Latvija in brief - 2007-05-16

  • 2007-05-16
May 9 celebrations commemorating the 1945 Soviet victory over Nazi Germany went relatively smoothly, despite heightened tensions in the Baltics following Estonia's trouble over the Bronze Soldier monument. Thousands of people gathered at the Victory Monument in Riga to celebrate the event and lay flowers at the site. Bands meanwhile played traditional Russian songs while small stands sold shish-kebabs, snacks, trinkets and flowers. The events saw 124 people punished for various offenses of public order regulations, the vast majority of which were in relation to drinking or being drunk in a public place.

On May 14, Foreign Minister Artis Pabriks called on EU member states to express joint support for Estonia in the upcoming EU-Russia summit in Samara. He called Russia's actions "unacceptable," referring to violations of the Vienna Conventions and the county's use of Internet attacks in the wake of Estonia's decision to move the Bronze Soldier monument. At the same time, Pabriks underscored the importance of a dialogue on energy with Russia.

Former Prime Minister Einars Repse was forced on May 15 to put the company yacht up for sale after his Sirocco company suffered massive losses amounting to more than 77,000 lats (110,000 euros). Repse's wife, Ruta Raginska-Repse, noted that the selling of fixed assets does not always mean a company is failing, and left open the possibility of buying a cheaper yacht to continue the tourism aspect of the business.

The Finance Ministry and the Education and Science Ministry plan to increase teachers' wages by 50 percent, to 284 lats per month, as of September 1 of this year to help remedy their abysmally low incomes. Teachers had asked for a increase to 468 lats by September. The raise will require about 10 million lats (14 million euros) of additional financing this year and 21 million lats every year hereafter. The plan envisages a gradual increase in salaries over the next eight years until they reach 978 lats per month in 2014.

Latvian group placed 16th at this year's Eurovision Song Contest scoring a total of 54 points. The group of six musicians, who came together specifically to represent Latvia at the event, performed Swedish songwriter Kjell Jennestig's composition "Questa Notte." The poor result means that Latvia will be forced to place well in next year's Eurovision semi-finals in order to make it to the final competition. The winner of this year's contest was Serbian singer Marija Serifovic, who performed the song "Molitva."