Egils Levits becomes Latvian president

July 8 sees another chapter in Latvia's history begin with Egils Levits becoming the latest in the line of Latvian state presidents.

65-year-old Levits delivered the oath demanded of every president at Saeima at 9 o'clock in the morning. 

In his speech he identified the three priorities of his presidency as "solidarity, belonging and a modern and sustainable country."

"We all know that Latvia is among the most unequal countries in the European Union, an illness we have had for many years. Two parallel Latvias are developing in some respects," he said.

"A smart solidarity policy incorporates not only the redistribution of income, a smart policy creates equal opportunities... and includes areas that cannot be measured as a balance of income and spending. I call on everyone to shape a long-term solidarity policy together," Levits said.

On the geopolitical front, Levits commended his predecessor Raimonds Vējonis for his work strengthening Latvia's security and also made a pointed comment about lazy descriptions of Latvia as a bridge between east and west.

"We are an integral part of the western world and Europe - and not some sort of bridge between west and east. I categorically reject such a metaphor," he said.

A sense of belonging was important not only for members of society but also with regard to care for nature and the environment, Levits said.

The State Awards Act states that the President, upon taking office, acquires the right to the highest class of each Order - the Order of the Three Stars, the Order of Viesturs and the Cross of Recognition, as well as the chain of the Order of the Three Stars, though in fact Levits already holds the highest class of the Cross of Recognition so will receive the other awards.

At lunchtime Levits, until recently a judge at the European Court of Justice, delivered a speech to the public at the Freedom Monument at the heart of Rīga during which he reflected upon the meaning of the words carved into it, "For Fatherland and Freedom."

He also laid flowers at the grave of Jānis Čakste, Latvia's first president and received the keys to Rīga Castle in a symbolic gesture from outgoing President Raimonds Vējonis. 

You can read the mini biography we prepared prior to his election to find out more about him and the video below shows the full Saeima swearing-in ceremony.  

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