Biography of President Raimonds Vējonis
President of Latvia Raimonds Vējonis. Photo: Chancery of the President of Latvia
Raimonds Vējonis is a Latvian biologist and politician, and the President of Latvia since 8 July 2015. Before that, he was the Minister of Defence of Latvia and the Minister of Environmental Protection and Regional Development for almost nine years, and he was a MP of the Saeima (Latvian Parliament) as well.
Has was born on 15 June 1966 in Pskov region, Russia, but he grew up in Sarkaņi rural district, Madona district.
After graduation of Madona Secondary School No. 1, Raimonds Vējonis began his studies at the Faculty of Biology, University of Latvia (UL) and mastered education of biologist, teacher of biology and chemistry. His bachelor thesis was devoted to flora protection in Madona district.
Raimonds Vējonis during his studies at Madona Secondary School No. 1 (the second from the left in the second row). Photo from the private archives
Already during his academic years, Raimonds Vējonis began working as the teacher of biology at Madona Secondary School No.1 that he recently graduated.
In 1993, he continued his education at the Institute of Environmental Engineering and Water, Tampere University of Technology in Finland. In his turn, Raimonds Vējonis obtained a Master degree in biology in 1995, having defended his master’s thesis “Kaņepēnu Lake Management Plan”.
Raimonds Vējonis has mentioned that teacher of biology Daila Semberga at Madona Secondary School No. 1 had facilitated his focus on biology while inviting him to participate in school olympiads at primary school.
The fate of his grandfather contributed to his interest in environmental protection, who had worked as a tractor driver at Soviet kolkhoz “Stars” during Soviet time. Due to dusting chemicals used for treatment of the fields, the grandfather lost his sight while being still adult. Another aspect was significant that the land of the childhood home was drained during establishment of collective farms by changing common and pleasant environment.
Career in environmental protection
After mastering the first higher education, Raimonds Vējonis became Deputy Director of Madona Regional Environmental Board getting the chance to work in order to establish and develop a new institution. In parallel, he was also a member of Madona City Council from 1990 to 1993. In 1990, he joined the Latvian Green Party, because he was engaged in various environmental protection activities when the Atmoda (National movement Awakening) was developing.
Raimonds Vējonis became the Director of newly established Greater Riga Regional Environmental Board in 1996. That institution then merged former Riga and Ogre Administrations, with new obligations being assigned such as engagement in territory planning process and solving ecological problems of River Daugava basin.
Upon entering that post, Raimonds Vējonis stressed that environmental inspectors would be imposed even more stringent requirements henceforth and that they should be harsh and ruthless against polluters and destroyers of nature.
Raimonds Vējonis as the Minister of Environmental Protection acquainted himself with municipal development projects of Ogre Region. Photo: MEPRD
After the elections of the 8th Saeima in 2002, career of Raimonds Vējonis continued in the position of the Minister of Environmental Protection, which he held for nine consecutive years. While being the Minister of Environmental Protection, significant contribution to management of national environmental policy, inter alia by achieving establishment of especially protected natural area network “Natura 2000” in Latvia, working on the Law on Handling Genetically Modified Organisms, which provides an opportunity to local governments to prohibit growing of genetically modified crops in their administrative territories. Raimonds Vējonis also has been a supporter of project Big Cleanup and has participated in other environmental projects.
As the Minister of Environmental Protection, Raimonds Vējonis actively advocated conservation of the nature. For example, he opposed construction of Lithuanian radioactive waste storage facilities near the border in 2005. Later Raimonds Vējonis emphasized that the Ministry he led did not support participation of Latvia in construction of a new nuclear power plant in Ignalina, Lithuania, by indicating that the billions that Latvia should have invested in construction and operation of new NPP should be more usefully invested in development of local and especially renewable energy resources starting from water and wind energy and ending with the use of biomass for energy production.
Minister of Defence and the Saeima
Year 2014 was a turning point in career of Raimonds Vējonis, when he became the Minister of Defence of Latvia.
