Task of the science is to serve
people.

– Tolstoy –

Science is the captain, and
practice the soldiers.

– Leonardo da Vinci –

Frontiers of science are like the
horizon: the more we approach
it, the more it moves away.

– Boiste –

The fantasy is more important
than knowing.

– Albert Einstein –

Science – it means organized
knowledge.

– Spencer –

Freedom for the science the
same as the air for a living soul.

– Poincaré –

Research area of all sciences is
endless.

– Pascal –

System of science must be
looked at as the system of
nature: all in it is endless and
necessary.

– Cuvier –

Scientific plan without working
hypothesis is a skeleton without
living body.

– Hirschfeld-

The main research subject of
mankind is the human.

– Goethe –

All is important in science.

– Heine –

Books must be results of
sciences, but sciences not results
of books.

– Bacon –

Scientist is not the one, who
gives the right answers, but the
one, who asks the right
questions.

– Claude Lévi-Strauss –

The more we will seek for the
truth outside us, the more we
will move away of it. The more
we will be able to understand
who we are, the more the truth
will assert us in ourselves.

– Antonio Meneghetti –

Before being dictated the nature
needs to be obeyed.

– Bacon –

A true scientist is not one who
has more acquired, but one who
has more understood.

– Leibniz –

Science – to know how the
being acts. To know the action
of the being.

– Antonio Meneghetti –

Science is benefactor of
mankind.

– Berthelot –

Sākums » Briefings » Page 5

Latvia external relations briefing: Latvia will become more integrated in Baltics and European Union

As Latvia is a relatively small economy the external cooperation between Baltic countries and European Union has been crucial for the recovery after economic and social  consequences caused by the Covid-19 crisis. Because of that it is seen that within the upcoming months Latvia’s  cooperation with both members of Baltic countries and European Union will continue to increase and Latvia will integrate even further within the European Union.

Latvia could become more integrated in European Union 

Evaluating the European Commission proposals to the European Union Council for the European Reconstruction Fund and the Multiannual Budget it can be seen that the overall amount that Latvia could receive as a support aid, the main criterion for the distribution of money being the severity of the economic shock, according to the Fiscal Discipline Council it is seen that Latvia could receive 2.9 billion Euros in grants and 1.6 billion in loans. These proposals for financial instruments have yet to be agreed by EU Member States, so the total amount of funding earmarked and its distribution among Member States is considered as indicative.

Although the macroeconomic impact of these EU financial instruments will be relatively small (around 1.5% of EU GDP against the current 1%), it is significant that part of the financing is planned to be obtained through European Comission maturing bonds in 2027 and 2028 and increased revenues from the European Unions’s own resources, all this can be seen as a step towards fiscal union, which is essential for the stabilization and more balanced economic development of the euro area.  Because of that it can be seen that Latvia will become more integrated into Euro zone.

Although the governments of the member states have become the main reference point in the conditions of the pandemic and the previous closure of the borders has been a strictly national measure, the European Union will be even more important for Latvia after the post-Covid crisis. Latvia’s economic growth in recent years has been based on the openness of the Latvian economy, active exports and the fact that the environment of Latvia has opened opportunity of tourism. For this reason, countless small companies have developed that provide  catering, beauty, health, cultural and many other services. In the post-Covid conditions, Latvia’s ability to join the wave of economic recovery of the entire European Union will be very important. If the crisis caused by Covid-19 is symmetrical – everyone is equally affected, the recovery from it will be asymmetric – those with more resources and smarter management will recover faster. For that reason, it can be seen that Latvia will follow more to the guidelines of EU to ensure stable recovery from the Covid-19 crisis.

Currently more focus has been put on European Recovery Instrument regarding envisaged proposal of grants and loans that Latvia will receive to mitigate the consequences of Covid-19 crisis rather than assessing Latvia’s potential contribution to the recovery funds.

The cooperation within the Baltic countries and Poland will be increasing

The outbreak of Coronavirus in 2020 has strengthened the cooperation between the Baltic countries. With the current political developments, it is seen that within the upcoming months the links between the Baltic countries will be even closer.

The Covid-19 crisis had marked similar challenges and situation in all three Baltic countries. The unprecedented prevalence of Covid-19 in all countries has created challenges that will affect their economies and societies in the foreseeable future. In addition, in recent months, national measures of all three Baltic countries have made undeniable progress in curbing the spread of Covid-19 and a gradual easing of restrictive measures has begun. The great achievements with Covid-19 crisis prevention in the health sector and noting the need to restore regular cross-border passenger traffic by road, rail, air and sea between the Baltic States in order to reduce the economic and social impact of the restrictions imposed to stop the spread of Covid-19 and to ensure the free movement of persons across borders, Baltic countries were one of the first European Union member states, which partially re-opened the borders by not enforcing the 14 days quarantine.

The early re-opening of the borders came with additional challenges. Such as considering that, as Covid-19 continues to spread, the resumption of regular passenger traffic between the Baltic States without strong safety measures may increase the prevalence of Covid-19 due to increased travel intensity. Furthermore, noting that the promotion of regular cross-border passenger traffic during the Covid-19 pandemic may require, in the interests of public health, the collection of information to ensure the protection of public health from serious cross-border health threats related to the spread of Covid-19.

These and other previously mentioned aspects served for the reason for closing Memorandum of Understanding between the Baltic member states  about abolition of travel restrictions between Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania for road transport, rail, air and maritime transport and cooperation in this field during the Covid-19 crisis.[1]

The Memorandum provides that the Baltic countries will encourage the establishment of communication systems or the use of existing systems by the competent authorities of Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania to collect, process and transmit information confirming that a person is aware of the Covid-19 restriction conditions in place to protect against cross-border health threats. According to the Memorandum of Understanding Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia will continue to contribute to the Baltic countries cooperation by facilitating consultations between the responsible authorities on measures affecting cross-border movements, including, but not limited to, plans to facilitate border controls with other countries, exchange of information on flights and maritime routes to be detected, while active operations and measures to combat the Covid-19 crisis  in Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania remain.

