Weekly Summary of News in Latvia

CURRENT LATVIA
13 - 20 October 2003
Wk. 42 / 2003 (528)


FOREIGN POLICY EVENTS

15 October

State Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Maris Riekstins, met with a delegation from the European Affairs Committee of the Dutch House of Representatives. The Delegation is preparing a report on the progress achieved by the 10 countries acceding to the EU prior to the EU Accession Treaty to be ratified by the Netherlands at the end of this year. Mr Riekstins and Under-Secretary of State Andris Piebalgs informed the delegation about Latvia's preparedness to join the European Union and touched on areas such as administrative capacity, anti-corruption measures, and Latvia's position on and potential contribution to the EU Wider Europe-New Neighbourhood policy.

16 October 

Prime Minister Einars Repse and Minister of Foreign Affairs Sandra Kalniete took part in a meeting of the Intergovernmental Conference in Brussels. This was the third meeting of the Conference, but the second time when discussions took place at the level of Heads of State and Government. Concrete proposals are awaited from the Italian Presidency since these would allow discussions on the EU Constitutional Treaty to move forward. Latvia stated its position on the new draft EU Constitutional Treaty during the previous meetings.

 

17 - 19 October

During an informal meeting in Arrajolusa, Portugal, presidents of six European Union member and prospective member states noted that this was a time of mood fluctuation and doubt and urged the strengthening of public support for the EU. Besides Latvia's President Vaira Vike-Freiberga, the meeting was attended by the President of Finland Tarja Halonen, President of Germany Johannes Rau, President of Hungary Ferenc Madl, President of Poland Aleksander Kwasniewski and President of Portugal Jorge Sampaio. During the meeting the six presidents called for bigger adjustment among the aims of monetary policy, economic achievements and social justice. They considered that the new Constitutional Treaty of the EU that would be elaborated in discussions had to provide for better balance between economic and social aims as well as bigger competence to the member states in co-ordination of the economic and employment policy. The Presidents also said that the next year EU enlargement represented a challenge that would bring all its history and culture wealth to the Union, but also increase the differences between the levels of development and change the internal balance. President's Chancery (18.10.03).

 

17 October

At the invitation of the Speaker of Sweden's Riksdag, Björn von Sydow, Speaker of the Saeima Ingrida Ude paid a working visit to Stockholm where she participated in a discussion about interparliamentary cooperation in the enlarged European Union. The work of the ingergovernmental conference was also considered. Following the iniative of Sweden, a working group was established during the meeting of parliamentary speakers of EU member and candidate states in May 2003 in Athens; the working group is to draft proposals about promoting cooperation among the national parliaments of the countries in the EU. The participants in the discussion agreed to prepare a special report to the conference of parliament speakers of the EU member states that is scheduled for July 2004 in the Hague. Saeima (20.10.03)

 

 

 

 

22 - 24 October

Official visit to Latvia by Speaker of the the Riksdag (Swedish parliament), Bjorn von Sydow

23 - 24 October

Minister of Foreign Affairs Sandra Kalniete to attend the Donor Conference on Iraq in Madrid, Kingdom of Spain

26 - 27 October

Prime Minister Einars Repse to attend a meeting of the Baltic and Nordic Prime Ministers in Oslo, Kingdom of Norway

27 October

Minister of Foreign Affairs Sandra Kalniete to attend the EU Intergovernmental Conference in Brussels, Kingdom of Belgium

27 - 28 October

Working visit to Latvia by Vice-President of the European Commission, Neil Kinnock

3-4 November

Official visit to Latvia by the chairperson of the National Council of the Slovak Republic, Pavol Hrusovsky

 

6 November

Working visit to Latvia by Belgium's State Secretary for European Affairs, Jacques Simonet

 

 

Statement by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on the adoption of UN Security Council Resolution 1511 on the future of Iraq

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs welcomes the unanimously adopted by the UN Security Council of Resolution 1511 on 16 October 2003, which sets the course for the future political development of Iraq. This resolution provides a legal foundation for the expansion of stabilisation forces in Iraq and testifies to the commitment by the international community towards promoting the renewal of Iraq.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs (17.10.03)

 

HOME AFFAIRS

EU citizens living in Latvia to have the right to vote in municipal elections

The Ministry of Justice has drafted amendments to the Latvian Constitution so as to allow citizens of EU member states permanently residing in Latvia to vote and be elected in municipal elections.

In view of Latvia's anticipated accession to the EU and positive outcome of the EU referendum held on 20 September 2003, the Latvian Constitution and several laws need to be amended so as to achieve harmony between the Latvian and EU legal systems and practices.

The task force, initiated by the Latvian Prime Minister, Einars Repse, has concluded that only Article 101 in the Constitution needs to be amended. This article says that only citizens of Latvia have the right to vote in municipal elections.

The European Community founding treaty stipulates, however, that every EU citizen permanently residing in some other EU member state but not holding citizenship of that state may vote and be elected in municipal elections in that state on the same terms as that state's citizens. The draft EU Constitutional Treaty discussed by the Intergovernmental Conference also contains similar provisions.

