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Wednesday 25.04.2018 | Name days: Līksma, Bārbala
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BNN summary of the week: Estonian minister disapproves of NATO; Latvia’s tax system lags behind

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

CHANGE: Estonian Minister steps down after questioning NATO membership

Estonian Minister of Public Affairs Mihhail Korb has stated he resigns from office after saying he is not in favour of NATO membership.

Estonian public broadcaster ERR reports that Korb announced on Wednesday, May 25, following scandal that erupted earlier in the day about a comment he had made and after a lengthy discussion with Estonian Prime Minister Jüri Ratas, a fellow member of Centre Party.

Full article here

BUSINESS: Support to Rail Baltica further funding voiced by European Parliament Committee

Political support for continued funding of the railway project Rail Baltica has been acknowledged by a member of the European Parliament Committee on Transport and Tourism.

Estonian public broadcaster ERR reports that Rail Baltic will cost close to 6 billion euros to build and will not be completed during the EU’s current budget period, so additional funding from the next joint budget is needed.

Full article here

DECLINE: Government’s indecisiveness and rushed decisions impact transit industry

The refusal of Russian Railways to carry cargoes from Russian ports to Latvia could create a state of emergency for Latvia’s transit industry, says Baltic Association – Transport and Logistics.

The crisis in the country’s second largest national economy industry will strongly impact Latvia’s economy, the association states, adding that the situation became like this because of the government’s indecisiveness, rushed and unreasonable decisions, as well as its refusal to resolve problems associated with the industry’s competitiveness.

«The government’s decision to prohibit Ventspils port to participate in the massive international Nord Stream 2 project shows that the government either does not know how or does not want to serve their country’s economic interests,» BATL continues.

Logistics industry’s representatives explain that the government’s arguments about the threat posed by Nord Stream 2 project to the country’s security do not hold up against criticism. «According to Latvia’s foreign policy doctrine, Russia remains our country’s strategic cooperation partners. Talks of espionage under the cover of pipeline components’ transport are nothing more than unreasonable dramatization of the entire situation. A more realistic threat is the army of unemployed people caused by the dramatic decline of transit cargoes. It will be necessary to pay social benefits to those people. We can also expect a new wave of emigration,» says BATL president Inga Antane.

Full article here

TRUTH: Latvia’s tax system is less progressive than systems in other EU countries

The European Commission recommends Latvia to reduce the tax burden for small wage recipients and move it to other sources that are less impacting on growth and motivate people to pay taxes.

EC notes that Latvia’s income inequality is one of the highest among EU member states and the country’s tax system is less progressive than what is found in other member states.

European Council recommends Latvia to realize a fiscal policy this year and the next in accordance with requirements of Stability and Growth Pact’s preventive measures section, which includes the goal for reaching medium-term budget goals in 2018.

EC’s published recommendations urge for improvements to the adequacy of social security and increase of work force’s professional skills by speeding up the reform of training programmes in vocational education.

Full article here

GROWTH: SRS and LCCI to cooperate in search for most efficient tax payment models

Latvian Chamber for Commerce and Industry and the State Revenue Service have signed an agreement for the development of better solutions he assist the growth of Latvia’s national economy.

This document provides for LCCI’s participation in the development of the tax policy, associated documents and regulations as long as it fits goals of SRS’ strategy. It is also planned SRS and LCCI will cooperate in the search for more efficient methods for the payment of taxes to better combat grey economy, contribute to economic breakthrough and increase honest competition.

It is expected this cooperation will organize training for businessmen to inform them of any new developments and changes to the existing system. Regular meetings will be organized between the two sides.

Full article here

Future: Razuks hints healthcare budget’s increase would require new fees

Sides involved in discussions about finding additional finances for healthcare have yet to reach a definite agreement. It is possible there may be a new fee introduced, said Saeima Public Health sub-committee chairman Romualds Razuks told Rīta panorama on Tuesday, 23 May.

The sub-committee will view the legislative draft on gradual rejection of extended work hours for doctors. Razuks mentioned that this matter will not be resolved without a transition period because there is not enough funding.

Currently the only open option to finance this step is using money from the emergency budget. The prime minister’s work group will continue discussions about the proposal to liquidate extended work hours, added the politician.

Razuks hinted that increasing healthcare budget would require a new fee – health insurance. Otherwise there will be no other option than suffer with insufficient funding.

Free Trade Union Confederation of Latvia chairman Egils Baldzens adds that there have been many different proposals mentioned in the search for funding. Unfortunately, no agreement has been reached on any of them so far.

Full article here

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Level of prices of agricultural products in Latvia grew 11.6% in 2017

The total price index of agricultural output in 2017 had increased by 11.6 %, which was mainly due to the rise in prices of livestock products of 25.8 %. The price index of crop products grew by 2.2 %.

51% of residents would not purchase goods production of which would pollute the environment

Environment-friendly lifestyle in Latvia, like elsewhere in the world, is becoming more popular every day. So-called green thinking also affects Latvian residents’ habits. 53% of Latvian residents prefer goods and services that help protect the environment, according to results of a study performed by AS Latvijas Zaļais punkts.

World Press Freedom index ranks Estonia highest among Baltic states

The French-based organisation Reporters Without Borders has published its 2018 World Press Freedom index, where Estonia has been ranked 12th and Latvia has been moved up by four positions to the 24th place.

Abu Meri: parliamentary investigative committee could help combat corruption in Riga City Council

«Nils Ušakovs’ policy in Riga is not only non-democratic but also allows for systematic corruption, which has become a tradition. If a week goes by with no scandal, it seems too long. Because of that, I consider forming a parliamentary investigative committee to study corruption in Riga City Council,» said Unity’s Saeima faction leader Hosams Abu Meri in an interview to BNN.

