LATVIA: US Ambassador to Latvia Catherine Todd Bailey's criticism of Baltic state's democratic values has been received with a mainly positive reactionRecord ID: 644245
- Title: LATVIA: US Ambassador to Latvia Catherine Todd Bailey's criticism of Baltic state's democratic values has been received with a mainly positive reaction
- Date: 18th October 2007
- Summary: (CEEF) RIGA, LATVIA (OCTOBER 17, 2007) (REUTERS) FREEDOM MONUMENT IN CITY CENTRE (SOUNDBITE) (Latvian) RESIDENT, ROBERTS STAFECKIS, SAYING: "After all, she has no right to regulate. We are still a free country, we can manage by ourselves. Well, maybe there are some things she can advise, but certainly not dictate." PEOPLE IN THE STREETS (SOUNDBITE) (Latvian) RESIDENT, ANDRIS BULIS, SAYING: "I do not know why people are so concerned! We shouldn't be surprised when somebody points it out. I think there is no smoke without fire, and if it was done then I guess it has been done." (SOUNDBITE) (Latvian) RESIDENT, GUNITA CAKARE, SAYING: "It's too bad what was said by the ambassador was not said by our politicians themselves. Ours are not concerned enough about the situation and after all, unbiased attitudes towards ourselves." EXTERIOR OF US EMBASSY WITH U.S. AND NATO FLAGS
- Reuters ID: LVA7FXVI9RQA528UWPR0HYT1Y62L
- Location: Latvia
- Country: Latvia
- Duration: 00:01:19
- Topics: International Relations
- Story Text: Latvians have mixed yet mainly positive reactions after recent scandals prompted the U.S. ambassador to criticize the future of democracy of the Baltic state on Tuesday (October 16), and it's danger of sliding into corruption.
Using unusually strong terms for a NATO ally, Ambassador Catherine Todd Bailey said it was up to Latvians themselves to stand up for their own freedoms.
"We have seen a pattern of events that appear to be inconsistent with some of our shared values," Bailey, head of the U.S. mission in Riga since February 2005, said in a speech at the University of Latvia.
While she was not specific, her words were a clear reference to several recent controversies. These included an attempt by Latvian prime minister Aigars Kalvitis to give the government more power to oversee the security services, which caused a stand-off with former president Vaira Vike-Freiberga.
Another recent scandal involved alleged secretly taped phone calls between a leading lawyer and judges, dating from 1998 to 2000, which seemed to show corruption among the judiciary and close links between political and business elites.
Kalvitis has also sparked criticism for recently removing the head of the country's anti-corruption bureau, KNAB, from office. The government confirmed this decision on Tuesday.
Bailey said Latvia, a European Union and NATO member since 2004, was at an important juncture and asked whether it would continue to hold to shared values and the path of reform.
"Or will we see, safe in the European Union and NATO, decide that it has done the hard work and let the state become the playground of a few individuals where they go to line their pockets and those of their friends?"
She asked whether Latvia would continue the necessary institutions and judicial system or whether it will slide back and begin to resemble countries that have not undertaken extensive reforms.
Bailey also mentioned that potential investors wanted a strict rule of law.
Latvian Foreign Minister Artis Pabriks said he took Bailey's criticisms on board.
"Having listened to the speech, we react positively. I do not think that there is something which we could say pushes the boundaries of being good friends or strategic partners. In this respect I just wish to confirm that we do not have a better friend than the USA. We will develop our democracy as well as observe the development of democracy in other countries, including the USA," said Pabriks.
The ambassador's speech and officials' reaction were met with mixed feelings among Latvians.
"After all, she has no right to regulate. We are still a free country, we can manage by ourselves. Well, maybe there are some things she can advise, but certainly not dictate," said Roberts Stafeckis.
"It's too bad what was said by the ambassador was not said by our politicians themselves. Ours are not concerned enough about the situation and after all, unbiased attitudes towards ourselves," Gunita Cakare said.
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