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Crossing Continents Wednesday, 13 November, 2002, 21:36 GMT
Vaira Vike-Freiberga - the interview
President of Latvia - Vaira Vike-Freiberga
President of Latvia - Vaira Vike-Freiberga
Meriel Beattie

In this interview for Crossing Continents' website, Meriel Beattie meets the President of Latvia - Vaira Vike-Freiberga.

The President stresses the positive mood in the country and answers some probing questions.


Folk dancers
Latvian tradition runs deep
"Identity is no one single thing that you pin on your chest and say that it identifies you as being English or Latvian. In Latvia we belong to this whole area of Europe where mushroom hunting is a passion as well as a sport."



Latvian soldier and boy
The army will always need recruits
"There is a plan to introduce increasingly the Latvian language into the secondary system and that is with a purpose allowing the students to become integrated onto Latvian society and to truly consolidate their knowledge of the language."



Vitold Zahars, the Director General of Latvia's prison system
The Director General of Latvia's prison system has the will for change
"The actual physical facilities we have for our prisons are actually in the same appalling state that had been for many years before. And the country simply has not, in these 11 years of independence, managed to rebuild that whole penal system."



Prison guards
The penal system shackles Latvia to the past
"I think, in all fairness, you should go and examine some of our hospitals, some of our factories and other places and then maybe go and compare them in other post-communist countries and see how they fair."



Newly renovated Riga
Renovations are happening gradually
"We have had ruins across the board - they have left buildings demolished by the red army as it finally withdrew in 1994 - they have left social ruins behind them, old age pensioners that we still support and they have left alcoholism and all sorts of social problems."



Riga
The red army legacy is being slowly eradicated
" I am the President, but the actual action has to be taken by the executive branch - if you are so deeply concerned about this one particular aspect (conditions for remand prisoners) I would recommend you go and talk to the Minister of Justice."



Riga
Latvia is pinning all on a European future
"This is a commitment and a challenge to me as a President, how to get the country mobilised and how to get the executive branch of government mobilised so that we can find enough money in our state coffers to offer more state support for education."




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