During the June of 2020 Baltic countries together with Poland marked the priorities regarding the partnership between the countries.  One of the main priorities still remains strengthening security in the region.[2] In addition, the need to further develop NATO’s defense capabilities in the Baltic and Polish region is emphasized, including through training, maneuvers and increasing the interoperability of the four NATO multinational battle groups and enhancing the region’s air defense capabilities. An agreement was reached to expand work to build resilience to cyber and hybrid threats, thus contributing to EU and NATO action in this area. Representatives of the Baltic and Polish countries have emphasized the urgent need to make appropriate investments in the development of military mobility infrastructure and procedures. The foreign ministries of all four countries have noted that the United States’ expanded military presence in the region is an essential component of security. In addition, a target has been set to improve the security of communications between countries, including 5G.

An important aspect of increasing security is the emphasis on the development of regional connectivity, the implementation of strategic regional energy and transport infrastructure projects, including in the framework of the Three Seas Initiative, and the implementation of the European Union’s digital agenda. More modern and developed connections are important to expand the economic potential of the whole region. The synchronization of the electricity systems of the Baltic States with the European networks through Poland remains essential for the energy security of Baltics and Poland. Given the economic difficulties caused by Covid-19, sufficient European Union  funding is crucial for the successful conclusion of this project. In addition, strengthening the region’s economy, together with the EU-level economic recovery plan, will contribute to the economic growth and job creation of the Baltic and Polish economies, also exploiting the potential of the European Union’s transition to a green economy. Economic cooperation at regional and European Union level must be pursued in a coherent and effective way in various directions, including in order to strengthen and support the European Union’s joint market. Global efforts must be continued to work together to maintain open and flexible international trade and transport opportunities, thus minimizing the already huge impact on the regional economies.

Summary

The role of both European Union and Baltic member states has played significant role for mitigating the consequences of Covid-19 crisis. It is seen that because of the increased cooperation due to the outbreak of Coronavirus Latvia will become more integrated in the European Union. Evaluating the European Commission proposals to the European Union Council for the European Reconstruction Fund and the Multiannual Budget it can be seen that the overall amount that Latvia could receive as a support aid, is approximately  2.9 billion Euros in grants and 1.6 billion in loans. As the Latvia’s economic growth in recent years has been based on the openness of the Latvian economy, active exports and the fact that the environment of Latvia has opened opportunity of tourism, with the current Covid-19 crisis the European Union will be even more important for Latvia. The recently closed Memorandum of Understanding between the Baltic countries aims to strengthen the cooperation to prevent the health system threats due to the Covid-19.  As for the Baltic countries and Poland the main priority within the upcoming period will remain safety of the region.

[1] https://www.mfa.gov.lv/aktualitates/zinas/66002-saprasanas-memorands

[2] https://www.mfa.gov.lv/aktualitates/zinas/66061-baltijas-valstu-un-polijas-arlietu-ministru-kopigs-pazinojums-pec-tiksanas-tallina-2020-gada-2-junija

*This article has been made in cooperation with China-CEE institute and is the intelectual property of China-CEE institute

Latvia political briefing: Prospects of Latvian political development in 2020

Within the past months of the Year 2020 Latvia has experienced significant changes in the political ecosystem of Latvia. This year has come with multiple pressing issues and variety of uncertainties to the politics of Latvia. As the healthcare challenges of the Covid-19 have been gradually fading it is seen that more focus will be put on the integration of the Municipal Reform, elections of the Riga City Council and prevention of negative economic impact due to the pandemic.

Elections of Riga City Council

In 13th February 2020 the Parliament of Latvia accepted the Law of dismissal of Riga City Council. Riga is the capital city of Latvia and the Riga City Council provides municipality services to a third of the total population of Latvia. Because of the amount of citizens, Riga makes a high contribution to the national development in economics. Although during the first reading only four of the five coalition parties of the Parliament of Latvia voted for the dismissal of the Council therefore reaching the bear minimum of votes to pass the Law of dismissal of Riga City Council to the next reading, the majority of Members of Parliaments  – 62 out of 100 – gave their approval of the dismissal process of Riga City Council during the last reading. The extraordinary elections  were planned to be held at the end of April. However, because of the outbreak of Coronavirus in Latvia the elections were postponed and are going to be held on the 29th of August

As for the new members of the Riga City Council there is expected a change in the leading parties. For the last years the leading party of the Riga City Council was a pro-Russian social-democratic party, which had been involved in multiple corruption scandals. The available audit report by the  State Audit Office shows that there are suspicions of unjustified use of several million euros, as well as possibly fictitious employment in two foundations of the Riga City Council.[1]Additionally the report  of the State Audit Office states that the Riga City Municipality has not acted economically with the funds of Riga taxpayers when planning, allocating and monitoring the use of funding to associations and foundations, as the audit identified significant deficiencies in the funding planning, allocation and monitoring processes.      With the scandals surrounding the Riga City Council, the dissatisfaction with the work of the Riga City council by the citizens of Riga has increased, and therefore a change in the division of political power over the Riga City Council is expected. The available internet polls from the period of 18th to 31th of May show that both the previously leading party of the Riga City Council “Saskaņa” and the relatively new political power in the Latvian political ecosystem “Attīstibai/Par!”, which is running for the elections together with the party “Progresīvie” and  are both known to be more liberal, share approximately same amount of votes – more than fifth of the respondents according to the latest internet polls would vote for “Saskaņa” and the second fifth stressed that their votes would be given to “Attīstibai/Par!” together with “Progresīvie”.[2]

The Municipal Reform

It has been proven that the current municipality system of Latvia has been working ineffectively. The administrative costs of a citizen can vary from 50 to 200 Euros per citizen, only half of the municipalities can assure jobs for more than 40% of citizens who are in the working age. To add, only a half of the municipalities of Latvia can assure effective tools to make contributions to the development of regional entrepreneurship. Besides,  only around the third of the municipalities of Latvia are able to make investments for the development of infrastructure worth 1 million Euros. [3]Additionally, the relatively small size of the municipalities decreases the chances to provide the citizens with the opportunity to receive high-quality public services such as ensuring proper education and transportation services. These and other issues have led to The Municipal Reform by which it is planned to decrease the number of municipalities from 119 to 42 by jointing multiple districts.

