Karina Petersone, Director of the Latvian Institute, discusses the organisation’s priorities and projects.
European Times: What are the activities of the Latvian Institute and what experience do you bring to the post of Director?
Karina Petersone: The Latvian Institute is a crucial institution for ensuring Latvia’s long-term success as an international player. The Latvian Institute pursues public diplomacy within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and focusses on enhancing awareness of Latvia worldwide. We are key players also in creating a favourable background for tourists and investors who are looking into Latvia. I feel that my experiences in the academic field and in several high-profile government positions have given me a good foundation for promoting the country, not only from the knowledge point of view but from the emotional side as well.
European Times: What specific strategy are you employing to create a positive image of Latvia?
Karina Petersone: First of all, we are showing the world that Latvia is a developed and reformed country, both financially and politically. We are promoting Latvia as a reliable international partner and as a country committed to solidarity within the EU. We are trying to promote more unique features of Latvia as well, such as the fact that Latvia is the world’s second-greenest country. Latvia’s tourism slogan is ‘Best Enjoyed Slowly’, which reflects the country’s unspoiled natural and cultural heritage.
European Times: How is Latvia coping with the effects of the global financial crisis?
Karina Petersone: Latvia has taken very serious steps to reform our governmental and regulatory institutions in order to correct our mistakes. We have taken harsh cost-cutting measures and instituted budgetary constraints across the board. We have also taken serious steps to facilitate growth and transform the country into an export-based economy. We have restructured our finances to ensure sustainability and we aim to loosen our taxes now that the country is back to stable growth and no more austerity measures are needed. What completely distinguishes Latvia from other countries is that it was the current generation that found solid solutions, not putting the weight of our problems on our children’s shoulders. We have reformed many sectors and totally overhauled the government. The Latvian people value these changes, as can be seen by the fact that the current Prime Minister has remained in office through these harsh times.
European Times: What is your personal message to potential investors and tourism visitors?
Karina Petersone: Latvia is a country with an unequalled resource: our people.