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Saturday 24.03.2018 | Name days: Kazimirs, Izidors

BNN summary of the week: medicinal cannabis in Lithuania, cargo anti-record, and Lemberg’s dwindling influence in UGF

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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; Growth; Truth; Future and Opinion.

BUSINESS: Bite Latvija buys Stream Networks and Latnet

Mobile commutations operator Bite Latvija has signed a purchase agreement for 100% of shares of Stream Networks and its subsidiary Latner Serviss, as BNN was informed by Bite manager in Latvia Kaspars Buls.

Buls said by combining Bite’s output with Stream Networks and Latnet Service’s competence in development of ICT solutions and service provision will set the foundation for modern mobile communications and formation of ICT services portfolio for corporate clients.

«By combining our forces, we will be able to integrate mobile communication services with modern ICT solutions, such as optic internet, IP telephone services, video surveillance, cloud services and other modern business services,» says Buls.

Full article here

FIGHT: LDz cannot raise tariffs and perform rail electrification under cargo anti-record

Because Latvijas dzelzceļš has set an anti-record in cargo transports in the first ten months of this year, Saeima deputy and member of the National Economy Committee Anrijs Matīss says raising the fee for the use of infrastructure cannot be allowed. He adds that the intended railway electrification project should be considered very carefully.

According to him LDz should drop generous advertisement and sponsoring contracts, as well as perform internal reformation.

Warnings about the dramatic situation with railway cargo transports were first voiced in summer. LDz, however, continued using status policy and reported on supposed cargo volume increase in spite of experiencing serious declines in summer months. In October, low cargo indexes could no longer sustain major cargo declines, and statistical information finally revealed the downward-spiralling tendency.

In the first ten months of 2017, LDz handled only 36 million tonnes of cargoes, which is the lowest index in the past decade. More than 40,000 tonnes of cargoes were carried by rail before the month of October. In 2012, this volume was 51 million tonnes. The situation keeps getting worse.

Matīss believes that increasing infrastructure fees in such a situation would be a short-sighted and irresponsible decision, one that would make Latvia the country with the most expensive railway infrastructure in the European Union. «It would not improve competitiveness, and cargo decline would continue. Raising prices under declining turnover would be madness,» said the Saeima deputy.

Full article here

TRUTH: Ašeradens admits the need to change Unity’s operational model

Unity’s chairman and Latvia’s Economy Minister Arvils Ašeradens see no reason to recall and reform Unity’s Saeima faction, as requested by Kustības Par! members. He does admit, however, that it is necessary to change the party’s operational model.

As Ašeradens stated in an interview to Viens pret vienu programme on Tuesday, 14 November, processes in Unity with Solvitas Āboltiņa’s participation did not go as they should have. This became clear to him when he became the leader of the party. «The situation turned different after I took over the party’s reins,» said Ašeradens. At the same time, he reminded that in certain cases he had voted against other members of the board «in an attempt to maintain balance in the party for a little longer and find a solution».

When asked to comment on the initiative proposed by members of Kustības Par! to change the name of Unity’s Saeima faction, Ašeradens said that this proposal came as a surprise to him. Nevertheless, he sees no reason to rename the faction. He also added that the parliament does not have a tradition of recalling entire factions. At the same time, Unity’s leader said it is important to reach an agreement on the faction’s operational model and how opinions are coordinated on the inside. «Until now we concentrated on a single-person policy, but I would rather see teamwork.»

Full article here

GROWTH: Latvia reaches highest employment level in past 20 years

Latvian employment rate has increased by 1.8 percentage points over the year. In Q3 2017, Latvian employment rate was the highest one recorded during the two past decades – 63.6 %. Employment rate exceeding 63 % (constituting 63.1 %) was recorded only in Q2 2008.

In Q3 2017, in Latvia there were 903.0 thousand employed persons aged 15–74, which is 8.0 thousand more than a year ago, according to data from the Labour Force Survey performed by Central Statistical Bureau of Latvia.

Compared to the previous quarter of 2017, in the 3rd quarter employment rate rose by 1.0 percentage points, while the number of employed persons by 11.3 thousand. The most significant increase in the number of employed persons was recorded within the age groups 45–54 and 55–64 (5.8 thousand and 2.8 thousand, respectively).

Since the end of Q4 2012, Latvian employment rate has been exceeding the European Union (EU) average indicator (59.8 % in Q2 2017), and in Q3 2017 it was equal to that registered in Lithuania (63.6 %), however lower than that recorded in Estonia (68.3 %).

