Latvija in brief - 2008-08-20

  • 2008-08-20
The Latvian Trade Union of Health and Social Care Workers (LVSADA) has announced that it will call a one day "warning strike" on Sept. 26. The union is also planning to hold a protest on the same day outside the Parliament building. The strike comes in response to a government failure to address a long standing demand for higher wages for union workers. "We demand that the government earmark the necessary funding in the budget… We cannot put up with budget leftovers that are thrown to us like bits from the big budget pie, saying that there is not more to give," said LVSADA chairman Valdis Keris. Citing the Health Ministry's estimates, Keris said about 151.8 million lats (215 million euros) were needed to meet the trade union's demands.

The Latvian Foreign Ministry has praised the Aug. 18 release of Belarusian opposition politician Alexander Kozulin. The ministry noted that the politicians release was one of the main prerequisites for dialogue between Belarus and the EU. While Belarus has not yet given any official comments on the political prisoner's release, an opposition run Web site reportedly said that he was freed in order to attend the funeral of his father in law. Kozulin was also freed for three days in February to attend his wife's funeral.

Latvia has received three new ambassadors, the foreign ministry reported on Aug. 15. The ambassadors include Detlef Weigel from Germany, Cheng Wenju from China and Arne Staffansson from Sweden. During their first meeting, Latvian Foreign Minister Maris Riekstins discussed the priorities of France, which hold the EUs rotating presidency. During the meeting with Wenju, Riekstins discussed bilateral relations and deepening economic cooperation, particularly in transport. During his meeting with Staffesson the minister discussed Baltic Sea region cooperation.

Latvian weightlifter Viktors Scerbatihs has won the bronze medal in the over 105 kilogram event at the Beijing Olympics. The weightlifter, who also works as an MP in the nation's parliament, couldn't advance further in the event after his coach failed to register the athlete for a heavier lift, missing the deadline by a mere two seconds. Scerbatihs was then forced to attempt a 257 kilogram lift 's a lift that would have left him in gold medal position 's which he narrowly failed to complete. Germany's Matthias Steiner won the gold medal, while Russia's Yevgeniy Chigishev took the silver, losing out by only one kilogram.

Prime Minister Ivars Godmanis has ordered the Justice Ministry to set up a new workgroup to consider compensating Latvia's Jewish community for losses suffered during the holocaust. The issue was raised after Jewish leaders sent the prime minister a letter demanding a workgroup be set up to "settle the issue of the unreturned Jewish properties." The letter also notes that in 2006 the Latvian parliament rejected a bill that would have given the Jewish community some 32 million lats (45.5 million euros) in compensation.