Latvia, one of the three Baltic States, covers an area of 64,589 square kilometres. Latvia's population was estimated to be 2.013 million in 2014, indicating a continued fall from the 2000 figure of 2.38 million. This demographic shift reflects factors such as emigration, an ageing population and a falling birth rate. The capital of Latvia is Riga. Latvia celebrates its national day on 18 November (Independence Day).
System of Government
Latvia regained its independence from the Soviet Union in August 1991. Under the Constitution, the President is elected by members of the unicameral Parliament (Saeima) for a four-year term and has limited powers. The President appoints the Prime Minister, approves the Cabinet and may return legislation to the Saeima. The Saeima has 100 members, who are elected. National elections for the Saeima are held on the first Saturday in October every four years.
Latvia’s President Raimonds Vējonis was elected in July 2015 for a four-year term. He is a member of the Green Party, part of the Union of Greens and Farmers. Vējonis served as Minister of Defence of Latvia in 2014 and held that office until becoming President in 2015.
National elections for the Saeima (Parliament) were last held on 4 October 2014. Latvia’s ruling centre-right coalition was returned with a clear majority and Mrs Laimdota Straujuma (Unity Party) was sworn in as Latvia’s first female Prime Minister. However, in December 2015, Prime Minister Straujuma resigned from the position and her government was dissolved. A new Latvian government was approved by the Latvian Parliament on 11 February 2016. The Unity political party, National Alliance and the Union of Greens and Farmers reformed as the new centre-right coalition government. The new coalition government is headed by a Prime Minister Maris Kucinskis. Under Prime Minister Kucinskis, it is anticipated that he will continue the policy priorities of Straujuma’s government.
Latvia joined NATO on 2 April 2004 and acceded to the EU on 1 May 2004. It was accepted into the Eurozone on 1 January 2014. Latvia joined the World Trade Organization in 2009 and was invited at the May 2013 Ministerial Council meeting of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) to begin the OECD accession process.
Latvia’s economy rebounded after the global financial crisis, although structural unemployment remains relatively high. Unemployment in Latvia rose dramatically during the financial crisis, from around 7 per cent in 2008 to a peak of over 20 per cent in the last quarter of 2009. It has since fallen gradually, with 9.8 per cent recorded in 2014.
Agriculture remains the cornerstone of the Latvia’s economy. Latvia’s economy has been slowed in recent years, with GDP growth decelerated to 2.4 per cent in 2014-15, reflecting the weak economic performance in the euro area and Russia amid rising geopolitical tensions.
Australia recognised Latvia's regaining of independence on 27 August 1991. Latvia and Australia enjoy friendly, co-operative relations with strong people to people links flowing from large numbers of Latvians who migrated to Australia in the twentieth century, primarily at the end of World War II. At the time of the 2011 Census, there were 20,124 people in Australia of Latvian ancestry.
The Australian Ambassador in Stockholm is accredited to Latvia. The Latvian Ambassador based in London has non-resident accreditation to Australia. Latvia is represented in Australia by Honorary Consuls in New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia.
The relationship between Australia and Latvia is underpinned by bilateral agreements covering Trade and Economic Cooperation (1993), Extradition (2005) and Social Security (2011).
Latvia's then-State Secretary for Foreign Affairs, and now current Ambassador to Australia, Mr Andris Teikmanis, visited Australia for bilateral consultations most recently in December 2015. The Australian Prime Minister's Special Envoy, Dr Russell Trood, visited Riga in September 2011, during which he signed a bilateral Social Security Agreement.
Bilateral economic and trade relationship
Two-way merchandise trade in 2014-15 between Australia and Latvia was A$25.5 million. Australia exported A$8.4 million worth of goods to Latvia during this period, primarily alcoholic beverages and inorganic chemical materials. Imports from Latvia in this period totaled A$17.2 million, primarily mechanical handling equipment and parts, telecom equipment and parts and alcoholic beverages.
Please contact Austrade for information on doing business in Latvia.
Last updated: April 2016