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Latvia in Review_ Issue 2_ Janua


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									                                    LATVIA IN REVIEW
January 12 - 18, 2010
Issue 2

Freedom House Affirms Institutions of Freedom Remain Resilient in Baltics Despite Crisis

Redistribution of the EU Funds for Entrepreneurship
High Level Advisory Group Discusses Stimulation of Economic Recovery
Consumer Price Changes in 2009

Foreign Affairs
Foreign Ministry in Charge of EU Communication
Foreign Minister of Hungary, Dr. Péter Balázs, Arrives on Working Visit
Minister of State of Foreign Ministry of Germany, Cornelia Piper, Visits Latvia
Alternate Foreign Minister Greece, Dimitris P. Droutsas, Visits Latvia
Foreign Minister Riekstiņš at “Snow meeting” of Foreign Policy Experts
Newly Accredited Ambassadors

Latvia – The Best Place in Europe for Female Professionals
Latvia Wins Coin of the Year Award

Articles of Interest
Commentary by Ojārs Kalniņš, Director of the Latvian Institute: “Exporting Success”
European Voice: “Piebalgs wins applause”
Colorado Springs Gazette: „Mom works to help Carson soldiers honor battle bonds”
Treatment Abroad: “Latvia is now an attractive dental tourism destination”

Freedom House Affirms Institutions of Freedom Remain Resilient in Baltics Despite
Despite the pressures created by the economic crisis in Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, the
situation with political rights and civil liberties has not deteriorated and the Baltics remain in the
family of the world's free countries. Rights group Freedom House concludes this in its latest
annual survey ―Freedom in the World‖ assessing the levels of political rights and civil liberties in
194 countries.
―The year 2009 marked the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. It was also a year when
many of the countries that had won their freedom from Soviet domination found themselves under increased
pressure from the global economic downturn. Despite these pressures, the institutions of freedom remained
remarkably resilient throughout Central Europe, the Baltics, and the Balkans,‖ said Freedom House
For a state to be considered free it has to have open political competition, observe all civil
liberties and have independent media. Latvia still has been given the highest ranking in terms of
civil liberties. In terms of political rights Latvia has been given the second highest assessment on
a seven-point scale.

Freedom House is an independent watchdog organization that supports democratic change,
monitors the status of freedom around the world, and advocates for democracy and human
rights. The organization conducts its annual survey since 1972.
For further information see:

Redistribution of the EU Funds for Entrepreneurship
On January 12, a proposal of the Ministry of Finance for the redistribution of the EU Funds
from infrastructure projects for entrepreneurship development activities was reviewed. Taking
into account the macro-economical situation and low level of readiness of infrastructure projects,
the Ministry deemed it effective to put money into entrepreneurship advancement.
The government decided to postpone the Ministry of Transport’s project on airport ―Rīga‖
integration into the railway network as a Rail Baltica derivation, instead providing for an
alternative railway infrastructure development project with Cohesion Fund financing in the
amount of LVL 33 million (app. EUR 47 mn).
The government also resolved to decrease the amount of financing for the Ministry of Transport
project ―Development of Airport Infrastructure‖ by LVL 7 mn (app. EUR 10 mn) and to assign
the money for the Ministry of Environment infrastructure and service activities.
The Cabinet of Ministers ruled to postpone the project on the creation of spillways for Pļaviņas
Hydroelectric Power Station by Ministry of Economics therein channelling LVL 22 mn (app.
EUR 31,3 mn) for facilitation of entrepreneurship.

