Books on Latvia
Update No: 301 - (30/01/06)
The New Year, 2006, opened with a bang. Gazprom assured that
by cutting off gas supplies to Ukraine for two days on January 1-2. Everybody
began to reconsider their energy options, the biggest winner being Kazakstan.
Latvian Prime Minister Aigars Kalvitis was among many leaders of Eurasia to head
for Astana and the re-inauguration of Kazak President Nursultan Nazarbayev on
January 10th, after re-election in December.
Nazarbayev held a number of meetings on the same day in Astana, KZ-today
correspondent reported. He could not have been given a better send-off than by
Gazprom's clumsy behaviour, which secured it a more lucrative deal with Ukraine
in the short term at the long-run expense of putting everyone else off.
Further development of Kazakstan-Latvia collaboration in power and transport
spheres was discussed at the bilateral meeting of Nazarbayev and Kalvitis in the
Ak Orda residence. Kazakstan is a key energy state. Not only Latvia, but all
countries of the North Europe region, are interested in its energy supplies, A.
Kalvitis pointed out.
"Kazakstan is the great power supply state, and the delivery of power
resources is important not only for Latvia, but also for all Northern Europe.
Probably, in the future we will be working over the project of a transit road
from China through Kazakstan to the Baltic Sea, and also deliveries of Kazakstan
oil to Northern Europe," Kalvits noted.
The presence of a leading Polish figure bore out his words. "New Polish
authorities wish to support well-established Polish-Kazakstan relations. We
talked to the president of Kazakstan about economic cooperation, including the
pipeline Odessa-Brody-Gdansk project," the Senate chairman of Poland Bogdan
Borusevich said after a meeting with Nazarbayev.
Latvians send mixed signals on border treaty
A series of opposing statements by Latvian leaders about whether the country
could sign a border treaty with Russia this year has underscored key differences
in the political stakes of an agreement with its giant neighbour.
The promising thing is that Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga is optimistic
that a deal can be done. She took the statesmanlike decision to attend the
Victory celebrations in Moscow in May, the only Baltic state leader to do so,
aware that a little courtesy costs one nothing and that it was after all better
that the Soviet Union won in May 1945 rather than Nazi Germany.
Resolving the minor territorial disputes between Latvia and Russia would be
another feather in the cap of this increasingly prominent world figure, who had
a highly successful tour of the Caucasus states last year.
Tension among ruling partners escalates as Repse resigns
Defence Minister Einars Repse abruptly resigned in December after the prime
minister's announcement that the anti-corruption bureau would begin a probe into
Repse's investment portfolio. Repse was previously the successful chairman of
the Central Bank of Latvia, who bequeathed his successors an economy that is the
fastest growing in Europe. He was then briefly prime minister, but proved to
lack the politesse and punctiliousness that goes to make a successful
The Latvian parliament on January 5th approved the appointment of another
formidable female figure, Linda Murniece, as the country's first woman defence
minister in his place. Murniece's nomination was approved by a vote of 64-18 in
the 100-seat parliament with 18 lawmakers absent.
Murniece, a 35-year-old lawmaker from the New Era party, headed by Repse,
becomes the fourth woman minister in Latvia's current coalition government and
the first ever to hold the portfolio of defence minister.
Latvia has been trying to modernize its military since it joined NATO last year.
Vike-Freiberga alarmed by outflow of working hands
President Vike-Freiberga has said in an interview that she is alarmed by the
exodus of Latvia's working-age population to richer EU member states and that
this represented one of the greatest challenges facing the government.
In an interview, published on January 9th in Vesti, a hard-hitting Russian
language daily that sympathizes with the Soviet Union, Vike-Freiberga
acknowledged that Latvian employers could not compete with companies in Ireland
and other richer EU countries that have opened their doors to low-skill
labourers. As a result, young Latvians are moving abroad to work, a trend that
has been diminishing the country's labour pool and taxpayers' base.
"The government and society have to find a mutually acceptable solution for
increasing wages in our economy, otherwise the situation will turn into a kind
of a vicious circle," Vike-Freiberga said.
Indeed, all three Baltic countries are in the grips of a massive labour outflow,
as both higher and lower skill workers shop around for better wages abroad. The
situation has become so acute in some towns that several employers in the
Baltics have been forced to import workers - e.g., from Romania or Ukraine -
since there are not enough locals to fill the vacancies.
The president also defended planned salary increases for public sector workers.
"People in Latvia should get rid of the opinion that public servants are
parasites who do not need anything and grow fat at the state's expense. And
really, if we want the country to develop and the money that comes from the EU
to be spent in the right way we need highly professional public servants,"
the president said.
Riga, Moscow favour resumption of talks
Russia favours the speedy resumption of the work of the Russian-Latvian
intergovernmental commission, according to a Foreign Minister report recently,
New Europe reported.
Moscow hosted political consultations between Deputy Foreign Minister,
VladimirTitov, and State Secretary of the Latvian Foreign Ministry, Norman Penke.
"A wide range of issues in bilateral relations was considered, including
advancing the legal framework for cooperation. The sides stressed the need for
the speedy formation of a legal foundation and resumption of the operations of
the intergovernmental commission for trade, economic, scientific, humanitarian
and cultural cooperation," the report said.
At the consultations "the sides expressed readiness to promote contacts
between executive and legislative bodies of the two countries, to intensify the
dialogue between the foreign ministries on questions of mutual interest,"
the report said.
"The Russian side noted that the position of Russians in Latvia remains a
key element in bilateral relations," it read.
"The fulfilment of corresponding recommendations of international
organisations in this sphere would create favourable prerequisites for advancing
Russian-Latvian cooperation," the report said. The sides also discussed
pressing international problems.
Elko Group sales increase in Q4
Latvian-registered, Elko Grupa, a multinational IT wholesaler that operates in
nine Eastern European countries, said its fourth-quarter sales were up sharply.
Elko Group announced record high revenue of US$226m (131.7m lats), for the
fourth quarter in 2005 up by 36 per cent in comparison with the third quarter
and up by 59 per cent yearly, New Europe reported.
As usual the fourth quarter was the strongest quarter of the year. Operating
income and net profits are also expected to be higher than originally planned.
"Our immense sales power in our territories is delivering extraordinary
achievements as demonstrated by the company's fourth quarter results. We
continued to generate industry's leading growth and therefore underscoring our
position as a leading IT distributor in the CEE and CIS countries," stated
Jens Hartman, Chief Executive Officer, CEO, of the Elko Group. "We are very
pleased with the development of our business as we are growing three times
faster as the markets we are in. Last year the company planned to reach US$512m
(298m lats) on sales in 2005, increase by 21 per cent year-on-year. Even such a
turnover would let Elko Group take the top place as Latvia's biggest company,
overtaking Latvenergo, which had turnover of 230m lats in 2004 and most likely
has not exceeded this result by 70m in 2005. Company will report preliminary
numbers for year 2005 during mid-February.