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Latvia

Yearbook 1999

Latvia. In June, former Canadian national Vaira Vīke-Freiberga was elected new president, the first female president of any of the former Soviet republics. Her election was preceded by a series of votes in Parliament without a candidate getting a majority. The new president declared that L's accession to the EU and NATO would be her foreign policy priorities. In December, Vīke-Freiberga made an official visit to Sweden.

1999 Latvia

In early July, Prime Minister Vilis Kristopans resigned because of what he called an "atmosphere of mistrust" within the coalition government. While Kristopans had been abroad, the Conservative Party of Fosterland and Freedom (Tcvzemei un Brivibai) had on their own made up the largest opposition party, including the Conservative People's Party (Tautas party), on economic policy. Kristop's departure led L. to his eighth reign in as many years. Former Prime Minister Andris Skele formed in mid-July a coalition between his own party, the People's Party, the path of liberal Latvia (Latvija cels) and Fosterland and freedom. The new government was supported by 62 of Parliament's 100 members.

According to Countryaah official website, the previous year's Russian financial crisis saw a sharp decline in exports, and during the first half of 1999, growth fell by a few percent. The budget deficit grew and the government saw itself forced to make drastic cuts. In August, Parliament voted in favor of a proposal to reduce pensions and raise retirement age. The decision sparked strong popular protests, and the opposition managed to push a referendum before the proposal was formally approved. Prime Minister Andris Skele, who feared speculation on the Latvian currency if the proposal was voted down, took the unusual step of urging people not to take part in the referendum. He received harsh criticism for this, but the result was that only a quarter of the population voted, which was not enough for an approved result. Otherwise, 94% said no to the pension reform.

In December, the EU decided to open negotiations with L. on membership in the Union in 2000 - a long-awaited message for the government in Riga. At the same time, it was stated by the EU that much remains of adaptation for L.A. the reform of the judiciary and the intensified fight against corruption are required.

In time for the EU summit, the Latvian Parliament tried to remove an obstacle to membership by adopting a milder version of a controversial language law, which requires the use of Latvian at public gatherings. The earlier version, adopted during the summer, was considered discriminatory for the Russian minority and criticized by the Russian Federation and the EU.

President Vīke-Freiberga did not approve it and sent the proposal back to Parliament, which in December decided that Latvian is coercive only in the context of "the legitimate interests of society".

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