Air Baltic to repay illegal state aid in 9 years

According to an anonymous source, the European Commission has made a decision under which state aid provided to Latvian national carrier Air Baltic has been illegal and the airline must now repay state aid within 9 years, E24 wrote yesterday.

When the Latvian government took over Air Baltic in December 2011, it injected about 58 million lats in the airline.

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Latvia and Russia trade properties

Saeima has passed a law which exchanges two properties with Russian Federation. Latvia gives to Russia Dzintarkrasts hotel and spa in the resort city of Jurmala, whereas Latvia receives a property in Moscow which it can use as an embassy, writes newsbiz LATVIA.

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Latvian startup builds reading platform for mobile devices

Latvian startup Fastr is developing a smartphone and tablet application for speed reading. Eventually, it wants to build an entire book distribution platform around the service, reported news2biz LATVIA.

The Fastr app, currently available for iOS devices such as iPhone and iPad, can be used for learning how to read faster, but it can also be a regular reader app. It works by displaying one or several words – up to several lines – at a time for a rather short duration, less than a second (although the speed can be adjusted). This encourages the readers to see the entire word as a whole, rather than spell out the letters; as a result, your reading speed can double.

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Latvia: mixed feelings about euro

Didzis Veinbergs, editor of news2biz LATVIA, writes that the European Commission greenlighting the Latvian Eurozone bid has not found the warmest response among the Latvian public. For Latvians, joining the Eurozone means both introducing euro and losing lats, and most of the debates have concentrated about the latter.

Public support for euro remains extremely low; the latest polls place it at 38%, and the number was actually touted by PM Valdis Dombrovskis as an achievement as it was just 33% a few months ago. Grassroots movements dedicated to preserving lats have sprung up, with the most dedicated fighters even calling for a revolt (rather unsuccessfully, though) and accusing the government of treason. Even the Latvian business people remain divided: while the support for euro indeed is higher among them, no doubt because they are among the ones who will benefit most from it, they have also been among euro’s most convincing critics.

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Estonian leaders welcome news of Latvia becoming Eurozone member

Prime Minister Andrus Ansip and Finance Minister Jürgen Ligi were quick to welcome Latvia over the recent decision of the European Commission and European Central Bank to deem Latvia eligible to join into the Eurozone.

“I am pleased with the European Commission’s decision, and with Latvia’s effort. Latvia took the only correct option available to a small state, and a very European option at that,” Finance Minister Jürgen Ligi said.

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Youth unemployment 23,1 pct in Estonia

Youth unemployment  is 23.1% in Estonia and 22.2% in Latvia.

In the EU, the highest youth unemployment rate is in Spain (55%).

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Japanies acquire Latvian port operator

Japanese conglomerate Mitsui & Co, Ltd has acquired an 80% share in the Latvian port operator SIA Rigas Universalais Terminals (RUT), reported news2biz LATVIA.

The sale was carried out through Mitsui’s subsidiary Portek International Pte, and the sum of the deal reached EUR 21m.

RUT is a multi-purpose terminal operating at the Freeport of Riga, which is the busiest port in Latvia. In particular, Mitsui stresses that the port accounts for 70% of Latvian exports of wood products, such as lumber, furniture, wood pellets and wood chips; timber traditionally is the strongest Latvian export.

Mitsui sees Latvia and Riga as a springboard to the Eastern European market. Latvia has railway connections to Russia and Belarus and, through them, to CIS countries such as Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan.

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Latvia is 2nd in EU by the share of renewable energy

European statistics office Eurostat has summed reports that, in 2011, Latvia took the second place in EU by the share of renewable energy in its total consumption.

33.1% of all Latvian energy came from renewables and, although Latvia could not reach the EU leader Sweden with 46.8%, it did manage to leave Finland third at 31.8%.

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Latvian companies pay low salaries

Latvian investigative journalism company Re:Baltica claims that Latvian businesses tend to pay inadequately low salaries to their workers while providing them little social security or even decent working conditions, reports news2biz LATVIA..

The investigation focuses on two companies: locally-owned fish processor Gamma-A and Lithuanian-owned supermarket chain Maxima. With some 7,500 workers, Maxima is one of the largest Latvian employers.

Any mistakes or missing money had to be covered by the worker herself, even though the salary barely reaches above substinence level; having worked slightly more than a month, including lots of overtime, the journalist received LVL 280 (400 eur). Without overtime, the salary could be as low as LVL 230 a month.

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Hansabuss to cancel its Tallinn-Riga coach line

Estonian passenger bus operator AS Hansabuss has decided to close ing its Hansabuss Business Line coach service, linking Riga and Tallinn.

The route has been in operation from 2007 and altogether the company has carried more than 105,000 passengers on the route during its entire run. As the name suggests, it was aimed at business travellers and sported features such as comfortable chairs, desks and wireless Internet.

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