Latvia in brief - 2004-01-08

  • 2004-01-08
Ten Pakistanis who had been held under suspicion of terrorist links were released by authorities and allowed to return to Pakistan on Dec. 22. The 10 had entered Latvia ostensibly to participate in a taekwondo tournament but had reserved tickets to Denmark on the same flight as a visiting Israeli basketball team, raising fears among Latvian authorities.

The government announced it would allocate 20,000 lats (29,500 euros) in humanitarian aide for earthquake victims in Iran. The money will be transferred to the U.N., which will then distribute it in Iran. The earthquake has caused over 35,000 deaths.

Justice Minister Aivars Aksenoks announced two candidates for the European Court of Justice, Ingrida Labucka, a former justice minister, and Eglis Levits a justice at the European Court of Human Rights. Latvia will begin participating at the ECJ when the EU expands in May of this year.

An explosion on the Panama Serena tanker left one Ukrainian sailor dead and one Latvian missing. The body of Jaroslav Petrukhin has still not been found. The rest of the 15-man crew survived. The tanker was being loaded with benzene near the Italian island of Sardinia when the explosion occurred.

Corporate income tax rates were lowered to 15 percent beginning Jan. 1, 2004, one of the lowest rates in Europe. The tax cut is designed to facilitate investment and business development. The IMF criticized the move, saying tax cuts should be made when the economy is stagnant and not expanding.

Police found an inebriated man with a blood alcohol level of 7.22 percent, or almost twice the level considered to be lethal. The man said he had begun drinking when his wife left him. He said she had ended the relationship because he drank too much.

Foreign Minister Sandra Kalniete sent a letter to Parliament asking lawmakers to work on legislation that would regulate the use of the EU flag once Latvia joins the bloc this year. The minister said that EU member states fly the EU flag next to their national flags. However, not all EU members have laws governing the use of EU flags, and lawmakers saw the legal committee chairwoman Solvita Aboltina warn that Latvian laws could not dictate the use of EU symbols.

Latvia accepted the proposal of visa-free travel arrangements with Venezuela. According to regulations, citizens of both countries can now stay up to 90 days without a visa in each other's country.