Latvija in brief - 2006-05-03

  • 2006-05-03
The government has arranged to purchase 20,000 tickets to the 2006 World Ice-hockey Championship for students. Prime Minister Aigars Kalvitis told the press that the government had agreed with the Latvian Hockey Federation that 20,000 tickets could be purchased for school children at the price of two lats apiece, even though the retail price is 30 lats (43 euros). The students will have tickets to those games that are not in much demand among spectators, such as Ukraine versus Sweden or the United States versus Norway. The PM said many governments bought tickets for students during world sporting events, including the recent Turin Olympic Games. The Education and Science Ministry is responsible for distributing the tickets, and arranging transportation to the games. The championship takes place in Riga May 5-21.

The Supreme Court on June 26 will hear a criminal case against two young men charged with murdering an American missionary in Riga two years ago. Last October the Riga Regional Court found Karlis Magone and Ingus Smitkins guilty of murdering U.S. missionary Drew Rush and sentenced them to 20 years and 15 years in jail, respectively. In addition to imprisonment, the men's property was confiscated and, together, they will have to pay 1,753 lats (2,494 euros) in compensation to the Agape mission and 2,500 lats to the victim's family. U.S. missionary Drew Rush, 50, was found dead in his Riga apartment on Nov. 1, 2004. The man had been living in Latvia for more than two years.

Between 200 and 300 people gathered in Riga on May 1 to celebrate Labor Day. The left-wing bloc Harmony Center organized a concert and rally for the event, which saw both young families and elderly people in the crowd. Party members distributed little flags with inscription "Peace. Labor. May." to the crowd. "During the last 15 years while right-wing politicians have been in power, Latvia has ended up in a situation where most of the population lacks social security. Our country is in strong need of a leftist policy and social stability where everyone can feel the support and assistance of the state," Harmony Center chairman Nils Usakovs said before the celebration. "Therefore, we must come together on May 1 to show that the working people are the ones building the nation's welfare and contributing to its growth," he said. Harmony Center is a bloc formed by the New Center party, People's Harmony Party, the Daugavpils City Party and the Latvian Socialist Party.

Representatives of EU institutions are holding an international conference to initiate a discussion on Turkey's aspirations to accede to the bloc and dispel stereotypes about the country. "We want people in Latvia to be able to express their opinion, which would be based on facts and not on stereotypes," Inese Stepina, acting head of the European Commission representation in Latvia, said at the opening of the conference. She urged people to overcome their fears and prejudices about Turkey's bid to join the EU. In discussions on Turkey's accession it is necessary to seek answers to such questions as "How long will it take for Turkey to integrate in Europe" and "Is the EU able to ensure its security if Turkey is admitted?" among many others, Stepina said.