On the first day of his official visit to Latvia on Dec. 18, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov exchanged border treaty documents with Latvian Foreign Minister Maris Riekstins, finally putting the controversial border agreement into force. The border agreement stipulates that a part of Latvia's former territory, Abrene County (now Pytalovo District), belongs to Russia 's a concession which drew heavy criticism from nationalist groups. The Constitutional Court, however, found the treaty to be legal. The Russian foreign minister also took the opportunity to extend an invitation to Latvian president Valdis Zatlers to make an official visit to the country.
On Dec. 13, the Welfare Ministry announced that its main goal for 2008 will be to facilitate the return of guest workers abroad to Latvia. The ministry plans to provide financial assistance to some 5,000 returnees to help them start up their own businesses and otherwise reintegrate into the Latvian labor market. The ministry said that it also plans to provide support to more than 16,000 returnees and 1,750 people who have long commutes to their workplaces. Moreover, the ministry plans to set up distance learning and e-education courses for former emigrants.
The Kurzeme Regional Court on Dec. 13 sentenced a 20-year old man to life in prison for a late-2006 double murder. The court also handed down a suspended 18-month jail term to a co-defendant for failure to report the murders to the authorities. On Nov. 26, 2006, Riga resident Konstantins Zdepskis arrived in Liepaja to visit his elderly grandmother and great-grandmother. When one of the women allowed him into the apartment, he used a store-bought knife to stab his grandmother 18 times his great-grandmother 10 times, killing them both. Police believe that the motive was robbery.
The State Public Service Administration has found violations in the purchase of gift cards and organization of a party by the State Chancellery. A statement from the VCP said that the State Chancellery did not have the right to spend money received from the European Union Twinning project, which involved consultations with the Romanian government, for the purchase of gift cards. The probe also found that the State Chancellery lied to the media about the source of the funds used for the party and the gift cards. The VCP now plans to ask the prime minister to launch a disciplinary case against the State Chancellery.
In a Dec. 15 interview with Latvijas Avize, former Health Minister Gundars Berzins maintained praise for his party's candidate for prime minister, Edgars Zalans. Berzins said the candidate 's whom numerous commentators have ridiculed for his striking resemblance to fictional teenage wizard Harry Potter 's would have been the perfect person to bring a breath of fresh air to the "kingdom of dead souls" which is the Latvian political environment. "You enter the kingdom of the dead souls, there are skeletons, dust, and everybody says hush," he said.