Latvian MailerJune 19, 2006

Galerts and News

Sveiki, all!

The dog days of summer are already approaching here in New York. When you're hungry for a meal that "hits the spot" on a hot summer day, (many believe) there's nothing better than raiding your fridge and enjoying a refreshing bowl of galerts. You can now find the recipe on our web site: sivēna galerts (Please note, the link to the pīrāgi recipe has changed, if you've bookmarked it.)

Lots in the news, from more public holidays (always good news!) to a Latvian-originated site helping propective parents to pick out baby names to Putin saying let's let bygones be bygones (yet again)—only a day before Latvia's June 14th remembrance of the Soviet mass deportation. Last, and perhaps least, whenever that day comes when Latvia and Russia raise such a toast (at the current rate, some time in 2147, we don't see Latvia ever giving in on the continuity of its sovreignty in the "border dispute"), at least the Russians will be comforted in that their Stolichnaya will apaprently no longer be bottled in Riga.

In the news:

This edition's link is to an internet reference we thought we had lost. This edition's picture comes from the north end of Riga.

As always, AOL'ers, remember, mailer or not, Lat Chat spontaneously appears every Sunday on AOL starting around 9:00/9:30pm Eastern time, lasting until 11:00/11:30pm. AOL'ers can follow this link in their AOL browser: Town Square-Latvian chat. Our apologies that owing to circumstances we have been unable to attend ourselves.

Ar visu labu,

Silvija and Peters
Latvian Link  

For quite some time, we have been disappointed that our favorite online Latvian-English-Latvian dictionary did not seem to be working. We just happened to check and are happy to report it's up and running again, at:

http://dictionary.site.lv/

In the News  

President perplexed by decision to open archive
May 17, 2006
From wire reports
© Baltic Times

RIGA — President Vaira Vike-Freiberga voiced concern over the government’s decision to publish information about former KGB agents, saying it was a "belated, futile exercise that would divide society." "I made my objections known when returning the bill [to Parliament] for revision," the president told the press after meeting with Prime Minister Aigars Kalvitis. The two discussed the plan to release information about KGB agents found in archives left behind in Latvia after the Baltic state restored its independence from the Soviet Union in 1990.


NCC joining world summit of religious leaders [press release]
From "Daniel Webster"
Date Fri, 09 Jun 2006 16:14:20 -0400

Moscow, Russia — June 9, 2006-The National Council of Churches USA met here with representatives of six major religious traditions from 28 countries to plan the World Summit of Religious Leaders that will take place in Moscow July 3-5 — two weeks prior to the St. Petersburg G8 summit.

The group, convened in late May at the invitation of the Interreligious Council of Russia, was hosted by the Russian Orthodox Church in the Moscow Patriarchate. It included Dr. Antonios Kireopoulos, the NCC USA's associate general secretary for international affairs and peace, and representatives of other Christian faith groups as well as Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist, Taoist and Hindu leaders.

"It is very important for the powerful world leaders meeting later this summer to hear from a broad cross-section of the world's religious leaders," said Dr. Kireopoulos. "We want to make sure the G8 leaders hear the concerns of religious communities around the globe," he said on returning to his New York City office.

The G8 summit is attended by the leaders of the world's top economic powers — the U.S., Russia, Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan.

"Ways of overcoming terrorism and extremism" was one of many potential topics for the summit listed in a communique from the planning group for the meeting next month. Other challenges they listed as topics were overcoming poverty, morality in economy, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, respect for other religious traditions, human rights and ecological responsibility. Communicating these concerns to political leaders illustrates the fundamental role that faith plays in today's societies.

"The role of religion in public life around the world has always been important though recognition of its role is only now coming into focus again," said Dr. Kireopoulos. "Faith leaders can offer the moral touchstone for political leaders as they come together to make their decisions about the stewardship of this planet and all its peoples," he said.

The NCC will be represented at the July summit by Bishop Vicken Aykazian, president-elect of the NCC and a bishop in the Armenian Orthodox Church and by the Rev. Dr. Michael Kinnamon, chair of the NCC's Justice and Advocacy Commission. Kinnamon, a St. Louis resident, member of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and professor of mission, peace and ecumenical studies at Eden Theological Seminary.

The religious leaders attending the planning meeting came from Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bulgaria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, China, Egypt, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, India, Iran, Israel, Italy, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lebanon, Romania, Russia, Switzerland, Syria, Turkey, United Kingdom, United States and the Vatican.

"There was an incredible spirit of cooperation within this planning group," said Dr. Kireopoulos. "It is inspiring to see people of such varied faiths and backgrounds go beyond their many differences and come together for a common purpose, the common good of all humankind and the planet we all inhabit."

The National Council of Churches is America's Christian ecumenical voice, encompassing 35 Protestant, Orthodox, Anglican and historic African American and peace churches with nearly 45 million members in 100,000 congregations.

Latest NCC News at www.councilofchurches.org

NCC News contact: Dan Webster, 212.870.2252, dwebster@councilofchurches.org


Defence Minister Affirms Canada's Strong Support to Alliance at NATO Meeting of Defence Ministers
© CCN News
JUNE 8, 2006 — 15:32 ET

OTTAWA, ONTARIO — (CCNMatthews — June 8, 2006) — — The Honourable Gordon O'Connor, Minister of National Defence, today reaffirmed Canada's strong commitment to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), while attending the meeting of NATO Defence Ministers in Brussels. Minister O'Connor participated in a number of discussions and a review of key ongoing initiatives that will lay the groundwork for a successful NATO Summit in Riga, Latvia, in November 2006.

Ministers were asked to approve a new Ministerial Guidance that will better reflect the number and types of missions that NATO will most likely conduct in the future. Concurrently they discussed NATO transformation initiatives that provide, among other things, a greater focus on expeditionary capabilities, and stabilization and reconstruction phases of operations.

"Canada remains highly committed to NATO and supports the Alliance's agenda of successfully conducting ongoing operations, transforming for the future, and enhancing partnerships," said Minister O'Connor. "Canada values NATO both as a political and military alliance critical to maintaining global stability."

Ministers also reviewed the Prague Capability Commitments launched in 2002 and one of its centerpieces — the NATO Response Force (NRF) — a high-readiness force made up of land, air, sea and special forces components that NATO can deploy on short notice to respond quickly and effectively to threats and crises around the world. As a further component of Canada's contribution to the NRF, Minister O'Connor conveyed the Government of Canada's offer of six CF 18s that will be available on short notice to deploy for operations from July 1, 2006 to January 12, 2007. Canada is also providing a destroyer to the NATO Response Force for that same period.


Work-life balance better in northern Europe-study
May 17, 2006 — 12:40 PM
© Reuters

BRUSSELS (Reuters) — Work in a large company in Sweden or Latvia and you are more likely to be happy with your job, work flexible hours, have a chance to go part-time or gradually work less as you retire, a report said on Wednesday.

But the opposite is most likely in a medium-sized industrial company in Portugal or Greece, according to the report by the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions, a European Union agency.

The study looked at what kind of balance employees have between their work and private life, asking 21,000 companies in most EU countries about issues such as flexitime, family-related leave, retirement and part-time work.

On most issues, the study revealed a clear north-south divide, with companies in the Mediterranean having a more rigid working structure.

Jorma Karppinen, director of the agency, cited a number of reasons for this stemming from the historically different way of life and attitude between the north and south.

"Perhaps life in southern Europe has always been easier than in northern countries," he said. "In the northern countries people have had to adapt more in order simply to survive.

"One factor which also influences is the level of trust between employers and employees — how much trust there is and how much control. It seems that the control aspect is much stronger in southern Europe," he said.

In general, the study found very large companies and small businesses were the most flexible about working hours and absences.

"Large companies have well developed policies and small companies are, by their very nature, flexible because they have to trust each other," Karppinen said.

"The middle ranks of companies don't have developed policies — they may not have human resources managers who develop such schemes."

Both managers and employees said flexible working improved job satisfaction, made workers efficient and lowered the level of absenteeism. It was also good for employers, allowing them to spend less on overtime pay.


Study shows wide tax disparity in EU
©RTÉ Business
May 17, 2006 15:51

EU — The European Union is one of the most heavily taxed areas in the world but wide disparities exist in tax burdens among the bloc's 25 countries, a new study shows.

The EU's average ratio of tax revenue to gross domestic product was 39.3% in 2004, the last year for which full data is available. That was barely changed from 1995 and some 14 percentage points above the level in the US or Japan, the European Commission study said.

'The EU, taken as the whole, remains one of the world's highest taxed areas,' the report said. Tax ratios ranged from 28% in Lithuania and 29% in Latvia, both fast-growing new member states, to more than 50% in Sweden and 49% in Denmark.

The Commission cautioned against the view that less taxation meant more economic growth.

'We must not fall into the trap of saying that high taxes automatically mean less growth,' said Marco Fantini, co-author of the report. 'If you spend it intelligently, it is conducive to growth.'

The study showed that the EU's 10, mostly ex-communist newcomers levied a lower burden on taxpayers than the bloc's 15 'old' members — 34.5% of GDP compared with 39.6%.

Some western European politicians have accused new member states of tax dumping, which they argue encourages big companies to move factories eastward at a time when the region enjoys large amounts of EU aid funded by western taxpayers.

But the study showed that EU newcomers were not a homogenous group, with tax ratios low in the Baltic countries and reaching western levels in Hungary and the Czech Republic.

Slovakia and Estonia had the lowest personal income tax levels for top earners, at 19 and 23% respectively, compared with 59% in Denmark and 56.6% in Sweden.

As for corporate income tax, the highest rates were in Germany at 38.6% and Italy at 37.3%, compared to 10% in Cyprus and 12.5% in Ireland.


Conference discusses positions of Russians in Baltic countries
© ITAR-TASS
May 22, 2006

MOSCOW — A conference of Russian communities in the Baltic countries has focused on the position of Russians in the region, their legitimate rights and interests, and their ethnic and cultural identity. The conference was held in...


22 EU Member States to Take Part in New European Defence Equipment Market
© Tenders Direct, UK — May 23, 2006
Source: European Defence Agency

Press release — The new European defence equipment market will be launched on 1 July, with the participation of all but three of the 25 EU Member States.

The market will operate on the basis of the Code of Conduct on Defence Procurement, a voluntary, inter-governmental regime, approved by Defence Ministers last November to cover defence equipment purchases which are exempt from the normal cross-border competition rules of the EU single market.

