Egils Levits: A Journey from Legal Scholar to Latvia's President
Egils Levits, born on June 30, 1955, in Riga, Latvia, is a Latvian politician of Jewish descent who assumed office as the President of Latvia on July 8, 2019. With a background as a lawyer, he has served as a judge and a member of the European Court of Justice since 2004.
During the later years of the Soviet occupation, Levits was a prominent figure in the Latvian National Front (LNK), contributing to the declaration of renewed independence for Latvia in 1990. He served as Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Justice of Latvia from 1993 to 1994 and later as Latvia's ambassador to Hungary, Austria, and Switzerland from 1994 to 1995.
He was then appointed as a judge at the European Court of Human Rights, a position he held until 2004. In 2015, Levits finished second in the direct presidential elections in Latvia, following Raimonds Vējonis. Despite being an independent candidate, he was supported by the National Alliance. In 2018, Levits was once again appointed as a judge at the European Court of Justice, and in 2019, he published his memoirs.
Egils Levits was born in Riga, Latvia, during the Soviet occupation, to a Jewish family. His father, Jonas Levits, was an engineer, while his mother, Ingeborga Levita (née Berga), was a Latvian poet known under the pen name "Ija Zemzare."
Many of his father's relatives perished in the Holocaust. In 1972, the family emigrated from the Soviet Union, initially with plans to move to Israel. However, they settled in Germany, where some of his mother's relatives resided.
Levits completed his studies at the University of Hamburg's Faculty of Law in 1982 and also pursued studies in the Faculty of Social Sciences and Philosophy, graduating in 1985.
He lived with his family in Germany until 1990 when they returned to Latvia following the country's renewed independence.
Involvement in Latvian Politics:
Levits became actively involved in Latvian politics in the late 1980s. He joined the Latvian National Front and participated in the Civic Congress of Latvians, which was founded in 1989. He played a role in drafting Latvia's Declaration of Independence in 1990. Between 1992 and 1993, he served as Latvia's ambassador to Switzerland and Germany.
In the 1993 parliamentary elections, he was elected as a member of the parliament. From August 1993 to September 1994, Levits held the position of Latvian Minister of Justice, and from 1994 to 1995, he served as Latvia's ambassador to Austria, Switzerland, and Hungary.
Levits was nominated as a presidential candidate by the National Alliance party in both the 2011 and 2015 Latvian presidential elections but was not successful in either attempt. In early 2019, his name once again emerged as a possible presidential candidate, and on April 15, the coalition parties announced their support for Levits. He was ultimately elected as the President of Latvia in parliamentary elections held on May 29, 2019.
Egils Levits assumed office as the President of Latvia on July 8, 2019.
In 1995, Levits was appointed as Latvia's representative to the European Court of Human Rights. Since 2004, he has represented Latvia at the European Court of Justice, with his term set to expire in 2024.
Levits has traditionally expressed conservative views on various Latvian political issues. During his tenure as a judge at the European Court, he remained actively engaged in Latvia's evolving political landscape. For instance, he stated that the rejection of refugees and the refusal to ratify the Istanbul Convention did not violate Latvia's constitution.
Levits also expressed skepticism about making significant changes to the financial system and regarded Latvia as one of the strongest economies in Europe. Despite not being a member of any political party, Levits has expressed a desire to maintain his independence.
Egils Levits is married to Andra Levita, a genealogist, and they have a son and a daughter. In 2019, Levits published his first book, "Valstsgriba: Idejas un domas Latvijai 1985–2018" (State Spirit: Ideas and Thoughts for Latvia 1985-2018), where he combines articles and interviews with his personal insights as a judge at the European Union's Court of Justice.
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