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Friday 19.01.2018 | Name days: Alnis, Andulis
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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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Minister promises bigger wages for working people and support for country’s industry

«Latvian Economy Ministry’s priorities for 2018 include increasing wages for working people and providing support to the country’s industry. For Latvia’s centenary year, every resident should have the right to experience the increase of the personal and state welfare,» promises Economy Minister Arvils Ašeradens.

Latvenergo: electricity price has declined 30% in the past three years

Average electricity price in Latvia has declined in recent years. The average price of electricity has declined by 30% at Nord Pool exchange between 2014 and 2017, allowing end user costs to decline, says Latvenergo.

Alcohol sellers in Estonia to be checked by little «police»

To find shop assistants illegally selling alcohol or tobacco to minors, Estonian police introduces the method of sending minors as police aides to retail shops to try to purchase the products banned to them.

EY study: cyber security has become a priority to banks this year

Over the course of the year, priorities of banks around the world have switched from reputation and risk management to data security matters, as concluded in the latest EY Global Banking Outlook 2018.

Political association: UGF and Harmony are covering up state capture

«Parliamentary investigation of Oligarchs case has shown what is what in the Saeima of the Republic of Latvia. Green farmers are in full harmony, covering up Aivars Lembergs and the fact of state capture. They and Inguna Sudraba have made the parliamentary investigation into a farce. Unfortunately, the power in those people’s hands is no farce – rather misfortune for all of Latvia. I hope citizens will take all that into account when they go voting,» says leader of Kustība Par! Daniels Pavļuts.

Tallinn-Helsinki tunnel plan lacks ambition, says «Angry Birds» game maker

While Finland and Estonia work on plans of an under-sea tunnel from Tallinn to Helsinki, the construction of which could start in the 2030s, a Finnish businessman, previously involved in development of Angy Birds video game, has presented plans to finish the massive construction project in 2024 already.

Experts: healthcare financing law will deny healthcare to the least protected

In a discussion regarding healthcare, experts said that Latvian President Raimonds Vējoņis’ proposed Healthcare Financing Law is economically unjustified and ineffective. The document lacks principles of a socially responsible state, because healthcare is becoming less accessible, which will likely worsen public health indexes, says Kustība Par! political party.

Branded «aggressor state», Russia says Ukraine buries Minsk peace agreements

As the Donbas War continues, the parliament of Ukraine has passed the so-called Donbas reintegration bill after three days of debates defining territories controlled by pro-Russian separatists in the east of the country as temporarily occupied by Russia.

Weather to remain winter-like in Latvia during the weekend and next week

On Friday and Saturday, no major increase of snow is expected. Air temperature will increase slightly, but colder masses of air will slow into the country on Sunday, as reported by Latvian State Environment, Geology and Meteorology Centre.

Winter storm in Netherlands and Germany turns tragic

A powerful winter storm in western and central Europe has claimed the lives of eight people.

Lithuanian bishops: skipping fasting on February 16 this year is not a sin

In an unprecedented move, the Conference of Lithuanian Bishops, the governing body of the Lithuanian Catholic Church, said that meat dishes okay for the people of faith on February 16, which marks the 100-year anniversary of Lithuania's statehood and the Lent Friday, which is traditionally a day of fasting for religious Catholic people.

Coincidence? Votes from Harmony and UGF ensure Sudraba remains the head of Oligarchs case committee

On Thursday, 18 January, the majority of Saeima members voted against the proposal to dismiss Inguna Sudraba from the post of the head of parliamentary investigative committee in charge of the review of the infamous Oligarchs case.

Kaljulaid criticised over involvement of acclaimed, but unrestrained director in centennial reception

As Estonia readies for the presidential reception to honour the 100th anniversary of Estonia, its President Kersti Kaljulaid is being criticised in an open letter for trusting Tallinn’s NO99 theatre, whose director physically assaulted a female colleague.

22.1% of Latvia’s residents subjected to risk of poverty

In 2017, 425 thousand persons or 22.1 % of Latvia population were at risk of poverty in 2016 – 0.3 percentage points less than in 2015. Equivalent income of this part of the population were below 330 euros monthly.

LAAC: Latvia’s milk market can be sorted out by joining forces in exports

Latvian Association of Agricultural Cooperatives (LAAC) has received support and praise for the public discussion regarding rapid milk procurement price changes, which is something that has recently affected the majority of agricultural cooperatives. This has helped cooperatives band together in order to sort out the milk market. This idea came from the example set by grain producer cooperatives, which did the same thing fifteen years ago, as reported by the association’s representatives.

Forevers announces its decision to exit from Latvian Federation of Food Companies

Forevers meat processing company has decided to exit from Latvian Federation of Food Companies (LFFC). The contract between two parties will be terminated in January.

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.

Removal of 1 and 2 euro cent coins from circulation suggested by Bank of Estonia

Estonian central bank is willing to follow the eurozone trend of limiting the circulation of euro 1-cent and 2-cent coins and in time to remove them entirely from circulation in the Baltic country.

Cert.lv: attacks on e-health system and LETA were likely ordered

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

As Catalan parliament reconvenes, it elects pro-independence speaker

The Catalan regional parliament has in its first sitting since its ousting and snap December election elected a separatist-minded politician as its Chairman, which indicates that the attempts to break the region away from Spain would continue.

Latvia’s National Armed forces receive new Harris tactical radio equipment

In 2017, Latvia received tactical military radios worth USD 10.5 million from American Harris Corporation. Procurement of radio equipment will further improve command function and help develop a lasting communication system with other NATO member states, as reported by Latvian Defence Ministry.

MEP: Europe continues strengthening its energy independence

«The European Parliament has voiced strong support towards Europe’s energy independence and moving its energy policy away from Russia’s monopoly by investing in energy efficiency and renewable energy resources,» said MEP Krišjānis Kariņš after the vote on Clean Energy Act’s first reading in Strasbourg.

Apple expected to pay additional 38 billion USD in taxes for money kept abroad

Motivated by the U.S. tax reform, Apple will pay about 38 billion U.S. dollars (31 billion euros) in tax on the roughly 250 billion dollars (204 billion euros) the computer technology firm keeps outside of its country of origin as it plans to focus more on its contribution to the American economy.

Latvian police commenced three criminal processes for contraband of drugs this year

In the first two weeks of 2018, State Revenue Service’s Customs Police commenced three criminal processes in regards to illegal drugs contraband in postal packages from Lithuania to Latvia.

Betsafe: To Latvia from the Heart has laughable chance of entering next Saeima

With declining ratings, Inguna Sudraba’s party To Latvia from The Heart has been left with laughable chances of entering the next Saeima, Betsafe bookmakers say.

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