Dr. Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga was the President of the Republic of Latvia from 1999 to 2007. She successfully implemented Latvia's foreign policy interests by guiding its entry into the European Union (EU) and NATO and raised the nation's recognition in the world through her work at the United Nations, the EU and other international activities. In 2007 she was named vice-president of the Reflection group on the long-term future of the EU, and she is chair of the High-level group on Freedom and Pluralism of the Media in the EU.
Dr. Vīķe-Freiberga was born in Riga, Latvia, but became a refugee at the end of World War II, first in post-war Germany, then French-administered Morocco, and in 1954 settled in Canada. After obtaining a Ph.D. at McGill University in 1965, she emerged as a prominent spokesperson on politics and science whilst Professor of Psychology and interdisciplinary scholar at the University of Montreal. In 1998, she returned to her native country to become the Director of the Latvian Institute. She was elected President by the Latvian Parliament in June 1999.
She is a member, board member or patron of 26 international organisations, including the Club of Madrid and the European Council on Foreign Relations. She has been awarded 37 Orders of Merit and 18 honorary doctorates, as well as many prizes and honors, including the 2005 Hannah-Arendt Prize for political thinking and the 2010 Konrad Adenauer Prize for her work in the political construction of a united Europe.
On December 4, 2012, Dr. Vaira Vike-Freiberga spoke at the opening session of the More Europe "One Year On" event in Brussels. She urged to take advantage of the diversity of European cultures, each with its unique artistry, yet based on communal European roots. More specifically, when talking about her own country, she pointed out the importance of the widely acclaimed Latvian Song Festivals in drawing together different communities, which are occasions for the renown Latvian choirs to come together in large scale singing events, where every participant is part of a mellifluous whole, simply a “voice”, be it basso, tenor, alto or soprano. She noted that our singers and artists are the best ambassadors of European culture, and invited all to come to Riga in 2014, when the city will be a European capital of culture.