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Latvia

Yearbook 2018

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.

2018 Latvia

According to 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 anti-corruption messages.

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.

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