Books on Latvia
After a brief period of independence between the two World Wars, Latvia was annexed by the USSR in 1940. It reestablished its independence in 1991 following the breakup of the Soviet Union. Although the last Russian troops left in 1994, the status of the Russian minority (some 30% of the population) remains of concern to Moscow. Latvia continues to revamp its economy for eventual integration into various Western European political and economic institutions.
Update No: 282- (30/06/04)
Crisis of government
The Latvians are going through testing times in their politics, just after they joined the EU in May. Latvia's fragile ruling coalition was dealt a hefty blow in the June 13 European Parliament elections, with its three constituent parties mustering only 14 percent of the vote, or one seat out of the country's nine in the European legislature.
The opposition right-wing, free-market oriented For Fatherland and Freedom Party took four seats and 29.8 percent of the vote in the election. It was followed with two seats and just under 20 percent of the vote for the largest party in parliament, the conservative opposition party, New Era.
The pro-business People's Party was the only one of the three-party ruling coalition that scraped into parliament with a single seat. The leftist Human Rights in United Latvia, which defends Latvia's Russian speaking minority, and a rightist party also won one seat each.
The coalition's opponents hoped to exploit the opportunity and to overturn the minority government. New Era and For Fatherland and Freedom, whose strong showing of nearly half the vote gave them most of the country's six seats in the EP elections, asked the People's Party to leave the coalition and to join them in forming a new government.
Together these three right-wing parties hold 54 seats in Parliament.
The other two coalition members, Latvia's First Party and Greens and Farmers Union, were dismissed as possible partners by former Prime Minister and New Era party leader Einars Repse, who called them "traitors." They had had a role in his fall from power in February. With a potential majority already their support seemed superfluous.
Nevertheless, Latvia's premier, Indulis Emsis, survived a parliamentary confidence vote on June 17th, days after his three-party coalition received the reverse in the European elections.
More than half, that is 56 of the parliamentarians in the 100-seat assembly, voted against a no-confidence motion submitted by New Era, which has been calling for early elections, with 31 voting for the motion.
The key was that the People's Party stayed firm behind the government. "I don't think we can talk about a new coalition right now," Artis Pabriks of the People's Party told The Baltic Times. "We will talk with other parties, and we will continue to talk with New Era."
Emsis has also faced opposition calls to resign over government social policies, which are left-wing. Europe's first Green prime minister, Emsis came to office only in March, after the coalition led by Repse came unstuck because of squabbling within his government coalition. Emsis has made it clear that he would not resign.
Yet the election could all the same be a sign that part of the electorate is switching party allegiance. "The European Parliament elections show that the voters are not pleased with the current government," New Era faction head Krisjanis Karins said.
The prime minister, however, did not see it that way. "I am completely calm. The situation has actually become more stable after this vote," Indulis Emsis was quoted as saying.
Certainly, parliamentarians and the people are inclined to give the government a chance since it has only been in office for a few months.
Latvija's Eurobonds in Germany
NORD/LB Latvija bank recently issued denominated Eurobonds worth €30m in Germany, New Europe reported.
Andris Ozolins, president of NORD/LB Latvija, said that the funds raised from the issue plus the syndicated credit of €40m, were received at the beginning of May from 11 European banks. NORD/LB Latvija said it will use the funds for crediting corporate and private persons in Latvia.
The nominal value of NORD/LB Latvija bonds is €1,000 with a maturity of three years and annual interest rate of 3%. The issue is organised by Norddeutsche Landesbank Girozentrale, and is included in a list of the Hanover Stock Exchange.
Salacgriva to be home to new wind park
Salacgriva city council and WEA wind power production company recently signed an intention protocol on construction of a wind park in Salacgriva, New Europe reported.
According to the agreement reached between WEA and the Salacgriva city council, the municipality will be granted a 10% discount in purchasing electricity from WEA. Currently the best locations for installing the 10 wind generations, 600kW each, are being researched. This will be the first wind park in Latvia to install the new generation of wind generators designed in WEA. The invention is patented in Latvia and registered in 62 countries.
52.5% of Latvians use mobile communications
More than one half or 52.5% of Latvia's residents use mobile or cell telecommunications services, the Public Utilities Commission's data revealed recently, New Europe reported.
The number of users of mobile telecommunications services increased 32.7% in Latvia last year, amounting to 1.217m people at the end of 2003. According to the Central Statistical Bureau's data, 2.32m residents used mobile telecommunications services at the end of 2003. The number of fixed line telephony subscribers was 662,000 in 2003, and 87.8% of fixed telephony lines were digital. Compared to 2002, the total number of fixed telephony clients decreased 5.6% in 2003.
Lattelekom was the biggest provider of telecommunications services in Latvia last year in terms of both turnover and customers. Lattelekom provides telecommunications, data transmission, Internet services, as well as telecommunications and IT solutions. The number of Lattelekom telephone lines decreased 6.8% last year, to 653,853.
According to the Public Utilities Commission, the falling number of telephone lines has been caused by a rapid development of mobile telephony market and increasing use of modern telecommunications. Nevertheless, thanks to the successful operations of Lattelekom, the number of the company's phone lines fell less than expected in 2003.
Meanwhile, Latvijas Mobilais Telefons Ltd (LMT) posted an increasing number of clients. At the end of 2003, LMT had 609,011 clients or 26.3% of Latvia's population. The number of LMT clients increased by 134,996 clients or 22% from 2002. The other mobile phone provider, Tele2, will not reveal the number of its clients; therefore the Public Utilities Commission cannot comment on the company's development. However, the Telecommunications Association of Latvia estimates that the number of Tele2 clients accounted for 33.5% of all users of telecommunications services last year compared to LMT's 31%.
Janet Lelis, the association's executive director, believes that the key criterion, determining the choice of mobile phone operator is the price offered by operators. Tele2 has managed to attract more clients thanks to the fact that the company calls itself the price leader. According to the association's data, Tele2 clients made up 27.4% of all users of telecommunications services in 2002, LMT clients - 28.2%. The association estimates that Lattelekom clients accounted for 41.7% pf all users of telecommunications services in 2002 and 33.2% in 2003. The proportion of telecommunications market controlled by phone operators increased from 55.6% in 2002 to 64.5% last year.
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