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Latvia.

October 2008

BUREAU OF EUROPEAN AND EURASIAN AFFAIRS In the United States Government, the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs is part of the U.S. Department of State, charged with implementing U.S. foreign policy and promoting U.S.  

PROFILE

OFFICIAL NAME: Republic of Latvia

Geography

Area: 64,589 sq. km. (24,938 sq. mi.); slightly larger than West Virginia West Virginia, E central state of the United States. It is bordered by Pennsylvania and Maryland (N), Virginia (E and S), and Kentucky and, across the Ohio R., Ohio (W). Facts and Figures


Area, 24,181 sq mi (62,629 sq km). Pop.
.

Cities (2008): Capital--Riga (717,371). Other cities--Daugavpils (105,958); Liepaja (85,050); Jelgava (65,635); Jurmala (55,580); Ventspils (43,299); Rezekne (35,883).

Terrain: Fertile low-lying plains predominate in central Latvia, highlands in Vidzeme and Latgale to the east, and hilly moraine moraine (mərān`), a formation composed of unsorted and unbedded rock and soil debris called till, which was deposited by a glacier. The till that falls on the sides of a valley glacier from the bounding cliffs makes up lateral moraines,  in the western Kurzeme region. Forests cover one-third of the country, with over 3,000 small lakes and numerous bogs. Although there are more than 12,000 rivers in the country, the only major waterways are the Daugava (Dvina) River, which flows through the center of the country and empties into the Gulf of Riga Noun 1. Gulf of Riga - an inlet of the Baltic Sea between Latvia and Estonia
Baltic, Baltic Sea - a sea in northern Europe; stronghold of the Russian navy
, and the Gauja River, which rises in the Vidzeme Upland.

Land use: 20% arable land In geography, arable land (from Latin arare, to plough) is an agricultural term, meaning land that can be used for growing crops.

Of the earth's 148,000,000 km² (57 million square miles) of land, approximately 31,000,000 km² (12 million square miles) are
, 8% meadows and pastures, 45% forest and woodland, 27% other.

Climate: Temperate, maritime, with four seasons of almost equal length. Average temperatures in January range from -3[degrees]C (26.6[degrees]F) in the western, coastal town of Liepaja, to -6.7[degrees]C (19.9[degrees]F) in the inland town of Daugavpils. Mean temperatures for July range from 14,3[degrees]C (57.7[degrees]F) in Liepaja to 15.7[degrees]C (60.3[[degrees]F) in Daugavpils. Annual precipitation averages 57 centimeters (23 in.).

[ILLUSTRATIONS OMITTED]

People

Nationality: Noun and adjective--Latvian(s).

Population (2008): 2,270,894.

Annual growth rate (2007): -0.5%. Birth rate--10,2/1,000. Death rate--14,5/1,000. Migration rate--3541 immigrants, 4183 emigrants (2007). Net migration rate (2007): -642 migrants.

Density (2008): 35.2/1 sq. km (this figure is far lower in the rural parts of Latvia). Urban dwellers--67,9%.

Major ethnic groups (2008): Latvians 59,2%, Russians 28.0%, Belarusians 3.7%, Ukrainians 2.5%, Poles 2.4%.

Religions (2003): Lutheran (23.8%), Roman Catholic (18.4%), Russian Orthodox (15.0%).

State language: Latvian (Lettish). Russian also is spoken by most people.

Education: Years compulsory--9. By 1989, 60% of the adult populace had finished high school, and 12% had completed college. Enrollment (2007/2008)--382,073 students in 1,648 schools (including pre-school establishments and vocational education institutions) and 127,760 university students. Literacy--99.8%.

Health: Infant mortality (hardware) infant mortality - It is common lore among hackers (and in the electronics industry at large) that the chances of sudden hardware failure drop off exponentially with a machine's time since first use (that is, until the relatively distant time at which enough mechanical  rate--8.7/1,000 (2007). Life expectancy Life Expectancy

1. The age until which a person is expected to live.

2. The remaining number of years an individual is expected to live, based on IRS issued life expectancy tables.
 (2007)--65.8 yrs. male, 76.5 yrs. female.

Work force (2007) (1,075 Mio. people): Industry--17.2%; trade--16,5%; construction--11.2%; agriculture/forestry--9.6%;; transport/communications--9.3%; public administration/defense--7.5%; education--7.3%; real estate industry--6,6%; health care/social welfare--4.5%.

Government

Type: Parliamentary democracy.

Constitution: The law "On the Republic of Latvia Status as a State," passed by Parliament on August 21, 1991, provided for the reinstatement of the 1922 constitution. Branches: Executive--President (head of state), elected by Parliament every 4 years; Prime Minister (head of government). Legislative--Saeima (100-member parliament). Judicial--Supreme Court; Constitutional Court; civil law system. Administrative regions: 26 "rural" districts and 6 districts in Riga.

Principal political parties: People's Party--21 seats, Alliance of Political Organizations (Harmony Center)--18 seats, Greens and Farmers--17 seats, New Era--14 Seats, , Latvia's First Party and Latvia's Way Union--10 seats, Civic Union--"6 seats, Fatherland and Freedom--5 seats, For Human Rights in United Latvia--5 seats, independent--4 seats.

