Egils Levits

Last updated

Egils Levits
Egils Levits.jpg
Egils Levits in 2012
10th President of Latvia
Assumed office
8 July 2019
Prime Minister Arturs Krišjānis Kariņš
Preceded by Raimonds Vējonis
Judge of the European Court of Justice
In office
2004–2019
Minister for Justice of Latvia
In office
3 August 1993 19 September 1994
President Guntis Ulmanis
Prime Minister Valdis Birkavs
Preceded byViktors Skudra
Succeeded byRomāns Apsītis
Personal details
Born (1955-06-30) 30 June 1955 (age 65)
Riga, Latvian SSR, Soviet Union
NationalityLatvian
Political party Latvian Way (1993–1994)
Independent
Spouse(s)Andra Levite
ChildrenLinards Levits, Indra Levita
Residence Riga Castle
Alma mater University of Hamburg
OccupationLawyer

Egils Levits (born 30 June 1955) is a Latvian politician, lawyer, political scientist and jurist who is the President of Latvia since 8 July 2019. [1] He was a Member of the European Court of Justice from 2004 to 2019. [2]

Contents

During the late Soviet-era he was a member of the Popular Front of Latvia and contributed to the declaration of renewed Latvian independence in 1990. He was Vice-Prime Minister and Minister for Justice of Latvia from 1993 to 1994 and ambassador to Hungary, Austria and Switzerland from 1994 to 1995. He was then appointed a Judge of the European Court of Human Rights, a position he held until 2004. He finished second in the indirect election for President of Latvia in 2015 behind Raimonds Vējonis. Although an Independent, he was the candidate of the National Alliance. [3] In 2018, Levits was reappointed a Judge of the European Court of Justice, having first been appointed in 2004. [4] He is married and has two children, a son, Linards, and daughter, Indra. [5] He published a book of memoirs in 2019. [6]

Early life

Levits was born in Riga, Latvia, during Soviet occupation into the family of Latvian Jewish engineer Jonass Levits and his wife, Latvian-Baltic German poet Ingeborga Levita (née Barga, pen name Aija Zemzare). In 1972, the family was expelled from the USSR for their Soviet dissident activities [7] and settled in West Germany, where Ingeborga's relatives lived. They lived in West Germany until 1990 when Latvia regained its independence.

Levits has stated in interviews that despite his Jewish heritage, he identifies himself foremost as Latvian. [8]

Political career

Levits meeting with his supporters outside the Saeima during the 2015 presidential elections Valsts prezidenta velesanas (18385674306).jpg
Levits meeting with his supporters outside the Saeima during the 2015 presidential elections

Levits has been involved in Latvian politics since the late 1980s. [9] Levits became a member of the Popular Front of Latvia and a member of the Latvian Citizens' Congress established in 1989. [10] Later, he joined the political club "Klubs 21" and in 1993 was elected a 5th Saeima deputy from the list of the party Latvijas Ceļš. In 2016, he was among the best paid EU officials. In 2018, he was named "European Man of the Year in Latvia" by the European Movement – Latvia. [9]

He has been an Ambassador of Latvia to Austria, Switzerland and Hungary. [10]

He is the co-author of the Preamble to the Constitution of Latvia [11] and has been the head for Commission for Constitutional Law, working under the President together with lawyer Lauris Liepa. [12]

Presidential campaigns

He was named a presidential candidate by the National Alliance party in 2011 and 2015, [13] coming second in votes in the final round to minister of defense Raimonds Vējonis in 2015. [14] Levits was widely discussed as a potential front runner candidate for the presidency in early 2019, [15] and on April 15 the parties of the ruling coalition announced that they would support Levits' candidacy. [16] Latvia's parliament elected him on 29 May 2019. [17]

Presidency

He was inaugurated in the Saeima on 8 July 2019. [7] During his inaugural speech, he noted that "there is no ideal country, because that implies halted progress." [18] After the ceremony, he visited the Freedom Monument, laid flowers at the grave of Jānis Čakste, and received the keys to Riga Castle from outgoing President Raimonds Vējonis. [19] On July 10, he conducted his first foreign visit to Tallinn, Estonia, meeting with President Kersti Kaljulaid and Prime Minister Jüri Ratas. [20] [21]

Judicial career

In 1995, Levits was elected representative of Latvia for European Court of Human Rights. Since 2004, he has been Latvia's representative to the European Court of Justice, where the mandate will expire in 2024. [9]

Political views

Levits has expressed traditionally conservative views on issues in Latvian politics. During his time as a European judge, he has been involved in and commented on current developments in Latvia; for example, he pointed out that neither the reception of refugees nor the Istanbul Convention violate the Constitution of Latvia. [9] Levits has expressed skepticism about enacting major change to the financial system, calling Latvia one of the strongest economies in Europe. [22] On the topic of Russian language, Levits has undertaken many initiatives to purge its use in Latvia, including banning private universities that employ instruction in any language except English and Latvian, and reaffirmed that Russian nationals (even Latvian-born) must first pass a Latvian literacy test to receive citizenship. Levits has said that "Russian language is a shackle from the darkest days in [Latvia's] history," and that "the only way to be freed from it is to use every opportunity to let it rust away." [23] Levits is not a member of any political party, and has expressed a wish to remain independent. [12] [24]

On the 7 December 2019 episode of Saturday Night Live , Levits was portrayed by Alex Moffat, in a sketch that poked fun at Donald Trump's experience at the 2019 NATO summit. [25] [26]

