Latvija in brief - 2006-02-15

  • 2006-02-15
President Vaira Vike-Freiberga described the EU's requirement to call the European single currency 'euro' in Latvian as reasonable, but said the issue needed more debating. "I do not consider it to be unprofessional," the president said in an interview with Latvian public television. "The Latvian language is not so phonetic as it claims to be." However, the president noted that "this is a debatable emotional issue of identity." Many lawmakers and Latvians want the currency to be called "eiro" to better reflect the currency's pronunciation in the Latvian language.

The portrait of Vike-Freiberga that will be mounted in the presidential residence after she leaves office next summer has been completed, said presidential spokeswoman Aiva Rozenberga. The art piece was painted by Miervaldis Polis, a popular Latvian painter, whom the President's Chancellery chose for the job. Polis will be paid 5,000 lats (7,000 euros) for painting the president. Previously Polis told the Baltic News Service that he had used pictures of Vike-Freiberga taken by himself, along with photographs from the President's Chancellery archive. It was a great responsibility to paint the president, he said, as everyone knows her from media reports. On the other hand, "it is easier to paint someone known to everyone than someone whom nobody knows," said the painter.

Four people, refusing to leave a house in Riga after a fire broke out in a neighboring apartment, were found dead about 10 hours after the fire was extinguished. National Fire and Rescue Service spokeswoman Solveiga Smiltene said the fire fighters, after arriving at the scene, suggested that the four leave the house along with other inhabitants, but they refused. As the situation was not critical and only one of the building's apartments was on fire, the people were allowed to remain in their dwelling. Fire and Rescue Service Chief Ainars Pencis told the Baltic News Service that fire fighters had visited all apartments in the house, waking people up and offering to evacuate them. The four people lived on the top floor of the three-storey building. "They slammed the doors on the rescuers and said they did not want to be bothered," said Pencis.

Ambassador to the United States Maris Riekstins decided to join the ruling People's Party, but has no intention of taking any high offices or running in parliamentary elections, which will allow him to continue as ambassador. The ambassador explained that, by law, he would be required to quit only if he assumed a high position in the party. The People's Party will be the first political party that Riekstins has joined. The ambassador said he decided to enroll because "in everyone's life the time comes when you feel that something has to be done in a different way." Riekstins hopes he will be able to contribute the knowledge accumulated during his long years of work in the public administration. Riekstins chose the People's Party because the party approached him. "I think this party has proven itself over the years as a party that solves matters in a manner that I find acceptable. It is not a narrow group or a project for single elections. The People's Party has taken its political niche and proved itself."