Wednesday, August 5, 2015

PLEIF 2015 and meeting the new President of Latvia

The second World Latvian Economics & Innovations Forum took place in Rīga during our trip to Latvia (as you might remember the 1st PLEIF, Pasaules latviešu ekonomikas un inovāciju forums was part of the reason for our trip overseas two years ago). I was disappointed to not be able to participate, but the demands of the three boys only a few days after our arrival superseded my involvement in the forum. We were able to find capable supervision for the boys both evenings and so I was able to attend the receptions, but I’m already looking forward to the 3rd PLEIF, which will no doubt be just as engaging and forward-looking as the 2nd

From twitter chatter and personal feedback it seems as the forum was a rousing success, with an impressive line-up of speakers including Artis Pabriks (Member of the European Parliament), Andris Piebalgs (Advisor to the President of Latvia), Kārlis Šmits (World Bank Senior Economist in China), Uldis Sīpols (Vice President of Sonoco) and Karina Pētersone (Director of the Latvian Institute) among others. The conference kicked off Day 1 in Gaismas Pils, the National Library of Latvia with an address from Prime Minister of the Republic of Latvia Laimdota Straujuma, followed by Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Latvia, Edgars Rinkēvičs. Discussion on economic development, the current investment climate followed, with two separate roundtables occurring in the afternoon, giving participants a choice of themes such as entering the Latvian market or tech startups & venture capitalist opportunities.

Roberts with American Latvian Youth Association president Indra Purmale, ALJA VP Kārlis Memenis and Starcom MediaVest Group VP Pēteris Freimanis

The Welcome Reception that evening took place in Restaurant HOT’E, in the Swedbank Saules Akmens building across the Daugava river. Participants were given a chance to network while admiring sunset views of Vecrīga, the river, the Vanšu bridge and the Rīga sign which is located on the narrow peninsula of land sticking out from next to Radisson Blu Daugava.

Day 2 of PLEIF started with an address by Raimonds Vējonis, President of the Republic of Latvia. One of the people responsible for the realization of the forum is Jānis Kukainis, Chairman of the World Federation of Free Latvians, who spoke briefly followed by Zanda Kalniņa-Lukaševica, Parliamentary State Secretary for EU Affairs in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Two sessions ensued, “Latvia’s New Opportunities: Rethinking Strategies for Export Diversification and Attracting Foreign Investment” and “Strengthening Innovation and Entrepreneurial Culture in Latvia: Global perspectives.”  My brother-in-law, Attorney at Law Matīss Kukainis was a speaker in one of the afternoon options “Are we ready for CETA and TTIP? – Trade tools for doing business with North America” with a parallel program on success in China occurring simultaneously for those with business interests looking East. The final session of the day was “Branding Latvia, Latvian companies and getting the message out.”

That evening was the official reception hosted by the President of the Republic of Latvia, Mr. Raimonds Vējonis. (An invitation only event, I have to thank Ilze Garoza of PBLA for the effort in getting my last-minute security clearance and invitation for this historic evening!) Elected President of Latvia on June 3rd, 2015, he most recently was Minister of Defence. As a member of the Green Party Vējonis was also Minister of Environmental Protection and Regional Development as well as Minister of the Environment, in his inaugural speech promising to increase national security while protecting the environment. The reception was held in the historic Melngalvju nams, the temporary residence of the President while the Castle is being renovated after a fire that took place in 2013, shortly before the first PLEIF.

To read more about the goals of PLEIF and programs, please visit the 2015 World Latvian Economics and Innovations Forum webpage and my PLEIF 2013 post “The twelve days of Latvija: Day 6, PLEIF and meeting the President.” 

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