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Friday 22.06.2018 | Name days: Ludmila, Laimdots, Laimiņš
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BNN summary of the week: bank drama and complaints about government’s work

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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: Announcement; Proposal; Threats; Concerns; Decline; Future.

ANNOUNCEMENT: Latvian President believes country’s financial system is stable; prime minister plans to report to European Council

«Latvia’s financial system is stable, and there is no reason to worry about possible instability of the banking system. Banks continue working as usual,» says the President of Latvia Raimonds Vējonis.

The investigation about the situation with Latvia’s financial sector must not be allowed to be influenced and should be concluded as soon as possible, said Vējonis after his meeting with Prime Minister Māris Kučinskis on Wednesday, 21 February.

«I can say that law enforcement institutions should continue working to disprove information reported about certain officials. This investigation must not be influenced and should be concluded as soon as possible, because this matter is associated with state and financial system’s reputation. Because of that, answers should come as quickly as possible.»

The president adds that law enforcement institutions should work to accomplish results and fix the problems that exist in the financial sector.

Commenting on Latvian Defence Ministry’s report, in which officials mention that the situation revolving around the arrest of the governor of the Bank of Latvia Ilmārs Rimšēvičs is being used as an attack against Latvia’s reputation, Vējonis said that Latvia exists in a state of constant hybrid war.

«We see different information campaigns being performed against Latvia on a regular basis. Their goal is misreporting different facts in an attempt to defame officials and cause sow seeds of hatred among different nationalities,» said the president, adding that the situation is already heated and a large volume of misinformation is reported almost every day.

Full article here

PROPOSAL: Latvijas gāze’s subsidiary Gaso proposes reducing gas transmission price

Latvijas gāze’s subsidiary Gase has turned to Public Utilities Commission with a proposal for a new natural gas transmission system service’s tariff project, providing for a reducing gas transmission price by 18-46% for more than 95% gas consumers.

At the same time, it is planned to introduce a fixed fee for permitted transmission output regardless of gas consumption.

«Our proposed transmission system’s tariff project is a carefully considered step that should be made to adapt to the new gas market situation and ensure compliance with security standards. Gas infrastructure’s security affects all consumers. This is why it is necessary to restore and maintain the gas transmission network to reduce to a minimum the possibility of risks,» says Gaso board chairperson Ilze Pētersone-Godmane.

She explains that, considering the reduction of gas consumption since the beginning of the ‘90s, international and local gas pipelines originally built for much larger gas volumes, are not used their full potential. For most clients, the capacity of their gas connection does not fit their actual consumption. This needs to be reviewed. The current gas transmission network can potentially ensure continued and unhindered function of electricity-producing companies in nearly every location around the country. On top of that, this does not require any major expansion.

Full article here

THREATS: Bank of Latvia governor claims he has received death threats

«This situation is incredibly complicated. This situation is quite possibly the most complicated one I have ever been in. I feel a great deal of support from people I don’t know, as well as my friends and family members. I have decided to not back down – I am innocent. The the people attacking my reputation have only one goal in mind – to have me step down,» said the governor of the Bank of Latvia Ilmārs Rimšēvičs during a press conference on Tuesday, 20 February.

The governor of the Bank of Latvia Ilmārs Rimšēvičs mentioned that ABLV Bank had turned to the Bank of Latvia with a request for liquidity support last Friday. The bank was asked to provide a loan worth EUR 1 million, which the institution was unable to provide. Three hours after news regarding refusal to provide the loan was announced, authorities arrived at the Bank of Latvia and started performing a search.

«It is clear that I am becoming inconvenient for many in Latvia. I have received death threats, and I have told law enforcement institutions about them,» said Rimšēvičs. He did not mention any names or which law enforcement institutions he has informed of the death threats. He said he received threats in the form of text messages at the end of January.

When asked to comment on the photo that surfaced in 2010 and was purchased by The Associated Press from Sweden’s TT News Agency, depicting Rimšēvičs together with Dmitry Pilschikov, who was the head of Russian Arms Company, the bank’s governor said the photo was fabricated.

When asked how many times he visited Russia in the past, Rimšēvičs said twice – in 2010 and 2012. In both of those times he travelled to Kamchatka for fishing with his friend Andris Kreismanis. Rimšēvičs also mentioned he has never flown through Belarus.

Full article here

CONCERNS: Dismissal requested for Latvia’s Finance Minister; parties worried about finance sector sinking deeper

Latvia’s Finance Minister Dana Reizniece-Ozola has failed to prevent the decision made by United States Department of the Treasury, which is ruinous for the country’s financial sector and humiliating for its reputation, says chairman of New Conservative Party Jānis Bordāns.

