Europe :: Latvia

Introduction ::Latvia

    The name "Latvia" originates from the ancient Latgalians, one of four eastern Baltic tribes that formed the ethnic core of the Latvian people (ca. 8th-12th centuries A.D.). The region subsequently came under the control of Germans, Poles, Swedes, and finally, Russians. A Latvian republic emerged following World War I, but it was annexed by the USSR in 1940 - an action never recognized by the US and many other countries. Latvia reestablished its independence in 1991 following the breakup of the Soviet Union. Although the last Russian troops left in 1994, the status of the Russian minority (some 28% of the population) remains of concern to Moscow. Latvia joined both NATO and the EU in the spring of 2004.

Geography ::Latvia

    Eastern Europe, bordering the Baltic Sea, between Estonia and Lithuania
    57 00 N, 25 00 E
    total: 64,589 sq km
    country comparison to the world: 124
    land: 62,249 sq km
    water: 2,340 sq km
    slightly larger than West Virginia
    total: 1,382 km
    border countries: Belarus 171 km, Estonia 343 km, Lithuania 576 km, Russia 292 km
    498 km
    territorial sea: 12 nm
    exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
    continental shelf: 200 m depth or to the depth of exploitation
    maritime; wet, moderate winters
    low plain
    lowest point: Baltic Sea 0 m
    highest point: Gaizina Kalns 312 m
    peat, limestone, dolomite, amber, hydropower, timber, arable land
    arable land: 17.96%
    permanent crops: 0.11%
    other: 81.93% (2011)
    8.3 sq km
    note: land in Latvia is often too wet and in need of drainage not irrigation; approximately 16,000 sq km or 85% of agricultural land has been improved by drainage (2007)
    35.45 cu km (2011)
    total: 0.42 cu km/yr (42%/45%/13%)
    per capita: 177.9 cu m/yr (2007)
    Latvia's environment has benefited from a shift to service industries after the country regained independence; the main environmental priorities are improvement of drinking water quality and sewage system, household, and hazardous waste management, as well as reduction of air pollution; in 2001, Latvia closed the EU accession negotiation chapter on environment committing to full enforcement of EU environmental directives by 2010
    party to: Air Pollution, Air Pollution-Persistent Organic Pollutants, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands
    signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements
    most of the country is composed of fertile low-lying plains with some hills in the east