High Level Advisory Group Discusses Stimulation of Economic Recovery
On January 14, the third meeting of Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis and High Level
Advisory Group to the Prime Minister was held at the Cabinet of Ministers. The participants
were introduced to the presentation by the Ministry of Economics and the report of Prime
Minister Dombrovskis on the current macroeconomic situation, as well as projected economic
trends and policy instruments, which will be used to stimulate economic recovery.
The participants of the meeting welcomed the current measures for improvement of the
business environment. The experts emphasized the importance of defining a single medium-term
national development vision in order to restore economic growth. It was also stressed that it is
essential to implement the existing plans to attain the long-term development vision. The experts
recommended use of investments for the development of vocational education as well as
education of unemployed people on issues of business start-ups as additional economic incentive
The High Level Advisory Group was created on the initiative of Prime Minister Dombrovskis in
May, 2009, and brings together internationally recognized experts who advise the Latvian
government on the solutions to crisis and the national development vision.
For further information see:

Consumer Price Changes in 2009
The consumer prices in 2009 (price changes between December 2009 and December 2008) have
decreased by 1.2%, of which prices for goods decreased by 1.2%, but for services – by 1.0%.
Price decrease of food and non-alcoholic beverages, goods and services related to housing
maintenance, clothing and footwear, as well as price growth of alcoholic beverages and tobacco
products, transport and medical services had the greatest impact on consumer price changes in

Average price level of food products and non-alcoholic beverages decreased by 6.3%. In housing
group the most notable price decrease had energy products: heat energy – 23.2%, gas – 18.4%,
and solid fuel – 12.9%. Rents decreased on average by 27.8%. In group of clothing and footwear
price decrease continued in all main segments: Prices of clothing dropped on average by 8.2%, of
footwear – by 9.9%, of fabrics – by 5.5% and of accessories – by 0.3%.
Prices of alcoholic beverages and tobacco products, which during a year grew by 12.6% and by
28.7%, respectively, had the greatest impact on consumer price increase. Price rise in health
group mainly was influenced by the changes in the administered prices, as well as by the tax
changes. Average price level of pharmaceutical and medical goods grew by 12.9%. In transport
group increase of fuel prices by 20.4% had the major impact on consumer price changes. In
transport group increase of fuel prices by 20.4% had the major impact on consumer price
For further information see:

Foreign Affairs
Foreign Ministry in Charge of EU Communication
As of January 1, 2010, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Latvia takes over from the State
Chancery the function of EU Communications.
The Foreign Ministry is now in charge of the library in the House of the European Union and of
the website www.es.gov.lv. The Ministry will also co-ordinate the activities of the EU
Information Centres in 33 regional libraries all over Latvia. The transfer of functions was carried
out as part of the structural reforms and optimization efforts within the public administration
system of Latvia.

Foreign Minister of Hungary, Dr. Péter Balázs, Arrives on Working Visit
On January 14, the Foreign Minister of Hungary, Dr. Péter Balázs, who was in Latvia on a
working visit, met with President of Latvia, Valdis Zatlers, Foreign Minister Māris Riekstiņš, and
the Speaker of the Saeima (parliament), Gundars Daudze.
President Zatlers and the Hungarian Foreign Minister talked about economic recovery programs
and economic indicators in the two countries and agreed that the main focus in both cases is on
the job creation. Both parties also reviewed the plans by Latvia and Hungary to join the euro
zone in 2014. Furthermore, they discussed economic co-operation and the potential to facilitate
further economic contacts.
The Foreign Ministers of Latvia and Hungary discussed bilateral relations, regional co-operation,
relations with neighbouring countries and energy policy. As to regional co-operation, both
parties shared the opinion that cooperation between the Visegrad countries (Hungary, Poland,
Czech Republic, and Slovakia) and the Baltic States should be intensified. They also emphasized
that co-operation with Eastern Partnership countries requires an active implementation of
concrete projects.
The Speaker of the Saeima Gundars Daudze welcomed the Hungarian Foreign Minister to the
Latvian Parliament. Both parties noted the positive Dynamics of political and economic contacts
and accentuated the increasing role of parliaments, taking key decisions under the current
economic crisis, as well as in the light of the Lisbon Treaty.
For further information see:
    1) http://www.president.lv/pk/content/?art_id=14854&lng=en
    2) http://www.mfa.gov.lv/en/news/press-releases/2010/january/15-01/

