Latvia plans to request the European Commission to permit Latvia to retain the right to budget subsidies for the agricultural sector even after EU membership when Latvian farmers are set to receive only partial EU subsidies during an initial transition period.
Latvia's European Integration Council agreed on this move Nov. 13, deciding to request a transitional period lasting till Jan. 1, 2009 for introducing EU support schemes in certain agricultural sectors. National budget payments would thus be alongside direct EU agricultural payments, stated Latvia's chief EU negotiator Andris Kesteris.
Kesteris said, "Latvia will not take on the responsibility to pay its farmers if there are problems with the budget but retains the right to apply existing criteria in Latvia for granting such support." Any such support would be decided upon by the government as part of the state budget.
Kesteris added that any state support "on top of direct EU payments" will allow for agricultural reform to continue. (Baltic News Service)
Fertilizer plant considers port
Akron, one of the major Russian fertilizer exporters, may buy a 45-percent holding in a fertilizer terminal of AS DBT at Estonia's Muuga Port, the Russian paper Vedomosti reported.
According to unofficial sources, Akron will buy the holding of Lotrans Logistics, a firm connected with Rustam Aksyonenko, the son of a former Russian transport and communications minister, paying $15 million for the deal, the paper wrote.
DBT is one of the most up-to-date West European chemical goods terminals with a capacity of more than 2 million tons a year. The terminal's biggest clients are Akron and Apatit Fertilizers. Shares in DBT are held 10 percent by management, and 45 percent each by Transiidikeskus AS and Lotrans Logistics.
The Akron holding company controls one-tenth of the Russian fertilizer market and nearly 10 percent of ammonia production. In 2001 Akron exported nearly 80 percent of the 3.4 million tons of fertilizer it produced. The firm's sales last year were $320 million. (BNS)
Tourists flocking to Riga
As many as 808,000 foreign tourists visited Latvia in the third-quarter of the year, an increase of 16.1 percent year-on-year, the country's statistics office reported.
Most of the foreigners were from the neighboring countries, with 26 percent from Lithuania, 24 percent from Estonia and 9 percent from Russia. Of all foreigners who visited Latvia in the third-quarter of the year, 33 percent said they were here in transit, 28 percent said they visited Latvia for vacationing, 12 percent for business transactions. Foreigners spent an average of 15.2 lats (25 euros) in Latvia daily.
Asked about their evaluation of service quality in Latvia, 70 percent said it was good, 25.1 percent satisfactory. 2.3 percent bad. But the visitors were less happy about entertainment opportunities with just 42.8 percent seeing them as good, 25.9 percent satisfactory, 3.9 percent bad while 27.4 percent were undecided. (BNS)
Another port for Estonia
The Port of Tallinn's supervisory council approved a decision of its board Nov. 15 to spend up to 70 million kroons (4.47 million euros) on the building of a cruise port at Tamme in Kudemaa Bay on the island of Saaremaa. The 70 million kroons is expected to cover the costs of port facilities for the reception of passengers and a terminal.
Port Council Chairman Toomas Vitsut said that the port should be completed in April 2004, and in the initial period it should receive 25-30 cruise ships per season.
He said the Tamme landing was a good place, as it lies in state land, which means the Port of Tallinn will not have to buy the land from anyone in order to go ahead with construction. The depth of the sea is about 10 meters near the port, and some dredging work will have to be done, Vitsut said.
Port of Tallinn marketing director Erik Sakkov said earlier that it would pay to build a cruise port in Saaremaa, considering the success of Bornhold and Gotland. From the Saaremaa port shipping routes could be laid out to Latvia, Sweden, Finland and the Estonian mainland, Sakkov said then. (BNS)
More casinos for Lithuania
Lydia Ludic, a Spanish-owned company, has announced intentions to invest up to $14 million in Lithuania's gaming business over five years, of which $2 million has been already invested.
The Lithuanian State Gaming Control Commission Nov. 15 granted Lydia Ludic permission to set up its first gaming hall with 16 slot machines. The hall is expected to open its doors this month.
Lydia Ludic has applied for permission to open three halls with 55 slot machines. The gambling supervisory authority postponed making a decision regarding another two gaming halls. "We are now applying for permission to launch operations in three slot machine halls. As soon as we open them, we will be planning our further activities. The first three halls should be opened in Vilnius," Franck Senegas, CEO of Lydia Ludic, said.
"There could be a total of 10,000 slot machines across Lithuania, and Lydia Ludic could have a market share of about 20 percent in this country. We are eager to participate in the gaming market, create new jobs and operate in Lithuania," Senegas said.
Seven gaming machine halls and casinos have been set up in Lithuania since the law legalizing gambling came into force on Jul. 1, 2001. They operate 25 gaming tables and 169 slot machines in total. (BNS)