Former president: freedom fighters would be 'pleasantly surprised'

Former President Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga said Friday the men and women who fought to give Latvia its independence 96 years ago would be "pleasantly surprised" by the results of their sacrifices.

"We are four years away from our centenary. I think it's time for us to start thinking about how we can mark this occasion," Vīķe-Freiberga told LTV in anticipation of Independence Day on November 18.

She expressed the view that the founders of the Latvian state nearly a century ago would be "pleasantly surprised" by the Latvia they would see before them today and that their declaration of independence had been made "more from hope than from faith in its secure reality."

"There hopes were just that - hopes. There were no guarantees they would become reality." 

On the subject of the new government, she said only results mattered.

"It doesn't matter whether [people] like or don't like the Saeima, what matters is work and results," Vīķe-Freiberga said.

Vīķe-Freiberga, who was relatively unknown when she assumed the presidency in 1999 quickly won widespread international respect and was generally regarded as one of the most impressive politicians the Baltic states have produced by the time she left power in 2007.

However, she also warned that Latvia needed to address its demographic challenges.

"Nature abhors a vacuum and if all Latvians leave [their country], someone else will replace them," she said, while expressing some hope the demographic deficit would stabilize in the not-too-distant future.

"We may have fewer Latvians than we would like to see, but we won't be disappearing in the next hundred years," she asserted.

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