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Ceturtdiena 19.10.2017 | Name days: Drosma, Drosmis, Elīna
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BNN summary of the week: cynical politicians, Latvia’s tax reform and weak presidents

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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: Change; Fight; Truth; Business; Future and Growth.

CHANGE: Martins Bondars confident he should «step aside»

Martins Bondars has decided to step down as chairman of Latvian Association of Regions. According him, recent decisions made by members of LAR have not been ones he would personally support.

When asked how he intends to continue working in the party, Bondars said leaving the post of chairman of LAR means he is formally not part of LAR. Except he remains a deputy in Riga City Council elected from the party’s list. He has confirmed that he plans to continue working in the city council’s opposition.

When asked about the possibility of Latvijas Krajbanka case’s influence extending to political decisions, Bondars said this political case will not affect his decisions.

Full article here

BUSINESS: Government allows Bite Lietuva to become the owner of TV3, LNT and Star FM

On Tuesday, 25 July, the Cabinet of Ministers permitted Lithuanian company UAB BITE Lietuva to acquire decisive influence in Latvian media companies TV 3 Latvia, LNT and Star FM.

Permission from the Competition Council is still necessary for the deal to complete.

According to government representatives, the three Latvian media companies own a major share of the country’s mass media market. They are also important from the perspective of protection of interests of national security. In accordance with requirements of the National Security Law, acquisition of 100% of capital shares in such companies requires permission from the Cabinet of Ministers.

To make a decision, the Cabinet of Ministers took into account reports from state security institutions on this deal, as well as information from Bite Lietuva about its owners and all other information regarding this deal from the perspective of protection of national security.

Full article here

FIGHT: Unity believes electing Sudraba to the committee causes trust in politicians to go down more

Inguna Sudraba’s approval for the oligarch talks parliamentary investigative committee’s board would the equivalent of the parliament deciding not to permit searches in Slesers’ home, Unity members say.

By electing Sudraba in the parliamentary investigative committee when there has been information that Sudraba was mentioned in Ridzene talks in relation to the possible illegal influence of a third country in political processes in Latvia, Saeima deputies demonstrate cynical attitude towards society and actively act against the goals of the investigative committee, Unity states.

The vote for her approval as head of the committee is the equivalent of the Saeima’s decision to prohibit the search in Ainars Slesers’ home in 2011, which resulted in the Saeima being dissolved in the end.

Unity had previously proposed rejecting Inguna Sudraba for the committee and picking each member individually, but the parliament rejected this proposal.

Full article here

DECLINE: candidates of the last presidency have all been intellectually weak

One of this summer’s hottest and most discussed piece of news was the proposal to allow residents to elect the country’s president. Latvian President Raimonds Vejonis’ 22 June speech to the parliament, in which he proposed allowing the people to elect the president in 2019, caused even more discussions.

BNN has compiled opinions of multiple publicly well-known people on this matter.

When asked about the idea of a president elected by the people in Latvia, Skaidrite Lasmane, leading researcher of Social Science Faculty of the University of Latvia, said: «I think it would be better waiting a bit longer for society to get used to democracy.»

Continuing the conversation, Lasmane admits being sceptical of a future in Latvia where the president is elected by the people: «I would support a president elected by the people more than I would the last weak and intellectually weak presidents».

Lasmane is also harsh towards Latvia’s current president: «I would go as far to say that our current president is also intellectually weak, as were the two that came before him. They were unable to offer a single worthwhile project or form a correct sentence properly. A president should be clever, like Vaira Vike-Freiberga was.»

Full article here

TRUTH: Antane says excise tax for diesel fuel should be reduced, not increased

«Unfortunately, when making the decision to increase excise tax rate for diesel fuel, the government did not consider all possible risks this decision could bring to the transport and logistics industry and the country’s economy as a whole,» BNN was told by President of Baltic Association – Transport and Logistics Inga Antane.

