RIGA, August 15 (Itar-Tass) —— Latvia’s new president Andris Berzins says that the Latvian language must be the only official language in this Baltic republic, but he intends to speak Russian when communicating with Russians. He said this on Monday in an interview with the newspaper “Chas” (The Hour), a Russian language newspaper in Latvia.
“I used to speak Russian, and I will continue to do so. I will certainly speak Latvian when making official statements, as the protocol requires,” he said. “But in unofficial conversations I will speak Russian if in this way I can better carry my thought across, or I will speak English, or German, why not?”
“Under the Constitution Latvian is the state language. And as long as I am president, I will not change this article and l will not endorse its changing. There must be one common language in a small country, such as Latvia, in order to ensure stability. The Latvian language is simultaneously a means of communication and the corner-stone of statehood,” the president noted.
He believes Latvians should have the command of Russian and use it in communication, as this is a big advantage, and it is unreasonable not use it. “The lack of knowledge of languages is a problem not only for ethnic Russians but also for Latvians. The command of Russian is an advantage and it is unreasonable not to use it,” Berzins said.
The head of state also acknowledged that the question of the language is often politicized in Latvia, as this is a very “cheap” way of conducting an election campaign. “But I don’t think this is fair,” he said.
Andris Berzins was elected president by secret voting by Latvian parliament on June 2, 2011 and was inaugurated on June 8. He had said earlier that he was prepared to give interviews in Russian, unlike his predecessor Valdis Zetlers, and he also stated his intention to continue the course at improving relations with Latvia’s Eastern neighbors – Russia and Belarus.