Latvija in brief - 2005-10-19

  • 2005-10-19
President Vaira Vike-Freiberga said that it is wrong to demand top-rate performance from the Latvian Institute, a state agency entrusted with promoting Latvia in the world, unless it is provided with sufficient funding. She said her impression was that the Latvian Institute, which she ran before becoming president, was being made a scapegoat in a situation when Latvia's international image "is not as perfect as we might want it to be." She pointed out that the politicians had failed to think about what the Latvian Institute can do, "what could be expected of it and at what cost."

The anticorruption bureau detained an official of the naturalization board in the city of Limbazi for allegedly taking a 1,000-euro bribe to help a resident pass the citizenship examination. Law enforcers also detained the mediator of the transaction.

The Supreme Court found three former Latvenergo executives guilty in the electricity monopoly's long-running case over a 1994 Banka Baltija loan. Former CEO Edgars Birkans was sentenced to seven years in prison, which he will not serve due to amnesty legislation passed in 1997. Former board members Ivars Liuzniks and Karlis Purnis were fined 2,400 lats (3,450 euros) and 2,000 lats. The case has become one of the country's most notorious. The judgment may be appealed within 10 days to the Senate of the Supreme Court.

In the three days since new laws were passed to curb drunk driving, police have detained 99 drivers. An Ogre regional court sentenced one person to 10 days in jail for driving under the influence. New legislation gives officers the power to seize cars and threaten jail time for repeated drunk driving or driving without a license.

After a heated debate the Cabinet of Ministers agreed to provide finance for the first phase of building the National Library. The measure was passed after the decision regarding a new concert hall was postponed until next year. The state agreed to grant more than 8.5 million lats, with the total cost of the project running at more than 100 million lats (though interest payments will bring the total to more than 160 million lats).

The Integration Ministry is planning to hold an information campaign in November and December to raise awareness about the national minority convention. The campaign is expected to cost the government 5,750 lats (8,180 euros), however Irina Vinnika, who heads the Integration Ministry secretariat's minority affairs department, pointed out that "the budget is insufficient to explain the minority convention." She explained: "We have invited a specialist who will prepare information materials for ethnic minorities. There will be texts of the convention with the law on its ratification. These texts will be translated into Russian." The secretariat noted that more attention should be paid to the eastern region of Latgale, where ethnic minorities live in high concentration.