People and Society ::Latvia

Government ::Latvia

    conventional long form: Republic of Latvia
    conventional short form: Latvia
    local long form: Latvijas Republika
    local short form: Latvija
    former: Latvian Soviet Socialist Republic
    parliamentary democracy
    name: Riga
    geographic coordinates: 56 57 N, 24 06 E
    time difference: UTC+2 (7 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)
    daylight saving time: +1hr, begins last Sunday in March; ends last Sunday in October
    110 municipalities (novadi, singular-novads) and 9 cities
    municipalities: Adazu Novads, Aglonas Novads, Aizkraukles Novads, Aizputes Novads, Aknistes Novads, Alojas Novads, Alsungas Novads, Aluksnes Novads, Amatas Novads, Apes Novads, Auces Novads, Babites Novads, Baldones Novads, Baltinavas Novads, Balvu Novads, Bauskas Novads, Beverinas Novads, Brocenu Novads, Burtnieku Novads, Carnikavas Novads, Cesu Novads, Cesvaines Novads, Ciblas Novads, Dagdas Novads, Daugavpils Novads, Dobeles Novads, Dundagas Novads, Durbes Novads, Engures Novads, Erglu Novads, Garkalnes Novads, Grobinas Novads, Gulbenes Novads, Iecavas Novads, Ikskiles Novads, Ilukstes Novads, Incukalna Novads, Jaunjelgavas Novads, Jaunpiebalgas Novads, Jaunpils Novads, Jekabpils Novads, Jelgavas Novads, Kandavas Novads, Karsavas Novads, Keguma Novads, Kekavas Novads, Kocenu Novads, Kokneses Novads, Kraslavas Novads, Krimuldas Novads, Krustpils Novads, Kuldigas Novads, Lielvardes Novads, Ligatnes Novads, Limbazu Novads, Livanu Novads, Lubanas Novads, Ludzas Novads, Madonas Novads, Malpils Novads, Marupes Novads, Mazsalacas Novads, Mersraga Novads, Nauksenu Novads, Neretas Novads, Nicas Novads, Ogres Novads, Olaines Novads, Ozolnieku Novads, Pargaujas Novads, Pavilostas Novads, Plavinu Novads, Preilu Novads, Priekules Novads, Priekulu Novads, Raunas Novads, Rezeknes Novads, Riebinu Novads, Rojas Novads, Ropazu Novads, Rucavas Novads, Rugaju Novads, Rujienas Novads, Rundales Novads, Salacgrivas Novads, Salas Novads, Salaspils Novads, Saldus Novads, Saulkrastu Novads, Sejas Novads, Siguldas Novads, Skriveru Novads, Skrundas Novads, Smiltenes Novads, Stopinu Novads, Strencu Novads, Talsu Novads, Tervetes Novads, Tukuma Novads, Vainodes Novads, Valkas Novads, Varaklanu Novads, Varkavas Novads, Vecpiebalgas Novads, Vecumnieku Novads, Ventspils Novads, Viesites Novads, Vilakas Novads, Vilanu Novads, Zilupes Novads
    cities: Daugavpils, Jekabpils, Jelgava, Jurmala, Liepaja, Rezekne, Riga, Valmiera, Ventspils
    4 May 1990 (declared); 6 September 1991 (recognized by the Soviet Union)
    Independence Day, 18 November (1918); note - 18 November 1918 was the date Latvia declared independence from Soviet Russia and established its statehood; 4 May 1990 was the date it declared its independence from the Soviet Union
    15 February 1922; restored to force by the Constitutional Law of the Republic of Latvia adopted by the Supreme Council 21 August 1991; multiple amendments since
    civil law system with traces of socialist legal traditions and practices
    has not submitted an ICJ jurisdiction declaration; accepts ICCt jurisdiction
    18 years of age; universal for Latvian citizens
    chief of state: President Andris BERZINS (since 8 July 2011)
    head of government: Prime Minister Valdis DOMBROVSKIS (since 12 March 2009)
    cabinet: Cabinet of Ministers nominated by the prime minister and appointed by Parliament
    (For more information visit the World Leaders website Opens in New Window)
    elections: president elected by Parliament for a four-year term (eligible for a second term); election last held on 2 June 2011 (next to be held in 2015); prime minister appointed by the president, confirmed by Parliament
    election results: Andris BERZINS elected president; parliamentary vote - Andris BERZINS 53, Valdis ZATLERS 41
    unicameral Parliament or Saeima (100 seats; members elected by proportional representation from party lists by popular vote to serve four-year terms)
    elections: last held on 17 September 2011 (next to be held in October 2014)
    election results: percent of vote by party - SC 28.4%, Reform 20.8%, Unity 18.8%, National Alliance 13.9%, ZZS 12.2%, other 5.9%; seats by party - SC 31, Unity 20, Reform 16, National Alliance 14, ZZS 13, unaffiliated 6
    highest court(s): Supreme Court (consists of the Senate with 27 judges and Supreme Court of Chambers with 22 judges); Constitutional Court (consists of 7 judges)
    judge selection and term of office: Supreme Court judges nominated by chief justice and confirmed by the Saeima; judges serve until age 70, but term can be extended 2 years; Constitutional Court judges - 3 nominated by Saeima members, 2 by Cabinet ministers, and 2 by plenum of Supreme Court; all judges confirmed by Saeima majority vote; Constitutional Court president and vice president serve in their positions for 3 years; all judges serve 10-year terms; mandatory retirement at age 70
    subordinate courts: district (city) and regional courts
    Union of Greens and Farmers or ZZS [Raimonds VEJONIS]
    Harmony Center or SC [Nils USAKOVS]
    National Alliance "All For Latvia!"-"For Fatherland and Freedom/LNNK" or NA [Gaidis BERZINS, Raivis DZINTARS]
    Unity [Solvita ABOLTINA]
    Reform Party or RP [Valdis ZATLERS]
    Free Trade Union Confederation of Latvia [Peteris KRIGERS]
    Employers' Confederation of Latvia [Vitalijs GAVRILOVS]
    Farmers' Parliament [Juris LAZDINS]
    Australia Group, BA, BIS, CBSS, CD, CE, EAPC, EBRD, EIB, EU, FAO, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICC (NGOs), ICRM, IDA, IFC, IFRCS, IHO, ILO, IMF, IMO, IMSO, Interpol, IOC, IOM, IPU, ISO (correspondent), ITU, ITUC (NGOs), MIGA, NATO, NIB, NSG, OAS (observer), OIF (observer), OPCW, OSCE, PCA, Schengen Convention, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNWTO, UPU, WCO, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO
    chief of mission: Ambassador Andris RAZANS
    chancery: 2306 Massachusetts Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20008
    telephone: [1] (202) 328-2840
    FAX: [1] (202) 328-2860
    chief of mission: Ambassador Mark PEKALA
    embassy: 1 Samnera Velsa St, Riga LV-1510
    mailing address: Embassy of the United States of America, 1 Samnera Velsa St, Riga, LV-1510, Latvia
    telephone: [371] 6710-7000
    FAX: [371] 6710-7050
    three horizontal bands of maroon (top), white (half-width), and maroon; the flag is one of the older banners in the world; a medieval chronicle mentions a red standard with a white stripe being used by Latvian tribes in about 1280
    white wagtail (bird)
    name: "Dievs, sveti Latviju!" (God Bless Latvia)

    lyrics/music: Karlis BAUMANIS
    note: adopted 1920, restored 1990; the song was first performed in 1873 while Latvia was a part of Russia; the anthem was banned during the Soviet occupation from 1940 to 1990