The party intends to request dismissal for Reizniece-Ozola.

On Tuesday, 20 February, Reizniece-Ozola mentioned there is no reason to distrust the head of the Finance and Capital Market Commission (FCMC) Pēteris Putniņš.

The opinion of Latvia’s Prime Minister Māris Kučinskis coincides with that of the finance minister. He also sees no reason to distrust the finance sector’s watchdog. As for Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau’s (CPCB) arrest of the governor of the Bank of Latvia Ilmārs Rimšēvičs, Kučinskis said ‘it is no show’ – there are good reasons for CPCB to act this way.

Bordāns believes the Bank of Latvia and FCMC are managed by people with questionable reputation.

Progressive party believes politicians’ reaction to Rimšēvičs’ arrest causes concerns about the division of official power.

«Suspicions are caused by the ruling politicians’ words about requests for Rimšēvičs to step down. Finance Minister Dana Reizniece-Ozola’s request for Rimšēvičs to step down coincides with Saeima speaker Ināra Mūrniece and Prime Minister Māris Kučinskis’ opinions. This request was voiced before law enforcement institutions had reported information about the situation,» the party noted.

Full article here

DECLINE: Poland’s halt to logging in ancient forest came after irreparable damage

Although Poland has stated logging in the old-growth Bialowieza forest has been stopped, Warsaw has failed to reveal the amount of trees already cut down.

British-Canadian news agency Reuters reports on Monday, February 19, that logging quotas to 2021 had already been reached and in one part of the forest an expanded quota, deemed illegal by the European Commission, had been more than half completed.

Early in 2018, an altered Law and Justice party-led government in Warsaw stated it had complied with an order from the European Court of Justice, first issued in July 2018, to stop cutting trees in Bialowieza, changing its previous attitude in its relations with Brussels.

Full article here

FUTURE: more employment options will open up and workers will become more selective

«It is becoming easier to change jobs nowadays. The largest selection of employment options are found in regional centres and cities, especially Riga and Pieriga. We see fewer employment options in regions even though there is still considerable demand for workers there. The interesting part depends on wages and living conditions. Their lack will be the main motivating factor for residents to continue migrating to cities and changing jobs,» predicts SEB Bank’s macroeconomics expert Dainis Gašpuitis.

Favourable weather and economic development have helped reduce unemployment in Q4 2017, when its level declined 0.4 percentage points – to 8.1%. Economic growth rate allows predicting further improvement of the situation on the labour market, says the economist.

«The situation with the labour market will become even more controversial in the foreseeable future. A large number of residents will continue looking for jobs – 85,400 were doing this at the end of 2017. This is a resource that should be used to resolve the problem with lacking labour force. It is also important to consider stimuli that would motivate economically inactive residents to become engaged in the labour market – the number of such residents was 434,000 in Q4 2017. Their total numbers declined by 18,600 over the course of the year. This can be explained with the increase of vacancies on the labour market. Of course, it is important to remember that this is a complicated matter. Capabilities of this resource should be reconsidered and solutions should be discussed,» said Gašpuitis.

Full article here

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Lithuania’s blood plasma corruption scandal extends to Latvia

The former head of Lithuania‘s National Blood Centre, suspected of corruption and involvement in unlicenced activity, received more bad news this week from Latvia, where investigators of the Lithuanian Special Investigation Service had questioned the Latvian Health minister, Anda Čakša.

Administrative burden to be reduced for foreign students and researchers

The administrative burden will be reduced for foreign students and researchers, as well as all education and research institutions hosting them. This is provided by the amendments to the Immigration Law approved by the Saeima in the third reading on Thursday, 21 June.

Latvian Economy Minister endures no-confidence vote

Saeima declined opposition deputies’ request for dismissal of Economy Minister Arvils Ašeradens.

Swedbank economist becomes new member of Bank of Latvia Council

On Thursday, 21 June, Latvia’s Saeima approved Mārtiņš Kazāks in his new post as member of Bank of Latvia Council, as confirmed by Saeima’s press-service.

Pope Francis’ visit to Latvia will be a national holiday

Latvia’s parliament has approved in the final reading a law that makes 24 September – the day Pope Francis plans to visit Latvia – a national holiday.

ICT specialist numbers in Latvia are below Europe’s average level

In Latvia, information and communication technology specialists form only 2.2% of all employed people in the country, which is considerably below the average level in the European Union – 3.7%. Romania and Greece are the only two EU member states in which the number of ICT specialists is below Latvia’s, according to European Commission’s DESI index.

