Latvija in brief - 2007-02-21

  • 2007-02-21
Latvia is not likely to adopt the euro before 2013, according to the international rating agency Standard & Poor's. On Feb. 19 the agency affirmed Latvia's credit ratings at the previous level, but revised Latvia's outlook from stable to negative, saying that the planned natural gas tariff hikes and the large domestic demand will keep Latvia from meeting the inflation criteria for joining the common currency. The agency also said that if the Latvian economic growth slows down, fiscal performance is expected to worsen, which would pose further risks to Latvia's prospects for EMU membership. Latvia planned to adopt the euro in 2008, but several officials have already admitted that it would not be possible due to the high inflation.

President Vaira Vike-Freiberga on Feb. 19 promulgated a bill authorizing the government to sign the Latvian-Russian border treaty into law, and expressed hopes that the treaty would be finalized as soon as possible. On Feb 8, Parliament had passed the bill authorizing the cabinet to sign the border agreement that the two countries had initialed 1997. Lawmakers from the opposition center-right New Era party and the nationalist alliance For Fatherland and Freedom/LNNL (TB/LNNK), as well as Visvaldis Lacis and Leopolds Ozolins from the Greens and Farmers Union, had voted against the bill. Prime Minister Aigars Kalvitis said earlier that the border treaty might be signed in March at the earliest.

A team of Latvian specialists exploring Egypt's ancient pyramids have rediscovered a forgotten column from the Djoser Pyramid in Saqqara, Egypt. The column had been taken to a Berlin Museum, but went missing from its collection during World War II bombing. After studying archives and publications, the Latvian scientists concluded that the missing 22nd column was once covered with inscriptions or epigraphs, and that for this reason had been taken to the Berlin Museum of Egyptology. Traces of the column had disappeared from the museum's documents during the war. Djoser's Pyramid, the oldest known stone building in the world, was built some 2,700 years BC by architect Imhotep.

A protocol on the restoration of diplomatic relations between Latvia and Lybia was inked at the Latvian representation in the U.N. in New York on Feb. 16. The document was signed by Latvian envoy to the U.N. Solveiga Silkalna and Lybia's vice-ambassador to the U.N. Attia Omar Mubarak. Despite the warming of relations, the Latvian diplomat denounced a death penalty handed down by a Lybian court to five Bulgarian medical nurses and a Palestinian doctor accused of deliberately infecting patients with HIV. Latvia has diplomatic ties with a total of 147 countries after signing the latest protocol.

A 25-year-old Latvian saxophone player, Oskars Petrauskis, has won Yamaha's Europ Sax Contest in Hamburg, Germany. According a report in Diena, Petrauskis finished first, beating 400 rival contestants to scoop the grand prize of a Yamaha saxophone worth 3,000 lats (4,200 euros) and a tour of Japan. Petrauskis, who has already won a number of awards in other contests, credited his victory to the help of his brother Raimonds, who performed the piano accompaniment in his entry.