Suffrage: universal adult (18 years of age).

National holidays (2008): 1 January (New Year's Day New Year's Day, among ancient peoples the first day of the year frequently corresponded to the vernal or autumnal equinox, or to the summer or winter solstice. In the Middle Ages it was celebrated among Christians usually on Mar. 25. ); 23-24 March (Easter); 1 May (Labor Day); 23-24 June (Midsummer Festival); 18 November (National Day, proclamation of the Republic Proclamation of the Republic can refer to:
  • Proclamation of the Irish Republic, issued during the Easter Rising of 1916
  • Proclamation of the Republic (Brazil), celebrated by a public holiday on November 15
); 25-26 December (Christmas); 31 December (New Year's Eve).

Economy

GDP GDP (guanosine diphosphate): see guanine.  (2007): $17.09 billion.

Annual growth rate (2007): 10.3%.

Annual inflation rate (2007): 14.1%.

Unemployment rate (2007): 6.0%.

Per capita Income Noun 1. per capita income - the total national income divided by the number of people in the nation
income - the financial gain (earned or unearned) accruing over a given period of time
 (Nominal GDP Nominal GDP

A gross domestic product (GDP) figure that has not been adjusted for inflation.

Notes:
It can be misleading when inflation is not accounted for in the GDP figure because the GDP will appear higher than it actually is.
 per capita [Latin, By the heads or polls.] A term used in the Descent and Distribution of the estate of one who dies without a will. It means to share and share alike according to the number of individuals. ) (2007): $12,000. Natural resources: Peat, limestone, dolomite dolomite (dō`ləmīt', dŏl`ə–).

1 Mineral, calcium magnesium carbonate, CaMg (CO3)2.
, gypsum gypsum (jĭp`səm), mineral composed of calcium sulfate (calcium, sulfur, and oxygen) with two molecules of water, CaSO4·2H2O. It is the most common sulfate mineral, occurring in many places in a variety of forms. , timber.

Agriculture/forestry (3.2% of 2007 GDP): Products--cattle, dairy foods, cereals, potatoes, timber. Land--2.36 million hectares, of which 73.3% is arable, 25.7% meadow and pasture, and 1.0% orchards.

Industry (13.6% of 2007 GDP): Metalworking, machinery and tools, light electrical equipment and fittings, textiles and footwear, technological instruments, construction materials, processed foods.

Major sectors of the economy (2007): retail and wholesale trade, repair of motor vehicles, motorcycles and personal and household goods 20.3%; real estate, renting and business activities 15.8%; manufacturing 10.8%; transport and communications 10.8%; construction 8.4%; financial intermediation 7.7%; public administration and defense, compulsory social security 6.7%

Trade (2007): Exports--$7.92 billion: wood, wood products 22.5%; basic metals, fabricated metal products 14.6%, machinery, equipment 11%; food products, beverages (incl. alcoholic), tobacco 7.8%; chemicals, chemical products 7.4%; textiles and textile products 6.7%. Major markets--Lithuania 15.8%, Estonia 14.4%, Russia 9.6%, Germany 8.7%, Sweden 7.7%, U.K. 6.9%. Imports--$15.26 billion: machinery and equipment 20.8%; motor vehicles 14.6%; mineral products 11.5%; basic metals and fabricated metal products 9.6%; chemicals and chemical products 8.1%; food products, beverages (incl. alcoholic), tobacco 6.1%; rubber and plastic products 4.8%; textiles and textile products 4.3% Partners--Germany 15.2%, Lithuania 13.9%, Russia 8.4%, Estonia 8.1%, Poland 7%, Finland 5.1%, Sweden 4.9%.

PEOPLE

The behavior of most Latvians reflects the strong cultural and religious influences of centuries-long Germanic and Scandinavian colonization and settlement. They are viewed as self-reliant, independent, persistent, and reserved. Eastern Latvia (Latgale), however, retains a strong Polish and Russian cultural and linguistic influence. This highly literate society places strong emphasis upon education, which is free and compulsory until age 16. The majority of Latvians belong to the Evangelical Lutheran Church Evangelical Lutheran Church can refer to many different Lutheran churches in the world. Among them are the following:
  • Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
  • Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada
  • Evangelical Lutheran Church in Chile
; a sizable minority is Russian Orthodox, and Eastern Latvia is predominantly Roman Catholic.

Historically, Latvia has always had fairly large Russian, Jewish, German, and Polish minorities, but traumatic wartime events, postwar emigration emigration: see immigration; migration. , deportations, and Soviet Russification policies from 1939 to 1989 reduced the percentage of ethnic Latvians in Latvia from 73% to 52%. In an attempt to preserve the Latvian language and prevent ethnic Latvians from becoming a minority in their own country, Latvia enacted language, education, and citizenship laws which require a working proficiency in the Latvian language in order to become a citizen. Such legislation has caused concern among many non-citizen resident Russians, despite Latvian legal guarantees of universal human and civil rights regardless of citizenship.