Economy ::Latvia

    Latvia is a small, open economy with exports contributing nearly a third of GDP. Due to its geographical location, transit services are highly-developed, along with timber and wood-processing, agriculture and food products, and manufacturing of machinery and electronics industries. Corruption continues to be an impediment to attracting foreign direct investment and Latvia's low birth rate and decreasing population are major challenges to its long-term economic vitality. Latvia's economy experienced GDP growth of more than 10% per year during 2006-07, but entered a severe recession in 2008 as a result of an unsustainable current account deficit and large debt exposure amid the softening world economy. Triggered by the collapse of the second largest bank, GDP plunged 18% in 2009. The economy has not returned to pre-crisis levels despite strong growth, especially in the export sector in 2011-12. The IMF, EU, and other international donors provided substantial financial assistance to Latvia as part of an agreement to defend the currency''s peg to the euro in exchange for the government''s commitment to stringent austerity measures. The IMF/EU program successfully concluded in December 2011. The government of Prime Minister Valdis DOMBROVSKIS remained committed to fiscal prudence and reducing the fiscal deficit from 7.7% of GDP in 2010, to 2.7% of GDP in 2012. The majority of companies, banks, and real estate have been privatized, although the state still holds sizable stakes in a few large enterprises, including 99.8% ownership of the Latvian national airline. Latvia officially joined the World Trade Organization in February 1999 and the EU in May 2004. Latvia intends to join the euro zone in 2014.
    $37.88 billion (2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 107
    $35.88 billion (2011 est.)
    $34.02 billion (2010 est.)
    note: data are in 2012 US dollars
    $28.38 billion (2012 est.)
    5.6% (2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 51
    5.5% (2011 est.)
    -0.9% (2010 est.)
    $18,600 (2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 73
    $17,300 (2011 est.)
    $16,000 (2010 est.)
    note: data are in 2012 US dollars
    25.2% of GDP (2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 41
    25.2% of GDP (2011 est.)
    22.9% of GDP (2010 est.)
    household consumption: 62%
    government consumption: 15.5%
    investment in fixed capital: 23%
    investment in inventories: 4%
    exports of goods and services: 59%
    imports of goods and services: -63.6%
    (2012 est.)
    agriculture: 5.1%
    industry: 25.2%
    services: 69.6% (2012 est.)
    grain, rapeseed, potatoes, vegetables; pork, poultry, milk, eggs; fish
    processed foods, processed wood products, textiles, processed metals, pharmaceuticals, railroad cars, synthetic fibers, electronics
    7.8% (2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 23
    1.012 million (2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 142
    agriculture: 8.8%
    industry: 24%
    services: 67.2% (2010 est.)
    14.3% (2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 140
    12.8% (2011 est.)
    lowest 10%: 2.7%
    highest 10%: 27.6% (2008)
    35.2 (2010)
    country comparison to the world: 88
    32 (1999)
    revenues: $9.765 billion
    expenditures: $9.727 billion (2012 est.)
    34.4% of GDP (2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 68
    0.1% of GDP (2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 44
    39.2% of GDP (2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 89
    42.2% of GDP (2011 est.)
    note: data cover general government debt, and includes debt instruments issued (or owned) by government entities, including sub-sectors of central government, state government, local government, and social security funds
    calendar year
    2.3% (2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 56
    4.4% (2011 est.)
    3.5% (31 December 2011 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 98
    3.5% (31 December 2010 est.)
    6% (31 December 2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 136
    6.39% (31 December 2011 est.)
    $8.293 billion (31 December 2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 79
    $8.174 billion (31 December 2011 est.)
    $12.09 billion (31 December 2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 100
    $12.12 billion (31 December 2011 est.)
    $19.77 billion (31 December 2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 83
    $21.08 billion (31 December 2011 est.)
    $1.076 billion (31 December 2011)
    country comparison to the world: 106
    $1.252 billion (31 December 2010)
    $1.824 billion (31 December 2009)
    -$462.9 million (2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 93
    -$363 million (2011 est.)
    $12.49 billion (2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 85
    $12.03 billion (2011 est.)
    food products, wood and wood products, metals, machinery and equipment, textiles
    Russia 18.3%, Lithuania 15%, Estonia 12%, Germany 7.2%, Poland 5.6%, Sweden 4.8% (2012)
    $16.08 billion (2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 85
    $14.83 billion (2011 est.)
    machinery and equipment, consumer goods, chemicals, fuels, vehicles
    Lithuania 18.9%, Germany 11.5%, Russia 9.3%, Poland 8.1%, Estonia 7.5%, Italy 4.6%, Finland 4.4% (2012)
    $6.925 billion (31 December 2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 81
    $6.383 billion (31 December 2011 est.)
    $39.81 billion (31 December 2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 65
    $38.06 billion (31 December 2011 est.)
    $13.01 billion (31 December 2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 80
    $12.11 billion (31 December 2011 est.)
    $1.037 billion (31 December 2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 77
    $887 million (31 December 2011 est.)
    lati (LVL) per US dollar -
    0.5467 (2012 est.)
    0.5012 (2011 est.)
    0.5305 (2010 est.)
    0.5056 (2009)
    0.4701 (2008)

