The government during a closed session on Oct. 28 decided to merge the Integration Secretariat with the Ministry of Children and Family Affairs. The prime minister's spokesman Edgars Vaikulis said that it was decided the integration affairs agency planned by the Integration Minister Oskars Kastens will not be established and the Secretariat will be merged with the ministry headed by Ainars Bastiks, which will in future be called the Ministry of Children, Family and Integration Affairs. Prime Minister Ivars Godmanis said that it is possible that some of the integration secretariat functions will be transferred to the state agency Youth International Programs Agency of the Ministry of Children and Family Affairs. The supervision of the Social Integration fund will be revised as well. The change will save the government 316,000 lats (449,630 euro).
Citizens may begin travel to Australia visa-free for business and tourism as of Nov. 3, the Foreign Ministry said. The total visa free stay of Latvians in Australia is limited to three months annually. In order to travel to Australia visa-free, citizens must register at the electronic travel system eVisitors Service. The electronic travel system is available at the homepage of Australian Department of Immigration and Citizenship homepage www.immi.gov.au/e_visa/visitors.htm
. The Foreign Ministry continues work on introducing visa free regime with Brazil.
To ensure the necessary number of troops in the Latvian army, National Armed Forces (NAF) commander Juris Maklakovs said that physical requirements might have to be reduced for recruits. Maklakovs said that he has received information from the Aluksne Infantry School that the physical preparedness of the future soldiers is critical. To ensure the necessary number of troops in the army, the physical requirements will be downgraded. Maklakovs also said that physically unprepared troops will not be sent to units or international operations. If the army cannot fill the vacancies, the troops with poor physical preparedness will have a longer training period. Currently, a physically ready soldier has to undergo a three-month training period. A weaker candidate might have to train for 4-5 months.