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Latvian report Latvian report
by Euro Reporter
2011-06-26 10:51:33
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Latvia says could seek NATO support over Mistral threat

Latvia will ask NATO for support if Russia deploys French-built Mistral warships in the Baltic Sea because it would change the balance of forces in the region, Defence Minister Artis Pabriks said on Wednesday.  Russia and France signed last Friday a $1.7 billion (1.2 bln euro) contract on two French-built Mistral class amphibious assault ships for the Russian Navy, which includes the transfer of sensitive technologies.

"If these helicopter carriers appear in the Baltic Sea, Latvia will ask France and NATO in general for military and political support," Pabriks said. "The size of this support should be adequate to restore the balance of forces in the region."  Latvia, a former Soviet republic, joined the 28-member bloc together with other Baltic states in 2004. Russian Defence Minister Anatoly Serdyukov said on Tuesday that it was too early to determine the future deployment of the warships, as the first ship will be delivered to Russia in 2014 and the second in 2015.

"Let us build the ships first and then think about their use. We have some plans and we will make them public when the ships are almost ready," he said. A Mistral class ship is capable of carrying 16 helicopters, four landing vessels, 70 armoured vehicles, and 450 personnel. The Russian military insists that the use of Mistral class ships will significantly increase the effectiveness of peacekeeping and humanitarian operations.


Latvian coin featuring beer mug 'amounts to hidden alcohol advertising'

The silver coloured one Lat coin (which is worth about £1.30) was released earlier this month to mark the Baltic country's midsummer solstice festival where beer drinking looms large. But the former Soviet republic's health ministry took exception to the new coin, writing an angry letter to the Bank of Latvia alleging that releasing one million coins with a frothy stein of beer on one side amounted to illegal alcohol advertising.

"The coin contradicts our efforts to cut down on the consumption of alcohol in society," the health ministry complained. It seems that the Bank of Latvia's press release accompanying the issue of the new coin caught the health ministry's eye too. It waxed lyrical about beer's positive qualities, noting that it was a well known cure against insomnia and had been used in the past for semi-medical purposes. "After water and tea, beer is the third most popular beverage in the world," the Bank of Latvia enthused. "The builders of the Egyptian pyramids were given three vessels of beer a day." A spokesman for the bank dismissed the health ministry's criticism as "not serious" however. "We might as well ban national traditions and the midsummer solstice itself (according to their logic)," he said.

Strongly denying that it amounted to hidden alcohol advertising, he said the health ministry's criticism had only increased interest in the new coin and that Latvians were queuing up outside the bank's branches to get hold of one. In the throes of an anti-alcohol campaign, the health ministry also wrote to a school which tested final year pupils on the history of Scotch whisky as part of an oral exam this year, complaining that the topic was "unacceptable."


Latvia considering more bond sales abroad

Latvia wants to tap international bond markets later this year or at the beginning of 2012 after a successful sale of $500 million in government debt earlier this month, Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis said. The country, which got a 7.5 billion-euro ($10.7 billion) rescue loan from the European Union and International Monetary Fund in 2008, is working to lower its budget deficit next year and reduce inflation to levels that would allow adoption of the euro in 2014. The Baltic nation’s economy will grow at least 3.3 percent this year after shrinking 18 percent in 2009, according to government estimates.

“We don’t want to borrow anymore from the international loan package we’re receiving from the IMF and the European Commission and instead meet our financing needs from the market,” Dombrovskis said today in an interview in Brussels.

Latvia’s first international offer since receiving the rescue package in 2008 was seven times oversubscribed and the yield on the 10-year dollar-bond was 5.491 percent. That’s around a third of what investors are demanding for Greek debt and less than half of yields for 10-year bonds of Portugal and Ireland, two other euro members that have received EU bailouts. The government is waiting for an “appropriate moment given what is happening on the market, the electoral calendar and some other factors,” Dombrovski, who was in Brussels for a two-day EU summit, said.

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