Latvija in brief - 2006-12-06

  • 2006-12-06
The ruling nationalist For Fatherland and Freedom party will nominate American-Latvian Rasma Karklina, professor of political science at the University of Illinois, for the post of ombudsman. Karklina, currently a guest professor at the University of Latvia, has accepted the offer. She said she hopes to instill prestige in the ombudsman's office in society and among politicians. Karklina said the office was very important for Latvia's democratic development and strengthening the rule of law. If her candidacy is supported, Karklina said she's willing to renounce her U.S. citizenship for the job.

The government supported a Defense Ministry proposal to extend participation in the international peacekeeping mission in Iraq to the end of 2007. However, Parliament still has to make the final decision. Last year, the government extended the National Armed Forces' mission to the end of 2006, but the Defense Ministry said the further presence of international troops is still necessary. Minister Atis Slakteris said the matter should be sent to Parliament urgently, as the current mandate expires at the end of this year. He added that it was difficult to forecast how long the mission in Iraq will last.

Meeting with Russian Ambassador Viktor Kalyuzhny, President Vaira Vike-Freiberga said her invitation to Russian President Vladimir Putin to visit Riga still stands. Vike-Freiberga told the Russian diplomat that a meeting with Putin would provide a great opportunity to discuss several issues of bilateral relations. The president indicated that the visit would allow the two leaders to exchange opinions on vital issues concerning further cooperation between Latvia and Russia, from political dialogue to trade cooperation.

The government replaced fomer National Police head Janis Zascirinskis with Aldis Lieljuksis. Until now, General Lieljuksis has been deputy head of the police service that combats money laundering, and prior to that had headed the National Police for several years. Zascirinskis has been appointed as advisor to the Interior Ministry state secretary and is due to take his new office on Dec. 7. After his appointment, Lieljuksis announced his plan to improve the work of the police. He said that officers have been neglecting crime prevention, and it is therefore "necessary to analyze legislation and practice to see what improvements could be made."

Special Minister for Society Integration Oskars Kastens said he supported proposals to reintroduce dual citizenship. Kastens told the Baltic News Service that if Latvians residing abroad were able to obtain dual citizenship it would strengthen ties to the native country. The minister has instructed a special department, the Diaspora Department, to work on the issue. Past integration ministers have established a task force to motivate Latvia's diaspora to return to their motherland, but reintroducing dual citizenship was one of the mooted options.