• 2004-08-19
Ministries and institutions in Latvia involved with EU funds lack qualified staff members, the State Audit Agency reported last week. According to the country's chief auditor, there are about 470 new civil servants this year who must be appropriately trained, yet no agreement has been reached with the State Administration School on this matter. In the first half of the year the Finance Ministry lost eight staff members dealing with EU structural funds, including two department heads and six senior experts. No wage increase for experienced specialists has been included in funding reports, the State Audit Agency said. Requirements for new specialists are high, but the remuneration system is complicated, with special bonuses and management contracts signed in order to reach the average 450 lat (680 euro) monthly wage set out by the government. The State Audit has thus suggested that the Finance Ministry and the State Chancellery improve staff member training and wage systems and introduce a common methodology for calculating wages.

The construction of new EU-level custom points in Ventspils, Riga, Daugavpils and Rezekne is proceeding as planned, with an opening set for November. Finance Minister Oskars Spurdzins said that construction could be completed at the two ports and two railway stations by September, when EC representatives will inspect the facilities. The new custom points are needed for EU-level food and veterinary control, which has for now been closed at the mentioned locations. The biggest problem is at Riga Port, where all food cargo transit has been stopped.

Latvia said it supported the planned establishment of the EU's Border Agency in Poland, which will be run by the Finnish border guard service, State Border Guard Chief Gunars Dabolins said on Aug. 13 after meeting with his Finnish counterpart. The Netherlands' EU presidency has planned to set up a border agency in one of the new EU countries by the start of next year for improving the security of the EU's new external border. Bids for the agency have been voiced by Estonia, Poland, Malta and others.

Denmark has banned Latvian fishermen from unloading herring at Danish ports due to the high levels of dioxins in the fish. The Latvian Food and Veterinary Service reported that the ban covers all fish caught by all countries in the southern Baltic Sea. The Latvian Fishing Association said the Danes imposed the ban out of economic considerations. "In order to get cancer from herring you have to eat a whole trainload, and only after a person has been six feet under for about 10 years would the dioxins cause cancer. It was previously thought that butter causes blindness, but everyone still eats it. More attention should be paid to Norwegian salmon, which is artificially colored," the association said.