Written with the Latin alphabet, Latvian is the language of the Latvian people and the official language of the country. It is an inflective language with several analytical forms, three dialects, and German syntactical influence. The oldest known examples of written Latvian are from a 1585 catechism. Latvians and Lithuanians are the only surviving direct descendents of the Baltic peoples who speak languages of the Indo-European family. While Latvia was a member of the U.S.S.R, Russian was the official language, so many Latvians also speak Russian, and the resident Slavic populace generally speaks Russian as a first language.

HISTORY

By the 10th century, the area that is today Latvia was inhabited by several Baltic tribes who had formed their own local governments. In 1054, German sailors who shipwrecked on the Daugava River inhabited the area, which initiated a period of increasing Germanic influence. The Germans named the territory Livonia. In 1201, Riga, the current capital of Latvia, was founded by the Germanic Bishop Alberth of Livonia; the city joined the Hanseatic League in 1285 and began to form important cultural and economic relationships with the rest of Europe. However, the new German nobility enserfed the indigenous people and accorded them only limited trading and property rights.

Subsequent wars and treaties led to Livonia's partition and colonization for centuries. In 1721 Russia took control over the Latvian territories as a result of its victory over Sweden in the Great Northern War. During this time there was little sense of a Latvian national identity, as both serfdom serfdom

In medieval Europe, condition of a tenant farmer who was bound to a hereditary plot of land and to the will of his landlord. Serfs differed from slaves in that slaves could be bought and sold without reference to land, whereas serfs changed lords only when the land
 and institutional controls to migration and social mobility limited the boundaries of the indigenous people's intellectual and social geography. However, in the 1860's, the Young Latvian Movement was formed in order to promote the indigenous language against Russification policies and to publicize and counteract the socioeconomic oppression of Latvians, 60% of whom belonged to the landless land·less  
adj.
Owning or having no land.



landless·ness n.

Adj. 1.
, urban class. This growing proletariat became fertile ground for the ideas of western European socialism and supported the creation in 1903 of the Latvian Social Democratic Union (LSDU LSDU Link Service Data Unit
LSDU Lane Status Display Unit
LSDU Line Service Data Unit (Nortel) 
), which continued to champion national interests and Latvia's national self-determination, especially during the failed 1905 Revolution in Russia.

The onset of World War I brought German occupation of the western coastal province of Kurzeme, which Latvians heroically countered with several regiments of riflemen commanded by Czarist generals. The military campaign generally increased Latvian and LSDU support for the Bolsheviks' successful October Revolution in 1917, in the hopes of a "free Latvia within free Russia." These circumstances led to the formation of the Soviet "Iskolat Republic" in the unoccupied section of Latvia. In opposition to this government and to the landed barons' German sympathies stood the Latvian Provisional National Council and the Riga Democratic Bloc. These and other political parties formed the Latvian People's Council, which on November 18, 1918 declared Latvia's independence and formed an army. The new Latvian Army won a decisive battle over the combined German-Red Army forces and consolidated that success on the eastern Latgale front. These developments led to the dissolution of the Soviet Latvian government on January 13, 1920 and to a peace treaty between Latvia and Soviet Russia on August 11 later that year. On September 22, 1921, an independent Latvia was admitted to the League of Nations.

The government, headed by Prime Minister Ulmanis, declared a democratic, parliamentary republic. It recognized Latvian as the official language, granted cultural autonomy to the country's sizeable minorities, and introduced an electoral system into the Latvian constitution, which was adopted in 1922. The ensuing decade witnessed sweeping economic reform, as the war had devastated Latvian agriculture, and most Russian factories had been evacuated to Russia. However, economic depression heightened political turmoil, and, on May 15, 1934, the Prime Minister dismissed the Parliament, banned outspoken and left-wing political parties, and tightened authoritarian state control over Latvian social life and the economy.

The German-Soviet Nonaggression Pact of 1939 steadily forced Latvia under Soviet influence, culminating in Latvia's annexation by the Soviet Union on August 5, 1940. On June 14 of the following year, 15,000 Latvian citizens were forcibly deported and a large number of army officers shot. The subsequent German occupation witnessed the mobilization of many Latvians into Waffen SS legions, while some Latvians joined the Red Army and formed resistance groups, and others fled to the West and East.

An estimated 70,000, or 89.5%, of Latvian Jews were killed in Latvia under Nazi occupation. Up to one-third of Latvia's pre-war population (approximately 630,000 residents) was lost between 1940 and 1954 due to the Holocaust and the Soviet and Nazi occupations.

After World War II, the U.S.S.R. subjected the Latvian republic to a social and economic reorganization which rapidly changed the rural economy to one based on heavy industry, transformed the predominantly Latvian population into a more multiethnic populace, and converted the peasant class into a fully urbanized industrial worker class. As part of the goal to more fully integrate Latvia into the Soviet Union, Stalin deported another 42,000 Latvians and continued to promote the policy of encouraging Soviet immigration immigration, entrance of a person (an alien) into a new country for the purpose of establishing permanent residence. Motives for immigration, like those for migration generally, are often economic, although religious or political factors may be very important.  to Latvia.