However, there is to be expected a resistance to adaption to the changes within the Municipal Reform. During June of 2020 , 46 representatives and heads of Latvian local governments addressed the President with a joint letter, calling not to promulgate the Law on Administrative Territories and Settlements adopted by the government of Latvia. However, the President of Latvia had  already stated that the law will be promulgated, emphasizing that the reform is necessary in order to improve the capacity of local governments, to ensure that the population receives quality and even services. The President of Latvia was convinced that the reform was in the interests of all citizens and should be carried out.  After the President of Latvia promulgated the Law of The Municipal Reform one municipality of Latvia had already made a conceptual decision to dispute the law in the Constitutional Court as the representatives of the municipality do not consider the Municipal Reform to be based on democratic principles.[4]

Additional changes due to The Municipal Reform are expected within the public services. In connection with the entry into force of the Law on Administrative Territories and Settlements, the Prime Minister has issued a resolution to all government ministers to submit proposals on the necessary reorganizations in public administration for the implementation of administrative-territorial reform.

Mitigation of the consequences of the Coronavirus

The outbreak of the Coronavirus has left a significant consequences to the economy of Latvia.  The current economic prognosis from the Ministry of Finance show that Latvia will experience fall of Gross Domestic Product in 2020 by approximately 7%.[5] With the employment support measures approved by the government, the forecast of the number of people employed in the economy for 2020 has been slightly increased, expecting that the number of employees will decrease by 4.4% to 870 thousand this year, instead of the previously forecasted  5% decline. Accordingly, the unemployment rate in 2020 will be 10.5%, and compared to previous forecasts, the unemployment rate forecast has been reduced by 0.7 %.

As Latvia is a relatively small country a large proportion of the political development of Latvia will be influenced by the external events. The most significant negative risk is the recurrence of Covid-19 in Europe and Latvia, which may necessitate new, even stronger restrictive measures. There are also significant risks associated with escalating global, social and ethnic tensions, escalating geopolitical conflicts, a sharp rise in protectionism and high volatility in financial markets. At the same time, there are also positive aspects that could lead to a faster recovery in economic growth, including faster release of Covid-19 vaccines and drugs, stronger monetary and fiscal stimulus measures, and faster lifting of viral restraints and renewed business and consumer confidence.

The political strategy for the recovery from the consequences of the Covid-19 in Latvia include mainly 5 aspects –  human capital, innovation, business environment for export capacity, access to finance and infrastructure. The Strategy of Latvia to recover from the Covid-19 has been divided in three time intervals – economic stabilization period, reorientation period, growth phase. As by the Strategy the period of the Year 2020 has been declared  as the economic stabilization period the political measures to be implemented in 2020 have been aimed at stabilizing the financial situation of the population and entrepreneurs in the conditions of the Covid-19 crisis and limiting the spread of the virus in Latvia.

Summary 

During upcoming months more focus on the political development of Latvia will be put on The Municipal Reform, Riga Council Elections and reduction of the consequences of the Coronavirus. Riga Council elections are expected to be held by the end of August. The current polls show that there could be rearrange of the political power within the Riga City Council thus decreasing the political power of the previously leading party of the City Council. Despite the open letter from 46 municipality representatives addressing the issues of The Municipal Reform, on June of 2020 the President of Latvia promulgated the Municipal Reform thus the next months will be devoted to administrative adaptation to the Reform.  According to the political strategy of Latvia for mitigating the consequences of the Covid-19 crisis Latvia currently is in the phase of economic stabilization. Thus it is expected that with the upcoming months Latvia will focus  on stabilization of the financial situation of  population and entrepreneurs in the conditions of the Covid-19 crisis and limiting the spread of the virus in Latvia.

[1] https://www.apollo.lv/6681762/vk-publice-reviziju-par-rigas-pasvaldibas-pieskirtajam-dotacijam

[2]https://klubs.factum.lv/reitingi/

[3] Announcement by the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Regional Development of the Republic of Latvia. http://www.varam.gov.lv/lat/administrativi_teritoriala_reforma/

[4] https://www.delfi.lv/news/national/politics/varaklani-ka-pirmie-nolemj-satversmes-tiesa-apstridet-novadu-reformu.d?id=52255277

[5]https://www.fm.gov.lv/lv/sadalas/tautsaimniecibas_analize/tautsaimniecibas_analize/galvenie_makroekonomiskie_raditaji_un_prognozes

*This article has been made in cooperation with China-CEE institute and is the intelectual property of China-CEE institute

Latvia political briefing: Latvia improves the efficiency of public services

The political developments of July 2020 mark multiple regulations within the fields of justice system and effective tool implementation in the governance sector. The State Digital Reform and establishment of Economic Court both highlight that Latvia is focusing on improving internal and external efficiency in multiple fields thus improving the pace of communication and decision-making process. 

Latvia launches the State Digital Reform

As with the year of 2020 the importance of information and technology sector experienced a rapid increase, both residents and authorities of Latvia had to adapt to the virtual tools in order to ensure continuation of various activities such as education, work and others digitally. For example, on May of 2020 the Latvian Parliament was introduced with one of the first in the world e-Parliament tools, which allowed proper continuation of the Parliament of Latvia remotely. As the importance of digital tools has grown, it is necessary to have convenient and user-friendly virtual tools to ensure efficiency. Because of that the Cabinet of Ministers approved the “Reform of the Architecture of Public Administration Information Systems”.

The rapid development of technology makes it necessary to review the information processing solutions of public administration institutions. In order to prevent the use of outdated technological solutions and information and communication technology support organization approaches, which hinder the further development of digitalisation not only of public administration services, but also of the whole economy, a nationwide digitization reform is needed.  The Reform of the Architecture of Public Administration Information Systems aims to promote the use of digital technologies in all sectors of the economy and to promote the country’s competitiveness.

