Thursday, July 4, 2013

The twelve days of Latvija: Day 6, PLEIF and meeting the President

One of the main reasons for our trip to Latvia other than the National Song and Dance Festival was the PLEIF conference – Pasaules Latviešu Ekonomikas un Inovāciju Forums, or World Latvian Economics and Innovations Forum. The World Federation of Free Latvians (WFFL) and the Latvian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) in collaboration with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Culture and the Investment and Development Agency of Latvia is organizing the Forum “targeting Latvian expatriates and their descendants to explore Latvia not only as their ancestral land and a place of cultural riches, but also to investigate Latvia as a land of great opportunities.” (source here)

Onkulis Pauls has arrived!
A rich and diverse program included discussion on topics such as Latvia in the global world, doing business in Latvia, Latvia’s export capabilities and investment opportunities. Along with being an ideal networking opportunity, it was a rare chance for Latvians and professionals from abroad to meet successful entrepreneurs and businessmen from Latvia, hear the success stories and learn from their collective experience. It is the organizers hope that through the forum new ideas aimed at promoting Latvia’s economic development and new business initiatives will be generated.

A very special invitation, from the President of Latvia
In my previous post I mentioned the kick-off dinner, featuring Valdis Dombrovskis, the Prime Minister of Latvia. It was exciting to feel the anticipation of the participants before the start of the conference, and in addition to getting reacquainting with people I hadn’t seen in years I made new contacts within forestry and natural resources. We enjoyed world-class koklētājas Laimas Jansones music and I want to share this YouTube video that showcases her unique fusion of new and old utilizing this very traditional Latvian instrument.

The next morning I wasn’t able to join the forum until after lunch, when my husband participated in a section “Latvian sectors with export potential: Promoting Latvia’s products and services on world markets,” specifically “How can Latvian businesses conquer world markets? Various scenarios of acquiring external markets.” Well-known directors and owners of Latvian brands such as Latvijas Balzams and Stenders joined to provide an inspiring and informative session. The only speaker who wasn’t born in Latvia, I was proud of my husband’s language skills as well as ability to engage the audience.

Later that evening I was honored to be invited to an invitation-only reception hosted by the President of Latvia, Andris Bērziņš in the Melngalvju nams, the temporary residence of the President while the Castle is being renovated. The “House of Blackheads” in Vecrīga was built in the 14th century for the Brotherhood of Blackheads, a guild for unmarried German merchants in Riga. Rumors of lavish feasts with participants such as Catherine the Great and other nobility abound, and the building was the richest building on the Town Hall square for many years. The name derives from the black caps worn by its members as well as the patron saint Mauritius, a Moor. During World War II it was destroyed by the Germans and the remains demolished by the Soviets in 1948, however the building was fully restored in the 1990’s in honor of the 800th anniversary of the city of Rīga.

It was a privilege to be able to see the extraordinary interior of this historically-accurate restored building, and even more so to meet the President, hear his address to the forum attendees and meet so many of the movers and shakers that have been instrumental in boosting Latvia into one of the top spots for economic growth in Europe in recent years. It was a remarkable evening; a perfect opportunity to dress up, I felt the part - snacking on flawless little hors d'oeuvres and sipping wine in such sophisticated surroundings. Such a unique opportunity and one I will surely be telling my (grand?)children about in years to come.


1 comment:

  1. Vavavooom, Lienīt! Tu gan izcelies to Kukaiņu kungu (un prezidenta) vidū!


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