Vaira Vike-Freiberga is the only woman running for the position of President of the European Council appointed by the Heads of Government.
She is both a symbol and the most qualified person for this difficult function that emerged with the Lisbon Treaty.
The personification of European culture in every sense of the term –this reputed academic, a polyglot, led her country, Latvia, with particular flourish for two successive mandates.
The story of her life summarises that of an entire continent: forced into exile by the Second World War her family travelled across Europe, lived on the shores of the Mediterranean and settled in Canada; Ms Freiberga finally returned home after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Her personality is complex finding found expression in her research on language and her work on oral traditions.
She is a woman of fine intellect; she demands high intellectual and moral standards and can probably gauge, better than most, what European culture really is –a flow of artistic creation and works of art, of constant research and incredible inventions, of genius, beauty, which all contributes to making our Europe a privileged place in the world.
In the highest European positions we need truly committed intellectuals who readily take on official roles and who in spite of the conflicts and tragedies of a turbulent history find their strength in the culture that is firmly anchored in our continent.
Europeans will be proud to see and hear her as she helps Heads of State take joint decisions and as she embodies their will.
To chair the European Council does not mean chairing Europe – it means working closely with the Heads of State of the Union countries, it means being an additional advantage in rising to the challenge of enhancing Europe’s influence in a changing world.
It means knowing how to listen, to show discernment, take the lead when necessary, it means respecting everyone and coming to joint conclusions that must then be defended and personified before the European Parliament, alongside the Commission and amongst the citizens.
I know Vaira Vike-Freiberga, I hold her in the highest respect and esteem. I truly admire her. I am campaigning for her by choice and to break from “the kind of decisions we no longer want” – those subtle diplomatic compromises in which the citizens can no longer identify!
I can already see people smiling: “such a small country, which incidentally is in such great economic distress?” Yes, that is exactly it. If the Union has self-confidence, in its mechanisms of solidarity and integration, its rule of law and its currency it does not need to find expression in size, but in the quality of the men and women it chooses.
I can also hear the comment: “A Balt, you can’t be serious?” But of course I am! Especially if that person has a nobility of mind – she was the only one from her region to attend the victory commemoration ceremonies in Moscow on 9th May 2005, against the feeling of a majority of her people which bore the brunt of Communist totalitarianism.
If there is one country that embodies the end of the Cold War, it is hers, a Union and NATO Member, capable of receiving both a high number of Russians within its borders who do not want to go home and yet it entertains relations with a neighbour – which almost annihilated it – but which looks to the future; a country which also invited Simone Veil to speak openly of the horrors suffered by the Jewish community in this region, in short to be the living memory and history of this region and embody hope for humanity, a strength for Europe and not a deadweight to drag along into the future.
I can already imagine the criticism: “she is not a club member and no longer sits at the European Council.” But I beg your pardon ….! It would be an error to appoint a present member of the European Council. We are not asking its President to continue his/her own political goals, national objectives which would be more or less concealed – to continue her/her party’s politics in view of an election!
We must demand that the title holder displays an acute sense of abnegation, confirmed know-how, and be unfailingly committed to Europe.
A former Head of State is therefore more qualified than a present head of Government who is embroiled in national or party political disputes!
"But will the future President suffer great pressure?" Yes, he/she will have to be respected, ie be eminently respectable, irreproachable, be worthy, via his/her personality he/she will have represent a symbol and a method, a political will that must be stronger but which will only find expression if the Member States cooperate.
It has to be admitted that a doctor in psychology, a psycholinguistic specialist has one or two advantages to boast of!
Finally I would like to take stock of what is at stake: it is a matter of helping the European institutions to assert themselves in the international arena. Everyone has a role to play: the States, the future High Representative, the European Parliament, the Commission and many others including the Central Bank and the alternating Presidency which will continue to host the interstate meetings!
What a challenge!
To rise to this a great deal of impartiality is required together with great expectations and major skills – and maybe a touch of femininity and outstanding personal capabilities.
Vaira Vike-Freiberga has all of these qualities and has proved it.
To see that the States of the European Union make a political choice and appoint her as their head would confirm my belief that Europe is capable of the best, of wise, audacious choices and that it has started along a new route taking into account what the citizens think.