Weekly Summary of News in Latvia

CURRENT LATVIA

13 - 20 August 2001

Wk. 33 / 2001 (415)


FOREIGN POLICY EVENTS

  • German President voices understanding of Latvia's will to become a member of NATO
  • Latvia interested in finding itself higher in the scale of German foreign policy priorities
  • German Finance Minister: Germany will do everything to facilitate faster accession of the Baltic States to the EU
  • Baltic officials discuss elaboration of the NATO Membership Action Plan for the year 2002
  • Latvia establishes diplomatic relations with the Dominican Republic
  • Latvian Foreign Minister calls for a boost of positivism in Latvia-Russia relations
  • Regional co-operation perspectives between Latvia and Russia discussed
  • Latvian Minister submits the Draft Agreement on Mutual Abolition of Visas between Australia and Latvia
  • The Ambassador of Poland: The relations between Latvia and Poland should be deepened
  • Uzbekistan interested in Latvia's experience of political and economic reforms

HOME AFFAIRS

  • President greets participants of the 2nd World Latvian Scientists' Congress
  • Latvia ratifies Agreements on Social Security
  • Finance Minister praises progress in curbing contraband
  • Latvian Border Guard improves its technical equipment

ECONOMICS AND BUSINESS

  • On-line registration for the Baltic Sea Region e-Business Forum available
  • German Finance Minister praises Latvia's economic performance
  • Foreign trade of Latvia in January - June 2001
  • Foreign investments in capital of Latvian companies grow to 865 mln lats in Q1
  • Riga port handles 18.6% more in 7 months
  • Reconstructed Riga central railway station opened

SOCIETY, EDUCATION, CULTURE AND SPORTS

  •  Latvian capital's 800th anniversary celebration draws 1.5 mln people
  • Sculpture "Madonna on the Crescent Moon" returns to Riga
  • Silver one-lat coin "Millennium" recognised as the most innovative coin
  • Schumacher, Senna and Hakkinen's F-1s to be displayed in exhibition "AutoExotica 2001"

FOREIGN POLICY EVENTS 

German President voices understanding of Latvia's will to become a member of NATO

On 18 August 2001 Latvian President Dr Vaira Vike-Freiberga had a meeting with the Federal President of the Federal Republic of Germany Dr Johannes Rau who had arrived on a working visit to Latvia. Dr Vike-Freiberga noted with satisfaction that the German President had an opportunity to pay a visit to Latvia during the peak of Riga 800th anniversary celebrations.

The Presidents talked over the bilateral relations between Latvia and Germany. Dr Vike-Freiberga stressed that Germany is a very important partner to Latvia and that Germany has a great role in shaping of Europe's future. The Presidents underscored the contacts between the federal states of Germany and the local authorities of Latvia as a significant factor promoting expansion of the bilateral co-operation. Dr Rau voiced satisfaction over the fact that these contacts result in concrete projects for the good of the people of the two countries.

Speaking on the foreign policy priorities of Latvia the President accentuated Baltic co-operation and spoke in support of simultaneous invitation of all the three Baltic States to NATO. Dr Rau voiced understanding of Latvia's will to become a member of NATO. The parliamentarians that were part of the German delegation confirmed their determination to make every effort in order to secure support to the admission of the Baltic States to the Alliance. The parties also noted that the accession of Latvia to the EU would provide an additional impetus for even more active multi-level dialogue between Latvia and Germany.

Dr Vike-Freiberga highly appreciated the support of Baltic Germans to Latvia's development since regaining of its independence, as well as noted their contribution to the cultural, economic and social life of Latvia in the pre-war years.

Dr Rau invited the President of Latvia to pay a highest-level visit to Germany.

President's Press Service

 

Minister of Foreign Affairs: Latvia is interested in finding itself higher in the scale of German foreign policy priorities

On 17 August 2001 the Minister of Foreign Affairs Mr Indulis Berzins had a meeting with the delegation of the German-Baltic co-operation group of the German Bundestag headed by Dr Wolfgang von Stetten.

During the meeting bilateral co-operation perspectives and Latvian foreign policy priorities integration into the EU and NATO enlargement process were discussed. Mr Berzins noted the important role of Germany within the context of implementation of the Latvian foreign policy priorities. Discussing the bilateral co-operation it was noted that the relations between Latvia and Germany are good and continue to develop actively, as well as that Germany is one of the main economic partners of Latvia.