Helping to underpin this regime is the Code of Best Practice in the Supply Chain, approved by Ministers on 15 May, which is intended to extend the benefits of greater competition to smaller companies who may not be able to bid for contracts directly but could act as sub-contractors. This set of principles has been developed in close consultation with industry.

Only Hungary and Spain exercised their option by the 19 May deadline not to join the Code of Conduct regime initially, although both have indicated the possibility of doing so later. Denmark, which has a general opt-out on European Security and Defence Policy, is not part of the EDA.

"We are delighted that the overwhelming majority of Member States have confirmed that they will be subscribing to the Code of Conduct regime from the start," EDA Chief Executive Nick Witney said.

"This regime will create new opportunities for companies across Europe, strengthen our defence technological and industrial base and offer better value for money to the armed forces and to taxpayers," he added.

The Code of Conduct commits subscribing Member States to maximising fair and equal opportunities for all suppliers based in other subscribing Member States by publicising procurement opportunities through a new Electronic Bulletin Board, which will be operated by the Agency, and setting transparent and objective criteria for selecting bidders and awarding contracts.

The Agency's reporting and monitoring system will help to ensure mutual transparency and mutual accountability among subscribing Member States, so that they can be confident that the regime is working as intended. Data will be collected for contracts awarded under the Code. For cases where Member States decide not to apply it, explanation would have to be provided.

The 22 subscribing Member States are: Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden, and United Kingdom.


Robotic Female Popularizes Human Baby Names
Agency / Source: Double Solutions
Distribution: Press Release & Newswire Distribution Network
05/23/2006

Riga, Latvia, Lithuania — A robotic female helps human parents in choosing worldwide recognized names for their babies at i-want-baby.com website.

During the world globalization process, some languages became dominant and so more familiar and more important to common people.

Choosing proper name transcription and pronunciation helps baby to grow up as successful scientist, businessman, model, or politician. Even Popes are choosing significant names, when elected.

Now, thanks to freely distributed Festival Speech Synthesis System of The Centre for Speech Technology Research of The University of Edinburgh, one low cost robotic female on 24/7 work shift basis can help the whole world at once in perspective baby names selection.

i-want-baby.com project uses Festival Speech Synthesis System to generate English-like pronunciation for baby names. From aside it looks like ordinary baby names website with a difference in that it provides baby names pronunciation with help of computer generated female voice.

i-want-baby.com project is specialized on providing free of charge to use information products for educated and forwards thinking parents. Current focus is on English language products, however one can access baby names in German, Spanish, French, and Russian languages too.

i-want-baby.com project was created and is being served by company Double Solutions from Latvia, the new EU member state.

The main reason to establish this website was strong belief in that small and separated countries must integrate more into global world to give more chances in life for their citizens. For emerging countries, Internet, knowledge based economy, and proper communications language are the best available choice to find their place in the global economy and scientific community.

And the first possible step towards that is giving effective names for the babies.


ICT for an inclusive society
Basileio De Rolia, May 23, 2006,14:52
© European Business Guide

EU — The European Commission, together with the Latvian government and the Austrian Presidency of the EU, is organising a high-level conference on the theme 'Information and communication technology [ICT] for an inclusive society'. The event will take place in Riga, Latvia, from 11 to 13 June. This conference is part of the process of ensuring an inclusive European information society and of ensuring we bring the benefits to all.

Practitioners, senior representatives of civil society, representative groups and industry and Ministers from all EU Member States will meet to:

* Set the policy agenda for the coming years;

* Identify how best to implement this agenda;

* Commit, and involve, all stakeholders from the beginning;

* Share examples of best practice;

* The conference will include an informal meeting of Ministers, where ministers are expected to adopt a declaration providing political guidance for future action.

Inclusion is one of the most difficult challenges faced in the societies today. eInclusion offers key opportunities to help meet this challenge. ICT for an inclusive society is a priority. eInclusion: ensuring no-one is left behind, everyone can contribute and participate.


Software piracy costs EU business €9.4bn
© theparliament.com

EU — EU software piracy rates increased slightly last year at a cost to business of €9.4bn, finds a 2005 study. The Business Software Alliance (BSA) and IDC survey puts Europe’s piracy rate up one per cent to 36 per cent in 2005. Costs fell slightly on 2004’s €9.5bn but the problem is a persistent one for Europe’s software manufacturers.

Problems remain particularly acute on Europe’s eastern and southern borders and high rates of piracy are also noted in countries set to join the EU. New EU Baltic states, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania have rates up to 20 per cent above Europe’s average – perhaps due to proximity to Russia where piracy accounts for 83 per cent of software. Poland too had piracy rates running at 58 per cent, ahead of Slovenia on 50 per cent and Hungary on 42 per cent. The issue is a pressing one for Bulgaria, 71 per cent and Romania, 72 per cent – both are set to join the EU in January 2007. Within the old EU Greece topped the 2005 piracy charts at 64 per cent, followed by Italy on 53 per cent and France at 47 per cent. In Italy and France – and similarly above average countries for piracy, Spain and Portugal – the high number of small businesses and consumers posses enforcement problems.

Under European commission proposals software piracy is set to become a criminal matter, involving possible penal sanctions with offences also defined at the EU level.

But the BSA also notes that more needs to be done to raise public awareness of a crime many citizens regard as victimless. "Reducing software piracy often requires a fundamental shift in the public’s attitude toward software piracy," notes the report. "Governments can increase public awareness of the importance of respecting creative works by informing the public about the consequences of disobeying the law, expressing their intent to strictly enforce those laws and encouraging the use of legitimate software."


Old wounds scar modern talks on EU-Russia border
By Ben Nimmo May 23, 2006, 19:38 GMT
© 2006 dpa — Deutsche Presse-Agenturprinter

Riga — The stalled border negotiations between Russia and the Baltic states of Latvia and Estonia are likely to take on a new urgency Thursday when regional leaders meet at an EU-Russian summit.

Russia has so far refused to sign border treaties with its Baltic neighbours, leaving the EU's eastern frontier in a legal vacuum.

'The EU is eager to have a facilitated visa regime with Russia, but Russia refuses to conclude border agreements on two of its four borders with the EU,' said Estonian MEP Toomas Hendrik Ilves.

EU officials may find it hard to make progress, as at the heart of the dispute lies the question of whether the Baltic states were occupied by the Soviet Union or joined it voluntarily.

Latvia and Estonia were founded 1918 during the break-up of the Russian Empire. Both countries signed peace treaties with post-Imperial Russia 1920 and established their own constitutions.

In 1940 they were absorbed into the Soviet Union in a move which western governments viewed as illegal. When the USSR collapsed, the Baltics declared their pre-War constitutions renewed.

'International law was violated when the Baltic states were occupied. Since this was the case, they continued to exist de jure,' said Ineta Ziemele, professor at the Riga Graduate School of Law.

Estonia and Russia signed a border treaty May 2005, but the Russians withdrew their signature when the Estonian parliament appended a preamble referring to the country's pre-war constitution and its declaration of the renewal of independence 1991.

'The text (of the preamble) contains unacceptable provisions tying ratification to internal state documents of Estonia that do not correspond to objective realities,' Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov declared.

Also in 2005, the Latvian government appended an 'explanatory document' to its proposed border treaty. This document referred to Latvia's 1920 peace treaty with Russia and the 'illegal occupation' by the Soviet Union.

Russia refused to sign the treaty, claiming the document signalled 'Latvia's refusal to define the two states' border' and accusing Latvia and Estonia of hiding 'territorial ambitions,' since contemporary borders differ slightly from those defined 1920.

Latvia and Estonia reject the accusation, saying that the historical references are vital to protect their states' legal basis.

'Without the explanatory declaration, there could have been far more wide-ranging interpretations of the new treaty, calling into question other clauses in the 1920 peace treaty,' said Ziemele.

But treaties which emphasise the continued legitimacy of the 1920 documents are unacceptable to Russia, as they also highlight the illegality of the Soviet occupation.

Although the majority of states hold that the USSR breached international law by occupying the Baltics, Russia denies it, stating that the Baltics joined the USSR voluntarily and accusing them of an obsession with the past.

'Some, not all, of the new members have brought into the EU their own phantom pains — people who concentrate on the sores of the past,' Russia's amassador to the EU Vladimir Chizov told the Financial Times in a recent interview.

More than bilateral interests are now at stake. Latvia and Estonia are expected to become the easternmost countries in the Schengen zone 2007. A clearly-defined border is in the EU's direct interest.

But with Latvia and Estonia insisting on their legal continuity, and Russia insistent that that continuity threatens Russia's own interests, the unhealed wounds of the Soviet era look set to scar the EU's border talks for some time to come.


Emergence of Mycobacterium tuberculosis With Extensive Resistance to Second-Line Drugs—Worldwide, 2000-2004
JAMA. 2006;295:2349-2351.
MMWR. 2006;55:301-305
Vol. 295 No. 20, May 24/31, 2006
From the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report
Excerpt/summary, full article here: http://jama.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/full/295/20/2349

CDC — During the 1990s, multidrug-resistant (MDR) tuberculosis (TB) emerged as a threat to TB control, both in the United States and worldwide. To assess the frequency and distribution of extensively drug-resistant (XDR) TB cases, CDC and the World Health Organization (WHO) surveyed an international network of TB laboratories. This report summarizes the results of that survey, which determined that, during 2000-2004, of 17,690 TB cases tested, 20% were MDR and 2% were XDR. In addition, population-based data on drug susceptibility of TB isolates were obtained from the United States (for 1993-2004), Latvia (for 2000-2002), and South Korea (for 2004), where 4%, 19%, and 15% of MDR TB cases, respectively, were XDR. XDR TB has emerged worldwide as a threat to public health and TB control, raising concerns of a future epidemic of virtually untreatable TB. New anti-TB drug regimens, better diagnostic tests, and international standards for SLD-susceptibility testing are needed for effective detection and treatment of drug-resistant TB.

Among 605 MDR TB patients in Latvia who initiated therapy during 2000-2002, 115 (19%) had XDR TB. The proportion with XDR TB increased from 30 (15%) of 204 in 2000, to 46 (21%) of 215 in 2001, to 39 (21%) of 186 in 2002 (chi-square test for trend = 2.57; p = 0.11). Patients with XDR were 54% more likely to die or have treatment failure.


Javier Solana: We want to closely cooperate with Russia in the energy sector
24 May 2006
© Interfax

Interview [Latvia reference bolded] — EU High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana granted an interview to Interfax correspondent Olga Golovanova ahead of the Russia-EU summit in Sochi.

