Latvija in brief - 2006-07-19

  • 2006-07-19
Francesco Bandarin, director of the UNESCO World Heritage Center, has recommended that Latvia tear down a Soviet-era tower in Riga, which currently houses the Agriculture Ministry, and urged leaders to carefully consider plans to build several new multi-story buildings on the left bank of the River Daugava. "We are not against high-rises, but against buildings that degrade the environment," Bandarin said, pointing out that the Agriculture Ministry building does not complement the Old Town's architecture. The director assured that UNESCO's aim was not to hamper the city's development, but rather promote high-quality and modern architecture that harmonizes with Riga's historical center.

The Prosecutor General's Office and the State Law Department have launched a probe into financial losses incurred during the construction of Latvia's eastern border. After hearing the Interior Ministry's report on July 18, the government decided to ask the Prosecutor's Office to assess responsibility for the loss. Prime Minister Aigars Kalvitis believes those responsible should receive adequate punishment. In an interview with Latvia's LNT commercial television, the prime minister blamed former government officials Einars Repse and Maris Gulbis for suspending construction in order to raise their popularity ratings.

Former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright sent President Vaira Vike-Freiberga a letter in which she expresses concern over plans to ban the sale of Coca-Cola in Latvia's schools. Vike-Freiberga's spokeswoman, Aiva Rozenberga, said the letter has been passed on to the Latvian Health Ministry with a request to provide an opinion. In her letter, Albright criticizes the decision for singling out a single producer 's the U.S. company Coca-Cola. The draft provisions, announced at a meeting of state secretaries, would prohibit selling schoolchildren drinks containing unnatural coloring, sweeteners, preservatives, caffeine and amino acids.

The Riga Vidzeme District Court has fined two men charged with gambling fraud. The court ruling was based on an agreement reached between the prosecutor and defendants Arturs Serefejevs and Vladimirs Pomituns, under which both men will have to pay fines equal to 30 minimum wages. The defendants have already repaid 26,754 lats (38,067 euros) to the betting company. In December, police detained two 24-year-old men who illegally accessed an online sports gambling data base and used its content to defraud money from betting agencies.