A member of the People’s Party from 1998-2011 – she has only recently joined Unity – Straujuma took a job at the agriculture ministry in 1999 and the following year became state secretary. When Latvia joined the EU in 2004, she was given the job of arranging EU funds and direct payments to farms, where approximately one in five working-age Latvians were still employed.From 2007-10 she was state secretary at the ministry of regional development and municipalities, but was promoted to agriculture minister in the Dombrovskis-led government in 2011. Straujuma controlled the crucial campaign for EU funds that won an increase indirect payments for Latvian farmers – something she considers one of her greatest achievements.She may be Latvia’s first female leader, but women in top jobs are not uncommon: Vaira Vike-Freiberga, who served two terms as president between 1999 and 2007, is seen as Latvia’s most effective head of state since the country’s independence from the Soviet Union. Observers see Straujuma – often compared to Germany’s Angela Merkel – as the kind of leader that Latvians prefer, strong and technically adept rather than flashy and charismatic. When she was appointed in January, few observers thought caretaker prime minister Laimdota Straujuma could keep Latvia’s government on the rails until scheduled general elections in October. In the event she not only did so, but came through the election with her four-party coalition government intact, and will now lead Latvia through its term in the EU presidency.Whether Straujuma, largely unknown to the public before her unexpected elevation, can survive the full four-year term is still doubtful. But her second coalition government, a co-operation between her centre-right Unity Party – allied to the Reform Party – the centre-left Union of Greens and Farmers and the nationalist National Alliance, was approved by parliament in Riga in November.Straujuma has been in charge since she was appointed by president Andris Berzinš after the resignation of Valdis Dombrovskis following the Riga supermarket disaster in which 52 people died. She studied agricultural economics and began her career as a consultant helping farmers adapt to the demands of a market economy.