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Latvia

Executive Summary

Located in the Baltic region of northeastern Europe, Latvia is a member of the EU, Eurozone, NATO, OECD, and the World Trade Organization (WTO). The Latvian government recognizes that, as a small country, it must attract foreign investment to foster economic growth, and thus has pursued liberal economic policies and developed infrastructure to position itself as a transportation and logistics hub. According to the 2020 World Bank’s Doing Business Report, Latvia is ranked 19th out of 190 countries in terms of ease of doing business, which is the same as the previous year. As a member of the European Union, Latvia applies EU laws and regulations, and, according to current legislation, foreign investors possess the same rights and obligations as local investors (with certain exceptions). Any foreign investor is entitled to establish and own a company in Latvia and has the opportunity to acquire a temporary residence permit.

Latvia provides several advantages to potential investors, including:

Regional hub: Despite ongoing tensions between Russia and the European Union and challenges of Covid-19 pandemic, Latvia remains a transportation and logistics bridge between West and East, providing strategic access to both the EU market and to Russia and Central Asia. Latvia’s three ice-free ports are connected to the country’s rail and road networks and to the largest international airport in the Baltic region (Riga International Airport). Latvia’s road network is connected to both European and Central Asian road networks. The railroads connect Latvia with the other Baltic States, Russia, and Belarus, with further connections extending into Central Asia and China.

Workforce: Latvia’s workforce is highly educated and multilingual, and its culture promotes hard work and dependability. Labor costs in Latvia are the fourth lowest (tied with Hungary) in the EU.

Competitive tax system: Latvia ranked second in the OECD’s 2020 International Tax Competitiveness Index Rankings. To further boost its competitiveness, the Latvian government has abolished taxes on reinvested profits and has established special incentives for foreign and domestic investment. There are five special economic zones (SEZs) in Latvia: Riga Free Port, Ventspils Free Port, Liepaja Special Economic Zone, Rezekne Special Economic Zone, and Latgale Special Economic Zone, which provide various tax benefits for investors. The Latgale Special Economic Zone covers a large part of Latgale, which is the most economically challenged region in Latvia, bordering Russia and Belarus.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Latvia’s GDP contracted by 3.6 percent in 2020. However, this contraction was less severe than what most other Eurozone countries experienced during the crisis.

According to the government, growth in manufacturing and construction and increased government spending helped offset the decline in services caused by COVID-19-related restrictions in transport, tourism, and entertainment and leisure industries. The most competitive sectors in Latvia remain woodworking, metalworking, transportation, IT, green tech, healthcare, life science, food processing, and finance. Recent reports suggest that some of the most significant challenges investors encounter in Latvia are a shortage of available workforce, demography, quality of education, and a significant shadow economy.

The non-resident banking sector has come under increased regulatory scrutiny in recent years because of inadequate compliance with international AML standards. On August 23, 2018, MONEYVAL, a Council of Europe agency that assesses member states’ compliance with AML standards, issued a report that found Latvia deficient in several assessment categories. The Government of Latvia has continued its work to restore confidence in its financial institutions and has passed several pieces of reform legislation.

In late 2019 and early 2020, MONEYVAL and the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) concluded that Latvia had developed and implemented strong enough reforms for combating financial crimes to avoid increased monitoring via the so-called “grey list.” While it will continue enhanced monitoring under MONEYVAL to continue strengthening the system, Latvia became the first member state under the MONEYVAL review to successfully implement all 40 FATF recommendations.

Despite these advantages, some investors note a perceived lack of fairness and transparency with Latvian public procurements. Several companies, including foreign companies, have complained that bidding requirements are sometimes written with the assistance of potential contractors or couched in terms that exclude all but “preferred” contractors.

The chart below shows Latvia’s ranking on several prominent international measures of interest to potential investors.

Table 1: Key Metrics and Rankings
Measure Year Index/Rank Website Address
TI Corruption Perceptions Index 2020 42 of 180 http://www.transparency.org/research/cpi/overview
World Bank’s Doing Business Report 2020 19 of 190 http://www.doingbusiness.org/en/rankings
Global Innovation Index 2020 36 of 131 https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/analysis-indicator
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, historical stock positions) 2019 153* http://data.imf.org/regular.aspx?key=61227424
World Bank GNI per capita 2019 USD 17,740 http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GNP.PCAP.CD

*These figures significantly underestimate the value of U.S. investment in Latvia due to the fact that these do not account for investments by U.S. firms through their European subsidiaries.

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

The Latvian government actively encourages foreign direct investment (FDI) and works with investors to improve the country’s business climate. Latvia has a dedicated investment promotion agency – Latvian Investment and Development Agency – to provide a full scope of investment services to prospective investors: https://www.liaa.gov.lv/en  The Latvian government meets annually with the Foreign Investors Council in Latvia (FICIL), which represents large foreign companies and chambers of commerce, to improve the business environment and encourage foreign investment. The Prime Minister chairs the Coordination Council for Large and Strategically Important Investment Projects. In January 2021, FICIL published its Sentiment Index 2020 – a survey of current foreign investors’ assessments about the investment climate in Latvia. It is available at: https://www.ficil.lv/sentiment-index/  .

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

Latvian legislation, on the basis of national security concerns, requires governmental approval prior to transfers of significant ownership interests in the energy, telecommunications, and media sectors. The government is considering expanding this list of sectors. Detailed information is available here: https://investmentpolicy.unctad.org/country-navigator/118/latvia 

With these limited exceptions, physical and legal persons who are citizens of Latvia or of other EU countries may freely purchase real property. In general, physical and legal persons who are citizens of non-EU countries (third-country nationals) may also freely purchase developed real property. However, third-country nationals may not directly purchase certain types of agricultural, forest, and undeveloped land. Such persons may acquire ownership interest in such land through a company registered in the Register of Enterprises of the Republic of Latvia, provided that more than 50 percent of the company is owned by: (a) Latvian citizens and/or Latvian governmental entities; and/or (b) physical or legal persons from countries with which Latvia signed and ratified an international agreement on the promotion and protection of investments on or before December 31, 1996; or for agreements concluded after this date, so long as such agreements provide for reciprocal rights to land acquisition. The United States and Latvia have such an agreement (a bilateral investment treaty in force since 1996). In addition, foreign investors can lease land without restriction for up to 99 years. The Law on Land Privatization in Rural Areas allows EU citizens to purchase Latvia’s agricultural land and forests. Other restrictions apply (to both Latvian citizens and foreigners) regarding the acquisition of land in Latvia’s border areas, Baltic Sea and Gulf of Riga dune areas, and other protected areas.

In May 2017, the President of Latvia promulgated the amendments to the Law on Land Privatization in Rural Areas to simplify and clarify the process for local farmers to purchase land. The law, however, also prohibits foreigners who are not permanently residing in Latvia from purchasing agricultural land and required that any person wishing to purchase agricultural land must speak Latvian and be able to present plans for the future use of the land for agricultural purposes in Latvian.

The Latvian constitution guarantees the right to private ownership. Both domestic and foreign private entities have the right to establish and own business enterprises and engage in all forms of commercial activity, except those expressly prohibited by law.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) published an Economic Survey of Latvia in December 2020 ( http://www.oecd.org/economy/latvia-economic-snapshot/ ). Although there have been no trade policy reviews specifically involving Latvia, the WTO completed its latest review of the European Union in February 2020. ( https://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/tpr_e/tp495_e.htm ). Additionally, in October 2017, the World Bank published a review of Latvia’s tax system ( http://documents.worldbank.org/curated/en/587291508511990249/Latvia-tax-review ). Previously, the World Bank carried out a similar review of Latvia’s port infrastructure in 2013 ( http://www.worldbank.org/en/news/press-release/2013/11/27/world-bank-reviews-competitiveness-of-latvian-ports ).

Business Facilitation

In 2020, Latvia ranked 19 out of 190 countries in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Report. A new business can be registered in Latvia in one day. The Latvian Investment and Development Agency has prepared a guide on starting a business in Latvia: https://www.liaa.gov.lv/en/invest-latvia/business-guide/operating-environment 

The official website of the Latvian Commercial Register provides detailed information in English on business registration process in Latvia: https://www.ur.gov.lv/en/ . The World Bank’s Doing Business project has a detailed review of the business registration process in Latvia, which is available here: http://www.doingbusiness.org/data/exploreeconomies/latvia/#starting-a-business .

Latvia has implemented special legislation to encourage startup ventures through favorable tax treatment. For more information please see here: http://www.liaa.gov.lv/en/invest-latvia/start-up-ecosystem  and here: https://labsoflatvia.com/en/resources .