In July 1989, following the dramatic events in East Germany, the Latvian Supreme Soviet adopted a "Declaration of Sovereignty" and amended the Constitution to assert the supremacy of its laws over those of the U.S.S.R. Candidates from the pro-independence party Latvian Popular Front gained a two-thirds majority in the Supreme Council in the March 1990 democratic elections. On May 4, the Council declared its intention to restore full Latvian independence after a "transitional" period; three days later, a Latvian was chosen Prime Minister. Soviet political and military forces tried unsuccessfully to overthrow the Latvian Government. On August 21, 1991, Latvia claimed de facto [Latin, In fact.] In fact, in deed, actually.

This phrase is used to characterize an officer, a government, a past action, or a state of affairs that must be accepted for all practical purposes, but is illegal or illegitimate.
 independence. International recognition, including that of the U.S.S.R., followed. The United States, which had never recognized Latvia's forcible annexation by the U.S.S.R. and continued to accredit a Latvian Ambassador in Washington, recognized Latvia's renewed independence on September 2. In 2007, the United States and Latvia celebrated 85 years of continuous diplomatic relations. Since regaining its independence, Latvia has rapidly moved away from the political-economic structures and socio-cultural patterns which underlay the Soviet Union. Through a U.S. initiative, on April 30, 1994, Latvia and Russia signed a troop withdrawal agreement; Russia withdrew the bulk of its troops by August 31 of that year. Except for some large state-owned utilities, Latvia has privatized most sectors of its economy, which enjoyed years of rapid development before slowing down in 2007. By the end of 2008, Latvian economy was facing the risk of recession. Latvia has also maintained and strengthened the democratic, parliamentary republic that it revived in 1990.

Internationally, Latvia has accomplished a great deal. It became a member of the United Nations (UN) on September 18, 1991, and is a signatory to a number of UN organizations and other international agreements, including the International Civil Aviation Organization International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), specialized agency of the United Nations, organized in 1947, with headquarters at Montreal. The objective of the ICAO, which has 187 member nations, is to encourage the orderly growth of international civil aviation,  (ICAO ICAO
abbr.
International Civil Aeronautics Organization

Noun 1. ICAO - the United Nations agency concerned with civil aviation
International Civil Aviation Organization
), the International Monetary Fund (IMF IMF

See: International Monetary Fund


IMF

See International Monetary Fund (IMF).
), and the World Bank. It is also a member of the Organization on Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE OSCE Organization for Security and Co-Operation in Europe
OSCE Organisation Pour la Sécurité et la Coopération en Europe (French: Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe)
OSCE Objective Structured Clinical Examination
) and officially became a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), established under the North Atlantic Treaty (Apr. 4, 1949) by Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Great Britain, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, and the United States.  (NATO NATO: see North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
NATO
 in full North Atlantic Treaty Organization

International military alliance created to defend western Europe against a possible Soviet invasion.
) on March 29, 2004. On May 1, 2004 Latvia joined the European Union (EU).

Since 2004, Latvia has emerged as a significant player in foreign affairs, standing out as a successful post-Soviet transition society. Strong memories of occupation and oppression motivate Latvia to reach out to countries struggling to move beyond authoritarian politics and state-controlled economies. It has worked closely with the U.S. and the EU to promote democracy in Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, and Georgia. Latvia also supports pro-market, pro-free-trade policies in European and international organizations. It was the European Union's fastest-growing economy in 2004 through 2006.

Latvia has developed a policy of international security cooperation through participation in crisis management and peacekeeping operations. In 2006, Latvia deployed over 10% of its active duty military to support UN, NATO, and coalition military operations. That percentage is well above the European average in terms of per capita contributions. In 2008, Latvia increased its participation in the NATO International Security Assistance Force (ISAF ISAF International Security Assistance Force (UN program)
ISAF International Sailing Federation
ISAF International Shark Attack File
ISAF Israeli Air Force
ISAF Information Security Awareness Forum
) in Afghanistan to 155 soldiers and plans to maintain the number in 2009. Closer to home, Latvia has been active in the Balkans: it supports the NATO mission in Kosovo with peacekeepers, and the European Union Force (EUFOR) mission in Bosnia with liaison officers. Latvia also contributes to the OSCE mission to Georgia. In November 2006, Latvia hosted a NATO Summit in its capital, Riga.

GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS

The highest organ of state authority in Latvia is the Saeima, a unicameral legislative body of 100 members who are elected by direct popular vote to serve four-year terms. The Saeima initiates and approves legislation sponsored by the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister is the head of government and has full responsibility and control over the Cabinet. The President, who is elected by the Saeima every four years, holds a primarily ceremonial role as head of state, though the President must sign each law into force and has the power to return laws to the Saeima twice for review and revision. The President also has the power to call for a referendum on legislation that the Saeima refuses to change after twice being sent back.

In the autumn of 1991 Latvia re-implemented significant portions of its 1922 constitution, and in the spring of 1993 the government took a census to determine eligibility for citizenship. Latvia finalized a citizenship and naturalization naturalization, official act by which a person is made a national of a country other than his or her native one. In some countries naturalized persons do not necessarily become citizens but may merely acquire a new nationality.  law in the summer of 1994, which was further liberalized in 1998. By law, those who were Latvian citizens in 1940 and their descendants (regardless of ethnicity) could claim citizenship. Forty-one percent of Latvia's population is ethnically non-Latvian, yet almost three-fourths of all residents are citizens of Latvia. Requirements for naturalization include a conversational knowledge of Latvian, a loyalty oath An oath that declares an individual's allegiance to the government and its institutions and disclaims support of ideologies or associations that oppose or threaten the government. , renunciation The Abandonment of a right; repudiation; rejection.

