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Latvia

Yearbook 1999

Latvia. In June, former Canadian national Vaira Vīke-Freiberga was elected new president, the first female president of any of the former Soviet republics. Her election was preceded by a series of votes in Parliament without a candidate getting a majority. The new president declared that L's accession to the EU and NATO would be her foreign policy priorities. In December, Vīke-Freiberga made an official visit to Sweden.

1999 Latvia

In early July, Prime Minister Vilis Kristopans resigned because of what he called an "atmosphere of mistrust" within the coalition government. While Kristopans had been abroad, the Conservative Party of Fosterland and Freedom (Tcvzemei un Brivibai) had on their own made up the largest opposition party, including the Conservative People's Party (Tautas party), on economic policy. Kristop's departure led L. to his eighth reign in as many years. Former Prime Minister Andris Skele formed in mid-July a coalition between his own party, the People's Party, the path of liberal Latvia (Latvija cels) and Fosterland and freedom. The new government was supported by 62 of Parliament's 100 members.

According to Countryaah official website, the previous year's Russian financial crisis saw a sharp decline in exports, and during the first half of 1999, growth fell by a few percent. The budget deficit grew and the government saw itself forced to make drastic cuts. In August, Parliament voted in favor of a proposal to reduce pensions and raise retirement age. The decision sparked strong popular protests, and the opposition managed to push a referendum before the proposal was formally approved. Prime Minister Andris Skele, who feared speculation on the Latvian currency if the proposal was voted down, took the unusual step of urging people not to take part in the referendum. He received harsh criticism for this, but the result was that only a quarter of the population voted, which was not enough for an approved result. Otherwise, 94% said no to the pension reform.

In December, the EU decided to open negotiations with L. on membership in the Union in 2000 - a long-awaited message for the government in Riga. At the same time, it was stated by the EU that much remains of adaptation for L.A. the reform of the judiciary and the intensified fight against corruption are required.

In time for the EU summit, the Latvian Parliament tried to remove an obstacle to membership by adopting a milder version of a controversial language law, which requires the use of Latvian at public gatherings. The earlier version, adopted during the summer, was considered discriminatory for the Russian minority and criticized by the Russian Federation and the EU.

President Vīke-Freiberga did not approve it and sent the proposal back to Parliament, which in December decided that Latvian is coercive only in the context of "the legitimate interests of society".

Latvia's contemporary history

Latvia's contemporary history is the country's history after 1991. Latvia became an independent state in 1920, but was incorporated into the Soviet Union in 1940. In the 1980s, a national awakening took place with demands for economic and political independence. During the coup d'état in the Soviet Union and the country's collapse in 1991, Latvia declared independence.

Empowerment process

The first free parliamentary elections were held in 1990. In the election of the Latvian Supreme Soviet (National Assembly), the Latvian People's Front, which supported Latvian independence, gained a majority in the upper Soviet with other nationalist groups. On May 4, 1990, the National Assembly passed a resolution declaring that the incorporation of Latvia into the Soviet Union in 1940 was illegal. In addition, four articles of the 1922 Constitution, which defined Latvia as an independent state, were adopted. Reform Communist Anatoly Gorbunovs was re-elected as head of the National Assembly (head of state), while Ivars Godmanis, deputy leader of the People's Front, became prime minister.

Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev declared the decisions of the Latvian National Assembly illegal. Following the Soviet attacks in Lithuania in January 1991, barricades were built in Riga, and unarmed people gathered in defense of the National Assembly, the Television House and other public buildings. On January 20, 1991, Soviet security forces stormed the Interior Ministry, killing five people.

Latvia held a referendum on March 2, 1991. 74 percent voted for independence from the Soviet Union. The last phase of the independence struggle was made easier by the failed coup d'état against Gorbachev in the Soviet Union on August 19, 1991. When the coup in Moscow collapsed, the National Assembly declared Latvia an independent state. Two days later, the Communist Party was banned. The leader of the party had supported the coup and was therefore arrested. A large number of states then recognized Latvia, including the Soviet Union.

In September 1991 Latvia joined the UN. In December 1991, most former Soviet republics formed the Commonwealth of Independent States, but Latvia and the other Baltic States chose to remain outside.

Independence and conflicts around citizenship

At independence, the Constitution of 1922 was reintroduced. This strong institutional continuity with the interwar period separates Latvia from the other Baltic states. In the fall of 1991, Parliament decided that only citizens of Latvia until 1940 and their descendants should be granted citizenship. Many then became stateless. But the decision made it clear that they could obtain citizenship if they could speak Latvian, had lived in Latvia for at least 16 years and were not citizens of other states. The decision was criticized by several European states and faced strong reactions in Russia. National issues and citizenship policy have created political turmoil in Latvia.

The new National Assembly, elected in the summer of 1993, reaffirmed the decision to introduce the Constitution of 1922. Due to the rules of citizenship, about 27 percent of the population was excluded from the elections. In early July, the National Assembly elected Guntis Ulmanis of the Peasant Union (LZS) as president. The largest party in the election was the center-right alliance "Latvia's Way" (LC) with 36 out of 100 seats. LC formed a government together with the Farmer Union, which got 12 representatives. Both of these parties were formed after the Popular Front disintegrated. In July 1994, the Farmer Union withdrew from government cooperation due to disagreement on industrial policy issues, and a protracted government crisis occurred, before LC formed a new government in the autumn with some smaller parties.

Parliament passed a new citizenship law in June 1994. It advocated a quota system that would eventually make it difficult for many Russians to become citizens. Following international pressure and increased concern that the new law would jeopardize Latvia's membership of the Council of Europe, the president was persuaded to reject the law. The National Assembly changed the law in July, and the disputed quota rules were removed. Latvia joined the Council of Europe in February 1995, almost two years after Estonia and Lithuania. In a 1998 referendum, the majority of Latvians voted yes to make it easier for Russians to gain access to Latvian citizenship.

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