25 years of Nordic cooperation in Latvia

The Nordic Council of Ministers’ Office in Latvia marked its 25th anniversary in 2016. In the last quarter of a century, the Nordic countries and Latvia have become partners who have experience to share and much to learn from one another. The most valuable asset that the Nordic countries and Latvia share is their people – their personal memories and values, their friends, inspiring personalities and their visions of the future.

In the last 25 years we have met a lot of interesting people who are moving the Nordic-Baltic region forward. We asked 21 people from Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania – seven from each country – to share their ideas for the future and special moments that relate to the Nordic countries.


Richard Bærug is a Norwegian, speaks fluent Latvian. He has lived in Latvia since the beginning of the 1990s and was the first head of the Nordic Council of Ministers Information Office in Latvia and the founder and the vice-rector of Vidzeme University College. Since 2009 has been developing Grand Hotel Ushba in Svaneti, Georgia. Currently a PhD student of Media and Communication at the University of Tartu, Estonia.

Elita Cakule is Latvian, born in town Rēzekne located in the southeast part of Latvia, situated in the rural Latgale region. She moved to Norway 20 years ago. Now she works for the Norwegian Association of Local and Regional Authorities with international capacity and institutional building projects in Baltic countries, Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria, Ukraine, Russia. Elita says: My first encounter with the Nordic countries happened when I was reading “Emil of Lönneberga” by Astrid Lindgren. In the eyes of a child, there was absolutely no difference between a Kuciņi farm in Latgale and the Katthult farm in Småland. The enterprising, kind-hearted and consistently innovative Emil was the one who made the first impression of northerners, which was later much confirmed and supplemented by the first living northerner I ever met. It was Richard Bærug.

Viktors Makarovs is Latvian. Fluent in Danish. He is Advisor to the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Latvia for development cooperation and representation of Latvia in international organisations on questions concerning political rights and freedoms, issues related to the Russian language information space, and cooperation with non-governmental organisations.

Dr. Vaira Vike-Freiberga is President of the Club de Madrid and former President of Latvia (1999-2007). She was instrumental in achieving membership in the EU and NATO for her country and was Special Envoy on UN reform. She has published extensively and is much in demand as a speaker. She is a member, board member or patron of 30 international organisations, including the World Leadership Alliance, the Board of Trustees of the Nizami Ganjavi International Centre (Co-chair), and the European Council on Foreign Relations, as well as five Academies. She chaired the High-level group on freedom and pluralism of media in the EU in 2011-12. In 2015 she was a member of two High-level groups on European security and defence. Currently, she is a member of the Independent Team of High-level Advisers for the UN Economic and Social Council Dialogue on UN development.

Kaspars Goba is Latvian documentary film director and photographer. He has worked as a director, scriptwriter and cinematographer on more than 20 documentaries focusing on social and environmental issues, including the internationally acclaimed homo@lv, which was the first documentary from Latvia screened at the Berlin International Film Festival. Kaspars has published two photo albums - Icelanders. Between Glaciers and Lava (2006) and Islands of Riga (2014), both of which received prizes of the Latvian Book Publishers’ Association as The Best Photo Albums. Since 2013 Kaspars together with his colleagues is running Rucka Artist Residency in Cesis, Latvia.

Anders Paalzow is Swedish. Lives in Latvia for the past 17 years. Professor in Economics Anders Paalzow is Rector of Stockholm School of Economics in Riga since 1999. He is also Chairman of the Board for the Baltic International Centre of Economic Policy Studies (BICEPS) and Connect Latvia. His main research areas are macroeconomics, economic growth, competitiveness, entrepreneurship and education.

Eriks Esenvalds is one of the most popular contemporary Latvian composers. Ešenvalds compose in many different music genres but especially his intensely practical choral music is steadily gaining appreciation across the world. Ešenvalds’ last major project is a multimedia symphony based on the Aurora borealis, where he, along with filmmakers, went on expeditions to Iceland, Norway, Greenland and Alaska to gather folklore materials on the Northern Lights. The multimedia symphony Northern Lights was praised as the Best Performance of the Year and received The Grand Music Award 2016 in Latvia.