Books on Latvia
Update No: 296 - (26/08/05)
Latvian President advocates EU change
The Latvian president, Vaira Vike-Freiberga, has underscored that the EU was
currently facing a crisis, and that aims to become the most dynamically growing
economy in the world were falling short. Reforms in many EU member states have
been formally implemented, she noted, and the results are not satisfactory.
An increasing contribution to research, education and technology is necessary to
raise the bloc's international competitiveness, she said, pointing out that
citizens are becoming increasingly dissatisfied with the slow economic growth,
unemployment and other woes.
"Each crisis has two alternative interpretations. One is a 'threat' and the
other one - 'opportunity.' In my opinion, we need a debate on what the EU
actually is, and what it stands for, in order to go forward and turn crisis into
opportunity," Vike-Freiberga said.
Radical nationalism might be artificial
President Vike-Freiberga said in a recent interview that the recent wave of
anti-Semitic comments or assaults on non-Latvians could have been kindled
"There are especially humane people like missionaries and there is the
other extreme -- people, who keep looking for an external enemy all their lives
and boost their psychologically damaged self-confidence by making hateful
comments on others. The number of such people in Latvia is not larger than in
any other country," she told the Neatkariga daily paper.
"According to the conspiracy theory, I start feeling that how come that all
those incidents occur with clocklike regularity, so may be there are provoked
artificially. But this is difficult to prove as there is no specific
evidence," said the Latvian president.
"Everybody knows that there are good Latvians and bad Latvians, just like
there are good Russians and bad Russians," she said.
Latvia budget vote triggers fresh coalition crisis
Latvia's shaky ruling coalition has been plunged into a fresh crisis after a key
government party threatened on July 21 to vote down the budget.
The New Era political party, which is the largest in parliament, said if their
budget priorities were not met, then it would vote against the budget. In
Latvia, such a no vote constitutes a vote of no confidence in the government.
A date for a vote on the budget, which has been drawn up to try to balance out
the competing interests of the four coalition partners, has not been agreed to.
Instability has been a hallmark of coalition governments in Latvia since it
emerged from Soviet rule in 1991. The nation, which joined the European Union in
May last year, has had 12 governments in the last 15 years. Last year a minority
coalition crumbled after it failed to pass a budget. The current four-party
coalition is the third since 2002 has been wracked by internal tensions since
Aigars Kalvitis was sworn in as prime minister just over six months ago.
Kalvitis, who is member of New Era's rival People's party, called on New Era to
think of the state's priorities not only those of their party's. But New Era
said if its demands in the key policy areas of health, education, and justice
were not met then it would move to vote the budget down. "If in the
government or in parliament a budget is put forward that does not contain an
increase in financing for science, as is foreseen in the law for scientific
work, and teachers or doctors salaries, then New Era will vote against that
budget," faction head Karlis Sadurskis said recently. The party also took
issue with another coalition member, the religious party Latvia's First, and its
push to use state funds to repair churches across the country, in a so-called
"sacred tourism" scheme.
New Era, a party that emerged only three years ago to contest the 2002 elections
on a reform platform, is a bitter rival of the People's party. The two parties
are the largest in parliament and decided to work together only after two
previous governments failed.
The battle of the budget is the latest in a long-running round of tensions
between the government's coalition members. Aside from the budget, New Era has
also challenged the Latvia's First party's candidate for the state's top human
rights job. At the same time, New Era and the religious party have locked in a
fight over the state's telephone monopoly.
Latvia to drive Baltic growth
Latvia will be the fastest growing economy in the Baltic states in the
coming years, although inflation will be higher than neighbouring Lithuania and
Estonia, the Baltic News Service reported recently, citing the Baltic
macroeconomic review, which is prepared by SEB banks in the region. SEB analysts
said the Latvian economy had adapted well to being in the European Union and was
still leading by GDP growth.
GDP growth is expected at 7.5 per cent this year and 7 per cent in 2006.
Lithuanian GDP growth is estimated at 6.8 per cent in 2005 and at 6.5 per cent
in 2006 while the forecast for Estonia is a 6.4 per cent growth both this and
Finns to purchase Latvian gas
Finland is planning to start importing natural gas from Latvia via a pipeline
under the Baltic Sea from Estonia, The St. Petersburg Times reported.
The pipeline could be in place by 2010. The seabed pipeline, at an estimated
cost of 80 million Euro (US$95m), would run from Estonia, some 50 miles south of
Finland across the Gulf of Finland. The natural gas would be transmitted to
Estonia from Latvia along an existing gas network. The new pipeline would help
meet growing demand for the clean energy source, especially in the Helsinki
region, according to Antero Jannes, chief executive of Gasum, a natural gas
company that is 25 per cent government owned.
TeliaSonera eyes Lattelekom, LMT
Latvian Prime Minister, Aigars Kalvitis, announced that Nordic group TeliaSonera
AB has submitted an offer to buy the Latvian government's 51 per cent stake in
fixed line company Lattelekom and mobile operator LMT, Baltic News Service
TeliaSonera holds 49 per cent of Lattelekom and 49 per cent of LMT, which in
turn is 23 per cent controlled by Lattelekom.
TeliaSonera's Baltic spokesman, Kjell Lindstroem, said: "It would be
optimal for our company to acquire 100 per cent of shares in Lattelekom and LMT,
and it is no secret that TeliaSonera has always been interested in acquiring
those shares." Lindstroem declined to say how much TeliaSonera had offered,
and said details will only be released once the government has reviewed the
Latvia Mobile, Nokia team up
Latvijas Mobilais Telefons (Latvia Mobile Telephone, LMT) has signed an
agreement with Nokia whereby the latter will supply and deploy WCDMA 3G network
equipment to develop LMT's mobile network, New Europe reported.
This deployment will be the first commercial WCDMA 3G network in Latvia, as well
as the first in the Baltic states. The initial service has been launched, paving
the way for LMT to offer commercial 3G services such as video call and video
sharing. Nokia's system is currently providing 3G coverage for the Latvian
capital Riga and will to be expanded to suburban areas and beyond beginning in
2006. Nokia is a world leader in mobile communications. Nokia provides
equipment, solutions and services for network operators and corporations.