Books on Latvia
Update No: 285- (01/10/04)
The economy is bounding ahead
According to the Marxist view of things, economics is the key factor. All that
is necessary is to dispossess the bourgeoisie and everything beneficial will
begin to happen. There is a rich irony in this.
It is only since shedding Marxism that Latvia's economy has picked up. Its GDP
is now growing at a ripe rate, 7.5% for 2003 and now 6% for 2004. Its GDP per
capita, one of the lowest in Europe under communism, is now about to surpass the
Incoming FDI has played an important role here. Now over $3bn. But most of it
from the EU.
New European profile
As a new member of the European Union, Latvia has a commissioner in Brussels.
But the nomination of Ingrida Udre for European commissioner is increasingly
becoming an embarrassment for Latvia. It has already elicited protests, an ugly
row between the president and the NGO community and, the latest, a flood of
unflattering international press stories about the Baltic country. One even
claims that Latvia is the "bridgehead of Russian corruption" into
Europe. No doubt, if Europeans were concerned about EU expansion into poorer
eastern countries, abodes of endemic corruption, then they need look no further
than the drama surrounding the decision to nominate Udre as Eurocommissioner for
At home, Udre's reputation is at best mediocre; at worst, highly suspect. Ever
since her Green and Farmers Union came under fire for campaign finance
irregularities, she has become all but inaccessible, staying away from the press
and tough questions. As a former auditor-consultant on the privatization of
Ventspils Nafta, one of Latvia's most strategic enterprises, and then as a
founder of the aforementioned party, which is financially backed by Ventspils
business interests, Udre is too close to the port city for many Latvians'
comfort. Ventspils, after all, is home to some of the most non-transparent
businesses in the country.
As a consequence, Udre's approval rating has fallen so dramatically as to put
only her just above local bogeymen Tatyana Zdanoka and Alfreds Rubiks, with a
negative rating of 22.
But not so fast. In order to defend their "Euro-darling," Ventspils-supported
publications - Neatkariga Avize, Vakara Zinas - have been spewing out
tendentious nonsense about a conspiracy among Latvian NGOs, the newspaper Diena
and George Soros to overthrow the government and get rid or Udre. Worse, top
government ministers actually believe this garbage. As if the billionaire
financier is worried about what's going on in tiny Latvia…. Anyone vaguely
aware of Mr. Soros knows that he now has bigger fish to fry.
Irrespective of that, if Udre is not an embarrassment to European Commission
President Barroso, then she could be very soon. The doubts and questions
floating in European papers about Udre are not likely to go away; and they could
peak in the next couple of weeks as the confirmation hearing approaches. Even if
MEPs disregard her eccentricities (fudging her resume, bringing her hairdresser
along on trips), they have legitimate concerns about Udre's qualifications. She
has little or no experience in her proposed field of expertise on the commission
(taxation and customs) and has a notorious reputation for truancy at sessions of
Parliament's European affairs committee. Her presence on the European
Commission, the 25-member body that makes the union tick, does not imbue
Thus if he considers the weak-link-and-chain postulate, Barroso will see that he
has reason to worry. And MEPs engaged in the confirmation process should take
note of the inexperienced person that the town of Ventspils has sent them.
Anti-semitism still an issue
The Baltic Times reports that the foreign relations commission of the Saeima
(Latvia's parliament) recently hired a new secretary with the blessing of
commission chairman, Aleksandrs Kirsteins, a member of the People's Party. This
would be nothing extraordinary were it not for the fact of the young lady's
political affiliations and personal record.
The new secretary is an activist in what is known as the Latvian National Front.
The words "national front," strikes the fear of God into civilized
people's hearts, but that is what the organisation is called. The LPF is a
virulently anti-Semitic, racist and homophobic organization, one that insists
Latvia is an illegitimate state because it has not gotten rid of what the
organisation calls "occupants."
