«Russia has always tried influencing decision-making processes. We may be able to feel from time to time how information space is prepared for one or the other decision. However, during my time in the post of Environmental Minister, I’ve never felt anything like that. This is because there are no major projects realized in Latvia that could potentially change matters of energy independence,» – notes Latvia’s newly-elected President Raimonds Vejonis.
When asked whether or not he’d act the same way he did in 2010, when he took part in Clear Water 2010 conference in Russia, which wasn’t simply a conference organized by environmental activists and had participants from repressive institutions and special services, the new President of Latvia mentioned in his interview to Nekā personīga programme of TV3: «I will not attend such events or 9 May festivities. This is because current relations between Latvia and Russia and relations between Russia and the EU are far from good. While aggression continues in Ukraine, including the recent fighting, which takes place in no small support from Russia, it is very hard to speak of any relations whatsoever.»
When asked what would help with integration between Russians and Latvians, Vejonis said «the division is more often than not a tool used in information wars. It is also something we see actively used by Russian information tools […]. They say there are problems between Latvians and Russians, that there are problems with Latvian and Russian schools and that we want to close all Russian schools, etc. We need to find ways to separate lies from the truth.»
Vejonis believes one of the main reasons for social division is opposite views on interpretation of history. «We speak too little about Latvia’s history. We don’t explain all that much to our society and foreign representatives. It is, of course, very varied, bloody and controversial. And, yes, Latvian soldiers had fought in both armies in the last major global conflict. But every aspect has to be explained properly. By presenting historic facts in an inappropriate way, we only help sow the seeds of distrust. Thirdly, in terms of social division, if we become a developed and healthy country, we will not have to worry about such problems.»
When asked if the residence permit programme is a threat to Latvia, Vejonis noted: «If we provide residence permits without rhyme or reason and the people to whom we provide residence permits are not sufficiently inspected by our security services, then, yes, it does present a threat to Latvia. How to reduce it? First of all, we need to strengthen the capacity of Latvian Security Police, because they need to expand their staff to address these matters…»
According to Vejonis, SP does not have enough people to handle matters related to residence permits, «because now we see the end of the period when the first residence permits were issued. Now they have to be checked again. While requirements were not previously not as strict as they are now, the current level of security and responsibility is very strict. It is now far more important to make sure applicants are eligible to keep their residence permits. There has to be certainty about the origin of money paid in exchange for residence permits. Another important matter is the person’s views on processes in Europe, Ukraine, etc.»