Thursday, April 07, 2005

Oh my God, the horse tripped, and by the way...

I haven't posted here for months, but I think an English version of something I drafted for my newspaper after the state visit to Latvia merits summarizing. The editors were in one of their periodic dimwitted moods and missed the point. So this reporter's notebook piece (reflecting, of course, a point of view more than news), was spiked.

Latvian businessmen missed the main event of President Vaira Vike-Freibergas state visit to Sweden as played up in the Swedish press.
According to the tabloids, Swedish Queen Silvia looked distressed when, while approaching the Royal Palace courtyard, one of her chariot horses tripped.
And by the way, the husband of the president of Latvia, Imants Freibergs happened to be sitting in the chariot next to Silvia during "the horse drama", the papers wrote.
The Latvian business delegation, for the most part, missed this major national Swedish event while walking from their bus to the palace courtyard, but got to see and greet the president due to the slight delay of various ceremonies (while the horse got up, shook itself off, and the Swedes – seriously– started setting up an investigative commission regarding the stumbling horse).
I guess you could call this kind of press attention toward the Latvian state visit a sign of normalcy. After all, the Latvian press doesn't cover the visit of, say, the mayor of Bujumbura, but rather some bizarre incident where another 90 year-old pensioner living on a side street in Pardaugava is fined for not raising the flag on her house to honor the distinguished foreign guest.

Well, the rest of the piece went on to chat about some "real" issues, how Minister of Economics Krisjanis Karins had talked about Swedish labor unions forcing Latvian construction companies out of the market, how he was loudly applauded for saying Latvia had a 15 % corporate tax rate (there were some 300 Swedish businessmen registered for a forum).

Anyway, that is how our neighbors, who own Latvia's banks, telecommunications, forestry companies, part of air Baltic, and even run Irish Ryanair from Sweden, view Latvia. The media, not the business community, to be sure.

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