In September 1991L. returned to being an independent state, but the detachment from the USSR raised many problems both for the serious consequences on the country’s economic situation and therefore on its political stability, and for the difficult definition of a new international position. The expectation of rapid integration into Western political, economic and military structures (in particular NATO and the European Union) remained unfulfilled. Furthermore, the reaction to the Russification measures, which in the previous decades had caused a resizing of the Latvian component with respect to the total population, took on the character of a policy of discrimination against the Slavic minorities present in the country, aggravating the conflicts with Moscow, which remained however one of the main economic partners of the country.1992, whose retirement was nevertheless completed in 1994 ; in the same year, after a prolonged and bitter debate, a law was adopted which provided for the automatic recognition of citizenship only for those who had resided in Latvia from before 1940 and for their descendants, establishing for the other residents (in most of Russian nationality, but also Ukrainians and Belarusians) a complex naturalization procedure. The demarcation of the border between the two states, which had been changed in Soviet times compared to that established in 1920, was also a source of tension with Moscow and was subject to renegotiation starting in April 1996.
After independence, Latvia undertook to obtain a strengthening of ties with Western Europe: member of the Council of States of the Baltic Sea since 1992 and of the Council of Europe since February 1995, in April of the same year it signed an agreement of association with the EU, to which he applied for membership in December. Furthermore, in 1994 it joined, together with other former Soviet states, the cooperation program with NATO called Partnership for peace, but the prospect of full membership in the alliance was hampered by the contrary opinion expressed by Moscow. Even relations with the other Baltic republics, despite the start since 1992of an integration process, they were not without difficulties, especially in relation to the definition of maritime borders; an agreement with Estonia was reached in this regard in July 1996, while negotiations with Lithuania remained open. Internally, the nationalist alignment that had brought the country to independence subsequently underwent several splits and political life was characterized by a certain instability. After the elections of June 1993, the first after independence, V. Birkvas (1993 – 94) and M. Gailis (1994 – 95), both members of the moderate nationalist party called Via Latone, took over the leadership of the government., established itself as the first party, with 32 % of the votes. In July 1993 the Parliament reinstated the Constitution of 1922, which provided for a parliamentary type system, and elected G. Ulmanis, an exponent of the Latvian Peasant Union, a centrist formation that had obtained 10 % of the votes, as president of the Republic. A decline in the Latvian Way and a fragmentation of parliamentary representation were the result of subsequent legislative elections, held in September-October 1995: only after difficult consultations, in December 1995, a coalition cabinet was formed, comprising a broad party array, led by the independent A. Skele, while Ulmanis was re-elected to the presidency of the Republic in June 1996. The various successive governments after independence pursued a liberal-oriented economic policy, adopting a vast program of privatizations and measures aimed at encouraging foreign investments; however, there was a decline in all the main productive sectors, and the difficult economic conditions of the country worsened in 1995, in connection with the failure of numerous small banking institutions. In August 1997after the government resigned following the emergence of several cases of public corruption, a new broad coalition executive was formed by the conservative G. Krasts. The legislative elections of October 1998 saw the affirmation of the People’s Party (a formation led by Skele formed in May) which won 24.2 % of the votes and 24 seats, while the Latvian Way, while partially regaining its own electorate, it got only 18.1 % of the votes and 21 seats. However, it was an exponent of the latter, V. Kristopans, who led the new executive formed in November. A constitutional referendum, held at the same time as the elections, abrogated, albeit with a narrow majority (53%), some limits on access to Latvian nationality, which involved, for the most part, residents of Russian origin. In June 1999 the Parliament elected V. Vike-Freiberga as President of the Republic.