Weekly Summary of News in Latvia

CURRENT LATVIA

19 - 26 April 1999
Wk. 17 / 2000 (295)


ESSENTIAL FOREIGN POLICY EVENTS
  • The Washington Summit
  • Meeting of President of Latvia Guntis Ulmanis with Secretary of State Madeleine K.Albright
  • State visit of President of Latvia Guntis Ulmanis to Iceland
  • Working visit of Prime Minister of Latvia Vilis Kristopans to the Kingdom of Belgium

GENERAL

  • Statement of the MFA concerning sending Medical Unit to Albania
  • Minister of foreign affairs of Latvia signs the Rome Statutes of the International Criminal Court
  • State Secretary of the MFA delivers a speech at the OECD
  • Meeting of leaders of Latvian and Russian Intergovernmental committees

SCHEDULED VISITS AND ACCREDITATIONS

 

HOME AFFAIRS

  • Parliament amends rules for foreigners stay in Latvia

ECONOMICS AND BUSINESS

  • Baltic Stock Exchanges sign Protocol of Agreement

SOCIETY, EDUCATION, CULTURE AND SPORTS

  • Calendar of Art Events

ESSENTIAL FOREIGN POLICY EVENTS

STATEMENT OF THE MINISTRY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS OF THE REPUBLIC OF LATVIA ON THE RESULTS OF THE NATO WASHINGTON SUMMIT

Meeting on 23-25 April 1999 in Washington NATO Heads of State and Government discussed their vision of NATO in the next century. Summit decisions show NATOs commitment to be at the centre of the European security and promote democracy and stability.

Latvia welcomes the decisions of the Washington summit. They show that further enlargement is an integral part of the Alliances policy. In the summit documents NATO has recognised Latvias continuing efforts and progress in preparing for membership. Summit Communique clearly recognises Latvia as an eligible candidate country.

Latvia welcomes the Membership Action Plan offered by NATO, which will assist Latvia to better prepare for membership. It provides Latvia with opportunities that Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary had only after they were invited to join NATO. Latvia is ready to take full advantage of the opportunities presented by the Membership Action Plan, and expects an active involvement in this process on the part of NATO.

The decisions of the Washington summit serve as encouragement for Latvia to continue strengthening its defence capabilities. In the period till the next NATO summit, which will take place not later than 2002, Latvia will spare no effort in order to prepare for Alliances membership in the best way possible. The issue about the next enlargement is the issue about the Baltic states.

MFA

 

MEETING OF THE PRESIDENTS OF THE BALTIC STATES WITH US SECRETARY OF STATE MADELEINE K. ALBRIGHT

Latvian President Guntis Ulmanis, Estonian President Lennart Meri, and Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus on April 22 met with US Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright. During the meeting the officials discussed the co-operation among the Baltic States within the framework of US - Baltic Partnership Charter. Presidents of all three Baltic States affirmed existence of close and manifold co-operation among the Baltic States. Latvian President expressed support for the stand of US and NATO member states aimed at prevention of human rights violation and humanitarian catastrophe in Kosovo.

Secretary Albright thanked the presidents of the Baltic States for their support to NATO's actions in Kosovo, their assistance to refugees, and encouraged the Baltic governments to continue providing humanitarian assistance. She highly appreciated military co-operation of the Baltic States and their readiness to help solving the Kosovo crisis.

The Secretary welcomed the progress Latvia, Estonia, and Lithuania have made since the NATO Summit in Madrid to prepare for Alliance membership. The Secretary reaffirmed that NATO's door is and will remain open to every partner nation, a decision on enlargement strategies will be made and the Membership Action Plan will provide new measures to assist aspirant countries to strengthen their candidacies. Secretary Albright also stressed that the next NATO member states will be the states that will have confirmed their readiness to participate in the Alliance and paid a particular attention to the consolidation of military forces.

The three presidents welcomed the Membership Action Plan and underscored their readiness to work within the framework it provides. Latvian President stressed that Latvia will keep increasing its budget in the defence sector.

