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Wednesday 21.02.2018 | Name days: Eleonora, Ariadne
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BNN summary of the week: influenza epidemic in Latvia; Germany vs. European Commission

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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; Business; Proposal; Decline; Recommendation; Future.

CHANGE: government asked to extend notification period for place of residence abroad

Saeima’s Citizenship, Migration and Social Cohesion Committee has decided to ask the Cabinet of Ministers to extend the period of time within which residents are obligated to report their registered place of residence in foreign countries, as reported by Saeima’s press-service.

The committee will ask the Cabinet of Ministers to extend the period of time to three months instead of the current one month period.

Previously, European Latvians Union’s representative informed members of the Saeima about certain problems members of Latvian diaspora face when registering their place of residence abroad with Latvia’s Population Register. One problem mentioned by the representative is the short period of time given to individuals to register their place of residence with the institution. This period of time should be extended, said the union’s representative, adding that citizens of EU member states have the right to remain in other member states for a period of up to three months with the only requirement for them is having a valid passport.

Full article here

FIGHT: conflict brewing between European Parliament and Germany about Nord Stream 2

Germany’s decision to permit Gazprom to build Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline in its territorial waters is against European Parliament’s position on this matter. A serious conflict is in the works between EP and Germany. So it is possible there could be even more opposition against Nord Stream 2, says MEP Krišjānis Kariņš from the People’s Party in the European Parliament.

Kariņš reminds that members of the parliament have always been against this project. They have invited the European Commission and member states to halt this project on multiple occasions. At the same time, the parliament is currently actively working on amendments to the Directive on Gas to ensure European Commission has a real weapon to stop this project.

Full article here

BUSINESS: airBaltic commences cooperation with Air Malta

Latvian airline airBaltic and Malta’s national airline Air Malta have signed an agreement for joint flights. This partnership will provide airBaltic passengers with the opportunity to reach Malta from airports around Europe and travel to other destinations around the world from Malta.

Air Malta will provide passengers with better connectivity in Baltic States and Eastern Europe, airBaltic reports.

«We are happy to work with Air Malta. It will help us improve our strong cooperation network with other airlines. All of this will provide convenient travel arrangements for our passengers. This new cooperation agreement will improve airBaltic services in Malta and Baltic States, allowing passengers to travel using this route through airports in Vienna, Brussels, Frankfurt, Amsterdam, London, Geneva, Zurich and others,» says airBaltic CEO Martin Gauss.

Full article here

PROPOSAL: Ratas encourages EU to look into dropping annual switch summer time

Estonian head of government Jüri Ratas has voiced his support to the idea of the EU dropping the European Summer Time in accordance to which clocks are turned by one hour forward from spring to fall in the majority of EU member states.

Estonian public broadcaster ERR reports, citing Estonian daily Eesti Päevaleht, that Ratas pointed to researchers having found negative affects people’s health and sleep cycles due to the turning of the clocks two times a year.

Full article here

DECLINE: does transit face a hard landing in Latvia?

The fact that Latvia’s ports will feel the pressure from cargo decline even more was clear since the exchange of sanctions between the European Union and Russia. Consequences to this are still present. Some industries have felt this more than others. One of the industries that have suffered the most is Latvia’s transit industry, as reported by ventspilnieks.lv portal.

Russia continues diverting more and more of its cargoes to its own ports, rather than ports of Baltic States. This is demonstrated by the compilation of last year’s indexes: turnover of cargoes at Russian ports had grown to reach 787 million tonnes last year, which is 9% more when compared with the year before. Latvia, on the other hand, suffered a 2% decline for cargo turnover, as reported by the portal.

This year is unlikely to be fruitful for cargo turnover either, and there are several reasons for that. The main objective is at least maintaining the current turnover volume and continuing the search for other solutions.

Last year, Latvian ports handled a total of 61,877 million tonnes of cargoes, which is 2% less when compared with 2016, according to data published by Transport Ministry. The largest turnover was recorded for bulk cargo segment: 33.362 million tonnes were transshipped, which is a 1.7% increase. The volume of coal cargoes handled by Latvian ports reached 17,591 million tonnes, which is 5.2% more than the year before. Still, a positive tendency was demonstrated by large turnover numbers at the beginning of the year, when Russian ports simply could not handle the volume of cargoes coming in, which forced them to divert to other ports, including ones in Latvia.

Full article here

COOPERATION: Lithuania seeks to deepen economic ties with Georgia

Lithuanian head of government Saulius Skvernelis has went on a visit to Georgia, where in talks with his Georgian counterpart Giorgi Kvirikashvili he has discussed ways to expand economic relations between the two friendly nations.