Minister of Defence Raimonds Vējonis visits the National Guard battalion stationed in Jelgava. Photo: Gatis Dieziņš, RJC
He prioritised strengthening of Latvia’s defence capabilities within the NATO in his work. Under his leadership, implementation of long-term development plan the National Armed Forces and strengthening of cooperation with NATO partners were consistently continued under his leadership. Having actively defended such a necessity, Raimonds Vējonis reached approval of a plan for gradual increase of defence spending up to 2% of GDP, while the Cabinet of Ministers approved practical measures already to facilitate self-defence capacity of Latvia.
During his political career, Raimonds Vējonis has been elected to the 9th, 10th, and 11th Saeima. During the 11th convocation of the Saeima, he worked in the area of foreign policy and national development areas, as he has been the President and the Vice President of the Baltic Assembly, the Vice-President of the Baltic Sea Parliamentary Conference, and he has led the Baltic Affairs Subcommittee of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Saeima and the Latvian delegation to the Baltic Assembly. Raimonds Vējonis has been a Member of the National Security Committee, the Public Administration and Local Government Committee of the Saeima, as well as the Strategic Development Commission under the auspices of the President of Latvia. He has also led the Subcommittee on Monitoring the Drafting and Implementation of the National Development Plan.
President of Latvia
On 8 July 2015, Raimonds Vējonis officially became the President of Latvia. The Saeima elected Raimonds Vējonis as the President of Latvia in the fifth voting on June 3, when 55 MPs supported his candidacy.
Upon appointment, Raimonds Vējonis outlined that national security would be among his major priorities. It also included international security, by stressing that Latvia should be able to protect itself together with NATO allies. Raimonds Vējonis also committed to facilitation of peaceful coexistence of all the peoples living in Latvia in order to avoid any social unrest.
Raimonds Vējonis gives the solemn oath of the President of Latvia to the Saeima on 8 July 2015. Photo: Chancery of the President of Latvia
Promotion of social stability is another important priority of his activity by ensuring appropriate socio-economic conditions, and by promoting entrepreneurship in particular so that people would like to live and work in Latvia. The President of Latvia has also committed himself to cooperate actively with the business community, by assisting to solving of the issues significant for entrepreneurs and facilitating exports of their production within his presidential powers.
President of Latvia Raimonds Vējonis agreed to become a patron of the Centenary Celebration of the State of Latvia and undertook to lead a top-level brainstorming group, that is, Centenary Council. He stressed the need for engaging both Latvian citizens and compatriots living abroad in those celebrations. Celebrations should also be used as an opportunity to remind the whole world about our country and people.
He noted that the need to address the challenges associated with demography in Latvia was significant for long-term development of Latvia, and he pointed out that care should be taken so that there would be people, who would be living here.
During his presidency, Raimonds Vējonis committed to promoting the development of the Young Guard movement and highlighting its important role in shaping the future Latvian defenders. In his turn, being confident that education was the foundation for building strong Latvia, President of Latvia Raimonds Vējonis became the patron of the education program Mission Possible. He also assumed the patronage of the Export and Innovation Award contest organized by the Latvian Investment and Development Agency, the Latvian National Opera and Ballet, the environmental quality mark “Green Certificate”, project “homo ecos:”, Nature Concert Hall, and other socially significant initiatives.
Raimonds Vējonis is the first “green” President in Europe. Therefore, the issues of environmental protection and climate change are prioritised on his agenda.
Family and hobbies
The spouse of Raimonds Vējonis is Iveta Vējone, with whom he met at school and studied in the same form. In 1986, Iveta and Raimonds Vējonis married and they have grown up two sons, Ivo and Nauris.
Upon taking up the office, Raimonds Vējonis lay flowers at the Freedom Monument together with his family. Photo: Chancery of the President of Latvia
In his leisure time, Raimonds Vējonis enjoys a variety of sports. He trained in athletics in his youth, high jump, long jump, and 100-meter sprint. At present, Raimonds Vējonis is active in basketball, and he also is a player in basketball team “Ogres Milži” (Ogre Giants), he also is keen on volleyball and diving. His spouse and he regularly travel, and they like gardening and growing flowers.
Several pets: German shepherd Rimini and three cats: Mince, Princis, and Maksis, live in the country house of the President of Latvia.