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Sunday 24.06.2018 | Name days: Jānis
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BNN summary of the week: growing emigration in Lithuania, better investors’ mood in Latvia

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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, Business, Fight, Decline, Growth, Opinion, Future.

CHANGE: 2017 – the safest year for Latvia’s roads

Last year turned out to be the safest year for Latvia’s roads. This is because the number of deaths caused by traffic accidents turned out to lowest in recent years – 134, which is 15% less when compared with 2016. This also includes the lowest number of pedestrians who died in traffic accidents – 50, which is 9% less when compared with 2016, as reported by Latvian Transport Ministry.

The ministry notes that Latvia is one of the leaders among EU member states when it comes to reducing the number of deaths on roads. 158 deaths in 2016 was the lowest index in the country’s history, and the 16% decline in comparison with 2015 was the fourth most rapid decline of deaths in the European Union.

Full article here

BUSINESS: Conexus applies for certification with Gazprom shareholders still on board

In spite of the fact that there are representatives from Russian Gazprom concern among shareholders of Conexus Baltic Grid, the company has decided to submit an application to the Public Utilities Commission for certification.

Conexus chairperson Zane Kotāne explains – to accomplish ownership rights division’s main objective, Conexus, regardless of the composition of its shareholders, has managed to ensure that the transmission system’s operator is able to make decisions independently, ensuring transparency and avoiding discrimination towards transmission system’s users and market participants.

When preparing necessary documents, Conexus complied with European Commission’s explanations regarding separation of ownership rights and execution of control in compliance with requirements for transmission system operator’s independence.

With that, Conexus has prepared documents in accordance with Public Utilities Commission’s requirements for certification, which detail the necessary information to prove safe function of IT systems, protection of commercial information and equal treatment of all market participants.

Full article here

FIGHT: Ventspils Freeport’s lawsuit on lease termination is legally absurd

The company Kālija parks denies allegations regarding any violations of the signed lease and calls Ventspils Freeport authority’s claim for termination of land and dock lease unjustified and legally absurd, as noted by the company’s council member Aivars Gobiņš.

«Kālija parks does not agree with Ventspils Freeport authority’s claim, because it is unjustified, unproven, legally absurd and unacceptable,» as detailed in the company’s commentary submitted to court.

Kālija parks believes it has not violated the established land and dock lease. The company adds that no contracts regarding provision of additional income for Ventspils Freeport authority were ever signed by the company. The company notes that all the income Ventspils Freeport authority wishes to charge is already included in the agreed rent, and the freeport authority’s claim does not detail any complaints regarding any missed payments from Kālija parks. Ventspils Freeport authority has no right to enforce any other monetary transactions on the company working on leased port territory, as stated by Kālija parks.

Full article here

DECLINE: someone should take responsibility for the poorly-made e-health system

Latvian Medial Association (LMA) proposes forming a parliamentary investigative committee to evaluate the failed introduction of the e-health system and identify those responsible for its failure. In an open letter to Saeima’s Social and Employment Matters Committee chairperson Aija Barča and Health sub-committee chairman Romualds Ražuks, LMA points to a number of flaws associated with the development process and difficulties with this system’s introduction.

The association notes that at least the bare minimum of the e-health system was supposed to come online 1 January. This includes tools for issue of sick leave certificates and prescriptions. Expensive advertisements posted on mass media websites, praising e-health system, are the only functioning part of the system, the association notes.

At the same time, representatives note that the actual e-health system is unreliable at best – experts report long periods of down time for doctors, pharmacies and patients every day. Patients and doctors spend an enormous amount of time to prescribe and receive medication. The association is especially worried about problems associated with issue of medication for children, sugar diabetics and asthma patients – people whose lives depend on getting medicine as quickly as possible.

Full article here

GROWTH: Foreign investors’ mood improves further in Latvia

The general mood of foreign investors in Latvia has improved in the past year, said Professor Arnis Sauka of Stockholm School of Economics in Riga at the presentation of the Foreign Investment Environment Index 2017 on Wednesday, 10 January.

He also said problems have not changed much, most of them are associated with the country’s demographic situation and labour force availability.

Interviewed investors gave Latvia’s investment attractiveness a score of 2.5 out of 5 in 2017, whereas the score given to Latvia the year before was only 2 out of 5. Efforts of Latvian policy-makers to improve the country’s investment environment were given a score of 2.9 points (2.3 points in the past) by interviewed investors.

