Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Arresting movement in Latvian crisis

Following my post a couple of days ago about the shenanigans going on in Riga, I can now provide an update. It appears things are getting very messy over there.
Prime Minister seeks to withdraw controversial Security law revisions

Prime Minister Kalvitis has responded to President Vike Freiberga´s step to delay publication of Security Law revisions that in her words, "threatened" the external and internal security of Latvia. The President maintained that NATO secrets could be compromised and that internal criminal investigations could be held up if outside advisors and Cabinet Information Analysis Agency staff gained access to secret files without current clearance procedures.

The Prime Minister (People´s party) has said that all the changes should be withdrawn and that "we should start from zero". Head of the Judiciary Committee, Mareks Seglins (People´s Party) head, announced that, "Perhaps we made a mistake in (first) adopting the measures by emergency decree." Seglins believes that the President perhaps was not "fully informed" or had misunderstood the legislation. (dailies "Diena", "Latvijas Avize")

The new positions signal a reluctance to have the legislation put up for a national referendum as the President´s refusal to publish the law for two months would demand according to the Constitution. People´s Party spokesmen have asserted that if the measures are withdrawn or revised, then there is nothing to have a referendum about. However, the Saeima´s chief judicial expert Gunars Kusins states that it is not entirely clear if the process toward a referendum can be stopped. Consultations are taking place with Cabinet and Presidential legal staff to outline options.

Meanwhile, opposition "New Era" party representatives have stated that a referendum is necessary to prevent the government from backtracking once President Vike-Freiberga leaves office in June. Many experts say that such a referendum would in fact be a vote of confidence on the government. First, 10% of voters must sign a petition to have a referendum.

Influential Latvian "oligarch" Ventspils Mayor Aivars Lembergs arrested

Mr. Lembergs, one of the presumed "oligarchs" accused by the President of possibly benefiting from recently adopted changes to Latvia´s Security law, was arrested today. Swiss documents reportedly received by the General Prosecutor´s office may have confirmed that: "Since 1994 Lembergs has been a secret shareholder of (Ventspils company)´Kalija Parks´." (, 14.03.07) Mr. Lembergs is also reported to have allegedly accepted the shares as a bribe. The Prosecutor´s office has refused to comment as of now.

Mr. Lembergs was the Prime ministerial candidate of the Latvian Farmers´/Greens electoral union. Although not a candidate for parliament, Mr. Lembergs´ supported party gained 18% of seats in the Saeima. Mr. Lembergs has regularly attended meetings of the four party government coalition council (People´s party, Farmers/Greens Union, First Party/Latvian Way, Fatherland and Freedom/LNNK). Prime Minister Kalvitis has denied any knowledge of "oligarch" interference in government decision-making. "I am the guarantor of stability", said Mr. Kalvitis, stating that decisions are made solely within the government while he is the Prime Minister.

President Vike-Freiberga today stated that the arrest creates "very serious consequences" and has discussed the matter with Prime Minister Kalvitis. Mr. Kalvitis has responded that: "Of course, if the situation is serious Lembergs will not participate in coalition council meetings".

This briefing was produced bythe European Parliament's office in Riga.

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