The renunciation of a right, power, or privilege involves a total divestment thereof; the right, power, or privilege cannot be transferred to anyone else.
 of former citizenship, 5 years of residency in Latvia, and a basic knowledge of Latvian history. Dual citizenship is allowed for those who were forced to leave Latvia during the Soviet occupation and adopted another citizenship. Convicted criminals, agents of Soviet intelligence services, and certain other groups are excluded from becoming citizens.

On March 19, 1991 the Supreme Council passed a law explicitly guaranteeing "equal rights to all nationalities and ethnic groups" and "to all permanent residents in the Republic regardless of their nationality, equal rights to work and wages." In addition, the law prohibits "any activity directed toward nationality discrimination or the promotion of national superiority or hatred."

In the June 5-6, 1993 elections, in which more than 90% of the electorate participated, eight of Latvia's 23 registered political parties passed the 5% threshold to enter parliament. The centrist party Latvia's Way received a 33% plurality of votes and joined the Farmer's Union to head a center-right-wing coalition government.

The September 30-October 1,1995 elections resulted in a deeply fragmented parliament with nine parties represented and the largest party commanding only 18 of 100 seats. Attempts to form right-of-center and leftist governments failed; seven weeks after the election, a broad but fractious frac·tious  
adj.
1. Inclined to make trouble; unruly.

2. Having a peevish nature; cranky.



[From fraction, discord (obsolete).
 coalition government of six of the nine parties was voted into office under Prime Minister Andris Skele, a popular, nonpartisan businessman.

In the 1998 elections, the Latvian party structure began to consolidate, with only six parties obtaining seats in the Saeima. Andris Skele's newly formed People's Party garnered a plurality with 24 seats. Though the election represented a victory for the center-right, personality conflicts and scandals within the two largest right-of-center parties--Latvia's Way and the People's Party--prevented stable coalitions from forming. Two shaky governments quickly collapsed in less than a year. In May 2000, a compromise candidate was found in the Latvia's Way mayor of Riga, Andris Berzins. His four-party coalition lasted until parliamentary elections in October 2002. Those elections left Latvia's Way, for the first time since 1993, with no seats in parliament. The New Era Party, which ran on an anti-corruption platform, gained the most seats and formed a four-party coalition government until the abrupt resignation of the Prime Minister in February 2004 over issues relating to personalities and management of the ruling coalition.

In 1999, the Saeima elected Vaira Vike-Freiberga, a compromise candidate with no party affiliation No Party Affiliation or NPA is a term used to apply to those voters or politicians who do not hold affiliation with any or any particular political party. Another more common term used in place of "NPA" is "Independent". , to the presidency. Though born in Riga in 1937, she settled in Canada during the years of the Soviet occupation, becoming a well-respected academic on the subject of Latvian culture and psychology. Following her election, she became one of the most popular political figures in Latvia. She was overwhelmingly re-elected by parliament for another four-year term in June 2003. She was also credited with bringing Latvia to the world's stage and serving as an important check on the ruling coalitions.

With the tacit support of leftist parties, a minority government led by Greens and Farmers Union leader Indulis Emsis took office on March 9, 2004. The new government focused on smoothing Latvia's entry into NATO and the European Union, which took place in the first half of 2004. The government collapsed on October 28, 2004 after parliament voted against the 2005 budget. A new coalition government, led by Prime Minister Aigars Kalvitis, took office on December 2, 2004 and was re-elected on October 7, 2006. These last election results marked the first time that an incumbent administration has won re-election in the history of independent Latvia.

In July 2007, the Saeima elected Valdis Zatlers, another candidate with no political affiliation, to the presidency. An orthopedic surgeon by trade, Zatlers was the director of the Latvian Traumatology traumatology /trau·ma·tol·o·gy/ (-tol´o-je) the branch of surgery dealing with wounds and disability from injuries.

trau·ma·tol·o·gy
n.
 and Orthopedics Center until his election and has no prior political experience. His start was clouded by charges that he had accepted supplemental payments for medical services on which he did not pay taxes. Zatlers complied with investigations which in the end concluded he had committed no breaches of law.

In December 2007, Prime Minister Kalvitis resigned after his government came under intense criticism for attempting to dismiss the head of the anti-corruption bureau. President Zatlers nominated veteran politician Ivars Godmanis to form a new government. Godmanis' governing coalition consists of the same four center-right parties that made up the previous government.

Latvia's flag consists of two horizontal, maroon bands of equal width, divided by a white stripe one-half the width. The national holiday is November 18, Independence Day, which marks Latvia's 1918 independence.

