After the events of the unlawful celebration of Victory day on May 9 at the Victory Park in Riga, where the state police failed to fulfil their obligation to prohibit the celebrations, the “National Union” demanded the resignation of Minister Marija Golubeva, threatening to leave the coalition. On May 16, Marija Golubeva resigned as Minister of the Interior of the Republic of Latvia. However, the Latvian Prime Minister Krisjanis Karins in return insisted on replacing one “National Union” minister if Minister Golubeva must resign, since the parties’ publicised request was in the form of an ultimatum. Considering that Minister Golubeva resigned, one of the ministers belonging to the “National Union” had to resign as well, thus the Minister of Economics Janis Vitenbergs also had to be replaced. At the end of May, the Parliament supported the inauguration of the new Minister of the Interior Kristaps Eklons and the new Minister of Economy Ilze Indriksone. Both ministers will remain in office until the new 14th Parliament takes office, for about six months, but the time spent in office will be difficult, coordinating the demolition of the Soviet monument in Riga, preparing a strategy to support Ukrainian refugees and saving the economy during the forthcoming crisis.
In mid-May, two ministers lost their position in the government of Latvia led by Prime Minister Krisjanis Karins – Minister of the Interior Marija Golubeva and Minister of Economics Janis Vitenbergs. This happened after the National Union demanded the resignation of Minister Marija Golubeva in response to a gathering of people at a Soviet monument in Riga on May 9 and 10, otherwise threatening to stop working for the government. The Prime Minister responded to the request of the “National Union”, urging ministers to resign, and at the same time insisted on the replacement of one “National Union” minister, noting that the parties’ request was in the form of an ultimatum and hints of blackmail, thus the Minister of Economics Janis Vitenbergs had to resign. On June 3, 2022, the Parliament voted and approved the new Minister of the Interior and the new Minister of Economics – more about this in this month’s Latvia Political briefing.
Resignation of the Minister of the Interior and Minister of Economics
This year, when Russia started the war in Ukraine, people in Latvia were urged not to lay flowers at the Victory Park on May 9. Although it was partially banned, part of the population did so. On the morning of May 10, the flowers laid by the people were removed according to a pre-determined plan. In spite of this, the celebrators went to the monument again on May 10, and in the evening several hundred people gathered in the park to glorify the Soviet army and Russia, so access to the monument was closed. It was observed that several gatherers were aggressive and did not hide their support for the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Four days later, the faction of the “National Union” demanded the dismissal of the Minister of the Interior Marija Golubeva in connection with the situation. The “National Union” addressed the Prime Minister with an ultimatum – if the Prime Minister and coalition partners do not consider the position of the “National Union” on this issue, the party’s board “would not see the possibility of continuing to work in this government and would decide to recall its ministers,” they said in a statement.
On May 16, Minister Golubeva learned that the Prime Minister had sided the “National Union” and asked for her demission. In these circumstances, she decided to return as a Member of the Parliament. Minister Golubeva’s resignation was also requested by part of the opposition deputies, who submitted two draft resolutions on expressing no confidence in the Minister of the Interior to the Parliament for consideration. In the event of the resignation of Minister Golubeva, the Minister of Economics from the “National Union” Janis Vitenbergs also had to resign. Thus, Minister Vitenbergs resigned and a total of two new ministers had to be found.
Kristaps Eklons – New Minister of the Interior
General Kristaps Eklons, who has been the Deputy Chief of the State Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) until now, promised to continue the work started by the former Minister Marija Golubeva as Minister. According to him, more attention should be paid to security issues, as well as the development of general internal security through the strengthening of civil protection.
General Kristaps Eklons was supported as a minister by a majority of parliamentarians, including from the opposition. In a statement to the media by the Ministry of the Interior, Minister Kristaps Eklons promised that the services would ensure zero tolerance and punish those who support Russian aggression and provoke tensions in society. The Minister is committed to addressing the issue of Ukrainian refugees in co-operation with all parties involved, as well as to further strengthening the external border and the civil protection system in each institution and modernizing the infrastructure in all internal services. Meanwhile, several members of the opposition pointed to several internal problems facing the new minister, including long queues at the Office of Citizenship and Migration Affairs, and obsolete SFRS depots.
Minister Eklons obtained the rank of General in 2017 and has been the Deputy Head of SFRS since 2011. He has international experience, qualifying for both European and global training in civil protection and civilian and military crises. In his address to the Parliament, Prime Minister Krisjanis Karins pointed to Eklons’ 30 years of experience at the SFRS and the fact that he is a high-profile professional in his field, whose work will be important for Latvia to continue to help Ukrainian refugees and ensure internal national security. Former Minister Golubeva also emphasized the long-standing experience of Minister Eklons: “There is no one in Latvia who knows better the field of civil protection.” She also called on Eklons to stand up for internal security as the job of all government and society.
