High-level EU lobbying
During her visits to Belgium and Finland this week, President Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga focused on EU and NATO enlargement. The President is meeting with President of the European Commission Romano Prodi and Enlargement Commissioner Günter Verheugen, as well as Finnish President Tarja Halonen and Prime Minister Paavo Lipponen.
In Brussels, Vīķe-Freiberga will also meet NATO Secretary-General George Robertson to discuss Latvia's possible contribution to the European rapid reaction force and the current situation in the Balkans.
Staying in touch
Baltic EU membership could be an additional stimulus for the development of Russia, former Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Andrei Fyodorov said at the international conference "The New Millennium in a Europe Without Borders," which is organized by the Baltic Forum in Rīga.
Fyodorov believes that bringing the economies of Russia and EU closer through approximation of legislation is impossible at this time. Since the Baltic countries will become members of the EU before Russia, it is necessary to keep close contact between them and Russia, Fyodorov said.
Mārtiņš Bondars, the head of the President's Chancellery, made a surprise political move by joining the right-wing For Fatherland And Freedom (TB/LNNK) party. Bondars previously headed the office of then Prime Minister Vilis Krištopans, whose Latvia's Way party is widely viewed as a political rival of TB/LNNK—although both are members of the governing coalition.
Bondars explained his move by saying that it is important that Latvia, on its way to the European Union, protects and maintains its national identity and ethnic values. He has also indicated readiness to run in the upcoming municipal and later in the Saeima elections.
Kalējs to come home?
The Prosecutor-general's office is planning to request the extradition of suspected Nazi war criminal Konrāds Kalējs from Australia this week.
The Saeima has yet to ratify the Latvian-Australian treaty on extradition, and the decision on that has been postponed several times. The Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee last week said that, should the agreement pass in its present form, the extradition of Kalējs could fall through as the treaty stands against the extradition of elderly and ill persons.
Still, other deputies claim that Australia is "trying to get rid of Kalējs to its advantage" with the help of the agreement, LETA reported. The Prosecutor-general's office, however, does not need the treaty to be ratified to file for extradition.
The Security Police warned about the possibility of more activities by the National Bolsheviks. As measure of precaution, police surveillance of National Bolshevik leaders was established, and one more leader of the group has been detained. Latvia has also filed a note to Russia on National Bolshevik activities, requiring that security guards at the buildings of Latvian diplomatic and consular offices should be reinforced, as well as requesting Russia to investigate National Bolshevik activities against Latvia.
On November 18, Latvia's Independence Day, extremists flung Molotov cocktails and eggs at the Latvian Consulate General building in St Petersburg. Last week, a group of National Bolsheviks from Russia armed with a fake grenade occupied a landmark tower in the middle of Rīga for several hours, flying red flags, demanding release of jailed radicals and threatening to use explosives (see this week's Amber Coast for more on this story).
A probe into allegations of child abuse at a Krāslava region boarding school was launched after the child-protection organization "Save the Children!" came forward claiming that various violations of children's rights have taken place at the school. Specialists at the State Children's Rights Protection Center, inspecting the situation, have confirmed that the violations did indeed take place.
It is suggested that children, including those sexually abused, be transferred to a different school. The school's principal resigned, leaving Oleg Lysenko, the man whom the most complaints have been aimed at, as acting principal at the school.
President Vīķe-Freiberga demanded that the Prosecutor-general's office, as well as the education and interior ministers, report immediately on measures taken concerning the reported child abuse.
The e-banking manager of Estonia's Hansapank, Tiit Pekk, will promote e-banking projects in Latvia, starting in January, with the goal of bringing the usage of electronic banking in Latvia closer to Estonia's numbers.
Meanwhile, Deutsche Bank analysts praised the operations of Parex Bank, making it the first Latvian commercial bank included in their the monthly review, "Financial Institutions Worldwide." The review notes that Parex Bank is successfully implementing restructuring measures that will enable the bank to conduct negotiations with a strategic investor.
Pirma Latvijas komercbanka (The First Commercial Bank of Latvia) President Hakån Kallaker hinted that the German Norddeutsche Landesbank (NORD/LB)—its major shareholder—could buy one more Latvian bank in the near future.
And in other news...
- A delegation of Latvian municipal officials visited China to discuss the export of Latvia's timber, metals, textiles and matches to China and reviewed options for Chinese investment in Latvia's industry and tourism infrastructure.
- The US Department of Commerce released a new webcast for American businessmen about business possibilities in the Baltic states. "The Amber Gateway: Baltic Business in the 21st Century" is featured at www.globalspeak.com/html/now_showing.htm.
- RIMI Baltija management "was shocked" over statements made by Security Police Chief Jānis Reiniks that management at the supermarket of the Centrs shopping center is "concealing something" about the August bombing, and that it is possible that Centrs was warned about possible bomb blasts.
- Some 450 pirated CDs worth LVL (Latvian lats) 1350 were confiscated from a man at a Rīga market. The man produced the pirated CDs himself.
- Agriculture Minister Atis Slakteris stressed the outstanding role women play in Latvia's community at the founding conference of the Association of Latvia's Rural Women.
- Actors participating in the "Theater 2000" conference in Rīga called for the government and the Saeima to provide them with salaries equal to at least three minimum salaries, that is, about LVL 150 a month. The salaries of professional actors range from between LVL 50 and LVL 127, with the highest still being below LVL 200 a month.
- Latvian pop-rock band Prāta Vētra (BrainStorm) began a concert tour in Finland. Currently, the band is also working on its new album, with the recording planned for January.
As of 24 November 2000
|1 US dollar||0.64|
|1 British pound||0.89|
|1 German mark||0.27|
Daria Kulagina, 24 November 2000
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