Mr Berzins stressed that considering the historic, geographic and economic role of Germany in the region, Latvia would be grateful for the German support to Latvia's endeavours of Euro-Atlantic integration also in future and hopes for more active role of Germany in these processes.

During the discussion the sides exchanged opinions about security policy issues and German parliamentarians expressed unanimous support to the NATO enlargement process and particularly to the sooner accession of the Baltic States to the Alliance.

MFA

 

German Finance Minister: Germany will do everything to facilitate faster accession of the Baltic States to the EU

On 16 August 2001 the Minister of Foreign Affairs Mr Indulis Berzins had a meeting with the Federal Minister of Finance of Germany Mr Hans Eichel. During the meeting Latvia's integration into the European Union and NATO were discussed. Both sides exchanged opinions on the course of the EU enlargement process and security policy issues.

Mr Berzins underscored that Latvia will be grateful for the German support to Latvia's endeavours of Euro-Atlantic integration also forth, whereas Mr Eichel noted that Latvia on its course towards the EU is on the right way and expressed the opinion that Germany will do everything to facilitate faster accession of the Baltic States to the EU. During the conversation the German side also stressed that the active German support to the implementation of the NATO Membership Action Plan will continue.

The sides also shared the opinion that the involvement of Russia is essential in the European integration processes, noting that a range of specific projects of the promotion of the EU co-operation with Russia already exists.

MFA

 

Baltic officials discuss elaboration of the NATO Membership Action Plan for the year 2002

On 17 August 2001 the consultations between representatives of the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and the Ministries of Defence of the Baltic States on elaboration of the NATO Membership Action Plan for the year 2002 were held, starting the third and the last practical preparation stage before NATO Prague Summit in 2002. During the meeting the sides discussed the content of prepared documents, planned activities and the defence budget for 2002, and shared experience in MAP development.

Consultations between the Baltic States on the annual elaboration of NATO MAPs are regular, for they provide significant support both for improvement of the Plans and for harmonisation of activities in 2002. It should be noted that the MAPs of the Baltic States of 2000 and 2001 were rated among the best by the Alliance member countries.

Latvia, just as Estonia and Lithuania, will finish the work on the MAP for 2002 in September, when it will be analysed together with NATO member countries, adopted by the government and by the end of September submitted to NATO, Brussels. Latvia hopes that after detailed elaboration, implementation and positive evaluation of the MAPs for the year 2002 by NATO the Baltic States will be invited to join NATO at Prague Summit in November 2002.

MFA

 

Latvia establishes diplomatic relations with the Dominican Republic

On 15 August 2001 the diplomatic relations between the Republic of Latvia and the Dominican Republic were established. The protocol on establishment of diplomatic relations was signed at the Permanent Mission of Latvia to the United Nations by the Charge d'Affaires a.i. of the Latvian Permanent Mission Ms Dace Dobraja and the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Dominican Republic to the United Nations Mr Pedro L. Padilla Tonos.

The Dominican Republic is the 129th country Latvia has established diplomatic relations with.

MFA

Establishment and renewal of diplomatic relations: http://www.am.gov.lv/en/?id=4594

 

Latvian Foreign Minister calls for a boost of positivism in Latvia-Russia relations

On 17 August 2001 the Minister of Foreign Affairs Mr Indulis Berzins had a meeting with the Governor of St. Petersburg Mr Vladimir Yakovlev, who had arrived on the occasion of the Riga City 800th anniversary.

During the meeting Mr Berzins highly evaluated the contribution of the democratic forces in Russia to the process of restoration of the independence of Latvia. Mr Berzins stressed that Latvia is ready to develop constructive co-operation with Russia, based on the principle of good neighbourly relations. Mr Berzins called for a boost of positivism in the relations between the two countries.

During the conversation Latvia-Russia regional co-operation perspectives and the possibilities to intensify relations within this scope were discussed. Mr Berzins noted the readiness of Latvia to develop regional contacts. Both sides acknowledged the necessity to activate contacts in tourism and to take advantage of the possibilities provided by this sphere more fully. Mr Yakovlev evaluated positively the existing co-operation and noted that regional co-operation could provide a good example for the improvement of bilateral relations in general.

MFA

 

Regional co-operation perspectives between Latvia and Russia discussed

On 17 August 2001 the Minister of Foreign Affairs Mr Indulis Berzins had a meeting with the Head of the Pskov Region Administration Mr Evgeny Mikhaylov.