Principal Government Officials

President--Valdis Zatlers

Prime Minister--Ivars Godmanis, Latvia's First Party/Latvia's Way

Minister of Defense--Vinets Veldre, People's Party

Minister of Foreign Affairs--Maris Riekstins, People's Party

Minister of Economy--Kaspars Gerhards, Fatherland and Freedom

Minister of Interior--Mareks Seglins, People's Party

Minister of Education and Science--Tatjana Koke, Greens and Farmers Union

Minister of Agriculture--Martins Roze, Greens and Farmers Union

Minister of Welfare--Iveta Purne, Greens and Farmers Union

Minister of Justice--Gaidis Berzins, Fatherland and Freedom

Minister of Culture--Helena Demakova, People's Party

Minister of Finance--Atis Slakteris, People's Party

Minister of Environment--Raimonds Vejonis, Greens and Farmers Union

Minister of Health--Ivars Eglitis, People's Party

Minister of Transport--Ainars Slesers, Latvia's First Party/Latvia's Way

Minister of Children and Family Affairs--Ainars Bastiks, Latvia's First Party, Latvia's Way

Minister for Special Assignments for Electronic Government Affairs--Signe Balina, independent

Minister for Regional Development and Local Governments--Edgars Zalans, People's Party

Minister for Special Assignments for Society Integration Affairs--Oskars Kastens, Latvia's First Party/Latvia's Way

Minister for Special Assignments for Administration of EU Funds--Normunds Broks, Fatherland and Freedom

Ambassador to the United States--Andrejs Pildegovics

Latvia maintains an embassy in the United States at 2306 Massachusetts Ave NW, Washington DC 20008 [tel: (202) 328-2840].

ECONOMY

For centuries under Hanseatic hanse  
n.
A medieval merchant guild or trade association.



[Middle English, from Old French, from Middle Low German, from Old High German hansa, military troop.
 and German influence and then during its inter-war independence, Latvia used its geographic location as an important East-West commercial and trading center. Industry served local markets, while timber, paper, and agricultural products supplied Latvia's main exports. The years of Soviet occupation tended to integrate Latvia's economy into the U.S.S.R. in order to serve that empire's large internal industrial needs. Since reestablishing its independence, Latvia has proceeded with market-oriented reforms. Its freely traded currency, the Lat (Local Area Transport) A communications protocol from Digital for controlling terminal traffic in a DECnet environment.

LAT - Local Area Transport
, was introduced in 1993 and has held steady or appreciated against major world currencies. Before late 2007, Latvia's economic performance was among the best of the EU accession countries. Real per capita GDP had roughly doubled compared to its 1995 level, the economy was growing rapidly with GDP growth hitting 12.2% in 2006. Recently, however, internal economic instability combined with adverse external factors has decelerated economic growth considerably. Latvia's annualized annualized

Of or relating to a variable that has been mathematically converted to a yearly rate. Inflation and interest rates are generally annualized since it is on this basis that these two variables are ordinarily stated and compared.
 second quarter real GDP growth rate dropped to 0.1% from 11% just a year ago. Increasing inflation is also causing concern. Latvia has registered the highest inflation rate in the EU, which reached 17.9%t at its highest level. The increase in inflation has delayed prospects of introducing the Euro currency in Latvia. At the same time, Latvia's current account deficit (ranging from 12% to 14% of GDP over the past 3 years) remains one of the key vulnerabilities of the Latvian economy.

Independence forced Latvia into a precarious position regarding its energy supply. With the exception of peat and timber, Latvia had no significant domestic energy resources and received 93% of its imported energy from Soviet republics. Latvia has sought ways to diversify its energy sources and to increase energy conservation. In August 2001, the Kegums hydroelectric power plant was reopened, contributing to Latvia's ability to supply 25% of its energy that year. Furthermore, in June 2002 the European Investment Bank loaned Latvenergo, a state-owned energy supply group, 80 million Euros to modernize its generation and distribution of electricity and thermal energy. Latvia is also looking to regional cooperation arrangements to diversify its energy supplies. With the other Baltic states, it plans to create an electricity network able to operate independently of its Russian counterpart. It is planning major infrastructure projects to provide energy supplies via Scandinavia, and it is working with Estonia, Lithuania and Poland to build a new nuclear power station in Ignalina, Lithuania.

Privatization privatization: see nationalization.
privatization

Transfer of government services or assets to the private sector. State-owned assets may be sold to private owners, or statutory restrictions on competition between privately and publicly owned
 in Latvia is effectively complete. All of the previously state-owned small and medium enterprises have been privatized, leaving in state hands the electric utility, the Latvian railway company, and the Latvian postal system, as well as state shares in several politically sensitive concerns. Despite the lack of transparency of the early stages of the privatization process and certain difficulties in privatization of some of the largest companies, Latvian privatization efforts have led to the development of a dynamic and prosperous private sector, which accounts for approximately 70% of the country's GDP.

In the last few years, Latvia has implemented many positive reforms in the business sphere (ranking 29th worldwide on the ease of doing business there, according to the World Bank Doing Business 2009 report). Most reforms deal with licensing, taxes, and business closures. In the 2005/2006 period, Latvia made it easier for businesses to comply with building requirements and reduced the number of licenses and permits required. In addition, Latvia launched an electronic tax filing system and improved the regulation of bankruptcy administrators in order to reduce corruption.

