By Imants Liegis, Latvia’s ambassador to Hungary
This Saturday marks the 25th anniversary of the world’s biggest and longest, peaceful, mass demonstration.
On August 23, 1989, some 2m Latvians, Estonians and Lithuanians held hands to form a human chain, 600km long, linking all three capital cities, from Tallinn, Estonia, in the north, via Riga in Latvia to Vilnius in the south-west – at a time when all three nations were still forcibly incorporated into the Soviet Union.
Dubbed the Baltic Way, this long thin line of humanity finally linked up at 7.00 that evening. Read more
By Mike Collier of bne in Riga
With the Russian military heading westwards in a move similar to the ”invited annexation” that saw Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania lose their independence in 1940, it’s hardly surprising the Baltic states are watching events in Ukraine’s Crimea warily. Upcoming elections and a controversial parade to honour soldiers who fought alongside the Nazis will create plenty of flashpoints in these countries with large ethnic Russian minorities. Read more
Gateway to Europe no more?
What do you do if you have a Russian passport, available funds, and want to get long-term travel documents for the Schengen area (the 26 European countries that have abolished passport and immigration controls at their common borders)? For many, over the last three years, the answer has been simple: head to Latvia and make use of its programme of residence permits for foreign investors.
But not for long, perhaps. Immigration legislation is on the agenda, and is the subject of a big poitical debate. Read more
A mixed picture for the prospects of an economic recovery emerging Europe, according to Monday’s forecast from the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development.
The EBRD found that the more advanced countries of central Europe will probably do a bit better than expected next year, while the rest of the post-communist region is sputtering. Read more
Latvia is a small country perched on the northern fringe of the European Union but its remarkable experience during the economic crisis has made it a favourite talking point among economists. Read more
By Erik Berglof of the EBRD
Latvia has just been given the green light by the European Commission to enter the eurozone. What Latvia has achieved in the period since it was rescued by the international community in 2009 is nothing short of remarkable. This achievement is now used as an example for the countries in southern Europe of how to restore growth and competitiveness. Read more
Time to loosen those belts, as the European Commission let a host of CEE countries out from under its excessive deficit procedures – evidence that Brussels is keen on boosting growth.
Hungary, Romania and Latvia were allowed to exit the EU’s excessive deficit procedure, which they had been put into for running deficits above the permitted threshold of 3 per cent of GDP. More mixed news from Poland, which gained an extra two years to bring its deficit into line with requirements. Read more
Latvia hopes to become the 18th EU member state to join the eurozone. Estonia became the 17th in 2011. The FT’s Nordic and Baltic correspondent Richard Milne spoke to the President of Estonia, Toomas Hendrik Ilves, about his country’s experience in the eurozone and his advice to Latvia.
By Otilia Simkova of Eurasia Group
In the midst of the mayhem over Cyprus, some observers of Europe’s banking crisis noticed another small country – Latvia.
The Baltic country made headlines when it applied to join the eurozone by January 2014, pushing ahead despite doubts about the benefits of accession. Now it risks making news again for another reason: non-resident deposits. Foreign money, especially from Russia, has been trickling in. Read more
A vote of confidence in the euro: Latvia on Monday formally decided to join the troubled common currency, with the prime minister, finance minister and central bank governor jointly signing the application.
It might not make headlines in the ECB’s headquarters in Frankfurt. But for Riga this is big news – its most important economic decision since it joined the European Union in 2004. Read more
Economic growth of 3 per cent in the eurozone? It sounds like a statistical error at a time when the common currency area is braced for a 0.4 per cent drop. But Estonia is set to record a 3 per cent expansion in 2012, nearly double the government’s forecast at the start of the year. And officials expect another 3 per cent in 2013.
Much of this is a rebound from the extra-severe shock that passed through Estonia and the other two Baltic states of Latvia and Lithuania in 2009 when Estonian GDP dropped by a cumulative 18 per cent. Read more
Hillary Clinton and Latvian foreign minister Edgars Rinkevics
Visiting Latvia on Thursday, Hillary Clinton praised the Baltic state for taking “very difficult” austerity measures that would ensure a “stable, prosperous future”.
But is the Baltic austerity model everything it’s cracked up to be? In this post on The World blog, Neil Buckley examines the case. Read more
There is life after austerity. Latvia on Thursday reported 6.8 per cent GDP growth in the first quarter of 2012, the fastest rate in the EU.
The small Baltic state suffered the worst recession in Europe, when GDP collapsed by by nearly 25 per cent in 2009-10. But a tough austerity programme has helped stabilise the economy, pave the way to recovery and put Latvia in a position to possibly join the euro. A lesson for Greece if ever there was one. Read more
The Latvian government is hell-bent on joining the eurozone by January 2014 even though the move is unpopular among its people. Well, the government will be cheered and the people perhaps dismayed after Standard & Poor’s, the ratings agency, promoted the country to investment grade on Wednesday and applauded the government’s progress. Read more
By Sergei Kuznetsov of business new europe
Sberbank, the Russian banking giant, is preparing to expand into the Baltic states, bne can reveal. In the first step, BPS-Sberbank, its Belarus operation, will open a subsidiary in Latvia. Read more
The mood turned sour again on European markets on Monday, as fresh worries about Greece rattled investors’ nerves. But that didn’t stop Lithuania getting a one-year bond auction away at a pretty impressive yield, on the day the country said its economy grew by a healthy 4.3 per cent last year.
Nevertheless, a glance behind the headline figures suggests that even where things look cheerful, investors should be cautious. Read more
Latvia cancelled an auction of ten-year bonds on Tuesday after regulators suspended operations at Latvijas Krajbanka, a small bank owned by the troubled Snoras Bank of Lithuania, taken over by authorities last week.
So that’s two failed banks and a bond strike, soon after yields on Slovenia’s ten year bonds hit new highs. The smaller countries of peripheral Europe are beginning to look like canaries in coal mines. Read more
As parts of the eurozone brace for a possible double-dip recession next year, the outlook for the emerging countries in central and eastern Europe looks a lot more resilient, according to a new report from Austria’s Erste Bank.
The key to the rosier outlook for the CEE region is that it looks to be a lot less vulnerable to external turbulence than was the case in 2008 and 2009. Read more
Manufacturing across central and eastern Europe is losing steam. Purchasing managers indices released on Monday added to the signs of slowing recovery, as the eurozone’s worries continue to spill over into neighbouring countries.
But while factory activity is shrinking, factory owners are still betting on a turnaround. Read more
When Latvia’s then-president Valdis Zatlers called in May for a referendum to dissolve parliament, many thought he was committing political suicide.
Fast forward two months and Zatlers is firmly back in the political game, at the head of a new party. But the self-proclaimed progressive reformer’s resurgence has been accompanied by other developments that are unsettling investors. Read more