Using the European Commission definitions of micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs), Latvia has established a special tax regime for microenterprises. Under the microenterprise tax, qualifying businesses (those employing up to five employees and with less than 25,000 euros in revenue) pay a single tax that covers social security contributions, personal income tax, and business risk tax for employees, and includes corporate income tax if the micro business taxpayer is a limited liability company. This special tax regime is available to foreign nationals. Changes introduced in 2021, including an increased microenterprise tax rate, now make the tax regime less attractive for most small companies. For additional details on the microenterprise tax, see: https://www.vid.gov.lv/en/node/57223 

Outward Investment

The Latvian government does not incentivize outward investment nor restrict Latvians from investing overseas.

2. Bilateral Investment Agreements and Taxation Treaties

Latvia and the United States share a bilateral investment treaty that came into force in December 1996. Latvia has also concluded bilateral investment agreements with Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belarus, BLEU (Belgium-Luxembourg Economic Union), Bulgaria, Canada, China, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Egypt, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, India, Israel, Kazakhstan, Korea, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Lithuania, Moldova, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Singapore, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom, Uzbekistan, and Vietnam.

Latvia has concluded the Treaty on Avoidance of Double Taxation with the United States, which entered into force on December 30, 1999.

3. Legal Regime

Transparency of the Regulatory System

The Latvian government has amended its laws and regulatory procedures to bring Latvia’s legislation in compliance with the EU and WTO GPA requirements. Several legislative changes were aimed at increasing the transparency of the Latvian business environment and regulatory system. At the same time, the massive legislative changes carried out in a short period of time have led to some laws and regulations that could be subject to conflicting interpretations. The Latvian government has developed a good working relationship with the foreign business community (through FICIL) to streamline various bureaucratic procedures and to address legal and regulatory issues as they arise. Additional information on the regulatory system in Latvia is available here: http://rulemaking.worldbank.org/en/data/explorecountries/latvia 

The public finance and debt obligations process is transparent. Detailed information on the national budget process is available on the Latvian Ministry of Finance’s website: https://www.fm.gov.lv/en/s/budget/ .

International Regulatory Considerations

As an EU member, Latvia has incorporated European norms and standards into its regulatory system. As an EU member, Latvia is a signatory to the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement. As a WTO member, Latvia has the duty to notify all draft technical regulations to the WTO Committee on Technical Barriers to Trade.

Legal System and Judicial Independence

Latvia has a three-tier court system comprising district (city) courts, regional courts, and the Supreme Court. In addition, the Constitutional Court reviews the compatibility of decrees and acts of the President of the Republic, the government, and local authorities with the constitution and the law. Unless otherwise stipulated by law, district courts are the courts of first instance in all civil, criminal, and administrative cases. Regional courts have appellate jurisdiction over district court cases and original jurisdiction for certain cases specified in the Civil Code, such as cases on the protection of patent rights, trademarks, and geographic indicators, as well as cases on the insolvency and liquidation of credit institutions. The Supreme Court is the highest-level court in Latvia and – depending on the origin of the case – has either de novo review of both factual and legal findings or, in instances where it is the second appellate court reviewing a case, cassation review of only legal findings.

City and regional courts are administered by the Ministry of Justice ( www.tm.gov.lv ), while the Supreme Court and Constitutional Court are independent.

Many observers have voiced concerns about the length of civil cases in Latvia, and the nature and opacity of judicial rulings have led some investors to question the fairness and impartiality of some judges. These concerns are not specific to foreign or local investors, however, and the court system is generally viewed as applying the law equally to the interests of foreign and local investors. Although the Ministry of Justice has enacted reforms designed to reduce the backlog of cases in the lower courts, improvements in the judicial system are still needed to accelerate the adjudication of cases, to strengthen the enforcement of court decisions, and to upgrade professional standards. The newly established Economic Affairs Court began operating on March 31. This is an effort by the government to accelerate and improve adjudication of economic and financial-related cases.

Laws and Regulations on Foreign Direct Investment

Incoming foreign investment in Latvia is regulated by the Commercial Law. The Latvian Investment and Development Agency’s website is a helpful resource for navigating the rules and procedures governing foreign investment. ( http://www.liaa.gov.lv/en/invest-latvia/investor-business-guide/operating-environment  ).

Competition and Antitrust Laws

Competition-related concerns are supervised by the Competition Council. More information can be accessed at: http://www.kp.gov.lv/en 

Expropriation and Compensation

Cases of arbitrary expropriation of private property by the Government of Latvia are extremely rare. Expropriation of foreign investment is possible in a very limited number of cases specified in the Law on the Alienation of Immovable Property Necessary for Public Needs: ( https://likumi.lv/ta/en/en/id/220517-law-on-the-alienation-of-immovable-property-necessary-for-public-needs ) If the owner of the property claimed by the government deems the compensation inadequate, he or she may challenge the government’s decision in a Latvian court.

Dispute Settlement

ICSID Convention and New York Convention

Latvia has been a member of the International Center for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) since 1997 and a member of the New York Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards since 1992. Judgments of foreign arbitral courts that are made in accordance with either can therefore be enforced in Latvia. The Civil Procedure Law stipulates that the judgments of foreign non-arbitral courts can be enforced in Latvia.

Investor-State Dispute Settlement

There have been no claims by U.S. investors under the Bilateral Investment Treaty against Latvia.

On December 22, 2017, the ICSID ruled that Latvia had violated its bilateral investment treaty with Lithuania and ordered Latvia to pay $1.9 million to a Lithuanian energy company in a dispute over the nationalization of a heating and hot water supply system. According to a local law firm, this is the first decision on the merits in an ICSID case against the Republic of Latvia. More information is available here: https://investmentpolicy.unctad.org/investment-dispute-settlement/cases/478/uab-v-latvia 

International Commercial Arbitration and Foreign Courts

On January 1, 2015, the Law on Arbitration courts came into force to regulate the establishment and operation of local arbitration courts in Latvia. According to the information available in the register, there are 68 arbitration institutions registered in Latvia ( https://www.ur.gov.lv/lv/registre/organizaciju/skirejtiesas/skirejtiesu-saraksts/ ). In most commercial agreements, parties opt to refer their disputes to arbitration rather than to the Latvian courts.

The Civil Procedure Law contains a section on arbitration courts. This section was drafted on the basis of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) model, thus providing full compliance with international standards. The law also governs the enforcement of rulings of foreign non-arbitral courts and foreign arbitrations. The full text of the law in English can be found here: https://likumi.lv/ta/en/id/50500-civil-procedure-law 

Bankruptcy Regulations

There are two laws governing bankruptcy procedure: the Law on Insolvency and the Law on Credit Institutions (regulating bankruptcy procedures for banks and other financial sector companies).

According to the latest World Bank’s Doing Business Report Latvia ranked 55th out of 190 countries in terms of ease of resolving insolvency. More information is available here: http://www.doingbusiness.org/data/exploreeconomies/latvia#resolving-insolvency .

The business community has expressed concerns over inefficiency and allegations of corruption in Latvia’s insolvency administration system. To tackle the issue, the Latvian government has partnered with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and in September 2019 launched a project “Support for Debt Restructuring in Latvia.” More information is available here: https://www.ebrd.com/news/2019/support-for-debt-restructuring-in-latvia-project-launched.html 

4. Industrial Policies

Investment Incentives

Latvia does not offer tax incentives. The Cross-Sectoral Coordination Center of Latvia is the main agency in charge of National Development Planning. In accordance with the Law on the Development Planning System ( https://likumi.lv/doc.php?id=175748 ), national development planning documents are prepared for a long-term (up to 25 years), medium-term (up to seven years) and short-term (up to three years). More information available here: https://www.pkc.gov.lv/en/national-development-planning 

In addition, Latvia has identified the following sectors as having the highest potential for new investment: woodworking, metalworking and mechanical engineering, transport and storage, information technology (including global business services), green technology, health care, life sciences, and food processing. The information is disseminated to the general public and potential investors via the Latvian Investment and Development Agency’s official website ( http://liaa.gov.lv/invest-latvia/sectors-and-industries ), and through its representative offices ( http://liaa.gov.lv/contacts/representative-offices ).

Because the Latvian government extends national treatment to foreign investors, most investment incentives and requirements apply equally to local and foreign businesses. Latvia has three special economic zones and two free ports in which companies benefit from various tax rebates (real estate, dividend, and corporate income) and do not pay VAT. The full list of investment incentives is available here: https://www.liaa.gov.lv/en/invest-latvia/business-guide/business-incentives .

Latvia does not have a practice of issuing guarantees or jointly financing foreign direct investment projects.

Foreign Trade Zones/Free Ports/Trade Facilitation

There are five free trade areas in Latvia. Free ports have been established in Riga and Ventspils. Special economic zones (SEZ) have been created in Liepaja, a port city in western Latvia; Rezekne, a city in eastern Latvia; and an additional SEZ in Latgale, the poorest region in Latvia, which borders Russia and Belarus.

