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Sunday 22.04.2018 | Name days: Armanda, Armands
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BNN summary of the week: ban on shell companies, irresponsible behaviour and electricity bills for farmers

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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: Fight; Future; Decline; Criticism; Recklessness and Change.

FIGHT: problems in nursing homes and social care centres are associated with lack of funding

Problems in nursing homes and social care centres are largely associated with lack of funding, because it is not possible to perform high-quality work using currently available resources. This is the responsibility of ministries and the government, as ombudsman Juris Jansons mentioned in an interview to Latvijas Radio.

This is also true for Rauda nursing home, where the ombudsman had recently reported violations. The manager of the institution is not able to get by with available funding. Because of that, there are too many open vacancies and turnover of employees is very high.

Jansons believes the main problem is that clients of aforementioned centres are not treated with respect. Often the reason for this is the lack of employees and the lack of knowledge among existing employees – most of the time employees do this kind of work because they have «no alternatives».

During multiple visits to Rauda nursing home, representatives of the ombudsman’s office had noted a number of violations of established acts and even human rights.

The report on the case revolving around Rauda nursing home mentions that workers of the Ombudsman’s office visited the nursing home four times – 13 May 2016, 20 May 2016, 18 January 2017 and 6 June 2017.

After surveying living conditions, representatives of the ombudsman’s office concluded that approximately half of the rooms provided to clients are smaller than what is required by Cabinet of Ministers regulations. This is because of existing nursing home construction standards, which allow rooms with two beds to have an area of 11.8 m2. The report also mentions that administration of the nursing home believes increasing room size would result in a reduced number of clients, which would inevitably lead to the institution’s insolvency or increased prices. Because of that, it is not possible to provide living conditions compliant with regulations to all clients.

Full article here

FUTURE: Finance sector’s development council supports prohibition of shell companies

On Wednesday, 21 March, Latvian Prime Minister Māris Kučinskis’ managed Finance Sector’s Development Council supported initiative on prohibiting shell companies, as confirmed by the prime minister.

«We have reached an agreement on prohibition of shell companies in Latvia,» said Kučinskis, adding that the government plans to review this matter on 3 April, and the Saeima – on 8 April.

Finance Minister Dana Reizniece-Ozola says that the goal behind prohibition of shell companies is making sure Latvia’s financial sector is stable, sustainable, secure and able to offer services that provide support for the national economy, not create risks. ‘We have agreed on a plan of actions. A total of 22 proposals submitted by the regulator, finance ministry, Association of Latvian Commercial Banks and non-government organizations, the main goal of which is reducing the proportion of risky clients in the country’s banking sector,’ she said.

The minister is also confident that new measures will help sort out the financial sector.

At the same time, Pēters Putniņš, head of the Finance and Capital Market Committee, mentioned that banks have been ten days to come up with strategic plans on future operations, specifically how they intend to cover losses caused by rejection of shell companies. «We expect this process to be relatively rapid. Because of that, it is highly important for stability’s sake to give banks some time to think things over,» he said.

FCMC had previously reported that among clients of Latvian banks are 26,081 shell companies, including two based in Latvia. The proportion of shell companies in all Latvian banks is 36.57%. Their proportion in the foreign clients segment is 44.5%.

Full article here

DECLINE: Minister: Latvia is far behind its neighbours in terms of digitization and e-skills

In terms of digitization and e-skills, Latvia is far behind its neighbouring countries and the rest of Europe, said Latvian Economy Minister Arvils Ašeradens in an interview to Latvijas Radio.

Although Latvia’s economy has become more competitive in recent years, growing from a small economy to part of OECD and European Union, Lithuania and Estonia remain ahead. This is particularly true when it comes to digitization and e-services, the minister said.

He mentioned that Latvia managed to grow its economy by 4.5% without increasing the number of employed people. This means productivity has grown considerably. «Introduction of innovations is Latvia’s largest problem. Although the country has made some progress, many other countries are far ahead already,» said Ašeradens.

He emphasized that it is important to continue investing funds in education and re-qualification opportunities for people. «Future economy will be based solely on knowledge,» said the minister.

