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Tuesday 20.02.2018 | Name days: Smuidra, Vitauts, Smuidris
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BNN summary of the week: birth and death rates in Latvia turn out shocking. Gambling halls to close down

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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; Truth; Business; Future.

BUSINESS: Sale of MTG’s business in Baltics to Providence concludes successfully

Wednesday, 18 October, marked the successful conclusion of the sale of Baltic assets owned by Swedish media concern Modern Times Group to Providence Equity Partners. From now on companies previously owned by MTG in Baltics will function as a single organization named All Media Baltics, as confirmed by the company’s manager Pierre Danon.

Permission for the sale to go down was received from all Baltic States’ regulators, including Latvian Competition Council.

MTG, which was present in Latvia since 1998, owned television channels TV3, TV3+, TV6, LNT, Kanāls 2 and radio station Star FM, as well as internet portals Tvpay and Skaties. In Estonia, MTG owned Viasat Eesti, television channels TV3, TV6, and TV3+, whereas in Lithuania the company owned TV3, TV3+ and Viasat Sport Baltic. Providence Equity Partners manages Bite Group mobile telecommunications company in Baltic States. Bite controls 28.5% of Latvia’s internet and cable television services provider Baltcom.

Full article here

FIGHT: LG cozies up with idea of rebuilding railway tracks to Reņģe, Latvia

Lithuania‘s Lietuvos Geležinkeliai (Lithuanian Railways) has sent a mixed message as to what it intends to do next following an EC fine of nearly 28 million against it over the dismantling a 19-km railway stretch with the Latvian village of Rengė.

Brussels ruled in early October that Lithuania resorted to the drastic means to intentionally limit the capabilities of Latvian railways in transporting oil products from Orlen Lietuva, an oil refinery in the Lithuanian town of Mažeikiai, to Latvia. Besides, the absence of railway tracks forced the Polish refinery to transport its freight to Latvia on a much longer route.

«It is likely that we will soon start rebuilding the Rengė-stretch to settle the issue,» Mantas Bartuška, CEO of Lietuvos Geležinkeliai (LG), told a news conference on Wednesday, October 18.

He did not elaborate, however. Earlier calculations suggest the price-tag of the construction can be in the range of 20 million euros.

Margrethe Vestager, the European Commissioner for Competition, said while on her visit to Lithuania last week that rebuilding would solve the problem of the removed tracks.

Full article here

DECLINE: Number of births and number of deaths decline in Latvia

During the first nine months of this year 15,723 babies were born in Latvia, which is 1,113 children fewer than in the corresponding period of the last year.

The number of newborn does not include children born outside Latvia to mother while temporarily abroad. The data on children born abroad will be available in April 2018, according to data from the Central Statistical Bureau of Latvia.

During the first nine months of the year, positive changes may be observed in the death number (21,363 deaths were registered) – a drop of 46 deaths, compared to the corresponding period of the previous year.

Full article here

TRUTH: BATL: to avoid crisis in transit sector, government and Transport Ministry must act

Latvian Prime Minister Māris Kučinskis’ led Latvian Ports, Transit and Logistics Council also supports Saeima’s National Economy Committee’s decision on the need for Transport Ministry to develop a long-term vision for the development of the country’s transit industry.

Baltic Association – Transport and Logistics President Inga Antāne is satisfied with this decision. She says it means ‘the ice has started moving’ and that the first steps towards ensuring development for the industry have been made. This opens way for new discussions, especially considering the delicate state of the industry and continuing decline of transit cargoes.

On Wednesday, 18 October, Latvian Ports, Transit and Logistics Council decided not to view the matter regarding transit industry’s competitiveness. Instead it was decided to postpone it until Transport Ministry has prepared a strategic vision for the industry’s future development.

Antāne comments: «We are satisfied with the fact that we have been heard. The road towards this moment was not easy. The feeling is not unlike traversing Altenberg bobsleigh track, which is considered the most complex track in the world. Support from the committee and Latvian Ports, Transit and Logistics Council for this decision means the era of the ‘transit industry is fine’ statement is over. We expect Transport Ministry to perform work professionally and prepare a vision for the industry’s future development to ensure stability. This is the first and important step towards sorting out the industry.»

