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Key Economic Data 
 
  2003 2002 2001 Ranking(2003)
GDP
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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Update No: 312 - (20/12/06)

Riga plays host to Nato's summit
Latvians twenty years ago would not have believed that they could have been hosting a NATO summit today. But that is what they did in December. An historic affair, indeed. 
Moscow was not pleased, but so what?
It is less than three years since this former Soviet satellite was admitted both to the EU and to NATO. As if in celebration, it was playing host to a gathering of the Western alliance at which issues affecting global defence and the war on terror were played out.
It is the first former communist country to hold such a summit for the EU or NATO. In recognition, the entire capital appeared to have been emptied - save for thousands upon thousands of police and troops, who were leaving nothing to chance. It was not all smooth running. So earnest and serious were the security guards that, at times, more people were queuing outside than attending the meetings.

The queen of the event
Vaira Vike-Freiberga, the Latvian President, was the queen of this occasion a month after Queen Elizabeth II had paid a historic visit in October. 
She milked the moment, however, welcoming everyone by announcing the summit was "fitting recognition of the immense progress that Latvia and other former captive nations have made in the past 15 years." Never mind that Latvia has just 30 troops in the 31,000-strong Nato force in Afghanistan, compared with 11,800 from America and more than 6,000 from Britain: Latvia has got its club membership and is enjoying it.
It was chosen for this NATO meeting for obvious reasons; to symbolise a united post-Cold War Europe and show how far NATO had already spread its influence east as it seeks a truly a global reach.

Could Riga come to regret it all?
The danger for Latvia, however, is that Riga 2006 could go down as a critical moment of failure for the NATO alliance it has just entered. Rather than highlighting transatlantic togetherness and European unity on defence, it threatens to do exactly the reverse.
Afghanistan heads the agenda. NATO's mission there to some, was supposed to show how the alliance had graduated from its traditional role in European and North Atlantic defence to one of a global player, able to intervene anywhere across the world. To others Afghanistan was a one-off and no more.
The conflict has exposed, sharply, the fundamental differences in national attitudes to the war on terror, and the role of the alliance itself. The French, Germans, Italians, Spanish and others are reluctant to increase their forces or commit more of those already there under their flags to Afghanistan's danger zones, despite appeals to do more from George W. Bush and Tony Blair.
The British and American death tolls have soared since they redeployed large numbers of troops to the Taliban-infested south and east of the country, while reticent allies have stood firm in safer havens in the north and west.
Despite pleas on the last night from Mr Bush and Mr Blair for their allies to do more, there is unlikely to be much progress, leaving Britain and America having to consider pouring more troops in themselves.
The Germans, opposed from the start to the war on terror and still nervous - 61 years after the end of the Second World War - of getting involved in the thick of combat, have insisted that they will keep their troops in the north, engaged primarily in reconstruction.
There is also a tactical divide over how to deal with the Taliban. Romano Prodi, the Italian Prime Minister, went directly against Mr Blair and Mr Bush on the eve of the summit by suggesting that, rather than fighting the Taliban enemy, world leaders should negotiate with its leadership. "The military solution in Afghanistan will not bring a result; the problem must have a political solution," said Mr Prodi who is by no means alone in this view. Several responsible leaders have said as much.
While Blair has stressed recently that more emphasis needs to be placed on reconstruction, alongside security, he would never go that far.
Another source of tension is the American plan for a "global" Nato as the instrument to forge a closer relationship with Australia, Japan and South Korea in the Pacific, (and Sweden and Finland in Europe). France is warning that Nato must not spread its influence geographically too far and fears that the idea will mean the alliance becoming more of an instrument of American foreign policy and a means of bypassing the UN, which the US clearly cannot control, whereas they already enjoy a leadership position in Nato. 
Other ghosts will haunt the summit, notably Russia. NATO leaders are pressing for Georgia to join the alliance soon - a move that would take the alliance right up to Russia's southern border and part of its western flank - and infuriate Moscow.
When President Bush told the Latvians that he was "proud to call you allies in the cause of peace and freedom," their pride at being with the West must have been mixed with at least a little trepidation. 

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ENERGY

Energy security tops Polish-Latvian talks 


Energy security and EU-Russia relations topped the agenda of talks between the Polish and Latvian prime ministers in the Polish capital Warsaw recently, New Europe reported.
Sworn into office, Latvian Prime Minister, Aigars Kalvitis, made his first trip to EU partner Poland and termed the meeting with Poland's Prime Minister, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, as one "between friendly states." Kalvitis said he saw many "opportunities for good co-operation in the bilateral, regional and EU dimensions." "This was a brief talk, but I leave it with a deep conviction that we have very many common matters that we can accomplish together," Kaczynski said, quoted by the Polish PAP news agency. 
Poland, Latvia and partner Baltic states Lithuania and Estonia have mounted a common front of opposition to the German-Russian project of building a natural gas pipeline across the bottom of the Baltic Sea. The four EU newcomers have particularly slammed EU partner Germany for having failed to agree the project with them. With plans calling for the pipeline to bypass all four states Riga, Tallinn and Vilnius and Warsaw have criticised it as a threat to their energy security. Poland's Kaczynski also praised Latvia's explosive economic growth rate which the 2.5 million-strong Baltic republic has enjoyed since joining the EU in 2004. 
GDP growth in the first half of 2006 hit 12 per cent, one of the highest rates ever recorded in the EU. However, inflation over the same period averaged over six percent, the EU's highest rate. With a population of nearly 40 million, EU newcomer Poland expects to see strong GDP growth over five per cent this year. The Latvian capital Riga will host a NATO summit on November 28-29th. It will be the first such high-level meeting the Western defence alliance will hold on the territory of a former Soviet republic. 

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FOREIGN LOANS

Hipoteku Banka raises 166.5 mln Euro loan 

Latvijas Hipoteku un zemes banka (Hipoteku banka) has raised a 166.5 million Euro syndicated loan, Signe Eisaka, the bank's PR specialist said, Interfax News Agency reported on December 4th.
The three-year loan was provided at Euribor +0.2 per cent. Hipoteku banka signed a syndicated loan agreement with 19 foreign banks. Hipoteku banka was Latvia's eighth biggest bank out of 25 banks in the country. The government is its sole shareholder.

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