Weekly News Update: December 3rd - 9th, 2018

Good morning everyone, and welcome to another edition of Latvia Weekly! Although the weather has taken a turn for the grey and rainy over the past few days here in Jelgava, things were a bit snowier in the east of the country. Quite a bit of importance happened over the past few days, especially when it comes to politics...

Gobzems rejected by partners in surreal week of coalition talks

Live footage from the 13th Saeima
Video Credit: Avārijas Brigāde
With nine weeks having now passed since the October 6th parliamentary election, coalition talks reached new, previously unimagined levels of dysfunction over the past seven days with relations between the seven parties elected to Saeima somehow managing to get even worse than they had already been. For a full break down of what happened throughout the week, take a look at our write-up here.

Saeima rejects UN Global Compact on Migration

Saeima voted 43-31 (with 26 not voting) Thursday to not support the UN Global Compact on Migration, a non-binding political agreement that sets goals and objectives for global migration. The government has indicated that it would decide whether or not to sign onto the agreement based on Saeima's decision, meaning that Latvia will become the only Baltic state not to do so. However, it joins a growing list of European countries that have refused to do so over fears that the compact could undermine individual nations' rights to set immigration policy despite the document containing an explicit commitment to national sovereignty. According to the agreement;
The Global Compact reaffirms the sovereign right of States to determine their national migration policy and their prerogative to govern migration within their jurisdiction, in conformity with international law. Within their sovereign jurisdiction, States may distinguish between regular and irregular migration status, including as they determine their legislative and policy measures for the implementation of the Global Compact, taking into account different national realities, policies, priorities and requirements for entry, residence and work, in accordance with international law."
This promise hasn't been enough to satisfy countries such as Hungary, Poland, Bulgaria, Austria, Switzerland, the Czech Republic, and the United States, who have all refused to sign the agreement. In parliament, the nationalist Nacionālā apvienība party was joined by the conservative "Jaunā konservatīvā partija," populist KPV LV party, and certain members of the center right Zaļo un Zemnieku savienība faction in rejecting the compact, while the center left Attīstībai/Par! and Jaunā Vienotība parties were joined by the traditionally ostensibly "social democratic" "Saskaņa" party in supporting the measure.

Although Latvia currently has very low levels of immigration compared with other European countries, the issue of migrants (especially refugees) has still been a hot topic over the past few years. There were (and remain) high levels of public opposition to the just 531 asylum seekers that the European Union asked Latvia to take in as part of its resettlement program, and integration of migrants who came from other parts of the Soviet Union during its illegal occupation of the Baltics has been a rocky experience for the nation at best.
Source: Latvijas avīze

KGB archives to be published before Christmas

Latvian National Archives director Māra Sprūdža announced Monday morning that the controversial KGB archives would finally be published within the coming three weeks, with the intention being their availability before Christmas. Saeima had already ordered their publication earlier this year, and although concerns have been raised about the wisdom of the move, it will bring an end to an 18-year debate over lustration in the restored Latvian Republic. The documents will be available on the Latvian National Archives website and will require an email address for registration.
Source: LSM

Latvians get silver in Bobsleigh World Cup


Latvians Oskars Kibermanis and Matīss Miknis took second place on Saturday in the two-man bobsleigh event at the International Bobsleigh and Skeleton Championship which is currently being held here in Sigulda. Latvia has had strong showings in sledding sports in recent years, having won three Olympic bronze medals and a silver in luge, two Olympic silver medals in skeleton, and two Olympic bronze medals and a gold in bobsleigh since 2006.
Source: LSM

10,000 signatures collected against wind farm

More than 10,000 signatures have been collected on the "manabalss.lv" portal in opposition to a plan by a Swedish company to build 51 wind turbines on 19.5 hectares of land between Dobele and Tukums counties roughly 60 km west of Rīga. Although the project would be a €250 million investment in the region and could provide the country with 10% of its entire energy demand, local businesses and residents fear that it could negatively affect agriculture in the area and leave hundreds out of work. Despite the objections, the "Eolus" firm plans to forge on with the project, and a vote could be held by the municipalities early next year following an environmental report.
Source: LSM