BALT has turned to all factions represented in the Saeima, as well as independent deputies, with a request to prevent the increase of excise tax for diesel fuel. At the same time, BATL proposes reviewing its proposal to decrease diesel fuel excise tax rate for railway transports by 50%.

«The proposal to review the plan for raising excise tax would be a notable gesture to the industry and society that the government thinks about the development of Latvia’s national economy in a long-term perspective, not just in relation to patching holes in the budget,» said BATL President Inga Antane.

She emphasizes: «Every ton of transit cargo brings our economy up to EUR 15, and this amounts to more than EUR 1 billion over the course of a year. This is why further development of this industry is vital.»

Full article here

GROWTH: where is the piece of land Duklavs’ associates wanted 15 million for?

Ir magazine has surveyed several hectares of land on Daugava River’s left bank, specifically within the territory of Riga Freeport, to find the piece of land that was mentioned by Agriculture Minister Janis Duklavs during his conversation with other politicians in Ridzene hotel.

Ir has identified the piece of land within the port’s territory for the sale of which Duklavs asked Ainars Slesers for help in 2010. Duklavs owns 10% of the piece of land. In addition, his associates wanted to get 15 million from the buyer. Ir found the piece of land based on clues mentioned by Duklavs in the conversation.

According to Ir, the piece of land in question is indirectly by two Latvijas Gāze board members Gints Freibergs and Liga Berga through two firms.

When asked to explain his association with this piece of land, Duklavs continued denying ownership. He did, however, admitted sharing ties with one of the Bergs family members, Ir reports.

The piece of land is located on the left bank of Daugava River, not far from Latvian Propane Gas export base – those are two pieces of land have an area of 8 ha and were owned by Kremeri firm since 2005. Since 2008, this firm is owned by Vilandres, whose owners consist of LG board members Gints Greibers and Liga Berga. Berga’s daughter, Elina Berga, is a board member in the company.

Full article here

FUTURE: Saeima supports tax reform laws in final reading

Saeima’s Budget and Finance Committee has concluded work on tax reform laws, supporting them in the final reading. Part of the proposals on additional benefits and multiple other matters will be put off for a later date.

Members of the committee concluded assessing all legislative drafts associated with the reform. Saeima’s Social and Employment Matters Committee supported the Law on State Social Insurance on Wednesday, 26 July.

Budget committee started assessing proposals for legislative projects for the final reading this Tuesday, when proposals for possible changes were reviewed by the government. On Wednesday, the committee worked all day – with several breaks over the course of 13 hours. In total, the parliament received around 350 proposals for reform laws.

When assessing proposals, the opinion of deputies coincided with decisions of the government. Many of the supported proposals were editorial. Nevertheless, there were multiple conceptual matters in which deputies changed their previous decision about possible amendments.

Part of the proposals on additional benefits and multiple other matters is planned to be put off for a later date. Decisions are planned to be made during budget review period. Finance Minister Dana Reizniece-Ozola says this decision is only logical, because there are matters that are not associated with the reform. The budget review is the right time to review them, because then it will be possible to balance desires with opportunities, said the minister.

Reviews of tax reform are planned to commence at the next Saeima meeting this Thursday.

Full article here


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Prime Minister: Latvia cannot accept additional asylum seekers

Latvia cannot afford to resettle additional asylum seekers, said Prime Minister Māris Kučinskis during his meeting with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker on Thursday, 19 October.

Scandinavians purchase tourism company in Lithuania; changes expected in Latvia too

Dutch Otravo online travel organization has expanded and has purchased Lithuanian online travel agency Interno Partneris, thereby entering the Baltic market.

Ombudsman: non-citizen status matter should be resolved in next decade

The next ten years may be the transition period to ‘put an end’ to the non-citizen status in Latvia, said ombudsman Juris Jansons in an interview to LTV programme Rīta panorama.

Swedish Foreign Minister: harassment exists at highest political level

The Foreign Affairs Minister of Sweden, Margot Wallström, has commended the current sexual assault and harassment awareness campaign in social media and urged to fellow politicians to address the problem.