How would you assess the state of relations between Russia and the European Union? What in your opinion helps broaden cooperation and what factors have been impeding it?

We have close ties with Russia, which is a partner of great importance to he EU. Our relationship is a strategic partnership, based on shared values and shared interests, which we want to develop further.

The current summit is kind of assessing the results of Russian and EU experts' lengthy effort to forge bilateral agreements relaxing visa procedures and regulating readmission. What do you think is the role of these documents in a broad context for the people of Russia and EU countries? What are prospects for advancement towards a visa-free regime in our citizens' travel?

The agreements on visa facilitation and readmission will be signed at the Summit. Russians coming to EU countries and citizens of EU Member States going to Russia will find it cheaper and easier to get visas. This will make a big difference to, for example, Russian holidaymakers and businesspeople coming to the EU. Although we have not agreed yet on a visa free regime, the visa facilitation agreement brings us a step closer to that objective. The agreement on readmission means that the EU and Russia will be able to improve their co-operation in tackling illegal immigration and asylum, a responsibility that we share as neighbours.

Intensive debates have been going on in the European Union regarding the future institutional setup of the European Union, including the future of the European Constitution project. Concurrently, enlargement is continuing. The European Union will accept Bulgaria and Romania in 2007. Talks are underway with Croatia and Turkey. The European Commission you head is also reassessing its role. What will these processes mean in practice for the European Union's relations with Russia? In other words, will it be more difficult or easier for us to cooperate with a renewed European Union?

The European Union is growing and our goal, under our common foreign and security policy, is to develop an increasingly close partnership between the European Union as a whole and Russia. The EU institutions play an increasingly important role in European policy. As the EU enlarges, we need to simplify its structures so that the EU operates more efficiently. This can only help us in developing our relations with our strategic partners, including Russia. We were very pleased that Russia welcomed our latest enlargement and since then we have seen a further intensification of our relations. There is every reason to expect this positive trend to continue.

It is well known that there is no unanimity in the European Union concerning the parameters and modality of further cooperation with Russia in the energy sector. What should the European Commission's role be in this connection?

Energy cooperation is a natural part of foreign and security policy which we discuss with our key partners. Russia has an important role as a major energy supplier to the EU and the EU has an important role as a major export market for Russian energy.

We want to cooperate closely with Russia over energy in order to ensure reliable supplies — consumer security — and a stable basis for our economic cooperation. We believe this is best achieved through transparency, open competition and equal access to investment, markets and infrastructure, as well as good cooperation on the environment. We see energy as an important factor for stability and integration on the European continent.

Gazprom fears that, by joining the Transit Protocol of the Energy Charter, it could incur unilateral sanctions. The company argued that the Energy Charter Secretariat remained inactive when Ukraine was siphoning off Russian gas intended for European consumers. If the European Commission really wants, based on this protocol, to build an effective mechanism of energy security, doesn't it think that sanctions should be applied on Ukraine for violating this protocol, thus proving to Gazprom that this document works?

The Energy Charter Treaty establishes principles and mechanisms that ensure that international energy co-operation is fair, effective, transparent and predictable. If Russia had already ratified this Treaty, I am convinced it would have been easier to find a good and fair solution to the dispute with Ukraine at the beginning of this year. Russia has everything to gain from ratifying the Treaty.

How in your opinion should the problem of the status of ethnic minorities in the Baltic countries be tackled? Does the European Commission have any real levers to ensure the fulfilment of the obligations under the Russia-EU Joint Statement assumed in April 2004?

The Joint Statement of April 2004 welcomed the EU enlargement as a firm guarantee for the protection of human rights and the protection of persons belonging to minorities. We think this guarantee has been and is being respected. The EU continues to give support for the integration of the Russian speakers. We are particularly pleased that the numbers of applications for citizenship in Estonia and Latvia has gone up after the enlargement. It shows that the situation continues to improve.

The Russia-EU Agreement on partnership and cooperation expires in 2007. How do you see the future of relations between Russia and the European Union? What model will, in your opinion, better reflect the interests of our peoples?

A great deal has changed both in the EU and in Russia since the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement came into force nearly ten years ago. Russia is now a different country and is, for example, in the process of joining the WTO. The EU has grown in size and has developed its common foreign and security policy. We need to update our contractual relationship to better reflect these changes and allow us to deepen our relationship further.

What is your opinion about how to solve the Iranian nuclear program? How the EU will react if Iran rejects "European troika"'s new peaceful proposals? Will the EU in this situation apply sanctions against Iran?

The EU remains committed to finding a diplomatic solution to the conflict over Iran's nuclear programme. It is currently developing a package of incentive measures which show that we have nothing against Iran using nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. It will be an ambitious package offered by the EU and other members of the international community. If Iran rejects it, it will be clear that it does not want to cooperate. In parallel, the members of the UN Security Council are discussing a resolution that would oblige Iran to comply with the demands of the international community.

Under what circumstances will the EU be ready to give financial help to Palestinian people? Will the EU take into account Russian experience in this sphere?

The EU has always been ready to help the Palestinian people and will not let them down. That is why it is now working on the establishment of a mechanism to deliver with maximum efficiency the assistance that cannot go to or through the Palestinian government. For normal relations to resume with the Palestinian government, the international community requires the recognition of Israel, the renunciation of violence and acceptance of past agreements.


EUROPEAN COURT OF HUMAN RIGHTS Press release issued by the Registrar GRAND CHAMBER HEARING SISOJEVA AND OTHERS v. LATVIA
© Council of Europe
http://www.coe.int/

Notice — The European Court of Human Rights is holding a Grand Chamber hearing today Wednesday 24 May 2006 at 9 a.m. in the case of Sisojeva and Others v. Latvia (application no. 60654/00).

The applicants

Svetlana Sisojeva, her husband Arkady Sisojev and their daughter Aksana Sisojeva, were born in 1949, 1946 and 1978 respectively. Mr Sisojev and Aksana Sisojeva are Russian nationals, while Svetlana Sisojeva has no nationality. All three live in Aluksne (Latvia).

Summary of the facts

Mr Sisojev, who was a soldier in the Soviet army, was stationed in Latvia in 1968 and served there until he was demobilised in 1989. His wife came to Latvia in 1969 and their daughter was born there. Following the break-up of the Soviet Union and the restoration of Latvia’s independence in 1991, the applicants, who had previously been Soviet nationals, became stateless.

In 1993 Mr Sisojev and his wife applied to the Latvian Interior Ministry’s Nationality and Immigration Department (Iekslietu ministrijas Pilsonibas un imigracijas departaments – "the Department") to obtain permanent resident status and to be entered in the register of residents. Aluksne District Court of First Instance allowed their application for entry in the register.

In 1995 the Department discovered that Mr Sisojev and his wife had each been issued with two former Soviet passports in 1992 and had thus been able to have their place of residence registered in Russia as well as in Latvia. Aksana had done likewise in 1995. An administrative penalty was imposed on the applicants, and Aluksne District Court ordered the removal of their names from the register of residents in 1996. That decision was set aside on an appeal by the applicants, and in August 1996 Mr Sisojev and Aksana Sisojeva applied for and obtained Russian nationality.

In 1998 the Joint Committee for the implementation of the agreement between Latvia and Russia on the social protection of retired members of the Russian armed forces and their family members residing in Latvia requested the Interior Ministry’s Directorate for Nationality and Migration Affairs (Iekslietu ministrijas Pilsonibas un migracijas lietu parvalde – "the Directorate") to issue the applicants with permanent residence permits under the agreement.

On 28 July 1998 Aluksne District Court held that Mrs Sisojeva was entitled to apply for a passport as a "permanently resident non-citizen" and that Mr Sisojev and Aksana Sisojeva were entitled to permanent residence permits. That decision was set aside on an appeal by the Directorate, and on 26 June 2000 the Directorate notified the applicants that they were required to leave Latvia.

In November 2003 the head of the Directorate sent the applicants a letter explaining how Svetlana Sisojeva could regularise her stay in Latvia and obtain an identity document as a stateless person, so that her daughter and husband could then be issued with residence permits. However, as they did not follow those recommendations, the applicants did not obtain residence permits.

The applicants stated that, in the meantime, on 6 March 2002, Svetlana Sisojeva had been summoned to the regional headquarters of the security police, where she had been questioned about the application she had lodged with the European Court of Human Rights and about an interview she had given on the subject to a Russian television channel.

Complaints

The applicants complain about the Latvian authorities’ refusal to regularise their status in Latvia and the questioning of Svetlana Sisojeva by the police. They rely on Article 8 (right to respect for private and family life) and Article 34 (right of individual petition) of the European Court of Human Rights.

Procedure

The application was lodged with the European Court of Human Rights on 6 September 2000 and declared partly admissible on 28 February 2002.

In its Chamber judgment of 16 June 2005 the European Court of Human Rights held, by five votes to two, that there had been a violation of Article 8 and that the Latvian Government had complied with its obligations under Article 34.

On 30 November 2005, the case was referred to the Grand Chamber (under Article 431 of the Convention and Rule 73 of the Rules of Court) at the request of the Government. Composition of the Court The case will be heard by the Grand Chamber composed as follows:

Luzius Wildhaber (Swiss), President,

Jean-Paul Costa (French),

Nicolas Bratza (British),

Boštjan M. Zupančič (Slovenian),

Lucius Caflisch (Swiss)2,

Ireneu Cabral Barreto (Portuguese),

Riza Türmen (Turkish)

Corneliu Bîrsan (Romanian),

Karel Jungwiert (Czech),

Volodymyr Butkevych (Ukrainian),

Mindia Ugrekhelidze (Georgian),

Antonella Mularoni (San Marinese),

Elisabet Fura-Sandström (Swedish),

Renate Jaeger (German),

David Thór Björgvinsson (Icelandic),

Dragoljub Popovic (citizen of Serbia and Montenegro), judges,

Jautrite Briede (Latvian), ad hoc judge,

Matti Pellonpää (Finnish),

Alvina Gyulumyan (Armenian),

Egbert Myjer (Netherlands), substitute judges,

and also Michael O’Boyle, Deputy Registrar.