Full article here

FUTURE: 42 gambling halls to be closed down in Riga in next five years

On Wednesday, 18 October, Riga City Council supported plans to close another 33 gambling halls in the city. With that, a total of 42 gambling halls will be liquidated in the next five year.

Riga City Council’s Legal Office has prepared decisions for revoking permits allowing the opening of new gambling halls within Riga’s historic centre and its protected area. Restrictions will not apply to four and five-star hotels and public construction territories.

Disagreements appeared between coalition and opposition deputies from the beginning of this matter’s review. This is because opposition representative Juris Pūce and Mārtiņš Bondars opposed the closure of gambling halls. During the decision-making process, deputies mentioned that Pūce should step down because his wife’s association Ascendum had received more nearly half a million euros worth of donations from gambling businesses.

Deputy Aleksejs Rosļikovs mentioned that Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau has launched an investigation about this.

Pūce said that accusations voiced against him are nothing more than ‘populist drivel’ intended to create the impression that Harmony has finally done something good for residents. He added that the true purpose of those accusations is the desire to continue stealing from and distracting people.

Full article here

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Bank of Latvia governor: I have 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.

Proportion of people working in Latvia’s culture sector is larger than the average in EU

The number of people working in Latvia’s culture sector is equal to 4.5% of the total number of employed people in the country. This proportion is also larger than the average one across the European Union, according to data published by Eurostat.

Ministry: idea for compulsory secondary education should be put on hold for now

Considering that Latvia’s Education and Science Ministry has several ongoing industry reforms, it would be best to put the proposal for compulsory secondary education on hold, said Education and Science Minister Kārlis Šadurskis during a meeting of Saeima’s Education, Culture and Science Committee.

Association: ECB should become more involved in resolving Latvia’s financial scandal

Association of Latvian Commercial Banks sees a need for the European Central Bank (ECB) to become more involved in the discussion and help resolve the situation, considering evaluation of ABLV Bank’s business model is in direct competence of ECB.

Hesburger to invest 11.5 million euros in Baltics this year

The largest fast food catering restaurant network in Finland and Baltic States – Hesburger – plans to invest approximately EUR 11.5 million in business development this year. EUR 5.5 million are planned to be invested in Latvia’s market, says Hesburger Development Director Ieva Salmela.

Air temperature drops below -30° C in certain parts of Northern Europe

On Tuesday, 20 February, air temperature in central and northern parts of Finland dropped to -27° C… -31° C in morning hours. In Norway, close to the Finnish border, air temperature has dropped as far as -34° C, according to data from meteorological stations.

FCMC suspects someone may want to undermine Latvia’s financial sector

It is not impossible that someone may want to undermine Latvia’s financial sector, said chairman of Latvian Finance and Capital Market Commission Pēters Putniņš in an interview to Rīta Panorāma programme on Tuesday, 20 February.

European exchange indexes decline; Wall Street enjoys a holiday

European exchange indexes declined on Monday, 19 February. No trading was performed at American stock markets, because the country was celebrating President’s Day.

Party: Latvian banking system’s crisis threatens Skanste neighbourhood's development

There are serious risks associated with European Union’s co-financed project for the revitalization of Skanste neighbourhood, including construction of Skanste tramway line, says member of Riga City Council and For Latvia’s Development party Viesturs Zeps.

Public opinion: KGB documents should be made publicly accessible immediately

Latvia’s society believes the KGB documents should be made publicly accessible immediately. In addition, residents say they are confident in their ability to discuss those documents without the country’s supervision, which takes the form of expert opinions prevailing over society’s moral views, as stated by guest researcher of History Institute of the University of Latvia M. His. Marta Starostina.

