Latvia. Latvia was shaken by high-level economic
corruption during the year. In February, the US Treasury
Department accused the Latvian big bank ABLV of extensive
money laundering, with suspected links, among other things,
to North Korea's nuclear weapons program. Then Latvian
Governor Ilmārs Rimšēvičs was arrested by the
anti-corruption agency KNAB accused of taking bribes. The
country's president held a crisis meeting. Rimšˉeviˇcs had
been Latvia's strong man through the financial crisis, and
he sat on the Council of the European Central Bank.
Countryaah.com, Rimšēvičs denied the allegations of about SEK 5 million
in bribes and paid vacation trip to Kamchatka in exchange
for helping a bank to comply with the regulations. Rimšēvičs
claimed that the banks were conspiring against him,
including ABLV who refused money laundering.
The government invited Rimšēvičs to resign, but he
refused. The investigation continued, and at the end of the
year, KNAB made sensational accusations that the Governor of
the Riksbank had submitted false information to the US about
money laundering in ABLV, this as revenge for not getting
bribes from the bank. The false information was assumed to
have led to the bank's liquidation.
During the spring, the Russian Baltic fleet held a large
exercise off Kaliningrad with artillery field against
targets in the air and in the sea. Latvia saw the exercise
as a conscious demonstration of strength and kept parts of
its airspace closed as it went on.
After unusually severe drought, the government issued a
state of emergency for agriculture. This meant, among other
things, that the banks were not allowed to foreclose with
farmers who could not pay their loans. In July, the area on
the Baltic Sea coast was devastated by severe forest fires.
Ahead of the October parliamentary elections, Social
Democratic and Russian-friendly Harmony led the polls. The
Middle-Right Government's Latvian-dominated parties had lost
much support, despite the country's recession from the
financial crisis and having the second fastest growing
economy in the EU. After a year of banking and financial
scandals, voters listened to new parties' populism and
The election was therefore a major defeat for the three
unity parties, the ZZS and the National Alliance. Together,
they received about a quarter of the vote and almost halved
from 61 to 32 seats in Parliament. Instead, three new
parties together won 45 seats: populist KPV LV,
anti-corruption party New Conservative Party and liberal
LA-KP. Two parties fell out of Parliament. The turnout was
just under 55%.
For the third election in a row, Harmony became the
largest party and took 23 of Parliament's 100 seats. But
Harmony was again put out of government, despite the fact
that the party had terminated its criticized cooperation
agreement with Vladimir Putin's power party United Russia.
The Latvian-dominated right and center parties negotiated
with each other but had difficulty agreeing.
Eurostat statistics showed that Latvia ranked third in
the EU after Sweden and Finland in terms of the share of
energy from renewable energy sources. More than 37% of
Latvian energy came from renewable sources.
Latvia seems to have the EU's most punctual train.
According to the Eurobarometer, the Latvians are most
satisfied with the train's ability to come and go on time,
while the Swedes are among the most dissatisfied.