During the meeting regional co-operation perspectives between Latvia and Russia within the context of Latvia's integration into the European Union were discussed and the sides exchanged opinions about the development of economic processes in both countries. Mr Berzins highly appreciated the contribution of Russia's democratic forces in the process of restoration of Latvia's independence. The Minister underscored that Latvia is ready to develop constructive co-operation with Russia based on the principles of good neighbourly relations and noted that within last ten years there has been a range of examples of positive co-operation in the relations between Latvia and Russia that not always were properly reflected.

Latvian side once more approved readiness to develop actively cross-border co-operation with the Pskov region and to work on the development of the Euro-Region. Both sides noted the progressing economic co-operation, particularly at the level of small and medium size businesses, and expressed an opinion that the economic co-operation resource has large reserves, as both Latvia and Pskov region have numerous common economic interests, such as transit and other issues. Mr Mikhaylov stressed the interest of the Pskov region to participate in the EU trans-border co-operation projects, as well as in sooner Latvia's integration into the EU, which would provide an additional impetus to the development of the Pskov region. Mr Mikhaylov also commended the activities of Latvian entrepreneurs in the Pskov region and acknowledged the interest in intensification of economic relations.

MFA

 

Latvian Minister submits the Draft Agreement on Mutual Abolition of Visas between Australia and Latvia

On 16 August 2001 the Minister of Foreign Affairs Mr Indulis Berzins had a meeting with the Lt. Governor of the State of South Australia Mr Bruno Krumins and Ambassador of Australia to Latvia Mr Stephen Christopher Brady.

During the visit both sides noted the friendly character of the relations between Latvia and Australia and the development of co-operation, particularly in the field of economy where the potential has not been used completely yet. Mr Krumins assessed positively the work of the Chamber of Commerce of Latvia in Australia and expressed readiness to provide full-scale support to the promotion of economic relations between the two countries. Mr Berzins submitted to the Ambassador of Australia the Draft Agreement on Mutual Abolition of Visas between Australia and Latvia.

During the meeting Latvia's progress towards the European Union and course of the integration into NATO were discussed, and Mr Berzins expressed the determination of Latvia to achieve positive decisions both on admission of new member states to the EU (according to the decisions of the Gothenburg Summit) and on NATO enlargement (Prague Summit).

MFA

 

The Ambassador of Poland: The relations between Latvia and Poland should be deepened

On 16 August 2001 the Minister of Foreign Affairs Mr Indulis Berzins had a meeting with the newly appointed Ambassador of Poland to Latvia Mr Tadeusz Fiszbach. The meeting took place within the framework of the accreditation visit of Mr Fiszbach.

During the visit the issues of bilateral relations, security policy and process of the European Union integration were discussed. Both sides noted the friendly nature of the relations between Latvia and Poland and congruity of the foreign policy goals both in the EU and NATO enlargement issues. Mr Fiszbach underscored that the relations between Latvia and Poland should be deepened by improving co-operation in particular spheres and promoting political contacts at all levels in the future. Mr Berzins highly appreciated Poland's position and assistance to Latvia on the way towards NATO accession. During the conversation the contribution of the foreign diasporas of both countries in the facilitation of NATO enlargement process was noted. The Polish side expressed readiness to share experience on the issues related to NATO enlargement process.

The accreditation ceremony of the Ambassador of Poland took place on 14 August.

MFA

 

Uzbekistan interested in Latvia's experience of political and economic reforms

On 16 August 2001 the State Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Mr Maris Riekstins had a meeting with the Uzbekistani Parliament delegation of the Committee of International Affairs and the group of members of the Parliament for the Co-operation with Latvia headed by Mr Erkin Vakhidov. During the meeting the sides noted the good relations between both countries at the political level and interest to promote co-operation in the sphere of trade and economics.

Mr Riekstins informed the parliamentary delegation of Uzbekistan about the topical issues of Latvia's integration process into the European Union and course towards NATO. Both sides stated that they have common experience of participation in NATO programme Partnership for Peace and other international organisations. Mr Riekstins expressed gratitude to the Uzbekistani side for the voiced support to the implementation process of Latvia's foreign policy goals, whereas Mr Vakhidov noted that Uzbekistan is interested in Latvia's experience of political and economic reforms.