Somewhat different rules apply to each of the five zones. In general, the two free ports provide exemptions from indirect taxes, including customs duties, VAT, and excise tax. The SEZs offer additional incentives, such as an 80-100 percent reduction of corporate income taxes and real estate taxes. To qualify for tax relief and other benefits, companies must receive permits and sign agreements with the appropriate authorities: the Riga and the Ventspils Port Authorities, for the respective free ports; the Liepaja SEZ Administration; the Rezekne SEZ Administration; or the Latgale SEZ Administration. The SEZs are expected to be in place until 2035.

Performance and Data Localization Requirements

Except for specific requirements for investors acquiring former state enterprises through the privatization process, there are no performance requirements for a foreign investor to establish, maintain, or expand an investment in Latvia. In the privatization process, performance requirements for investors, both foreign and domestic, are determined on a case-by-case basis.

Under Latvian Immigration Law, foreign citizens can enter and reside in Latvia for temporary business activities for up to three months in a six-month period. For longer periods of time, foreigners are required to obtain residence and work permits. The Latvian Investment and Development Agency, together with the Office of Citizenship and Migration Affairs, has created a guide to help third-country nationals interested in working in Latvia obtain work permits: http://workinlatvia.liaa.gov.lv/ 

A third-country national may obtain a five-year temporary residence permit if he or she has made certain minimum equity investments in a Latvian company, certain subordinated investments in a Latvian credit institution, or purchased real estate for certain designated sums, subject to limitations in each case. More information is available here: https://www.liaa.gov.lv/en/invest-latvia/business-guide/operating-environment  .

Latvia’s Law on Personal Data Processing, implementing the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation, entered into force in July 2018. Full text of the Law available here: https://likumi.lv/ta/en/en/id/300099-personal-data-processing-law 

More information is available here: https://www.dvi.gov.lv/en/ 

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

Latvia recognizes the full spectrum of property rights, including mortgages and liens. According to the latest World Bank Doing Business Report, Latvia is ranked 25th out of 190 countries in terms of ease of registering property. Latvia does not have significant problems with unclear legal titles. More information: http://www.globalpropertyguide.com/Europe/Latvia/Buying-Guide  and http://www.doingbusiness.org/data/exploreeconomies/latvia#registering-property .

Intellectual Property Rights

To harmonize its legislation with EU and WTO requirements, Latvia has established a legal framework for the protection of intellectual property rights (IPR), including legislation to protect copyrights, trademarks, and patents. The Law on Copyrights strengthens the protection of software copyrights and neighboring rights. Foreign owners may seek redress for violation of their IPR through the appellation council at the Latvian Patent Office, as well as through private litigation. In copyright violation cases, aggrieved parties can request that the use of the pirated works be prohibited, pirated copies be destroyed, and that violators compensate them for losses (including lost profits). The criminal law stipulates penalties for copyright violations.

The United States has signed a Trade and Intellectual Property Rights Agreement with Latvia. Latvia is a member of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and party to the Paris Convention, the Berne Convention, the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT), the WIPO Copyright Treaty, the WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty, and the Geneva Phonograms Convention. In addition, the Latvian government has amended all relevant laws and regulations to comply with the requirements of the WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) to which Latvia acceded by joining the WTO.

The business community has occasionally raised concerns regarding the enforcement of IPR in Latvia. Digital piracy is still a concern in Latvia, as it is in much of Eastern and Central Europe. Latvian law enforcement authorities have the authority to investigate IPR infringement cases. The Government of Latvia is working to tackle online/digital piracy, and has drafted respective policy guidelines: https://www.iem.gov.lv/en/article/tackle-copyright-infringements-digital-environment-more-effectively

Every year, the European Commission publishes a report describing the customs detentions of articles suspected of infringing IPR. These statistics are available here: https://ec.europa.eu/taxation_customs/business/customs-controls/counterfeit-piracy-other-ipr-violations/ipr-infringements-facts-figures_en  .

Latvia is not listed in USTR’s Special 301 Report or included in the Notorious Market List.

For additional information about national laws and points of contact at local IPR offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/ .

Resources for Rights Holders

Clare Zimmerman
Economic Officer, U.S. Embassy Riga, Latvia
+371 67107000
ZimmermanCN@state.gov 

List of Attorneys in Latvia, compiled by the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Riga: https://lv.usembassy.gov/u-s-citizen-services/attorneys/

American Chamber of Commerce of Latvia: http://www.amcham.lv/en/home 

Contact at Copyright Offices:

Ms. Ilona Petersone
Director of Copyright Division, Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Latvia
+371 6733-0240
Ilona.Petersone@km.gov.lv 

Contact at Industrial Property Offices:

Ms. Baiba Graube
Acting Director of the Patent Office of the Republic of Latvia
+371 670 99 600
valde@lrpv.lv 

6. Financial Sector

Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment

Latvian government policies do not interfere with the free flow of financial resources or the allocation of credit. Local bank loans are available to foreign investors.

Money and Banking System

Latvia’s retail banking sector, which is composed primarily of Scandinavian retail banks, generally maintains a positive reputation. Latvian banks servicing non-resident clients, however, have come under increased scrutiny for inadequate compliance with anti-money laundering standards. In 2018, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) identified Latvia’s third-largest bank as a “foreign bank of primary money laundering concern” and issued a proposed rule prohibiting U.S. banks from doing business with or on behalf of the bank. The Latvian bank regulator has also levied fines against several non-resident banks for AML violations in recent years.

Latvia is a member of the Council of Europe Committee of Experts on the Evaluation of Anti-Money Laundering Measures and the Financing of Terrorism (MONEYVAL), a Financial Action Task Force (FATF)-style regional body. On August 23, 2018, MONEYVAL issued a report finding that Latvia’s AML regime was in substantial compliance with only one out of eleven assessment categories, was in moderate compliance with eight areas, but in low compliance with two areas. In late 2019 and early 2020, MONEYVAL and the FATF concluded that Latvia has developed and implemented strong enough reforms for combating financial crimes to avoid increased monitoring via the so-called “grey list.” While it will continue enhanced monitoring under MONEYVAL to continue strengthening the system, with this decision, Latvia became the first member state under the MONEYVAL review to successfully implement all 40 FATF recommendations. The most recent MONEYVAL report can be found at: https://rm.coe.int/anti-money-laundering-and-counter-terrorist-financing-measures-latvia-/16809988c1 

According to Latvian banking regulators, Latvia’s regulatory framework for commercial banking incorporates all principal requirements of EU directives, including a unified capital and financial markets regulator. Existing banking legislation includes provisions on accounting and financial statements (including adherence to international accounting), minimum initial capital requirements, capital adequacy requirements, large exposures, restrictions on insider lending, open foreign exchange positions, and loan-loss provisions. An Anti-Money Laundering Law and Deposit Guarantee Law have been adopted. An independent Financial Intelligence unit (FIU) operates under the supervision of the Ministry of Interior. Some of the banking regulations, such as capital adequacy and loan-loss provisions, reportedly exceed EU requirements.

According to the Finance Latvia Association, total assets of the country’s banks at the end of 2020 stood at 24.56 billion euros. More information is available at: https://www.financelatvia.eu/en/industry-data/ .

Securities markets are regulated by the Law on the Consolidated Capital Markets Regulator, the Law on the Financial Instrument Market, and several other laws and regulations.

The NASDAQ/OMX Riga Stock Exchange (RSE) ( www.nasdaqomxbaltic.com ) operates in Latvia, and the securities market is based on the continental European model. Latvia, Estonia, and Lithuania have agreed to create a pan-Baltic capital market by creating a single index classification for the entire Baltic region. Latvia is currently rated by various index providers as a frontier market due to its small size and limited liquidity. More information is available here: https://www.ebrd.com/news/2019/latvia-takes-next-step-toward-a-panbaltic-capital-market.html 

Foreign Exchange and Remittances

Foreign Exchange

The currency of Latvia is the euro. There are no restrictions on exchanging currencies or capital movement and foreign investors are allowed to extract their profits in any currency with no restraints. As of March 18, 2021, one euro is worth $1.1912. Details available here: https://www.ecb.europa.eu/stats/policy_and_exchange_rates/euro_reference_exchange_rates/html/eurofxref-graph-usd.en.html 

Remittance Policies

Latvian law provides for unrestricted repatriation of profits associated with an investment. Investors can freely convert local currency into foreign exchange at market rates, and have no difficulty obtaining foreign exchange from Latvian commercial banks for investment remittances. Exchange rates and other financial information can be obtained at the European Central Bank website: https://www.ecb.europa.eu/stats/exchange/eurofxref/html/index.en.html .

Sovereign Wealth Funds

Latvia does not have a sovereign wealth fund.

7. State-Owned Enterprises

State-owned enterprises (SOEs) are active in the energy and mining, aerospace and defense, services, information and communication, automotive and ground transportation, and forestry sectors. Private enterprises may compete with public enterprises on the same terms and conditions with respect to access to markets, credit, and other business operations such as licenses and supplies.