Full article here

CRITICISM: Farmers in Latvia dissatisfied with resolution of electricity-related problems

Two months have passed since farmers in Latvia had received unjustifiably large electricity bills. Countless meetings and discussions have taken place in those two months. Unfortunately, no decisive measures have been undertaken to resolve the problem. Farmers are confused with decision-makers’ incisiveness in a matter important to the national economy, as noted by the Farmers’ Saeima.

«In the past two months we have held multiple discussions with representatives of Economy Ministry and industry representatives to find appropriate solutions for this problem. On top of that, we have sent letters with proposals that would be optimal and acceptable for electricity consumers with a clear seasonality. Unfortunately, no solution has been found so far. The proposal from Economy Ministry and Public Utilities Commission is a formal one and will not help resolve the problem,» the association continues.

Farmers’ Saeima chairman Juris Lazdiņš says: «The problem with power output needs to be resolved at its core. There is no room for cosmetic repairs. Public Utilities Commission’s and Economy Ministry’s proposal would resolve the problem only for a small number of farmers, which is unacceptable for us. In about two weeks from now farmers will receive the third wave of unjustifiably large electricity bills and will be forced to once again pay for officials’ poorly performed work.»

Full article here

RECKLESSNESS: Ventspils beach high in popularity this week; Lembergs gets spotlight time as well

Ventspils city ended up in the spotlight in an unusual way this week: seals washed up on the beach in Ventspils. Animal Freedom association emphasizes that human contact with baby seals would hurt them. Residents are asked to maintain at least 50 m distance from them. In spite of recommendations, however, the suspended Mayor of Ventspils Aivars Lembergs decided to take photos with baby seals and publish them on his Facebook profile.

Of course, Lembergs is not the only one who decided to post photos on the internet. However, while other residents received harsh words for coming close to baby seals, Lembergs has received nothing but praise for his actions.

People continue voicing their surprise on social networks. However, while some people are happy, this whole situation creates a great deal of stress on baby seals.

Full article here

CHANGE: Life after 25 May: is this the end for free publication of photo galleries from events?

Many of us like to check out photos from concerts, conferences or sport events on gallery portals and social networks to have a look at guests of those events. However, after 25 May, when General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) comes into force, the situation will no longer be the same.

Unless the poster receives permission from the person depicted on photos to be posted, it will not be allowed to publish them on different resources.

This is not expected to apply to publication of photos for journalistic needs.

«No, GDPR does not mean people will not be allowed to take photos and publish them. Because the regulation’s goal is protecting people’s privacy, organizers of different events will have to take into account several conditions, including the context of events and permission from participating people for the publication of photos,» says attorney Ieva Andersone from Sorainen law firm.

GDPR will affect all companies – creative, media and communication industry are no exception. Sorainen law firm’s attorney Ieva Andersone and Squalio IT company productivity solutions specialist Kristaps Sedols explain the factors organizers of public events will have to take into account:

-First of all, images to be made publicly accessible must not allow viewers to identify specific people. For example, panorama views, group photos, pictures of event locations, arms holding cups, etc.;

-Secondly, photos depicting event managers, moderators, lectors, musicians are allowed to be published if those people provided permission for that. People associated with organization of concerts or their broadcasting know very well that world-famous musicians do not permit photos to be taken of the entire event. They often establish specific rules in accordance with which people are allowed to take photos. GDPR requirements are similar. The only difference is that they apply all visitors, explains Andersone;

-Thirdly, it is allowed to publish photos if people depicted on them have given their permission;

-Lastly, requirements for the use of photos for journalistic needs, if it is done with intention of publishing information in the interest of society, remain unchanged. This exception is provided by the Personal Data Protection Law, which specifies GDPR rules in Latvia. Other exceptions are planned for data processing for academic, artistic or literary needs.

Full article here


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Week in Lithuania. Economists, trade unions cautious about tax, pension reform plans

Lithuanian economists and trade union officials say that the government's planned tax and pension system reform unveiled on Monday, April 23, will lead to a rise in wages, but will not help drastically curb emigration.

BNN summary of the week: prime minister without solutions; birth rates down; organic food rules

BNN offers a summary of this week’s topical news in a variety of categories: Change; Growth; Business; Assessment; Fight; Future.

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.

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