Question mark over OECD membership bid

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Latvia's stated aim of joining the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) as quickly as possible still faces challenges, according to a report submitted to government by the Foreign Ministry Tuesday, reports the BNS newswire. 

According to BNS, the report suggests "the OECD has in various formats pointed out Latvia's non-compliance with OECD guidelines on the governance of state owned assets."

The report submitted by the Foreign Ministry said it is "crucial" for the Latvian parliament to adopt new laws regulating state ownership of companies "in the near future".

"The OECD pointed out that there is not currently a clear policy of national ownership," the report says, identifying several other areas of concern including a lack of cooperation between ministries and other state institutions, a mixing-up of functions between various departments and even the lack of annual reports submitted by state-owned companies.

"The management of state-owned companies... does not comply with the OECD guidelines," the report said.

However, following a cabinet meeting on Tuesday, the government issued a statement saying there was reason to "hope that negotiations could be finalized by the end of 2015" following the next scheduled Foreign Ministry update report on Latvian OECD accession in February 2015.

The OECD Working Group on Privatization and Corporate Governance of State Owned Assets is due to adopt its final report on Latvia at its meeting on October 22-23, and a negative report would stall Latvia's membership bid.

Latvia took its first official step in accession discussions with the OECD by delivering an Initial Memorandum to the organization on 14 February, 2014, setting out Latvia’s position on some 250 OECD legal instruments. 

That allowed the launch of technical reviews in 21 OECD committees examining Latvia’s legislation, policy and practice to assess its alignment with OECD standards.

The OECD opened accession discussions with Latvia on 29 May 2013  and an Accession Roadmap, setting out the terms, conditions and process for accession, was adopted by the OECD Council on 15 October 2013 .

OECD secretary-general Angel Gurria is due in Riga September 12 to participate in a conference.

Membership of the OECD was identified as a priority by former Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis and it was seen as the next step in Latvia's revived economic fortunes following eurozone accession on January 1, 2014.

It was hoped that full membership might be achieved within two to three years.

Northern neighbour Estonia joined the organization in 2010 after receiving its own accession invitation in 2007.

Speaking after the invitation was issued, Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics said it constituted: "a high estimate given by the world’s most developed countries to the reforms we have carried out and the joint achievements of the government and society in overcoming economic and financial crisis.”

Lithuania is expected to receive its invitation to join the OECD in 2015, at which point it will start a similar process of negotiation.

The OECD, sometimes dubbed a "rich countries' club" currently comprises 34 member states.

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