Rīga city council considers closing K. Barona iela to cars

Rīga city council announced a major plan to reduce car traffic, possibly going as far as long as limiting the major cobble-stone street of Krišjāņa Barona iela to public transit, cyclists, and pedestrians only. Danish architect Jan Gehl has once again been tapped by Nils Ušakovs' (Saskaņa) city government to draw up plans that will be revealed in February 2019, and consultation fees are expected to cost up to €200,000. Rīga city council has promised more bike-friendly infrastructure improvements for years only to come up short time and time again, and its unclear whether the current effort will yield any more tangible results than previous times.
Source: LSM

Latvian conductor earns Grammy nominations

Andris Nelsons of the Boston Symphony Orchestra has received Grammy nominations for the third year in a row. Nelsons and the Boston Symphony Orchestra earned two nominations this year in the categories for Best Classical Production and Best Orchestral Performance, both for the album Shostakovich: Symphonies Nos. 4 & 11, released in July 2018. Nelsons won Grammys for Best Orchestral Performance in both 2017 and 2016 for other Shostakovich recordings. The 61st Grammy Awards ceremony will take place on February 10, 2019 in Los Angeles, USA.
Source: LSM

Suspicions surround Russian acquisition of building near Rīga Airport

According to a report by Latvijas Televīzijas investigative journalism program "De Facto," head of  Russia’s "Aerospace Scientific Research Test and Manufacturing" company Dmitry Kholomkin bought a building near Rīga's international airport in 2017. His company produces radio-electronic devices and supplies to the Russian military, and was apparantly established by subsidiaries of the Russian state-owned Rosteh. While there is no conclusive evidence, Latvian experts claim that Kholomkin’s company could have access to espionage technologies such as systems that intercept radar signals and false-signal generators that could disrupt navigation. This is troubling as the headquarters of the Latvian postal service and the US Embassy are also near the facility. 
Source: LSM

Danish royals visit Latvia

Members of the Danish royal family Crown Prince Frederik and Crown Princess Mary visited Rīga for two days starting on December 6th to pay homage to the Latvia's centenary year. President Raimonds Vējonis welcomed them to the Rīga castle and remarked that Denmark and Latvia are important partners in terms of defense and regional security. 
Source: LSM

Latvian police update their look 


Latvian State Police officers revealed their updated new uniform last week, which has been deemed a necessary improvement as officers had apparantly been complaining about the old ones. Some of the new changes include the introduction of forage caps that will replace the old, peaked caps. There are also new noticeable outer garments and warm winter hats that will be used during the winter nights. To see how they look, check out the link below.
Source: LSM

Pro-Russian Illarions Girss found not guilty of ethnic hatred 

The Kurzeme district court in Liepaja found Illarions Girss not guilty in a case that accused him of inciting ethnic hatred. The judge acquitted Girss of the charges last week. Girss is known as the former leader of Russkaya Zarya (Russian Dawn) pro-Russian group. He was originally charged after he published an article on his website illarion.lv that both denied Latvia was occupied by the Soviet Union and spoke disrespectfully about Latvia’s national symbol. The article was published in November 2014. 
Source: LSM

Latvian Gang jailed in the UK

Latvian citizens Arvids Civkors (30), Maris Kursis (30), Hardijs Langsteins (37), and Aivars Dzagarjans (38), have been  sentenced to four years and 11 months in prison in the UK for offering people Latvians travel, housing, and work in the UK only to tell them that they were "in debt" to the gang upon their arrival and forcing the victims into servitude. According to an investigation, victims were required to give their bank accounts to the gang members and were sent to work throughout the UK between June 2012 - December 2016. The 14-week trail took place in the Edinburgh Sheriff Court last month. 
Source: The Baltic Times

Poll of the week

And that brings us to the poll of the week. We asked our Facebook subscribers whether they would support Aldis Gobzems' now apparantly retracted proposal for a government of non-partisan industry professionals, and it seems like only a less than a quarter do. All signs indicate that the measure wouldn't be much more popular in Saeima either.

That's all for this week! Make sure to press "subscribe" at the top of the page so that you know exactly when the next weekly update or any of our other posts will be released, and make sure to "like" us on Facebook for important "stories of the day" each evening. Take care, and for you students and teachers reading this, hang in there!

Comments