BNS (17.10.03)

 

Presentation of the textbook NATO and Latvia's Security

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has produced a textbook in Latvian entitled NATO and Latvia's Security. The publication has been compiled by Uldis Umulis, history teacher at Limbazi Secondary School No. 1, in cooperation with the Latvian History Teachers' Association. At the initiative of the Latvian Transatlantic Organisation, a version of the publication has also been published in Russian.

This is the first textbook for Latvian schools that incorporates the history of NATO, current development of the Alliance, and Latvia's progress toward membership of NATO. It is supplemented by extensive informative material, aiding comprehension and stimulating discussion of the themes considered. The National Centre for Curriculum Development and Examination has approved the inclusion of this textbook in the list of recommended literature for general education institutions in Latvia. Copies of the book will be distributed free of charge to schools and teachers throughout Latvia.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs (14.10.03)

 

Israeli police interested in Latvia's witness protection programme

Top representatives of the Israeli police and the Israeli ambassador to Latvia met the Latvian Interior Minister as they wished to learn about Latvia's witness protection programme and requested methodological assistance for establishing a similar programme in Israel.

The Israeli representatives offered to share their experience in investigating bombings.

The Latvian and Israeli officials also discussed future cooperation, especially investigating economic crimes, as well as the upcoming visit of the Latvian Interior Minister Maris Gulbis to Israel in November.

Participating in the meeting were the Israeli Ambassador to Latvia Garry Cohen, the Israeli Police Deputy Inspector General Ichak Akranovitch, the Lahish (Israel) regional police chief Nisim Mor and the Israeli police attaché to the Baltic states Vjaceslavs Palatniks, as well as the Latvian Interior Minister and the ministry's European and International Affairs Department Director Karlis Trautmanis.

BNS (15.10.03)

 

ECONOMICS AND BUSINESS

Capital Intelligence raises Latvia's long-term rating to BBB

Market development rating agency Capital Intelligence has boosted Latvia's long-term rating in foreign currencies from BBB- to BBB with the outlook: positive.

The BBB rating means that it is safe to issue loans to Latvia and that it carries out its responsibilities. Nevertheless, the possibility still remains that some changes may occur in the country's economy and finances.

Latvia's short-term rating in foreign currencies is approved at A3, while the long-term rating for the local currency is on BBB+. Short-term loans in local currency are rated at A2. The outlook for all ratings is positive.

The agency reported that the ratings were raised because the Latvian economy has in recent years shown very good development, despite the economic slump in the EU and the US. Furthermore, the country's GDP per capita has increased by 30% since 1999.

Latvia's medium-term development perspectives are also seen as very good, as structural reforms continue, investment flow increases and the country prepares to join the EU next year.

BNS (14.10.03)

 

European Commission commends GDP growth in Latvia

The European Commission (EC) has a high opinion of Latvia's economic development and the growth of the GDP, commented Klaus Regling, Director General for Economic and Financial Affairs at the EC, told the Latvian Minister of Economics Juris Lujans. Mr Regling also noted that Riga is an attractive city and once becoming capital of an EU member state would see a rapid increase in tourism.

During their meeting, Mr Regling and Mr Lujans also discussed the business climate and labour market in Latvia, as well as the Cardiff Report, which, prepared in accordance with EC's recommendations, is used by the EC to monitor situation in EU member states.

LETA (15.10.03)

 

Latvian-Russian customs cooperation agreement takes effect

According to the Latvian State Revenue Service General Customs Board, the Latvian-Russian Agreement on Cooperation and Mutual Assistance in Customs Affairs took effect on 15 October 2003.

Under the agreement, Latvia and Russia will simplify customs formalities so as to facilitate and speed up the movement of goods between the two countries.

They will also exchange information about import, export and transit bans and restrictions, movement of goods, known or suspected smugglers, contraband goods and vehicles used in smuggling and innovations in smuggling practices.

Latvia and Russia will also cooperate in preventing and investigating illegal movement of high-risk goods such as arms, ammunition, antiquities, hazardous substances, etc.

The Latvian-Russian Agreement on Cooperation and Mutual Assistance in Customs Affairs was signed in Riga on April 22, 2002.

BNS (15.10.03)

 

LATEST STATISTICS

Compared with the corresponding period last year, construction costs in Latvia in the 3rd quarter of 2003 decreased on average by 2.4%. The costs of construction of main underground pipelines dropped by 8.4%. There were also declines of 2.6% in the construction of transport facilities, 2.1% in the reconstruction and construction of industrial, agricultural and trade facilities and 0.7% in the renovation of education and healthcare facilities. Over the same period costs increased in the construction of private homes (by 1.5%) and in the renovation of administrative and office buildings (by 0.8%). The fall of 3.9% in the price of construction materials accounted for the decrease in construction costs. The costs of maintenance and operation of machinery and mechanisms rose by 1.6% and workers' pay went up by 1.3%. Central Statistical Bureau (17.10.03)

