Latvija in brief - 2004-03-04

  • 2004-03-04
The 13th century Riga Dome Church is badly in need of repair, authorities announced, and part of the medieval church has been closed to the public. The Culture Ministry said it hoped full repairs could be completed by 2011.

Count Theodor Von Mendem has publicly stated that he will not participate in the reconstruction of the Cesvaine Castle due to the absence of a comprehensive management plan that would protect his investment by the local City Council. Von Mendem had planned to invest around 4 million lats (6 million euros) in the reconstruction effort.

Fomins and Kleins will represent Latvia at this year's Eurovision contest to be held in Istanbul. The duo was chosen for their "Song About Happiness" [Dziesma par laimi], which they plan on performing in Latvian.

The working group of the U.N. Human Rights Commission expressed concern over the long pretrial detentions in Latvia, as well as the rights of minors currently held in detention, after a visit to the Baltic state. The working group also singled out the illegal immigration center in Olaine as a problematic area. The commission's report will be sent to the Latvian government this summer.

Latvia's efforts at fighting drug crimes are marred by lack of an effective witness protection program and limited funding of rehabilitation programs, the U.S. Department of State said in its International Narcotics Control Strategy Report to Congress. Latvia's small size makes it difficult for law enforcement agencies to implement an effective witness protection program and reduces their ability to infiltrate criminal groups. The report said that heroin, amphetamines and cannabis were the drugs of choice in Latvia, though the deteriorating quality in the heroin has accelerated a shift toward increased abuse of amphetamines, cocaine and cannabis.

The OSCE's high commissioner on national minority issues, Rolf Ekeus (photo), said that he supported the education reform program and suggested that the Baltic state ratify the convention on protection of minorities. Ekeus, who met with President Vaira Vike Freiberga, said that ratifying the minorities convention was important for promoting social integration in Latvia, where ethnic Latvians makes up only slightly over 60 percent of the population. Both Ekeus and Vike-Freiberga agreed that the education reform must be implemented "pragmatically, flexibly, taking into consideration the situation at each individual school."

Latvia will now have an ambassador to Georgia - Andris Vilcans, who is also the ambassador to Ukraine, Moldova, Romania, Azerbaijan and Egypt. Latvia previously had an honorary consulate to Georgia.

Three suspects in a double murder of a husband and wife have reportedly confessed. The couple was beaten to death in the Vecmilgravis district of Riga over the weekend. The suspects are aged 16, 18 and 19.