Presidents Press Service, MFA

 

Secretary of State and three Baltic Presidents united on Kosovo, further NATO enlargement

April 22. The following is the joint statement Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright, Latvian President Guntis Ulmanis, Estonian President Lennart Meri, and Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus.

Secretary Albright, Latvian President Ulmanis, Estonian President Meri, and Lithuanian President Adamkus, meeting on the eve of the Washington NATO Summit, reiterated their strong support for the full integration of each Baltic State into all European transatlantic institutions, including NATO. The Secretary welcomed the progress Latvia, Estonia, and Lithuania have made since the NATO Summit in Madrid to meet the criteria set out in the 1995 NATO Enlargement Study and their actions to prepare for Alliance membership. The Secretary reiterated President Clinton's commitment that NATO's door is and will remain open to every partner nation, and that America is determined to create the conditions under which Latvia, Estonia, and Lithuania can one day walk through that door. She assured the three presidents of the Administration's commitment to NATO's new Membership Action Plan, which will provide new measures to assist aspirant countries to strengthen their candidacies. The three presidents welcomed the Membership Action Plan and pledged to work with the U.S. and through NATO to take full advantage of it.

Presidents Ulmanis, Adamkus, and Meri underscored their readiness to assume the responsibilities and obligations of NATO membership, and their confidence that their memberships in NATO will serve European stability and the interests of the Alliance. They stated their intention to continue to pursue policies of economic growth, defence modernisation, and increased regional, political, and economic cooperation, including with the Russian Federation. Secretary Albright welcomed this common commitment to Alliance goals.

The Secretary noted the strong statement of support by Latvia, Estonia, and Lithuania for NATO's actions in Kosovo, thanked each for their assistance to refugees, and encouraged the Baltic governments to continue providing humanitarian assistance. The Secretary also noted other contributions to regional stability made by the three Baltic countries, including sending peacekeepers to the region, and underscored that these and other actions will be considered as the U.S. assesses the future qualifications of aspirants for NATO membership.

 

President of Latvia Mr. Guntis Ulmanis participates in the Eastern Western Studies Institute award ceremony

April 22. Latvian President together with his Estonian, Finnish, Rumanian and Ukrainian colleagues, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, former US President George Bush, former President of Poland Lech Valensa and several prime ministers and prominent politicians participated in the festivities dedicated to the Eastern Western Studies Institute award ceremony and the 50th anniversary of the Council of Europe. The award of the institute this year was presented to the former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl for his contribution in forming a united and strong Europe and Germany, facilitating NATO-Russia co-operation that eliminated the division of Europe, promoting the idea of EU single currency, building of European common foreign and defence policy as set out by the Maastricht Treaty and other contributions. In 1996 the award of the institute went to the presidents of the Baltic States for their contributions in building a united and secure Europe.

 

THE OFFICIAL VISIT OF PRESIDENT OF LATVIA G.ULMANIS TO ICELAND ON APRIL 18-21

April 19. Proceeding the official visit in the Republic of Iceland, President of Latvia Guntis Ulmanis visited the Parliament of Iceland.

Addressing the MPs of Iceland, Guntis Ulmanis expressed his gratitude for the help in recovery of independence, noting that Iceland was the first to recognise the independence of Latvia.

Talking about the priorities of Latvias foreign policy, Guntis Ulmanis highly appraised the consistent support of Iceland for the Baltic States participation in the North Atlantic Alliance. G.Ulmanis informed the MPs on the recent developments in Latvia, its integration into EU and NATO as well as the wish to deepen its activities in the framework of organisations operating in the Nordic region. The Chairman of the Icelandic Parliament admitted the good co-operation between the parliaments of the two countries in international organisations, for example, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe as well as the parliamentary conferences of OSCE.

On April 20 President Guntis Ulmanis met Mayor of Reykjavik Ingibjorg Solrun Gisladotir and the representatives of the Reykjavik City Council.

During the meeting President noted that there was an active dialogue among the countries of the Nordic region, including Island and Latvia.