Alternate Foreign Minister Greece, Dimitris P. Droutsas, visits Latvia
On January 13, Foreign Minister Māris Riekstiņš met with the Alternate Minister for Foreign
Affairs of Greece Dimitris Droutsas. The ministers spoke about European Union agenda, in
view of the EU transition period - the implementation of the Lisbon Treaty, the new
composition of the European Commission, and setting up the European External Action
Service. The ministers shared the opinion that member states should be adequately represented
in the new European External Action Service.
The parties also focused on the EU enlargement process with regard to the Western Balkans and
Turkey. ―Latvia supports the open door policy regarding the enlargement process. Nevertheless, potential
member states must comply with the established accession criteria,‖ Minister Riekstiņš pointed out.
Foreign Minister Riekstiņš noted the potential of strengthening economic relations between
Latvia and Greece and the important role of tourism for the economic development of both
Alternate Foreign Minister Droutsas also met with the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Saeima
(parliament). The parties emphasized that both countries, being located on the external borders
of the EU, face similar problems which call for EU-level solutions. They also spoke about the
co-operation between parliamentary commissions and groups of MPs.
For further information see:

Minister of State of Foreign Ministry of Germany, Cornelia Pieper, Visits Latvia
On January 12, the Minister of State of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Germany, Cornelia
Pieper, was on a working visit in Latvia. In the Foreign Ministry of Germany, Ms Pieper is in
charge of regional co-operation with Eastern Europe, and heads the Department of Culture and
Foreign Minister Maris Riekstins and Ms Pieper discussed bilateral co-operation and partnership
at the regional level. The German Minister of State also met with the Minister of Culture of
Latvia Ints Dālderis and talked about bilateral cultural exchange.
In the Goethe – Institut, Ms Pieper took part in a meeting between Latvian and German cultural
workers. She discussed university co-operation and scholarship programmes with representatives
from universities and with students.

Foreign Minister Riekstiņš at “Snow meeting” of Foreign Policy Experts
On January 14 – 15, Foreign Minister Māris Riekstiņš took part in foreign policy experts' ―Snow
meeting‖, a discussion on ―Key challenges to Euro-Atlantic security in 2010‖ in Trakai,
The "Snow meeting" brought together European and North American experts on international
and security policy - politicians, political scientists, diplomats and analysts – to exchange
opinions on challenges that the Euro-Atlantic community will have to face in 2010. In particular,
the meeting aimed to put forward ideas and proposals on EU and NATO policy towards Russia,
as well as enlargement of NATO and the EU. The participants also held a debate on Russia's
foreign policy implications for Eastern Europe, NATO-Russia, EU-Russia and the
neighborhood it shares with the EU.

Newly Accredited Ambassadors
   Ambassador agréé of Turkey to Latvia – HE Ayşe Ayhan Asya

Latvia – The Best Place in Europe for Female Professionals
An academic, Gloria Moss, of the School of Business & Management at Buckinghamshire New
University, in High Wycombe, has written a book ―Profiting from Diversity‖ which shows that
Latvia is the best place in Europe to get ahead as a woman. Research has found that the glass
ceiling complained of by professional women in Britain does not exist in Latvia.
In 2006 close to 41 per cent of managers in Latvia were female – the highest proportion of
women managers anywhere in the European Union. The figure exceeded the proportion of
female managers in the UK by around six per cent and was significantly higher than the likes of
Sweden, Ireland and Germany.
Ms Moss conducted interviews in Latvia and found many respondents felt female staff brought
different and significant skills to the workplace. She said: ―In Britain there is still a glass ceiling in
relation to what many women can achieve in the workplace. I guess many people may regard Latvia as
being more famous for visits of British stag dos but actually it’s a very well-balanced and forward-
thinking country.
I speak to many managers in business and normally you would expect to be speaking to a room full of
men but that was not the case when I visited Riga, the Latvian capital.
At the time Latvia’s President was a woman, as was the editor of the country’s main newspaper. These
positions are normally a male domain. Having spoken to many female executives in Latvia the consensus
was that there were no barriers to success in the workplace.‖
For further information see:

