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Friday 25.05.2018 | Name days: Junora, Anšlavs
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BNN summary of the week: EP aims to combat sexual harassment and airBaltic may get a new investor soon

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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; Decline; Growth; Business; Future and Opinion.

CHANGE: changes in Russian schools needed for formation of unified political nation

Latvia requires a unified political nation, which is impossible to achieve living in different education spaces. With that, it is only natural for the process to progress towards our youth studying together, Latvian Education Minister Kārlis Šadurskis told Rīta panorama programme about the intended education reforms in Russian-speaking schools.

Šadurskis called people who opposed planned reforms as political forces interested in keeping as many youngsters as possible with weak Latvian language skills living in Russian propaganda space.

According to the politician, there are no more unclear aspects about expected reforms. All teachers in Latvia have to know the state language at the highest level. If they do not, each separate municipality is to be held responsible. Teachers have had many opportunities to learn the language in the past fifteen years. Education programmes are ready as well.

When asked if reforms could potentially cause a decline of education quality for Russian-speakers, Šadurskis avoided answering the question directly. Instead he rhetorically asked if authors of such statements truly think that Russians are dumber than others and cannot learn other languages.

Full article here

BUSINESS: Transport Ministry is open for a full disposal of state-owned airBaltic shares

Latvian Transport Ministry is currently engaged in reviewing specific offers for attraction of investors for airBaltic. A full privatization of the company is not out of the question, says the ministry’s state secretary Kaspars Ozoliņš.

He says attraction of an investor is the main challenge at the moment. «We have been very productive lately. The ministry has enlisted help from Lazard Freres to evaluate potential strategic partners for airBaltic. There is one major nuance, however. As the largest shareholder, the state has to ensure the company’s development. And for the company to develop there have to be shareholders who would invest in it.»

Ozoliņš also emphasized that it is important to keep in mind EU regulation that states how state investments are considered state support. «This is why state support would not be beneficial for the company’s development. Basically it is hard for the state to serve as shareholder, because laws do not permit investment opportunities available to a private investor,» Ozoliņš explains.

At the same time, he notes that aviation should not be left unattended. «Aviation is a business that goes nowhere when it stands in one place. As we all know, the global aviation market is currently in bad shape, considering that many well-known companies have ended up in difficult situations, except for airBaltic, which continues being successful. This year, without a doubt, was the most successful one in the company’s history. We cautiously predict next year to be better. At the same time, we see what is currently happening in Europe – with Monarch, Air Berlin and Alitalia.»

Full article here

DECLINE: Pabriks: there is a serious risk of drop in quality in the ranks of Latvia’s army

Declining physical exercise among youngsters affects the quality of Latvia’s armed forces, says Latvian MEP Artis Pabriks.

«The announcement by National Armed Forces regarding the necessity to ease the requirement for health and physical tests in order to secure more personnel for the army is yet another sign of a possible decline in quality in the ranks of Latvia’s army. Although requirements currently remain unchanged, this situation could have a serious impact on our soldier’s fitness,» Pabriks comments.

Full article here

GROWTH: European Parliament staff and members call for action against sexual harassment

Working as an assistant to a French member of parliament, Jeanne Ponté, had experienced the first time of sexual harassment after two weeks in the job.

British public broadcaster BBC reports that remembering the behaviour of a German MEP in 2014 Jeanne Ponté, now 27 years old, told: «He was waiting for me at the exit. (..) He stopped me walking past and put his arms around my waist, asking me if I was new.»

Full article here

FUTURE: Saeima conceptually supports next year’s state budget project

On Thursday, 26 October, Latvia’s Saeima support the state budget project for 2018 and accompanying legislative drafts.

56 Saeima deputies voted in favour of next year’s budget project and 39 parliamentarians voted against.

In total, the Saeima reviewed two new legislative drafts and amendments to 26 laws, as well as a legislative draft on content of medium-term budget and the budget project itself.

Proposals for legislative drafts will be allowed to be submitted until 31 October. The government and Saeima commission will review proposals in November. The decision regarding the approval of the state budget will be made at the end of November.

When forming the next year’s budget, politicians decided to drop the so-called deputy quotas. This means there will not be any additional funding for proposals from parliamentarians. Nevertheless, they will be able to submit proposals for more efficient use of funding.

The 2018 budget project’s revenue is planned at EUR 8.75 billion, which is EUR 725.11 million more than the year before. Expenditures are planned at EUR 8.95 billion or EUR 624.82 million more than this year.

Full article here

OPINION: government does not consider science a resource for state development

The government does not consider science a resource for state development, but rather only an expenditure position, said Mārcis Auziņš, former rector of the University of Latvia in an interview to 900 seconds program of LNT.

Auziņš says science is a powerful resource for state development. Still, scientists are partly to blame themselves, because they have failed to show to society what they are working on and how the government could use the potential of the scientific resource.

The former LU rector also expressed criticism towards the organization of the scientific management process in which formalities are more important than the result.

Full article here

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Flats built in Tallinn, construction volume in Estonia up by 21%

Construction companies in Estonia have in the first three months of 2018 expanded their production by 21%, Estonian statisticians have estimated.

Latvian Healthcare Ministry promises to improve chronic patients’ care

To improve chronic patient care, Latvia’s Healthcare Ministry has developed a project of rules that will govern the order in which the state pays for medical treatment of chronic, cancer and cardio-vascular diseases in medical institutions.

Weekends in Latvia expected to be hot; air temperature may reach +28° C

This week’s Saturday and Sunday will be hot in Latvia. Aside from summer-like weather, this also means increased possibility of fires, as reported by Latvia’s State Environment, Geology and Meteorology Centre.

