Rudolf Meroni! Who are you? – Ostap Bender, international swindler, or the biggest employer and tax payer in Ventspils?
It depends on whom you ask. Aivars Lembergs has called me with different names and continues to do so, using “flashy” words and descriptors, but time will surely put everything in its proper place and the people of Ventspils will find out, who is who, sooner or later. It’s virtually impossible to hide the truth in the long term. At the same time, facts are facts, and even Aivars Lembergs will find it hard to deny – Together, the companies I lead are the biggest employers and tax payers in Ventspils. Ventbunkers even got a certificate of merit for that from the City Council of Ventspils. (laughing).
It’s no secret that you are wealthy enough to enjoy life in Switzerland or in any other place in the world. Why are you getting involved in Ventspils city activities?
My professional activities take place in several countries – Switzerland, Austria, Greece, Russia, Ukraine and also Latvia. The businesses I am involved have partners from different countries. Ventspils is one of the important destinations. The companies, I lead are the biggest tax payers and the biggest employers in Ventspils, and I am very much honoured to do something for this country, this city and its inhabitants.
Of course, it would have been easier, as you say, to enjoy a carefree life in Switzerland or elsewhere in the world, but that’s my nature, I want to do something positive. A lot of people depend on me, and I feel a very serious responsibility for the future of these people. For the fact that they will have the money for living, have the necessary means, for not going away from this city, but will continue to maintain the traditions of this city, its values, and to pass them on to future generations.
Have you met the employees of your companies in person, not just the company management?
Of course. Recently there was one such meeting in our Ventspils Business Centre, where I had the opportunity to meet with company representatives, my colleagues from all levels. From dockers to top management. It’s important for me to feel them, to hear them, to listen to these people’s needs.
There’s a reason why every year we channel considerable amounts of money – over the years they have already added up to millions – to different social, sports and other developmental areas. Currently, our companies of the Ventspils port have created an association, the Ventspils uzplaukumam [For the flourishing of Ventspils], where the resources are intended for social projects in order to support the people of Ventspils as efficiently as possible in various aspects of their daily needs.
But the entrepreneur’s goal is, after all, to make a profit. And the bigger the profit, the better the goal is achieved. Why are you channelling such noteworthy funds to charity?
There is a saying – people don’t work without money and people don’t work for money. If our goal was just to make a profit, then what’s the profit for, if the person cannot be happy in the process? This is my conviction, and that’s why I try to live while sharing with others. In my age, I have come to the conclusion that there are bigger values in life than profit and things that money can buy. A saying comes to mind – you are truly rich if you have valuables that money cannot buy. These human relationships, in my opinion, are much bigger values than simple profit in money terms.
It is no secret that you have sided with the opponents of the current mayor of Ventspils Aivars Lembergs. If one of Lembergs’ supporters comes to your organization asking for aid, will you help them, too?
It’s not that I have consciously turned against someone. It has just so happened in life that Aivars Lembergs and I have different paths, we have different values, which we are following and try to share. Aivars Lembergs likes calling Ventspils a city with a tomorrow. Tomorrow, of course, shall come regardless of his will, the question is – what kind of tomorrow? Certainly, one cannot deny that Ventspils is a well-groomed city, with paved streets, installed cows, planted flowers – yes, that is certainly so, and it’s thanks to Aivars Lembergs. But the question is, what else could have been done, and what are the unrealized and missed opportunities. This is the issue whereupon our views go in different directions. Lembergs is an adept of the authoritarian management style, which in itself is not bad, if the person possesses the necessary personal and professional qualities. In the history of mankind, there are many known examples of excellent rulers, men and women, whose authoritarian era led to prosperity and their citizens lived inspired and happy lives. There is a saying – power attracts the worst and corrupts the best. Power should be only gained by those who are ready to bow in order to take it and would only use it in service to others. As for the question, would we help our opponents, yes, I can say that over the years we have donated and paid in duties to Ventspils municipality and various related organizations, structures and funds more than one hundred million Euros. It would be interesting to carry out an audit at some point and see for what purposes this money has been used and what Ventspils and its inhabitants got out of all this money.
You mean, the companies working in the port have paid?
Yes, the companies lead by me and working in the port have paid to Ventspils municipality. And then afterwards, Lembergs acted with this money, and those were his choices, what he did with it. Looking at his official declaration I’d like to say that Lembergs and his associates could hardly complain of a lack of funding or support in regards to them. So not only could we support our opponents, we have been actively doing this for years. Perhaps even naively hoping that something may change, because we realize that peace feeds and unrest destroys. And it is in our interests also to see peace in Venstpils, there would be a greater capacity for cooperation. But there are some limits – both morally ethical and dictated by common sense, beyond which, if cooperation is no longer possible, then it’s impossible to continue. We know Lembergs, is a public person, and, seeing his nature, at least until now we have NOT succeeded in achieving a cooperation model which would be simultaneously effective and corresponding to the values and criteria of morals and ethics, which we try to follow.
