Egils Levits

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Egils Levits
Dr. iur. honoris causa
Sergio Mattarella and Latvian President Levits at the 16th Arraiolos meeting (2) (cropped).jpg
Levits in 2021
10th President of Latvia
Assumed office
8 July 2019
Prime MinisterArturs Krišjānis Kariņš
Preceded byRaimonds Vējonis
Judge of the European Court of Justice
In office
11 May 2004 – 17 June 2019
Preceded byFidelma Macken
Succeeded byNiilo Jääskinen
Vice-Prime Minister of Latvia
In office
3 August 1993 – 19 September 1994
PresidentGuntis Ulmanis
Prime MinisterValdis Birkavs
Minister of Justice of Latvia
In office
3 August 1993 – 19 September 1994
PresidentGuntis Ulmanis
Prime MinisterValdis Birkavs
Preceded byViktors Skudra
Succeeded byRomāns Apsītis
Member of Parliament[1]
In office
7 July 1993 – 5 October 1994
Personal details
Born (1955-06-30) 30 June 1955 (age 67)
Riga, Latvia
Political partyLatvian Way (1993–1994)
Spouse(s)
(m. 1991)
Children2
Parent(s)Ingeborga Levite
Jonass Levits
Residence(s)Riga Castle
Alma materUniversity of Hamburg
OccupationPolitician
Lawyer
Jurist
Signature

Egils Levits (born 30 June 1955) is a Latvian politician, lawyer, political scientist and jurist who has served as the tenth president of Latvia since 8 July 2019.[2] He was a member of the European Court of Justice from 2004 to 2019.[3]

During the late Soviet-era, he was a member of the Popular Front of Latvia and contributed to the declaration of restored 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 2019. He finished second in the indirect election for the president of Latvia in 2015, behind Raimonds Vējonis. Although an Independent, he was the candidate of the National Alliance.[4] In 2018, Levits was reappointed a judge of the European Court of Justice, having first been appointed in 2004.[5] He is married and has two children: a son, Linards, and daughter, Indra.[6] He published a book of memoirs in 2019.[7]

Early life[edit]

Levits was born in Riga, into the family of Latvian Jewish engineer Jonass Levits and his wife, Latvian-Baltic German poet Ingeborga Levite (née Barga, pen name Aija Zemzare). In 1972, the family was expelled from the USSR for their Soviet dissident activities[8] 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 partial Jewish heritage, he identifies foremost as Latvian.[9]

Political career[edit]

Levits has been involved in Latvian politics since the late 1980s.[10] Levits became a member of the Popular Front of Latvia and a member of the Latvian Citizens' Congress established in 1989.[11] 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 the "European Person of the Year in Latvia" by the European Movement – Latvia.[10]

He has been an ambassador of Latvia to Austria, Switzerland and Hungary.[11]

He is the co-author of the preamble to the Constitution of Latvia[12] and has been the head for Commission for Constitutional Law, working under the president together with lawyer Lauris Liepa.[13]

Presidential campaigns[edit]

Levits meeting with his supporters outside the Saeima during the 2015 presidential elections

Levits was named a presidential candidate by the National Alliance party in 2011 and 2015,[14] coming second in votes in the final round to the minister of defense Raimonds Vējonis in 2015.[15] Levits was widely discussed as a potential frontrunner candidate for the presidency in early 2019,[16] and on April 15 the parties of the ruling coalition announced that they would support Levits' candidacy.[17] Latvia's parliament elected him on 29 May 2019.[18]

Presidency[edit]

Levits with the President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky during Zelensky's visit to Latvia in 2019
Levits with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken during Blinken's visit to Latvia in 2022

Levits was inaugurated in the Saeima on 8 July 2019.[8] During his inaugural speech, he noted that "there is no ideal country, because that implies halted progress."[19] 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.[20] On July 10, he conducted his first foreign visit to Tallinn, Estonia, meeting with President Kersti Kaljulaid and Prime Minister Jüri Ratas.[21][22]