The Latvian government has implemented the requirements of the EU’s Third Energy Package with respect to the electricity sector, including opening the electricity market to private power producers and allowing them to compete on an equal footing with Latvenergo, the state-owned power company. The country’s natural gas market has also been liberalized, creating competition among privately owned gas suppliers.

Latvia, as an EU member, is a party to the Government Procurement Agreement within the framework of the World Trade Organization, and SOEs are covered under the agreement.

In 2015, the OECD published a review of the corporate governance of Latvia’s SOE and found that Latvia’s SOE sector relative to the size of the national economy was larger than the OECD average. The full report is available here: http://www.oecd.org/daf/ca/oecd-review-corporate-governance-soe-latvia.htm .

Senior managers of major SOEs in Latvia report to independent boards of directors, which in turn report to line ministries. SOEs operate under the Law on Public Persons Enterprises and Capital Shares Governance. The law also establishes an entity that coordinates state enterprise ownership and requires annual aggregate reporting. Detailed information on Latvian SOEs is available here: http://www.valstskapitals.gov.lv/en/  .

For additional information please see here: http://www.oecd.org/latvia/corporate-governance-in-latvia-9789264268180-en.htm .

Privatization Program

The Law on Privatization of State and Municipal Property governs the privatization process in Latvia. State joint stock company “Possessor” ( https://www.possessor.gov.lv/ ) uses a case-by-case approach to determine the method of privatization for each state enterprise. The three allowable methods are: public offering, auction for selected bidders, and international tender. For some of the largest privatized companies, a percentage of shares may be sold publicly on the NASDAQ OMX Riga Stock Exchange. The government may maintain shares in companies deemed important to the state’s strategic interests. Privatization of small and medium-sized state enterprises is considered to be largely complete.

Latvian law designates six State Joint Stock Companies that cannot be privatized: Latvenergo (Energy and Mining), Latvijas Pasts (Postal Services), Riga International Airport, Latvijas Dzelzcels (Automotive and Ground Transportation), Latvijas Gaisa Satiksme (Aerospace and Defense), and Latvijas Valsts Mezi (Forestry). Other large companies in which the Latvian government holds a controlling interest include airBaltic (Travel), TET (Information and Communication), Latvian Mobile Telephone (Information and Communication), and Conexus Baltic Grid (Energy). Due to the pandemic, the government invested 250 million euros into airBaltic equity, thus increasing its stake in the airline to 96.14%. The airline plans to return the investment to the state, via an initial public offering, potentially in 2022-2023.

8. Responsible Business Conduct

Awareness of and implementation of due diligence principles of corporate social responsibility (CSR)/Responsible Business Conduct is developing among producers and consumers. Two of the most active promoters of CSR are the American Chamber of Commerce in Latvia and the Employers’ Confederation of Latvia. The Latvian Ministry of Welfare also promotes CSR. Several other initiatives promote CSR, such as the Institute for Corporate Sustainability and Responsibility ( https://www.incsr.eu/ ), the Corporate Social Responsibility Platform ( http://www.ksalatvija.lv/en ), and the Human Development Award ( http://www.cilvekaizaugsme.lv/home/ ).

Latvia adheres to the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises. Latvia’s national point of contact for the guidelines can be found here: https://www.mfa.gov.lv/en/policy/economic-affairs/oecd/latvian-national-contact-point-for-the-oecd-guidelines-for-multinational-enterprises . Latvia also promotes the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, endorsed by the UN Human Rights Council in 2011.

Additional Resources 

Department of State

Department of Labor

9. Corruption

Resources to Report Corruption

Latvian law enforcement institutions, foreign business representatives, and non-governmental organizations have identified corruption and the perception of corruption as persistent problems in Latvia. According to the 2020 Corruption Perception Index by Transparency International, Latvia ranks 42nd out of 180 countries (in order from the lowest perceived level of public sector corruption to the highest).

To strengthen its anti-corruption programs, the Latvian government has adopted several laws and regulations, including the Law on Money Laundering and the Law on Conflicts of Interest. The Conflicts of Interest Law imposes restrictions and requirements on public officials and their relatives. Several provisions of the law deal with the previously widespread practice of holding several positions simultaneously, often in both the public and private sector. The law includes a comprehensive list of state and municipal jobs that cannot be combined with additional employment. Moreover, the law expanded the scope of the term state official to include members of boards and councils of companies with state or municipal capital exceeding 50 percent. Latvia became a member of the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention in 2014. In line with OECD recommendations, the government is working to strengthen anti-corruption enforcement and improve the functioning of its independent agency, the Anti-Corruption Bureau (KNAB).

Under Latvian law, it is a crime to offer, accept, or facilitate a bribe. Although the law stipulates heavy penalties for bribery, a limited number of government officials have been prosecuted and convicted of corruption to date. The law also provides the possibility of withdrawing charges against a person giving a bribe in cases where the bribe has been extorted, or in cases where the person voluntarily reports these incidents and actively assists the investigation. In addition, the Latvian government has adopted a whistleblower law that requires all government agencies and large companies to establish protocols to accept whistleblower complaints and protect whistleblowers from reprisals.

KNAB is the institution with primary responsibility for combating corruption and carrying out operational activities in response to suspected or alleged corruption. The Prosecutor General’s Office also plays an important role in fighting corruption.

KNAB has also established a Public Consultative Council to help increase public participation in implementing its anti-corruption policies, increasing public awareness, and strengthening connections between the agency and the public. More information is available here: https://www.knab.gov.lv/en/knab/consultative/public/ .

There is a perceived lack of fairness and transparency in the public procurement process in Latvia. Several companies, including foreign companies, have complained that bidding requirements are sometimes written with the assistance of potential contractors or couched in terms that exclude all but preferred contractors.

A Cabinet of Ministers regulation provides for public access to government information, and the government generally provided citizens such access. There have been no reports the government has denied noncitizens or foreign media access to government information.

Resources to Report Corruption

Contact at government agency responsible for combating corruption:

Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau
Citadeles iela 1, Riga, LV 1010, Latvia
+371 67356161
knab@knab.gov.lv 

Contact at “watchdog” organization:

Delna (Latvian affiliate of Transparency International)
Citadeles iela 8, Riga, LV-1010
+371 67285585
ti@delna.lv 

10. Political and Security Environment

There have been no reports of political violence or politically motivated damage to foreign investors’ projects or installations. The likelihood of widespread civil disturbances is very low. While Latvia has experienced peaceful demonstrations related to internal political issues, there have been few incidents when these have devolved into crimes against property, such as breaking shop windows or damaging parked cars. U.S. citizens are cautioned to avoid any large public demonstrations since even peaceful demonstrations can turn confrontational. The Embassy provides periodic notices to U.S. citizens in Latvia, which can be found on the Embassy’s web site: https://lv.usembassy.gov/.

11. Labor Policies and Practices

The official rate of registered unemployment in January 2021, according to Eurostat, was 8.5 percent ( https://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/statistics-explained/index.php/Unemployment_statistics ). The Latvian State Employment Agency reported 8.2 percent unemployment at the end of February 2021. Unemployment is significantly higher in rural areas. A high percentage of the workforce has completed at least secondary or vocational education. Foreign managers praise the high degree of language skills, especially Russian and English, among Latvian workers. However, foreign managers have reported a shortage of mid- and senior-level managers with “Western” management skills.

Companies must keep wages above the legally specified minimum of 500 euros per month, as of January 2021. Union influence on the wage setting process is limited. Trade unions do not have significant influence on the labor market. Additional information on trade unions in Latvia is available here: http://www.worker-participation.eu/National-Industrial-Relations/Countries/Latvia .

One challenge employers have faced since Latvia joined the EU is that many skilled employees can find better employment opportunities in other EU countries. Unofficial statistics suggest that more than 240,000 people have moved from Latvia to other EU countries since May 1, 2004. Despite the fact that the macroeconomic situation has stabilized, skilled and unskilled workers continue to emigrate. The government is implementing a strategy to entice people who have left Latvia to return.

According to several reports, there is a significant shortage of workers in manufacturing, wholesale and retail, transport and storage, and ICT sectors. The largest share of registered unemployment is comprised of persons with only primary or secondary education who do not possess specialized skills. To address this problem, the Latvian government has approved a list of highly skilled professions that employers may use to recruit professionals abroad to work in Latvia: https://www.em.gov.lv/en/news/18513-the-government-supports-the-application-of-simplified-conditions-for-the-attraction-of-highly-qualified-foreign-professionals .

The Labor Law addresses discrimination issues, provides detailed provisions on the rights and obligations of employees’ representatives, and created the Conciliation Commission, a mechanism that can be used in the workplace to resolve labor disputes before going to arbitration. Victims of sexual harassment in the workplace can also submit a complaint to the Office of the Ombudsman and the State Labor Inspectorate.

