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: 281- (27/05/04)
The Russian legacy
Latvia has a breezy president in Vaira Vike-Freiberga, the only female head of state in the FSU. But then Latvians do not regard themselves primarily as former Soviet citizens. The whole experience of being inside the Soviet Union is seen as an aberration, which, indeed, it was.
But it has left them with one intractable problem, a huge Russian minority. Russians actually predominate in the seven largest cities, including the capital, Riga. It will take another generation or two before they are integrated.
The European future
There is a new government in Latvia. Induli Emsis is Europe's first Green prime minister. Several weeks before the entry of Latvia into the EU, which took place on May 1st. he pledged to remain Green to his roots.
But he is considered far more conservative than most politicians in Europe. Economic, not environmental, issues are likely to dominate his agenda.
"I will always remain green, no matter what you say," Emsis was quoted as saying. "Being confirmed as prime minister is a wave that has brought me higher than I had planned to go."
Emsis promised to include his coalition partners in important decisions. "Only in different opinions is the truth born," he said. "I will keep my eyes and my ears open."
Fifty-six of the 100 members of Latvia's parliament voted in favour of Emsis and his coalition of three conservative parties - the Union of the Green and Farmers, the Peoples Party and the Christian First Party.
The coalition needed a simple majority in the 100-seat Saeima, or parliament. The new communications minister is Ainars Slesers, the new foreign minister is Rihards Piks (People's Party), economics minister - Juris Lujans (First Party of Latvia), finance minister - Oskars Spudzins (People's Party), and interior minister - Eriks Jekabsons (First Party of Latvia).
Two ministerial positions were left unfilled in the cabinet for possible future coalition partners. Latvian President, Vaira Vike-Freiberga, nominated Emsis in February.
He replaced Einars Repse, who resigned in early February after Latvia's First Party withdrew from his centre-right coalition, leaving him without a legislative majority.
Throughout his rule, Repse clashed with his coalition partners, who accused him of being heavy-handed.
The new cabinet is the 11th government since Latvia regained independence after the 1991 Soviet collapse. The country's parliaments have tended to be badly fragmented, leading to unstable coalitions. But all Latvian governments, including the newest one, have broadly agreed on fundamental reforms. And all have backed EU and NATO membership.
FOREIGN ECONOMIC CO-OPERATION
Bigger Hong Kong cooperation
Latvian President, Vaira Vike-Freiberga, hopes that cooperation already established between Latvia and Hong Kong will expand and include more sectors, New Europe reported recently.
The Latvian leader, in an official luncheon hosted by Hong Kong's premier recently, commented that despite Hong Kong's size, it is a key financial and transportation centre, and according to data from the US Heritage Foundation - has the world's most free economy. She said that Hong Kong's achievements are a source of inspiration for Latvia, which in its own right is becoming a key transit and trade centre in Northern Europe.
Historic link forged between Wales and Latvia
Wales and the Republic of Latvia have united in an historic co-operation agreement within days of Latvia joining the European Union, newswales.co.uk reported recently.
A Memorandum of Understanding between the two countries has been signed by Wales' First Minister, Rhodri Morgan, and Latvia's Minister for the Economy, Juris Lujans.
The agreement was signed at Tredegar House in Newport in the presence of Latvian President, Vaira Vike-Freiberga, who also visited the National Assembly Building and Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff Bay.
This is the first Memorandum of Understanding to be signed between Wales and a full EU Member State. Wales already has agreements with other European administrations at regional level including Silesia, Baden-Württemberg, Catalunya and Brittany. The decision to forge a link between the two countries follows the First Minister's visit to Latvia in September 2003 where he led a trade mission of Welsh companies and met with Ministers, of the Latvian Government.
The Memorandum of Understanding also marks the accession of Latvia to the European Union and affirms the commitment of the two countries to working together through strengthening of institutional, economic, educational and cultural links.
It resolves to: Strengthen the friendship between the Republic of Latvia and Wales; Facilitate contact between Latvian and Welsh institutions; Reinforce economic, social and cultural co-operation between both countries; Develop exchanges of experience and information in areas of mutual interest - particularly in relation to wider EU issues; Explore the potential for taking forward a programme of joint projects particularly in tourism, business development and higher education; Encourage mutual trading and investment opportunities; Share and promote best practice in language planning between institutions that promote Latvian and the Welsh languages;
First Minister, Rhodri Morgan, said: "The signing of the Memorandum of Understanding is an important milestone for both countries. It is both a celebration of the accession of the Republic of Latvia to the European Union and a reflection of Wales' growing stature in Europe. It underpins the warm relations we have with Latvia and provides the foundation for us to work closely together in the future.
"Wales and Latvia have a wealth of experience to share - for example our experience of devolution of government, managing European structural funds and encouraging our own native languages and musical culture to flourish. Enlargement offers the opportunity to share these experiences between the western and eastern margins of the new European Union.
"Working in partnership, we can all look forward to meeting the challenges and enjoying the benefits the new Europe can bring. Both countries will emerge stronger through our new friendship."
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