The LPF has its own newsletter called DDD, and the new foreign relations
commission secretary is its deputy editor. In the latest issue, the movement's
leader, book publisher Aivars Garda, explained what needs to happen in Latvia:
"Ethnic Latvians need at least 700,000 occupants to leave Latvia. This will
require 20,000 railroad cars. If we look at the issue, we see that that is not a
very large number of cars. As far as I know, there are four trains that depart
to Russia every day. One train has at least 20 cars, and 700 occupants can leave
in each of those trains. That means that in order to deport 700,000 occupants,
we need 1,000 trains, and these can be sent to Russia over the course of 250
There are, of course, people in Latvia who are no friends of the country or its
political system. However, there are also many, many non-Latvians (or whoever it
is to whom the term "occupants" is applied by this extremist
organization) who are at home there, who were born there, who are this country's
residents in every sense of the word.
Then there is anti-Semitism. The newsletter DDD in 2003 blithely published, in
serial form, the Bible of the world's anti-Semites, "The Protocols of the
Elders of Zion," presenting this discredited garbage as God's truth. The
new foreign relations commission secretary herself co-authored these words to
the Israeli ambassador to Latvia: "It would be great if you explained to
your nationals that they owe a debt to the Latvian people for the hospitality
that we have demonstrated to them for centuries, when they were chased out of
their fatherland. Your richest nationals must remember that they are aliens
here, that they must say 'thank you' to the Latvians for having allowed them to
purchase major properties in Latvia, turning the Latvians into farm animals. The
time will come when the Latvian nation will nationalize all of the properties
which aliens have grabbed."
This is a newspaper that has described Latvia's government as a
"pederast-traitor regime" and a "Zionist-masonic" regime. It
has published a reader's letter in which President Vaira Vike-Freiberga is
described as "an active supporter and participant in the Euro-Mafia and the
criminal regime; she is a criminal." Again, the deputy editor of this
publication is now secretary of the foreign relations commission of Latvia's
What is particularly shocking about this thing is that other politicians have
reacted to the appointment in a completely blasé manner. Foreign Minister Artis
Pabriks (also of the People's Party) told a newspaper that the woman had to be
hired, because otherwise she might have sued the Saeima for discrimination. The
chairman of the New Era faction in the Saeima said that "technical people
don't determine policy." As Augusts Brigmanis of the Farmers' Union
claimed, "We cannot limit her right to do this job if her qualifications
are in order."
What are the qualifications? Aleksandrs Kirsteins has said that the woman was
hired because she speaks French. Never mind that she is part of an organization
that the commander of the Latvian Security police has described as
"radical, with elements of extremism." But she speaks French! The
equivalent would be a member of America's Congress hiring an activist from the
Ku Klux Klan because the person knows how to type!
EasyJet to start flying from Riga to Berlin in the autumn
The European low-fares airline, easyJet, will start operating flights from Riga
International Airport to the Schoenefeld Airport in Berlin on November 25th,
Andorijs Darzins, head of the Riga International Airport's Public Relations
Department, said recently, LETA reported.
The airline's statement said that after the European Union's May 1st
enlargement, easyJet added Hungary and Slovenia to the list of its destinations.
The airline believes that low-fares airlines have great potential for
development in Eastern Europe, which is why easyJet wanted to include Latvia in
its development plans.
The new daily flights from Riga to Berlin will also boost Latvia's business
development, easyJet stressed. The price of one flight from Riga to Berlin will
start from 20.49 Euro, all taxes included. Tickets can be booked on the
Internet, at www.easyJet.com.
"Now is a very dynamic period for easyJet, as Europe presents many
excellent opportunities currently," said easyJet chief executive Ray
Webster. "The airline is pleased to add Latvia to its timetable, a country
where the demand for low-fares airlines' services is increasing fast," he
"EasyJet is determined to expand its operations in Latvia in coming
years," he said.