Energy ::Latvia

Communications ::Latvia

    516,300 (2011)
    country comparison to the world: 97
    2.309 million (2011)
    country comparison to the world: 134
    general assessment: recent efforts focused on bringing competition to the telecommunications sector; the number of fixed lines is decreasing as mobile-cellular telephone service expands
    domestic: number of telecommunications operators has grown rapidly since the fixed-line market opened to competition in 2003; combined fixed-line and mobile-cellular subscribership roughly 150 per 100 persons
    international: country code - 371; the Latvian network is now connected via fiber optic cable to Estonia, Finland, and Sweden (2008)
    several national and regional commercial TV stations are foreign-owned, 2 national TV stations are publicly owned; system supplemented by privately owned regional and local TV stations; cable and satellite multi-channel TV services with domestic and foreign broadcasts available; publicly owned broadcaster operates 4 radio networks with dozens of stations throughout the country; dozens of private broadcasters also operate radio stations (2007)
    359,604 (2012)
    country comparison to the world: 58
    1.504 million (2009)
    country comparison to the world: 81

Transportation ::Latvia

    42 (2013)
    country comparison to the world: 101
    total: 18
    over 3,047 m: 1
    2,438 to 3,047 m: 3
    1,524 to 2,437 m: 4
    914 to 1,523 m: 3
    under 914 m: 7 (2013)
    total: 24
    under 914 m:
    24 (2013)
    1 (2013)
    gas 928 km; refined products 415 km (2013)
    total: 2,239 km
    country comparison to the world: 67
    broad gauge: 2,206 km 1.520-m gauge
    narrow gauge: 33 km 0.750-m gauge (2008)
    total: 73,074 km
    country comparison to the world: 65
    paved: 14,459 km
    unpaved: 58,615 km (2010)
    300 km (navigable year round) (2010)
    country comparison to the world: 93
    total: 11
    country comparison to the world: 113
    by type: cargo 3, chemical tanker 1, passenger/cargo 4, petroleum tanker 2, roll on/roll off 1
    foreign-owned: 3 (Estonia 3)
    registered in other countries: 79 (Antigua and Barbuda 16, Belize 9, Comoros 2, Dominica 2, Georgia 1, Liberia 5, Malta 8, Marshall Islands 19, Russia 2, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines 15) (2010)
    Riga, Ventspils

Military ::Latvia

Transnational Issues ::Latvia

    Russia demands better Latvian treatment of ethnic Russians in Latvia; boundary demarcated with Latvia and Lithuania; the Latvian parliament has not ratified its 1998 maritime boundary treaty with Lithuania, primarily due to concerns over oil exploration rights; as a member state that forms part of the EU's external border, Latvia has implemented the strict Schengen border rules with Russia
    stateless persons: 280,759 (2012); note - individuals who were Latvian citizens prior to the 1940 Soviet occupation and their descendants were recognized as Latvian citizens when the country's independence was restored in 1991; citizens of the former Soviet Union residing in Latvia who have neither Latvian nor other citizenship are considered non-citizens (officially there is no statelessness in Latvia) and are entitled to non-citizen passports; children born after Latvian independence to stateless parents are entitled to Latvian citizenship upon their parents' request; non-citizens cannot vote or hold certain government jobs and are exempt from military service but can travel visa-free in the EU under the Schengen accord like Latvian citizens; non-citizens can obtain naturalization if they have been permanent residents of Latvia for at least five years, pass tests in Latvian language and history, and know the words of the Latvian national anthem
    transshipment and destination point for cocaine, synthetic drugs, opiates, and cannabis from Southwest Asia, Western Europe, Latin America, and neighboring Balkan countries; despite improved legislation, vulnerable to money laundering due to nascent enforcement capabilities and comparatively weak regulation of offshore companies and the gaming industry; CIS organized crime (including counterfeiting, corruption, extortion, stolen cars, and prostitution) accounts for most laundered proceeds