Latvenergo recognized as Latvia’s most valuable company for tenth time

Latvenergo has been recognized as Latvia’s most valuable company in 2017. Its value grew 34% in comparison with 2016, according to the TOP 101 list of Latvia’s most valuable companies compiled by Prudentia and Nasdaq Riga.

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.

CC applies binding conditions for the sale of MTG Broadcasting AB

Latvian Competition Council has decided to permit Bite Lietuva to purchase MTG Broadcasting AB group’s businesses in Latvia. CC has applied several binding conditions to prevent a possible impact on competition on the television services and advertisement market.

Eesti Energia warns: Limiting CO2 emissions on capacity could endanger energy supply

Estonian energy giant Eesti Energia has evaluated that a plan under discussion in the European Union to introduce a carbon dioxide release limit for capacity mechanisms to qualify for subsidies could adversely affect the security of supply in Estonia and the Baltic states.

Solidarity tax norm recognized as non-compliant with Latvia’s Constitution

On Thursday, 19 October, the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Latvia declared the Solidarity tax norm as non-compliant with the country’s Constitution.

Survey: Riga residents go to the doctor’s the most often

34% of residents undergo regular health checks, according to Mana Aptieka & Apotheka health index. In addition, women are twice as serious about health checks as men.

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

Lithuania‘s Lietuvos Geležinkeliai 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.

Čigāne: European Union’s social pillar is very important to Latvia

On Wednesday, 18 October, Saeima’s European Affairs Committee approved Latvia’s national position on the introduction of EU Pillar of Social Rights.

40% of all car problems are relate to lighting, battery and security systems

It has been determined that 41% of all car problems are related to lighting devices, 39% of problems are related to malfunctioning batteries, and 44% of problems are related to security systems.

Xi Jinping: Chinese socialism has entered new era

China's ruling Communist Party's five-year congress has been opened with the country's President Xi Jinping outlining a general plan for the future development of China.

Public transport in Latvia procurement may be at risk

Considering that continued and unhindered provision of public transport services on ten routes may become at risk from 1 January 2018 onward, Public Transport Council made a decision to ask the Road Directorate to sign a new contract to ensure services are available in multiple Latvian cities, as confirmed by Road Directorate.

Iraqi forces retake disputed territories from Kurdish forces

Three weeks after the Iraqi Kurdistan independence referendum, forces of the Iraqi central government have taken control of the territories in the country, which had been seized by Kurdish fighters after victories over the terrorist group «Islamic State».

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.

Estonian port company makes 29% more revenue in January-September

Estonian state port company Port of Tallinn has made the revenue in the amount of 99.1 million euros in the first nine months of 2017, which is a 29% increase compared to January-September in 2016.

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.

Latvia has the highest index of female CEOs among EU member states

The highest index of female CEOs among European Union member states belongs to Latvia – 47%. In total, only 33% of CEOs in EU were female last year, according to data from the Central Statistical Bureau of Latvia.

Survey: more and more people take notice of benefits provided by EU membership

65% of Latvian residents believe the country’s membership in the European Union has brought tangible benefits. A similar opinion was voiced by 64% of residents of all EU member states in the Eurobarometer study performed by the European Parliament.

17 persons in need of international aid are relocated to Latvia from Turkey

On Tuesday, 17 October, seventeen individuals, including nine children, in need of international protection were relocated to Latvia from Turkey as part of EU resettlement programme, as confirmed by Latvian Office of Citizenship and Migration Affairs.

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.

Psychologist: six-year-old children are not ready for school

«It is wrong to believe that the sooner a child starts going to school, the better their academic results will be. Reforms are performed aggressively, without asking pedagogues or other specialists for their opinion. We lack a comprehensive analysis of the current situation that would be based on studies, not international ratings,» says certified clinical psychologist and psychotherapist Jolanta Lamstere.

Klaipeda transport ticketing system to be installed by Estonian Ridango

In the Lithuanian port city of Klaipeda, Estonian firm Ridango has been selected for installing its technology on public transport.