by the Constitution of the Republic of Latvia. She also played a leading role in achieving Latvia's membership in NATO and the European Union. She was an invited speaker at numerous international events (such as the joint session of the United States Congress, in June 2006), as well as an outspoken pundit on social issues, moral values, European historical dialogue, and democracy. During her presidency she regularly visited towns and villages to meet her constituents in person, and received many thousands of letters yearly from Latvians.
In April 2005, the United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan named Ve-Freiberga as a member of his team of global political leaders helping to promote his comprehensive reform agenda. In September 2006, the three Baltic States officially announced her candidacy for the post of United Nations Secretary-General.
Since the end of her presidency in July 2007, Dr. Ve-Freiberga has been actively participating as an invited speaker at a wide variety of international events. She is a founding member and current President of the Club of Madrid, founding member and Co-Chair the Nizami Ganjavi International Center, a member of the European Council on Foreign Relations, and honorary patron of several Foundations. She was a member of the Support Committee of the 2007 European Book Prize and an honorary patron of the Paris Colloquium on the Teaching of European literatures. On 14 December 2007 she was appointed Vice-president of the Reflection Group on the long-term future of the European Union. In 2008, she became a member of the European Council on Tolerance and Reconciliation. During the Spring semester 2008 she was an invited Senior Fellow at the Institute of Politics, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University. She was chair of the European Research Area Board Identification Committee (2008), chair of the Review panel of the European Research Council (2009), and since December 2007, vice-chair of the Reflection group on the long-term future of the European Union. Vaira Ve-Freiberga has also been appointed on the Advisory Board of European Association of History Educators EUROCLIO. In October 2011, she was made chair of the European Commission High Level Expert Group on Media Freedom.
She was a candidate for the first permanent President of the European Council. Herman Van Rompuy was eventually chosen for that position. Ve-Freiberga has said that under the Lisbon Treaty and beyond, a federal Europe is desirable.
Vaira Ve-Freiberga is a member of :
Ve-Freiberga has received many medals and awards, including the Golden Plate Award of the American Academy of Achievement in 2000, presented by Awards Council member General Joseph W. Ralston, USAF, Supreme Allied Commander Europe, at an awards ceremony at Hampton Court Palace, the 2005 Hannah Arendt Prize for political thought, the 2007 Emperor Otto Prize Prize for contributions in defining European identity and future, and the 2009 Friedrich-August-von-Hayek-Stiftung for promotion of freedom and free trade. She has been awarded 37 Orders of Merit and 16 Honorary Doctorates. She is a member of the Latvian Academy of Sciences, a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and an associate member of the Royal Academy of Belgium. In 2013, she received the Knight of Freedom Award for her promotion of democratic values throughout the world, fighting for equality of women, as well as efforts for social justice.
Four biographies about President Vaira Ve-Freiberga have been published (in Latvian, English, French, Finnish, Italian, Russian and Spanish), and a full-length documentary film The Threefold Sun in 2008.
Vaira Ve-Freiberga is married to Imants Freibergs, formerly a professor of computer sciences at the University of Quebec at Montreal. He was the President of the Latvian Information and Communications Technology Association (LIKTA) while his wife was President of Latvia. The couple met at the Latvian Students Club in Toronto. They have two children, K?rlis and Indra. Dr. Ve-Freiberga and Dr. I. Freibergs have founded a company "VVF Consulting" that offers consulting services to public and private organizations.
MIT President Dr. Susan Hockfield with a fellow member of the Academy, Her Excellency Vaira Vike-Freiberga, President of Latvia, and her husband Imants Freibergs, during the reception at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Members of the Golden Plate Awards Council: President Bill Clinton with Vaira Vike-Freiberga, President of Latvia.