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Saturday 24.03.2018 | Name days: Kazimirs, Izidors

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.

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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.

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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.

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MEP: operations of certain banks in Latvia ruin the country’s reputation

Money laundering is a problem in Latvia, because the activities performed by certain banks ruin the country’s reputation, said member of the European Parliament Krišjānis Kariņš in an interview to Rietumu Radio.

Harmony believes education only in Latvian language is discrimination

Members of Harmony’s Saeima faction have turned to President of Latvia Raimonds Vējonis with a request to halt the parliament’s newly approved amendments to the General Education Law and Education Law regarding education only in Latvian language.

Opinion: UFG and For Latvia and Ventspils were in favour of Vejonis congratulating Putin

Latvia’s President Raimonds Vējonis sent his congratulation to the newly-elected President of Russia Vladimir Putin in order to secure political capital for himself during next year’s presidential elections, says Assoc. Prof. Ojārs Skudra from Social Sciences Faculty of the University of Latvia.

Commissioner: Latvia should provide a clear response to situation in its financial sector

The scandal in Latvia’s financial sector has been reported far and wide in the European Union. This is why it is highly important for Latvia to provide a clear reaction to all this, said Vice-President of the European Commission for Financial Stability, Financial Services and Capital Market Union Valdis Dombrovskis.

Don't joke about bombs at Tallinn Airport, they take it seriously

Estonia's largest airport in Tallinn has from early 2017 received 14 threats of the presence of explosives in the air-travel hub, most of which have been discovered to be just jokes said at the wrong place.

Minister: learning in a single education system using state language is only obvious

Education using state language is our way of ensuring sustainable development of our nation, says Latvia’s Education and Science Minister Kārlis Šadurskis.

Estonian banks close foreigner accounts in wake of ABLV closure

In the wake of the closure of ABLV Bank in Latvia and alleged money laundering via the Estonian branch of Danske Bank, lenders in Estonia are closing the accounts of foreigners, but this threatens the country's successful e-Residency programme aimed at attracting foreign investors.

Latvian Saeima conceptually supports limiting the Bank of Latvia governor’s authority

The Saeima has supported amendments to the Law on the Bank of Latvia in the first reading. Amendments provide that the term of the bank’s governor, his deputy and council members will be five years, as reported by Saeima’s press-service.

Baltic shareholders agree to keep Baiba Rubesa in charge of RB Rail

RB Rail CEO and board chairperson Baiba Rubesa will keep her post. This was decided by shareholders during the 22 March meeting. «The supervisory council had previously mentioned the CEO’s contribution to the company’s development. Still, we intend to find solutions and continue realizing Rail Baltica project,» said RB Rail Supervisory Council chairperson Riia Sillave.

Syrian rebel groups in eastern Ghouta announce ceasefire

In the besieged eastern Ghouta territory in Syria, which has been under heavy air strikes and artillery fire for about a month, several opposition rebel groups have agreed to ceasefire.

EU member states on Skripal attack: «Highly likely» Russia was responsible

The European Union has stated it would recall its ambassador to Moscow for consultations after heads of member states and their governments agreed it was very likely that Russia was responsible for the attack with a chemical weapon on a Russian-British double agent.

Weather to remain cold in Latvia until Easter; more snowfall expected

Weather in Latvia is expected to become cold again after a brief period of warmth. Air temperature will drop again at the beginning and the middle of next week; some areas may experience frost again, as reported by Latvian State, Environment, Geology and Meteorology Centre.

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.

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.

Saeima to establish legal framework for Baltic cooperation in disaster prevention

On Thursday, 22 March, Latvian Saeima supported a legislative draft, ratification of which will help create legal framework with other Baltic States in prevention of disasters, as reported by the parliament’s press-service.

Number of complaints with postal services on a rise in Latvia

Public Utilities Commission has compiled information about complaints submitted by residents in regards to postal services in 2017. The number of complaints has increased alongside opposing views about package terminals – the regulator has received 37 complaints in total.

Output of livestock products in Latvia increased in 2017

Compared to 2016, output of meat grew by 4.6 % and output of milk by 1.4 % in 2017. In 2017, in Latvia 91.2 thousand tonnes of meat were produced, which is 4.0 thousand tonnes or 4.6 % more than in 2016. The most significant increase was observed in the output of poultry (of 11.3 %) and pork (4.7 %).

Turkey's offensive in Syria condemned by NATO ally Germany

Angela Merkel, the head of the German federal government has stated that Turkey’s military offensive in the northern Syrian town of Afrin was unacceptable and she blamed Russia for simply watching, while attacks by Syrian government forces on besieged eastern Ghouta continue.

Finance minister still believes tax reform in Latvia has brought results

«The tax reform has given us the results we had expected, especially in regards to combating envelope wages,» said Latvia’s Finance Minister Dana Reizniece-Ozola in an interview to 900 seconds programme of LNT.

Planned hospital reorganisation in Lithuanian regions irks both mayors and patients

If the plan of the Lithuanian Ministry of Health to overhaul treatment services in the provinces does not hit a snag, the rural hospitals will be soon providing only essential care and nursing, the focus will be on out-patient care and treatment will be available only in larger county hospitals.

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

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

Ombudsman: 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.

Estonian music authors receive record royalties for 2017

The organisation, which is tasked by collecting royalties for local and foreign music in Estonia, the Estonian Authors' Society, has received six million euros in royalties in 2017, which is its record level.

Facebook sorry for permitting exploitation of 50 million user data in politics

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has apologised for the social network failing to ensure enough privacy to its users that allowed for data on about 50 million of its users to abused by a political consultancy firm.

Zhdanok’s replacement to promote non-citizen matter in European Parliament

Miroslavs Mitrofanovs, who has taken Tatyana Zhdanok’s place in the European Parliament, plans to promote the matter of non-citizens in the institution.

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