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Sunday 18.03.2018 | Name days: Ilona, Adelīna

BNN summary of the week: is Unity’s fractured state over? Minister promises better healthcare

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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; Future; Decline; Promise, and Opinion.

CHANGE: Unity’s parliamentary faction picks a new chairman

Hosams Abu Meri has been picked as the new chairman of Unity political party’s faction in the Saeima. The previous head of the faction – Solvita Āboltiņa – has decided to put down her mandate as member of the parliament and instead return to diplomatic service.

Abu Meri was recommended for this post by the board of Unity to replace Āboltiņa. This decision was made on 6 November.

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FIGHT: Estonia in UN Jerusalem vote to ignore U.S. warning

Regardless of U.S. government’s warning urging countries that receive its financial support not to back a UN resolution on the contentious issue of Jerusalem in the Middle East Peace Process, Estonia would support decades-long policy of Jerusalem to be the capital of both Israel and Palestine.

Estonian public broadcaster ERR reports, citing Estonian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sven Mikser as stating on Thursday, December 21, that Estonia would go along with the position of the European Union concerning current matters in the Middle East, and that he wasn’t afraid of potential retaliation on the part of the U.S. government.

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FUTURE: Important 2017 decisions of the European Parliament that will affect your life

In 2017, the European Parliament approved and signed 74 new legislative acts associated with protection of the external border and security, trade agreements, energy security and cancellation of roaming, said Antonio Tajani, who was elected chairman of European Parliament in January 2017.

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BUSINESS: exports of Latvian food products up by more than 20%

Exports of Latvian food products industry has grown by more than 20% when compared with the previous year, says council chairperson of Latvian Federation of Food Companies (LFFC) Ināra Šure.

She said that 2017 was a positive year for food production. This especially applies to exports. «The most positive development for Latvia’s food production industry in 2017 was the export growth – by more than 20%,» said Šure, adding that Latvian food companies have been working tirelessly for years to explore new markets and secure results.

LFFC Council chairperson expressed hope that this year’s import/export balance in food production industry turns out positive. If this is achieved, it will be possible to say Latvia’s food industry has succeeded reorienting its focus from Russia to other countries.

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DECLINE: rail freight volume has dropped to fifteen-year minimum

In 2017, Latvijas dzelzceļš transported 43 million tonnes of cargoes, which is the lowest freight volume in the past fifteen years. On top of that, there are no preconditions for the cargo decline to stop. This means the lowest point has yet to be reached, says president of Baltic Association – Transport and Logistics (BATL) Inga Antāne.

She mentions the seriousness of the situation in the industry and invites responsible ministry to act because unemployment already affects Latvia’s national economy. This is expected to affect not only people working in the industry but also all other residents.

BATL president says: «2017, as predicted, was the worst for the country’s railway freight in the past 15 years. Next year is expected to demonstrate an even more rapid decline even though in its letter to Saeima’s National Economy Committee, LDz mentioned that the expected volume for 2018 may reach 49 million tonnes. In the current situation, this is an impossible and utopian goal. No one can say that talks about a crisis in the transit industry are exaggerated. The crisis is here, and we will feel its consequences in 2018.»

The most realistic scenario for the situation’s stabilization is increasing freight volume with Belarus, where China has built a major logistics centre. Until now, we have not benefited from it much, because this centre has active cooperation established with Klaipeda port. For Latvia to attract cargoes from Belarus, the country has to do its homework and resolve problems that affect its competitiveness.

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PROMISE: Latvian Healthcare Minister promises to slash queues for healthcare services by half

With a major increase in funding it will be possible to reduce queues for healthcare services by half, Latvian Healthcare Minister Anda Čakša promised to Rīta panorama programme.

The politician says that 2017 has been a turning point for Latvia’s healthcare – the government has dramatically changed its views towards healthcare and has secured a nearly EUR 200 million increase for the healthcare budget.

