The "New Party of Latvia" held its founding congress in Riga on March 14. Initiated by businessmen who publicly declare their interest in trading with Russia, the New Party calls in its program for: "an active role of the state in the economy," closer relations with Russia and other CIS countries and a "balanced" policy regarding accession to the European Union. The program calls for changing Latvia’s citizenship law to facilitate the naturalization of Russians, and for expanding Latvian language teaching in order to "integrate" that population.
The program does not mention accession to NATO. The party’s main organizer, businessman Ainars Slesers, called for consideration of Russian President Boris Yeltsin’s offer of a security pact with the Baltic states as a substitute for accession to NATO. The Baltic states have declined that offer as incompatible with their NATO aspirations.
The congress unanimously elected musical composer Raimonds Pauls as party chairman. Pauls was cited as telling Russia’s official news agency that he is committed to "correcting Latvia’s mistakes toward Russia." Pauls previously served as Culture Minister and culture adviser to President Guntis Ulmanis. (Itar-Tass and other Russian agencies, BNS, March 15)
Democrats and Communists Compete for Belarus.