Representatives of the parties

Government of Latvia:

Inga Reine, Agent,

Sandra Kaulina, Counsel,

Marta Zvaune, Kaspars Abolinš, Advisers;

Government of the Russian Federation:

Pavel Laptev, Representative of the Russian Federation before the Court,

Yury Berestnev, Dmitry Spirin, Counsel,

Mikhail Vinogradov, Adviser;

Applicants:

Vitaly Portnov, Galina Nilus, Counsel,

Yulia Borisova, Marianna Samsonova, Advisers.

After the hearing the Court will begin its deliberations, which are held in private. Judgment will be delivered at a later date.


Kazakh-Latvian commission met in Riga
ASTANA. May 25, 2006.
@copy; KAZINFORM

RIga — On May 22-23 Kazakhstan Transport and Communications Minister Askar Mamin chaired a sitting of Kazakh-Latvian intergovernmental commission in Riga, Ministry’s press service informs.

In the course of the meeting there were discussed bilateral cooperation in trade and economic sphere, healthcare, energy and transport. Within its framework Kazakhstan representatives held talks with Latvian PM, Communications and Economy Ministers, and Riga mayor.

At the sitting great attention was paid also to preparatory activities for first visit of Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev to Latvia, scheduled on July 19-20 this year. According to arranged settlement Nursultan Nazarbayev is expected to participate in a solemn groundbreaking ceremony of a new modern hotel complex which will be built on the account of Kazakh private investors.

A protocol was signed following the results of two-day meeting.


Finland's defence chief visits Latvia
© Copyright STT 2006
26.5.2006 at 9:13

Admiral Juhani Kaskeala, chief of the Finnish Defence Forces, travelled to Latvia Thursday for an official visit on the invitation of Vice Admiral Gaidis Zeibots, according to a statement by the Defence Staff Thursday.

During his visit, Adm Kaskeala is to be introduced to the Latvian army, navy and air force. He is also to lay a wreath at the monument of the Finnish Jaegers, trained in Latvia by the Germans during world war I. A memorial concert is to be held Friday at the Trinitatis church in Liepaja, the same church in which the Jaegers swore fealty to Finland in February 1918.

Adm Kaskeala is to return to Finland Friday, according to the Defence Staff statement.


Latvian MPs: New public holidays to be introduced
© Baltic Times
May 30, 2006
From wire reports

RIGA – On May 25, the Latvian parliament in the second reading has passed amendments that will make August 15 a new public holiday in Latvia, Baltic News Service reported.

From now on, August 15 will be the Day of the Great Mara, the Latvian traditional equivalent of St. Mary in Christianity, when every thousands of Catholics come to a cathedral in Aglona, eastern Latvia, to celebrate the Annunciation of Virgin Mary. In words of Andrejs Naglis, an MP from the Christian-oriented Latvia's First Party, the leader of Latvia's Roman Catholics Cardinal Janis Pujats, has personally appealed to declare August 15 as a public holiday.

The big surprise was that after heated debates, lawmakers also voted in support of marking March 8 as the International Women's Solidarity Day. Parliament speaker Ingrida Udre from ruling Greens and Farmers Union supported the proposal to mark March 8 in the future saying that women have been fighting for their rights for centuries and that it would be only befitting to honor them on March 8.

"It is an honor to Latvia's society that women have taken such a prominent role in politics, business and other spheres," Udre said. The proposal drew strong support from left-wing lawmakers who hailed Udre's speech with ovation.

However, MPs from nationalist and center-right parties, criticized March 8 celebrations as a "day of withered tulips and drunk men". Juris Dobelis from Fatherland and Freedom/LNNK said that those "who are no longer able to love real women turn to loving virtual women once a year".

After the vote MP Janis Lagzdins, chairman of the parliament ruling People's Party, said the approved bill includes very contradictory holidays, and called on lawmakers to suspend the session until next Wednesday. His proposal was backed by a majority of MPs. The parliament also approved a proposal on marking Russian Orthodox and Old Believers' Christmas on January 6 and 7.

Lawmakers also supported a draft provision that in case a public holiday, except for Easter and Pentecost, falls in Saturday or Sunday, the next workday is made a day off. The parliament is yet to pass the amendments on the new public holidays in the final reading.


Estonia Bans Rallies Near WWII Statue
Friday May 26, 2006 5:16 PM
By JARI TANNER
Associated Press Writer
© AP

TALLINN, Estonia (AP) — The government Friday banned rallies near a statue marking the Red Army's victory over Nazi Germany, saying he wanted to ease recent tensions between some ethnic Estonians and native Russian-speakers.

``A ban on public rallies had to be imposed to find a solution to the tensions that have emerged,'' Interior Minister Kalle Laanet said. ``Everyone who violates the order will be punished in accordance with the law.''

The Soviet-era statue, depicting a Red Army soldier in uniform and dubbed the ``Bronze Soldier,'' has been vandalized several times in recent years, and Laanet said it would now get around-the-clock police protection.

It has been a rallying point for several recent verbal battles between ethnic-Estonian and native Russian-speaking extremists. Police have been present at each and there has been no violence.

Veterans and their supporters gather at the statue each year to lay flowers and commemorate the Soviet Union's role in the defeat of Nazi Germany.

But many Estonians are offended by these rallies, arguing that the Red Army may have helped liberate the country from the Nazis but it also helped enforce the nearly 50-year totalitarian Soviet rule of the country.

Like Estonia, neighboring Latvia also has a large ethnic Russian minority. Most came to the countries during the Soviet occupation, which ended in 1991.

As a condition to get Russia to withdraw its troops from their countries in 1994, Estonia and Latvia agreed to maintain Red Army World War II monuments.

Laanet said Friday the government had not decided on the statue's future.

President Arnold Ruutel has suggested forming a commission to determine the monument's future. But Prime Minster Andrus Ansip rejected the idea, saying extremist groups would be given too much clout on such a panel.


Head of Russian Orthodox Church on a visit to Latvia
© RIA Novosti
17:08 - 27/ 05/ 2006

RIGA, May 27 — Patriarch Alexy II arrived in the capital of Latvia Saturday on a first official visit as head of the Russian Orthodox Church.

His visit is believed to give spiritual support to the Russian-speaking minority, which complains of discrimination by local authorities.

Alexy II conducted a divine service in a Riga cathedral and met with Latvia's president. Vaira Vike-Freiberga thanked the Russian patriarch for his efforts to restore spiritual traditions and Orthodoxy in places where they had been forgotten.

"I am convinced that these meetings [with the president and government officials]... will help strengthen mutual understanding [and] friendship between the nations," the patriarch said. He wished God's blessing and peace to all Latvian residents and prosperity to the country.

Metropolitan of Riga and all Latvia Alexander, Metropolitan of Tallinn and all Estonia Cornelius, Latvia's finance minister and diplomats met the Russian church leader in the airport.

Metropolitan Alexander said the visit by Alexy II would give a chance to Latvia's Orthodox citizens to feel they were not alone and not forgotten.

"For Orthodox believers, and not only Orthodox, your visit is a historical event," he said. "Because we know that we have not been forgotten, we have a Patriarch, who is our spiritual father."


Russia's Patriarch urges Latvian residents for unity and understanding
16:16 - 28/ 05/ 2006
© RIA Novosti

RIGA, May 28 — Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Alexy II urged Latvian residents at a liturgy Sunday to have unity and mutual understanding.

Patriarch Alexy II arrived in the capital of Latvia Saturday on a first official visit as head of the Russian Orthodox Church.

His visit is believed to give spiritual support to the Russian-speaking minority, which complains of discrimination by local authorities.

"You need to have courage in the period of difficulties and trials which are inevitable in the life of every person. But the main thing is that you should cover your road of life with love for each other. And then God will be with you," Alexy II said at a divine liturgy in a Riga cathedral.

"We must strengthen and multiply this unity," the Patriarch said. He added that there must be peace between people where there was faith, love and understanding. This is "a guarantee of cooperation between our countries," Alexy II said.


INDIA AND LATVIA SIGN CULTURAL EXCHANGE PROGRAMME
Press Information Bureau
Government of India
Tuesday, May 30, 2006 12:54 IST

India and Latvia have signed cultural exchange programme in order to increase cooperation in the fields of culture, art and mass — media between two countries. The exchange programme was signed by Smt. Ambika Soni, Minster for Tourism and Culture and Latvian Minister for Culture, Ms. Halena Demakova here yesterday evening.

According to the exchange programme, the National Library of India and the National Library of Latvia will establish contracts in order to exchange information and experience. Both sides will exchange information and experts between the museums also. The Indian side will send an exhibition on traditions of crafts produced by village artisans in India while Latvian side will send an exhibition on national costumes prepared by the Latvian museum of History. Both sides will also exchange theatre teachers to conduct course in Acting, State Craft and Production work and experts in the field of dance, music, fine arts, literature and audio-visual arts for workshops. The participation of traditional music or dance groups will also be encouraged.

According to the programme, both sides will participate in the international book fairs/exhibitions held in each other’s country and in each other’s television and film festivals. Latvian side invited India to participate in the International folklore festival ‘Baltica’ in 2006. The cultural exchange programme has come into force with immediate effect continue till 2008.


Gay rally in Latvia prepared by former Lutheran pastor
30 May 2006, 12:05
© Interfax

Riga — A gay rally planned for July 21-22 in Riga is actively promoted by former Lutheran pastor Maris Sants.

‘At least 11 politicians from the European Union countries, mostly from Scandinavia, including European Parliament members, will participate in the festivities and rally’, Sants said in an interview published by Latvian Chas newspaper on Tuesday.

The rally he said does not set as its aim to provoke disturbances. ‘The meaning of the event is to give people an opportunity to come to know the gays better, so that they could realize we do not eat babies, etc.’, he said.

Nevertheless, a latent but strong discontent with such ‘festivities’ is ripening in Latvian society. People’s indignation seems to be restrained only by the predictable harsh reaction from the European Union, the newspaper writes.

Besides, former pastor Sants is at law at present with a state-run school for refusal to take him up as a teacher. He believes the true reason for the refusal is his orientation.


Global warming threatens Baltic Sea marine life
Wed May 31, 2006 10:54 AM BST
© Reuters
By Alister Doyle, Environment Correspondent

OSLO — Global warming is adding new threats to marine life in the almost land-locked Baltic Sea, where fish are already struggling in polluted, brackish waters, a leading expert said on Wednesday.

"The Baltic Sea is already in bad shape ... life there is in a very delicate balance," Hans von Storch, a professor at the Institute of Coastal Research in Germany who chairs a group of 80 scientists from 12 nations studying the Baltic, told Reuters.

