The European Commission initiated a breach procedure against Latvia on July 9 for failing to introduce adequate environmental protection areas. The EC pointed out that there have been 28 cases in which the areas designated as "restricted" by the Latvian government showed considerable differences with the results of a 2004 survey on the demands of birds' nesting areas. The commission thinks that there are as many as 14 endangered species that need better protection. The environment ministry is expected to prepare a position project on the topic to be adopted sometime in August.
A 16-year-old British national received serious injuries on July 7 after jumping off a bridge into the Daugava River. The youth was taken to the hospital in Ogre, about 35 kilometres east of Riga. The director of the Latvian Center of Emergency and Disaster Medicine Martins Sics said that the youth could be permanently paralyzed, BNS reported. The doctor also said that these sorts of injuries could be prevented if people observed basic safety precautions, such as avoiding swimming while under the influence of alcohol or jumping into the water from unreasonable heights.
Latvia's National Radio and Television Council, a broadcasting standards watchdog, began looking into problems with the July 8 live broadcast of new President Valdis Zatlers' inauguration ceremony by requesting that Latvian National Television submit a complete recording of the event. NRTVP has also asked LTV to explain glitches that occurred during the airing, preventing viewers from seeing the whole ceremony. The broadcast was inexplicably cut off while Zatlers was taking his oath of office. LTV1 director Baiba Smite has stated that an inquiry is underway to establish the reason for the glitch.
Latvia's new ambassador to the U.S., Andrejs Pildegovics, said in a July 10 interview with LNT that he thinks a visa free arrangement with the United States could become a reality by the end of 2008. He noted that "the dynamics of the talks are going quite well" between the U.S. and Eastern European countries. Pildegovics was the head of former president Vaira Vike-Freiberga's office before taking the post, and is scheduled to arrive in Washington sometime before July 20. He is planning to meet with several Latvian officials before leaving. The post of Ambassador to the U.S. has been vacant since Jan. 15.
Newly-elected President Valdis Zatlers has announced almost all of his advisors and staff. He chose former Ambassador to the EU Eduards Stiprais to head his chancellery, the most important position in his office. The rest of his councillors will advise him on their specific areas of expertise, and his new staff will consist of press secretary Inta Lase, national security advisor Raimonds Rozkalns, advisor on foreign issues Andris Pelss, and his most recent addition, Normunds Belskis, who had already been assisting the president since his victory. Sandra Kukule and Zane Zeibote will continue their work as the advisor on legal issues and advisor on economic issues respectively.