The first step of the country’s digital reform is the reform of the Information Systems Architecture, which will remove the limitations created by today’s inadequate information systems. The problem of the legacy of aging technological solutions is getting worse, limiting and hindering the further development of information systems. For example, public administrations still maintain systems that are not suitable for providing an information-sharing approach because, at the time of their acquisition, the benefits of technological opportunities in the world had not yet been sufficiently appreciated. The maintenance and improvement of such systems is disproportionately expensive for the state.

The reform of the information systems architecture also envisages the integration of data and service management. The introduction of a unified and comprehensive data management model is a precondition for the country’s digital development. Within the framework of State Digital Reform there will be created new data managing tools in a  well-thought-out manner and organized the management of existing data, and introduced the capacity to measure both the efficiency and quality of public services provided and the costs associated with the provision of services. An orderly exchange of data between public administration institutions, local governments, as well as the private sector will promote the improvement of existing commercial services and the formation of new services.

With the implementation of State Digital Reform public administration information and communication technology management in Latvia will become higher quality, more efficient and more environmentally friendly. According to the data of the State information systems register, currently more than half of the state information systems are older than 10 years.[1] Consequently, public administration information and technology systems are outdated and unable to ensure modern efficiency. The reform of public administration digitalisation will be able to ensure the availability of new and convenient services to the public. To achieve this, new and smart solutions are needed that are easily interconnected and in line with the capabilities of modern technological solutions, as well as modern knowledge for the wider application of digital solutions, including artificial intelligence, in public administration. The transition to a modern technological solution architecture will not only ensure the flexibility of systems for the dynamic development of services, but also significantly increase the efficiency of the use of Latvia’s digital infrastructure, performing data processing tasks with less negative impact on the environment.

The Digital State Reform includes six main directions:

  • Reform of the state information and system architecture. Scheduled reconstruction of obsolete public administration information systems in accordance with the requirements of modern information and communication technologies will allow to obtain diversity and flexibility of solutions, thus ensuring increased productivity and environmentally friendly working conditions.
  • Service lifecycle management reform. Transformation of public administration services, providing opportunities to measure the efficiency and quality of services, as well as obtaining data for policy improvement
  • Information and data management reform. A high-quality public administration data space open to the public, which will ensure efficient data exchange between public administration and the private sector, will promote the digitalisation of the economy. Mutual sharing of information between economic actors is one of the preconditions for the country’s development.
  • Guidelines for digital transformation. High-level integrated strategies have been developed to ensure the use of modern technologies and the creation of new opportunities in the economy. The introduction of open digital platforms for public administration will also facilitate the digitization of the private sector.
  • Consolidation of state and information and communication resources and competencies. Strengthening information and communication technology management by developing strong information and communication technology competence centres that effectively provide shared information and communication technology services not only within ministerial sectors, but also within the entire public administration
  • E-government law. It is planned to create a model for the coherent and interdependent maintenance, development and change management of information systems solutions, which will prevent the losses caused by the implementation of mutually uncoordinated changes.

The Latvian Parliament approves the decision to establish the Economic Court

The mutual evaluation report of the European Commission and the Moneyval Committee of the Council of Europe on the Latvian Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing Prevention and Combating System has highlighted problems in dealing with money laundering cases. It has been concluded that the examination of complex and specific cases often takes longer. Additionally, the authors of the draft law regarding Economic Court in the Ministry of Justice note, that one of the most important indicators of the efficiency of the judicial system is the length of proceedings and the quality of a final court judgment. [2]The new amendments regarding establishment of Economic Court are intended to ensure the efficiency of court proceedings and the quality of rulings.

With the establishment of a new court, it of will be possible not only to develop the existing specializations of commercial disputes, but also to ensure specialization in the settlement of disputes important for the legality of the business environment, which have so far had jurisdiction over courts in general. It will also be possible to address the issues of prompt and effective investigation criminal offenses that have a significant impact on the business environment and the development of the national economy.

The Economic Court and the judges of this court will be fully covered by the legal framework of the district (city) court and the judge, including rights, obligations and guarantees. The same mechanisms for supervising the work and actions of a judge as in other courts will also remain. Without changing the total number of judges of district (city) courts and regional courts, ten positions of judges will be allocated for the commencement of the activities of the Court of Economic Affairs. The court will start operating in 2021.

Summary 

Most of the current digital government tools of Latvia have been identified as outdated as the technology support organization approaches hinder the public administrative services. As the importance of digital tools has grown due the influence of the Covid, having convenient and user-friendly virtual tools to ensure efficiency has been essential both to the authorities and citizens of Latvia. Because of that the Cabinet of Ministers approved the “Reform of the Architecture of Public Administration Information Systems”. The Reform aims to promote the use of digital technologies in all sectors of the economy and to promote the country’s competitiveness. The Digital State Reform focuses mainly on six aspects, for example, reform of the state information and system architecture, service lifecycle management reform, information and data management, consolidation of state and information and communication resources and competencies.

Following the report of both European Commission and the Moneyval Committee of the Council of Europe on the Latvian Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing Prevention and Combating System showed that duration of cases on money laundering cases cannot ensure proper efficiency of the judicial system as the average length of proceedings was too long. However, with the establishment of Economic Court it is seen that it will lead to improvements in the business ecosystem and economy of Latvia by ensuring specialization in the settlement of disputes and duration of the cases.

