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.
According to Countryaah.com, Riga is the capital city of Latvia, a country located in Northern Europe. 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.
New restrictions to stop the spread of infection
Authorities are tightening restrictions to prevent the spread of coronavirus. Mouthguards are now mandatory in all public places, including shops, cultural institutions and churches. Previously, the requirement for mouth protection only applied in public transport. Restaurants and bars may not be open after midnight and a maximum of four people may sit at the same table. At social events indoors, a maximum of 30 people may attend and outdoors the limit is 300. To date, 2,840 infected people have been registered in the country and 41 people have died of causes related to covid-19.
The ambassador to Belarus is called home
In solidarity with Lithuania and Poland, Latvia is recalling the country’s ambassador from Belarus. Both Lithuania and Poland have previously recalled their ambassadors from Minsk after the countries were asked to scale down their respective representation in the capital. Belarus accuses Lithuania and Poland of interfering in the country’s internal affairs by backing the forces questioning Alexander Lukashenko’s victory in the Belarusian presidential election in August.
Baltic sanctions against Belarus
Latvia, along with Estonia and Lithuania, is imposing sanctions on President Lukashenko and 29 other officials in neighboring Belarus, linked to cheating in the country’s presidential election on 9 August. Other EU countries are also planning sanctions such as travel bans and asset freezes, but they have not yet agreed on which Belarusian people will be covered.