| Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga |
|Born||1 December 1937|
|Alma mater||University of Toronto, McGill University|
|Member of||Center for European Policy Analysis, Club de Madrid, European Council on Foreign Relations, European Council on Tolerance and Reconciliation, Lancet/COVID-19 Commission|
Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga is a Latvian politician who served as the sixth President of Latvia from 1999 to 2007, after having spent 54 years abroad.
As President of the Republic of Latvia 1999–2007, she was instrumental in the country entering the European Union and NATO. She is active in international politics, was named Special Envoy to the Secretary General on United Nations reform and was official candidate for UN Secretary General in 2006.
She is a well-known pro-European, as such, in December 2007 she was named vice-chair of the Reflection group on the long-term future of the European Union. She is also known for her work in psycholinguistics, semiotics and analysis of the oral literature of her native country.
Early life and education
Vaira Vīķe was born in Riga, Latvia. At the end of 1944, as the Red Army returned, her parents escaped to Nazi Germany on a German troop ship that also took a number of civilians. It is not known what they did in Nazi-occupied Latvia.
There she received her first education in Latvian primary school at a displaced persons camp in Lübeck, Germany, where her baby sister died. Then her family moved to Casablanca in French Morocco in 1949. In Morocco she attended French primary school at Daourat hydroelectric dam village where she learned the French language. She then went on to attend Collège de jeunes filles de Mers-Sultan in Casablanca In 1954 her family moved to Toronto, Ontario, Canada, where she completed high school.
Vaira Vīķe attended Victoria College of the University of Toronto, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in 1958 and a Master of Arts in 1960, in psychology. She worked at the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce as a teller and part-time as a supervisor in Branksome Hall Boarding School for Girls. In 1958, being fluent in English, French, Latvian, Spanish and German, she worked as a translator and the next year went on to work as a Spanish teacher for grades 12 and 13 at Ontario Ladies' College.
Upon completion of her master's degree, Vīķe became a clinical psychologist at the Toronto Psychiatric Hospital in late 1960. She left in 1961 to resume her education at the McGill University in Montreal while also lecturing part-time at Concordia University. She earned her PhD in psychology from McGill University in 1965 with a dissertation supervised by Dr. Virginia Douglas, entitled "Concept Learning in Normal and Hyperactive Children."
At the time, the department of psychology at McGill was a center for MK-ULTRA research. It is not known if Vaira Vīķe participated.
From 1965 to 1998 Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga pursued a professorial career at the Department of Psychology of the French-speaking University of Montreal, where she taught psychopharmacology, psycholinguistics, scientific theories, experimental methods, language and cognitive processes. Her experimental research focused on memory processes and language, and the influence of drugs on cognitive processes. At the same time she did scholarly research on semiotics, poetics and the structural analysis of computer-accessible texts from an oral tradition—the tradition of Latvian folksongs. During this period she authored ten books and about 160 articles, essays or book chapters and has given over 250 speeches in English, French or Latvian, and gave numerous radio, TV and press interviews in various languages.
In June 1998 she was elected Professor emerita at the University of Montreal and returned to her native land, Latvia, after a 54-year absence. On 19 October the Prime Minister named her Director of the newly founded Latvian Institute.
President of Latvia
Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga became President of Latvia in 1999. Although not a candidate in the first ballot, she was drafted by the Saeima (Latvian Parliament) and was elected to the office of President of Latvia on 20 June. She was sworn in on 8 July. Her approval rating ranged between 70% and 85%, and in 2003 she was re-elected for a second term of four years with 88 votes out of 96.
She actively exercised the powers conferred on the President by the Constitution of the Republic of Latvia. She also played a leading role in achieving Latvia's membership in NATO and the European Union. She was an invited speaker at numerous international events (such as the joint session of the United States Congress, in June 2006), as well as an outspoken pundit on social issues, moral values, European historical dialogue, and democracy. During her presidency she regularly visited towns and villages to meet her constituents in person, and received many thousands of letters yearly from Latvians.
In April 2005, the United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan named Vīķe-Freiberga as a member of his team of global political leaders helping to promote his comprehensive reform agenda. In September 2006, the three Baltic States officially announced her candidacy for the post of United Nations Secretary-General.
Family and personal life
Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga is married to Imants Freibergs, formerly a professor of computer sciences at the University of Quebec at Montreal. He was the President of the Latvian Information and Communications Technology Association (LIKTA) while his wife was President of Latvia. The couple met at the Latvian Students Club in Toronto. They have two children, Kārlis and Indra. Dr. Vīķe-Freiberga and Dr. I. Freibergs have founded a company “VVF Consulting” that offers consulting services to public and private organizations.
- Vaira Vike-Freiberga, a Canadian-European, The Economist, 21 August 1999