Deputy Prime Minister and Transport Minister, Ainars Slesers, (Latvia's First
Party) is also pleased at easyJet's decision to start operating flights from
Riga. Slesers believes that easyJet's decision proves that the Riga Airport's
development policy and cutting costs are already bearing fruit, as this furthers
competition and makes flights available to a greater number of Latvia's
residents. Slesers is confident that the entry of the low-fares airlines easyJet
and Ryanair, and other airlines' decision to cut prices will prompt Riga
International Airport to become one of the key air traffic hubs in the region.
Ryanair announced it would launch flights to Riga in July. The airline will
start operating flights from Riga to London, Frankfurt and Finland's Tampere on
EU to fund Liepaja bio-fuel plant project
The European Union will be funding half of the 2.1m lats Canola processing
project in Liepaja, New Europe reported recently.
The project manager, Baltic Holding Company, said the EU has agreed to provide
half of the necessary funds to launch the project. Construction works of the
plant are scheduled to start in 2005, said BHC Marketing Director, Maris
Binders. BHC industrial park will be part of the national bio-fuel programme.
According to the project, BHC will form a plant of non-refined canola oil or
semi-fabricated bio-fuel in the territory of the bankrupt Liepaja Grain Combine,
investing 3.666m lats.
Exigen Group, Dati to create largest Baltic IT resource
Exigen Group, a global provider of business process software and services, has
announced a strategic partnership with Latvian IT services provider, A/S Dati,
press reports said recently. The agreement will create the largest resource of
IT software and services expertise in the Baltics, New Europe reported recently.
Under the terms of the partnership, Dati will provide outsourcing services to
the two companies' extensive client base, which includes European organisations
such as Software AG and Latvia SRS, and North American firms such as AIG, IBM
and Wachovia Securities.
Dati will also boost R&D resources for Exigen's range of industry-specific
business process software. Exigen will provide sales and marketing support from
its 12 offices across Europe, the United States and Australia in order to drive
joint growth opportunities. The combined strength of Exigen and Dati represents
the largest IT resource in the Baltics, with over 700 employees skilled in
application development, maintenance and operations. With its stable economic
environment, advanced telecom infrastructure and state-supported focus on IT and
innovation, the Baltic region is fast becoming a primary location for outsourced
"Our clients have already benefited from the specialist skills and
resources available in the Baltics, via our Latvian office and our relationships
with universities in the region," said Alex Poberezhsky, general manager of
outsourcing services at Exigen Group. As members of the European Union, Latvia
provides an accessible, stable, near shore alternative to the Asian offshoring
market. "In partnership with Dati, we're now able to offer our clients in
Western Europe and North America access to even greater resources. This
partnership underscores our commitment to providing the highest quality IT
services to our public and private sector clients," said Valdis Lokenbahs,
CEO at A/S Dati. "By joining forces with Exigen we can offer our clients
more extensive technology and industry expertise, as well as global reach. We're
excited about the opportunities this presents for our clients both today and in
Providers must have access to a critical mass of resources with industry and
technology experience if they are to attract the attention of Fortune 500 CIOs,
said Ian Marriott, research vice president at Gartner. Eastern European
countries like the Baltics are increasingly an attractive outsourcing location
for Europe as incumbents grow or establish presence there. With EU membership
stability, language and culture compatibility, and favourable labour rates, it
provides a competitive alternative or diversification for Asia.
Exigen Group is a global provider of business process software and services
focused on lowering the total cost of operations for companies in services
industries. The company applies industry-specific expertise to identify
inefficiencies in core business processes and uncover likely cost savings or
revenue growth opportunities. Dati has grown to be one of the leading software
developers in the Baltics, with more than 350 employees. Since its foundation in
1995 the company has been orientated also towards the international market,
focusing on public sector, telecommunications, insurance and banking, as well as
tourism and logistics.
Our analysts and
editorial staff have many years experience in analysing and reporting
events in these nations. This knowledge is available in the form of
geopolitical and/or economic country reports on any individual or grouping
of countries. Such reports may be bespoke to the specification of clients
or by access to one of our existing specialised reports.
For further information email: