Saturday

31st Oct 2020

Anti-government riot hits Latvia

A 10,000-strong rally in Riga protesting the Latvian government's response to the economic crisis descended into rioting as hundreds of demonstrators clashed with police and attempted to storm parliament.

The group of mostly young demonstrators broke away from the main peaceful protest, smashing windows of the parliament building and hurling rocks and snowballs at police, reports the Baltic Times.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

  • The Latvian parliament: Protesters smashed windows and overturned a police van (Photo: Latvian parliament)

Authorities tried to corral the troublemakers into a side street, but the youths overturned a police van and set it alight, subsequently also breaking windows at the finance ministry and looting a liquor store.

In response, police used mace and truncheons, baton-charging the rioters and ultimately dispersing the crowd after three hours of ructions.

Police arrested 126 protesters, while a total of 30 were injured, three of whom were police officers.

The demonstration, the largest the country has seen since gaining independence in 1991, had been called by opposition parties and trade unions to protest planned austerity measures and demand the resignation of centre-right Prime Minister Ivars Godmanis over his handling of the economic crisis.

Protest organisers distanced themselves from the violence, but said they buttressed the argument that the government should resign.

Latvia has won an emergency €7.5 billion package of loans from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund to bolster its battered economy, hit hard by the ongoing global financial crisis.

However, the money come in return for an agreed package of austerity measures. Wide-ranging structural reforms and wage reductions, particularly in the public sector have been approved by the country's parliament.

Public sector wages are to be slashed by 15 percent in 2009 alongside deep cuts to government expenditures of 1 billion Latvian lats (€1.41 billion), a slashing of income tax and increases in VAT rates. The country aims to limit its budget deficit to five percent of GDP in 2009, falling still further to three percent by 2011.

In total, the package of austerity measures equals seven percent of GDP.

The Latvian economy is predicted to contract between five and eight percent this year.

Mr Godmanis later dismissed the protests on television, saying they should not be compared with the ‘Singing Revolution', the mass demonstrations from 1987-1990 that culminated in the independence of the Baltic States from the Soviet Union.

EU Commission unveils 'adequate minimum wage' plan

The European Commission proposed minimum standards to ensure adequate minimum wages all across the EU. But the proposal does not oblige member states to harmonise their systems, nor does it set a common minimum wage level.

Polish court effectively bans legal abortions

The human rights commissioner of the Council of Europe said the ruling marked a "sad day for women's rights", adding that more women will seek abortions underground and abroad.

Visual Data

Coronavirus: Will a second wave divide Europe again?

Experts are now warning of the "very serious" surge in Covid-19 cases in Europe - where new weekly cases exceede those reported in March. The worst-hit countries are Spain and France - while Italy is resisting the much-feared second wave.

EU to have first-ever anti-racism coordinator

The European Commission is set to unveil an action plan to fight racism - which will address gaps in existing legislation and extend the list of EU crimes to all forms of hate crime and hate speech.

News in Brief

  1. Polish government rows back on abortion ruling
  2. EU threatens legal action against Poland on rule of law
  3. 'Several dead' after earthquake hits Greece and Turkey
  4. Hungary faces EU court over asylum restrictions
  5. Polish PM urges end to abortion protests to 'protect elderly'
  6. EU to fund cross-border hospital transfers
  7. Some 140 migrants drown on way to Spanish islands
  8. EU central bank preparing new rescue measures

Coronavirus

EU tries to avoid lockdowns as global death toll reaches 1m

Several member states are putting forward restrictive Covid-19-related measures to try to control the surge of numbers of coronavirus cases, trying to avoid a second lockdown. Meanwhile, the global death toll from the novel coronavirus has reached one million.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAMaking healthier diets the easy choice
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersUN Secretary General to meet with Nordic Council on COVID-19
  3. UNESDAWell-designed Deposit Return Schemes can help reach Single-Use Plastics Directive targets
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council meets Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tichanovskaja
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to invest DKK 250 million in green digitalised business sector
  6. UNESDAReducing packaging waste – a huge opportunity for circularity

Latest News

  1. Nice attack: EU urges world leaders to stop hate speech
  2. Europe is back in (partial) lockdown
  3. Gender equality still 60 years away, warns study
  4. I'm an 'election observer' - but what do we actually do?
  5. Deal in reach on linking EU funds to rule of law
  6. EU Commission's Covid-19 expert offers bleak outlook
  7. Belgium's collaboration with Sudan's secret service: my story
  8. What do ordinary Belarusians want from the EU?

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us