(above photo by Washington Diplomat photographer Lawrence Ruggeri)
Cover Profile: Ambassador Andrejs Pildegovics
"Latvia Sobers Up As the Party Ends"
by Larry Luxner
Only yesterday, it seems, Latvia was Europe’s fastest-rising star — a former Soviet republic that had transformed itself from an impoverished Baltic backwater into a high-tech haven with more cell phones than citizens.
But Latvia grew too fast for its own good.
These days, it’s one of the continent’s worst basket cases — and somewhat of a liability for the 27-member European Union, which admitted Latvia as a full member exactly five years ago this month.
“In a way, we have become victims of our own success,” said Riga’s envoy here, Andrejs Pildegovics, in an unusually frank interview with The Washington Diplomat.
Our meeting took place April 1, following violent protests earlier this year that brought down the center-right government of Prime Minister Ivars Godmanis — making Latvia’s government the second in Europe to collapse, after Iceland, in the wake of global financial chaos. Former Finance Minister Valdis Dombrovskis, who leads the coalition that replaced Godmanis, must now deal with Latvia’s gravest economic crisis since independence — a looming disaster that also threatens prospects for recovery in the other two Baltic republics, Lithuania and Estonia.
"This crisis is unprecedented in scope and scale, and we don’t know if we’ve seen the bottom yet," Pildegovics warned. "Some economists are forecasting a contraction of 10 to 12 percent in 2009. It’s not impossible. This year is going to be very tough for many households."
Click here to read the complete interview.