In August 2021, Levits made an official visit to Sweden, meeting King Carl XVI Gustaf to mark the centenary of diplomatic relations and the 30th anniversary of Latvian independence.[23]

In September 2021, Levits was accused of putting inappropriate pressure on members of the Development/For! party alliance to nominate his legal advisor Irēna Kucina to a position on the Constitutional Court. Levits admitted that a phone call with those party members had taken place, but denied making any threats and called the controversy a "misunderstanding".[24]

Judicial career[edit]

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.[10]

Political views[edit]

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.[10] Levits has expressed scepticism about enacting major change to the financial system, calling Latvia one of the strongest economies in Europe.[25]

Levits has also supported many initiatives to reduce the use of Russian language in Latvia, including promulgating amendments banning private universities to employ instruction in languages other than the official languages of the European Union,[26] 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."[27] Levits is not a member of any political party, and has expressed a wish to remain independent.[13][28]

In popular culture[edit]

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.[29][30]

Personal life[edit]

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.[6] 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.[7] Aside from his native Latvian language, he also knows German (from his time in Germany), English, French and Russian.

Honours[edit]

National Honours
Foreign Honours

Publications[edit]

  • Levits, Egils (2019). Valstsgriba. Idejas un domas Latvijai 1985–2018 [A Will for Statehood: Ideas and thoughts for Latvia 1985–2018]. Riga. ISBN 9789984840567.
  • Levits, Egils; Roses, Allan; Bot, Yves (2012). The Court of Justice and the Construction of Europe: Analyses and Perspectives on Sixty Years of Case-law (in English and French). Springer Science & Business Media. ISBN 978-9067048972.
  • Verfassungsgerichtsbarkeit in Lettland. Osteuropa-Recht: Gegenwartsfragen aus dem sowjetischen Rechtskreis Osteuropa-Recht, Vol. 43, No. 4, p. 305-328, Vol. 43, No. 4, p. 305-328, 1997.
  • Der zweite Weltkrieg und sein Ende in Lettland. Lüneburg: Institut Nordostdeutsches Kulturwerk, 1996.
  • Die Wirtschaft der baltischen Staaten im Umbruch. Köln: Wissenschaft und Politik, 1992. (with Boris Meissner; Dietrich A Loeber; Paulis Apinis and others)
  • Lettland unter sowjetischer Herrschaft: die politische Entwicklung 1940-1989. Köln: Markus Verlag, 1990
  • Sowjetunion heute: Glasnost und Peristroika; Grundinformation. [Kiel]: 1989
  • Die baltischen Staaten: Estland — Lettland — Litauen. Bonn: Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung, 1989. (with Hildegard Bremer) (in German)
  • Der politische Konflikt zwischen den Selbstbestimmungsbestrebungen und dem sowjetischen Herrschaftsanspruch in Lettland: eine regionale Fallstudie zur sowjetischen Nationalitätenpolitik. Marburg an d. Lahn: Johann-Gottfried-Herder-Institut, 1988.
  • Die baltische Frage im Europäischen Parlament. 1983. Bd. 22. S.9-37
  • Die demographische Situation in der UdSSR und in den baltischen Staaten unter besonderer Berücksichtigung von nationalen und sprachsoziologischen Aspekten. 1981.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Egils Levits – 5. Saeimas deputāts" (in Latvian). Saeima. Retrieved 15 June 2021.
  2. ^ "Balsojums". titania.saeima.lv. Retrieved 20 January 2020.
  3. ^ "Izraudzīti Latvijas tiesneši Eiropas Kopienu tiesā" (in Latvian). Latvijas Vēstnesis. Retrieved 3 June 2015.