Have you personally met the leader of a joint multi-party list leader Girts Valdis Kristovskis?
Of course, I have met him. The last time was quite recently.
Do you support his political activities?
We support everyone with whom we have the same mission and values. In the beginning you asked me – what am I doing in Ventspils, and I have to say, sometimes I doubt it myself. I have a certain mission awareness, an inner conviction – if God has given me the opportunity to change something and to act, I cannot not use it. Whatever we do – in our companies, in the organization, in personal actions, I try to do everything so that Ventspils becomes a flourishing city, where happy people live in peace and harmony. And if Girts Valdis Kristovskis or any other person of Ventspils is ready to join this mission, we are very happy. We are used to living in a world of relative values – what is good for me may not be good for someone else, but there are also absolute values and incontestable truths. I would like to think that the road we have chosen is the right one in its essence. Because doing good things is the true human nature. Only by doing good things, we can be truly happy. I am truly sorry that over more than 25 years in Ventspils, I’m not the only one who hasn’t succeeded in collaborating with Aivars Lembergs. So much time, energy and resources have been wasted over the years in these destructive processes, trying to deflect Lembergs’ constant attacks and to not allow a total looting of Ventspils. Had we been able to channel these resources and energy into creating something positive, then today Latvia would be the leader among the Baltic countries in terms of welfare, and perhaps human happiness also. There would certainly have been fewer people who left than what we have seen as of today. For me, Latvia is an enigma of sorts – I truly cannot comprehend how can it be that the head of a municipality, who is involved and accused in so many criminal cases in Latvia, is also a popular politicians in the same country. There are obvious things, but people either choose not to see them or, which is much worse, the way Lembergs lives and works is acceptable to them! I believe and hope that it will not last forever. Something has to change.
Latvia’s 100th anniversary is approaching, and it is a frontier of sorts. Anniversaries are usually the moment when people look back – how have they lived until now, and how are they going to live from there on. Sometimes a lot of things are better seen from a distance rather than living in the midst of them. As a Swiss citizen, I have the opportunity to compare the way things are done in Latvia and in Switzerland. In Switzerland, we have three main ethnicities – Italian, French, and German. And we have all the prerequisites to hate and fight among ourselves. But for at least two hundred years, we have succeeded in coexisting in a positive way, and in channelling our energy towards the development of our common country, our common nation. This is what I wish for the people of Latvia – to design and develop a capacity for cooperation in a high relationship culture. I believe and hope that the people who have currently joined and will join our mission in Ventspils could be a sort of a new beginning which could subsequently inspire people all over Latvia. I think that the greatest challenge for the people of Ventspils and of all of Latvia is to learn to cooperate in such way which we can characterize as a high relationship culture.
And yet instead of this cooperation there are frequent negativity-based campaigns launched in Latvia. One of those is currently aimed against you…
Everyone shares what they have. I have tried to tell you a moment ago – unfortunately, over the years we have not succeeded in investing our energy, resources, and, most importantly, time, in such a way that would be aimed at this mutual cooperation, tolerance, a desire to listen and heed each other in the name of something good. I am referring to myself and other people in Ventspils, and of course, to Aivars Lembergs. A human is a being that rarely changes. And currently there is a continuation of the same approach which I, at least, have observed for more than twenty years – lies, half-truths, threats, intimidation, black PR. Of course, one can blame the US, NATO, Soros, Meroni, Rinkevics, the prosecutor general for all one’s woes – in a word, blame everyone, but oneself. That’s is this person’s choice – how does he live, with what values. I have my own choice. I will at least try very hard to share other values, other qualities. I am very glad that we are succeeding in this in Ventspils despite all obstacles created for our companies. We can still make a profit, and we are happy to share with the people of Ventspils – by giving them jobs and by helping and supporting the people of this wonderful city in various ways.
So you believe that change is possible?
That’s the way of the world is working. Already Heraclitus said: Everything flows, everything changes. Ventspils – this beautiful place by the Baltic sea – has existed for more than 750 years already, and we see that things have been changing with time here. A time will come when there will be no Lembergs and no Meroni here, there will be new generations, new people and new opportunities. It’s just a pity, if we won’t succeed in using all the God-given opportunities in our own time. As I have mentioned – the longer I live in this world, the clearer and stronger I realize that. I truly have a great desire to leave something good after myself, in Ventspils and in the world. The more there are bright-eyed people of Ventspils, the more of them are coming home and the more families reconnect, the more this city shall flourish, and the happier I shall be.