For Latvia’s Development: the prime minister is gone, but finance minister claims otherwise

«What we have observed in the past several days is that Latvia’s financial sector has received several heavy strikes as a result of the government’s uncoordinated and chaotic actions. Prime Minister Māris Kučinskis has evidently ‘disappeared’ and offers no clear plans to resolve the crisis, whereas Finance Minister Dana Reizniece-Ozola says different things in every interview. Such behaviour will not help resolve the crisis. It could instead pull the country’s financial sector in a much deeper crisis,» says chairman of For Latvia’s Development Juris Pūce.

Bank of Latvia provided ABLV Bank with a loan of 97.5 mln euros in exchange for securities pledge

The Bank of Latvia has provided ABLV Bank with a loan worth EUR 97.5 million in exchange for securities pledge, as confirmed by the financial institution.

Prime Minister: Bank of Latvia governor is not allowed to take official post

As a security measure, the governor of the Bank of Latvia Ilmārs Rimšēvičs has been applied with a prohibition to take post, said Latvian Prime Minister Māris Kučinskis after a meeting of the Cabinet of Ministers.

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.

«A good friend» pays 100,000 euro bail for arrested governor of the Bank of Latvia

Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau (CPCB) has applied a bail of 100,000 euros for the arrested governor of the Bank of Latvia Ilmārs Rimšēvičs. The bail has already been paid to the State Treasury account, as confirmed by his lawyer Saulvedis Vārpiņš.

NP: ABLV blames Latvian officials for misleading foreign institutions

Last week, the reputation of Latvia’s second largest bank – ABLV – was seriously impacted. It is believed that money laundering was this bank’s main operation, and that it failed to comply with the prohibition on cooperation with North Korea. The bank is also accused of bribery. US Department of the Treasury Financial Crimes Enforcement Network rarely speaks so directly of any credit institution, says Nekā personīga programme.

Changes to third-country student residence in Estonia to add more responsibilities to university staff

The Estonian government has backed planned amendments are to the Aliens Law implementing an EU directive into Estonian law, which change how third-country nationals on enter and reside in Estonia if they are study or performing research work.

Russia criticises U.S. charges of Russian meddling in U.S. election

The Foreign Minister of Russia, Sergei Lavrov, has criticised the charges announced by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, against 13 Russian nationals and three companies for election meddling.

Government plans to form four riot prevention units in Latvian regions

The State Police plans to form four riot prevention units in Latvia’s regions, says Chief of State Police Ints Ķuzis.

Syrian Kurdish fighters under attack by Turkey announce deal with Syrian government forces

The mainly Kurdish militia in the north-west of Syria have announced having reached an agreement with the Syrian government for the latter to deploy its soldiers in order to help Kurds repel the current Turkish attack.

NCP: it is highly important to replace management of Bank of Latvia and FCMC

Considering recent events, which have not only impacted the country’s finance sector but also its international reputation, the New Conservative Party (NCP) demands immediate measures to be undertaken to replace the management of the Bank of Latvia and the Finance and Capital Market Commission. On top of that, it is also necessary to perform radical changes in the organization and supervision of those institutions, says NCP chairman Jānis Bordāns.

Air temperature in Latvia to gradually decline this week

On Monday, 19 February, atmospheric pressure will increase slightly in the north. With that, it is expected to snow only around Kurzeme’s south-west. Air temperature in most of Latvia will stay at -1° C… -6° C. In Kurzeme, however, air temperature will be around 0° C… +1° C, as reported by State Environment, Geology and Meteorology Centre.

Week in Lithuania. Lithuania celebrating centennial of statehood

Leaders of European countries gathered in Vilnius on Friday, February 16, to celebrate the 100-year anniversary of restored statehood, and festive events were taking place in many cities and towns of Lithuania.

BNN summary of the week: minister threatened with dismissal; ABLV Bank scandal

BNN offers a summary of this week’s topical news in a variety of categories: Change; Fight; Court; Problem; Decline; Commentary; Future; Proposal

SRS uncovered violations in 169 inspections at catering companies last year

In 2017, the State Revenue Service (SRS) performed a total of 989 inspections at 212 catering companies. This includes 182 thematic inspections for 125 taxpayers. Violations were uncovered in 169 inspections. The most common violation was manipulation with cash registers, according to information published by SRS.