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Monday 25.06.2018 | Name days: Maiga, Milija
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BNN summary of the week: kebab industry’s fears, insiders in anti-corruption bureau, and Latvia’s crumbling roads

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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: Fight; Fear; Opinion; Confusion; Truth.

FIGHT: transit association considers halting expensive railway electrification project

After the government’s decision to go through with railway electrification, which is one of the most expensive projects in Latvia’s history, President of Baltic Association – Transport and Logistics Inga Antāne considers turning to the Central Finance and Contracting Agency to halt this half a billion euros worth project at least until the government can secure full transparency and provide strategic solutions to halt cargo decline.

«Otherwise this project will be as though using a powerful snow-clearing machine in summer – there will not be any use for it,» the association notes.

BATL emphasizes that Latvia is a railway superpower. The country is a leader in Europe in terms of rail length per capita. «To maintain such an infrastructure in Latvia, it is necessary to carry 60 million tonnes of cargoes annually. According to the association’s estimates, Latvia already lacks one-third for this plan’s completion. Losses will only increase in the coming years, considering Russia’s decision to divert its cargoes away from Latvia in favour of its own ports. Experience of companies part of BATL shows that oil and coal cargoes from Russia are coordinated at a mere 5%, whereas the volume of such cargoes was coordinated at 90% at the beginning of the year,» explains the association.

Full article here

CONFUSION: National Security Committee member Tutins denied access to official secrets

Saeima deputy and member of the National Security Committee Jānis Tutins has been denied access to official secrets, as confirmed by the politician.

The parliamentarian now considers appealing the decision made by the Constitution Protection Bureau to prosecutor general Ēriks Kalnmeiers.

Tutins requested to be provided with access to official secrets after his election into Saeima’s National Security Committee in June. He was elected to replace Valērijs Agešins, who left Riga to work in Liepaja City Council.

Harmony faction leader in the Saeima Jānis Urbanovičs said Tutins is surprised with this decision and wants to know the reasons behind it. Urbanovičs criticized this situation, adding that «special services should explain what they want or if they simply do not want a single member of Harmony join the committee,» said Urbanovičs.

Full article here

FEAR: MEP move to ban phosphates used in kebab meat said to endanger massive industry

As the European Parliament pushes to bar the phosphates, used to keep seasoned kebab meat moist and aromatic, is considered as a grave threat to the existence of the popular fast food.

British news portal the Guardian wrote that across Europe, some 200,000 people work in the industry, and in Germany, where the doner kebab is the most popular fast food, the news have caused fears of in German association of doner kebab producers that «this would be the death sentence for the entire doner kebab industry in the European Union».

Full article here

OPINION: Latvian road association hopes politicians are tired of their indecisiveness

«There is no money, roads continue getting worse, residents continue getting more and more dissatisfied, politicians continue promising, and all this seems a bit like an old and boring film that is shown again and again,» says chairman of Latvijas Ceļu būvētājs Andris Bērziņš.

The association notes that after many years of requests from the entire industry and LCB, the Saeima has finally made steps towards proper funding of the road industry. The parliament has approved deputy Anrijs Matīss’ proposal and has asked the government to approve the plan to increase funding for roads in the state budget programme before 1 July 2018. It is planned to divert an additional 80% from excise tax on fuel for this initiative.

«Unfortunately, the Saeima has forgotten to make it clear when the industry can expect to receive those 80%: the government is free to schedule everything as far as 2025 or 2225. We can reveal a little secret – in the past ten years the Saeima has actively used the option to postpone allocation of actual funding to a much later date. It is a sort of tradition,» comments Bērziņš.

Still, LCB hopes that things turn out differently this time, and that roads will be provided with appropriate funding in 2020.

Full article here

TRUTH: Zatlers says Rīdzene talks are authentic; Šlesers had an informer in KNAB

The talks recorded in Rīdzene Hotel are authentic. In addition, then the politician Ainārs Šlesers had mentioned that he had an informer in Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau, said ex-president of Latvia Valdis Zatlers during a meeting of the parliamentary investigative committee.

Zatlers’ interview commenced with questions from the committee’s head – Inguna Sudraba. In particular, she asked if Zatlers was aware of the secret meetings in the hotel when he was president.

«I can confidently say that they [talks] are authentic,» said Zatlers. Šlesers was the one who told him about the recording. He complained to the president that KNAB was illegally listening in on his meetings and that he had an informer in the bureau who told him about this. Šlesers asked Zatlers to ‘do something about that’ as president.

Šlesers refused to give Zatlers the name of his informer, however. Considering that Zatlers was president and therefore had no right to intervene in the investigation, the conversation between the two ended with that.

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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