Georgian news website Georgia Today reported that after their meeting Skvernelis said in a press conference that Georgia has made a lot of progress in terms of reforms and the implementation of Association Agreement with the EU: «Georgia absolutely deserves the title of the Eastern Partnership leader, and we are sure that Georgia will maintain its leading position. This is the result of sustained efforts of the Government of Georgia, and we will always support Georgia’s European and Euro-Atlantic integration».

Full article here

RECOMMENDATION: people with flu should remain indoors for the duration of influenza epidemic

People suffering from influenza or other illnesses of the upper respiratory system should stay home and contact their family doctor as soon as the first symptoms appear to commence treatment as soon as possible, as noted by State Emergency Medical Service (SEMS).

SEMS director Liene Cipule notes: «An ambulance does not provide medical assistance in situations when people have the flu or other kind of respiratory illness. Our goal is providing medical assistance in situations when people’s lives are in danger. In most cases when residents call us, they need a family doctor’s consultation. 97% of cases involving acute respiratory illnesses are in the hands of family doctors. Treatment should be started as soon as possible to avoid future complications.»

Full article here

FUTURE: growth will continue, but ‘overheating’ risk will remain for businesses

In its latest rating, Coface international credit risks insurance company has upgraded ratings for Ukraine, Georgia, and Netherlands. Experts say there is a possibility of businesses overheating. That and political tension will be among the main business risks in 2018.

According to the new business risk rating, global trade growth has had a very positive effect on multiple open economy countries. Indexes have been improved for Netherlands (A1), South Korea (A2) and Taiwan (A2) in this quarter. With consumers’ and businesses’ confidence gradually returning, the business environment is set to improve in Greece as well. Indexes of Baltic States remain unchanged – A3 or satisfactory for Latvia and Lithuania. Estonia’s index is A2.

In spite of high political risks, Coface has improved indexes for Ukraine (C), Georgia (B) and Moldova (C). Kazakhstan’s business environment has benefited from growing oil collection and investments in China’s New Silk Way project. Risk assessment has been downgraded for Saudi Arabia (C), where increasing political tension hurts the business environment. In addition, economy of the Middle Eastern country relies a great deal on oil prices, which remain volatile.

Coface experts mention that three main business risks in 2018 are associated with overheating in developed countries, bank crisis risk in China, as well as political risks around the world. 2018 will be a year of elections for many countries, especially in Russia and Mexico, where high political risks are maintained by risks of social instability.

Full article here

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FCMC invites Bank of Latvia to provide ABLV Bank with yet another emergency loan

The Finance and Capital Market Commission (FCMC) has invited the Bank of Latvia to issue ABLV Bank another emergency loan.

Crime rate in 2017 was the lowest in Latvia’s history

Last year’s crime rate turned out the lowest in Latvia’s history, as reported by Prosecutor General Ēriks Kalnmeiers in his annual report.

LEC: government priorities should include searching for causes and solutions, not the guilty

Latvian Employers’ Confederation (LEC) is worried about ongoing events and their negative effect on the stability and future development of the country’s economy. LEC believes that stabilization of the financial situation requires careful coordination of actions between institutions and the government.

Producer price level in Latvia grew 0.9% in January

Compared to December 2017, level of producer prices in Latvian industry rose by 0.9 % in January 2018. Prices of products sold on the domestic market went up by 1.2 % and prices of exported products by 0.6 %.

Latvian President believes country’s financial system is stable; prime minister plans to report to European Council

«Latvia’s financial system is stable, and there is no reason to worry about possible instability of the banking system. Banks continue working as usual,» says the President of Latvia Raimonds Vējonis.

Corruption Perception Index in Latvia experienced no major changes in 2017

Latvia’s positions did not improve much in Transparency International’s compiled Corruption Perception Index 2017, said Delna – Society for Openness acting director Liene Gātere in an interview to Rīta panorāma programme.

Latvian citizens arrested in Britain under suspicions of organizing slavery

Five people were arrested in a joint international operation by Latvian and British law enforcement operatives, as confirmed by Latvian State Police.

Opinion: Russia is trying to use the situation to create chaos in Latvia

Russia is trying to use the established situation to create chaos in Latvia. Efforts, however, are fated to fail, says chairman of Saeima’s Defence, Internal Affairs and Corruption Prevention Committee Ainars Latkovskis.

Dismissal requested for Latvia’s Finance Minister; parties worried about finance sector sinking deeper

Latvia’s Finance Minister Dana Reizniece-Ozola has failed to prevent the decision made by United States Department of the Treasury, which is ruinous for the country’s financial sector and humiliating for its reputation, says chairman of New Conservative Party Jānis Bordāns.

Defence Ministry: a massive information campaign is being realized against Latvia

Considering events of the last several days in the country’s banking sector and the arrest of the governor of the Bank of Latvia – Ilmārs Rimšēvičs – it is entirely possible that someone is currently realizing a massive information operation. Its structure and execution is not unlike the one observed in USA, France and Germany during the pre-election period, BNN was told by Latvia’s Defence Ministry.

Latvian parliament to search for ways to dismiss current Bank of Latvia governor

Members of Latvia’s Saeima plan to search for a solution in the matter regarding the possible dismissal of the governor of the Bank of Latvia Ilmārs Rimšēvičs.

Bank of Latvia governor: I have received death threats

«This situation is incredibly complicated. This situation is quite possibly the most complicated one I have ever been in. I feel a great deal of support from people I don’t know, as well as my friends and family members. I have decided to not back down – I am innocent. The the people attacking my reputation have only one goal in mind – to have me step down,» said the governor of the Bank of Latvia Ilmārs Rimšēvičs during a press conference on Tuesday, 20 February.

Proportion of people working in Latvia’s culture sector is larger than the average in EU

The number of people working in Latvia’s culture sector is equal to 4.5% of the total number of employed people in the country. This proportion is also larger than the average one across the European Union, according to data published by Eurostat.

Ministry: idea for compulsory secondary education should be put on hold for now

Considering that Latvia’s Education and Science Ministry has several ongoing industry reforms, it would be best to put the proposal for compulsory secondary education on hold, said Education and Science Minister Kārlis Šadurskis during a meeting of Saeima’s Education, Culture and Science Committee.

Association: ECB should become more involved in resolving Latvia’s financial scandal

Association of Latvian Commercial Banks sees a need for the European Central Bank (ECB) to become more involved in the discussion and help resolve the situation, considering evaluation of ABLV Bank’s business model is in direct competence of ECB.

Hesburger to invest 11.5 million euros in Baltics this year

The largest fast food catering restaurant network in Finland and Baltic States – Hesburger – plans to invest approximately EUR 11.5 million in business development this year. EUR 5.5 million are planned to be invested in Latvia’s market, says Hesburger Development Director Ieva Salmela.

Air temperature drops below -30° C in certain parts of Northern Europe

On Tuesday, 20 February, air temperature in central and northern parts of Finland dropped to -27° C… -31° C in morning hours. In Norway, close to the Finnish border, air temperature has dropped as far as -34° C, according to data from meteorological stations.

FCMC suspects someone may want to undermine Latvia’s financial sector

It is not impossible that someone may want to undermine Latvia’s financial sector, said chairman of Latvian Finance and Capital Market Commission Pēters Putniņš in an interview to Rīta Panorāma programme on Tuesday, 20 February.

European exchange indexes decline; Wall Street enjoys a holiday

European exchange indexes declined on Monday, 19 February. No trading was performed at American stock markets, because the country was celebrating President’s Day.

Party: Latvian banking system’s crisis threatens Skanste neighbourhood's development

There are serious risks associated with European Union’s co-financed project for the revitalization of Skanste neighbourhood, including construction of Skanste tramway line, says member of Riga City Council and For Latvia’s Development party Viesturs Zeps.

Public opinion: KGB documents should be made publicly accessible immediately

Latvia’s society believes the KGB documents should be made publicly accessible immediately. In addition, residents say they are confident in their ability to discuss those documents without the country’s supervision, which takes the form of expert opinions prevailing over society’s moral views, as stated by guest researcher of History Institute of the University of Latvia M. His. Marta Starostina.

For Latvia’s Development: the prime minister is gone, but finance minister claims otherwise

«What we have observed in the past several days is that Latvia’s financial sector has received several heavy strikes as a result of the government’s uncoordinated and chaotic actions. Prime Minister Māris Kučinskis has evidently ‘disappeared’ and offers no clear plans to resolve the crisis, whereas Finance Minister Dana Reizniece-Ozola says different things in every interview. Such behaviour will not help resolve the crisis. It could instead pull the country’s financial sector in a much deeper crisis,» says chairman of For Latvia’s Development Juris Pūce.

Bank of Latvia provided ABLV Bank with a loan of 97.5 mln euros in exchange for securities pledge

The Bank of Latvia has provided ABLV Bank with a loan worth EUR 97.5 million in exchange for securities pledge, as confirmed by the financial institution.

Prime Minister: Bank of Latvia governor is not allowed to take official post

As a security measure, the governor of the Bank of Latvia Ilmārs Rimšēvičs has been applied with a prohibition to take post, said Latvian Prime Minister Māris Kučinskis after a meeting of the Cabinet of Ministers.

Poland's halt to logging in ancient forest came after irreparable damage

Although Poland has stated logging in the old-growth Bialowieza forest has been stopped, Warsaw has failed to reveal the amount of trees already cut down.