[1] https://www.mk.gov.lv/lv/aktualitates/ministrs-puce-piesaka-valsts-digitalizacijas-reformu

[2] https://www.saeima.lv/lv/aktualitates/saeimas-zinas/29046-saeima-dod-zalo-gaismu-ekonomisko-lietu-tiesas-izveidei

*This article has been made in cooperation with China-CEE institute and is the intelectual property of China-CEE institute

Latvia social briefing: Latvia’s education system in times of Covid-19

On March of 2020 the educational system of Latvia had to transform due to the Covid-19. The sudden shift outlined both the positive and negative aspects of the educational system of Latvia. Despite the flaws overall it was seen that the education system of Latvia had the capacity to adjust to the global changes in terms of education as overall students, parents, and teachers had valued positively the new conditions of distance learning.[1] Although the epidemiological situation in regards of Covid-19 has improved, yet there is still a chance of infection as according to the Centre for Disease Prevention and Control of Latvia  in July of 2020 there have been detected more than 100 cases of Covid-19.[2]  As stated by the Ministry of Education it is planned switch back to the on-site learning on the next schoolyear. However, due to the active cases of Covid-19 new safety procedures will have to be taken into account to ensure safe on-site education process. 

The new school year is originally planned on-site

Currently, the Ministry of Education and Science is working on a scenario that envisages that the school year in Latvian schools will start in person. Although there is a possibility that the epidemiological situation may change, due to the increase in the cumulative number of Covid-19 patients in recent weeks, the emphasis has been put on starting the school year as usual and on-site. To decrease the risk of infection  the Ministry of Education and Science , in cooperation with the Ministry of Health and the Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, have been jointly forming the conditions for the organization of educational work for the next schoolyear. In order to ensure on-site learning process and to protect both teachers and children from COVID-19 infection risks, the Ministry of Education and Science has prioritized the maintenance of the safety measures, especially when planning the use of common areas of students and teachers.

According to the Ministry of Education and Science the practical key conditions for ensuring on-site learning process have been identified as:

  • Establishing internal procedures in schools;
  • Organizing flow of students and teachers;
  • Ensuring personal hygiene, monitoring of individual health conditions, particularly for persons at risk;
  • Frequent room cleaning algorithm, ventilation of rooms.

Additionally, in accordance to the decision of the supervisor of the educational institution there will be an option for the supervisor whether or not to ensure the educational activities remotely for students from 7th up to 12th grade, vocational institution students, and higher education students to promote distancing depending on the epidemiological situation in the country.

Currently there is being developed an action plan for schools in case if the epidemiological situation gets worse. Furthermore, the head of the educational institution will have to determine the procedures for the organization of teaching and pedagogical work, including communication channels with pupils and parents, so in case of epidemiological risks parents and as well students could be informed instantly. It has been suggested that the class should be equated with a more closed group of people, similar to a workplace for adults or a larger family. Thus, it is  not planned to maintain a mandatory requirement to follow the distance principle of two meters. The draft regulations developed by the Ministry of Education and Science state that the requirement to keep a distance of two meters between persons in the group or class of one educational institution is applicable only if it is objectively possible. However, in the common areas of the school such as gym, canteen, hallways, between different classes the general distance requirements will apply.

On the other hand, in special schools, the opposite will be the case – it will be necessary to wear individual protective equipment and there will be a requirement to keep a distance, as a result of which parents would not even be able to meet their children. This led to a wide-ranging debate among specialized educational institutions and because of that it is seen that this regulation will be reviewed by the Ministry of Education and Science of Latvia.

To provide the suitable epidemiological plan and safety measures municipalities and school management will individually receive the support of Centre for Disease Prevention and Control epidemiologists, assessing the organization of the work process of the educational institution in a situation where the morbidity rates deteriorate or a case of Covid-19 is detected in the educational institution. The Ministry of Education and Science does not currently plan to set a specific indicator to which full-time or part-time studies should be transferred, as the it is intended to leave it up to each local government’s decision.

The educational process, according to the decision of the founder of the educational institution, can be partially or fully implemented remotely, for example, it can be done one day a week to ensure the possibility of distance. Similarly, in the vocational training process, all types of traineeships, including qualification traineeships and work-based learning in companies, are planned to take place on-site or remotely, assessing the risks to all parties.

Altogether, in the event of a deterioration in the epidemiological situation, the education process will be organized partly remotely. The experience of this spring shows that, if necessary, the Latvian education system is able to mobilize quickly and adapt to the rules imposed by the pandemic. The education platform “Your Classroom”, established by the Ministry of Education and Science in two weeks’ time , was recognized by the OECD as one of the best solutions in the world used by countries to continue the educational process in times of crisis. [3]The Ministry of Education and Science is also currently working on the further development of a similar platform, envisaging a much wider use of smart devices in the daily educational process. To improve the Latvian education system the Ministry of Education and Science, in co-operation with the Union of Local Governments of Latvia and other partners, have been developing solutions for increasing the involvement of technologies during the study process, thus making the education system of Latvia more adaptive to the epidemiological risks and modernizing the study process.

Latvia is improving the quality of education system monitoring

There are already several education quality monitoring processes in Latvia, including the system of accounting for the results of state examinations, accreditation of educational institutions, implementation of international comparative education research, analysis of  statistics in the State Education Information System. To improve the quality of monitoring processes the Ministry of Education and Science is developing an innovative approach to ensure the rise of the quality of education in Latvia. The  common framework will make it possible to analyze the interrelationships between the results of the various processes, assess their impact and develop evidence-based education policies at all levels of education, as well as implement the necessary support programs.

Starting from this year, it is planned to link monitoring tools with the State Education Information System. A risk identification system is also being developed so that changes in the quality of education can be responded to immediately without waiting for the next accreditation of the school or educational program.[4]

The upgraded monitoring system will look at the quality of education in a broader context, focusing on aspects such as quality learning, an inclusive environment, good governance and compliance with objectives. More accurate information will enable students and their parents to make more informed decisions about the choice of educational institution and program. At the same time, it will be an opportunity for educational institutions to evaluate the investments made and development perspectives.

