Latvia in brief - 2004-01-15

  • 2004-01-15
Parliament's defense and internal affairs committee amended the country's criminal law in its final reading and removed any penalty for the theft of less than 80 lats (117 euros), sparking public outrage. The legal affairs committee said that the law should be back into effect by later this week. But because of the change those that were held for stealing less than 80 lats will be released.

President Vaira Vike-Freiberga met German President Johannes Rau to discuss bilateral relations and the future of the European Union. Vike-Freiberga also stressed the role of small countries in the enlarged union with Angela Merkel, chairwoman of the German Christian Democratic Union.
Latvia has the highest mortality rate in Europe at 14.1 for every 1,000 inhabitants, according to a new report by Eurostat. Rates in Estonia and Lithuania were slightly better at 13.3 and 11.8 per 1,000 people, respectively.

Latvian soldiers left for Iraq to serve as peacekeepers in the first battalion of the multinational force located in the Polish controlled zone. The 101 newly sent soldiers will relieve Latvian military presently serving there. The country currently has 123 soldiers stationed in Iraq.

The remains of the four Latvian mountain climbers who died on Mt. Cook in New Zealand a month ago arrived in Latvia. Teodors Kirsis, one of Latvia's most experienced climbers and a recipient of the Three Star Order, Latvia's highest honor, along with his daughter Evija, Ilmars Bernans and Aivars Prosenkovs fell to their deaths this past December.

The first gay marriage in the Baltic states was held in Latvia, uniting in ceremony Oskars Krumins and Aigars Rubezis. Maris Sants, a defrocked Lutheran priest, preformed the ceremony, which was not legally binding.

A businessman was found shot in his backyard at his home in Jurmala. The victim was identified only as Mihails and was reportedly a co-owner of an agricultural produce company.