The Dalai Lama visits
Tibet's exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, told the Latvian public last week that he understood the country's attempts to strengthen economic ties with China in recent years, but urged supporters not to close their eyes on the human rights situation in China.
"Good relations with China are very important in the economic sphere, but you should be firm on human rights and religious freedom," he said at a press conference in the Saeima during an eight-day cross-Baltic tour.
The Dalai Lama held several highly-attended public lectures and had an informal meeting with President Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga, who tiptoed around the subject, saying the government maintains a "one China" policy but respects Tibet's cultural heritage.
President critical of Putin's statements
President Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga told an Austrian newspaper that Russian President Vladimir Putin was putting up barriers to hinder Latvia's membership in NATO.
Putin had used incorrect numbers to attack Latvia during his meeting with US President George W Bush, Vīķe-Freiberga told the Austrian paper Die Presse. There is no basis for Putin's complaints that Latvia discriminates against its Russian-speaking non-citizens, she said.
"We have a citizenship law that meets every international criterion. Every resident in Latvia can obtain citizenship, if he fulfils certain criteria," Vīķe-Freiberga said in an interview in Vienna.
Also, the Foreign Ministry objected to Putin's statements about the denial of citizenship to Russian-speakers in Latvia. Putin had used inadequate information and thus come to the conclusions contradicting the observations of international organizations, the ministry said.
President meets Nazi hunter
President Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga met with the long-time Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal in Vienna. Wiesenthal, the founder of the Jewish Documentation Center in Vienna, complimented the research by the commission of historians studying Nazi and Communist crimes in Latvia.
The two discussed The Sunflower, the first book by Wiesenthal translated into the Latvian, and The Holocaust: Tell It to Your Children that has been distributed in Latvian schools.
Wiesenthal, who has tracked down some 1000 war criminals, earlier criticized Latvia for the reluctant prosecution of Holocaust perpetrators.
Calls for reciprocal EU labor restrictions
The government accepted a European Union proposal limiting the free movement of its workers for seven years after it joins the EU, but will demand the right to impose reciprocal restrictions on EU workers.
Latvia's chief negotiator, Andris Ķesteris, said Latvia is less likely to be affected by labor movement regulations than countries that border the EU, where it is easier to commute to jobs.
Latvia, Portugal sign tax convention
Latvia signed a convention with Portugal on averting double taxation and preventing income tax evasion.
Portuguese Foreign Minister Jaime Gama said his country sees the European Union enlargement date as set in its Gothenburg summit as positive and fair, and that the Irish referendum will not hinder the process.
The EU summit last week in Gothenburg declared that negotiations with the most advanced applicants should be complete by the end of 2002, and they could become members in 2004.
Latvia, Finland hold political-military consultations
Latvia and Finland held their first political-military consultations last week.
The parties discussed the Latvian-Finnish bilateral military cooperation, NATO enlargement, the European security and defense policy and cooperation in the region.
The Finnish representatives said once again that the admission of the Baltic states to NATO wouldn't harm Finland's security. Latvia has full rights to join the organization, Finns reasserted.
Government wants another shipping tender
The government once again rejected a proposal to restart the last tender for Latvian Shipping Company (LASCO) with previous bidders and asked for more information on new tender variants.
The cabinet asked the Economy Ministry to submit additional information on new tender proposals, which foresee scrapping the requirement to attract a strategic investor and sell either 68 percent or 51 percent of LASCO. The ministry has two weeks to submit the required information.
The last tender to sell a 68 percent stake in LASCO failed in April when both bidders—Italian d'Amico Societa di Navigazione and FAL Oil Company of United Arab Emirates—missed the deadline to place a bid bond.
Cooperation between Riga and Moscow
Talks between the Riga City Council and the Moscow city government had exceeded all expectations in terms of favorable attitude and readiness to cooperate, Riga Mayor Gundars Bojārs announced after returning from Moscow.
The capitals agreed at a lunch hosted by Moscow Deputy Mayor Valerii Shantsev to set up a working group for cooperation and to soon sign a protocol on cooperation in the areas of tourism, economy, trade, education and culture.
"Meetings of Moscow and Riga [officials] of such ranks have not taken place for the last ten years, maybe even longer," Bojārs said, adding that the delegation unexpectedly received many proposals to work with Moscow.
Bojārs also talked to Russian State Duma International Affairs Committee Chairman Konstantin Kosachev.
National Bolsheviks return to Russia
Security service handed three members of the radical National Bolshevik Party over to the Russian border guards at Grebneva border checkpoint after they had spent seven months in jail for illegal border crossing.
Four National Bolsheviks from Russia—Kiril Begun, 20, Mikhail Savinov, 26, Ilya Shamazov, 19, and Sergey Geronin, 17—were detained in Latgale, Eastern Latvia, last November when they jumped off a St Petersburg-Kaliningrad train. Three of them were banned from entering Latvia.
Bolsheviks arrived in Latvia at the order of the party leaders to take part in a picket in Riga.
No registration for Barkashovtsi
The Latvian Enterprise Register refused to register the local branch of the Russian National Unity (Barkashovtsi) citing its affiliation with the Russia-based extremist organization that threatens Latvia's sovereignty.
Russia-based Russian National Unity, an organization of strong nationalist ideology, has developed various military units. Latvia's Barkhashovtsi operates as a branch of the Russian organization and is located in several regions of the country.
Ieva Raubiško, 22 June 2001
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