Summary 

The previous experience shows that the education system of Latvia has the capacity to adjust to the global changes in terms of education since overall students, parents, and teachers had valued positively the new conditions of distance learning. As the overall epidemiological situation in Latvia has improved it is planned that the upcoming schoolyear will happen on-site. However, there are still epidemiological risks that require to follow safety precautions. To ensure safe on-site education process the educational institutions will have to  establish new internal procedures in schools such as organizing flow of students and teachers, ensuring personal hygiene, monitoring of individual health conditions, particularly for persons at risk, frequent room cleaning algorithm, ventilation of rooms and others. Additionally, in accordance to the  decision of the supervisor of the educational institution there will be an option for the supervisor whether or not to ensure the educational activities remotely for students from 7th up to 12th grade, vocational institution students, and higher education students to promote distancing depending on the epidemiological situation in the country. To ensure not only epidemiological safety for students but to also improve the quality of education in Latvia the Ministry of Education and Science is developing a upgraded monitoring system that will look at the quality of education in a broader context, focusing on aspects such as quality learning, an inclusive environment, good governance and compliance with objectives.

[1] https://home.edurio.com/izm-attalinato-macibu-rezultati

[2] https://covid19.gov.lv/covid-19/covid-19-statistika/covid-19-izplatiba-latvija

[3] https://izm.gov.lv/lv/aktualitates/4191-ilga-suplinska-jauno-macibu-gadu-planojam-sakt-klatiene

[4] https://izm.gov.lv/lv/aktualitates/4189-turpina-attistit-izglitibas-kvalitates-monitoringa-sistemu

*This article has been made in cooperation with China-CEE institute and is the intelectual property of China-CEE institute

Latvia economy briefing: Is Latvia a growing European innovator? Achievements and challenges for the Latvian society in innovation promotion

The European Commission’s European Innovation Rating 2020 Scoreboard, published by the European Commission, has recognised Latvia’s progress in promoting innovation. Latvia has the second highest performance in business activity among the European Union countries, thus more than twice exceeding the European Union average.[1] In 2019, Latvia was ranked 23rd in the competition of European Union Member States, stepping up by one place compared to the results of the 2018 survey, while maintaining its place in the group of “average innovators” whose performance in the field of innovation is between 50-95% of the European Union-27 average level.

In the recent year’s innovation development has become an emerging priority of the Latvian economy in both mid-term and long-term period. In the Latvian economy innovation is seen as contributor to ensuring faster pace of economic and productivity growth. Because of that in the recent years more focus has been put on innovation implementation in various fields such as pilot projects and support programs, in fields of information and communication technologies, smart cities, biomedicine and others  to strengthen the global competitiveness of the Latvian economy.

In comparison to the Year of 2018 Latvia has improved its achievements in seven out of ten categories that influence the European Innovation Rating. The representatives of the European Commission have especially recognised Latvia’s achievements in three categories – finances and support, innovation impact on employment rates and entrepreneurial environment for innovation promotion.  In comparison to the European Union’s average levels, Latvia has received additional acknowledgement in entrepreneurship activity, growth of Gross Domestic Product and establishment of new enterprises.

One of the reasons why the Latvian innovation environment is emerging is the fact that in the recent years Latvian government has been developing policies that contribute to start-up and innovation promotion. Within the years the interest of Latvian government in start-up promotion has only increased, therefore there have been developed State supported programs to boost the development of start-up environment, therefore, the State aid is provided at various stages:  from creating an idea and concept to development and expansion. Additionally, in the recent years the government of Latvia developed a Start-up Law, which supports a favourable tax regime for start-ups. The law foresees two benefit scenarios: 1) a special flat tax regime, currently 302 euros/month per employee, regardless of salary paid, combined with the 0% individual income tax rate, or 2) 45% co-financing for the highly qualified specialists.[2]Furthermore, star-up visa, is offered to all non-EU startup founders who are willing to come and develop their start-up ideas in Latvia. One start-up can have up to 5 founders with a start-up visa. The visa is given for the period of maximum 3 years and it is also issued to the spouse and children. To promote the star-up and innovation environment in Latvia there are also available multiple funds for founding start-ups.

The contribution of the European Union within the past years has transformed the perception of Latvia as emerging innovation European Union member. For example, experts from the Institute of Solid-State Physics department of Latvia are changing the way in which the field of solid-state physics is carried out and applied. Not only has it just been upgraded to  advanced Centre of Excellence for education, research, innovation and technology in the Baltic States, but it is now becoming from only academic-basis focused research center to industry-oriented project creation center as well. Programs like European Commission’s  Horizon 2020 funding have boosted the creation of science-based innovative solutions for commercialization.

This year’s European Innovation Rating marks that Latvia has improved multiple indicators, that serve as precondition for innovative and competitive entrepreneurship development.  For example, entrepreneurial activity among the economically active population is 221% higher than the EU average.[3] Since the previous reporting year, investments in areas important for innovation have increased – public sector investments in research and development have increased by 18%, the amount of venture capital investments has increased by 24%. Furthermore, the share of companies in the Latvian economy that invest in employee training to improve information and communication skills has increased by 35%. The number of Latvian international patent applications has also experienced growth by 30% in 2019.

As for the shortcomings according to the European Innovation Rating Latvia still has the lowest rates of private investment in research and development, small and medium-sized enterprises that innovate internally, and the number of doctorate graduates, therefore the importance of continuing and developing measures to promote research, development and innovation and thus improve these indicators is emphasized. According to the European Innovation Rating Latvia has the third lowest ranking regarding new doctorate graduates. The low number of doctoral degree holders in Latvia has been a major concern in the recent years. In 2018, the number of doctors registered in Latvia per 1000 people was the lowest in the European Union. [4] This has  significantly affected and hindered  the Latvian innovation segment.  Additional data from Eurostat implies that the human resources in science and technology are also below the European Union average, which hinders major innovation promotion . [5]

To improve the educational sector regarding new doctorate graduates the Ministry of Education and Science developed new doctoral model – a doctoral motivation tool. It envisages a significant improvement in the quality of doctoral studies and the introduction of a new funding procedure, ensuring doctoral students a competitive salary during their studies, as well as the establishment of a unified promotion procedure. The concept envisages that a representative of the academic staff receives a salary during the development of the doctoral thesis, one part of which consists of EU funding (1000 euros), and the other part of the doctoral student’s involvement in research and development projects in various programs, such as basic and applied research. in the research program, etc.[6]

The availability to human resources in fields of applied sciences and technology and engineering is seen to be as one of the biggest upcoming challenges in labor market and education field as it is foreseen that already in the Year of 2027 there could be shortcoming of highest qualification STEM specialists by 14 thousand.[7] However, a surplus is expected directly in higher-skilled workforce with education in the social sciences, business and humanities. By 2027, the surplus of labor force with higher education in the thematic fields of social sciences, business and humanities may increase to around 17 thousand. Because of the existing imbalance between the social sciences and STEM sciences regarding the human resources the potential development of innovation sector in Latvia is delayed.