Hungary adopts prison sentence for helping migrants

Hungarian National Assembly has passed a set of laws criminalising with prison terms some help provided to illegal immigrants by non-governmental organisations.

Harmony plans turning to Constitutional Court to prevent transition to Latvian language in schools

«Why should this reform stay unrealized? It is because schools are not prepared for cardinal changes coming from dozens of other reforms that have already shocked the country’s entire general education system,» says chairman of National Minority School Parents Forum and member of Harmony’s work group in Konstantīns Čekušins.

Deputies detained in KPV LV criminal case not declared suspects yet

Saeima deputy Artuss Kaimiņš and businessman Viesturs Tamužs detained in the criminal process regarding possibly illegal funding of KPV LV party have not yet been declared suspects. Both are currently in police custody. It is likely Kaimiņš will be released later today, 21 June.

Production of mines and grenades planned in Estonia

As the Estonian parliament has adopted new rules on military arms and ammunition production in the country, local defence firm Eesti Arsenal has voiced its plan to build a factory in Estonia to make military explosives.

Total tax debts in Latvia reached EUR 1.224 billion in June

At the beginning of June, total tax debts in Latvia, including topical, halted debts and extended repayment terms were equal to EUR 1.233 billion, which is 0.6% less compared to May, as reported by State Revenue Service.

Switch off internet nationwide during exams – Algerian approach

In an attempt to prevent cheating during secondary school exams, the north African nation Algeria, has turned off internet in its whole territory.

Control Service proposes kicking out shell companies as intensely as offshore companies

Shell companies in Latvia should be combated with the same intensity once shown to offshore companies, says chief of Anti-Money Laundering Service Ilze Znotiņa.

EU imposes tariffs on blue jeans, motorcycles and other U.S. export goods

The European Union will introduce retaliatory tariffs against U.S. exports on Friday, EU Trade Commissioner has stated a top official has stated in the bloc's reaction to Washington imposing steep duties on steel and aluminium earlier in June.

Latvia’s Saeima proposes improving job-combining rules for state officials

On Wednesday, 20 June, Latvian parliament’s Public Administration and Local Government Committee decided to submit for review amendments to the Law on Prevention of Conflict of Interest in Activities of Public Officials.

Ukraine's anti-corruption court law insufficient to IMF commitments

The International Monetary Fund has commended the Ukrainian parliament for passing a law to establish an anti-corruption court and pointed to need to amend it to ensure the court can work effectively.

Opinion: they’re trying to shut us up; KPV LV is inconvenient for current government

«We are inconvenient for the current government, the established order, because for the first time a party is prepared to use facts in its rhetoric in the pre-election period. They are trying to shut us up,» said KPV LV prime minister candidate Aldis Gobzems at a press-conference after Artuss Kaimiņš was taken away by Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau.

Hydro and wind power plants produced 70.5% more electricity last year

In 2017 gross energy consumption in Latvia comprised 194.9 petajoules, which is 5.5 % more than in 2016. Over the past five years, the gross energy consumption has not changed significantly. However the share of renewable energy has increased by 2.55 percentage points.

Milder penalties for the accused in digital TV case; idea’s authors get no prison sentence

Riga Regional Court has released a shortened ruling in the so-called digital television criminal case. With it, the court acquitted previously convicted former director of Latvia’s National Theatre Ojārs Rubenis. Nevertheless, some of the accused have been sentenced to fines and actual prison time.

Estonian traitor Simm ruled to serve full 12.5 years in prison

A court in Tartu has decided that the Estonian Defence Ministry ex-official Herman Simm, found guilty of treason in 2009 and sentenced to 12.5 years in jail, has to serve his full sentence, not to be released earlier.

CPCB officers detain Kaimiņš after Saeima meeting

Officers of Latvia’s Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau detained Saeima deputy Artuss Kaimiņš after the end of the parliament’s meeting.

Around 15% of Estonian 15-19-year-olds estimated to have mental illness

In Estonia, an estimated total of 20,000-40,000 adolescents, comprising 10-20% of all teenage Estonians, have been found to suffer from a mental illness and close to 3,000 children have been prescribed antidepressants.

Chief: Anti-Money Laundering Service should not submit to a single person

Anti-Money Laundering Service should not be controlled by a single person, says chief of the Control Service Ilze Znotiņa.

Saeima permits commencement of criminal process against Artuss Kaimiņš

This week Latvia’s Saeima voted in favour of the decision to detain and then perform a search in the home of Saeima member Artuss Kaimiņš from KPV LV political party.

U.S. withdraws from UN Human Rights Council voicing sharp criticism

The U.S. has withdrawn from the United Nations Human Rights Council describing the body as being politically biased and not working towards reducing human rights violations globally.