Kalniete re-enters politics, joins Jaunais laiks

Sandra Kalniete, Latvia’s former foreign minister and European Commissioner, has joined the conservative Jaunais laiks (New Era) party and says she is re-entering politics.

Kalniete, whose has been mentioned as a possible presidential candidate, joined the party Jan. 30, according to a Jaunais laiks press release.

“The foundation of Latvia’s future will be put in place during the next four years,” Kalniete said in a prepared statement, “and that is why I want to get involved in politics. With my experience and knowledge about the European Union and its member states, I want to further my nation’s development.”

The next parliamentary election in Latvia is scheduled Oct. 7. The parliament, or Saeima, elects the president to a four-year term. The president may not serve more than eight consecutive years. President Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga’s second term expires in 2007.

Born in 1952 in Siberia, Kalniete from 1988-1990 was involved in the Latvian Popular Front (Tautas fronte), which pushed for the renewal of Latvia’s independence. From 1993-1997 she served as Latvia’s ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, and from 1997-2002 was Latvia’s ambassador to France. From 2000-2002 she also was Latvia’s ambassador to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

Kalniete was then named foreign minister, serving in that post until March 2004.

In May 2004, chosen by Jaunais laiks leader and then Prime Minister Einars Repše, she became Latvia’s representative to the European Commission. But after Repše’s government fell, new Prime Minister Indulis Emsis in August 2004 removed Kalniete from the post, pushing fellow Green Party member Ingrīda Ūdre into the commissioner’s seat. Ūdre, however, never got to serve because Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso asked Latvia to replace the controversial nominee. Now Andris Piebalgs, Kalniete’s former deputy, is the commissioner from Latvia.

Kalniete is the author of three books: Latvju tekstilmāksla, released in 1989, about Latvian textile art; Es lauzu, tu lauzi, mēs lauzām. Viņi lūza, released in 2000, about the drive for Latvia’s renewed independence, and Ar balles kurpēm Sibīrijas sniegos, released in 2001, about her experiences as a child in Siberia.

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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