In English

Lolita Cigane in various forms has been active with several international organizations and in Latvian politics since mid-1990s. From 1997-1999 she worked for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty in Riga and Prague as a news analyst and correspondent. From 2001-2007 she managed civil society projects which resulted in serious clean-up of Latvian political party and campaign finances. She headed the Latvia branch of Transparency International from 2008-2010, and in 2010 was elected member of parliament, serving as the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Finance (2013-2014) and chair of the European Affairs committee from 2014 -2018. Active in domestic civil society initiatives and projects, as well as having worked with various  International Organisations (such as OSCE, CoE PACE, OSI, IFES), Ms. Cigane is now a board member of ECFR (European Council on Foreign Relations). Her interests include current and historical developments in former Communist regions, European Union politics and policies, good governance, elections, and election campaigns. She is a frequent commentator of political affairs in the Latvian media. She holds MA in International Relations and European Affairs from Central European University in Budapest, Hungary and MSc in International Political Economy from London School of Economics, UK.  Having decided to take a break from active politics in 2018, she currently works as international consultant in the issues of political finance, elections and good governance, as well as visiting faculty at Riga Grade School of Law and Stockholm School of Economics. 

Lolita Cigane has worked with the issues of campaign and political party financing since 2001 when she was first the project director of a campaign finance monitoring project co-run by Transparency International Latvia and Soros Foundation Latvia. The project was a response to a complete lack of regulation of campaign and political finance at the backdrop of Latvia’s bid to join NATO and the European Union (joined in 2004). Latvia at that time was reputed as having high levels of political corruption. Subsequent successful monitoring and advocacy projects run by Lolita Cigane in 2002, 2005, 2006 resulted in a substantial clean-up of political and campaign finance system in Latvia. After successful advocacy state financing to political parties was introduced in 2012. Ms. Cigane was the chairperson of the Board of Transparency International Latvia in 2008-2010. While working with OSCE/ODIHR election observation missions as political analyst and in other capacities, she was also one of the first practitioners that helped to include campaign finance element in OSCE/ODIHR election observation work. Analyses of this element within election observation is now a standard practice.  From 2010-2018 Lolita Cigane was a member of Latvia’s Parliament (Saeima). While working in State administration and municipal affairs committee, she actively participated in drafting a single encompassing law that covers all aspects of campaigning and authored amendments that address administrative resource abuse and a ban of paid Tv advertising 30 days prior to election. After successful consultations with stakeholders the ban on Tv advertising was compensated for by state procurement of organization of candidate  debates on both public and commercial Tv. After a decision to take a break from politics in November 2018, Lolita Cigane now works as an international consultant, including in the field of campaign financing. Her most recent assignments include: development of civil society campaign finance and administrative resource abuse monitoring project in Serbia, addressing  3rd party participation in campaigns in Moldova, attempts to strengthen the mandate of State Audit Office that oversees campaign financing in Georgia and others.  

I am tremendously lucky to have been born at a particular time in a particular place. Latvia 1973! My birthplace has allowed me to partake in perhaps the most tremendous political and social seismic shift of the world in the 20th century - the downfall  and collapse of the Soviet empire. Latvia was occupied by the Soviet Union in 1940 and this hugely impacted the fate of my family on both my mother's and father's sides. As a child at family gatherings, I witnessed how two of my dear uncles repeatedly relived the immense tensions of the Second World War - one of them had served in the German Nazi occupation army, the other one in the Soviet Army, literally facing each other from the two opposing trenches.   

As a child during the Brezhnev’s reign of the Soviet Union, I lived in a culture of half-truths and whispers. I would stand in the hall with my ear pressed to the closed kitchen door in my parents' humble soviet apartment trying to catch the punch line of the numerous anti-Soviet jokes that in hushed voices were cautiously passed around by my parents and their close friends. Similarly, I was bewildered why one of the few true joys of my soviet childhood - the red pioneer scarf  was not marveled over by my father.  

The revolts against the Soviet system in 1980s for me culminated in 1989, when at the age of 16, I could be one important link in a human chain that ran from northern Estonia, through Latvia, and ended in southern Lithuania, demonstrating to the world that the Baltic States had never mentally been conquered by Soviet dogma and deserve to be independent. I remember the moment when we joined hands in what has now become to be known as the Baltic Way. I felt electricity running from the fingertips of my left hand to the tips of fingers of my right hand.  

I owe a immense debt of gratitude to those who fought for and established independence for Latvia in 1990. At that time, who would have thought that a girl born during the years of Brezhnev’s frozen stagnation, who went to a small primary school under orthodox soviet control, would receive a generous scholarship to study at one of the best universities in the world - London School of Economics! My professional values and attitudes, however, came of age during the wonderful year I spent studying at the Central European University in Budapest, Hungary in 1999 - 2000.  
In my professional life I have had wonderful opportunities to work with international organizations: Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), Transparency International (TI), International Foundation of Electoral Systems (IFES), Open Society Institute (OSI). I have also had generous opportunities to work at home in Latvia - as a journalist for Radio Free Europe, as an anti-corruption and good governance expert at Transparency International Latvia, and the public think tank Providus. As chairperson of the board of Transparency International Latvia chapter I lead the recovery of this vital anti-corruption wathcdog during its gloomiest years of 2008-2010 when we almost had to close the organization down due to organizational and financial disarray. 

Since 2010, I work as a Member of Parliament in Latvia. My present work is inspiring and frustrating, rewarding and disappointing, fraught with personal attacks, and frustrating loss of faith at times. Nonetheless, inspiration, support from my family, friends, acquaintances and often people I do not personally know, keep me going and help me gauge my work in a broader context of ever evolving progress that mankind creates. 

A letter to young European parliamentarians

When soft power turns hard 


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