Foreign investment in Latvia remains high, as both Western and Eastern investors are trying to establish a foothold in the new EU member state as well as to take advantage of central location in the region and relatively cheap labor. Representing 5.8% of Latvia's total foreign direct investment (FDI FDI

See: Foreign direct investment
), the U.S. FDI stock in Latvia stood at nearly $480 million at the end of 2008, according to the Bank of Latvia's most recent available figures. In 2007, U.S. goods and services In economics, economic output is divided into physical goods and intangible services. Consumption of goods and services is assumed to produce utility (unless the "good" is a "bad"). It is often used when referring to a Goods and Services Tax.  accounted for 1.4% of Latvia's total imports, while exports to the United States accounted for 1.1% of Latvia's total exports. Latvia has been a member of the World Trade Organization since 1999. Latvia and the United States have signed treaties on investment, trade, intellectual property protection, and avoidance of double taxation.

In the long term, continued high economic growth in Latvia will depend on further improvements to the business environment, particularly the drive to reduce corruption and strengthen the rule of law, and on Latvia's ability to use the opportunities presented by EU membership.

DEFENSE

Latvia's defense concept is based upon four basic pillars: collective defense as a member of NATO, professionalization pro·fes·sion·al·ize  
tr.v. pro·fes·sion·al·ized, pro·fes·sion·al·iz·ing, pro·fes·sion·al·iz·es
To make professional.



pro·fes
 of the armed forces, support and coordination with civil society, and international military cooperation. The armed forces consist of the regular forces, a home guard called "Zemessardze", and the Reserve. The regular forces are composed of the land forces, an air force focused on air surveillance and search and rescue, and naval forces focused on coastal surveillance, assertion of sovereignty, mine countermeasures, search and rescue, and environmental protection. Additionally, there are some other minor units adding to the total armed forces personnel of 5,000.Zemessardze is an autonomous 10,600-man-strong volunteer reserve organization which performs traditional national-guard duties such as crisis response and support for military operations. The Latvian National Armed Forces became fully professional in November 2006. Defense spending has risen in recent years, and the government has committed 2% of its GDP to defense spending through 2013.

FOREIGN RELATIONS

After regaining its independence, Latvia began to work at reintegrating into the West. In 1991, Latvia joined the Organization on Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and became a member of the United Nations (UN). It is party to a number of UN organizations as well as other international agreements including the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the World Bank. Since 2004, Latvia has been an active member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the European Union (EU).

Latvia has emerged as a significant international player, courageously supporting peace and democracy world-wide. Per capita, it is one of the largest contributors to international military operations. It has deployed troops to Iraq, Afghanistan, Georgia and the Balkans. It also works closely with the U.S. and the EU to support and promote democracy in the former Soviet Union states of Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, and Georgia. A testament to the close relationship between the U.S, and Latvia is the fact that President Bush has visited the country twice, the second time to attend the NATO Summit held in Riga on November 28-29, 2006.

Russia has expressed concern over how Latvia's language and naturalization laws affect Latvia's Russian-speaking population. Russians comprised 28% of the population in 2008. In turn, Latvia is interested in the welfare of ethnic Latvians still residing in Russia. Latvia and Russia signed a border treaty agreement in March 2007. It was ratified by both sides and went into effect at the end of 2007.

Latvia maintains embassies in the United States, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Belgium, Canada, the People's Republic of China, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Egypt, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Georgia, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, Ukraine, the United Kingdom, and Uzbekistan. It also operates missions to the United Nations in New York City New York City: see New York, city.
New York City

City (pop., 2000: 8,008,278), southeastern New York, at the mouth of the Hudson River. The largest city in the U.S.
 and Geneva Geneva, canton and city, Switzerland
Geneva (jənē`və), Fr. Genève, canton (1990 pop. 373,019), 109 sq mi (282 sq km), SW Switzerland, surrounding the southwest tip of the Lake of Geneva.
, the European Council, the European Union, the Chemical Weapons Nonproliferation non·pro·lif·er·a·tion  
adj.
Of, relating to, or calling for an end to the acquisition of nuclear weapons by additional nations: a nonproliferation treaty.
 Organization, NATO, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the World Trade Organization, UNESCO UNESCO: see United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization.
UNESCO
 in full United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization
, and the UN Council on Food and Agriculture.

Latvia has Consulates General in Russia and Germany; Consulates in Belarus and Russia; Honorary Consulates General in Brazil, Denmark, Italy, , Cyprus, Lebanon, Norway, Sri Lanka, Turkey, and Venezuela; and Honorary Consulates in USA, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, , Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Columbia, Croatia, Cyprus, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Egypt, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong Iceland, India, Indonesia Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, , Luxembourg, Malta, Morocco, Macedonia, Mexico, Moldova, the Netherlands, New Zealand New Zealand (zē`lənd), island country (2005 est. pop. 4,035,000), 104,454 sq mi (270,534 sq km), in the S Pacific Ocean, over 1,000 mi (1,600 km) SE of Australia. The capital is Wellington; the largest city and leading port is Auckland. , Norway, Pakistan, Panama, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, San Marino , South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Syria, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, Tunisia, Turkey, Ukraine, and the United Kingdom.

U.S.-LATVIAN RELATIONS

The United States established diplomatic relations with Latvia on July 28, 1922. The U.S. Legation legation: see diplomatic service; extraterritoriality.  in Riga was officially established on November 13, 1922 and served as the headquarters for U.S. representation in the Baltics during the interwar interwar
Adjective

of or happening in the period between World War I and World War II
 era. The Soviet invasion forced the closure of the legation on September 5, 1940, but Latvian representation in the United States has continued uninterrupted for 85 years. The United States never recognized the forcible incorporation of Latvia into the U.S.S.R. and views the present Government of Latvia as a legal continuation of the interwar republic.