The Deputy Chairman of Riga City Council Juris Rîtiòð noted, that the contacts between Riga and Reykjavik had been established successfully: Iceland had made investments in the Riga Port, tourism companies of the two countries were actively communicating with each other, there was co-operation between the Riga School Committee and educational establishments of Reykjavik.

On April 20 President of Latvia Guntis Ulmanis met with Prime Minister of Iceland David Odson. Prime Minister of Iceland informed President of Latvia on the position of Iceland in the NATO summit. According to D. Odson, Iceland supported NATO activities during the crisis in Kosovo.

G. Ulmanis and D. Odson were unanimous that NATO summit had to show clear signals on further process of the NATO expansion. President of Latvia expressed the opinion that for such a country as Latvia which was striving to enter NATO it was important to see that there was a concrete plan of action for joining the Alliance. G.Ulmanis informed that Latvia had decided to render assistance to the refugees from Kosovo and discussed the possibility to shelter a certain number of them.

During the meeting G. Ulmanis and D. Odson discussed biletaral co-operation of the countries. The two officials were unanimous that the economic relations of Latvia and Island had already consolidated in the fish farming and timber industry where there were great opportunities to broaden co-operation.

G.Ulmanis expressed hope, the two countries would soon conclude new agreements enhancing their co-operation.

Presidents Press Service

 

WORKING VISIT OF PRIME MINISTER OF LATVIA VILIS KRISTOPANS TO THE KINGDOM OF BELGIUM

On April 21 during his visit in Belgium Prime Minister of Latvia Vilis Kristopans met with Prime Minister of Belgium Jean-Luc Dehaene.

During the meeting the relations between Latvia and Belgium were assessed as good because the two countries had developed a broad bilateral co-operation both in the economic and political aspect.

Both officials also discussed the enlargement of the European Union. V.Kristopans said that Latvia was ready to begin pre-accession talks this year. He appreciated the commitment by Belgium to continued support of Latvia in its efforts to obtain invitation for the talks with the EU in near future.

V.Kristopans and J. Dehaene signed a bilateral agreement on prevention of double taxation. Latvian premier also said that it would be advisable to open Belgian Embassy in Riga.

On April 22 Prime Minister of Latvia Vilis Kristopans met with President of European Commission Jacques Santer and Commissioner Hans van den Broek. During the meeting the officials discussed the issues of EU enlargement, the progress of Latvia on its way to EU, the results of Berlin summit as well as the issues connected with the situation in Balkans. The officials of EC approved the progress of Latvia and emphasised their expectations to receive support from Latvia in preparing EC progress report on its development. During the meeting Jacques Santer and Hans van den Broek mentioned the law on official state language several times. The officials stressed that the law had to comply with the international norms, and especially with the Association Agreement between EU and Latvia, thus ensuring fundamental freedom and freedom of business activities. The achievements of Latvia in the bilateral legislation screening process were evaluated as positive, stressing the high qualification of Latvian specialists.

Discussing the issues of economic development, V.Kristopans emphasised that Latvia fulfilled the political, economic and administrative Copenhagen criteria and promised that Latvia would continue its work to receive the invitation to accession negotiations already during Helsinki summit at the end of this year. Prime Minister was positive about the results of Berlin summit, acknowledging that the obstacles to the further process of enlargement were being removed.

State Chancery

GENERAL

LATVIA TO SEND MEDICAL UNIT TO ALBANIA

April 22. The Parliament of the Republic of Latvia has accepted an invitation from NATO to send a Military Medical Unit to Albania as part of the Alliances initiative to assist the growing number of Kosovar refugees. The unit is part of Latvias ongoing commitment to support NATOs effort to resolve the humanitarian crisis in Kosovo. Latvia has also participated in the Kosovo Verification Process, offered humanitarian aid (US $100,000), and pledged to temporarily accept Kosovar refugees.

The 8-member Medical Unit is expected to leave for Albania on April 28 and will be included in the contingent of the Netherlands.

The Latvian Ministry of Foreign Affairs reaffirms its support for NATOs efforts to halt ethnic cleansing taking place within Kosovo. Additionally, Latvia will continue to work in conjunction with NATO to end this humanitarian crisis.

