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Saturday 21.04.2018 | Name days: Marģers, Anastasija
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BNN summary of the week: Baltics thankful to USA; transit industry’s risks; CPCB’s latest search

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Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RUBNN offers a summary of this week’s topical news in a variety of categories: Meeting; Opinion; Change; Fight; Response; Growth.

MEETING: Baltic-U.S. summit has removed doubt about U.S. support

The leadership of Estonian parliamentary committees has commented that at the Baltic-U.S. summit meeting in Washington, U.S. President Donald Trump has removed doubt about the seriousness of American commitment to Baltic security.

Estonian public broadcaster ERR reports on Wednesday, April 4, that Chairman of the National Defence Committee of the Riigikogu Hannes Hanso evaluated: «Trump very seriously addressed first the history of how the U.S. never recognized the Soviet occupation of Estonia, through what our relationships as allies are today. (..) He also said that he is very much looking forward to the next 100 years of our good and close allied relationship.»

Full article here

OPINION: Russia’s missile-firing tests should be approached with a cool head

«Discussions of Russia’s planned missile-firing tests above Latvia’s exclusive economic zone in the Baltic Sea are going very intensely in the public space. A great deal of attention is provided to this matter. It is important to keep in mind, however, that these tests have a clear propaganda role, so we should approach them with a cool head,» says Latvia’s Foreign Affairs Minister Edgars Rinkēvičs.

Intensive discussions of Russia’s planned missile-firing tests in the public space can be considered a success of Russia’s propaganda, says the minister.

The politician reminded that Latvia’s Foreign Affairs Ministry has asked ambassadors to NATO and OCSE to present this matter for discussions during the next meeting.

Foreign Affairs Ministry underlines that international laws allow organizing such military exercises. It is also the duty of Latvia’s Civil Aviation Agency to ensure safety of passing aircraft. Institutions responsible for maritime security also have a duty to ensure there are no ships passing through the area while military exercises are underway.

«It is not a matter of someone giving permission. International laws allow countries to organize military exercises. The fact that Russia’s planned missile-firing tests are provocative and intimidating has been confirmed by Prime Minister Māris Kučinskis, Latvia’s President Raimonds Vējonis and officials from Defence Ministry,» said the politician.

Full article here

CHANGE: liberalization of the gas market has increased competition among traders

An open gas market has increased safety for supplies, energy independence and competition among traders, as noted by Economy Ministry.

Tuesday, 3 April, marked one year since the opening of Latvia’s gas market for free competition.

«Looking back at the development of Latvia’s natural gas market, I believe the most important factor of success was the wholesale trade price of gas. Latest statistics from the European Commission shows that Latvia concluded 2017 with one of the lowest wholesale gas price in the European Union – 17.11 EUR/MWh. This price is also the lowest in the Baltic Sea region, and even lower than the price in Germany,» comments Latvia’s Economy Minister Arvils Ašeradens.

It is also mentioned that the change has also created conditions for development of competition among traders. It has also helped increase security of gas supplies and Latvia’s energy independence. It has also helped strengthen Europe’s gas market, said the minister.

«To preserve competitiveness of natural gas, it is necessary to continue moving towards a unified Baltic and Finnish gas market,» says Ašeradens.

The ministry reports that competition has increased among gas traders over the course of the year. Their numbers now reach 35 in Latvia.

«We have also separated gas transmission and storage functions from Latvia’s gas monopolist Latvijas Gāze. Those functions are now performed by Conexus Baltic Grid. The transmission system is now managed by Gaso,» the ministry notes.

Full article here

DECLINE: Corruption watchdog performs searches at Latvian State Roads

Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau has performed searches at Latvian State Roads, as confirmed by the company’s representatives.

Searches were performed on Wednesday, 4 April. Latvian State Roads representatives could not explain the reason why CPCB decided to perform searches in the company.

Representatives say none of the company’s employees were arrested.

LTV reports that Anastasija Udalova, board member of Latvian State Roads, has submitted her resignation. Her decision to step down was motivated by family affairs.

So far it has not been possible to contact CPCB to find out if searches are associated with any criminal process. The Criminal Process Law states that a search is an investigative act intended to locate important evidence or documents for an ongoing criminal process.

Full article here

FIGHT: transit decline is a threat to social security

Baltic Association – Transit and Logistics President Inga Antāne has turned to members of the European Parliament in Latvia and EC Vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis with an open letter, asking the European Commission to take measures to protect Europe’s ports by providing support programmes similar to other sectors.

