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.