Seeing forests for the trees

  • 1999-12-09
  • By Blake Lambert
RIGA - A group of more than 20 Members of Parliament filed a petition
in Latvia's Constitutional Court to revoke a government decree to
establish a new joint-stock company.

Members of the Social Democrats, the New Party, and For Human Rights
in an Integrated Latvia stated in their claim that the Latvian state
forestry company Latvijas Valsts Mezi is contrary to current forest

The joint-stock company, scheduled to start on Jan. 1 will become
responsible for managing Latvia's forests, which are now supervised
by the State Forest Service.

"Well, we are not protesting the idea. We are protesting the
procedure," said Gundars Bojars, a Social Democrat MP and deputy
chair of Parliament.

"To our mind, it's illegal. According to the current forest
legislation, the concept of forest development in Latvia must be
confirmed in the Saeima [Latvia's parliament] first."

Bojars said there is a correct order in which legislation must be
approved by Parliament: the concept on forest development, the law on
forests, the law on the State Forest Service and the law on the
joint-stock company.

He said it is contrary to current legislation to create a joint-stock
company on forests, while the law on forests has not been approved.

The opposition MPs claimed in their petition that even though the
Cabinet of Ministers approved the decree for Latvijas Valsts Mezi in
September, it was approved when Parliament's law on forest management
was already in place.

"We are hoping that the government at last understands they have to
do this in the right way. First pass the concept of forest
development through the Saeima. Then pass the law on forests through
the Saeima," said Bojars.

Although the decree for the Latvian state forestry company was
approved in September, Bojars said no protest could be launched until
the company was created and started making plans.

Once filed in Latvia's Constitutional Court, the opposition's
petition was handed to Judge Romans Apsitis, who will decide, either
at the end of this month or in the new year, if proceedings will be
started in this case.

Bojars said the reasons for the protest against Latvian State Forests
were political and pragmatic.

"We don't want the biggest export in Latvia at the moment to be
controlled by certain companies or economic groups," he said.

The joint-stock company has not been privatized by the government,
but Bojars said the opposition MPs are worried that it's a
possibility, which they want to avoid.

"You can't privatize forests, but you just need to privatize the
company, and then you will have control over Latvia's forests for 99