Three fields in which no major progress was observed in the past 12 months include the demographic situation, labour force accessibility, as well as healthcare and social system. Investors gave the demographic situation a score of 1.6 points out of 5. 74% of interviewed investors said they have seen no improvements in this field in the past year.

«Yes, not major changes are expected with the country’s demographic situation, but we do wish to see at least some progress. If progress is achieved, this field will not have a declining tendency. In this case investors do not look at how many children were born – they focus more on political initiatives and measures undertaken to improve the demographic situation. We have yet to see any positive changes in this field. And if no positive changes are noticed, what can we expect from the future?» said Sauka.

Full article here

OPINION: Estonia deems Zapad as Russia’s simulated attack on West

Russia practiced a massive military attack against Western Europe in the joint Russian-Belarusian large-scale drill Zapad, has claimed the commander of the Estonian Defence Forces.

«Let me be clear: With the exercise Zapad 2017, Russia simulated a large-scale military attack against NATO,» Lieutenant General Riho Terras said to German daily Bild as cited U.S. news portal Newsweek. «It was not targeted toward the Baltic states only, as it was a theater-wide series of exercises spanning from high North to the Black Sea.»

Full article here

FUTURE: Lithuania President exhorts mayors to be more proactive in tackling devastating emigration

A research by the Lithuanian bureau of the International Organization for Migration (LBIOM) introduced to all the mayors and a couple dozen editors-in-chief of national and regional newspapers in the Presidential Palace Wednesday makes the same conclusion: emigration is Lithuania’s biggest scourge – the view is shared by the President’s Office and the Lithuanian population alike.

However, the country has not until now drawn up an effective plan to stem the decamping. Furthermore, with new émigrés receiving wide support at their new homes abroad, Lithuania has not so far set up a single organization tasked with helping those who come back, although much has been talked about it.

Due to the gaps in the policy, the municipalities are mostly preoccupied with keeping their current dwellers than attempting to return those who already left, the research showed.

«We can say definitely that the municipalities feel having lost their battle over their departed residents. They feel whatever they do is way too little compared what the Western countries can offer them. There’s understanding that the state, not the municipalities has to address the problem (of emigration),» said Audra Sipavičenė, head of the LBIOM.

The survey is the first of the type during the 27 years of independent Lithuania.

The stats put the number of Lithuanian population at 3.7 million inhabitants in 1990 and it was thought to be at ca 2.85 million in 2017. However, authorities unofficially say the number of 2.5 is more realistic.

Full article here

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Week in Lithuania. Parliament makes first step towards disclosing ex-KGB agents

The Seimas of Lithuania on Thursday, June 21, backed an initiative by the opposition Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania – Christian Families Alliance to disclose now classified information on former agents of the Soviet KGB who voluntarily admitted their collaboration.

BNN summary of the week: CPCB visit to Saeima; ministers survive no-confidence votes; DTV case ends with mild penalties

BNN offers a summary of this week’s topical news in a variety of categories: Ruling; Future; Trust; Measures; Calendar.

SRS uncovers numerous violations more than half of inspected companies

State Revenue Service’s Tax Control Office performed a total of 305 thematic inspections of employers in Latvia in Q1 2018. Authorities recorded violations in 171 inspections, according to information from SRS.

Third level pension plan deposit volumes reach new record value

Residents’ interest for pension savings remains high. The volume of deposits made to private pension funds in the first three months of 2018 has reached a new historic peak: a total of EUR 16.5 million has been paid to 3rd level pension accounts, which is 11.6% more when compared to the same period of 2017, as reported by Finance and Capital Market Commission.

Petrol station network in Latvia caught performing fraudulent activities with diesel fuel

State Revenue Service’s Tax and Customs Police have uncovered and put an end to a fraudulent scheme with diesel fuel performed by some network of petrol stations in Latvia, as confirmed by the service.

Kaimiņš: I believe CPCB is performing a political order

In the evening of Thursday, 21 June, Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau released three people previously detained as part of a criminal process regarding possible illegal funding of KPV LV party – Saeima deputy Artuss Kaimiņš, his colleague Atis Zakatistovs, and businessman Viesturs Tamužs.

Latvia’s parliament conceptually supports new sanction regulations

On Thursday, 21 June, Saeima supported in the final reading amendments to the Law on International Sanctions and National Sanctions of the Republic of Latvia that are meant to improve sanction regime regulations to ensure efficient application of national and international sanctions, as reported by Saeima press-service.