200 thousand Estonian e-mail passwords found leaked online

The global database of the illegally leaked passwords of tons of e-mail addresses contains passwords used by some 215 000 Estonian internet users.

Latvian EC Commissioner invites businesses to prepare for all Brexit scenarios

Businesses and supervisors should prepare for all possible Brexit scenarios, said Deputy Chairman of the European Commission on Financial Stability, Financial Services and Capital Market Union Valdis Dombrovskis participating in the ongoing finance forum City Week in the UK.

Latvia prepared to pay 4.8 million euros for participation in Expo 2020 in Dubai

Latvian government is prepared for participation in the international Expo 2020 in Dubai. Prime Minister Māris Kučinskis said after a meeting of the Cabinet of Ministers this Tuesday that it is planned to allocate EUR 4.8 million for this venture.

Spanish resort city to prohibit renting apartments to tourists

Palma, the Spanish resort city in the Mediterranean island of Majorca, has adopted a restriction that apartment will be not allowed to rent their apartments to travellers, becoming the first place in Spain to introduce such a ban.

Supreme Court of Justice views Kristovskis’ claim against Ventspils City Council

On 25 April, the Administrative Cases Department of the Supreme Court of Justice will be viewing two claims submitted by Ventspils City Council deputy Ģirts Valdis Kristovskis against the city council. «The fact that the case will be viewed verbally and that the defendants include Ventspils City Council, EPRDM and Association of Local Governments is considered unique and unprecedented in Latvia’s court practice,» says Kristovskis.

Messaging app Whatsapp not to be available to under-16s in EU

The smartphone messaging app Whatsapp plans to raise the minimum age limit to its European Union users from 13 to 16 years, as it is adjusting its rules of use to the upcoming EU data privacy regulations.

Saeima speaker in Tallinn: EU and NATO cooperation in defence should be enhanced

Close cooperation between European Union and NATO in defence is now more important than ever. This is especially true for cyber security and hybrid-thread prevention, said Latvian Saeima’s speaker Ināra Mūrniece during a meeting of EU member states parliaments in Tallinn on Tuesday, 24 April.

Ministry avoids going against supporting parties; Ventspils City Council’s violations reported to court

Environment Protection and Regional Development Ministry has no influence at all, and sometimes it seems it has no desire to exercise its rights and perform its duties. This situation most likely appeared because the institution is led by a minister who represents a specific political party.

Warfare in Ukraine escalates, soldiers wounded

In the Donbas War that continues for the fifth year in the Ukrainian regions of Luhansk and Donetsk, Russian hybrid forces have this week conducted a total of 44 attacks, wounding five soldiers, the Ukrainian military reports.

Demand for mortgage loans grew 53% in March

Increased demand for mortgage loans with state guarantees was observed in Latvia in March. Nearly every other loan application filed last month was intended for housing purchase using Altum guarantee. The largest amount of interest came from families with children, as reported by Citadele Bank.

Most businesses in Latvia still not ready for data protection regulation

The majority of businesses in Latvia are still not ready for EU General Data Protection Regulation, which is due to come to force on 25 May, says KPMG lawyer and certified data protection specialist Sanita Pētersone.

Finnish prisoners found radicalising towards Islamic and far-right extremism

In prisons in Southern Finland, a study of radicalisation of inmates has been conducted and has identified dozens of inmates, who are moving into either radical Islam or into far-right violent extremism.

Ušakovs invites colleagues from Russia to attend centenary festivities in Riga

Mayor of Riga Nils Ušakovs has invited mayors from 56 cities to attend festivities organized for Latvia’s centenary. This includes mayors of Moscow and St. Petersburg, as confirmed by Ušakovs’ press-secretary Laila Ivāna.

Estonian President sees no return from e-governance

Estonian President Kersti Kaljulaid has discussed with Christine Lagarde, the Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, the Baltic country's experience in providing public e-services to the population.

Norway interested in developing cooperation with Latvia in tourism industry

«Latvia welcomes successful regional and economic cooperation with Norway. Our countries have common values and goals – developing Baltic and Nordic countries as a wealthy and secure European region,» said Latvia’s Economy Minister Arvils Ašeradens during his meeting with Norwegian State Secretary for Trade, Industry and Fisheries Roy Angelvik.

Finland not to continue its basic income scheme

The basic income scheme in Finland that has been tested in the Nordic country since 2017, will not be continued as the Finnish government has decided to look into other schemes for reforming the Finnish social security system

MEP: New Unity may be in the government with other parties that have similar goals

After Saeima elections, New Unity will cooperate with parties prepared to work with the association to accomplish specific goals, says leader of New Unity and member of the European Parliament Krišjānis Kariņš.

Canada experiences tragic attack on pedestrians in Toronto

In the Canadian city of Toronto, a driver has been driving onto pedestrians taking the lives of 10 people and injuring 15 more.

Latvian residents spend an average of EUR 81 on cosmetics every year

Latvian residents spend an average of EUR 81 on cosmetics every year, which is one of the lowest indexes in Europe. Compared to other Baltic States, Latvian residents spend less money on cosmetics, according to data compiled by Latvian Cosmetic Manufacturers Association.

Armenian Prime Minister Sargsyan resigns unexpectedly

The Prime Minister of Armenia, Serzh Sargsyan, has unexpectedly stepped down from office after ten days of protests in the Armenian capital Yerevan.

Baltic Express: Europe has already invented the bicycle; we just have to adopt it

13 March marked a historic event for Ventspils railway hub – for the first time in the history of Latvia’s railway a private cargo carrier – Baltic Express – delivered wagons to Ventspils 1st station and private infrastructure’s railway terminal. Why is this event so important and what is the future for Latvia’s cargo railway system? – Baltic Express chairman Māris Bremze told ventspilnieks.lv.