Introduction

Latvia lies in northwest of the Eastern Europe lowland near the Baltic Sea. It is a part of the Balto-Scandinavian geographic region. Latvia borders with Estonia in the North, Russian Federation in the East, Belarus in the South East and Lithuania in the South. It has sea borderline with Sweden in the West. In total land border covers 1368 km on land and sea border covers 494 km.

The size of country's total area is 64 589 km. 57% of the state lies lower than 100 m above the sea level, 40,5% lie 100m to 200m and 2,5% lie higher than 200m. In Latvia there are 2300 lakes and 12000 rivers, 17 of them are longer than 100 km. The River Daugava is the longest river with the total length of 1005 km; 352 km of the river lie in the territory of Latvia. In summer the average temperature is 15,8C and in winter time it is -4,5C. There are approximately 120 days with precipitation per annum. In the capital city Riga the highest registered temperature has reached 34,5C and the lowest one -34,9C; accordingly, it has been 35,1C and -43,2C in Daugavpils.

45,4 % of the territory of Latvia were covered by woods, 1,8 % were covered by shrubs; agricultural land occupies 38,0 %, mires - 3,9% and waters - 3,6 %. Roads cover 2,1%, yards - 1,4%, the rest of land takes up 3,8 % of the total territory of the state. According to real estate usage, the classification differs - as it is foreseen to use 61,5% for agricultural needs, 32,2% for forestry, 1,9 % for water management, 1,6 % for transport infrastructure, 0,3 % for quarries and mineral resources extraction industry sites, 0,3 % for industrial sites, 0,2 % for commercial housing areas; 0,7 % - for single and double dwelling residential areas, 0,1 % for multi-apartment dwelling residential areas, 1,1 % for sites of public significance and 0,1 % of the total territory for engineering infrastructure supply networks and structures (data on 01.01.2007, State Land Service).

The last 70 years in Latvia have witnessed increase both of the forest areas and the volume of standing crop. Within the period from 1935 to 2006 the forest area in Latvia increased by 1.7 times, but the volume of standing crop - by 3.3 times. In the beginning of 2007 state owned forests occupied 53% of all forest areas. The rest is owned by the private and enterprise owners and about 2 % by local municipalities.  The total forest area under strict protection in forests is 506,106 ha (Ministry of Agriculture, 2007).

Single area payment can be granted to agricultural land which was at a good agricultural condition as at 30 June 2003. A farmer is eligible for the single area payment if maintaining at least 1 ha of agricultural land. Moreover, the EU legislation provides that the single area payment is available to a farmer regardless of whether the land is or is notused for agricultural production, provided that the farmer complies with certain good agricultural and environmental condition. Areas of agricultural land filed at the regional agricultural offices of the Rural Support Service for reception of the single area payment  in 2006 on average per region was 63,2% of the agricultural land registered with the  register of Real Estate State Cadastre Information System.  In 2006, the amount of financing granted to Latvia totalled 33,70 million lats with the maximum rate of aid at 22,85 lats per hectare. In 2006, the area declared by farmers and approved as eligible for payments by the Rural Support Service was larger than the reference area (1 475 000 ha) established upon Latvia's accession to the EU; therefore, the actual disbursement rate of aid for the single area payment was 22,10 LVL per hectare. Single area payments for 2006 were disbursed to 79 900 aid applicants for the total area of 1 488 051 ha, with the total aid amounting to 32,89 million LVL (Ministry of Agriculture, 2007).

In Latvia number of population was 2281,3 thousand inhabitants at the beginning of 2007. In the last fifteen years the depopulation is very characteristic for Latvia - the number of population has decreased for about 300 thousand or more than 10%. Density of population is 36 people per km. There live 68% of population in cities and towns. Mono-centric settlement structure is very typical for Latvia with strong and dominant metropolis region. At the beginning of 2006 there lived 728 thousand people in Riga or one third of inhabitants of the state. In the capital city population density reaches almost 2400 people per km. About half of population of the state or 1148 thousand inhabitants live in functional region of Riga City or Riga agglomeration. The second biggest city is Daugavpils with 109 thousand people and it is seven times smaller than the capital city. Greatest share of the rest of 77 Latvian cities and towns are small housing less than 10 thousand inhabitants (Central Statistical Bureau, 2007).

