President Vaira Vike-Freiberga said the increasing outflow of Latvian workers to Ireland and other rich EU member states was a serious challenge for the government. She admitted that it is obvious that Latvia would not be able compete with the high salaries paid to workers in Ireland, especially for low-skill work. "But here the government and all society have to find mutually acceptable solutions for increasing wages in our economy, otherwise the situation will turn into a kind of a vicious circle," the president said. Vike-Freiberga said that she receives numerous letters in which people complain that employers, especially in Latvia's provinces, force employees to work officially for the minimum wage and pay them the rest of remuneration unofficially. "Workers have no other options but to agree to these rules of the game, but the state suffers as a result because taxes remain unpaid," the president said.
Ventspils Mayor Aivars Lembergs said that authorities launched a criminal probe against him with an aim to "cover up" the criminal investigation into Einars Repse's business deals. In an interview to Latvia's LNT commercial television, Lembergs said, "They have to cover Repse. How do they do it? In this case, it is possible to use Lembergs for the purpose." The mayor, who was interviewed prior to New Year's, said he would not be surprised to hear the news about launching the criminal procedure at 11.50 p.m. on Dec. 31. "Then they would have the largest audience," he said. The Latvian Prosecutor General's Office on Dec. 29 initiated an investigation against Lembergs for his failure to comply with the government's decision to appoint Ojars Grinbergs, a representative of the ruling New Era party, as board member of the Ventspils Free Port.
A policeman accidentally killed a young man when trying to break up a fight in Riga on Jan. 3. The National Police reported that the off duty policeman had been walking his dog around midnight when he came upon a bunch of youngsters beating a young man. He fired a warning shot from his personal weapon and demanded that the youngsters stop fighting. Some of the attackers fled, scared by the shot, but a few remained and continued beating their victim, who lay on the ground. The policeman then came closer, but in the ensuing scuffle accidentally fired a shot that hit one of the attackers. A 24-year-old man died on the scene from a bullet wound to his head. The policeman has been serving on the police force for 25 years. He has never received disciplinary punishment but has 52 citations for good work.
The Riga City Council administrative commission has for the first time punished an underaged youngster with community service work for repeated offenses of public intoxication. A representative of the administrative commission said that the 17 year-old adolescent was punished for drinking in public for the third time within one year. Pursuant to the decision, the teenager will have to clean streets or parks for up to 10 hours.