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Tuesday 22.05.2018 | Name days: Emīlija

BNN summary of the week: final report on Oligarchs case and ordered attacks on e-health

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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; Attack; Growth; Decline; Opinion; and Study.

CHANGE: Latvian universities to offer students an innovative grant system

To help develop students’ innovative and business abilities, Latvian Education and Science Ministry has developed a new student grant system, which will focus mainly on supporting innovative projects and research and further improve cooperation between universities and leading businesses to attract human resources, the ministry reports.

Formation of this system was supported by the Cabinet of Ministers on Tuesday, 16 January.

In the next six years, the government intends to allocate investments worth EUR 38.5 million. European Regional Development Fund will provide EUR 28.9 million of this amount, whereas private funding will account for EUR 9.6 million.

«Introduction of a grant system for students is part of the planned changes for the higher education system to help create added value and realize changes for export structure in favour of high added value products and services. This requires a conceptually new approach for higher education content and taught skills, especially ones needed to produce new products and ensure innovations,» the ministry notes.

Full article here

FIGHT: NP: Reizniece-Ozola and Kučinskis are proud of tax reform, businessmen are not

Latvia’s tax system underwent serious reforms before the country entered 2018. Until now officials only mentioned the benefits – businessmen will no longer have to pay tax for profits if they reinvest money in business development, the majority of small wage recipients will become several dozen euros richer. However, businessmen are generally dissatisfied with the reform, Nekā personīga reports.

Finance Minister Dana Reizniece-Ozola and Prime Minister Māris Kučinskis are proud of the reform. Businessmen, on the other hand, are less than dissatisfied. The main promise – reducing labour force costs – has yet to be completed, whereas the price for it – increased taxes – remains in force, the programme mentioned.

Journalists also mention that there are certain difficulties expected for a large number of employed people. The number of people that will have to declare their income to State Revenue Service will soon increase significantly.

The programme included footage from Kučinskis’ New Year’s speech, in which he mentioned: «A new tax system will be adopted in Latvia tomorrow. There were doubts at the beginning of the year on whether or not this is even possible to do. Now it is done. The tax reform has to vital goals in store for Latvia – reducing inequality and improving growth of the national economy.»

Nekā personīga adds: «The tax reform is one of the pillars that will be used as foundation for the election campaign of the Union of Greens and Farmers in elections expected in autumn. Other parties are proud of it as well. Politicians consider it an act of heroism.»

Full article here

ATTACK: attacks on e-health system and LETA were likely ordered

Attacks on e-health system and LETA agency were likely ordered, said deputy manager Varis Teivāns in an interview to Rīta Panorāma programme of LTV.

He says that has requested information about cyber-attacks to compare data. Initial tests showed a number of similarities. «There are certain similarities. For example, a number of servers have been identified as being used for both attacks. Still, it is too soon to make any specific conclusions,» he said.

Teivāns notes that such cyber-attacks are brutal and primitive. It was likely ordered. «A complex attack freely offered on the black market. And it’s not expensive,» added deputy manager.

Teivāns notes that tracing such attacks is very hard, because attackers use other vulnerable systems accessible on the internet. When asked if it is possible to determine the country from which the attack was organized, representative said that real attackers mask their attacks using proxies, which makes it hard to trace. Usually identification of attackers takes several months. Most of the time, however, no answer is acquired.

At the same time, representative also emphasizes that e-health system was overloaded to make it inaccessible. No data was leaked, however. «Nearly every such project is tested in such a way,» said Teivāns, adding that attacks of this kind are performed nearly every day. Most of them go unnoticed, because they are successfully repelled.

Full article here

GROWTH: 2018 expected to be good for investors

«This year promises to be good for investors, because global economy is on a rise and profits of businesses have a tendency to grow,» says Luminor economic expert Gints Belēvičs.

He notes that 2017 passed with a fat plus sign for stock markets – investments in this asset category secured much larger returns than the average in the past three decades.

Belēvičs also notes that it is important to keep in mind that the economy develops in a cyclic manner – growth is usually followed up by decline. «Fundamental factors do not point to a potential decline around the corner. Nevertheless, the geopolitical situation in the world can still change and have an effect. Growing fuel prices could potentially slow down economic development, especially in Europe.»

Full article here

DECLINE: Saeima’s Oligarchs case investigative committee hastily approves final report

In spite of objections, grammatical errors, criticisms about lacking effort, as well as Inguna Sudraba’s unfit status to lead the committee, members decided to move the meeting from 11:00 to 08:00 and approve the final report in a rushed vote.

Even before the meeting, Andrejs Judins requested the chairperson to provide reasons as to why the meeting was rescheduled. He also voiced concerns that it is not possible to discuss all matters in only thirty minutes. He also mentioned that the report contains a number of grammatical errors and inaccuracies. He was not allowed to finish, however, and his words fell on deaf ears. Inguna Sudraba said that members of the committee spent six hours on Monday, discussing proposals. In the end, the committee agreed on the final redaction of the report. In spite of errors, the vote was performed and the meeting hastily closed.

Members of the committee also exchanged harsh words during the meeting. Ainārs Mežulis urged his colleagues to stop arguing, whereas Igors Pimenovs instead asked his fellow member of the committee to not impede the progress of the meeting. Video footage from the meeting shows no desire to listen to concerns regarding possible problems with the work performed by the committee.

Sudraba asked members of the committee to stop focusing on the many mistakes in the report and instead move on to the vote. Four members voted in favour of the report – Sudraba, Mežulis, Pimenovs, and Mārtiņš Šics.

Full article here

OPINION: Judicial Affairs Council’s work should be more apparent

Work performed by the Judicial Affairs Council should be made more apparent, said Saeima speaker Ināra Mūrniece during her meeting with Supreme Court chairman Ivars Bičkovičs.

The two discussed amendments to the Law on Judicial Power, as well as publicly reported information regarding the quality of rulings made by certain judges in insolvency cases.

Saeima speaker welcomed Supreme Court’s performed analysis of rulings to find a way to equalize court practice and help keep society better informed. She added that there are plans to research court rulings in commercial and insolvency cases this year to compile commoner mistakes and offer solutions to prevent them in the future.

Full article here

STUDY: more than half of Latvians do not trust other people

52% of Latvian residents believe most people cannot be trusted. Only 5% of residents are ready to trust their fellow man. Less than one-fifth of Latvian residents trust decision-makers, according to results of a study performed by SKDS.

«Trust is one of the main conditions for forming a strong and democratic country,» says LAMPA director Ieva Morica. «This is why the central value of this year’s festival in trust.»

Morica continues: «Study shows that the problem us trust is common for every one of us. But I would like to invite people to think critically and consider trusting others. We are all part of the same country. Only together can we create a strong, democratic and well-developed Latvia that we can call home. We would live much better if we could create an environment in which we could trust each other and the state. This festival will allow residents to learn more about this and look for ways to prepare a fertile soil for the future,» says LAMPA director.

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First Russian floating nuclear power plant reaches Murmansk

Russia's floating nuclear power plant, after passing through the Baltic sea, has arrived in the Arctic port of Murmansk over the weekend as it prepares for its first mission, supplying electricity to an isolated Russian town across the Bering Strait from Alaska.

Foreign clients’ deposits in Latvian banks declined 27.1% in Q1 2018

Deposits of foreign clients attracted by Latvia’s banks have declined 27.1% in Q1 2018. At the end of March, it was EUR 5.869 billion, as reported by Finance and Capital Market Commission.

National Alliance proposes MEP Roberts Zīle as its prime minister candidate

The board of the National Alliance has decided to pick member of the European Parliament Roberts Zīle as its prime minister candidate for the 13th Saeima elections, as confirmed by the party.

Riga City Council changes internal rules again; each deputy given ten-minute limit for questions

On Monday, 21 May, Riga City Council changed its rules for Q&A sessions, providing a ten-minute limit for each deputy to ask questions. This is the third time the city council has changed its internal rules.

Committee head: EU funds would help secure meaningful education for youngsters

«Seven to eight thousand youngsters leave Latvia every year. While ten years ago 13 to 25 year old youngsters formed 20% of the country’s population, their proportion dropped to 13% in 2017,» says Saeima’s European Affairs Committee chairperson Lolita Čigāne.

River Emajõgi guarded by mass protest against pulp mill

In Tartu, human chain has been formed by about 4 500 people in protest against the plan to build a billion-euro pulp factory near the River Emajõgi, the organisers of the event have stated.

Association: loan repayment indexes improve in non-bank consumption loan segment

In 2017, members of Latvian Association of Alternative Financial Services issued in loans EUR 180.5 million. Compared to 2016, this is an increase of 6.9%. Members’ credit portfolio was EUR 88.7 million at the end of 2017, which is 8.1% more than a year ago.

Estonian producer prices higher by 2.1 on year, due to energy supplies

Estonian producer price index of industrial output increased by 2.1% between April 2017 and April this year, Estonian statisticians have estimated.

Vitol: limitation of shell companies’ activities cannot possibly affect transit companies

Changes to the law that provide restrictions for shell companies cannot possibly affect transit companies. Because of that, claims voiced prior to adoption of said amendments and their possible impact on transit sector seem rather confusing, says Vitol Baltic chairman Robert Kirkup.

De Facto: Latvian minister’s business partner manufactures ships for Russian army

Latvian Agriculture Minister Jānis Dūklavs’ business partner in Piebalgas alus brewery – Russian businessman Igor Shekhelev – manufactures ships for the Russian army, as reported by De Facto programme of LTV.

Property-sharing site Airbnb agrees to share owner income with tax authority

The home-renting service Airbnb has agreed to automatically report homeowners' income to tax authorities in Denmark in a landmark agreement, which is expected to make it easier to detect tax evasion by homeowners, who are renting out rooms and houses on the website.

Latvia shipped 11.7% more oil products in Q1 2018

As part of the postponed excise tax payment regime, the volume of oil products shipped from Latvia in Q1 2018 was 13,869 or 11.7% larger than the one recorded in the same period of 2017, according to data compiled by the State Revenue Service.

What have Italian makers of government agreed on?

In Italy, the two populist parties preparing form a national government have published joint policies including tax cuts, a guaranteed basic income for the poor and deportations of 500,000 migrants.

Thunderstorms expected in Latvia this week as well

On Monday, 21 May, weather in Latvia will not change much – dry and not cloudy for the most part. On Tuesday and Wednesday, however, precipitation areas will pass through Latvia, bringing heavy rainfall, thunderstorms and strong wind, as reported by Latvia’s Environment, Geology and Meteorology Centre.

Week in Lithuania. Liberal Movement to turn to court over VSD statements

The board of Lithuania's Liberal Movement has decided to turn to court over information published by the State Security Department, allegedly damaging the party's reputation.

BNN summary of the week: distorted state administration, Liepājas metalurgs recovery, and Latvia unemployment level

BNN offers a summary of this week’s topical news in a variety of categories: Change; Growth; Business; Fight; Future; Opinion

New approach to combating drunk drivers – forced correction programme

Latvia’s Justice Ministry reports that the administrative penalties reform proposes introducing stricter punishments for drunk drivers. If a person is caught drunk driving, their license would be confiscated. On top of that, to recover the license, that person would have to pass a social correction programme.

Latvian MEP to «cause a scandal» where he can to stop school reform

Members of the European Parliament Andrejs Mamikins and Miroslavs Mitrofanovs have gathered support from 114 of their fellow MEPs to request the Latvian government and Saeima to review the already approved amendments to the Education Law and General Education Law that govern realization of the national minorities’ school reform, as confirmed by Mamikins.

Germany criticises U.S. attempts to block Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline

As to the controversial Nord Stram 2 Russian gas pipeline via Baltic sea to Germany, the German Economy has evaluated that American attempts to block it could be aimed at increasing U.S. a planned Russia-Germany gas pipeline to increase its own energy exports.

Number of complaints about taxi services at Riga International Airport on a rise

The number of complaints about taxi services at Riga International Airport continues to increase, said the airport’s board chairperson Ilona Līce in an interview to 900 seconds programme of LNT.

Ryanair sees Estonia as important market, considers local hub option

Irish low-fare airline Ryanair considers Estonia an important market, the firm's chief executive Michael O'Leary noted while visiting Tallinn earlier in the week.

Minister: UN should act to call violators of international law to justice

«The United Nation Security Council, as the main institution maintaining peace and security, has a special responsibility, because its activities affect compliance with international law,» says Latvia’s Foreign Affairs Minister Edgars Rinkēvičs.

Banks to report private persons whose account turnover exceeds EUR 15,000

From 18 May onward, banks will have to report private persons whose annual account turnover exceeds EUR 15,000, as provided by the Cabinet of Ministers’ supported order, under which the State Revenue Service is to be provided with information about a private person’s turnover and balance.

Baltic States request expanding NATO’s battalion with air and naval forces

Baltic States plan to request expanding international NATO battalion with air and naval forces, as confirmed by Lithuanian Foreign Affairs Minister Lino Linkevičiaus, who met with US President’s National Security Advisor John R. Bolton in Washington alongside his Latvian and Estonian colleagues.

Poland uncovers Russian hybrid war networks

Poland has detained a Russian national suspected of working with accomplices to stimulate social tension with neighbouring Ukraine and neutralised two Russian hybrid war networks, the Polish Internal Security agency has stated.