MFA

 

SCHEDULED VISITS AND ACCREDITATIONS

 

State Officials:

24 - 26 August

Visit of the Minister of Foreign Affairs Mr Indulis Berzins to the Republic of Iceland (meeting of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the Baltic States)

28 - 29 August

Visit of the Minister of Foreign Affairs Mr Indulis Berzins to the Republic of Finland (meeting of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the Baltic and Nordic countries)

29 August - 6 September

Visit of the President of the Republic of Latvia Dr Vaira Vike-Freiberga to the Republic of South Africa (participation in the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance)

5 - 7 September

Official visit of Prime Minister Mr Andris Berzins to the Republic of Kazakhstan

9 September

Visit of the Minister of Foreign Affairs Mr Indulis Berzins to the Kingdom of Belgium (participation in the meeting of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the EU member and candidate countries)

10 - 14 September

Visit of the Minister of Foreign Affairs Mr Indulis Berzins to the United States of America (participation in the session of the U.S.-Baltic Partnership Commission)

13 - 14 September

Official visit of Prime Minister Mr Andris Berzins to the Republic of Iceland

18 September

Meeting of the Presidents of the three Baltic States and the Republic of Poland in the Republic of Estonia

Foreign Officials:

21 August

Visit of the Parliament Speaker of the Kingdom of Denmark Mr Ivar Hansen, the Parliament Speaker of the Republic of Estonia Mr Toomas Savi, the Parliament Speaker of the Republic of Finland Ms Riitta Uosukainen, and the Parliament Speaker of the Kingdom of Sweden Ms Birgitta Dahl on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the adoption of the Constitutional Law of the Republic of Latvia "On the Statehood of the Republic of Latvia"

22 - 26 August

Working visit of a group of U.S. Congressmen's Councillors

22 - 27 August

Visit of a member of the U.S. Committee on NATO Mr Randy Scheunemann

25 - 26 August

Visits of the U.S. Senators Mr Richard Lugar and Mr John McCain

26 - 27 August

Official visit of the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Denmark Mr Mogens Lykketoft

1 - 4 September

Visit of the Ambassadors of the Benelux countries to NATO

4 - 6 September

Working visit of the Prime Minister of Schleswig-Holstein Ms Heide Simonis

6 - 8 September

Visit of H.R.H. Prince Consort Henrik of the Kingdom of Denmark (participation in "Europa Nostra" conference "Wooden Architecture in Cities")

7 - 9 September

Official visit of the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Canada Mr John Manley

11 - 13 September

Visit of the President of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development Mr Jean Lemierre

12 September

Visit of the Prime Minister of Spain Mr Jose Maria Aznar

17 - 18 September

Visit of the Director General for Enlargement of the European Commission Mr Eneko Landaburu

 

HOME AFFAIRS

President greets participants of the 2nd World Latvian Scientists' Congress

On 14 August 2001 Latvian President Dr Vaira Vike-Freiberga greeted participants and guests of the 2nd World Latvian Scientists' Congress in Riga, wishing them creative energy and persistence in materialising their future dreams and plans.

The President admitted that since the 1st World Latvian Scientists' Congress ten years ago enormous and radical changes have taken place in the sciences. Latvia has proved itself as a country whose key capital investment is its people and their creative potential. Minister of Education and Science Mr Karlis Greiskalns, in his turn, stressed the significance of international projects and co-operation since "science cannot be enclosed in the geographic outlines of one country".

The participating hundreds of scientists had arrived from a total of 14 countries Latvia, Australia, Belarus, Brazil, Canada, France, Georgia, Germany, Israel, Lithuania, Russia, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the USA. The congress was held from 14 to 15 August. On the first day of the event a monument to the distinguished Rigan, 1909 Nobel Laureate in Chemistry Mr Wilhelm Ostwald (1853 - 1932) was unveiled at the Vermanes Park in the central part of Riga.

LETA, Latvijas Vestnesis

 

Latvia ratifies Agreements on Social Security

Latvia has ratified the European Interim Agreement on Social Security Schemes relating to Old Age, Invalidity and Survivors and its Protocol and the European Interim Agreement on Social Security Other than Schemes for Old Age, Invalidity and Survivors and its Protocol.

Ambassador Mr Georgs Andrejevs, Permanent Representative of Latvia to the Council of Europe, handed the instruments of ratification of these texts to Mr Hans Christian Krueger, Deputy Secretary General of the Organisation.

These Agreements provide for nationals of any one of the Parties to be entitled to receive the benefit of the laws and regulations of any other Party, under the same conditions as if the person were a national of the latter, provided that certain conditions of residence are fulfilled. The Additional Protocols extend the benefit of the provisions of the Agreements to refugees. These texts will enter into force for Latvia on 1 September 2001.

