Latvija in brief - 2008-12-17

  • 2008-12-17
Three possible locations in Riga are being considered for the construction of a hockey arena for the new ice hockey club, Riga Dinamo. The club's shareholder and deputy council chairman, Juris Savickis, said that the possible locations will not yet be announced publicly. The construction of the arena is projected to cost about 30 million euros.  The new hall will have a full infrastructure, including two ice arenas, premises for playing tennis, a swimming pool, a medical center, and a hotel. The arena will have the capacity to hold approximately 10,000 spectators. This fall, Riga Dinamo launched their first season as members of the newly-established Continental Hockey League and played their first games in Russia. The largest shareholder of Riga Dinamo is Itera Latvija, a gas import company headed by Savickis with 39.02 percent of shares. Savickis himself owns 9.76 percent of the club.  Prominent shareholders include ex-President Guntis Ulmanis and ex-Prime Minister Aigars Kalvitis. Until the new arena is constructed, Riga Dinamo will play the majority of its games in Arena Riga.

Latvian Constitutional Court chairman Gunars Kutris expects a large number of complaints from public sector employees regarding the cutting of their wages. Kutris said in an interview with Latvian public radio on Dec. 12 that there may have been breaches in constitutional rights, in some cases, in the cutting of wages for state and municipal institutions' employees in 2009, and in the firing of employees. He said that the upcoming complaints might refer to a person's rights to property and adequate wages, and the principle of protection of legitimate expectations. The Latvian parliament passed a bill on Dec. 12 that calls for the cutting of wages for officials and employees at government and local authority institutions in 2009. The new law provides for substantial restrictions in the salaries of the officials and employees of government and municipally-funded institutions in 2009. Most bonuses, benefits, allowances and compensations will be abolished next year. The new legislation, which comes into force in 2009, also includes the possibility to cut monthly salaries.

Moscow wants to establish a museum on the premises of the Victory Monument in Riga.  Delegations from Moscow had visited Riga, but the unclear status of the monument might hinder the proposed works as the monument does not belong to any institution. On Dec. 15, the reconstruction of the monument will begin. The memorial plaque will be inscribed, "For Liberators of Soviet Latvia and Riga." The sum needed for the reconstruction is not known, but Moscow promised to allocate all necessary resources. The premises have not been repaired for 20 years.

Edgars Skuja has been appointed the new Latvian Ambassador to Russia.  Russia has already approved of the candidacy, and Skuja will start working early next year.  Skuja, the Foreign Ministry's Deputy State Secretary on Bilateral Issues, is non-partisan. He has been working as the head of the CIS Countries Department, dealing with Latvian-Russian issues. He has worked as the Latvian ambassador to the OSCE and to Estonia.  Skuja is also head of the Latvian-Russian intergovernmental committee's group on humanitarian aide. According to Latvian President Valdis Zatlers, Latvian-Russian relations are good.