Question: What are Latvia’s key interests in and aspirations towards the ASEM process?
Answer: Latvia joined the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) in 2004. We see ASEM as a strategic dialogue between Asia and Europe on the basis of equal partnership, mutual respect and mutual benefit. We believe that ASEM provides valuable opportunity to discuss informally wide range of issues and develop cooperation in different areas. For us ASEM is an important platform to exchange views with Asian nations, to interconnect and maintain both the dialogue and the practical cooperation.
Question: In 2012, the Latvian Ministry of Foreign Affairs appointed you as the representative for Latvia to ASEF’s Board of Governors. Could you highlight one of ASEF’s major contribution to Asian-European dialogue and cooperation?
Answer: My daily work is linked with culture institutions, namely – I am the head of an art museum. The Art Museum Riga Bourse is a meeting point for cultural exchange programs for Asia-Europe, acting in close cooperation with the diplomats of Eastern countries and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Latvia. A great part of our museum’s work is focused on introduction of our multinational audience to diversity and uniqueness of Asian cultures. We collaborate closely with embassies, a great part of which reside abroad in Stockholm or Helsinki. During the last three years we have presented Japan, Korea, China, Thailand, Philippines, Pakistan and Indonesia in such form. Especially close relationships we have with the Embassy of Indonesia, museums and Ministry of Culture of Indonesia.
These collaborations are strengthened owing to our perennial work in ASEMUS – an institution, which under the auspices of ASEF unites European and Asian museums. The Museum joined ASEMUS in 2007. Colleagues from museums in Netherlands invited us to the ASEMUS Executive Committee meeting in Gyeonggi Provincial Museum in South Korea and at the same time involved us in an exchange program of specialists, which was newly founded in those days. Afterwards it grew into an unforgettable event with sequels during many years.
Question: So far, ASEF has organised three projects in Latvia, amongst them a research workshop on national strategies for lifelong learning under ASEF’s Higher Education Programme (AHEP). In which areas do you see potential for Latvia’s engagement in civil society cooperation between Asia and Europe?
Answer: Our focus in ASEF and ASEM sectorial cooperation among other activities has been education. This remains a priority as Latvia will be hosting the ASEM Ministers of Education Meeting in Riga in spring 2015. We promote closer cooperation in the education sector between Asia and Europe, especially in the areas of transparent quality assurance and fair recognition, professional skills and life-long learning, as we believe there is a high potential to exchange experience and learn from each other. Latvia is also actively taking part in the ASEM innovative skills working group and ASEM Bridging declaration implementation working group.
Question: The Latvian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Art Museum RIGA Bourse will jointly host ASEF’s 31st Board of Governors’ Meeting on 29 and 30 May 2014 in Riga. Riga is also Europe’s capital of culture for 2014. Can you suggest three things the other Board members and people who visit Riga should not miss during their stay?
Answer: This year Riga city has a particularly rich variety of cultural events. Everyone has an opportunity to find something of their interest. The most comprehensive review of cultural events is summarized in RIGA – 2014 website.
In my opinion, the key to the heart of Riga can be found in three ways:
The first one is to recognize and feel the “framework”, in which this city lives. It is a walk through the medieval Old Town, Art Nouveau districts that are associated with the name of the Sergey Eisenstein family and numerous parks, which will be in a pure springtide in May.
My second suggestion is to test the world of art and music in Riga. Latvian National Museum of Art will take special care of it. There will be an exhibition of artist Vija Celmins, which is going to be completed with works. Display of works of new media artist will be held in Exhibition Hall Arsenals; Museum of Decorative Arts and Design as well as Putti Gallery will focus on history of fashion and design of contemporary jewellery. A photography exhibition Urban Viewfinders will take place In Riga Art Space; a naïve art exhibition in gallery Noass, which floats in the river Daugava; an international contemporary art exhibition In Search of the Horizon in Latvian Railway History museum.
The third recommendation is to feel the rhythm of life in Riga, which during the weekend becomes a little indolent and bohemian with eco-product and handcraft markets in Kalnciema Quarter or Bergs Bazaar, Sunday brunches for gourmands in best known Riga’s restaurants, for example, Biblioteka No1 or Three Chefs, small organ concerts at Dome Cathedral.
Welcome to Riga!