Latvija in brief - 2006-11-22

  • 2006-11-22
The government may relocate the infantry unit serving in Iraq to Afghanistan, Defense Minister Atis Slakteris said in an interview with Latvian Public Radio. The Iraqi army, he stated, was gradually taking over the function of ensuring public order, which is much needed in Afghanistan. "We are seriously considering relocating this unit to Afghanistan some time in the future while keeping some troops in Iraq," said the defense minister. He added that no official decision had been made, and that military partners would discuss Latvia's plan. There are 35 Latvian peace-keepers serving in Afghanistan and 125 soldiers serving in Iraq.

According to a recent poll, approximately two thirds of the population regard themselves as patriots, and the number of non-citizens holding such an opinion is rising. The poll, carried out by SKDS pollster, showed that 69 percent of residents call themselves Latvian patriots, while 24 percent do not. Six percent did not have any opinion. A similar poll carried out in 2005 revealed that the number of patriotic residents has not changed since then, although the number of people fully agreeing to the statement "I see myself as a Latvian patriot" is declining.

Addressing lawmakers on Independence Day (Nov. 18), newly elected Speaker of Parliament Indulis Emsis voiced concern over the nation's population decline, calling for programs to improve the demographic situation. He mentioned boosting the national birthrate and improving family welfare as goals, noting that the government should more than just ensure decent maternity allowances. "It must be a complex program including both high-quality child care and education. It means protecting families in the labor market and ensuring equal career opportunities," he said, adding that it was essential to take care of people's national identity. "At times, we are no longer able to discern the uniqueness of our country among other nations.