Clinton Recommends Fewer Business Barriers For Young Latvians

Posted June 28th, 2012 at 5:50 pm (UTC-5)
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U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says fewer barriers to starting a new business in Latvia will enable more of its young people to engage in economic activity.

Secretary Clinton arrived in Riga Latvia Thursday and after meEting with top officials she participated in a town hall meeting at the University of Latvia hosted by the country's state television.

Answering a participant's question, Clinton said the government should work with private businesses and landlords to open more places for young Latvians to work and live. She gave an example from her experience as a New York senator.

“I worked to help create – take an old factory in Buffalo, New York and to turn it into living and working space for artists, for designers, for musicians, for people who then began to create economic activity in the area where they were living, which then had spinoff effects, so that another person would say, “Well, we've got young people now living here. Maybe they need a coffee shop. Maybe they need an Internet cafe.' So the second thing is to be creative about how to use the assets that are already existing” said Clinton.

The U.S. top diplomat also recommended that young people should be given access to credit and small business loans to be able to start businesses.

High unemployment and a lack of affordable housing have spurred the exodus of young people from eastern Europe, especially from the former Soviet bloc, to western countries in search of a living.

Latvia is the 100th country Secretary Clinton has visited since taking office. She recalled her first visit there 18 years ago with her husband, then U.S. President Bill Clinton. At the time, Latvia had emerged from under the Soviet rule and its young people had great hopes for the future. But many of them have since been disappointed with a lack of expected prosperity.

During the visit to Riga Thursday, Clinton also urged Latvia to return Jewish property confiscated by the Soviet Union. Most of Latvian Jews were killed by the Nazis who occupied the Baltic country in the early years of World War Two.

While in Riga, Clinton also attended the dedication of Sumner Welles Street in honor of former U.S. Undersecretary of State Sumner Welles whose declaration formalized the U.S. refusal to recognize the forced incorporation of the Baltic republics, Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania into the Soviet Union.

Clinton will pay an official visit to Russia Friday before heading back to the United States.