Latvia. According to
Countryaah.com, Latvia's population continued to decline at a
worrying rate during the year. Birth rates for the first
quarter of the year decreased significantly compared to the
corresponding period the year before, and at the same time
the death rates increased. The Ministry of Education
statistics show that the number of schoolchildren has
dropped by almost a quarter in twelve years.
The Ministry announced that the country's school system
should be radically changed. The intention is to move to
more modern and more creative teaching, with a look at the
schools in Scandinavia, to train the students in critical
and analytical thinking. When Latvia became independent from
the Soviet Union in 1991, what the schools taught changed,
but very old teaching methods have remained.
President Raimonds Vējonis criticized the government for
not doing enough against the widespread tax fraud. The gray
economy is estimated at more than one fifth of GDP. The
President called for measures against wages under the table,
unrecognized income and VAT cheating. A survey by the Global
Fraud Survey showed that 58% of private and public employees
at the managerial level in Latvia believe corruption is
widespread. The corresponding figure for Swedish respondents
was 4%. According to a study by the Council of Europe,
Latvia has become one of several money laundering centers
for Russian organized crime. During the year, the Swedish
Financial Supervisory Authority fined five banks with high
amounts, partly because of interference in attempts to
circumvent international sanctions against North Korea.
The government of Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania signed an
agreement on the construction of Rail Baltica until 2025.
Fast tracks will connect Helsinki (via ferry) through the
Baltics and Poland to Berlin. Traveling time by train from
Tallinn to Berlin should be reduced from the current 60
hours to just over 10 hours.
In June, an illegal landfill with over 20,000 tonnes of
plastic was burned in the resort of Jurmala on the Baltic
Sea coast. The fire spread large clouds of toxic smoke. Some
of the garbage had been shipped from Sweden, and the Swedish
Minister of the Environment apologized to those affected in
The former leading government party Unity was in crisis
with internal power struggles and opinion polls pointing to
disaster elections 2018. Several MPs left the party and
formed a new liberal party.
The National Party Alliance proposed a tightening of the
Language Act for public officials with fines of EUR 700 for
individuals and up to EUR 10,000 for legal persons if a
language (Russian) other than Latvian is used in official
contexts. According to the proposal, repeated wrongdoing
should lead to suspension of service for up to three years.
President Vējonis initiated a legislative change that
would make it impossible for children to be born stateless
in Latvia. Children born in Latvia to stateless parents
should automatically be granted citizenship, according to
the president. Parliament rejected the proposal in
September, after the National Alliance vetoed the tripartite
During the year, NATO stationed around 1,000 soldiers in
Latvia to provide the Baltic state with increased protection
in the shadow of Russian military armament following the
Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014. NATO troops came from
several countries and were under Canadian command.
Unemployment fell to around 7% during the year, the
lowest figure in eight years. The average income in Latvia
during the second quarter was EUR 927, while the minimum
wage for the year was EUR 380 (about SEK 3,600) compared
with, for example, Germany's close to EUR 1,500 a month.