Latvija in brief - 2004-03-18

  • 2004-03-18
Over 10,500 Russian citizens in Latvia participated in the recent Russian presidential elections, outnumbering the number of participants in the previous Russian state Duma parliamentary elections by over 1,000.

The majority of the votes in Latvia went to current Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The African-Latvian Association Afro-Lat held a official launching ceremony in Riga on March 14. The association brings together people of African origin and anyone interested in the continent. Integration Minister Nils Muiznieks spoke praising the members' high level of education and active participation in the community.

Former Prime Minister Einars Repse's property in the Eastern Latvia region of Madona was recently burglarized. Repse bought the property, consisting of two buildings on 36 hectares of land, for 80,000 lats according to media reports.

President Vaira Vike-Freiberga began her official March 13-17 visit to the United States. The president planned to visit the U.S. Central Command CENTCOM based in Tampa, Florida, and to meet Florida Governor Jeb Bush. Vike-Freiberga also arranged to attend a dinner hosted by the National Committee on American Foreign Policy where she would meet with former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.

Parliament still must adopt 22 EU-related laws by May 1, the date of the union's expansion. Important areas of the yet to be adopted new laws were electronic communication and land reform, according to the Latvian Parliament's European affairs committee. The land reform law will allow EU nationals to buy land in protected areas around the country's boarders and sea.

Controversial right-wing publisher Aivars Garda was beaten by two masked men who also set his car on fire. Garda and his publishing company Vieda gained public attention in Latvia after staging a series of contests in which young people were invited to submit essays describing the best way to remove Russian speakers and homosexuals from Latvia. The case is currently under investigation.

Parliament amended the state border law allowing Latvian airspace to become NATO airspace. NATO air patrols may now begin by April 2, the Danish government will provide the necessary planes and pilots for the three Baltic states.

European Economic and Social Committee head Roger Briesch will make a two-day visit to Latvia on March 17-18 to discuss the Baltic states' preparations to join the EU. Breisch will meet with the various government ministers as well as Andrew Rasbash, head of the European Commission delegation to Latvia.