As for the Healthcare Funding Law, Čakša mentioned that the proportion of residents that may end up without state-funded healthcare services is ‘very small’. From the perspective of the general division of services covered by the budget, the law is very loyal to Latvian residents. Still, it does motivate responsible payment of taxes, added the minister.

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OPINION: list of Lembergs’ committed crimes continues expanding

«During his rule in Ventspils, Aivars Lembergs performed so many illegal and criminal acts that investigation and judicial institutions still haven’t sorted things out,» said Ventspils City Council opposition member Valdis Kristovskis in an interview to BNN.

He says there is no doubt – during the period of Ventspils and state capture, Lembergs has managed to spend enough time imitating work in the interest of the city and society, whose portion of reasonably-minded people he calls ‘lumpen-proletariat’. «Something like that is only possible in conditions of a cult of personality. Unfortunately, there are people, whole parties, who do not seem all that worried about that,» says Kristovskis.

He notes that people are inspired by this approach. It eats away the country’s democracy and rule of law. «It is the duty of politicians to maintain standards and establish requirements, because if you’re not caught committing a crime does not mean a crime was not committed! Politicians have to oppose corruption and crime on a state level even if investigation and court processes require time. If politicians wait for crimes to be proven in court, then, I’m sorry, people like that should not work in state administration and act as people’s representatives,» said Kristovskis.

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Week in Lithuania. Some 5,000 gather in protest rally outside Lithuania's Parliament

Some 5,000 people gathered outside the Lithuanian parliament in Vilnius on Thursday, March 15, to express discontent with the failed parliamentary vote to impeach MP Mindaugas Bastys and the performance of the ruling Lithuanian Farmers and Greens Union.

BNN summary of the week: oligarch talks’ ownership; scandals in Lithuania; Estonia wants direct democracy

BNN offers a summary of this week’s topical news in a variety of categories: Progress; Scandals; Invitation; Fight; Opinion; Decline.

Remembrance day of Latvian Legionnaires passes with shouts and two arrests

The Legionnaires’ remembrance procession in Riga on Friday, 16 March, passed peacefully. Nevertheless, several conflicts did take place among differently-minded people near the Freedom Monument. Two individuals were arrested by police.

Influenza intensity in Latvia – moderate when compared to other European nations

A comparison of influenza activity in Europe shows that it is high or very high in several countries. Latvia’s influenza intensity is considered moderate, as noted by epidemiologist Raina Nikiforova.

Hourly labour costs in Latvia grew 7.3% in 2017

Compared to Q4 2016, in Q4 2017 hourly labour costs rose by 54 cents or 7.3 %, reaching EUR 8.02. Seasonally adjusted data show identical changes – rise of 7.3 %.

Rietumu Banka claims it has not worked with high-risk clients for years

Rietumu Banka has been steadily rejecting high-risk clients for years and has significantly reduced the volume of transactions, as mentioned by the bank’s representatives.

Lithuanian and Estonian businessmen are ahead of Latvia in terms of investments

In Latvia, 36% of small and medium-sized companies have plans to invest in the development of their business this year. In Estonia and Lithuania, on the other hand, the proportion of businesses with development plans is 42% and 46%, respectively, according to results of a recent study performed by SEB Bank.

Russia pledges maximum pressure on UK amid ex-spy poisoning row

Russian top diplomat in the UK has envisaged on Friday, March 16, that the Kremlin would use maximum pressure on London as Moscow insists it has not been involved in the poisoning of a former Russian-British double agent with a Russian-made chemical weapon, as has been found by British investigators.

Latvia’s ministry: Crimea’s annexation is illegal

18 March 2018 will mark four years since the Russian Federation violated Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity by annexing the Crimean Peninsula and causing military aggression in the country’s eastern region. With its actions the Russian Federation has violated international law and basic principles of international relation, says Latvia’s Foreign Affairs Ministry.