Council of Europe

Council of Europe press release: http://press.coe.int/cp/2001/578a(2001).htm

 

Finance Minister praises progress in curbing contraband

Curbing contraband has had a very great economic effect so far this year, measured in several tens of millions of lats, Minister of Finance Mr Gundars Berzins told reporters on 15 August 2001 after a meeting of the Contraband Prevention Centre's Supervisory Council. Mr Berzins also emphasised that funds invested in curbing contraband have paid off excellently.

During the meeting of the Contraband Prevention Centre's Supervisory Council, issues concerning criminal cases opened on contraband were also discussed, as well as the centre's further work and actions for curbing contraband and introducing a monitoring system at border crossing points. The Financial Police has also worked efficiently, the Minister said following the meeting.

LETA

 

Latvian Border Guard improves its technical equipment

On 17 August 2001 Latvia's Border Guard received a delivery of 18 off-road Nissan Terranos and 15 snow-mobiles from TBF car dealers, bought for funds from the PHARE Eastern Border Management and Infrastructure project. Latvia's Border Guard chief, General Gunars Dabolins said that the patrol vehicles are another step towards implementing European Union requirements in preparation for Latvia's eastern border to become the EU's external border.

According to a Government declaration, Latvia's eastern border must be ready by 1 January 2003, set to become the external border of the EU. Two projects have been developed for this task worth a total of LVL 90 million. As part of Latvia's attempts at improving its eastern border the Latvian Border Guard also plans to buy up to six helicopters over the next couple of years.

BNS

 

 

ECONOMICS AND BUSINESS

On-line registration for the Baltic Sea Region e-Business Forum available

Sign-up for the Baltic Sea Region e-Business Forum is possible on the Internet as of 14 August 2001, carrying out payments with a credit card or money transfer. Application forms can be found on the Internet page "www.birojs2000.lv".

The forum will be held at "Reval Hotel Latvija" in Riga from 26 to 28 September 2001. The forum is aimed at boosting an exchange of information in order to facilitate the development of a balanced e-business environment in the region, creating the necessary pre-conditions for effective e-government, e-business, e-commerce, information and communications technology development.

Participants from all countries of the Baltic Sea region have already applied for the forum, as well as from Belgium, France, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the USA. More than 60 high-ranking lecturers have confirmed their participation in the forum, including Prime Ministers from the Baltic Sea countries, ministers and other top officials.

The forum has been organised by the project management company "Birojs 2000" in conjunction with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) as the international organisation partner of the forum.

LETA

Birojs 2000 press release: http://www.birojs2000.lv/jauna/uk_efor_007_p1408.htm

Baltic Sea Region e-Business Forum: http://www.birojs2000.lv/jauna/uk_efor_002.htm

 

German Finance Minister praises Latvia's economic performance

Latvia's progress shows that it has a very good chance at joining the European Union and that it is on the right track, the German Federal Minister of Finance Mr Hans Eichel told reporters on 15 August 2001 in Riga. He said that last year Latvia reached a very high GDP growth rate and that this year's indicators are also very good. Latvia has great chances of gaining significant progress in a short time, and this is also expected, emphasised the German Minister, adding that Latvia is on the right track and that all there is left to do is encourage things to continue the same way.

Mr Eichel also said that Latvian and the Baltic region's development is proven if only by the fact that economic growth continues, while the EU and global economies are showing falling trends. The fact that world economic trends are currently not echoing, show that the region's economic development is serious, said Mr Eichel.

Latvia's Finance Minister Mr Gundars Berzins said after a meeting with his German colleague that there were no problems to be discussed, leaving the Ministers to mainly speak of future co-operation.

BNS

 

Foreign trade of Latvia in January - June 2001

The value of Latvia's foreign trade at current prices increased in January - June 2001 compared with the corresponding period of the previous year. Merchandise export reached 639.8 mln lats, up by 13.2% in comparison with January - June 2000. Total import rose by 14.6% and in January - June this year it was worth 1032.1 mln lats. The export - import balance has increased. In January - June 2000 imports exceeded exports by 59.3% but in January - June 2001 this difference was 61.3%.