MFA

 

MINISTER OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS OF LATVIA SIGNS THE ROME STATUTES OF THE INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL COURT

On April 22 in the UN headquarters in New York Minister of Foreign Affairs of Latvia Mr. Birkavs signed the Rome Statutes of the International Criminal Court.

Latvia is the 82nd country to sign the Statutes since July 17, 1998, when they were opened for signing. The Statutes will become binding for Latvia only after internal approval and ratification in the Parliament. The Statutes of the Court have not come into force yet as so far they had not been ratified by parliaments of 60 countries.

The new international Statutes agreement has been signed by all EU member countries, Australia, Canada, Norway, Switzerland, Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and others.

An idea to establish an International Criminal Court appeared during the foundation of the UN, nevertheless a long period of time passed till an international agreement was elaborated. On July 1998 Foreign Minister Mr. Birkavs was elected Vice-President of the UN Diplomatic Conference of Plenipotentiaries on the Establishment of an International Criminal Court.

The authority of the Court covers 4 gravest crimes against humanity:

  • war crimes,
  • genocide,
  • crimes against humanity,
  • crimes of aggression.

The International Criminal Court is a complimentary court and it will complement national judicial systems in cases when they, due to various reasons, will not be able to inquire and prosecute the above-mentioned crimes.

MFA

 

STATE SECRETARY OF THE MFA DELIVERS A SPEECH AT THE OECD

A review meeting of the Baltic regional programme took place in the headquarters of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development in Paris on April 23. State Secretary of the MFA of Latvia Maris Riekstins delivered a speech at the meeting. In his speech State Secretary informed about the current evaluation of this programme by Latvia, as well as strategic priorities of further operation.

Latvia co-operates with the OECD since 1992. In the beginning of 1998 the existing co-operation fields were united into a joint Baltic regional programme, including Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. Owing to Nordic and Polish financial support, the programme covers considerably broader area than the previous bilateral co-operation.

The programme covers the following co-operation areas: economic policy, integration of the Baltic countries into the world capital markets, strengthening of administrative capacities in economic management, development of human resources, support to structural reforms.

Within the framework of the programme an investment guide to Latvia has been published recently, training programmes for tax administrators are held, an overview of the Baltic economic development has been elaborated, seminars to define the best political choices on agriculture, investment policy, development of small and medium-sized enterprises and several other fields have been planned.

MFA

 

MEETING OF LEADERS OF LATVIAN AND RUSSIAN INTERGOVERNMENTAL COMMITTEES

On April 19 a meeting of leaders of Latvian and Russian intergovernmental committees Anatolijs Gorbunovs and Ramazan Abdulatipov took place in Moscow. During the meeting they reached an agreement on the meeting of the work groups on humanitarian, transport and economic issues in the near future. The meeting of the intergovernmental committee could take place at the end of this year.

MFA

 

SHEDULED VISITS AND ACCREDITATIONS

Planned visits abroad of the State Officials:

April 20 - 22
Working visit of the Prime Minister of the Republic of Latvia H.E.Mr. Vilis Kristopans to the Kingdom of Belgium
April 21 - 28

Working visit of the President of the Republic of Latvia H.E. Mr. Guntis Ulmanis and the Minister of Foreign Affairs H.E. Dr. Valdis Birkavs to the United States of America

May 3
Working visit of the Minister of Foreign Affairs H.E. Dr. Valdis Birkavs to Austria

May 10 - 12
State visit of the President of the republic of Latvia H.E. Mr.Guntis Ulmanis to Czech Republic

 

Foreign Officials:

May 7
Working visit of the Prime Minister of the Republic of Estonia H.E. Mr. Mart Laar

May 19 - 21
State visit of the President of the Federal Republic of Germany H.E. Mr. Roman Herzog and Mrs. Christiane Herzog  

 

Foreign Ambassadors:

April 10 - 30

Farewell visit of the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of France to Latvia H.E. Mr. Bernard Poncet

 

Accreditations:

May 18
Accreditation visit of the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Uruguay H.E. Mr.Alfredo Cazes Alvarez

May 18
Accreditation visit of the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Hungary H.E.Mr.Jozsef Vig

 

HOME AFFAIRS

PARLIAMENT AMENDS RULES FOR FOREIGNERS' STAY IN LATVIA

April 23. The Latvian Parliament adopted amendments to the law about stay of foreigners and stateless persons in Latvia setting forth provisions for stay without residence permits.