Higher temperatures are likely to mean more rain and snow in the Baltic region, from Copenhagen to St. Petersburg and where 85 million people live. That might make the sea ever less salty and add to a polluting runoff of fertilisers from farmland.

"A tendency toward lower salinity could be expected, which is thought to have a major influence on the Baltic Sea fauna," scientists in the Baltex Assessment of Climate Change of the Baltic Sea Region said.

Many stocks of fish are already living on the edge of their ranges in the brackish Baltic Sea and lower salinity would further cut survival rates of fish larvae. Cod, sprat and herring are among Baltic Sea fish.

The Baltex study reflects a recent trend of trying to pinpoint risks of global warming for regions, rather than the entire planet. Most scientists say a build-up of heat-trapping gases in the air from burning fossil fuels is warming the world.

Decades of pollution, largely from the former Soviet Union, mean that concentrations of poisons ranging from dioxins to cadmium are far higher in the almost enclosed Baltic Sea than in more open seas or in the oceans.

The Baltic Sea is open to the North Sea only by straits between Denmark and Sweden, and it takes decades to renew its stagnant waters. The Baltic Sea is also bordered by Germany, Poland, Russia, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Finland.

Von Storch said the already low salinity meant the Baltic was in many ways a 1,600 km (1,000 mile) long estuary, gathering rivers such as the Torne, Vistula and Oder, rather than a sea.

ICE-CLOGGED

Still, a projected rise in temperatures may bring benefits by making Russian and Finnish ports less clogged by ice in winter. Warmer seas could threaten some species of seal which depend on ice but help species such as porpoises.

And warmer temperatures could extend the range and growing seasons for pine and birch forests, especially in the north.

The scientists said global warming would mean more snow and rain in the region in winter, with drier summers in the south. More precipitation would bring more fresh water from rivers into the sea, formed about 10,000 years ago after the last Ice Age.

But there were many uncertainties. The Baltic gets saltier in a complex exchange when storms blow North Sea waters into the Baltic, immediately after winds in the opposite direction have driven brackish waters out.

"We have no idea as to whether these conditions will become more or less frequent" with climate change, von Storch said.

And the northern part of the Baltic will escape one widely predicted damaging impact of global warming — rising sea levels that could swamp many coasts and low-lying Pacific islands.

In the north, the land is still rebounding after the end of the Ice Age took away the weight of a vast ice sheet.


Backlots and dreams in Tukums
© Baltic TImes
May 31, 2006
By Paul Morton

TUKUMS, Latvia — There are a few disappointing things about the Cinevilla Backlot, a replica of Riga located about 70 kilometers away from the city. There are no giant models of Mikhail Eisenstein’s distinctive architecture here. The Daugava River, such as it is, has been reduced to a small trench of water. Everything, including the wreckage of a supposedly bombed-out house and the well-placed garbage, looks eerily clean, more like a Swiss city than Riga.

Maybe every film set is like this. Andrejs Ekis started to build the backlot in May 2004 out of his own pocket for an epic war film he wanted to produce. Curious sightseers came to the set, which was well-placed in the “middle of nowhere? Tukums, so he decided to open the place up as a tourist site in order to help finance the film. Cinevilla Backlot opened officially in April and now, for less than 2 lats (3 euros), you can walk the streets of WWI-era Riga, in which Latvian-language store advertisements employ German script and grammar and a church is protected by small wooden barricades.

The film set has seen more than 10,000 visitors since it opened. During the Soviet times when Ekis started work as a cameraman, “the houses belonged to everyone,? he says. “It was easy to block a street for shooting.?

“There were no signs, no advertisements, no sushi restaurants, no McDonald’s, no anything,? he says. “Now everything is privately owned.? Ekis is a youthful millionaire-next-door type of 42, who seems to enjoy casual dress at business meetings. He made his fortune starting LNT, the country’s largest privately owned television station, where he now serves as General Manager. He then started traveling abroad to find inspiration.

He visited the Warner Brothers studio in Los Angeles, which he thought was inconveniently located in the city’s downtown, which made it difficult to expand. He was far more impressed by a huge replica of 1930s-era Shanghai he saw well outside Shanghai that was owned by the top Chinese film studio. “I thought that’s a good idea. I bought 150 hectares of land, 70 kilometres from Riga.? So far, only 15 hectares of the land has been developed.

Historical footnotes

“Defenders of Riga? tells the true David and Goliath story of a renegade German officer who, in the aftermath of World War I, massed a 50,000-strong army in order to take control of Latvia and Estonia and of the 11,000 Latvians who successfully defended their city. This is why the backlot has a series of narrow trenches. The set also offers glimpses of three now-extinct bridges, of which the remnants can still be seen by the Daugava River. One is a swing bridge, which would turn to allow the passage of boats. Though it is made of wood and plastic, it functions just like the original. There is also a copy of an iron suspension bridge, of which only half is finished, and a wooden bridge. “We can use computer effects to fill in the rest of the bridge,? says Kristine Jansone, a representative of Cinevilla Studio’s marketing department.

The same is true for the buildings, which, unlike their much taller counterparts in Riga, are only two stories high here. “Effects will be used to fill in the upper stories,? says Jansone. Some things here feel much more real than others. The cobblestone streets are made of real cobblestones. The barbed wire around the trenches is real rusty barbed wire. But the gray stones underneath the bridge are made up of wooden slabs and painted plastic. A wagon part is made out of Styrofoam. There are many stories of film directors going maniacal over historical detail. Akira Kurosawa employed master tailors who worked for two years to make the costumes in “Ran.? David Lean ordered hundreds of photographs to be taken of flowers for use in only a few seconds of “Doctor Zhivago.? Saner, bank account-conscious minds have prevailed here.

Ekis says that he dislikes the elitist, art-conscious approach taken by European directors. “Free money,? in the form of artistic grants from governments or institutions, “is like drugs,? he says. He likes the American system, in which it is assumed a movie should offer a “return on investment.?

This is not to say that the set designers have ignored historical detail. “They spent many hours in libraries, researching pictures,? says Jansone. The interior of a hotel contains an old giant music box, an original antique, that plays the theme from “Carmen.? It seems to be a fun toy for the handful of construction workers employed to tend to the set during the months when there isn’t much heavy building. In one vintage trolley car, you can find a description of the 10 trolley lines that existed in Riga 90 years ago, written, once again, in German script and grammar.

The Cinevilla Backlot can be very educational, and it gets quite a few school groups, running in and out of trenches, trying on costumes, walking into the trolley – these things are meant to be handled and played with. About 100 people were responsible for building the set. “The hardest part was the trenches,? says Karlis Balodis, 21, who was piling some of the hotel lobby’s chairs next to the army vehicles housed in the warehouse. “There was just a lot of heavy lifting.?

Now, he spends most of his eight or nine hours a day, screwing things in, repainting or moving things.

Future plans

“Defenders of Riga? has been going in and out of production since September 2004. The final shooting stretch begins at the end of June. When it is done, it will have cost about 3 million lats, Ekis says, making it the most expensive Latvian movie of the post-Soviet era. Ekis plans to keep using and adding to the set for future movies. And he wants foreigners to come as well.

“When ‘Cold Mountain’ was filmed in Romania it became an advertisement for Romania as a film location.? He hopes “Defenders of Riga? will do the same for Latvia.

“In Latvia we don’t have many sunny days,? he says. “We have a certain mood. We have rain.? It would be a perfect place to film World War II movies.

There remains 135 hectares of land out in Tukums that Ekis has not developed. It’s just giant fields surrounding the mini-Riga all the way to the woods that you can see in the distance. It’s a giant Latvian Universal Studios waiting to happen.


ETC: Another record year for tourism
© European Travel Commission
Theodore Koumelis — Thursday, June 01, 2006
Thursday, June 01, 2006

“European Tourism Insights 2005 & Outlook for 2006? [see Latvia highlight below] — The European Travel Commission`s (ETC`s) second annual report on the state of the travel and tourism industry, shows that Europe enjoyed another record tourism year in 2005, with arrivals up more than 4% over 2004.

The result is especially impressive given that Europe suffered more than its share of disasters in 2005 – from terrorist attacks to floods, droughts and forest fires. Moreover, the economic and political environment was not overly conducive to travel and tourism growth in all countries.

Some 18 million additional arrivals were generated by the growth – 43% of the world increase in 2005 – reflecting Europe`s continued dominance as a world tourism region, as well as its importance as a source market.

The big winner in terms of arrivals growth was Turkey (+21%), but a number of other destinations also recorded strong double-digit increases, including Latvia, Lithuania, Monaco and Greece. Greece`s 11% rise was especially welcome as it followed a disappointing 2004 when its capital Athens hosted the Summer Olympic Games.

In terms of overnight volume, Latvia led the growth by a very wide margin (+34%) ahead of Lithuania (+15.5%), Monaco (+14%) and Bulgaria (+13%). Nevertheless, a number of countries still do not have final figures.

"Although France and Italy registered disappointing results for the second consecutive year, there has been no change in the top five European rankings of arrivals and receipts," said Rob Franklin, ETC Executive Director. "France still leads in terms of arrivals, ahead of Spain, Italy, the UK and Germany, but it takes second place to Spain in the international receipts` ranking."

Despite fairly widespread concerns over bird flu and the prospects of renewed terrorist attacks and natural disasters – incidents of which have already had impacts on travel demand this year – prospects for 2006 remain bullish. In line with forecasts from the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), ETC is projecting overall growth for the region of 2-3%.


Homophobic MP will represent Latvia at OSCE
© ILGA Europe
June 1, 2006
By Juris Lavrikovs

Riga — Today the Latvian Parliament approved Dainis Turlais, MP, to be included as a member of the Latvian delegation within the Parliamentary Assembly of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

Dainis Turlais is a member of the First Party of Latvia which was one of the main initiator and locomotion behind the extreme homophobic campaign last year prior and during the first LGBT Pride March in Riga.

Just days before the First Party of Latvia hold its annual congress and during his speech Dainis Turlais came out with extreme homophobic statements saying that ‘we cannot hide in the bushes while all possible skunk and faggots are walking on the streets’.

One of the main duties of the OSCE is to supervise the observation of human rights, basic freedoms and minority rights, promoting tolerance in the 55 member states of the organisation. The First Party of Latvia apparently believes that the best man for this job is a man who foments hatred, who nearly calls for violence against socially alienated people and homosexuals, who, as the historian Aivars Stranga has noted with great precision, "speaks the language of the Nazis." Turlais’ statement was condemned by a number of human rights activists and some clergy.


