The ruling coalition parties announced that no ceiling will be imposed on maternity benefits. These benefits will only be paid to parents who do not work A transition period will be in place until May 3, 2010 for the new system to come into force, as Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis and Welfare Minister Uldis Augulis told reporters. The government will act in accordance with the principle of legitimate expectation, said Dombrovskis. He also acknowledged that the government will be able to allot money necessary to pay the maternity benefits during the transitional period. Augulis said that no ceiling will be imposed on maternity and paternity benefits after the transition period, as the government had originally planned. According to the government's May 12 decision, an 500 lat ceiling would be set on maternity benefits that are currently equal to 70 percent of gross income of one of the parents over the 12 previous months, and may be less or more than 500 lats per month. Benefits for babies up to one years old would also be cancelled.
Thousands of cheese enthusiasts gathered in the coastal town of Liepaja on May 23 for the 5th annual Cheese Festival. Many chefs from cooking schools made and arranged hundreds of cheese sandwiches from eight different cheeses to in a 20 meter long chain. The sandwiches disappeared in a half hour as hungry participants sampled the cheesy fare. People also had the opportunity to taste and purchase local cheeses. Chef Juris Karlsons heading up the event said that five cooks had spent all night baking a 250 kilo cheesecake, using 12 kilos of cheese to create it. The chef admitted people were surprised that something so sweet could be made mostly from cheese.
Latvian airline airBaltic has received permission from the U.S. Department of Transportation to begin flights from Europe to the United States. On May 22, airBaltic and partner airline SAS were approved to operated flights in the near future. Through a code-share agreement, airBaltic would be allowed to sell flights to the U.S., while the flights themselves would be SAS run. However, due to economic concerns, airBaltic is unsure when such a transatlantic service would begin. AirBaltic will be able to operate the code-share flights until May 2010, when their permission expires, according to a Department of Transportation notice. The notice also stated that airBaltic and SAS routes would serve New York and Copenhagen, New York and Stockholm, Chicago and Stockholm and Chicago and Copenhagen.
Foreign Minister Maris Riekstins Riekstins embarked on a state visit to Asia for the ninth Asia-Europe meeting in Hanoi. Riekstins presented his views on the current political and economic situation in the partnership countries at the time when the global economic and financial crisis threatens democracy in Ukraine and in Moldova. Minister Riekstins also stressed that the political instability in Georgia as well as the unresolved frozen conflicts, including the issue of Nagorno Karabakh, affect security and stability both in Europe and in Asia. The Foreign Minister also met with the foreign ministers of Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam.