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Latvia parliament approves PM Maris Kucinskis new government

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(Reuters) - Latvian parliament formally approved the new government of Prime Minister Maris Kucinskis on Thursday, following the resignation of incumbent Laimdota Straujuma in early December.

A 54-year-old economist and lawmaker from the political party Union of Greens and Farmers, Kucinskis is seen following the policies of the previous government, working to strengthen the economy and face down growing concerns over Russia.

His party is one of three in the new ruling coalition, along with The Unity and National Alliance

An increased military presence of the country’s armed forces in the eastern region of Latvia, reforms in health care and education are among the key tasks of Kucinskis’ government.

Latvia’s economy has recovered from a downturn, expanding an estimated 2.5 percent in 2015. But it still faces problems with corruption and a large black economy and reform has been sluggish over the last few years.

Growing tensions with Russia have overshadowed the economy, with the former centre-right government taking a hawkish stance, boosting defence spending and calling for a permanent NATO military presence in the Baltics.

Reporting by Gederts Gelzis; editing by Alistair Scrutton