In Latvian households the average number of people is 2, 57. However the majority of the households consists of 1-2 persons. 70% of the Latvian households occupies multi-apartment houses, 83,9% of them live in cities and towns. 28,3% households dwell in individual houses and farmsteads -  the greatest part of this type of dwellings is located in rural territories. 1,3% of households live in houses of other type. Almost half of households (43%) live in two-room flats, 17% of households live in one room flats. The rest of households live in three room or greater apartments (State Housing Agency, 2006). In 2006 the average dwelling space was 24,6 m2 per person that is approximately twice less than the average in Europe.

In 2004 84,7% of dwellings are privately owned, 8,0% of dwellings are owned by local municipalities, 1,5% are owned by the state. Ownership is being clarified for 5,8% of dwellings throughout the process of denationalisation and privatisation. In Latvia the major problem is associated with depreciation and low quality of housing stock. Approximately one fourth of the houses are built earlier than in 1945. 62% of all dwellings are industrially built in the post-war period having identical constructions, inappropriate isolation and inadequate heat consumption parameters. Only 83,1% (in rural regions only  60,2%) of the dwellings are connected to sewerage systems (survey of 2004).

Rural Support Service of the Ministry of Agriculture in 2006 issued permits for transformation of agricultural lands in the total area of 7064 ha, including the drained lands in the area of 2687 ha. Data of 2004-2006 years show that on average 77% of the agricultural land to be transformed were foreseen to be transformed into forest lands and 16% for the purpose of construction. The applied area of agricultural land to be transformed for the purpose of construction increased on average by 33%, if compared to 2004. The largest area of the agricultural lands to be transformed for the purpose of construction were mainly in close proximity to the capital city Riga - in the districts of Riga (528 ha), Ogre (115 ha) and Jelgava (98 ha) (Ministry of Agriculture, 2007).

There have been issued 10172 building permits in 2006 in total. Larger part of them is building permits issued for one flat residential buildings - 5868 with total building space of 1296,5 thousand m and for summer and garden houses - respectively - 1378 building permits. In the Riga District 43% of all permits for one flat residential building construction are issued, and 59% respectively for the total number of all for summer and garden houses' building permits. In 2006 there are also issued 593 building permits for two and more flats residential buildings (total building space of 1034,7 thousand m) as well as 190 permits for industrial buildings and warehouses, 115 permits for wholesale and retail buildings, 83 permits for construction of new hotels and tourist accommodations, 66 permits for new office buildings and 50 respectively for construction of mass entertainment, new education, health care buildings. In 2006 there are also approved building permits for construction of new local pipelines and cables - 1456 with in total length of 810 km and new transmission pipelines, trunk cables and main electro power lines respectively 144 building permits with total length of 238 km, as well as for construction of new motor ways, streets and roads - 174 building permits and rail way lines - 5 building permits (Central Statistical Bureau of Latvia, 2007).

Latvia has is a market oriented economy. In 2005 GDP was 11.1 thousand EUR. In the period 2001 - 2004 annual GDP increased for about 8 % on average, in period 2005 - 2006 more than 10% (Ministry of Economics data). After regaining independence Latvia experienced rapid structural changes. If in 1990 primary sector gave 22% from the produced value, secondary sector - 46% and tertiary sector correspondingly - 32%, then in 2000 primary sector gave 5% from the produced value, secondary sector - 25% and tertiary sector - 70% from the produced value. In 1994 public sector ensured 66% from GDP and private sector gave 34% from GDP, accordingly, in 2000 public sector gave 32% from GDP, but private sector created 68% of GDP.  In public sector the most of added value is created by non private state enterprises - state stock companies "Latvia State Forests", "Latvenergo" (Latvian Energy Company), "Latvian Railway" and "Latvian Post" as well as by partially state owned telecommunication enterprises  - stock companies "Lattelecom" and "Latvian Mobile telephone".

Relevant institutions

Central Statistical Bureau of Latvia www.csb.gov.lv

The Latvian Institute www.li.lv