Latvija in brief - 2005-01-19

  • 2005-01-19
Nearly twice the number of residents applied for citizenship last year compared with 2003, the Naturalization Board has said. Over 21,000 people took the exam in 2004, while 11,300 did in the previous year. Since the board was founded, 85,400 people have become citizens. Some 462,200 people still remain noncitizens.

MPs from the Parliament's foreign affairs committee, Foreign Ministry officials and historians were set to discuss key aspects of the Latvian-Russian peace treaty signed in 1920 and the treaty's effects on relations between the two countries. Certain provisions of the peace treaty, such as "Russia declining from any claims to Latvia forever," were to be discussed and defined, the ministry reported. MP Aleksandrs Kirsteins told BNS the discussion was vital since in 1918, for example, Latvia's border was internationally recognized, which cannot be said of the borders changed during the Soviet era.

Belarusian Ambassador Vladimir Lamkov's recalling was possibly due to his failure to convince high-ranking Latvians to attend the Belarus expo, the Latvian TV news program Panorama reported. Lamkov's predecessor, Mikhail Marinich, is currently serving a five-year prison sentence for allegedly misappropriating office equipment, although many believe it was his opposition to the autocrat Alexandr Lukashenko that led to his imprisonment.

The Supreme Court will begin looking into the state energy company Latvenergo's 3 million lat (4.3 million euro) loss at the end of May 2005. In a previous ruling last October former company executives were acquitted, and the state appealed the decision. "The public should know what really happened, and the prosecutor must not feel embarrassed about the possibility that influential people may have been involved in this and therefore have decided to stay out. A person with such an attitude cannot work as a prosecutor," state prosecutor Janis Maizitis said.

Welfare Minister Dagnija Stake has proposed raising the minimum wage to 100 lats (143 euros) per month in 2006. Latvia, the poorest country in the EU according to GDP per capita, also has the lowest minimum wage at 80 lats per month.

A mother of four is likely to go to jail for defrauding the state of 26,250 lats (37,500 euros) in prenatal allowance. Svetlana Saka and her relative Liga Saka were sentenced to five years in prison each, in addition to having their property confiscated. Liga worked at the state's Social Insurance Agency and helped Svetlana claim a higher amount of income to receive social benefits while the latter was pregnant. Svetlana's sentence has been put off several times due to the age of her children (her youngest is now three), and she may finally serve it out.

A gay and lesbian youth organization has complained to the Human Rights Bureau after the Hotel Saulite refused to allow them to book rooms for an upcoming conference due to their sexual orientation. The gay organization GLJAB wanted to book 13 rooms for the EU-funded conference Youth for LGTB Youth. The case is being investigated and could possibly go to court.