 

Exports and imports by group of countries in January - June 2001

Exports

Imports

2000 I-VI

thsd lats

2001 I-VI

thsd lats

2001 I-VI

proportion

2000 I-VI

thsd lats

2001 I-VI

thsd lats

2001 I-VI

proportion

EU

373238

399893

62.5%

483446

542226

52.5%

CIS

45408

58939

9.2%

147941

156720

15.2%

 

Major export partners of Latvia in January - June 2001

Place

 

Country

Value, thsd lats

Proportion

% against previous year

2000

2001

2000

2001

2000

2001

2.

1.

Germany

95395

110474

16.9%

17.3%

115.8

1.

2.

Great Britain

100650

97756

17.8%

15.3%

97.1

3.

3.

Sweden

65050

63959

11.5%

10.0%

98.3

4.

4.

Lithuania

41786

50588

7.4%

7.9%

121.1

6.

5.

Estonia

29974

37582

5.3%

5.9%

125.4

 

Major import partners of Latvia in January - June 2001

Place

 

Country

Value, thsd lats

Proportion

% against previous year

2000

2001

2000

2001

2000

2001

1.

1.

Germany

143751

173527

16.0%

16.8%

120.7

2.

2.

Russia

105575

100625

11.7%

9.7%

95.3

3.

3.

Finland

81509

81007

9.1%

7.9%

99.4

4.

4.

Lithuania

68120

79818

7.6%

7.7%

117.2

5.

5.

Sweden

64575

66697

7.2%

6.5%

103.3

Central Statistical Bureau

 

Foreign investments in capital of Latvian companies grow to 865 mln lats in Q1

Foreign investments in registered capital of Latvian-incorporated companies reached LVL 865.557 million by the end of the first quarter this year, reported the Latvian Central Statistical Bureau. It is a growth by 4% or LVL 33.352 million from the end of 2000.

Late March Denmark led among foreign countries by investments in registered capital of Latvian companies with LVL 116.647 million or 13.5% of total foreign investments in capital of Latvian-incorporated companies. Germany's investments in registered capital of Latvian companies constituted LVL 110.141 million, Sweden contributed LVL 85.9 million, the USA LVL 80.33 million, Russia LVL 60.867 million, the UK LVL 59.323 million, Finland LVL 46.019 million, Estonia LVL 46.409 million, Norway LVL 39.729 million and the Netherlands LVL 27.402 million.

BNS

 

Riga port handles 18.6% more in 7 months

The port of Riga handled 9.027 million tons of cargo in seven months of this year, 16.6% up year-on-year, reported the port. The amount of liquid cargo handled at the port of Riga increased by 34%, reaching 2.447 million tons, 2.356 million of this being oil products, up 35%.

General cargo amounted to 3.757 million tons, 11.4% less than in seven months of 2000. Most of this was timber 2.518 million tons, up 3.7%. Dry-bulk cargo amounted to 2.822 million tons, up 82.6%, most of this being mineral fertilizers on 891,100 tons, up 9.6%.

The port of Riga is Latvia's second largest port.

BNS

 

Reconstructed Riga central railway station opened

The newly reconstructed Riga central railway station was opened on 16 August 2001. Total reconstruction costs amounted to USD 5.5 million, funded by real estate company Linstow Warner, currently renting out the station to smaller shops and businesses. The railway station had previously two separate, yet adjacent terminals, which are now linked and completely transformed, a number of shops, catering businesses and other improvements have been established within the station.

The railway station's building, built in 1961, still has the same look from outside, however, the building's main glass wall was completely replaced. The first railway station was built in Riga 140 years ago in 1861, but since the 60ies the railway station had not changed its look at all. Further reconstruction will be carried out in the vicinity of the railway station, expecting to build an underground parking lot below the station square, and two multi-functional buildings on top of it.

BNS

 

EXCHANGE RATES SET BY THE BANK OF LATVIA FOR 20 AUGUST 2001

1 ATS

1 AUD

1 BEF

1 CAD

1 CHF

1 CZK

1 DEM

1 DKK

1 EEK

1 EUR

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

0.0414 LVL

0.3280 LVL

0.0141 LVL

0.4050 LVL

0.3750 LVL

0.0168 LVL

0.2910 LVL

0.0764 LVL

0.0364 LVL

0.5690 LVL

1 FIM

1 FRF

1 GBP

1 ILS

1 LTL

1 NOK

1 RUB

1 SEK

1 SKK

1 USD

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

0.0957 LVL

0.0868 LVL

0.9000 LVL

0.1480 LVL

0.1560 LVL

0.0701 LVL

0.0212 LVL

0.0614 LVL

0.0132 LVL

0.6240 LVL

The exchange rates set by the Bank of Latvia: http://www.bank.lv/ValutuKursi/English/KVkursi/index.html

