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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)

Books on Latvia


Area ( 


ethnic groups 
Latvians 52.0%
Russians 34%
Belarusians 4.5%



Mrs Vaira 

Update No: 298 - (27/10/05)

The Latvian Minerva
Latvia is one of the few countries in the world with a female head of state, President Vaira Vike-Freiberga. She is a fixture, whereas governments, in the fractured polity of Latvia, come and go with fair regularity. 
Her integrity is beyond question. She was a long-time US citizen under communism. She only came back to her original homeland out of a sense of duty, as well of course as a love of her original country.
Her initiatives in foreign policy, therefore, certainly count.

Vike-Freiberga calls on Putin to strengthen ties
Russia is the prime interlocutor for Latvia, as she well knows. She has called on Russian President Vladimir Putin to give meaning to the Latvian-Russian intergovernmental commission and strengthen cooperation between the two countries.
The two presidents sat next to each other during the recent breakfast hosted by U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan. They agreed that "dialogue between our countries is still on a rather low level of contacts," the president's foreign advisor Andrejs Pildegovics told the LNT news station. "It seemed in general that Putin felt positive about the need to revive this dialogue step by step," Pildegovics said. 
Though created several years ago, the Latvian-Russian intergovernmental commission has been dogged by political stonewalling as Moscow continues to delay meetings due to its dissatisfaction over Latvia's minority policies.
This is a euphemism for the fact that in Latvia's six largest cities Russian Latvians predominate. But the young are assimilating. Fortunately, the Slavic Russians and the Latvians are mutually attractive. It is merely a matter of time.

New Europhobia
Latvia turned westwards recently by joining the EU in May 2004. But in a disturbing development, the results of a new poll show that most of Latvia's population would vote against EU membership if a referendum were held now. 
The poll, conducted by the Latvijas Fakti polling company, found that 40.3 per cent of Latvians would vote "yes" and 48.7 per cent would vote "no." 
Most of the opposition to the EU was concentrated among noncitizens, ie mostly Russian Latvians, of whom 60.6 per cent would vote "no," the poll found. 
The elderly people and lesser educated were also Euroskeptic. "Those people have been hit most hard by the problems caused by inflation and do not see much prospects for their life in relation to the EU," Aigars Freimanis, director of Latvijas Fakti, was quoted by the Baltic News Service as saying.
As before, it is merely a matter of time.

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H1 beer sales on the rise 

Brewers in Latvia saw sales rise slightly in the first half of this year, latest figures released by the Latvian breweries association (LADS) showed. The data showed that sales in the six-month period were up by 3.9 per cent year-on-year to 43.76 million litres. Grigis Un Co, Abula and Cesu Alus breweries saw the most impressive increases in sales, while Alus Tirdzniecibas Grupa, Piebalgas Alus, Lacplesa Alus and Bauskas Alus all saw sales slump year-on-year, according to 
Aldaris, the domestic market leader, saw sales rise by 4.7 per cent to 18 million litres, with Cesu Alus rolling in second place with a 10.5 per cent increase in sales to 7.27 million litres. "This year, the beer market is expected to recover to its previous volume," said LADS executive director Ivars Grislis.

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Latvia, Azerbaijan eye ties 

Latvian President, Vaira Vike-Freiberga, and her Azeri counterpart, Ilham Aliyev, signed a joint declaration in Baku on October 3, acknowledging that both countries would develop bilateral political, economic and social contacts, Leta reported. 
Both sides acknowledge their determination to consolidate their relations on the basis of such values as the rule of law, democracy, human rights and market economy. Vike-Freiberga and Aliyev also said that additional measures should be taken to expand cooperation in the culture, science, education and health care areas and between employees in these areas, as well as between the mass media in both countries. 
The declaration also says Latvia and Azerbaijan will enhance military cooperation in accordance with both counties' security interests and international commitments. The declaration also emphasises the need for promoting cooperation in trade, economy and science. Latvia expresses support for Azerbaijan's move to the World Trade Organisation. Vike-Freiberga approves of Azerbaijan's efforts to promote cooperation with the European Union, NATO, OSCE and the Council of Europe. Latvia's public institutions are ready to share their experience of integration into Euro-Atlantic institutions with Azerbaijan, Vike-Freiberga confirmed.

Austria eyes ties with Latvia regions

Latvian Regional Development and Local Government Affairs Minister, Maris Kucinskis (People's party), held a meeting on September 26th with Austrian Ambassador to Latvia Wernfried Koeffler, who declared that Austria is interested in establishing cooperation with Latvia's regions, Leta News Agency reported.
Kucinskis informed the ambassador that his ministry is coordinating the drawing up of the Latvian National Development Plan and at the same time is becoming acquainted with similar such plans made by other countries. Kucinskis called Austria's plan a positive example in many aspects. Koeffler outlined priorities he has set during his term of office in Latvia, and one of them was establishing cooperation between Latvia's and Austria's regions. He described his recent trip to Liepaja where he was introduced to various cooperation projects that Austria is involved in. One of them is construction of the new concert hall. Koeffler vowed to represent Austria's interests not only in Riga, but in regional areas as well. Kucinskis told the ambassador about the course of regional reform and administrative-territorial reform in Latvia.

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Germany's Siemens wins 3G/W-CDMA deal from Tele2 

Latvia's major telecommunications provider, Tele2 SIA, a subsidiary of Swedish-based Tele2 AB, has contracted with Siemens to expand its GSM network and build a complete 3G/W-CDMA network infrastructure, New Europe reported. 
The contract includes the expansion of the radio and core system for the provider's GSM network in Latvia, the upgrade of existing GSM circuit and packet core network elements with 3G functionalities as well as building a complete 3G/W-CDMA radio network in the country's metropolitan areas. "The Baltic states are one of the fastest-growing economic regions in Europe. We are pleased to be able to participate in this boom and accompany the new EU countries in the evolution of their mobile communication networks toward 3G," commented Christoph Caselitz, president of Mobile Networks at Siemens Communications. The Siemens Communications Group is one of the largest players in the global telecommunications industry. In fiscal 2004 (year-end September 30), its 60,000-strong workforce posted sales of approximately 18 billion Euro.

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