Full-time employees in Latvia work 40 hours a week. Normally, there are five working days per week, but employers may schedule a sixth workday without offering premium pay. Employees are entitled to four calendar weeks of annual paid vacation per year. Employers are prohibited from entering into an employment contract with a foreign individual who does not have a valid work permit.

Latvia is a member of the International Labor Organization (ILO) and has ratified all eight ILO Core Conventions.

13. Foreign Direct Investment and Foreign Portfolio Investment Statistics

Table 2: Key Macroeconomic Data, U.S. FDI in Host Country/Economy
Host Country Statistical source* USG or international statistical source USG or International Source of Data:  BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
Economic Data Year Amount Year Amount  
Host Country Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ($M USD) 2019 EUR 29.334 billion 2019 $34.103 billion www.worldbank.org/en/country
Foreign Direct Investment Host Country Statistical source* USG or international statistical source USG or international Source of data:  BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, stock positions) 2020 EUR 142 million 2019 $153 million IMF data available at http://data.imf.org/regular.aspx?key=61227424
Host country’s FDI in the United States ($M USD, stock positions) 2020 EUR 74 million 2019 $78 million IMF data available at http://data.imf.org/regular.aspx?key=61227424
Total inbound stock of FDI as % host GDP 2019 52% 2019 52.34% UNCTAD data available at

Beyond 20/20 WDS – Table view – Foreign direct investment: Inward and outward flows and stock, annual (unctad.org)

* Source for Host Country Data:

http://www.fm.gov.lv/en/s/macroeconomics/main_macroeconomic_indicators/ 
https://statdb.bank.lv 
https://www.macroeconomics.lv/ 

Table 3: Sources and Destination of FDI
Direct Investment from/in Counterpart Economy Data
From Top Five Sources/To Top Five Destinations (US Dollars, Millions)
Inward Direct Investment Outward Direct Investment
Total Inward 17,890 100% Total Outward 2,184 100%
Sweden 2,729 15% Lithuania 425 19%
Estonia 2,425 14% Estonia 271 12%
Russia 1,805 10% Russia 162 7%
Cyprus 1,283 7% Bulgaria 149 7%
Netherlands 1,272 7% Cyprus 117 5%
“0” reflects amounts rounded to +/- USD 500,000.
Table 4: Sources of Portfolio Investment
Portfolio Investment Assets
Top Five Partners (Millions, current US Dollars)
Total Equity Securities Total Debt Securities
All Countries 17,070 100% All Countries 4,037 100% All Countries 13,029 100%
International Organizations 5,577 33% Ireland 1,839 46% International Organizations 5,577 43%
Luxembourg 3,229 19% Luxembourg 1,557 39% Luxembourg 1,672 13%
Ireland 2,068 12% Estonia 153 4% Lithuania 991 8%
Lithuania 1,017 6% Germany 117 3% Italy 565 4%
Italy 567 3% United States 84 2% Spain 430 3%

14. Contact for More Information

Clare Zimmerman
Economic Officer
Samnera Velsa iela 1, Riga, Latvia, LV1510
+371 6710 7000
RigaCommerce@state.gov

Lithuania

Executive Summary

Lithuania is strategically situated at the crossroads of Europe and Eurasia. It offers investors a diversified economy, EU rules and norms, a well-educated multilingual workforce, advanced IT infrastructure, low inflation, and a stable democratic government. The Lithuanian economy has been growing steadily since the 2009 economic crisis but contracted in 2020 due to economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic. However, most economists currently predict a relatively rapid recovery in 2021 thanks to budget surpluses and accumulated financial reserves prior to the crisis, as well as a well-diversified economy. The country joined the Eurozone in January 2015 and completed the accession process for the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in May 2018. Lithuania’s income levels are lower than in most of the EU. Based on the average net monthly wage, Lithuania is 22nd of 28 EU member states. According to Bank of Lithuania statistics, at the end of 2020, the United States was Lithuania’s 17th largest investor, with cumulative investments totaling $253 million (1.2 percent of total FDI).

Following 2016 elections, the Lithuanian government focused on lowering barriers to investment, partnering with the private sector, and offering financial incentives for investors. A new government elected at the end of 2020 has indicated its intent to continue efforts to improve the business climate. In 2013, the government passed legislation which streamlined land-use planning, saving investors both time and money, and in July 2017, the government introduced the new Labor Code which is believed to better balance the interests of both employees and employers.

The government provides equal treatment to foreign and domestic investors and sets few limitations on their activities. Foreign investors have the right to repatriate or reinvest profits without restriction and can bring disputes to the International Center for the Settlement of Investment Disputes. Lithuania offers special incentives, such as tax concessions, to both small companies and strategic investors. Incentives are also available in seven Special Economic Zones located throughout the country.

U.S. executives report burdensome procedures to obtain business and residence permits, as well as some instances of low-level corruption in government. Transportation barriers, especially insufficient air links with European cities, remain a hindrance to investment, as does the lack of access to open, transparent information on tax collection and government procurement. Energy costs in Lithuania are declining as a result of energy source diversification upgrades and lower global oil and LNG prices.

Lithuania offers many investment opportunities in most of its economy sectors. The sectors which attracted most investment include Information and Communication Technology, Biotech, Metal Processing, Machinery and Electrical Equipment, Plastics, Furniture, Wood Processing and Paper Industry, Textiles and Clothing. Lithuania also offers opportunities for investment in the growing sectors of Real Estate and Construction, Business Process Outsourcing (BPO), Shared Services, Financial Technologies, Biotech and Lasers.

Table 1: Key Metrics and Rankings
Measure Year Index/Rank Website Address
TI Corruption Perceptions Index 2020 35 of 180 http://www.transparency.org/research/cpi/overview
World Bank’s Doing Business Report 2020 11 of 190 http://www.doingbusiness.org/en/rankings
Global Innovation Index 2020 40 of 131 https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/analysis-indicator
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, historical stock positions) 2019 $171 https://apps.bea.gov/international/factsheet/
World Bank GNI per capita 2019 USD 19,080 http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GNP.PCAP.CD

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

Lithuania’s laws assure equal protection for both foreign and domestic investors. No special permit is required from government authorities to invest foreign capital in Lithuania. State institutions have no right to interfere with the legal possession of foreign investors’ property. In the event of justified expropriation, investors are entitled to compensation equivalent to the market value of the property expropriated. The law obligates state institutions and officials to keep commercial secrets confidential and requires compensation for any loss or damage caused by illegal disclosure. As a member of European Union, Lithuania is subject to WTO investment requirements. Invest Lithuania is the government’s principal institution dedicated to attracting foreign investment. It serves as a one-stop-shop to: provide information on business costs, labor, tax and legal considerations, and other business concerns; facilitate the set up and launch of a company; provide help in accessing government financial support; and advocate on behalf of investors for more business friendly laws. In addition to its offices in Vilnius and major Lithuanian cities, Invest Lithuania has representative offices in Germany and the United Kingdom. The government is also expanding its network of commercial representatives, with an attaché recently appointed to serve at the Consulate General in Los Angeles and new postings under consideration in Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan are under consideration. Every year the government holds a conference with foreign investors to discuss their concerns and ways to improve investment climate in Lithuania.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

Foreign investors have the right to repatriate profits, income, or dividends, in cash or otherwise, or to reinvest the same without any limitation, after paying taxes. The law establishes no limits on foreign ownership or control. Foreign investors have free access to all sectors of the economy with some limited exceptions:

The Law on Investment prohibits investment of foreign capital in sectors related to the security and defense of the State.

The Law on Investment also requires government permission and licensing for commercial activities that may pose risks to human life, health, or the environment, including the manufacturing of, or trade in, weapons.

As of May 2014, foreign citizens are allowed to buy agricultural or forest land.

The Law on Investment specifically permits the following forms of investment in Lithuania: establishment of an enterprise or acquisition of a part, or the whole, of the authorized capital of an operating enterprise registered in Lithuania;

  • establishment of an enterprise or acquisition of a part, or the whole, of the authorized capital of an operating enterprise registered in Lithuania;
  • acquisition of securities of any type;
  • creation, acquisition, and increase in the value of long-term assets;
  • lending of funds or other assets to business entities in which the investor owns a stake, allowing control or considerable influence over the company; and
  • performance of concession or leasing agreements.

Foreign entities are allowed to establish branches or representative offices. There are no limits on foreign ownership or control. Foreign investors can contribute capital in the form of money, assets, or intellectual or industrial property rights. The State Property Bank screens the performance record and size of companies bidding on state or municipal property and has halted privatizations when it determined that the bidders were not suitable, i.e., for criminal or other reasons.

