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Wednesday 22.11.2017 | Name days: Aldis, Alfons, Aldris
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BNN summary of the week: Kucinskis in Ridzene’s room and government’s rushed decisions

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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; Truth; Business and Growth.

CHANGE: Antane says government has set ‘checkmate’ for Latvia’s transport industry

With plans to increase excise tax on fuel, the government has set ‘checkmate’ to Latvia’s transport industry and transit sector. Instead of the awaited tax revenue compensation, Latvia risks considerably reducing the competitiveness of the industry that brings in one billion euros to the economy every year, says Inga Antane, President of Baltic Association – Transport and Logistics.

«Considering that fuel price forms a very important component for railway cargo transports, up to 30% of the price – increasing costs to make Latvia’s transit corridor more expensive is insane,» Antane says.

She notes that in a situation when cargo volumes from Russia are already in rapid decline, any upward changes to the transit corridor’s costs would have catastrophic consequences for the competitiveness of Latvian ports and railway.

«When making its decision on increasing excise tax for fuel, the government should have assessed all possible risks for the country’s economy. The government also should have consulted with industry representatives before making any decisions. Unfortunately, it seems this decision was made irresponsibly and was rushed out the gate without any reason. Did the government at least calculate the effect on railway transports? How much will we lose from the possible cargo loss, and how will we compensate this loss?» Antane adds.

Full article here

BUSINESS: Latvia signs minister declaration on 5G

On Tuesday, 18 July, a meeting of the informal council of EU Competitiveness and Telecommunications Ministers took place in Tallinn. During this meeting, members of the council signed a minister declaration on 5G. Latvia was represented by Transport Ministry’s parliamentary secretary Edgars Tavars, as BNN was informed by the ministry.

Signing the declaration, EU telecommunications ministers thereby demonstrated the intention to make Europe the leading region in the world for the development of 5G market.

The declaration provides for an agreement on specific steps EU member states are committed to make in order to assist with the development of 5G and services associated with it. Latvian Transport Ministry notes that this declaration will enhance general guidelines for the development of 5G standards and will set the foundation for dialogues with interested parties about 5G matters.

Full article here

FIGHT: Delna believes Duklavs’ remainder in power shames the entire Cabinet of Ministers

Agriculture Minister Janis Duklavs’ remainder in his current post shames the entire Cabinet of Ministers and only serves to reduce society’s trust in the government, believes Delna – Society for Openness.

On Tuesday, 18 July, Delna sent Prime Minister Maris Kucinskis an open letter with a request to request Duklavs’ and Transport Minister Uldis Augulis dismissal in relation to the so-called Oligarch talks, which, according to Delna, is evidence of possible violations.

According to publicly available information, Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau in cooperation with State Revenue Service have commenced inspections in relation to information detailed in Oligarch talks, specifically in relation to Duklavs’ owned property on the territory of Riga Freeport. Delna believes Duklavs’ remainder in his post shames the entire Cabinet of Ministers and reduces society’s trust in the government.

It is also mentioned in the letter that Ridzene talks were attended by other noteworthy Latvian politicians – Duklavs and Augulis. On top of that, both ministers met with Russian Vice-Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich last summer without first informing the Foreign Affairs Ministry. Delna notes that Kucinskis was asked about that meeting. No answer followed. Because of that, Delna believes Kucinskis «hid information about the government’s motives from society, which can be interpreted as support of interests of individual parties».

Full article here

TRUTH: Kucinskis also met with Slesers in the infamous meeting room of Ridzene hotel

Latvian Prime Minister Maris Kucinskis admits having met with Ainars Slesers in the now infamous meeting room in Ridzene hotel a couple of times, specifically when the People’s Party made the decision to join Par labu Latviju.

In his interview to Ir magazine, the prime minister said he was the leader of the People’s Party Saeima faction at the time, and even then it seemed to him the party was not too trusting of him.