Latvia Wins Coin of the Year Award
On January 12, World Coin News publisher Scott Tappa announced that Latvia had won the
2010 Coin of the Year Award. ―I would like to congratulate the winners from both rounds of voting,‖
Tappa said. This year’s competition featuring coins dated 2008 was hotly contested. The winner
was chosen in two rounds of voting. An international panel of judges concluded voting on
January 8 and winners will be recognized on January 30 at the World Money Fair in Berlin,
                                    The new Coin of the Year topped the Best Gold category. It is
                                    a 20 lati ―Coin of Latvia‖ issued by the Bank of Latvia. It
                                    marks the 15th anniversary of the renewal of the lats currency
                                    after Latvia regained independence from the old Soviet Union.
                                    The original design was created in 1922 by Teodors Zaļkalns,
                                    one of the first prominent Latvian sculptors, but never used.
                                    The plaster model of the coin preserved in the archives of the
Latvian National Museum of History contains symbols that are of great significance to Latvia.
Zaļkalns' mother images belong to the classical treasures of Latvian sculpture. The obverse of
the coin features a woman in a headscarf, which to any Latvian signifies motherhood. The scarf
carries many meanings in Latvian folk tradition, among them the belief that a person who is lost
can find the right way if she turns the headscarf inside out. The mother is the symbol of never-
ending cycle of life, linking the past, present and future generations.
The feminine principle unites the spiritual with the material; the symbols on the reverse of the
coin, bread, apple, vessel with a curdled milk beverage and a jug of milk, also signify fertility and
plenitude. A knife, symbolising masculine action, is placed next to the feminine images.
The eloquent language of signs tells the story of what was most important to the Latvians as

their state and the national currency was born and these same values are paramount today as

Articles of Interest
Commentary by Ojārs Kalniņš, Director of the Latvian Institute: “Exporting Success”
During Latvia’s boom years, our exports never exceeded imports. Last year, during the peak of
the economic crisis, they did. What gives? A look at some of our top exporting companies offers
some surprising clues. At the end of 2009, 29 highly successful and respected Latvian companies
competed for top prizes in the annual Latvian Export and Innovation Award competition.
Somehow the words ―highly successful‖ and ―economic crisis‖ do not seem to belong in the
same year, no less the same country, but in 2009 Latvia experienced both.
For full article see:

European Voice: “Piebalgs wins applause”
Latvian commissioner-designate picks his way through a minefield in parliamentary hearing.
Some were surprised by the choice of Andris Piebalgs for development, or at least that's what
the self-effacing commissioner said at the end of his three-hour hearing. But if MEPs had
harboured serious doubts they were surely assuaged by an assured performance that hit all the
right notes.
For full article see:

Colorado Springs Gazette: „Mom works to help Carson soldiers honor battle bonds”
After surviving the year’s deadliest firefight in Afghanistan, Sgt. Eric J. Harder phoned his
mother and asked her to mail over a Minnesota Twins baseball cap — not for himself, he told
her, but as a token of gratitude for a new brother. Harder, 29, told his mother that if it hadn’t
been for Janis Lakis, one of the Latvian soldiers, he might not have survived.
For full article see:

Treatment Abroad: “Latvia is now an attractive dental tourism destination”
Indeed, every year thousands of patients from old industrialized EU countries are taking
advantage of EU dental care at reduced prices. Nowhere is this more apparent than in Latvia’s
capital, Riga, where dozens of clinics compete for patients arriving from Norway, Sweden,
Ireland, and as far away as the US.
For full article see:

The Latvian Institute (Latvijas institūts) was established by the Latvian state to provide a wide range of
information about Latvia, its society, culture and history.
Elizabetes 57 (6th floor)
Rīga, LV – 1050, LATVIA
Phone: (+371) 67503663
Fax:     (+371) 67503669
E-mail: info@li.lv
www: www.li.lv
Twitter: www.twitter.com/LatviaInstitute


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