 

EXHIBITIONS AND CONFERENCES

 

5 - 8 September

Riga Food 2001; 6th international trade fair, International Exhibition Centre, Riga; http://www.bt1.lv/rigafood/

14 - 16 September

High-Tech Baltics 2001, international forum, International Exhibition Centre, Riga; http://www.hightechbaltics.com/

26 - 28 September

Baltic Sea Region e-Business Forum, Riga; http://www.birojs2000.lv/jauna/uk_efor_002.htm

12 October

BaltTrade 2001, 3rd international conference, Reval Hotel Latvija, Riga;

http://www.rmsforum.lv/en/preview.phtml?id=5BMAx7575

18 - 19 October

Baltic Sea Region Communications Forum, Reval Hotel Latvija, Riga; http://www.lbs.riga.lv/comforum/index.html

 

 

SOCIETY, EDUCATION, CULTURE AND SPORTS

Latvian capital's 800th anniversary celebration draws 1.5 mln people

Culmination events of the Riga 800th anniversary celebration that were held from 17 to 19 August 2001 brought some 1.5 million people to the Latvian capital. The celebrations were also attended by 55 official delegations invited by the Riga Mayor. The most prominent guests included Presidents of all three Baltic States, the German President and the King of Sweden.

The organisers of the celebrations thanked both local and foreign audience for "proving themselves to be not a crowd but people treating each other with respect". Many people had praised the order and the air of tolerance prevailing throughout the celebration that allowed them to enjoy it. The police said that the crime rate went down in Riga and all over Latvia during the Riga 800 celebrations.

The central event of the celebrations was the performance "800 Years in 800 Minutes" on 18 August, with Riga split into zones of various character, such as Riga sings, Riga dances, Riga celebrates, looks at pictures, dresses, eats, blows horns, listens to music and many more. Each of these zones had people performing various colourful and interesting events as well as various artists and performers contributing to the show.

On Saturday night a magnificent sound-and-light show was held in the sky above the river Daugava flowing through the Latvian capital. Spectators all agreed that they had never seen so spectacular fireworks before. Australian company Fyd Howard Fireworks International, which also organised fireworks at the Millennium celebration in London and in the Olympic Games in Sydney said that the 27-minute-long show in Riga could be one of the largest fireworks staged in Europe. The fireworks team comprised 50 people, of which 12 were from the Australian company and the rest were Latvian experts.

The national television channel was broadcasting the celebrations live. It was the first 15-hour-long live show aired by the company in its history.

BNS

Celebration of the 800th anniversary of Riga: http://www.riga800.lv/

 

Sculpture "Madonna on the Crescent Moon" returns to Riga

During celebrations of Riga's 800th anniversary on 18 August 2001, a ceremony was held at the Dome Square when Luebeck Mayor Mr Bernd Saxe returned to Riga its wooden sculpture "Madonna on the Crescent Moon" (circa 15th century), that was taken away to Germany by German soldiers during the World War II. The sculpture is now exhibited in the Riga History and Navigation Museum.

The origin of the sculpture "Madonna on the Crescent Moon", made in the late Middle Ages, is unclear. Sculptor Bernt Notke is believed to have made it. The sculpture's initial name was "St. Mary". The sculpture depicts Madonna, who stands over all changes on the crescent moon the symbol of the ephemeral world. She holds a child in her arms. The child is playing with a bird symbolic of the human being's soul.

Surveys conducted at St. Annen-Museum in Luebeck show that the oak-tree sculpture, which stands 16 centimetres, was placed on Mary Altar of Riga's St. Peter's Church in 1488. In 1524, the sculpture was taken to the Great Guild, and remained there until 1936. Later, a series of items from the Great Guild, which was liquidated in 1936, including the wooden sculpture "St. Mary", were turned over to the Riga History and Navigation Museum.

After 1944, when valuables from Latvian archives and museums were taken away to Germany illegally, the list of such items also included the above sculpture, which was located in the St. Annen-Museum in Luebeck.

LETA

 

Silver one-lat coin "Millennium" recognised as the most innovative coin

The silver one-lat coin "Millennium", or button-coin, issued by the Bank of Latvia, was selected in the poll conducted by the "World Coin News" as the "Most Innovative Coin of the Year". The American monthly "World Coin News" has been conducting polls for 18 years already in order to select 10 various nominees of the best coins in the world and one of these ten coins is being selected as the "Coin of the Year".