Additional challenge for the Latvian society in regards of innovation promotion within the upcoming years will be the decrement of demographic indicators. The population of Latvia will continue to decline in the coming years, and the aging of the population will become much more pronounced. By 2027, the population could decrease by about 65 thousand, and by 2040 – by almost 122 thousand, compared to the beginning of 2020. In total, in 2040, the population of Latvia could reach 1.79 million.[8] The most significant decrease in the population will be observed among the working age population. It is expected that the population aged 15-64 by 2027 could decrease by almost 90 thousand or more than 7%, which in general will also have a negative impact on the total labor supply. Within the years the shortcoming in labor supply could potentially slow down innovation promotion and development in Latvia.

Summary

According to the European Innovation Rating Latvia has been ranked in the 23rd place in the European Union stepping up by one place compared to the previous survey. In all, Latvia has been ranked as a “average innovator” whose performance in the field of innovation is between 50-95% of the European Union -27 average level. The main advantages of Latvia in field of innovation promotion have been marked as finances and support, innovation impact on employment rates and entrepreneurial environment, which has been achieved by the recent policies in innovation and start-up promotion, such as Start-up Law, start-up visa, European Union support mechanisms and others. Latvia has showed an  especially outstanding result in entrepreneurial activity since it has been marked as the second highest in the European Union and two times higher than the average in European Union countries. In addition, the number of Latvian international patent applications has also increased by 30%. Although Latvia has showed great improvements in field of innovation there is still a large space for improvement. Currently one of the biggest challenges for innovation promotion in Latvia have been identified low rates of private investment in research and development, small and medium-sized enterprises that innovate internally, and the number of doctoral graduates.  The imbalance between workers in STEM field and social sciences and the decreasing number of populations in working age within the years could become as obstacles for fast-paced innovation promotion in Latvia.

[1] https://www.em.gov.lv/lv/jaunumi/28451-uznemejdarbibas-aktivitate-latvija-otra-augstaka-eiropa

[2] http://www.liaa.gov.lv/en/invest-latvia/start-up-ecosystem

[3] https://ec.europa.eu/growth/industry/policy/innovation/scoreboards_en

[4] https://appsso.eurostat.ec.europa.eu/nui/submitViewTableAction.do

[5] https://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/databrowser/view/tsc00025/default/bar?lang=en

[6] https://www.izm.gov.lv/lv/aktualitates/4136-jaunais-doktoranturas-modelis-doktorantu-motivacijas-riks

[7] https://www.em.gov.lv/lv/jaunumi/28370-sagatavotas-latvijas-darba-tirgus-prognozes-lidz-2040-gadam

[8] https://www.em.gov.lv/lv/jaunumi/28370-sagatavotas-latvijas-darba-tirgus-prognozes-lidz-2040-gadam

*This article has been made in cooperation with China-CEE institute and is the intelectual property of China-CEE institute

Latvia external relations briefing: Latvia sets challenging and ambitious Foreign Policy goals

Introduction

As the Covid-19 crisis inevitably remains the most important challenge in the international system, Latvia continues to work actively together with other countries in order to mitigate the consequences of the crisis. However, it is important for the European Union (EU) to focus on the regular agenda as well, so that other important issues are discussed. In recent months, Latvia’s management of the Covid-19 crisis outbreak has been among the best in Europe and Latvia has showed relatively successful epidemiological results. Government action combined with solid work on behalf of the institutions of the interior and health sectors have led to a well-managed crisis response. Needless to say, there still are many challenges and uncertainties affecting society as whole. Foreign Ministry of Latvia has actively taken part in discussions and decision-making with other EU Member-States in order to work on recovery and budget planning for the upcoming years. Latvia has also set new, challenging and ambitions Foreign Policy goals. Latvia’s announcement of the candidacy for the United Nations (UN) Security Council has been an important and brave step towards a new status for Latvia on global scale, however, it is important to analyse and be aware of the main challenges that this candidature will reflect. 

Latvia sets its own priorities for the EU regarding the Covid-19 crisis

On July 2020, Foreign Ministry of Latvia took part in several important negotiations with Foreign Ministers from other EU Member States. As the Covid-19 has affected many industries and economies in general, Latvia works closely together with international institutions and EU partners to improve the socio-economic stability. Members of the Latvian Foreign Ministry took part in negotiations where the possible recovery and budget planning were discussed. During the discussions, Latvia emphasized its priorities and its main challenges, also addressing the importance of cooperation between all the EU Member State

Latvia’s priorities regarding the recovery plan, is to focus on agriculture as the Baltic farmers receive the lowest direct payments in the European Union.[1] At the same time, Cohesion Policy will be one of the most important tools for promoting and achieving long-term economic growth for Latvia, as well as to improve national prosperity and reduce regional disparities. The Foreign Ministry emphasized that Latvia is ready to invest funding in sustainable, climate-friendly and modern initiatives. By taking part in funding and supporting different initiatives, Latvia is becoming more competitive internationally. Thus, contributing to the development of Latvia’s welfare and economy. It also shows that Latvia is ready to take various actions to achieve internationally agreed goals. For Latvia, it is vital to have sufficient and fairly distributed funding for the economic recovery process for reforms and investments in the medium term.

