Latvija in brief - 2012-02-02

  • 2012-02-01

President Andris Berzins has changed his mind and, contrary to his previous statements, has decided to participate in the Feb. 18 state language referendum, reports LETA. Berzins said in an interview with Latvian State Television’s news show ‘Panorama’ Monday evening that the referendum was a consequence of economic and political instability. The president had initially regarded the referendum as absurd. Now, however, Berzins has decided to participate in it, “to protect the language.” The president reiterated his statements that to deny Latvian as the only state language is to deny Latvia too. He previously explained that he would not participate in the referendum, as he had to treat everyone equally. The ruling coalition urges all citizens to vote against granting the status of official language for Russian.

Latvia will increase defense spending to two percent of GDP no earlier than 2020, Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis (Unity) said on Jan. 27 after a meeting with Estonian Defense Minister Mart Laar, reports LETA. Currently, Latvia’s defense spending is at one percent of GDP, whilst Estonia’s defense spending is two percent of GDP. Dombrovskis said that Latvia intends to increase defense spending gradually to achieve two percent of GDP. However, the prime minister said that there is no exact timeline this could happen. “Realistically, I do not believe this will be sooner than 2020,” the prime minister said. During the meeting, the two sides also discussed Latvia-Estonian defense cooperation, as well as cooperation within NATO. Both officials also said that they hope a decision will be made in the upcoming NATO Summit in Chicago to extend the alliance’s patrol of Baltic airspace.

Last year, 176 people were killed in road accidents throughout Latvia, which was 19.3 percent less when compared to 2010, according to data from the State Police, reports LETA. Last year’s traffic fatality figure is the lowest since Latvia began recording the number of persons killed on the country’s roads each year. In 2011, there were 3,379 traffic accidents registered in the country, with 4,225 persons suffering various injuries. There was a 5.8 percent increase in the number of persons suffering injuries in road accidents last year.

Latvia will withdraw from the World Tourism Organization (WTO), according to the Economy Ministry’s bill on terminating the agreement with the organization that was approved by the government on Jan. 31, reports The Ministry believes that the WTO provides little assistance in the development of the Latvian tourism industry. Moreover, Latvia paid the organization 41,903 lats (59,800 euros) in dues in 2011, which is among the highest membership fees Latvia has ever paid to any international organization. Latvia joined the WTO on Oct. 20, 2003, and became a full-fledged member on Jan. 1, 2005. As a result, the country was able to participate in various international tourism projects. Currently, the organization has 154 member states