Ethnic-minority language status proposed for Russian in Latvia
© RIA Novosti
16:43 June 02 2006

RIGA — A Latvian parliamentary faction Friday moved a bill granting Russian an official status as an "ethnic minority language."

Relations between Russia and the Baltic country have been tense over the treatment of the ethnic Russian minority and Latvia's claims for compensation for what calls the Soviet occupation.

"A substantial part of our population to a greater or less degree knows Russian and uses it ... because knowledge of Russian is helpful both in everyday life and in business," said Janis Urbanovich, head of the National Accord faction.

He said Russian was widely used in Latvia, so grating it an official status would only formalize its position.

If Russian, which is the mother tongue for 40% of the population, is officially recognized as an ethnic minority language, it could be used in educational establishments, including schools and kindergartens.


Former Soviet soldier sentensed to five years by Latvian court for role in failed coup
©Pravda
Front page / World
June 02 2006 17:36

Riga — Vyacheslav Sorokin, a Russian citizen, did not appear at Riga Regional Court because Russia has refused to extradite him to stand trial for his part in the effort to overthrow the fledgling independent Latvian government.

Prosecutors said Sorokin took part in a raid on the Interior Ministry building that left five people, including two policemen, dead. They said Sorokin was part of a special forces unit that beat police and civilians trying to protect buildings of strategic importance in the capital, fired shots at cars and destroyed and looted buildings, the AP reports.

The attack, and another in neighboring Lithuania a week earlier that left 14 dead, was a last show of force in the Baltics for the crumbling Soviet empire. The attacks, far from quashing hopes of independence, only emboldened hundreds of thousands in the Baltic states of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia to demand independence, which they gained later that year.

Twelve members of Sorokin's unit have previously been convicted of taking part in the coup attempt, but none served any jail time. Nine have received suspended sentences and three have been let off without punishment.

The verdict can be appealed to Latvia's Supreme Court.


IMF official warns Latvia on economy
06/06/06 02:04 pm (GMT)
© 2006 Associated Press

RIGA, Latvia (AFX) — An International Monetary Fund official monitoring Latvia's economy said Tuesday the government should take steps to slow its growth to stop it from overheating. Rachel Van Elkan, head of an IMF mission reviewing the Baltic country's economic progress, said Latvia's large current account deficit, foreign debt, high inflation rate and rapidly increasing labor costs threatened to cause it to overheat.

"The recent steep rise of domestic demand that was brought about by accession to the EU has caused vulnerability in several areas, including a high current account deficit, large and increasing burden of foreign debt, high salary and price inflation, strong increase in housing prices and growing amount of transactions borrowers are carrying out in foreign currencies without guarantees against risks," Van Elkan was quoted as saying by the Baltic News Service.

Latvia, which joined the EU in 2004, has one of its highest inflation rates, at 6.1 percent in April over the previous year.

The economy grew by 10.2 percent in 2005, the fastest rate of any EU country. Van Elkan recommended the government take steps to freeze state lending, make bank loans harder to get, slow wage increases, consolidate banking regulation and monitoring principles and make Latvian exports more competitive. She also recommended the postponement of a planned cut in personal income tax and the introduction of a tax on real estate transactions.


Latvia parliament to unmask KGB tippers
TIMOTHY JACOBS
© Associated Press

RIGA, Latvia — Latvia's parliament on Wednesday approved a bill to publish the names of nearly 4,500 suspected Soviet secret police informants, in the latest development in a long-debated issue in this Baltic country.

Lawmakers voted 59-18 in favor of publishing the names. The rest of the legislators in the 100-seat parliament were either absent or abstained.

The informants' names, taken from incomplete files left behind by the departing KGB in 1992, will be published in the state newspaper Vestnesis on Nov. 1. The date was picked to steer clear of any political influence on upcoming parliamentary elections in October.

When the Soviet intelligence service left Latvia, most files showing who worked with the KGB — and who they informed on — were taken back to Moscow.

Those left contain mainly the names of agents active in 1991, when they were recruited and by whom, according to officials overseeing the files.

With the publishing of the names, an accompanying statement would explain that the role of those identified was unclear, and that they could have been coerced into working with the KGB or be completely innocent.

Those who prove their innocence or who have voluntarily acknowledged their past KGB ties would have that noted alongside their names on the list.

The bill will now go to President Vaira Vike-Freiberga for approval.

Two years ago, Vike-Freiberga sent a similar bill back to parliament for reconsideration, saying it did not stipulate who would have access to the files and how they would be used.

Should she veto it, Parliament can override it with a two-thirds majority vote.

Vike-Freiberga, who was in Washington to address a joint session of Congress, was unavailable for comment.

Since 1994, Latvians have been able to view their own files, but the contents were made public only if these persons sought public office or a job in law enforcement. If KGB links were found they would be banned from such positions.


Respected LA judge's election loss stuns colleagues
© Associated Press
Posted on Thu, Jun. 08, 2006

LOS ANGELES — Dzintra Janavs is a highly regarded, 20-year Superior Court judge who was endorsed by the district attorney and sheriff and was rated "exceptionally well qualified" by the county Bar Association.

Lynn Diane Olson is a bagel store owner who had barely practiced law during the past decade and was called "not qualified" for the bench by the association.

Now the association can call Olson something else: Judge.

In a development that shocked and dismayed the legal community, Olson defeated Janavs in Tuesday's election by almost 8 percentage points.

Judge Terry Friedman, president of the California Judges Association, said he knew of only two other instances in the past 30 years in which a sitting jurist was voted out of office.

"Everyone I've talked to is appalled at a system that can produce this result," said State Court of Appeal Justice Nora M. Manella, a former U.S. attorney in Los Angeles and U.S. District Court judge. "Ultimately, it's the public that suffers when unqualified people are put on the bench."

Janavs, 69, a native of Latvia, attributed her loss to being outspent by Olson, 42. The challenger pumped about $100,000 of her own money into the race while Janavs reported about $42,000 in contributions by May 20.

"Let me put it this way, my reaction is: Money can buy anything," Janavs said.

Olson dismissed her "not qualified" rating, saying she chose not to meet with bar association officials.

"When have they ever not endorsed a sitting judge?" said Olson, a Democrat, adding that she challenged Janavs because the judge is a Republican with a reputation for gruffness.

Some observers said her win suggests a need for overhauling the system to elect judges.

"It makes me very troubled by our whole judicial election process," said Loyola Law School professor Laurie Levenson. "This is the poster child for how really messed up things are."

Information from: Los Angeles Times, http://www.latimes.com


Latvia's Embassy in Georgia Commences Issuing Entry Visas
© Interpressnews, The Georgian Times
2006.06.09 14:52

Tblisi — On 8 June 2006, the Latvian Embassy in Georgia commences the issuing of Latvian entry visas to facilitate business and private contacts between the Latvian and Georgian people, economic co-operation and development of tourism.

At the beginning of May, the Latvian airline AirBaltic started direct flights from Riga to Tbilisi, the capital city of Georgia, and to Baku, the capital city of Azerbaijan, where the Latvian Embassy to Azerbaijan has already been issuing entry visas to Latvia since 22 May.

The South Caucasian region is among Latvia's foreign policy priorities and plays a significant role in the European Neighbourhood policy. The purpose of the Neighbourhood policy is to strengthen security and stability, to promote economic growth and increase welfare in all EU neighbourhood regions.


Latvia says 'no thank you' (or the Latvian equivalent) to cabotage.
by Brian Weatherley
09/06/2006
©Reed Business Information Document Actions

Opinion — While British operators have to take it on the chin every day and watch while hundreds of foreign trucks legally carry out domestic haulage in the UK I'm fascinated by the position taken by Latvia (that powerhouse of the Baltic and newly-joined member of the EU) as it seems to have a very different attitude to 'cabotage'.

As you all know cabotage is the process by which a haulier from one EU member state is legally entitled to carry out limited domestic haulage work in another. And that's problem as foreign hauliers, aided by cheaper diesel and lower VED increasingly eye up the British domestic market. But what's Latvia got to do with it? Patience, dear readers…..I'm getting there.

According to my regular news link from tnn.co.uk, Latvian transport minister Krisjanis Peters (yes you DO know him) reckons that few EU countries are willing to open their domestic road haulage markets to new EU members (now why am I not surprised by that?) and more importantly that if Latvia liberalised its domestic market, Latvian international road carriers wouldn't benefit and competition on the domestic market would increase — -thus the negatives would outweigh then positives.

Or to put it another way cabotage has very little to recommend it.

By George, I think he's got it! So the good news is that despite the current UK invasion of French, Spanish, Belgian, German, Dutch, Bulgarian, Italian, Danish, Greek, Belarussian, Slovenian, Lithuanian (and Uncle Tom Cobbleigh and all) truckers, British operators can breathe a sigh of relief knowing that at least Latvian hauliers will leave us alone. There now, doesn't that make you sleep just that little bit easier in your bed knowing that?


Russia alarmed by review of Human Rights' Court judgements
Jun 9 2006 3:54PM
© Interfax

MOSCOW — The Russian Foreign Ministry is concerned by what it sees as a tendency at the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) to review its own rulings and make decisions based on prejudice and bias, the Russian Foreign Ministry has stated.

A Friday commentary by the ministry's information department on the Sysoyevs vs. Latvia case at the court says that the ECHR logic is regrettable.

"Instead of bolstering the reputation of the court, as a body of international justice it virtually makes it possible to use the court for purposes incompatible with the letter and spirit of the European Convention of Human Rights and opens the door to the application of dual standards and a discriminatory policy by countries of the Council of Europe," the commentary says.

Russia regards as highly politicized the decisions on such recent ECHR cases as Zdanok vs. Latvia, Ilascu vs. Moldova and Russia, Penart vs. Estonia and others.

The Foreign Ministry hopes that when a judgment is made on the Sysoyev case, "the court will take into account all the circumstances of the case, including pressure on the claimants — the Sysoyevs were detained and interrogated in connection with their complaint to ECHR."

[When Russia complains about its "treatment" by the world at large, some measure of introspection might be of benefit. As Julius Caesar, in Shakespeare's classic: The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves.—/pjv]


Russia: Media Create Friends, Foes
By Victor Yasmann
© Radio Free Europe

Report — A recent poll has shown that many Russians have a low opinion of some of their neighbors and the United States. According to a May poll conducted by the national Levada Center, 37 percent of Russians regard the United States as an unfriendly state, compared with 23 percent last year. Forty-six percent of Russians consider Latvia to be unfriendly, 44 percent think the same of Georgia, and 42 percent about Lithuania.

