Latvija in brief - 2006-08-30

  • 2006-08-30
Delivering a lecture at the Danish Foreign Policy Society last week, President Vaira Vike-Freiberga underscored the need for a common EU foreign policy that would ensure a quick and efficient response in various crisis situations. "If we are looking at Europe's response to developments in the Middle East crisis, we see a divided Europe speaking in many and often contradicting voices. It would be logical to ask 's could we respond to such crises more rapidly and with greater impact if we were speaking in one voice?" the president asked. Vike-Freiberga admitted that such a policy could not be developed overnight, but that it would be sensible to agree on such a position to reach unity in the future. The Latvian president and her delegation were in Denmark on a state visit Aug. 23-25.

The government has upheld a proposal by the Foreign Ministry to buy a building in Rome for the Latvian Embassy in Italy. The house will be situated in a prestigious location "suitable for diplomatic representation functions," and will accommodate the embassy, the consular department and the culture center, along with diplomatic offices. The Latvian Embassy currently rents a three-room apartment in Rome with some basement space, which fails to guarantee physical security of the embassy staff and information, said the Latvian Foreign Ministry. Moreover, the premises cannot be reconstructed for embassy purposes.

The coalition force base in Diwanyah, Iraq, where most of Latvia's peacekeepers are stationed, came under fire on Aug. 26. Nobody was hurt. The military base came under mortar fire around 5 p.m.. The roof of the base's cafeteria was damaged. Attacks on the Diwanyah base have become more frequent in recent weeks. Two previous attacks occurred on Aug. 2 and Aug. 14, but the most serious incident took place on July 24 when shots were fired at Latvian peacekeepers. There are 119 Latvian soldiers serving on the international peace-keeping force in Iraq, and three more soldiers 's an officer and two instructors 's joined on Aug. 29.

A man escaped from a mental hospital in Riga on Aug. 28 and was still at large as of Aug. 29. Bogdans Koncevics, 26, was charged last year for stealing an antique shotgun from a museum in Liepaja, a police spokeswoman said. A Kurzeme District Court sentenced him to nine years in jail, yet Koncevicks appealed the decision. Earlier this summer, the court sent him to a Riga hospital for mental tests. Koncevics himself believes he may suffer from an unhealthy obsession for firearms, which might have prompted him to commit several crimes. Koncevics has been sentenced three times in the past three years. The last conviction came in September 2005 when he was given a three-year jail term for stealing arms. Koncevics escaped from the hospital by sawing the bars of a third-story window and using a rope made of sheets to descend.