Latvia and the United States have signed treaties on investment, trade, intellectual property protection, extradition, mutual legal assistance, and avoidance of double taxation. Latvia has enjoyed most-favored-nation treatment with the United States since December 1991. In 2008, Latvia joined the visa waiver program The Visa Waiver Program (VWP) is a program of the United States of America which allows citizens of specific countries to travel to the US for tourism or business for up to 90 days without having to obtain a visa. .

Principal U.S. Embassy Officials

Ambassador--Charles W. Larson, Jr.

Deputy Chief of Mission--Bruce Rogers

Political/Economic Officer--Tamir Waser

Management Officer--Eric Kettner

Consular Officer--Stephen T. Frahm

Public Affairs Officer--William Bellis

Defense Attache--Lt. Col. David Holahan

The U.S. Embassy in Latvia is located at Raina Boulevard 7, Riga [tel. (371) 703-6200].

TRAVEL AND BUSINESS INFORMATION

The U.S. Department of State's Consular Information Program advises Americans traveling and residing abroad through Country Specific Information, Travel Alerts, and Travel Warnings. Country Specific Information exists for all countries and includes information on entry and exit requirements, currency regulations, health conditions, safety and security, crime, political disturbances, and the addresses of the U.S. embassies and consulates abroad. Travel Alerts are issued to disseminate information quickly about terrorist threats and other relatively short-term conditions overseas that pose significant risks to the security of American travelers. Travel Warnings are issued when the State Department recommends that Americans avoid travel to a certain country because the situation is dangerous or unstable.

For the latest security information, Americans living and traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department's Bureau of Consular Affairs The Bureau of Consular Affairs is a bureau of the United States Department of State within that department's management office. The mission of the Bureau is to administer laws, formulate regulations and implement policies relating to the broad range of consular services and  Internet web site at http://www.travel.state.gov/, where the current Worldwide Caution, Travel Alerts, and Travel Warnings can be found. Consular Affairs Publications, which contain information on obtaining passports and planning a safe trip abroad, are also available at http://www.travel.state.gov/. For additional information on international travel, see http://www.usa.gov/Citizen/Topics/Travel/International.shtml.

The Department of State encourages all U.S. citizens traveling or residing abroad to register via the State Department's travel registration website or at the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate abroad. Registration will make your presence and whereabouts known in case it is necessary to contact you in an emergency and will enable you to receive up-to-date information on security conditions.

Emergency information concerning Americans traveling abroad may be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S. and Canada or the regular toll line 1-202-501-4444 for callers outside the U.S. and Canada.

The National Passport Information Center (NPIC NPIC National Pesticide Information Center (formerly NPTN)
NPIC National Passport Information Center
NPIC National Photographic Interpretation Center
NPIC National Photographic Intelligence Center
) is the U.S. Department of State's single, centralized public contact center for U.S. passport information. Telephone: 1-877-4-USA-PPT (1-877-487-2778); TDD/TTY: 1-888-874-7793. Passport information is available 24 hours, 7 days a week. You may speak with a representative Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., Eastern Time, excluding federal holidays.

Travelers can check the latest health information with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), agency of the U.S. Public Health Service since 1973, with headquarters in Atlanta; it was established in 1946 as the Communicable Disease Center.  in Atlanta, Georgia. A hotline at 800-CDC-INFO (800-232-4636) and a web site at http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel/default.aspx give the most recent health advisories, immunization immunization: see immunity; vaccination.  recommendations or requirements, and advice on food and drinking water drinking water

supply of water available to animals for drinking supplied via nipples, in troughs, dams, ponds and larger natural water sources; an insufficient supply leads to dehydration; it can be the source of infection, e.g. leptospirosis, salmonellosis, or of poisoning, e.g.
 safety for regions and countries. The CDC publication "Health Information for International Travel" can be found at http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel/contentYellowBook.aspx.

Further Electronic Information

Department of State Web Site. Available on the Internet at http://www.state.gov/, the Department of State web site provides timely, global access to official U.S. foreign policy information, including Background Notes and daily press briefings along with the directory of key officers of Foreign Service posts and more. The Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC OSAC Overseas Security Advisory Council (US State Department)
OSAC Organization of Saskatchewan Arts Councils
OSAC Overseas Schools Advisory Council
OSAC Operational Support Airlift Command (United States Army) 
) provides security information and regional news that impact U.S. companies working abroad through its website http://www.osac.gov/

Export.gov provides a portal to all export-related assistance and market information offered by the federal government and provides trade leads, free export counseling, help with the export process, and more.

STAT-USA/Internet, a service of the U.S. Department of Commerce, provides authoritative economic, business, and international trade information from the Federal government. The site includes current and historical trade-related releases, international market research, trade opportunities, and country analysis and provides access to the National Trade Data Bank.
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Publication:Background Notes
Article Type:Country overview
Geographic Code:4EXLA
Date:Jan 1, 2009
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