Much lower down the list (but higher in regard) were Afghanistan, Moldova, and Poland.

The poll was conducted among 1,600 respondents in all regions of Russia

The recent deterioration of relations between Russia and the United States has likely contributed to the growth in anti-American sentiments among Russian people.

Growing public animosity toward the Baltic states and GUAM countries (Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, and Moldova) comes as little surprise. The Russian media frequently portrays the Baltic countries in a negative light and officials, taking their lead from President Vladimir Putin and the Duma, regularly chastise these countries for their Euro-Atlantic orientation.

The Russian press has already dubbed the countries stretched from the Baltic to the Black seas as the "belt of un-chastity." Print, broadcast, and online media routinely accuse Latvian officials of having Nazi sympathies. Circulating the Internet this year was a cartoon of Latvia's president, Vaira Vike-Freiberga, wearing an SS uniform.

And last year, "Komsomolskaya pravda" waged war on Latvian sprouts, one of the country's biggest exports, with the slogan: "Buy Latvian sprouts and help the SS." Moscow journalists routinely accuse Latvian politicians of "Russophobia."
Creating Friends

Russian media is also significant in helping create an image of Russia's "friends." According to the Levada poll, the country held in the highest regard is Belarus, which is considered to be a friendly state by 47 percent of respondents (46 percent in 2005). In second place is Germany with 23 percent, followed by Kazakhstan with 20 percent, India with 16 percent, and China with 12 percent.

But even in those "friendly" countries there was a fall in support. In 2005, 24 percent of people rated China as friendly and 33 percent of people thought warmly of Kazakhstan.


Rejuvenated Northern Dimension
June 9 2006
© Norden

Tallinn — "The Northern Dimension is an important tool for involving the whole of North Europe in mutually beneficial constructive dialogue. Russia's constructive and positive commitment to the new phase of the Northern Dimension is a promising example of extended European co-operation."

The Secretary General of the Nordic Council of Ministers, Per Unckel, addressed a conference about the EU Northern Dimension in Tallinn on 9 June, asserting that there is no time to waste if the region is to become "the Top of Europe" — metaphorically as well as geographically.

The conference was organised by the Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Finnish Embassy in Estonia and the EU Commission Office in the country. Among the other speakers were the ministers of foreign affairs from Finland, Estonia and Latvia.

Rejuvenating co-operation between Russia, Iceland and Norway within the framework of the Northern Dimension is one of the top priorities for the forthcoming Finnish Presidency of the EU.


Lutheran pastor ‘invigorated’ by Latvia assignment
His teaching should help dispel remnants of communist atheism
Posted on Sat, Jun. 10, 2006
A column by Kevin Leininger
kleininger@news-sentinel.com
© Fort Wayne News-Sentinel

OpEd — Soft-spoken and intellectual, with thinning hair and glasses, no one is likely to mistake William Weinrich for the larger-than-life Ronald Reagan.

But make no mistake: If communism stays buried in the former Soviet Union, Weinrich and other church leaders from Fort Wayne will deserve their share of the credit.

Currently academic dean at Concordia Theological Seminary, the 61-year-old Weinrich has been named head of the Lutheran seminary in the Latvian capital of Riga – a position from which he hopes to combat both the remnants of communist atheism and the equally corrosive influence of Western secularism. He will visit the seminary in August to open the academic year and will move to the Baltic port city in January to embark an adventure that could last five years or more.

“I have a comfortable life here, and sometimes I wake up wondering, ‘What have I done?’ It would be easier to stay and grow old here,? said Weinrich, an ordained Lutheran minister who teaches church history and the New Testament in addition to his administrative duties at Concordia, 6600 N. Clinton St. “But this isn’t a sacrifice at all. It’s a huge opportunity, with a new set of challenges. I feel invigorated.?

The challenge will be daunting indeed – but the potential rewards are great. Although Lutheranism in Latvia dates back to the Reformation in the 1500s, decades of communist oppression continue to take their toll. After the Soviet Union annexed Latvia in 1940, religious services were permitted but religious teaching – the lifeblood of a seminary – was not. Religious restrictions weren’t lifted until 1990, when it began its year-long road to independence.

A nation of about 2 1/2 million people, nearly half of Latvia’s 1,360 Lutheran congregations are without a pastor. Boosting enrollment at the Riga seminary, which has about 30 students now, will be among Weinrich’s priorities. So will the teaching of orthodox Lutheran doctrine, which is often at odds with contemporary culture.

Weinrich’s selection as rector of the Latvian seminary is more than a tribute to his theological and administrative skills. It’s also the latest and most prominent example of how a seminary in Fort Wayne, Indiana – one of two operated in the United States by the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod – is helping to change the character of what Reagan famously called the “evil empire.?

In the mid-1990s, Concordia Theological Seminary began its “Russia Project? – a program that brought more than 40 students from the former Soviet Union to the north-side campus. The program led to the establishment of a Lutheran seminary in Siberia and theological seminars in several former Soviet Republics. In 2000, the Rev. Charles Evanson, formerly pastor of Redeemer Lutheran Church on Rudisill Boulevard, was added to the seminary’s staff and went to Lithuania to help rebuild the church there.

Weinrich first visited Latvia in 1998, and developed a friendship with Latvia’s Lutheran Bishop, Janis Vanags, who offered him the job while visiting Fort Wayne earlier this year.

Weinrich will remain on Concordia’s staff and payroll while in Latvia. He and his wife, Barb, have three grown children, and they hope to see each other several times a year – either here or there. At some point, he expects to return to the Fort Wayne campus, where he’s been a fixture for 32 years. But not for a while. There’s too much work to do – including a crash course on speaking in Latvian, so his lectures don’t have to be translated.

During Latvia’s communist period, many churches were closed, and many pastors martyred, Weinrich said. But the faith, even when driven abroad or underground, remained.

“It’s an old church,? Weinrich said of Lutheranism in Latvia. “But it’s a new church, too. The challenge is to have a sound theological enterprise, to promote preaching that allows people to see Christ as proof of God’s love for them.?


EU Fails To Meet Cleanliness Standards On Its Beaches
June 11, 2006 10:30 a.m. EST
Joanna Wypior — All Headline News Staff Reporter
© AHN

Brussels, Belgium — A new report by the European Union indicates that one out of 20 European Union beaches have failed to meet cleanliness standards in 2005, with both Malta and Poland being the worst offenders, although a large number of member states did pass the test.

According to news reports, the bathing water report showed that 96.1 percent of coastal swimming sites in the 25-nation EU met the guidelines set down in a 1976 law, broadly the same as in 2004.

EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas says: "Clean beaches are needed not only for protecting public health but we also need clean beaches as an economic asset."

"We have to avoid letting standards slip," he adds.

According to the European Business Guide, four new EU states — Hungary, Latvia, Malta and Poland — had a high number of bathing areas that were insufficiently sampled — 39 percent of the coastal areas and 43 percent of the freshwater zones.

While on the other hand, the six other new member states showed a clear overall improvement in their results.

The European Union claims the rules set forth to maintain the continent's beaches are to protect people from the health risks of swimming in polluted conditions, largely caused by faecal matter.

Illnesses include vomiting, skin problems and breathing difficulty.


Latvia buys two helicopters for border patrol
June 13 2006
© Flight International

The Latvian border guard has ordered two Agusta A109 Powers to increase its border patrol capabilities before joining the European Union’s Schengen open borders agreement.

The new machines supplement an Agusta Bell 206B that has been in service since the guard’s air unit was formed in 2002. Ten new pilots, who start training in Italy late next year, will double the unit’s strength. The new helicopters will be equipped with forward-looking infrared, a rescue hoist, searchlight and a night vision goggles-compatible cockpit.

Meanwhile, Heliflite, AgustaWestland’s distributor of civil helicopters for Australia, New Zealand and New Guinea, has delivered the first A109S Grand to an Australian customer.


Russia, Latvia should leave disagreements in the past — Putin
16:41 June 13 2006
© RIA Novosti

ST. PETERSBURG, June 13 — Russian President Vladimir Putin said Tuesday that he hoped Russia and Latvia would soon be able to put their differences behind them and move on toward a mutually beneficial relationship.

Speaking to Latvian Prime Minister Aigars Kalvitis on the sidelines of an economic forum in St. Petersburg, Putin said: "Despite some difficulties, our relations are developing. We have a lot of potential and common interests."

"As for [Russia], we have repeatedly expressed this interest," he said. "I hope we put all our difficulties behind us as soon as possible and begin thinking about the future."

Russia's relations with its Baltic neighbor have been strained in the post-Soviet era by an unresolved border dispute and the Latvian government's policy toward Russian-speaking residents, which Moscow sees as discriminatory.

Latvia, which gained independence from Russia in 1991, is trying to link the formalization of a 1997 border treaty to compensation from Moscow for nearly five decades of what it says was Soviet occupation. It also has claims to an area in northwestern Russia that was Latvian territory before World War II. [This tows the official Russian line, while the real issue is that Russia refuses to recognize the continuity of the Latvian state.—/pjv]

Another divisive issue is Latvia's alleged discrimination against the rights of ethnic Russians, who make up around one-third of its 2.3-million-strong population. It has refused to grant automatic citizenship to many Russians who settled there after WWII and has launched educational reforms reducing the use of the Russian language in schools. [A slim majority of Russians are now citizens.—/pjv]


Baltic victims of USSR remembered
© BBC News
Wednesday, 14 June 2006, 18:07 GMT 19:07 UK

Article — The Baltic states — Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania — have held a day of mourning for thousands of their people who were exiled to Siberia during Soviet rule.

On 14 June 1941 more than 30,000 were deported from the Baltic countries to prison camps in Siberia.

At a ceremony in Tallinn, the Estonian President, Arnold Ruutel, said the victims of the Stalinist deportations would be remembered forever.

But controversy surrounds a plan to put up a plaque at the European Parliament.

Some Socialists in the European parliament are blocking the plan, saying that it would lead to a plethora of memorials.

But Baltic MEPs say they feel it is important that older members of the EU learn about the history of new member countries, to understand them better, the BBC's Laura Sheeter reports from Riga.
Bitter memories

The Baltic republics regained their independence from the Soviet Union 15 years ago and joined the European Union in May 2004.

In all three countries the mass deportations carried out during Joseph Stalin's rule are commemorated as an act of genocide and a crime against humanity.