In 2018, the Lithuanian parliament passed a new edition of the law on the Protection of Objects Important to National Security. The law is aimed at enforcing additional safeguards to avoid threats related to investments into companies of strategic national importance, thus requiring a special government commission to screen investments in identified strategic sectors.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

http://www.oecd.org/countries/lithuania/economic-survey-lithuania.htm 

2. Bilateral Investment Agreements and Taxation Treaties

Lithuania has concluded 50 bilateral treaties concerning the promotion and mutual protection of investments. Usually such treaties establish a more favorable investment treatment on a mutual basis. Most of the treaties on investment promotion and protection do not provide for Lithuania to expand treatment, incentives, or privileges relating to regulated investments provided for in a common market, customs union, economic union, free trade zone or a regional economic development agreement that the country belongs to or may belong in the future, or to expand the provisions of a current or future agreement regarding double taxation with a third country. The U.S. has had a bilateral investment treaty (BIT) with Lithuania since 2001.

Lithuania has also concluded around 50 bilateral tax treaties, including with the U.S., to avoid double taxation of income and capital and to prevent tax evasion. These treaties provide certain tax benefits for foreign investment in Lithuania. More information on treaties is available at: http://investmentpolicyhub.unctad.org/IIA/CountryBits/121 ; http://taxguide.lt/double-tax-avoidance-treaties-network/ 

Lithuania has double taxation avoidance treaties with 54 countries, including the United States.

3. Legal Regime

Transparency of the Regulatory System

The regulatory system remains a challenge for some investors. Local business leaders report that bureaucratic procedures often are not user-friendly and that the interpretation of regulations is inconsistent and unclear. Businesses and private individuals complain of low-level corruption, including in the process of awarding government contracts and the granting of licenses and permits. Businesses also note that they would like to have more opportunity to consult with lawmakers regarding new legislation and that new legislation sometimes appears with little advance notice.

However, the government is making efforts to improve transparency using technology. For example, the parliament’s website contains all draft legislation, and public tenders must be published electronically in a central database. Ministries also post many, but not all, draft laws under consideration. All government procurement tenders are required to be posted on-line in a centralized database. In March 2014, Transparency International released a report recommending new laws aimed at protecting whistle-blowers, encouraging lobbying transparency, preventing and controlling conflicts of interest, and increasing transparency in political party funding. Some of the recommendations have already been addressed by introducing a whistleblower protection law and a new law on lobbying in 2017. The World Bank’s Doing Business Report ranked Lithuania 11th out of 190 in 2020. Lithuania scored especially high in the categories of Registering Property (4rd), Enforcing contracts (7th) Dealing with Construction Permits (10th) and Starting a Business (34st). It did less well in the categories of Resolving Insolvency (89th) and Getting Credit (48th).

International Regulatory Considerations

Since May 1, 2004, in accordance with its European Union membership, Lithuania has applied European Union trade policies, such as antidumping or anti-subsidy measures. The European Union import regime applies to Lithuania. The country is a member of the WTO and it notifies all draft technical regulations to the WTO Committee on Technical Barriers to Trade.

Legal System and Judicial Independence

The Lithuanian legal system stems from the legal traditions of continental Europe and complies with the EU’s acquis communautaire. New laws enter into force upon promulgation by the President (or in some cases the Speaker of the parliament) and publication in the official gazette, Valstybes Zinios (State News). Several possibilities exist for commercial dispute resolution. Parties can settle disputes in local courts or in the increasingly popular independent, i.e., non-governmental, Commercial Court of Arbitration. Lithuania also recognizes arbitration judgments by foreign courts. Domestic courts generally operate independently of government influence. Lithuania’s EU membership has given foreign firms the additional right to appeal adverse court rulings to the European Court of Justice.

The Lithuanian court system consists of courts of general jurisdiction that deal with civil and criminal matters, and includes the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeals, District Courts, and local courts. In 1999, Lithuania established a system of administrative courts to adjudicate administrative cases, which generally involve disputes between government regulatory agencies and individuals or organizations. The administrative court system consists of the High

Administrative Court and District Administrative Courts.

The Constitutional Court of Lithuania is a separate, independent judicial body that determines whether laws and legal acts adopted by the parliament, president, and the government violate the Constitution.

Laws and Regulations on Foreign Direct Investment

Lithuanian law provides that foreign entities may establish branches or representative offices, and there are no limits on foreign ownership or control. A foreigner may hold a majority interest in a local company in Lithuania. However, there are some areas of the economy where investment is limited, such as in sectors related to national security and defense of the State, and licensing is necessary for activities related to human life and health, or which are deemed potentially risky. The national investment promotion agency Invest Lithuania provides a detailed overview of the relevant laws and regulations on foreign investment. http://www.investlithuania.com 

Competition and Antitrust Laws

There is a domestic Competition Council, which is responsible for the prevention of competition law violations. For more information: https://kt.gov.lt/en/ 

Expropriation and Compensation

Lithuanian law permits expropriation on the basis of public need, but requires compensation at fair market value in a convertible currency. The law requires payment of compensation within three months of the date of expropriation in the currency the foreign investor requests. The compensation must include interest calculated from the date of publication of the notice of expropriation until the payment of compensation. The recipient may transfer this compensation abroad without any restrictions. There have been no cases of expropriation of private property by the Lithuanian government since 1991. There is an ongoing process to restitute property expropriated during World War II and the Soviet occupation. While the Lithuanian government returned most of this property, including Jewish communal property, in 2011, private property restitution remains incomplete.

Dispute Settlement

ICSID Convention and New York Convention

Lithuania is a member state to the International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) Convention. It is also a signatory to the convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards (1958 New York Convention). Lithuania law recognizes and enforces arbitral body decisions

Investor-State Dispute Settlement

According to Lithuanian law, State owned enterprises (SOE) have no privileges in conducting business, competing for supply, and/or in implementing projects, enforcing contracts, and accessing finance. While Baltic Institute for Corporate Governance (BICG) reports suggest that there have been cases of SOE executives extracting benefits for their own personal gain by way of guided tenders, exercising favoritism when selecting providers of goods or services, or giving business to friends and family members, the Embassy has no records of complaints from either foreign or domestic companies regarding the outcome of dispute settlement cases with state companies.

International Commercial Arbitration and Foreign Courts

According to the Lithuanian Arbitration Court, the arbitration process should be completed within six months, but depending on the complexity of a dispute and with the agreement of both parties, this period can be extended. Also, before a process starts, the Arbitration Court has 30 days to decide if it will accept the dispute and three months to prepare all the needed materials for the arbitration process. Decisions of the Lithuanian Arbitration Court may be appealed to international institutions, such as the International Court of Arbitration.

Bankruptcy Regulations

Lithuania passed the current Enterprise Bankruptcy Law in 2001 This law applies to all enterprises, public establishments, commercial banks, and other credit institutions registered in Lithuania. The law provides a mechanism to override the provisions of other laws regulating enterprise activities, assuring protection of creditors’ rights, recovery of debts, and payment of taxes and other mandatory contributions to the State. This law establishes the following order of creditors’ claims: claims by creditors that are secured by a mortgage/pledge of debtor; claims related to employment; tax, social insurance, and state medical insurance claims; claims arising from loans guaranteed or issued on behalf of the Republic of Lithuania or its government; and other claims. Bankruptcy can be criminalized in cases of intentional bankruptcy. The Law on the Bankruptcy of Natural Persons was introduced in Lithuania in 2013. The World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business survey ranks Lithuania 89th in the category of “resolving insolvency”.

4. Industrial Policies

Investment Incentives

The Lithuanian government taxes corporate income and capital gains at 15 percent and the personal income tax rate is 20 percent. The value added tax is 21 percent, and the annual real estate tax ranges from 0.3 to three percent, depending on the market value of a property. For more details, please visit https://investlithuania.com/investor-guide/running-your-business/ 

Lithuanian municipalities provide special incentives to investors who create jobs or invest in infrastructure. Municipalities may tie designation criteria to additional factors, such as the number of jobs created or environmental benefits. Strategic investors’ benefits could include favorable tax incentives for up to ten years. Municipalities may grant special incentives to induce investments in municipal infrastructure, manufacturing, and services.

Foreign Trade Zones/Free Ports/Trade Facilitation

Lithuania has seven Free Economic Zones (FEZs) located near the cities of Kaunas,

Klaipeda, Siauliai, Kedainiai, Panevėžys, Akmenė, and Marijampolė. The FEZs in Kaunas and Klaipėda have attracted the most business; there are more than one hundred companies from 17 countries operating in the Klaipėda FEZ, and 34 in the Kaunas FEZ. Companies operating in FEZs must follow the same accounting and reporting rules as companies operating in the rest of the country.

Companies that invest or are operating within the zones enjoy:

  • six years’ exemption from corporate income tax and a 50 percent reduction during the
  • exemption from real estate tax;
  • no tax on foreign company dividends.

