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Key Economic Data 
  2003 2002 2001 Ranking(2003)
Millions of US $ 9,671 8,406 7,500 94
GNI per capita
 US $ 4,070 3,480 3,230 79
Ranking is given out of 208 nations - (data from the World Bank)

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Area ( 


ethnic groups 
Latvians 52.0%
Russians 34%
Belarusians 4.5%



Mrs Vaira 

Update No: 302 - (27/02/06)

The new Latvian woman
One of the exciting things about the newly emergent Baltic states is that they are prepared to try out new ideas. Estonia has its flat tax. Latvia has its feisty women in politics. 
Former Foreign Minister and independence activist Sandra Kalniete joined the New Era political party January 30th, where party colleagues greeted her with calls to succeed current President Vaira Vike-Freiberga when her term expires next year. 
It is generally agreed on all sides that Vike-Freiberga has been an outstanding success. Her second term expires in mid-2007. She has been named among the leading candidates for the post of UN secretary-general, which will become vacant after Kofi Annan steps down at the end of this year.

Kalniete joins New Era, party hints at her presidential candidacy
The decision to join New Era, Parliament's largest political party, came after months of periodic speculation in the media whether Kalniete would put an end to her independent status and join a political party. It was widely believed that she would only join a political party if she could not find a position in the country's diplomatic corps.
Kalniete has not revealed whether she would agree to be the party's candidate for head of state. However, she admitted to journalists that it would be very difficult to follow such a powerful personality as Vaira Vike-Freiberga. 
"Kalniete would make a splendid presidential candidate, but this question isn't yet on the agenda," New Era secretary Edgars Jaunups told the daily Diena. 

The contrary view
People's Party faction leader, Janis Lagzdins, however, said that if Kalniete joined New Era, a coalition partner and right-wing rival of the People's Party, her chances of taking the president's post would decrease. 
Lagzdins pointed out that Vaira Vike-Freiberga didn't belong to any party when she ran for the presidency in 1999. This, he suggested, was to her benefit. Since none of the party candidates received enough votes during the first round, this allowed Vike-Freiberga to be elected in the second round of voting.

A new scenario
After the parliamentary elections in 2002 Kalniete was nominated by the New Era party to be the country's foreign minister, but remained independent of any political party. She briefly became a EU commissioner until she was substituted by Parliamentary Chairwoman Ingrida Udre after the New Era led government collapsed. 
However, Udre herself was later dumped for Andris Piebalgs, Kalniete's chief of office.
Kalniete is one of the most well-known and respected people in the country due to her work during the independence movement and her tenure as Foreign Minister.
New Era could announce its presidential candidate before the upcoming general elections in October. Kalniete said that the next president would face tough challenges, "because it will take a very long time for someone to become a worthy successor of such an outstanding president [as current President Vaira Vike-Freiberga]." 

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Regulator approves higher Latvenergo tariffs 

Public Utilities Commission's council has approved 6.6 per cent higher new tariffs on the power utility Latvenergo from March 1st, New Europe reported.
According to Latvenergo specialists, the higher tariffs will not have any significant effect on inflation in Latvia. The company has cut several costs to make the increase in tariffs minimal. The company explains that its tariffs have to be raised due to a 30 per cent rise in the price for imported electrical power, as well as higher prices for natural gas. Latvenergo tariffs were last raised on January 1, 2004, an average 12.7 per cent. Latvenergo's audited profit in 2004 amounted to 24.7 million, 13.9 million lats up from 2003.

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TeliaSonera signs framework agreement with DatiExigen 

TeliaSonera has signed a framework agreement with Latvian IT Company DatiExigen Group among its 14 IT Integrators for 2006 and 2007. The agreements cover services for TeliaSonera's development and maintenance needs for IT applications in the Nordic countries, New Europe reported.
TeliaSonera continues to achieve synergies and cost savings by reducing the number of IT integrators from twenty-nine to fourteen. TeliaSonera also maintains stringent cost controls by ensuring that defined projects and studies are procured at fixed prices. Price in relation to performance will continue to develop favourably during the agreement period 2006 and 2007. "DatiExigen is the first IT company from Eastern Europe which becomes integrator for TeliaSonera. The company has warranties for several million dollar contracts each year now," says Petter Lundgren from DatiExigen Swedish office.

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Rail Baltica project looks for investors 

The Rail Baltica project stipulates development of a high-speed Tallinn-Riga-Kaunas-Warsaw railroad route by 2016. Latvia now hopes to attract private investors to finance the Rail Baltica high-speed train project; as the EU decided last December to cut the amount by threefold from 14.3 billion lats (20.3 billion Euro), New Europe reported.
Several potential investors have already announced their interest for 30 trans-European transport network's (TEN-T) cross-border transport projects. The ministry of transport said even if the EU had not cut the funds for trans-European transport network's (TEN-T) cross-border projects, programmes co-financed by the EU would not receive more than 30 per cent of the funds necessary for implementation of the project.

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