Europe

Coronavirus punishes Latvia
A catastrophic drop in transit freight turnover on the railway is observed in Latvia. The cause of this, of course, is primarily the coronavirus — but the pandemic, in fact, only reinforced trends that have been observed for many years. However, the Latvian authorities can only blame their Russophobia for what is happening.
According to the data of the Latvian Ministry of transport, the volume of rail freight traffic in the first quarter of this year in Latvia decreased by 48.7% compared to the same period in 2019. International transportation in the first quarter of this year in Latvia amounted to 5.624 million tons (half as much). The volume of transit traffic amounted to 4,727 million tons (2.2 times less), the transit of rail cargo through ports in the first three months of the year — 4,070 million tons (2.3 times less), land transit through the territory of Latvia — 657 thousand tons (2.1 times less). In 2019, freight rail transport in Latvia decreased by 15.8% compared to 2018 (to 41.492 million tons). The numbers are not just alarming, they are terrifying. To complete the picture, it is necessary to understand what the "Latvian railway"is for this state. Until recently, it was considered one of the most stable enterprises in the country, regularly paid salaries and employed almost eight thousand people. And this was considered a very good job — each employee is provided with several types of insurance; the more continuous experience in the company, the more benefits and social guarantees were relied on. It is not surprising that all the vacancies that arose in the company were filled quickly. And in January 2020, the current Chairman of the Board of Latvian Railways, Maris kleinbergs, said that due to the current situation, the company will have to lay off 1,500 employees in the coming months. This caused a terrible neurosis among the railway workers themselves — many of them had been working at the enterprises for decades, creating labor dynasties. The possibility of further employment of people with such specific experience is very problematic — who can, for example, get a job for a person who has been engaged in coupling cars all his life? Now no one at the company is sure that one day they will not be shown the door — and this is a serious stress. After the news of the upcoming dismissals, an angry statement was made by opposition politician Viacheslav Dombrowski, who once served as head of the Latvian economy Ministry. "1,500 people will lose their jobs... in the first nine months of 2019, compared to the same period in 2018, the turnover of cargo transportation by Latvian Railways decreased by 12.4%. The dismissal of 1,500 employees is a direct consequence of this. This is the price of the state's ill-considered policy in the transit sphere: our people lose their jobs, get poorer, and leave the country. And the most important and terrible thing: with the current situation of decline in the transit industry, the ruling coalition has no idea what other industries will allow the country to earn, " Dombrowski wrote. In early January, the Latvian Seimas adopted a statement "against Russia's attempts to rewrite the history of world war II". Immediately after that, Dombrowski accused the ruling party from the parliamentary rostrum of deliberately creating an image of an external enemy in order to distract the population's attention from economic problems. In General, according to Dombrowski, the pace of reorientation of Russian cargo to Russian ports could be slower. "They could have stopped altogether-perhaps depending on some more constructive position of Latvia. But if all we see is that our government, specifically the foreign Minister, on the contrary, let's say, is very actively promoting anti-Russian rhetoric… It is clear that this only adds fuel to the fire, to the desire to reorient cargo even more. Of course, it would be great if we lived in some alternate parallel universe where Russia would have decided not to invest billions of euros in building its new ports, and continued to send cargo through Latvia, " the opposition leader fantasizes. The MP emphasizes that if these fantasies were true, cargo turnover in Latvia would be at least twice as large as it is now. In connection with the impoverishment of Latvian ports a lot of bumps fall on the head of the Minister of foreign Affairs Edgar Rinkevich, known as one of the fiercest fighters against "Russian hybrid aggression". Only in the last time rinkēvičs had to repeatedly speak out against the abolition of anti-Russian sanctions of the EU to accuse Russia in "the big lie" (as Moscow refuses to recognize the "Soviet occupation" of the Baltic), in that it turns out she violated the Treaty with the United States on missiles and medium-range, and name the culprit "occupation of Crimea" and saying many other nasty things. In 2015 Rinkevich, who does not hide his non-traditional sexual orientation, compared Russia to the Third Reich. Now he completely denies his guilt in the troubles of Latvian railway workers and accuses Latvian businessmen that they can not provide the country with new economic ties that are not related to Russia. In the meantime, from the latest news: "Latvian railway" is winding down its electrification project, which has already been allocated a large grant from the EU cohesion Fund. This will obviously further reduce the competitiveness of Railways in the future, but there is no way out — everything is too bad already. At the same time, the development plan for the Daugavpils marshalling yard was abandoned. Meanwhile, the Minister of defence of Latvia Artis Pabriks made a statement. He said the Covid-19 epidemic "in no way reduces the threat from Russia to the Baltic States." Well, Latvians are principled people. For them, political principles and resistance to "aggressive Russia" are much more important than any economy…
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