Latvia’s Central Bank President Einars Repse announced yesterday that the country’s trade turnover with Russia is declining substantially. The turnover with the European Union, however, is correspondingly increasing. Russia’s share in Latvia’s total exports has fallen to 16 percent thus far this year. Germany’s share has climbed to 15 percent. Both trends look set to continue, catapulting Germany into first place as Latvia’s foreign trade partner. More significant politically, the European Union’s share is approaching 50 percent of Latvia’s foreign trade turnover projected for this year. Repse, a highly regarded reformer, was addressing an international business conference in Riga (BNS, October 21).
The reorientation represents a political and economic success for the outgoing government of Guntars Krasts and his Fatherland and Freedom team of reformers, supported by their coalition partners. One of these, Foreign Minister Valdis Birkavs, remarked that Latvia’s recent admission as the first post-Soviet country in Europe to the World Trade Organization came “just in time” to accelerate the country’s reorientation away from the “risky Russian market.” Moscow has sought to exploit Latvia’s residual dependence on the Russian market in pressuring the country politically, also seeking to capitalize on the short-term interests of Latvian business lobbies interested in the Russian trade. The problem became one of national security for Latvia. It may be resolved conclusively if the European Union places Latvia on fast-track accession negotiations at the EU’s December summit.
MOLDOVA EXPERIENCES THE WORTH OF MOSCOW’S SIGNATURE ON TROOP WITHDRAWAL TREATY.