The total freight turnover of Latvian ports from January through September 2003 stood at 42 537 000 tons which is 5.9% up from the respective period last year when 40 171 200 tons were handled. Of the total, 39 667 500 tons were dispatched and 2 870 100 tons received. Cargo turnover of the Ventspils, Riga and Liepaja ports in the first nine months of this year totalled 41 926 000 tons, up 6% from last year when 39 407 100 tons of cargo were handled. In seven small ports of Latvia - Salacgriva, Mersrags, Roja, Pavilosta, Lielupe, Engure and Skulte - cargo turnover totalled 611 600 tons, which is 20% less than in the same period in 2002. An increase in cargo turnover was seen only in two small ports: Salacgriva and Roja. LETA (14.10.03)

Latvijas Hipoteku un Zemes Banka (Mortgage and Land Bank), the only state-owned commercial bank in Latvia, has posted profits of LVL 1.166 million for the first nine months of this year. In September the bank's profits were LVL 107 000. Assets of the bank rose 10.1% during the period to LVL 214.046 million. The bank had issued loans worth LVL 180.945 million by October 1, up 36.5% on the beginning of the year. Deposits increased to LVL 118.159 million, up 15.6% since January 1. Capital and reserves stood at LVL 23.651 million on October 1. BNS (14.10.03)

The joint-stock commercial bank Nord/LB Latvija registered LVL 1.2 million in profit in the first three quarters of this year. The bank's assets increased 29% by the end of September, amounting to LVL 185 million, credit portfolio - 46 %, up to LVL 129 million, deposits - 29%, up to LVL 82.7 million. LETA (15.10.03)

 

EXCHANGE RATES

 

SOCIETY, EDUCATION, CULTURE AND SPORTS

Monument to Konstantins Cakste to be cast in Finland

A scale model of a monument to World War II Latvian resistance movement leader Konstantins Cakste was approved by experts and representatives of a task force, which had proposed erecting the monument.

The monument will be cast in a Finnish plant not far from Tampere. Estimated costs for material and labour are ¬ 120 000.

The monument, which will be situated in the centre of Riga at the intersection Brivibas Street and Elizabetes Street, is designed by one of Latvia's most renowned sculptors, Ojars Feldbergs. The setting, constituting an area extending from the monument to Konstantins Cakste to the Freedom Monument, will be called the Path of the Sun; its designer is the architect Juris Germanis.

Konstantins Cakste (1901-1945), son of Latvia's first President Janis Cakste, was the chairman of the Latvian Central Council (LCP), which aimed to re-establish an independent, democratic Latvia and promote the formation of a confederation of Baltic States.

In 1944 the Gestapo arrested many of the LCP leaders, including Konstantins Cakste, who died on the way from the concentration camp in Stutthof to the concentration camp in Lauenburg in February 1945.

LETA (15.10.03)

 

Winners of the Baltic Assembly awards in art, science and literature announced

The jury, consisting of experts from Estonia, Latvia and Lithania, met in Riga on October 20 to select winners of the Baltic Assembly's awards in art, science and literature. For the literature prize, they chose the novel In the Hovering of Dove by Vytautas Bubnis. The Estonian artist and arts manager Jaan Tomik was selected for his video opus Peeter and Mart that was shown at the 50th Biennale in Venice. The science award went to Latvia's art historian, Elita Grosmane for the monograph on Researching the Baroque in Courland: 1660-1740. The awards will be presented in Vilnius, during the next session of the Baltic Assembly, from November 24 to 28. This will be the tenth time that these awards are presented.

Saeima (20.10.03)

 

Professor Imants Freibergs elected to UNESCO Intergovernmental Council of the International Programme for the Development of Communication (IPDC)

On 13 October 2003, during the 32nd Session of the UNESCO General Conference, elections were held for committees, commissions and other sub-units of the General Conference. Professor Imants Freibergs, President of Latvia's Information Technology and Telecommunications Association, was elected to the UNESCO International Programme for the Development of Communications.

The Programme has been established to promote the development of mass communication resources in more than 130 developing countries, ensure increased technical and human resources for the media, modernize news agencies and broadcasting organizations, and promote freedom of the press and media independence.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs (14.10.03)

 

 

CALENDAR OF ARTS EVENTS

22 September - 2 November

Exhibition devoted to Mark Rothko's Centenary, Riga, State Museum of Art

9 - 23 October

"Arēna" Festival of New Music, Riga

24 October - 24 November

Contemporary British Video and Photo Art Exhibition "Reality Check", Riga, Exhibition Hall Arsenals; State Museum of Art

4 - 8 November

Multimedia project "Drawings are in the box" (Zīmējumi ir kastītē) by painter Ilmars Blumbergs and art expert Ivars Runkovskis, Riga, Riga Art Gallery 

14 - 16 November

Latvian Contemporary Drama Festival "Skate 2003", Riga, e-mail katarina@drama.lv

4 - 6 December

Seminar for Translators of Latvian Literature, Riga; Writers' Union of Latvia, tel. 7555180, fax: 77554034, e-mail: rakstnieki@apollo.lv


Information bulletin "Current Latvia" is a compilation of press releases and news reports drawn from the mass media and official sources. Not all of the views published reflect the official position of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.