Latvia withdraws from Expo

To save over €3m

Latvia’s government has voted to withdraw from Expo 2015, according to local media reports. After a long and in part heated debate, economics minister Dana Reizniece-Ozola, who had argued in favour of the withdrawal, successfully countered the arguments of foreign minister Andrejs Pildegovics, who had recommended continuing with preparations for participation, warning that pulling out would hurt the country’s reputation.

Minister Reizniece-Ozola complained that the project had been conducted in an unprofessional way. Other government ministers supported his call for withdrawal, suggesting the earmarked funds be spent on public health instead.

Prime Minister Laimdota Straujuma called the withdrawal an "unpleasant decision”, particularly in view of the country’s current presidency of the European Union. "When will we learn to organize large projects?" she asked.

The economics ministry estimated that the decision would save some €3.3 m in 2015 and nearly €200,000 euros in 2016. The government had already ring-fenced €5.725 m for the Expo 2015 project. But bids for the construction of the oak-shaped pavilion by two companies – one Latvian and one Italian – had been rejected as unsuitable and too expensive.

Only a few days ago, as the discussion about the pullout decision became heated, a Netherlands-based company had offered to carry out a simplified project for little over €1 m by preparing a park landscape to represent Latvia’s famous forests. But this suggestion was not taken up.

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