«I understood Slesers’ style and I knew his sense of personal greatness is considerable. I also wanted to sort things out. Business in politics – this is what happened,» says Kucinskis.

He met with Slesers during the pre-election period. The deciphered talks recorded in Ridzene imply Slesers proposed forming a coalition with Harmony centre. Kucinskis, on the other hand, mentioned in his interview that there was no support for this idea.

«I also remember walking with Mr. Ulmanis during the campaign. Now it’s about Harmony – we agreed with the ex-president that there would not be any support for it. A lot is exaggerated in comparison with what someone would have wanted,» said Kucinskis.

Full article here

GROWTH: Saeima deputies sign agreement on Oligarch talks committee’s formation

So far only parliament members have signed the agreement on the formation of a Saeima committee for the investigation of Oligarch talks. Neither of them represents Unity – Karlis Serzants from Union of Greens and Farmers and Einars Cilinskis from VL-TB/LNNK.

18 out of 34 necessary signatures have been collected so far. Still, it is expected that deputies that are not present in the parliament today will sign the agreement tomorrow.

Only then the Saeima will be able to decide on the formation of this parliamentary committee.

Full article here


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Antāne: lost Russian cargoes have cost Latvia nearly 50 million in nine months

Latvia’s economy has lost nearly EUR 50 million in nine months because of missed Russian transit cargoes. While Russian Railway had approved 90% of oil and coal cargoes for transit through Ventspils port at the beginning of the year, this amount had declined to a mere 5% by September, says Baltic Association – Transport and Logistics President Inga Antāne.

In pictures: Museum of painter, Holocaust survivor Bak opened in Vilnius

In Vilnius, a museum to Jewish-Polish painter Samuel Bak has been opened. During the occupation of Lithuania by the Nazi Germany, the artist survived the Holocaust in the country.

Ratio of old people and invalids on a rise among unemployed people

The total number of unemployed people has been decreasing in recent years. However, the ratio of old people and invalids continues increasing in the ranks of unemployed people. On top of that, the number of lasting unemployed people remains high and largely unchanged in the country.

Saaremaa looking into possible ferry traffic to Latvia

The local government of the largest Estonian island is looking into possible interest of five shipping companies in opening ferry traffic between Saaremaa and Latvia.

Balta: exhaustion and overload are the most common causes for accidents at work

More than EUR 20,000 has been paid in compensations for injuries acquired at work this year so far, according to information from insurance association Balta. Compared with the same period of last year, the number of accidents has grown 40%.

Estonian town tempts population to reregister with spa in Latvia and 100 euro payment

The town of Keila, located 25 kilometres away from Tallinn, has started a one-and-a-half month campaign to motivate its residents to register back in the town as many of them have registered in the Estonian capital, which grants free public transport to its population.

EU to impose fine to Poland if logging in Białowieża forest not stopped

The European Court of Justice has issued to Poland a 15-day deadline to provide proof that the country has fulfilled the court's ruling to quit logging in the ancient Białowieża forest threatening with a daily fine of 100 000 euros if it fails to prove this.

Rīgas namu pārvaldnieks: building restoration will be next year’s priority

Rīgas namu pārvaldnieks plans to focus on improving technical state of its managed buildings. The company plans to restore several dozen buildings next year and up to 100 buildings a year in the next five years, says RNP chairman Aivars Gontarevs.

LCB: even deputies should fulfil their promises

Latvijas ceļu būvētājs, which is an association in Latvia with ties to multiple road and bridge construction companies, invites deputies to support the proposal for the restoration of the State Road Fund, BNN was told by the association’s chairman Andris Bērziņš.

Russia rejects claims of nuclear accident despite radioactive cloud over France

Russia has stated that a nuclear accident has not taken place in its territory although its weather service has found high amounts of traces of a radioactive isotope.