This year, the jury was made up of representatives from mints, numismatist organisations, central banks, engravers, independent experts and the monthly "Krause Publications" a total of 65 people. The award of the year was founded in order to create new design solutions, aesthetic values in the coin art and to reveal the level of mastery in this sector.

The jubilee silver one-lat coin "Millennium" was made at the end of 1999 within the framework of the international coin programme "Millennium". The Bank of Latvia held an idea competition for a coin and the Taurene (Cesis District) elementary school teacher Maija Barzdina won the competition. This coin has become a popular memento and gift.

LETA

Bank of Latvia press release: http://www.bank.lv/sapinfo/English/Press/Text56.html

 

Schumacher, Senna and Hakkinen's F-1s to be displayed in exhibition "AutoExotica 2001"

The Formula One race cars of world champions Michael Schumacher, Ayrton Senna and Mika Hakkinen will be displayed at the Riga automobile show "Auto Exotica 2001" held in the Olympic Skonto Hall from 23 to 26 August 2001.

The formula of the three-time world champion Senna, the 1987 "Lotus-Honda" will be displayed in the exhibition with which the racer won his first victory in Monte Carlo. Michael Schumacher's 1993 "Benetton-Ford" will be exhibited, as well as Mika Hakkinen's 2001 "McLaren-Mercedes".

LETA

 

CALENDAR OF ARTS EVENTS

 

In Latvia:

6 July - 25 September

Exhibitions Riga in the 16th - 20th Century as Seen by Riga Artists and Craftsmen and Riga Silver of the 17th - 19th Century, House of Blackheads, Riga. Organiser Antikva Gallery, phone: (+371) 728 43 77

12 July - 28 October

Photo exhibition Rigans, Latvian Photography Museum, Riga. Organiser Latvian Photography Museum, phone: (+371) 722 72 31

1 August - 31 August

Exhibition Riga Architecture of the 20th Century, Museum of Decorative and Applied Art, Riga. Information Architects' Union of Latvia, phone: (+371) 721 28 02

August - September

European Cultural Month in Riga, http://www.riga2001.lv/

10 August - 30 September

Exhibition Academician Vilhelms Purvitis. 1872 - 1945. Landscapes, State Museum of Fine Arts, Riga. Organiser State Museum of Fine Arts, phone: (+371) 732 50 51

16 - 30 August

Riga Festival of Sacral Music, Dome Cathedral, St. John's Church, Riga. Organiser State Academic Choir "Latvia", phone: (+371) 722 38 39

17 August - 17 September

Visual arts exhibition Metropolis Riga, Great Hall of the Riga Stock Exchange. Information Agency Riga 800, phone: (+371) 704 43 66

17 August - 3 December

Three Stars - Three Crowns, joint project by Latvia and Sweden, dedicated to Riga's 800th and Stockholm's 750th anniversaries, Arsenals Art Gallery, Riga. Organiser Latvian History Museum, phone: (+371) 722 74 29

22 - 26 August

2nd International Festival of Girls' Choirs, Riga. Organiser Riga Schools Board and Riga Schoolchildren's Palace, phone: (+371) 727 01 65

14 - 23 September

4th International Festival of Contemporary Theatre "Homo Novus", http://www.vip.lv/jti/homo/default.htm

27 - 30 September

7th International Chamber Choir Festival "Riga Dimd", http://www.culture.lv/choirsfestival/

12 - 18 November

Latvian Contemporary Drama Festival 2001. Organisers Latvian Playwrights' Guild and the Latvian Drama Agency. Contact person: Ms Katarina Hartgers, fax: (+371) 754 28 65, e-mail: katarina@drama.lv

Latvian National Opera

Information on the repertoire of the Latvian National Opera and the possibilities of on-line booking of tickets: http://www.opera.lv/

Abroad:

25 April - 20 January

Exhibition Latvia. History, Art, Traditions; http://www.culture.fr/culture/arts2000/manifs/m_124751.html; Musee de l'Homme, Paris, France

9 June - 4 November

Latvian exposition Riga 800 Magic Flute at the 49th Venice Biennial; http://www.magicfluteriga.net/; Venice, Italy

September - October

Exhibition of works by young Latvian artists, devoted to the 800th anniversary of Riga; National Theatre, Brno, Czech Republic

 

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