Sweden recognises sex without active agreeing rape

Sweden has passed a new law saying that sex without consent is rape, even when there are no threats or force involved, stating that passivity is not a sign of agreeing to sex.

EU member states begin enforcing General Data Protection Regulation

Starting with Friday, 15 May, all European Union member states start enforcing the General Data Protection Regulation, which provides stricter requirements for personal data processing.

Pyongyang after U.S. refusal still willing to enter negotiations

Pyongyang has stated that North Korea was still ready to engage in talks at any time in any form after U.S. President Donald Trump unexpectedly cancelled his meeting with the head of North Korea, Kim Jong-un.

Lithuania moves forward with tax and pension reform

The heavily amended bills on taxes and pensions will have a significant impact on the Lithuanian citizens’ lives if Seimas, the country’s legislature, approves for them in their current form.

Riga City Council decides not to discuss matter of anti-corruption measures in Rīgas satiksme

Failing to reach a consensus on whether or not the matter regarding anti-corruption measures in Rīgas satiksme should be viewed behind closed doors, Riga City Council’s Security, Public Order and Corruption Prevention Committee decided to postpone its review.

Latvian companies in Vietnam to be provided with stable tax payment regime

Latvian businesses working in Vietnam are to be provided with a stable tax-payment regime that will not be subject to amendments of Vietnam’s regulations.

Saeima conceptually supports law amendments to reduce PIT debt formation

On Thursday, 24 May, Latvia’s Saeima approved in the first reading amendments to the Personal Income Tax Law that were proposed to reduce the possibility of PIT debt after application of differentiated non-taxable minimum or progressive rate on income, explains Saeima press-service.

Minister: unemployment is no longer Latvia’s main challenge

Latvia’s main challenge is no longer unemployment, rather the lack of qualified work force, said Welfare Minister Jānis Reirs at the opening of «Employment in Latvia yesterday, today and tomorrow» conference.

MH17 investigators: plane downed by Russian military unit

Dutch prosecutors, who are investigating the tragic crash of the Malaysian passenger plane that fell down in eastern Ukraine in 2014 taking the lives of 298 people, have stated that it has been downed by a missile released by a unit of the Russian Armed Forces.

Latvian Saeima gives green light to improve anti-doping regulation

On Thursday, 24 May, Latvia’s Saeima supported amendments to the Sports Law that provide for improving anti-doping regulation in the country and improve the autonomy of the anti-doping organization through the establishment of Latvian Anti-Doping Bureau, as confirmed by Saeima’s press-service.

Lithuania to host summit of women political leaders

Lithuania and its President Dalia Grybauskaitė will host the 2018 summit of the forum of Women Political Leaders, which is to take place in Vilnius from June 6 to 8.

Green energy becomes more and more attractive for Latvian residents

As technologies continue developing, the use of green energy gradually becomes more and more attractive to Latvian residents. The majority of respondents note that they may start using biomass, solar batteries and even wind turbines in the next ten years, according to results of Baltic International Bank’s latest Latvian Barometer.

Tartu railway routes operating again, system recovery from fire worth millions

In Estonia, railway traffic around the second city of Tartu interrupted last week by a cable fire has been restored with a temporary solution. To fully restore the automatic system, Estonian Railways estimate, millions of euros could be spent.

Committee chairman: municipalities’ involvement in state re-emigration policy is vital

«It is necessary to establish local governments’ responsibility in the country’s general re-emigration policy, because their role is vital. It is also important to involve the private sector. Re-emigration is not just a responsibility for regional coordinators; it is also a complex venture in which we should divide responsibility,» says chairman of Saeima’s Citizenship Committee Ritvars Jansons.

EC nearly to allocate half of next year’s budget to support economic growth

On Wednesday, 23 May, European Commission initiated approval of European Union’s 2019 budget project for EUR 166 billion, making EU’s next year budget 3% larger.

Yulia Skripal in first filmed statement: «We are very lucky to have survived»

Yulia Skripal, one of the victims of the Salisbury poison attack, has expressed her sentiments in her first filmed statement since the attack that has increased the diplomatic isolation of Russia as it is seen by many countries to have been highly likely linked to the attempted murder of Yulia and Sergei Skripals.

Latvia to refinance debt with lower interest rates

Latvia has released simultaneous two-term euro bonds for a total amount of EUR 650 million on international markets, as confirmed by State Treasury.

Italian head of state accepts Conte's candidacy for post of Prime Minister

In Italy, President Sergio Mattarella has accepted the candidacy of a political novice for the post of the Prime Minister chosen by two parties that seek both to lower taxes and renegotiate Italy's foreign debt.

Riga City Council decides not to view gambling hall closure in Riga; says Saeima should do it

Riga City Council has declined opposition deputy Juris Jurašs’ proposal to review matter regarding the closure of gambling halls in Riga. The coalition and one other deputy abstained in the vote, opposition voted in favour.

Fixed MPC portion to drop 27.8% for electricity users in July

From 1 July onward, the fixed portion of mandatory procurement component will decline by 27.8% for all electricity users, as reported by Public Utilities Commission.

Producer price level in industry grew 0.6% in Latvia in April

Compared to March, level of producer prices in the Latvian industry rose by 0.6 % in April 2018. Prices of products sold on the domestic market went up by 1.0 % and prices of exported products by 0.3 %.

70% of residents confident about benefits from European Union membership

According to results of European Parliament’s Eurobarometer study, 52% of Latvian residents are confident their country’s membership in the European Union is a good thing. An average of 60% of respondents across member states agree with this statement; even more positive responses are noted in Lithuania and Estonia – 67% and 69% respectively, as BNN was informed by EP Office in Latvia.