Foreign ministry appoints diaspora ambassador

In a little-publicized appointment, the Latvian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has created a new diplomatic post to work with Latvian diaspora communities. Juris Audariņš, who was serving as the consul general in St. Petersburg, Russia, was named to the post Oct. 6.

Still without an office or a staff, Audariņš told Latvians Online on Oct. 22 by telephone from Rīga that his responsibility will be to work on political questions related to the diaspora, as well as to work with the diaspora to promote issues of importance to Latvia.

He began working in the foreign ministry in 1992, Audariņš said.

Foreign Minister Artis Pabriks told the World Federation of Free Latvians about the appointment during the organization’s annual meeting in Rīga earlier this month, according to the LETA news service. The announcement came a day after the Cabinet of Ministers on Oct. 5 approved a new program to support cultural maintenance of and repatriation from the diaspora.

The practical work of the diaspora support program will be coordinated through the Secretariat of the Minister for Special Asignments for Society Integration Affairs, Audariņš said. But his work will focus on political questions, he said.

Without a doubt, Audariņš explained, Latvians in the diaspora helped earn their homeland’s membership in the European Union and in the NATO defense alliance. Now, for example, they could continue working on the political front by helping to explain Latvia’s situation today.

Given his experience in St. Petersburg, Audariņš said, he expects one area of interest for him would be working with Latvians in Russia.

The appointment of a diplomat to the diaspora has drawn criticism from at least one corner. Writing in the Russian-language daily Vesti Segodnya, according to a translation posted on the Web site, one commentator questioned the wisdom of shifting Audariņš’ responsibility from a city of several million to serve the interests of a couple of hundred thousand Latvians abroad.

Audariņš said he will be glad to hear from Latvians abroad about how the foreign ministry can work with them.

Andris Straumanis is a special correspondent for and a co-founder of Latvians Online. From 2000–2012 he was editor of the website.

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