Latvian 'Iron Lady' joins European Union's president race

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London, Nov. 17 (ANI): Former Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga, known as the "Iron Lady of the North", has become the first woman contender for the post of EU's first president.

The race for the European Union's first president has not closed as yet. And with so much still to play for, diplomats have warned of a long night on Thursday, when EU leaders meet to decide names over dinner, The Independent reports.

Vaira Vike-Freiberga, who was first president of Latvia until 2007 and led the former Soviet state into the EU and NATO, is known for her charisma and outspoken views.

She was so popular at home that thousands of grateful Latvians turned out to lay flowers when she retired.

Despite her vigorous campaign on Facebook, a number of European nations look unlikely to unseat the current favourite, Belgian Prime Minister Herman van Rompuy.

However, her candidacy coincides with growing demands to appoint a woman as either President or EU High Representative, the number two post created by the Lisbon Treaty.

Commissioner Neelie Kroes and her Swedish counterpart, Margot Wallstrom have thrown their weight behind Vike-Freiberga and argue that it is "utterly undemocratic" that more women do not hold senior positions in the EU "given that women account for 52 per cent of the population in Europe".

Kroes, the high-profile competition tsar, says the gender imbalance is so great that she would rather support a non-Dutch woman over her own Prime Minister, Jan Peter Balkenende, another leading candidate.

"Gender matters more than nationality. There are so many good women in government jobs, they just have to be encouraged to apply. I think there has to be a female appointment, so that Europeans can see that Brussels is representative." Kroes said. (ANI)

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