Storm in Tallinn floods streets, cuts Croatia-Argentina match short on TV

A rain storm has hit northern Estonia on Thursday, flooding some streets in the capital Tallinn, damaged buildings and badly affected the broadcast of an interesting World Cup game.

American banks tested for financial stress show positive results

The U.S. has performed banking stress tests and found that the 35 largest banks operating in the country have enough funds on hand to sail safely through a severe financial crisis.

Saeima fires judge for coming to work in a drunken state

On Thursday, 21 June, Latvia’s parliament supported the proposal to dismiss Rezekne Court judge Arvis Garais from his post. 71 deputies voted in favour, no one abstained and no one voted against.

UK to have three requirements to EU citizens willing to remain in UK

For citizens of the European Union willing to continue living in the UK after the country leaves the bloc, they will have to submit applications and answer three key questions over the internet, according to the country's interior minister.

Weather in Latvia to be rainy and cool during Ligo; next week’s weather to be dry and hot

Weather at the end of the week in Latvia will be dictated by a cyclone. Because of that, there will be instances of rain on Ligo. Weather is expected to improve next week, however, according to Latvia’s State Environment, Geology and Meteorology Centre.

Lithuania’s blood plasma corruption scandal extends to Latvia

The former head of Lithuania‘s National Blood Centre, suspected of corruption and involvement in unlicenced activity, received more bad news this week from Latvia, where investigators of the Lithuanian Special Investigation Service had questioned the Latvian Health minister, Anda Čakša.

Administrative burden to be reduced for foreign students and researchers

The administrative burden will be reduced for foreign students and researchers, as well as all education and research institutions hosting them. This is provided by the amendments to the Immigration Law approved by the Saeima in the third reading on Thursday, 21 June.

Latvian Economy Minister endures no-confidence vote

Saeima declined opposition deputies’ request for dismissal of Economy Minister Arvils Ašeradens.

Swedbank economist becomes new member of Bank of Latvia Council

On Thursday, 21 June, Latvia’s Saeima approved Mārtiņš Kazāks in his new post as member of Bank of Latvia Council, as confirmed by Saeima’s press-service.

Pope Francis’ visit to Latvia will be a national holiday

Latvia’s parliament has approved in the final reading a law that makes 24 September – the day Pope Francis plans to visit Latvia – a national holiday.

ICT specialist numbers in Latvia are below Europe’s average level

In Latvia, information and communication technology specialists form only 2.2% of all employed people in the country, which is considerably below the average level in the European Union – 3.7%. Romania and Greece are the only two EU member states in which the number of ICT specialists is below Latvia’s, according to European Commission’s DESI index.

Hungary adopts prison sentence for helping migrants

Hungarian National Assembly has passed a set of laws criminalising with prison terms some help provided to illegal immigrants by non-governmental organisations.

Harmony plans turning to Constitutional Court to prevent transition to Latvian language in schools

«Why should this reform stay unrealized? It is because schools are not prepared for cardinal changes coming from dozens of other reforms that have already shocked the country’s entire general education system,» says chairman of National Minority School Parents Forum and member of Harmony’s work group in Konstantīns Čekušins.

Deputies detained in KPV LV criminal case not declared suspects yet

Saeima deputy Artuss Kaimiņš and businessman Viesturs Tamužs detained in the criminal process regarding possibly illegal funding of KPV LV party have not yet been declared suspects. Both are currently in police custody. It is likely Kaimiņš will be released later today, 21 June.

Production of mines and grenades planned in Estonia

As the Estonian parliament has adopted new rules on military arms and ammunition production in the country, local defence firm Eesti Arsenal has voiced its plan to build a factory in Estonia to make military explosives.

Total tax debts in Latvia reached EUR 1.224 billion in June

At the beginning of June, total tax debts in Latvia, including topical, halted debts and extended repayment terms were equal to EUR 1.233 billion, which is 0.6% less compared to May, as reported by State Revenue Service.

Switch off internet nationwide during exams – Algerian approach

In an attempt to prevent cheating during secondary school exams, the north African nation Algeria, has turned off internet in its whole territory.

Control Service proposes kicking out shell companies as intensely as offshore companies

Shell companies in Latvia should be combated with the same intensity once shown to offshore companies, says chief of Anti-Money Laundering Service Ilze Znotiņa.

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