Under the amended law foreigners and stateless persons may stay in Latvia for ninety days every six months without the obligations to obtain a residence permit. This exemption, however, applies only to foreign nationals holding valid visa and staying in Latvia for the purposes related to scientific research or studies, business, assistance to Latvian public and municipal authorities, implementation of international agreements or projects of which Latvia is a party. In those case the respective person will be granted a visa for the period required to perform his or her responsibilities which is not to exceed one year.

Foreigners and stateless persons need a residence permit if they want to stay in Latvia longer than 90 days in every six months.

BNS

 

ECONOMICS AND BUSINESS

BALTIC STOCK EXCHANGES SIGN PROTOCOL OF AGREEMENT

April 23. The document signed by Riga Stock Exchange, Tallin Stock Exchange and Lithuanian National Stock Exchange states the intention of the three stock exchanges to create market access through cross membership.

The first step in this cooperation will be to offer full access to each other's members to trade securities on all three stock exchanges. During the next phase, members of each stock exchange may be offered common access to the national trading system by creating a common point of entry to the Baltic equity markets.

The Baltic stock exchanges resolved to join their efforts to promote the Baltic capital markets as a common investment area. This will be achieved by publishing regular reviews covering the Baltic stock markets, by exchanging periodical and non-periodical publications and linking the stock exchanges' homepages on the Internet.

 

EXCHANGE RATES SET BY THE BANK OF LATVIA FOR APRIL 26, 1999

1 ATS
1 AUD
1 BEF
1 CAD
1 CHF
1 CZK
1 DEM
1 DKK
1 EEK

-
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
-

0.0457 Ls
0.3850 Ls
0.0156 Ls
0.3990 Ls
0.3930 Ls
0.0165 Ls
0.3215 Ls
0.0847 Ls
0.0401 Ls

1 FIM
1 FRF
1 GBP
1 KGS
1 LTL
1 NOK
1 SEK
1 SKK
1 USD

-
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
-

0.1057 Ls
0.0959 Ls
0.9540 Ls
0.0160 Ls
0.1480 Ls
0.0759 Ls
0.0706 Ls
0.0140 Ls
0.5900 Ls

 

INTERNATIONAL AND REGIONAL EXHIBITIONS:

 

April 29 - May 2 BALTREST 99
6th Baltic Regional Trade Fair for Tourism, Sports and Recreation

April 29 - May 2 YOUR FOOTPRINTS
7th Tourism Market

April 29 - May 2 BOAT SHOW 99
3rd International Exhibition for Water Crafts, Aquatic Sports, Fishing Equipment and Tackle

April 29 - May 2 SAFE AND SOUND
2nd International Exhibition for Health Promotion  

 

SOCIETY, EDUCATION, CULTURE AND SPORTS

CALENDAR OF ARTS EVENTS:

In Latvia:

April 9 - May 9
Bookways. The British version. The exhibition is dedicated to artists books from Britain; in Museum of Foreign Art (3 Pils lauk., Tel. +371 7226467)

April 16 - May 17
Acanthus in Norwegian Folk art - the focus of this exhibition is the use of the accanthus as a decorative motive in Norwegian folk art of the 18th and 19th centuries; in Museum of Decorative and Applied Art (10/20 Skarnu Str., Tel. +371 7222235)

 

Abroad:
April 19 - 30
The exhibition Latvia - Returning to Europe; from Occupation till Independence; in Cercle Municipal Place d'Armes, Luxembourg

 

(For more information please contact the corresponding Embassy of Latvia)


Information Bulletin "Current Latvia" is a compilation of news reports and press releases drawn from mass media and official resources. The material is primarily informative rather than representing the official policies of Latvia. Not all of the views published reflect the official position of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.