Study: taxes for business in Latvia – the most attractive among Baltic States

Latvia’s tax system is the most attractive among Baltic States and 13th most attractive among 190 countries of the world, according to the latest study performed by the World Bank and PricewaterhouseCoopers on tax systems around the world.

Turkish journalist punished with prison term for tweet

A court in Turkey has sentenced on Tuesday, November 21, a journalist from opposition newspaper Cumhuriyet to three years behind bars over accusations of spreading terrorist propaganda in relation to a post on Twitter, which had been briefly on the microblogging site this spring.

Latvia – 35th country in the world ICT development-wise

This year Latvia reached 35th place in the world in terms of development of information and communication technologies, as mentioned in the latest report by UN International Telecommunication Union.

Instant payment infrastructure comes online in Europe

On Tuesday, 21 November, instant payment infrastructure will be introduced across Europe. On top of that, European banks’ founded EBA Clearing will also introduce its RT1 instant payment system. The European-level solution has also been coordinated with the instant payment processing infrastructure prepared by the Bank of Latvia in August 2017, as reported by the bank.

Police dismantle criminal group that caused damage worth seven million euros to the state

Latvian State Revenue Service’s Finance Police dismantled a criminal group in November 2017. A total of 34 searches were performed and two people were found suspect. The criminal group performed tax avoidance and money laundering operations, causing damages worth nearly seven million euros to the state, BNN was informed by SRS.

Zariņš: deputies who vote for the state budget without amendments will have breached their vows

It is unacceptable for the Saeima coalition to follow the Cabinet of Ministers and like the Cabinet of Ministers breach laws during the budget approval process, says Saeima member Ivars Zariņš, adding that deputies who vote for the budget without amendments will thereby have to breach the vow they had previously made to the Latvian nation.

Estonia’s ruling Centre Party shows door to 31 competing members

The leadership of Estonia's Center Party has accepted the proposals of the party's local branches on fellow members, who ran in the Estonian municipal elections this autumn from a separate list, and expelled 31 members from the political party.

Pabriks: state interests should be held higher than party interests

Latvia cannot be allowed to drown in provincialism. It is in the country’s interest to maintain a course towards European and NATO values. In a situation when the number of centric and European-oriented parties is large, it is becoming harder and harder, because it leads to political fragmentation, and the main goal of it is reaching the 5% barrier during elections, not ensuring growth and development for Latvia, says MEP Artis Pabriks.

Reacting to e-commerce growth, Omniva rushes to expand its parcel locker network

Estonian state-owned postal company Eesti Post, which operates the Omniva brand, stated that it will broaden its network of parcel lockers expand its current parcel machines up until Christmas.

Programme: introduction of ‘honest’ taxi counters is stuck

Taxi drivers that had to replace their counters as far back as 15 October, continue delaying the process, as reported by De Factor with reference to State Revenue Service.

Ministry considers reorganizing Latvian Environmental Protection Fund’s administration

After reviewing information from the State Audit, Latvian Environmental Protection and Regional Development Ministry may consider the possibility of reforming the administration of the Latvian Environmental Protection Fund.

Uber to buy 24 000 self-driving Volvo XC90s

U.S. ride-sharing technology firm Uber has agreed with Chinese-owned Swedish carmaker Volvo on the purchase of up to 24,000 self-driving cars.

Snow expected in Latvia this week

Weather in Latvia will be cloudy at the beginning of the week and, although the sun may appear every now and then precipitation, precipitation is expected in most of the country. It will begin with rain and gradually move up to wet snow and snow, as reported by State Environment, Geology and Meteorology Centre.

Lengthy German coalition talks collapse

The German political parties that entered the country’s federal parliament after elections in September, still cannot reach an agreement on making a coalition and a majority government, but German Chancellor Angela Merkel has evaluated that new elections would be better than a minority government.

airBaltic carried more than 4,780 in flights between Riga and Liepaja

In the first six months since airBaltic has started performing regular domestic flights between Riga and Liapaja more than 4,780 passengers have been carried on this route.