Performance and Data Localization Requirements

In January 2017, the parliament passed legislation providing for a Startup Visa, designed for non-EU entrepreneurs wishing to start or expand information technology, biotech, nanotech, mechatronics, electronics, or laser technology businesses. For more information on the new Startup Visa, visit: https://www.startuplithuania.com/news/lithuanias-startup-visa-scheme-explained/

Lithuania also participates in the EU BlueCard program, which simplifies the residency and work permit application process for highly-skilled non-EU citizens. Once secured, the BlueCard is valid for up to three years and can be extended for an additional three years. BlueCard holders are also eligible to apply for permanent residency after five years. For more information on the BlueCard program, visit: http://www.eubluecard.lt/ .

Nevertheless, foreign investors that do not qualify for these programs, including U.S. citizens, may face difficulties obtaining and renewing residency permits. U.S. citizens can stay in Lithuania no more than 90 days without a visa (and no more than 90 days in any six-month period). Those who stay longer face fines and deportation. However, foreigners may only submit residency permit applications after they arrive in Lithuania. Therefore, the Embassy recommends applicants work with Lithuanian embassies and consulates to review documentation required for a permit well in advance of their first visit to Lithuania. For more information on the various types of visas and their requirements, visit: http://www.migracija.lt/index.php?-1488882078.

Lithuania provides special incentives to strategic investors. The criteria by which the national government or a municipality designates a strategic investor vary from project to project. In general, the national government requires that a strategic investor initially invest $50 million or more. Municipalities may tie the designation criteria to additional or other factors, such as the number of jobs created and the environmental benefits that accrue. Strategic investors’ rewards include special business conditions, such as favorable tax incentives for up to ten years. Significant tax incentives apply to foreign investments made before 1997. Municipalities may grant special incentives to induce investments in municipal infrastructure, manufacturing, and services.

The Lithuanian government does not follow “forced Localization” policy and foreign investors can use domestic and foreign content in goods or technology alike. As a member of the European Union, Lithuania follows the General Data Protection Regulation. Enforcement is carried out by the State Data Protection Inspectorate. Foreign IT providers are not required to turn over source code and/or provide access to the encryption.

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

Lithuanian law protects foreign investments and the rights of investors in several ways:

  • The Constitution and the Law on Foreign Capital Investment protect all forms of private property against nationalization or requisition.
  • International agreements, such as the 1958 New York Convention on the recognition and enforcement of foreign arbitral awards, offer protection.
  • Bilateral agreements with the United States and other western countries on the mutual protection and encouragement of investments reinforce these protections.  The U.S. and Lithuania BIT has been in effect since 2001.
  • The Law on Capital Investment in Lithuania and other acts regulate customs duties, taxes, and relationships with financial and inspection authorities.  This law also establishes dispute settlement procedures.
  • In the event of justified expropriation, applicable law entitles investors to compensation equivalent to the fair market value of the expropriated property.
  • Foreign investors may defend their rights under the Washington Convention of 1965 by applying to either Lithuanian courts or directly to the International Center for the Settlement of Investment Disputes.  To date, Lithuania has not been involved in any major investment disputes with U.S. or other foreign investors.
  • State institutions and officials are obligated to keep commercial secrets confidential and must pay compensation for any loss or damage caused by illegal disclosure.  Lithuania legalized the possibility of hiring private bailiffs to enforce court judgments in 2003.

Lithuania’s commercial laws conform to EU requirements, and include the principles of the free establishment of companies, protection of shareholders’ and creditors’ rights, free access to information, and registration procedures. Relevant laws include: the Company Law and Law on Partnerships (2004), the Law on Personal Enterprises (2004), the Law on Investments (1999), the Law on Bankruptcy of Enterprises (2001), and the Law on Restructuring of Enterprises (2001). The Civil Code of 2000 governs commercial guarantees and security instruments. It provides for the following types of guarantee and security instruments to secure fulfillment of contractual obligations: forfeiture, surety, guarantee, earnest money, pledge, and mortgage.

Intellectual Property Rights

Lithuania has significantly improved its intellectual property rights (IPR) protection in recent years, and members of the innovation community report that IPR infringement and theft is infrequent. Lithuania joined the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) in 2002 and is party to many of its treaties, including the Berne Convention, the Paris Convention, the Patent Cooperation Treaty, the WIPO Copyright Treaty, and the WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty. Lithuania joined the World Trade Organization in 2001 and so is party to the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS).

Following EU accession, Lithuania extended protection to member states’ trademarks and designs. Lithuania brought its national law protecting biological inventions into compliance with EU Directive 98/44 in June 2005.

In 2008, Lithuania was removed from USTR’s Special 301 Watch List and is not currently included in the Notorious Markets List.

For additional information about treaty obligations and points of contact at local IPR offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at: http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/ .

The State Patent Bureau provides a list of patent attorneys at the following link: https://vpb.lrv.lt/en/ 

6. Financial Sector

Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment

Government policies do not interfere with the free flow of financial resources or the allocation of credit. In 1994, Lithuania accepted the requirements of Article VIII of the Articles of Agreement of the International Monetary Fund to liberalize all current payments and to establish non-discriminatory currency agreements. Lithuania ensures the free movement of capital and does not plan to impose any restrictions. The government imposes no restrictions on credits related to commercial transactions or the provision of services, or on financial loans and credits. Non-residents may open accounts with commercial banks.

Money and Banking System

The banking system is stable, well-regulated, and conforms to EU standards. Currently there are 11 commercial banks holding a license from the Bank of Lithuania, six foreign bank branches, two foreign bank representative offices, the Central Credit Union of Lithuania and 65 credit unions. Two hundred-eighty EU banks provide cross-border services in Lithuania without a branch operating in the country, and three financial institutions controlled by EU licensed foreign banks provide services without a branch. Nearly all foreign banks are headquartered in Sweden, Norway, and Denmark. By the end of 2018 the total assets of major Lithuanian banks were $32.1 billion:

Other smaller banks:

Effective January 1, 2015, all of the banks are controlled by the European Central Bank and the Bank of Lithuania. There is no restriction on portfolio investment. The right of ownership to shares acquired through automatically matched trades is transferred on the third working day following the conclusion of the transaction. The Vilnius Stock Exchange is part of the OMX group of exchanges and offers access to 80 percent of all securities trading in the Nordic and Baltic marketplace. OMX is owned by the U.S. firm NASDAQ and the Dubai Bourse. The supervisory service at the Bank of Lithuania oversees commercial banks and credit unions, securities market, and insurance companies. Lithuanian law does not regulate hostile takeovers.

Foreign Exchange and Remittances

Foreign Exchange

Lithuania has no restrictions on foreign exchange.

Remittance Policies

Lithuanian remittance policies allow free and unrestricted transfers.

Sovereign Wealth Funds

Lithuania does not maintain any Sovereign Wealth Funds.

7. State-Owned Enterprises

At the beginning of 2019, the Lithuanian government was majority or full owner of 50 enterprises. Throughout 2017, the government consolidated many duplicative state-owned enterprises (SOEs) in response to OECD recommendations reducing the number of its companies from 130. The SOE sector is valued at approximately $5.8 billion and employs just over 42,000 people. The greatest number of SOEs by value are found in the electricity and gas sector (38%), followed by transportation (36%) and extractive industries including fishing, farming, and mining (21%). The transportation sector (which in Lithuania’s definition includes the postal service) accounts for over half of all SOE employment, followed by the electricity and gas sectors, which accounts for about one fifth. The largest SOE employers are Lithuanian Railways, Ignitis Group, and Lithuanian Post, which collectively employ over 23,000 people.

A list of SOEs is available at the Governance Coordination Center site: https://vkc.sipa.lt/apie-imones/vvi-sarasas/ 

In response to OECD recommendations issued during Lithuania’s accession process, the government passed several laws to reform SOE governance, addressing such issues as the hiring, firing, and oversight of top management, the introduction of independent board members to professionalize and depoliticize SOE boards and strengthen independent and pragmatic decision making, and a requirement for SOE CEOs to certify financial statements.

Privatization Program

The government has privatized most state enterprises and property, with foreign investors purchasing the majority of state assets privatized since 1990. These include companies in the banking and transportation sectors. Some foreign companies have complained about a lack of transparency or discrimination in certain privatization transactions. Major assets still under government control include the railway company (Lietuvos Gelezinkeliai), Lithuania’s three international airports (Vilnius, Kaunas, and Klaipeda), Lithuanian post (Lietuvos Pastas), as well as energy companies controlled by Ignitis Group holding company.

8. Responsible Business Conduct

Although Lithuania’s high private sector contribution to GDP is evidence of a strong private sector, the concept of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is still new in Lithuania, especially in rural areas where there is little or no foreign investment. The understanding of the concept is frequently linked to philanthropy, rather than partnership. The private sector appears more interested in its own business affairs rather than displaying a real commitment to social issues.