Building gas pipe to Finland, Estonia to organise works for EUR 135 million

Continuing the works on the Balticconnector gas pipeline between Estonia and Finland, the Estonian natural gas network company Elering has stated that around 135 million euros, including a 98-million-euro funding from the European Union, will be invested in the project.

Replacement of cash registers rejected by SRS would cost half a million euros

The State Revenue Service has declined 18,000 cash registers as unfitting for requirements established by the Cabinet of Ministers. Fixing the problems found in them would cost half a million euros, as reported by LNT News.

Latvian Anti-Nazi Committee presented with protest restrictions on 16 March

Administrative District Court has compiled a shortened ruling, in which it rejected Latvian Anti-Nazi Committee’s application and preserved the decision imposed by Riga City acting CEO on 13 March 2018 on establishing restrictions on the planned gathering and protest act for 16 March unchanged.

U.S. introduces Russian sanctions for election meddling and cyber-attacks

Washington has introduced sanctions against 19 Russian individuals and five entities blaming them for attempts to sway the 2016 U.S. election and perceived cyber-attacks.

Slovakian PM Fico replaced with fellow party member

Slovakian head of government Robert Fico has stepped down after the murder of a journalist shed light on corruption in Slovakia, prompting nationwide protests. The long-standing Prime Minister had offered to resign earlier this week if the ruling coalition was allowed to finish its term.

Weekends will be cold and sunny in Latvia; next week will have volatile weather

Starting with Sunday, 18 March, air temperature in Latvia will rise above zero in most of the country, as reported by State Environment, Geology and Meteorology Centre.

Lithuania’s ruling LFGU party remains unscathed by scandals

It seems that, for now, Lithuania‘s ruling Farmers and Green Union has been nearly damage-proof despite the lambasting.

Latvian Civic Alliance: non-government sector should aim towards cooperation

Latvian Civic Alliance has invited the management of Latvia’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry to meet to discuss ongoing cooperation between organizations representing the business sector and the NGO sector.

Saeima rejects National Alliance’s proposal to make 16 March an official remembrance day

Latvia’s Saeima has decided to reject the proposal submitted by the National Alliance on making 16 March an official remembrance day.

43.6% of Latvian households have difficulties with making ends meet

In 2017 the share of households admitting that pay for usual necessary expenses with difficulty or great difficulty constituted 43.6 %, which is 1.5 percentage points more than in 2016.

Saeima voices support for Rail Baltica project’s progression

On Thursday, 15 March, the Saeima made a decision to support Rail Baltica project’s progression. In its decision, the parliament invited Latvia’s Cabinet of Ministers to provide all the necessary support for the project’s successful realization to ensure the project is realized in accordance with established terms and does not lose funding or support from the European Union, as reported by Saeima’s press-service.

Fast snow shovelling linked to cardiac fatalities, Finnish study finds

In Finish doctoral study, it has been concluded that snow should be shovelled calmly, not provoking stress and increased adrenaline in human blood that could lead to cardiac arrest.

Riga’s mayor spent at least eight million euros of residents’ money to promote himself

Over the course of the past three years, at least EUR 8 million of residents’ money has been used to promote the image of the Mayor of Riga Nils Ušakovs. This money was used to buy media, employ young members of Harmony, and finance ‘in-house protestors’ and using social networks, as estimated by Re:Baltica research journalism center.

Slovenia's head of government resigns amid protests and struggling railway investment

The Slovenian head of government Miro Cerar has stepped down from office in reaction to troubles with an expensive railway project and mounting opposition by trade unions.

NAF Commander: Latvia and Estonia have joint military procurements planned

Latvia and Estonia have joint military procurements planned, Commander of Latvia’s National Armed Forces Leonīds Kalniņš told journalists after his meeting with Commander of Estonia’s Defence Forces Riho Terras.

Estonia's switch to free higher education proved right choice, says Ratas

The switch to free higher education made by Estonia in 2013 has proved to be the right choice for a small country, even though critics have pointed to potentially less motivated students, has stated the Estonian Prime Minister Jüri Ratas.

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