President Valdas Adamkus of Lithuania said it was still impossible to recall the events without pain.

Soviet troops herded Baltic civilians onto cattle trucks heading for Siberia.

Men were separated from their families and sent to prison camps, where most were shot. Women and children travelled for weeks to remote parts of Russia, where they were left to fend for themselves. Many died from disease and starvation.


Albanian gets 14 years for buying a Latvian girl for sex
Wednesday, June 14, 2006 12:23 PM
© Serbianna

London — An Albanian woman and her boyfriend who bought a teenage Latvian girl and forced her to work as a prostitute are going to be jailed for their crimes after being found guilty in the London court.

Mirella Zeneli, a 34 year old Albanian woman, bought an 18-year-old Latvian orphan for 4,000 British pounds, then charged men 120 pounds to have sex with her. The girl was beaten and forced to have sex up to 30 times a day while Zeneli and her boyfriend, Blendi Krasniqi, also 34, taped the rapes and posted them on the Internet as advertising material.

Zeneli was found guilty of three charges of aiding and abetting acts of rape and given 14 years of jail. Krasniqi was sentenced to 6 years.

"This girl was totally dehumanized. She will never fully recover from her ordeal," said Detective Sergeant Tony Eddington, who led the police inquiry.

He said her case was the "tip of the iceberg" of sex-trafficking in Britain.

The Latvian teenager came to UK in 2004 at the age of 18, expecting to work as an au pair. She was given a forged passport by another Albanian and then bought and sold between Albanian men who raped her, beat her and injected her with drugs.

Zeneli was the fourth owner of the girl.

The girl finally managed to escape one afternoon. She ran to a pub and since she knew no English she deliberately stole a man's wallet and the mobile phone in front of bar staff so they would call the police and save her.

Zeneli and Krasniqi denied all charges.

Judge Price strongly advised that the pair gets deported after their release from jail. The victim has returned to Latvia.


EU data reveal big gap in wealth among member states
www.chinaview.cn 2006-06-16 07:54:06
Editor: Zhu Jin
© Xinhua News Agency

BRUSSELS, June 15 — There are still shocking disparities in terms of wealth among the 25 member states of the European Union (EU), according to data released by EU statistical office Eurostat on Thursday.

According to Eurostat's provisional figures for member states' Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per inhabitant in 2005, Luxembourg was by far the richest member state with purchasing power of 248, based on an EU average of 100.

This was five times that of Latvia, which stood at the bottom of the list with GDP per inhabitant at 47 percent of the EU average.

The figures were calculated by purchasing power standards, a relative measuring stick for disposable wealth.

The high level of GDP per inhabitant in Luxembourg is partly due to the large number of expatriates in Luxembourg, who contribute to its GDP but are not taken into consideration as part of the resident population.

Ireland was the second richest country in the EU (137), followed by Denmark (124), the Netherlands (123), Austria (123) and Belgium (118).

The GDP per inhabitant of Britain and Sweden were 15 percent above the EU average, while Finland, Germany and France about 10 percent above average. Italy and Spain were around the EU average.

Eastern European countries scored poorly and all stood below the EU average. Cyprus and Slovenia were about 20 percent below average, while the Czech Republic and Malta were around 30 percentbelow average.

Hungary and Estonia were about 40 percent below the EU average, followed by Slovakia, Lithuania, Poland and Latvia, which were around half the EU average.

But EU candidate member states are even worse off: Romania scored 35, followed by Bulgaria (32), Croatia (47) and Turkey (31).


Latvia defies EU over gay rights
By Laura Sheeter, BBC News, Riga
Friday, 16 June 2006, 07:38 GMT 08:38 UK
© BBC News

Latvia's stance on human rights is under scrutiny — Lawmakers in Latvia have defied the European Union and refused to introduce a law banning discrimination at work on sexual orientation grounds.

Agreeing to introduce the law on employment discrimination was a condition for Latvia's accession to the European Union in 2004.

But MPs refused to implement it in full after a parliamentary debate where homosexuality was described as a sin.

Latvia recently made constitutional changes to prevent same-sex marriages.
'Degenerate' slur

Latvian politicians voted not to include specific reference to discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation after a long and heated debate, which included some stridently anti-homosexual language.

Representatives of Latvia's first party, the Christian Democratic Party, which had proposed sexual orientation be dropped from the anti-discrimination bill, described homosexuality as a sin and homosexual people as "degenerate".

Latvia is now the only EU member state without legislation specifically outlawing discrimination at work on the grounds of sexual orientation.

The International Lesbian and Gay Association said that the MPs' actions showed a fundamental disrespect for the values and principles of the European Union.

It said it hoped the European Commission would take the legal action it was entitled to take to ensure the law was implemented in full.

Homosexuality is a controversial political issue in Latvia. Earlier this year, parliament changed the country's constitution to ensure that same-sex marriage could not be made legal, and the first Gay Pride march in Latvia, which took place last summer, was marred by angry protests.


Study finds Salmonella in one-third of the EU's egg producers
By staff reporter
© Decision News Media SAS

Report [note Latvia, below, Salmonella-free] — Luxembourg and Sweden are among the safest places to eat an egg in the EU, with Portugal, Poland and the Czech Republic the riskiest, according to tests for Salmonella at commercial producers across the bloc.

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) study found that on average about one in five large scale commercial egg producers have laying hens infected with the Salmonella spp. pathogen.

The study is part of an EU-wide programme to improve food safety by first scientifically assessing the problems at the farm level and then determining what policies should be followed to reduce pathogen contamination throughout the supply chain. The studies could eventually lead to tighter regulatory controls on farms and processors.

Salmonellosis along with campylobacteriosis, are by far the most frequently reported food borne diseases in the EU. Both diseases are frequently caught through ingesting poultry and poultry products, such as eggs.

The EU-wide Salmonella baseline study was conducted on commercial large-scale laying hen holdings with at least 1,000 laying hens in the flock. The study was carried out in all the 25 member states, during the year to September 2005. Norway voluntarily participated in the study.

Based on a preliminary analysis by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), holdings having Salmonella enteritidis vaccinated flocks were less likely to test positive for the pathogen. However in the eight countries with both vaccinated and unvaccinated flocks, there was no different in the proportion of laying hens infected with Salmonella enteritidis.

At EU-level the presence of any Salmonella spp. was detected in about 31 per cent of the large-scale laying hen holdings surveyed. The number of positive samples in a holding varied between one and seven, with an important proportion of the holdings found positive on the basis of only one or two of the tested samples.

The testing did not find the Salmonella spp. species in any large scale commercial egg producers in Luxembourg and Sweden. The maximum level was found in Portugal, where about 80 per cent of the holdings had at least one hen test positive for the pathogen.

Salmonella Enteritidis and Salmonella Typhimurium was found in an average of 20 per cent of the large-scale laying hen holdings tested across the EU, with no cases found in Sweden, Ireland, Cyprus, Luxembourg, Latvia. Meanwhile, about 64 per cent of the egg farms in the Czech Republic tested positive, followed by Poland, where 56 per cent had one or the other species of the pathogen, and Estonia, with 52 per cent testing positive.

Holdings in the UK's were generally at the low end of the scale. About 12 per cent of holdings there tested positive for Salmonella spp. and eight per cent had at least one hen carrying either Salmonella Enteritidis and Salmonella Typhimurium.

After a salmonella scare of the late 1980s, the UK introduced strict legislation on egg safety.

In total, 5,317 laying hen holdings in the EU were tested in the study. The data focused on 4,797 holdings out of the total. Samples were taken from flocks of laying hens during the last nine weeks of their production.

The five most frequently isolated Salmonella species in the EU were, in descending order: Salmonella Enteritidis, Salmonella Infantis, Salmonella Typhimurium, Salmonella Mbandaka and Salmonella Livingstone.

The Community-wide study was done to estimate the prevalence of Salmonella in laying hen flocks, EFSA stated in releasing the results yesterday.

"The report contains the elements necessary for the establishment of the Community target for reduction of Salmonella in laying hens in accordance with Article 4 of Regulation No 2160/2003 of the European Parliament and of the Council on the control of salmonella and other specified food-borne zoonotic agents," EFSA stated. The food safety agency expects to release a final report in October 2006.

According to an European Commission study published last year there were 192,703 reported cases of salmonellosis and 183,961 of campylobacteriosis cases reported during 2004 in the EU's 25 member states.

The statistics are in the European Commission's first report on the persistence in the EU of a range of zoonoses, foodborne diseases that are transmissible from animals to humans.

In 2004 the 25 EU countries reported a total of 6,860 outbreaks of zoonoses, with 42,447 people affected. By far the most frequently reported zoonotic diseases in humans are salmonellosis and campylobacteriosis, with the most deadly being listerious, the report found.

The EU's new zoonoses directive 2003/99/EC became effect 12 June 2004. Reporting according to the new rules started with data collected during 2005.

Zoonoses are diseases, which are transmissible from animals to humans. The infection can be acquired directly from animals, or through ingestion of contaminated foodstuffs. The seriousness of these diseases in humans can vary from mild symptoms to life threatening conditions.


Russian State Wins Back Stolichnaya
A Dutch court ruled Spirits International did not have rights to the brand.
© Reuters
reported on MosNews
Vladimir Filonov / MT

AMSTERDAM — State brands manager Soyuzplodoimport won back the rights to the Stolichnaya vodka brand from a Netherlands-based spirits company in a Dutch court this week, according to documents released Friday.

Stolichnaya was licensed by Spirits International of Rotterdam for years and earned "hundreds of millions of euros" for the company and its director, Yury Shefler, said Joris van Manen, Soyuzplodoimport's lawyer. There was no listing for Spirits International or for Shefler. Neither could be immediately reached for comment.

In a ruling, the District Court of Rotterdam said the Russian state company that originally owned Stolichnaya had not been validly privatized. Spirits International acquired Stolichnaya after several transactions following the collapse of the Soviet Union, when state assets were being sold.

"The Russian state is still the owner of the vodka brand," Van Manen said.

After winning the rights to Stolichnaya in a Russian court, Soyuzplodoimport had been producing and marketing Stolichnaya in Russia for several years. Outside of Russia, Stolichnaya is bottled in Latvia and sold worldwide by Spirits International.

The ruling applies to Stolichnaya and related brands as well as Moskovskaya vodka.

Picture Album  

From Peter's trip in October, 2004, along Sermulina iela.

along Sermulina iela

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