The task of the next Minister of the Interior will be to offer solutions to the issue of refugees in Ukraine in the medium and long term, Prime Minister Krisjanis Karins said about the confirmation of the candidate for the position of the Minister of the Interior Kristaps Eklons. The Prime Minister said that while it was initially thought that the war in Ukraine could end in about three months, it is now clear that the situation will continue, which means thinking about how to help Ukrainian civilians in Latvia in the long term, especially Ukrainian refugees, who cannot participate in the labour market, for example, for 5,000 students registered in the Latvian school system.
In general, the new Minister of the Interior was a surprise, since a political figure was expected, not a representative of the industry. The main tasks of the new Minister of the Interior Kristaps Eklons will be to strengthen Latvia’s security, coordinate the demolition of the soviet symbol – Victory Monument in Riga, as well as create a longer-term strategy for the support Ukraine’s war refugees.
Ilze Indriksone – New Minister of Economics
Ilze Indriksone, who has been confirmed as the Minister of Economics and has been the parliamentary secretary of the ministry, previously emphasized the need to promote the use of Latvia’s renewable energy resources and attract investment. She mentioned the refusal of the Baltic States to synchronize electricity supply with Russia as an important work priority. Minister Indriksone believes that it is necessary to increase the capacity for obtaining solar and wind electricity and to work significantly and more thoroughly on energy efficiency, rapidly promoting the insulation of apartment buildings and public buildings. She also promised to continue a close and regular dialogue with industry organizations. The deputies of the Parliament also pointed out the urgent work in strengthening energy independence.
Prime Minister Krisjanis Karins drew attention to several crises during the government’s work – the “overhaul” of financial sector supervision, the Covid-19 pandemic, the migration crisis at the Belarusian border, and the Russian invasion of Ukraine. According to him, “we have a task and a duty to keep the country stable in these times. It is important that the government can continue to work in full force,” said Prime Minister, calling for the approval of the new ministers.
Thus, Minister Indriksone was supported by a majority of votes. Politicians and the general public have high hopes for the ability of the new minister to solve the current challenges in Latvia related to the energy and migration crisis.
The fact that the Minister of Economy will be the former parliamentary secretary was not surprising, but the new Minister of the Interior surprised many experts from the industry. One of the major challenges for the Minister of the Interior will be the demolition of the aforementioned Victory monument in Riga by November 2022. It will be a complicated process, because one wrong choice in this matter in turbulent times and the political capital of the new minister will be lost. The Minister of the Interior will also have to prepare medium- and long-term solutions to the Ukrainian refugee crisis. The new Minister of Economy will not have an easier time: she will have to prepare long-term solutions to the sharp rise in prices during the pandemic and the war in Ukraine, as well as to quell the crisis caused by external conditions. Both ministers will have to achieve a lot in a couple of months, and further progress in the next Parliament will depend on their results.
- Diena. (2022a, May 16). Iek≈°lietu ministre Golubeva tomƒìr nolƒìmusi demisionƒìt. https://www.diena.lv/raksts/latvija/politika/iekslietu-ministre-golubeva-tomer-nolemusi-demisionet-14280365
2. Diena. (2022b, May 26). https://www.diena.lv/raksts/viedokli/latvija/karins-iekslietu-ministra-uzdevums-bus-piedavat-videja-un-ilgtermina-risinajumus-ukrainas-beglu-jautajuma-14280956
3. Latvijas Radio. (2022). Latvijas Radio 1. https://lr1.lsm.lv/lv/raksts/krustpunkta/krustpunkta-aktuali-jauni-lemumi-ukrainas-beglu-atbalstam-somi-n.a161217/
4. LSM zi≈Üu redakcija. (2022a, May 12). NacionƒÅlƒÅ apvienƒ´ba prasa ministres Golubevas demisiju; draud pamest valdƒ´bu. LSM.LV. https://www.lsm.lv/raksts/zinas/latvija/nacionala-apvieniba-prasa-ministres-golubevas-demisiju-draud-pamest-valdibu.a456404/
5. LSM zi≈Üu redakcija. (2022b, May 26). Saeima apstiprina Indriksoni ekonomikas, bet Eklonu – iek≈°lietu ministra amatƒÅ. LSM.LV. https://www.lsm.lv/raksts/zinas/latvija/saeima-apstiprina-indriksoni-ekonomikas-bet-eklonu–iekslietu-ministra-amata.a458511/
Original Briefing on the China-CEE Institute website – https://china-cee.eu/2022/06/10/latvia-political-briefing-changes-in-latvian-government-new-minister-of-the-interior-and-minister-of-economics/
Šo rakstu sagatavoja Latvijas Zinātņu akadēmijas Ekonomikas institūts, tas ir tapis sadarbībā ar China-CEE Institute un ir China-CEE Institute intelektuālais īpašums.
This briefing was written by the Institute of Economics of the Latvian Academy of Sciences, in collaboration with the China-CEE Institute, and is the intellectual property of the China CEE-Institute.