Personal life

Egils Levits with his wife Andra (left) and daughter Indra (right) Valsts prezidenta velesanas (18228040759).jpg
Egils Levits with his wife Andra (left) and daughter Indra (right)

Levits is married to Andra Levite, a gynecologist, and has a son named Linards and a daughter named Indra. [5] In 2019, Levits released his first book Valstsgriba. Idejas un domas Latvijai 1985–2018 (Country's Will: Ideas and thoughts for Latvia 1985–2018) where he mentions articles, interviews and combines them with his personal opinion as a Judge at the Court of Justice of the European Union. [6] Aside from his native Latvian language, he also knows German (from his time in Germany), English, French and Russian. In May 2019, he announced in his first interview as the newly elected President that he wouldn't speak Russian to the Russian media, and so its assumed that Levits speaks it on a personal basis. [27]

Honours

National Honours

Publications

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References

  1. "Balsojums". titania.saeima.lv. Retrieved 20 January 2020.
  2. "Izraudzīti Latvijas tiesneši Eiropas Kopienu tiesā" (in Latvian). Latvijas Vēstnesis . Retrieved 3 June 2015.
  3. "Saeima elects Raimonds Vējonis as President of Latvia". Saeima. 4 June 2015. Retrieved 4 June 2015.
  4. "Egils Levits appointed as a judge at the Court of Justice of the European Union". Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Latvia. 1 March 2018. Retrieved 2 September 2018.
  5. 1 2 "Noslēpumainākā kandidāte uz pirmās lēdijas godu". delfi.lv (in Latvian). 3 June 2015. Retrieved 10 April 2019.
  6. 1 2 Sprūde, Viesturs (15 February 2019). "FOTO: Atver Egila Levita grāmatu "Valstsgriba. Idejas un domas Latvijai"". LA.lv (in Latvian). Retrieved 10 April 2019.
  7. 1 2 "Latvia's new president Levits sworn into office; parents are of Jewish origin". The Times of Israel . 9 July 2019. Retrieved 18 July 2019.
  8. "Levits ir pret īpašumu atgriešanu ebreju kopienai". delfi.lv (in Latvian). 18 April 2019. Retrieved 12 August 2019.
  9. 1 2 3 4 Fridrihsone, Madara (24 February 2019). "Egils Levits – līdz šim vienīgais pretendents uz prezidenta amatu. Kas viņš ir?". www.lsm.lv (in Latvian). Retrieved 10 April 2019.
  10. 1 2 Fridrihsone, Madara (25 May 2015). "EGILS LEVITS". www.lsm.lv (in Latvian). Retrieved 10 April 2019.
  11. "Saeima adds controversial preamble to Latvia's Constitution". Public Broadcasting of Latvia. 19 June 2014. Retrieved 3 June 2015.
  12. 1 2 Suhoveckis, Gatis (2 June 2015). "Prezidenta kandidāta portrets: Egils Levits". skaties.lv. Retrieved 10 April 2019.
  13. "EU Court Judge Egils Levits' chances of becoming Latvia's president increase". Baltic News Network. 3 April 2019. Retrieved 10 March 2019.
  14. Collier, Mike (3 June 2015). "LIVE BLOG closed: Defense Minister Raimonds Vejonis is elected as Latvia's next president". Public Broadcasting of Latvia . Retrieved 3 June 2015.
  15. "Public figures from across the spectrum offer show of support for Levits". Public Broadcasting of Latvia. 19 February 2019. Retrieved 3 June 2015.
  16. "Coalition parties to nominate Levits for Latvia's president". LETA. 19 April 2019. Retrieved 3 June 2015.
  17. "Latvian parliament elects former judge Levits president". Reuters. 29 May 2019. Retrieved 29 May 2019.
  18. "Egils Levits officially becomes President of Latvia". Baltic News Network. 8 July 2019. Retrieved 21 January 2020.
  19. "Egils Levits becomes Latvian president". Public Broadcasting of Latvia. 8 July 2019. Retrieved 18 July 2019.
  20. Whyte, Andrew (10 July 2019). "Estonia, Latvia presidents discuss cooperation, including in recycling". ERR. Retrieved 21 January 2020.
  21. "President of Latvia Egils Levits will pay his first working visit to Estonia". www.president.lv. 9 July 2019. Retrieved 21 January 2020.
  22. Avotiņš, Viktors (25 September 2018). "Levits: Risks ir – pazaudēt savu valsti". nra.lv (in Latvian). Retrieved 10 April 2019.
  23. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mvTBVLe1Bko
  24. "Intervija ar Egilu Levitu, Eiropas Savienības Tiesas tiesnesi". Rīta Panorāma. LSM. 14 February 2019. Retrieved 10 April 2019.
  25. Bruney, Gabrielle (8 December 2019). "'Saturday Night Live' Reimagined Trump's NATO Humiliation in a High School Cafeteria". Esquire. Retrieved 8 December 2019.
  26. "Saturday Night Live pokes fun at Latvian president". Public Broadcasting of Latvia. 9 December 2019. Retrieved 10 December 2019.
  27. https://m.lv.sputniknews.ru/politics/20190531/11697366/Otkazalsya-govorit-po-russki-latviytsy-sporyat-o-tom-chto-skazal-Levits.html?mobile_return=no
Political offices
Preceded by
Viktors Skudra
Minister of Justice
1993–1994
Succeeded by
Romāns Apsītis
Preceded by
Raimonds Vējonis
President of Latvia
2019–present
Incumbent