She says that a situation when the cargo crisis caused by Russia’s decision to divert its cargoes to its own ports is allowed to increase social inequality in Latvia, which can have equal political, economic and social risks, cannot be allowed.

«Poverty and social inequality can be a serious threat the country’s democracy. Such a serious crisis in the transit industry cannot possible have no effect on the social sector. This is why we invite MEPs as Latvia’s representatives and ambassadors in the European Parliament to promote this matter on the level of the European Commission to help strengthen Europe’s external ports by providing support programmes to help them recover previous cargo volumes. Such a support programme would help divert cargoes from other ports or help attract new cargoes. Similar support programmes have been introduced in other industries to help reduce unemployment. In Latvia’s case it is important to ensure social security and reduce the country’s dependence on Russia,» comments Antāne.

Full article here

RESPONSE: NATO Secretary General says alliance doesn’t want a new arms race with Russia

NATO does not want a new arms race with Russia, says the alliance’s secretary general Jens Stoltenberg, adding that relations between the two sides are already tense after the poisoning of the former double agent Sergei Skripal in the UK.

«We don’t want a new arms race, so we are focused on how can we respond” in a “firm strong predictable, but also measured and defensive, way,» Stoltenberg told reporters in Ottawa alongside Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

«We don’t want a new Cold War,» he added.

«We will continue to strive for a more constructive relationship with Russia,» Stoltenberg concluded.

Full article here

GROWTH: Healthcare reform allegedly helped reduce patient queues by 42%

As a result of the recent healthcare reform, patient queues to specialists have reduced by an average of 42%. Nevertheless, wait lists to some specialists remain quite long, says Latvia’s Healthcare Minister Anda Čakša.

The largest queues for physical examinations have reduced by 33%, whereas queues for services in day-care centres have reduced by 68%, said the minister, adding that queues for day-care centre services were the largest before the reform. The average wait time for queues was 407 days on average before the reform. The wait time has been reduced to 132 days on average at the beginning of 2018.

The minister admits that waiting time for day-care centres remains long, reaching 500 days for some services. For example, the waiting line for a consultation with an ophthalmologist in Riga Eastern Clinical University Hospital’s Bikernieki day-care centre used to be 5,000 days and is now 560 days (a decline of 89%).

Čakša believes accomplished results – the noticeable reduction of queues – show that the reform’s chosen direction is correct. «I feel satisfied, because the main aspects – accessibility of healthcare services and doctors’ wages – have been successfully realized,» said the minister.

Full article here


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Economy Ministry: producer prices will affect dynamics of raw material prices

Producer prices in industry will grow in 2018 similarly as they had in 2017. Producer price level is largely affected by fluctuations of raw material prices in the world, as noted by Latvia’s Economy Ministry.

PUC: Gaso’s separation from Latvijas Gāze was legal

After examining documents submitted by the transmission system’s operator, the Public Utilities Commission concluded that activities performed by AS Gaso as part of reorganization of Latvijas Gāze were sufficient to ensure compliance with requirements for independence, as reported by PUC representatives.

Industrial producer prices in Latvia up 3.5%

Compared to February, level of producer prices in the Latvian industry rose by 0.2 % in March 2018. Prices of products sold on the domestic market grew by 0.1 %, but prices of exported products went up by 0.4 %.

Municipality: after meeting in summer, British Steel refused to buy KVV Liepājas metalurgs

After the meeting that took place at the end of August 2017, British Steel, which had previously voiced an interest in KVV Liepājas metalurgs, refused to purchase the bankrupt company, says Liepaja City Council chairman’s advisor for public relations matters Andrejs Rjabcevs.

SRS determines Latvian officials with the largest salaries

Thanks to real estate transactions Prison Administration Chief Ilona Spure and Healthcare Minster Anda Čakša had the largest income among state officials in 2017. The holder of the largest wage among state officials remains the governor of the Bank of Latvia Ilmārs Rimšēvičs, according to information compiled by the State Revenue Service.

Total tax debts in Latvia – EUR 1.255 billion

At the beginning of April total tax debts in Latvia, including outstanding, halted and payment extensions, was EUR 1.255 billion, which is 3.2% lower than the previous month.

Eight-year-long Latvian-Russian state border demarcation process concludes

Latvian-Russian state border demarcation documents have come to force. 21 April 2018 marked the conclusion of the two countries’ joint border demarcation process that lasted eight years, as reported by Latvia’s Foreign Affairs Ministry’s press-centre.