There are, however, an increasing number private-public partnerships, as well as social projects, where the private sector is involved in supporting volunteerism, environmental restoration, and scholarships. Furthermore, successful participation in the European Union market requires higher standards of CSR. Foreign investors in Lithuania have played a very important role in promoting CSR. In 2009, the government developed and approved a National Corporate Social Responsibility Development Program aimed at promoting CSR. Also, in the past few years there has been growing interest from both government and NGOs in promoting CSR values by organizing competitions and awards ceremonies such as the Social and Labor Ministry’s annual Socially Responsible Business Awards Ceremony, Confederation of Industrialists’ Awards, and others. Also, after Lithuania acceded to the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention in 2017, more business organizations and the legal community have started to promote the importance of companies adopting anti-bribery compliance programs.

Additional Resources

Department of State

Department of Labor

9. Corruption

A recent Eurobarometer study on Businesses’ attitudes towards corruption in the EU shows that corruption is becoming less of an obstacle for business in Lithuania. Only 15 percent of business executives identified corruption as a problem in Lithuania, twice fewer than in 2015. Out of 28 EU countries, Lithuania was ranked eighth for corruption being the least pressing issue in business. Lithuanian Map of Corruption 2019 survey initiated by the Special Investigations Service (STT) also showed the best anti-corruption trends in business environment over the past decades. However, nepotism and cronyism – hiring relatives and friends – are still the most prevalent forms of corruption that hinder business development.

More than 50 governmental institutions regulate commerce in one way or another, creating opportunities for corrupt practices. Large foreign investors report few problems with corruption. On the contrary, most large investors report that high-level officials are often very helpful in solving problems fairly. In general, foreign investors say that corruption is not a significant obstacle to doing business in Lithuania and describe most of the bureaucrats they deal with in Lithuania as reasonable and fair. Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) perceive themselves as more vulnerable to petty bureaucrats and commonly complain about extortion. SMEs often complain that excessive red tape virtually requires the payment of “grease money” to obtain permits promptly. Business owners maintain that some government officials, on the other hand, view SMEs as likely tax-cheats and smugglers, and treat the owners and managers accordingly.

Paying or accepting a bribe is a criminal act. Lithuania established in 1997 the Special Investigation Service (Specialiujų Tyrimų Tarnyba) specifically to fight public sector corruption. The agency investigates approximately 100 cases of alleged corruption every year, but has yet to bring charges against high-level officials for corrupt practices. Lithuania ratified the UN Convention Against Corruption in December 2006. Transparency International (TI) also has a national chapter in Lithuania. TI ranked Lithuania 35th out of 180 in its 2019 Perceptions of Corruption Index with a score of 60 out of 100 (TI considers countries with a score below 50 to have serious problems with corruption.). Medical personnel, local government officials, among others, were cited by TI as prone to corruption.

Lithuania ratified the UN Anticorruption Convention in 2006 and acceded to the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention in 2017.

Resources to Report Corruption

Special Investigation Service
Jakšto g. 6, 01105 Vilnius, Lithuania
Tel: 370-5266333
Fax: 370-70663307
Email: pranesk@stt.lt 

Sergejus Muravjovas, Executive Director
Transparency International
Didžioji st. 5, LT–01128, Vilnius, Lithuania
Tel: 370 5 212 69 51
info@transparency.lt  | skype: ti_lithuania

10. Political and Security Environment

Since its independence in 1991, Lithuania has not witnessed any incidents involving politically motivated damage to projects and/or installations.

11. Labor Policies and Practices

Lithuanian labor is relatively inexpensive compared to Western Europe. However, employment regulations are often stricter than those in other EU countries, according to some foreign investors. By law, white-collar workers have a 40-hour workweek. Blue-collar workers have a 48-hour workweek with premium pay for overtime. Maternity leave in Lithuania is granted for up to 126 days, and the government compensates 100 percent of the mother’s salary. A father is also allowed to take paternity leave for one month. His salary is compensated 100 percent as well. Sick leave in Lithuania is granted up to 14 days at any one time and no more than 90 days a year. For the first two days, the salary compensation is 80 – 100 percent, paid by the employer, with the rest of the days being compensated by SODRA (Lithuanian Social Security body) at 80 percent of salary. Lithuania is a member of International Labor Organization (ILO) and has ratified its core conventions.

The government adjusts the monthly minimum wage periodically. Since 2021, Lithuania’s minimum monthly wage is $719. The average monthly wage is approximately $1,515.

The ability of Lithuanians to work legally in EU countries generated a sizable outflow of labor, causing a domestic shortage of skilled construction workers, truck drivers, shop assistants, medical nurses, and medical specialists. In March20, 2021 unemployment rate stood at 16.1 percent.

Lithuania’s management-labor relations are good. Labor unions are not considered overly influential in Lithuania, according to some foreign investors. There have been no major strikes or labor disruptions since 1991.

Lithuania has one of the best-educated workforces in Central and Eastern Europe. Lithuania ranks fourth among the EU states in terms of population with higher education and first in the Baltic States. Lithuania is one of the five EU members with the highest percentage of people speaking at least one foreign language. Ninety percent of Lithuanians can speak at least one other language – usually English, Polish, and/or Russian – apart from their mother tongue.

Major Lithuanian companies specializing in IT, biotechnology, laser technology, etc., cooperate closely with the leading Lithuanian technological universities, which provide companies with R&D services and offer students specialized on-the-job training programs. This way companies are able to attract a large number of qualified specialists for both local and international projects. Some technology companies, however, have noted challenges in finding highly- skilled workers with advanced technical degrees.

In 2017, the parliament passed a new Labor Code. These changes aim to encourage foreign investment and job creation by simplifying some employment conditions and clarifying other requirements. The new law decreases the advanced notice required when employers terminate an employment contract, and adds new contract options for employers, such as project-based contracts and job-sharing contracts. The law also clarifies previous informal practices by requiring non-union employers to form works councils to represent employee interests, and requiring employers to establish and publicize standard company compensation policies.

12. U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) and Other Investment Insurance and Development Finance Programs

Coverage from U.S. International Development Finance Corporation ( www.dfc.gov ) is available for U.S. investments in Lithuania.

13. Foreign Direct Investment and Foreign Portfolio Investment Statistics

Table 2: Key Macroeconomic Data, U.S. FDI in Host Country/Economy
Host Country Statistical source* USG or international statistical source USG or International Source of Data:  BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
Economic Data Year Amount Year Amount  
Host Country Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ($M USD) 2019 $ 43.9 2019 $55 www.worldbank.org/en/country
Foreign Direct Investment Host Country Statistical source* USG or international statistical source USG or international Source of data:  BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, stock positions) 2019 $253 2019 $171 BEA data available at
https://apps.bea.gov/
international/factsheet/
Host country’s FDI in the United States ($M USD, stock positions) 2019 $10.9 2019 N/A BEA data available at
https://www.bea.gov/international/
direct-investment-and-multinational-
enterprises-comprehensive-data
Total inbound stock of FDI as % host GDP 2019 37% 2018 33% UNCTAD data available at
https://stats.unctad.org/
handbook/EconomicTrends/Fdi.html

* Source for Host Country Data: Department of Statistics

Table 3: Sources and Destination of FDI
Direct Investment from/in Counterpart Economy Data
From Top Five Sources/To Top Five Destinations (US Dollars, Millions)
Inward Direct Investment Outward Direct Investment
Total Inward $18,563 100% Total Outward $4,269 100%
Sweden $3,483 16.7% Latvia $1,053 22%
Estonia $3,095 14.8% Netherlands $812 16.9%
Netherlands $2,918 14% Estonia $802 16.7%
Germany $1,541 7.4% Cyprus $685 14.3%
Cyprus $1,469 7% Poland $240 6.3%
“0” reflects amounts rounded to +/- USD 500,000.
Table 4: Sources of Portfolio Investment
Portfolio Investment Assets
Top Five Partners (Millions, current US Dollars)
Total Equity Securities Total Debt Securities
All Countries $17,744 100% All Countries $6,099 100% All Countries $11,645 100%
Ireland $2,959 16.6% Ireland $2,923 47.9% Latvia $483 4.14%
Luxembourg $2,420 13.6% Luxembourg $2,396 39.2% Estonia $273 2.3%
Latvia $542 3.1% United States $139 2.3% Poland $246 2.1%
Estonia $403 2.3% Estonia $129 2.1% Croatia $235 2%
Poland $253 1.4% Germany $114 1.8% Finland $139 1.1%

14. Contact for more Information

Jonas Vasilevicius, Commercial Specialist
Tel: 370-5 2665671
VasileviciusJ@state.gov 
U.S. Embassy Vilnius
Akmenu str. 6
Vilnius, Lithuania

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