  4. ^ "Saeima elects Raimonds Vējonis as President of Latvia". Saeima. 4 June 2015. Retrieved 4 June 2015.
  5. ^ "Raimonds Vējonis 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.
  6. ^ a b "Noslēpumainākā kandidāte uz pirmās lēdijas godu". delfi.lv (in Latvian). 3 June 2015. Retrieved 10 April 2019.
  7. ^ a b Sprūde, Viesturs (15 February 2019). "FOTO: Atver Egila Levita grāmatu "Valstsgriba. Idejas un domas Latvijai"". LA.lv (in Latvian). Retrieved 10 April 2019.
  8. ^ a b "Latvia's new president Levits sworn into office; parents are of Jewish origin". The Times of Israel. 9 July 2019. Retrieved 18 July 2019.
  9. ^ "Levits ir pret īpašumu atgriešanu ebreju kopienai". delfi.lv (in Latvian). 18 April 2019. Retrieved 12 August 2019.
  10. ^ a b c d 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.
  11. ^ a b Fridrihsone, Madara (25 May 2015). "EGILS LEVITS". www.lsm.lv (in Latvian). Retrieved 10 April 2019.
  12. ^ "Saeima adds controversial preamble to Latvia's Constitution". Public Broadcasting of Latvia. 19 June 2014. Retrieved 3 June 2015.
  13. ^ a b Suhoveckis, Gatis (2 June 2015). "Prezidenta kandidāta portrets: Egils Levits". skaties.lv. Retrieved 10 April 2019.
  14. ^ "EU Court Judge Egils Levits' chances of becoming Latvia's president increase". Baltic News Network. 3 April 2019. Retrieved 10 March 2019.
  15. ^ 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.
  16. ^ "Public figures from across the spectrum offer show of support for Levits". Public Broadcasting of Latvia. 19 February 2019. Retrieved 3 June 2015.
  17. ^ "Coalition parties to nominate Levits for Latvia's president". LETA. 19 April 2019. Retrieved 3 June 2015.
  18. ^ "Latvian parliament elects former judge Levits president". Reuters. 29 May 2019. Retrieved 29 May 2019.
  19. ^ "Egils Levits officially becomes President of Latvia". Baltic News Network. 8 July 2019. Retrieved 21 January 2020.
  20. ^ "Egils Levits becomes Latvian president". Public Broadcasting of Latvia. 8 July 2019. Retrieved 18 July 2019.
  21. ^ Whyte, Andrew (10 July 2019). "Estonia, Latvia presidents discuss cooperation, including in recycling". ERR. Retrieved 21 January 2020.
  22. ^ "President of Latvia Egils Levits will pay his first working visit to Estonia". www.president.lv. 9 July 2019. Retrieved 21 January 2020.
  23. ^ "The King holds an audience with Latvia's President". Swedish Royal Court. Retrieved 26 August 2021.
  24. ^ "President denies exerting inappropriate pressure on politicians". eng.lsm.lv. Retrieved 10 November 2021.
  25. ^ Avotiņš, Viktors (25 September 2018). "Levits: Risks ir – pazaudēt savu valsti". nra.lv (in Latvian). Retrieved 10 April 2019.
  26. ^ "Latvian president promulgates rushed amendments on use of state language despite having reservations". Baltic News Network. LETA. 27 April 2021. Retrieved 10 November 2021.
  27. ^ Archived at Ghostarchive and the Wayback Machine: "В студии Эгилс Левитс". YouTube.
  28. ^ "Intervija ar Egilu Levitu, Eiropas Savienības Tiesas tiesnesi". Rīta Panorāma. LSM. 14 February 2019. Retrieved 10 April 2019.
  29. ^ Bruney, Gabrielle (8 December 2019). "'Saturday Night Live' Reimagined Trump's NATO Humiliation in a High School Cafeteria". Esquire. Retrieved 8 December 2019.
  30. ^ "Saturday Night Live pokes fun at Latvian president". Public Broadcasting of Latvia. 9 December 2019. Retrieved 10 December 2019.
  31. ^ "УКАЗ ПРЕЗИДЕНТА УКРАЇНИ №393/2021". Офіційне інтернет-представництво Президента України (in Ukrainian). Retrieved 24 August 2021.

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Viktors Skudra
Minister of Justice
1993–1994
Succeeded by
Romāns Apsītis
Preceded by President of Latvia
2019–present
Incumbent