Prosecutor general turns to Constitutional Court against MPC regulations

Latvia’s Prosecutor General Ēriks Kalnmeiers has submitted a case to the Constitutional Court about the non-compliance of the mandatory procurement component with the country’s Constitution.

Unity may become New Unity; Kariņš may become prime minister candidate

Unity may start in upcoming Saeima elections with a new name – New Unity. The party may pick MEP Krišjānis Kariņš as its prime minister candidate, as reported by Panorāma programme of LTV.

France to fine for naming veggie foods in meat terms

In France, vegetable-based products such as soya steaks or vegetarian sausages marketed as meat substitutes are to be banned in France for misleading consumers as it will be prohibited for food producers to use any meat terms to label products that do not contain meat.

Breach intensity on a rise near Latvia’s state border

Two groups of Vietnamese citizens were caught in an illegal attempt to cross Latvia’s border and multiple cigarette-smuggling attempts were thwarted by authorities in April, as reported by Latvia’s State Border Guard.

Latvia downgraded in openness of civic space rating

Citing Latvian laws as showing less respect fundamental freedoms since 2017, CIVICUS, the international organisation promoting and monitoring civil society and citizen participation in democracies, has downgraded the rating of the openness of the civic space in Latvia from «Open» to «Narrowed».

Authorities to check Riga City Council member Frolovs’ possibly fictive employment in Getliņi Eko

Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau has commenced an inspection following Riga City Council deputy Juta Strīķe. In it, she detailed concerns about the possible fictive employment of city council deputy Vladimirs Frolovs in Getliņi Eko.

Jekabpils Council divides a pie, not duties; will the management change?

Disputes have commenced amidst the ranks of members of Jekabpils City Council – coalition member Kristīne Ozola from the National Alliance says behaviour of the city council’s management made her change her mind in regards to supporting the ruling coalition.

U.S. urges Moscow to address election, chemical weapons' and Ukraine issues

The United States government has asked the Kremlin to act on U.S. concerns on election meddling, the Salisbury chemical attack in UK, as well as the military developments in Ukraine and Syria.

Latvijas Krājbanka’s administrator recovered EUR 114,800 in March

The administrator of the liquidated Latvijas Krājbanka EUR 114,823 in March, which is 16.9% less than a month ago, according to the report published in Latvian Herald.

Basque militants ETA apologise to killed and injured readying for dissolution

ETA, the Basque military organisation that has fought for the establishment of an independent country in northern Spain and south-western France for 50 years, has apologised for causing harm to victims of its campaign.

Every second resident in Latvia has a loan, and every third – a missed payment

Last year, the number of private person loans had increased nearly 10%, according to the Credit Information Bureau’s data exchange system. Currently this institution’s data archive contains entries for 899 thousand assets in private persons’ contracts. 290 thousand private persons have missed some of their payments.

State Secretary: Latvia and China share good economic cooperation perspectives

To present topical issues of Latvian-Chinese economic cooperation to businessmen, as well as contribute to formation of new business contacts, officials have launched the Latvia-Ningbo Economic & Trade Cooperation Symposium, as reported by Foreign Affairs Ministry.

Wet summer boosted air travel via Tallinn Airport

In Estonian passenger aviation, a considerable 19% growth has been observed by the Tallinn Airport in 2017, which has explained the increase in passenger numbers partly with unusually bad weather conditions.

ABLV Bank urges FinCEN to withdraw «exaggerated accusations»

Lawyers of ABLV Bank, which is currently in the process of self-liquidating, urge US Department of Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network to withdraw its published proposal, which details how ABLV Bank’s management had allegedly used bribes to influence Latvian officials and breach sanctions against North Korea.

Stoltenberg: NATO has no plans to boost military presence in Baltic States

NATO does not plan to increase its presence in Baltic States, which have requested additional aid against Russia’s potential aggression, as announced by the alliance’s Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.

Mass evacuation in Berlin to defuse 500 kg bomb

In Berlin, after an unexploded bomb weighing 500 kg has been discovered, part of the German capital is being evacuated on Friday, April 20, in order to defuse the World War II weapon.

Friday will be warm and sunny in Latvia; weather to become cold and rainy later

Friday will be warm in Latvia, but weather will change on Saturday and Sunday – wind speed will increase and air temperature will drop. A wide low atmospheric pressure area above Northern Europe will be dictating weather next week. This means there will be more rain in Latvia, as reported by State Environment, Geology and Meteorology Centre.

New Cuba's President sees no room for capitalists in country

In Cuba, its First Vice-president Miguel Díaz-Canel has become the first President of the communist Carribean country ending the rule of Castro brothers.