Latvia aims for seat on UN Security Council

Latvia has set a rather ambitious foreign policy goal – to run for the seat of a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council for the first time in 2025. According to experts, membership in the Security Council will strengthen Latvia’s international image, as well as the role of the state in global decision making will increase. The candidacy also confirms and proves that the State and its leaders are ready to take a step further and become more dominant in the international arena.

However, this candidacy also reflects a number of challenges. Being aware of the fact that Latvia is a small country on a global scale, it will not be easy to collect all the necessary 125 votes. [2] The President of Latvia has noted that recognition of the country in Asia, South America and South Africa is relatively low, so it is important to focus on development of Latvia’s international image. Its outlines the necessity to set new Foreign Policy goals and plan a strategy how Latvia’s recognition could be improved in those specific regions. In the run-up to the Security Council elections, Latvia hopes to use Estonia’s experience, which currently serves on the Council.

As the experts emphasized, although the elections will take place in five years’ time, Latvia should start preparing for the elections already. This will require resources, diplomatic efforts and publicity campaigns in the international media. Despite the fact that this would be an ambitious goal in shaping Latvia’s global image, there are opinions that emphasize the necessity to have a clearer vision for this goal. It would be necessary to analyze whether other foreign policy challenges and objectives are not a higher priority, also due to the Covid-19 crisis. Nevertheless, according to the experts, the experience of Latvia in the 30 years of independence shows that the country is prepared to take on global challenges and it will definitely open new opportunities for Latvia at national and international level.

Latvia’s first National Action Plan for the implementation of the goals of UN Security Council has been approved

On 14 July 2020, the Cabinet approved Latvia’s first National Action Plan on the Implementation of the UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security in Latvia for the term of 2020-2025. [3] The implementation of women’s rights both in Latvia and everywhere else in the world is an essential precondition for a safe, sustainable and prosperous society, which confirms that for Latvia this is a significant step forward to work on eradication of gender-based violence. The Plan was drafted under the leadership of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and envisages three main tasks. The first task is to raise public awareness of gender equality issues and the elimination of gender-based violence, especially among the younger generation. To achieve this, the involvement of educational institutions will be important, as well as the development of various informative materials. It is also necessary to organise training for the defence and interior sector, as well to establish a gender adviser’s position. The planned measures will be implemented in cooperation with ministries and non-governmental organizations. General Statistics Office in Latvia shows that 38.6 % of women have suffered from physical or sexual violence, and 60 % of women have been subjected to psychological violence.[4] These data confirm how significant problem this is for Latvia, so it is very vital to address this problem and work on reducing and eliminating gender-based violence. Implementation of the Plan will not only improve the image of the State, but also serves as a contributor for deeper integration and acceptance of UN values.

Latvian Foreign Minister discusses the European Union, security and current international affairs 

The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Edgars Rinkevics, took part in the annual meeting of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the Baltic States and Germany. Issues of current importance for the European Union, NATO and European security, and topics on the international agenda were discussed. Latvia has expressed support for the priorities set by the German presidency of the Council of the EU, commending the focus on the European Green Deal, digitalization and the rule of law, as well as the intention of strengthening the Single Market. [5] The Minister of Foreign Affairs has emphasized Latvia’s position on collaborating with Germany, saying that it has been an important strategic partner for the Baltic region and has made a significant contribution to NATO’s collective defence and the strengthening of security in the Baltic region. Furthermore, Latvia’s position stands on the fact that although overcoming the COVID-19 crisis is a priority, it is necessary to return to the regular agenda of the European Union.

Conclusion

The current situation in the international system shows that dealing with Covid-19 crisis is still a priority, however, it is also very important to focus on regular agenda of the European Union. Latvia has set ambitious foreign policy goal – to run for the seat of a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council in 2025. On global scale, it confirms and proves the maturity of the State, as well as shows that the country is prepared to take on global challenges. However, the low recognition of Latvia internationally may affect the possibility to get all the necessary votes from 125 countries. Furthermore, a great success has been the approval of Latvia’s first National Action Plan on the Implementation of the UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security in Latvia for the term of 2020-2025. The plan outlines very clear and achievable goals, that focuses on reducing and eliminating gender-based violence. Latvia has also been active in working closely together with other EU Member States to mitigate the negative consequences of Covid-19. Latvia has stated that its priorities regarding the recovery plan is to focus on agriculture and cohesion policy, as well as to have sufficient and fairly distributed funding for the economic recovery process for reforms and investments in the medium term.

[1] Foreign Ministry of Latvia emphasizes the need to ensure sufficient and fair distribution of EU funding for economic recovery https://www.mfa.gov.lv/aktualitates/zinas/66279-zanda-kalnina-lukasevica-uzsver-nepieciesamibu-nodrosinat-pietiekamu-un-taisnigi-sadalitu-es-finansejumu-ekonomikas-atveselosanai

[2] lsm.lv, Latvia’s ambitious goal is a seat on the UN Security Council:https://www.lsm.lv/raksts/zinas/latvija/latvijai-ambiciozs-merkis-vieta-ano-drosibas-padome.a368511/

[3]  mfa.gov.lv, Latvia’s first National Action Plan for the Implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security in Latvia 2020-2025 has been approved. https://www.mfa.gov.lv/aktualitates/zinas/66274-apstiprinats-latvijas-pirmais-nacionalais-ricibas-plans-ano-drosibas-padomes-rezolucijas-1325-par-sievietem-mieru-un-drosibu-merku-istenosanai-latvija-2020-2025-gadam

[4] csb.gov.lv, Gender Based Violance, https://www.csb.gov.lv/en/gender-equality-indicators/Violence

[5] mfa.gov.lv, Foreign Minister discusses current affairs of the European Union, security and international politicshttps://www.mfa.gov.lv/aktualitates/zinas/66296-arlietu-ministrs-tallina-parruna-eiropas-savienibas-drosibas-un-starptautiskas-politikas-aktualitates

*This article has been made in cooperation with China-CEE institute and is the intelectual property of China-CEE institute