Full article here

FUTURE: Medical cannabis bill paves way in Lithuanian legislature

Otherwise conservative Lithuania has made a big stride forward legalising cannabis for medical use with 92 Lithuanian parliamentarians voting Thursday, November 15, to open the bill draft on medication containing cannabis. The law draft should go back to the parliamentary floor for deliberations on December 12.

After the vote, which registered only one abstention with none opposed to it, Mykolas Majauskas, a Conservative MP and chairman of the Seimas Commission for Suicide and Violence Prevention, who has been an outspoken spearhead of the legislation, stated the amendment is «the first time»that a decision on such a sensitive issue enjoys a broad public and political support.

Full article here

OPINION: Lambergs no longer has major influence over UGF to get him picked for the coalition

Concerns about possible cooperation between Union of Greens and Farmers and Harmony in the next government are nothing more than infantile and amateurish pre-election slogan intended for poorly-informed voters, says For Latvia’s Development board member Edgars Jaunups.

At the same time, he notes that perhaps this is what Aivars Lembergs wants, but he no longer has the kind of influence over the party he once had to pull off something like that.

He says every person who anything about Latvia’s politics understands that «getting a decision to let Harmony join UGF would be as impossible as it would be for this party to join the National Alliance».

«The average UGF deputy in the Saeima is such a big national that they do not seem all that different from members of NA. Aivars Lembergs may want such a coalition, but he has long since lost the influence he once had over UGF to dictate the partners to form the coalition,» says Jaunups.

The politician is confident that UGF faction leader Augusts Brigmanis would never agree to form a coalition with Harmony, because he is «already an old man and he now thinks more about concluding his political career». In spite of his experience working in the Soviet Union, Brigmanis has spent the last twenty years building up his image of a national politician, says Jaunups.

Full article here


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MEP: operations of certain banks in Latvia ruin the country’s reputation

Money laundering is a problem in Latvia, because the activities performed by certain banks ruin the country’s reputation, said member of the European Parliament Krišjānis Kariņš in an interview to Rietumu Radio.

Harmony believes education only in Latvian language is discrimination

Members of Harmony’s Saeima faction have turned to President of Latvia Raimonds Vējonis with a request to halt the parliament’s newly approved amendments to the General Education Law and Education Law regarding education only in Latvian language.

Opinion: UFG and For Latvia and Ventspils were in favour of Vejonis congratulating Putin

Latvia’s President Raimonds Vējonis sent his congratulation to the newly-elected President of Russia Vladimir Putin in order to secure political capital for himself during next year’s presidential elections, says Assoc. Prof. Ojārs Skudra from Social Sciences Faculty of the University of Latvia.

Commissioner: Latvia should provide a clear response to situation in its financial sector

The scandal in Latvia’s financial sector has been reported far and wide in the European Union. This is why it is highly important for Latvia to provide a clear reaction to all this, said Vice-President of the European Commission for Financial Stability, Financial Services and Capital Market Union Valdis Dombrovskis.

Don't joke about bombs at Tallinn Airport, they take it seriously

Estonia's largest airport in Tallinn has from early 2017 received 14 threats of the presence of explosives in the air-travel hub, most of which have been discovered to be just jokes said at the wrong place.

Minister: learning in a single education system using state language is only obvious

Education using state language is our way of ensuring sustainable development of our nation, says Latvia’s Education and Science Minister Kārlis Šadurskis.

Estonian banks close foreigner accounts in wake of ABLV closure

In the wake of the closure of ABLV Bank in Latvia and alleged money laundering via the Estonian branch of Danske Bank, lenders in Estonia are closing the accounts of foreigners, but this threatens the country's successful e-Residency programme aimed at attracting foreign investors.

Latvian Saeima conceptually supports limiting the Bank of Latvia governor’s authority

The Saeima has supported amendments to the Law on the Bank of Latvia in the first reading. Amendments provide that the term of the bank’s governor, his deputy and council members will be five years, as reported by Saeima’s press-service.

Baltic shareholders agree to keep Baiba Rubesa in charge of RB Rail

RB Rail CEO and board chairperson Baiba Rubesa will keep her post. This was decided by shareholders during the 22 March meeting. «The supervisory council had previously mentioned the CEO’s contribution to the company’s development. Still, we intend to find solutions and continue realizing Rail Baltica project,» said RB Rail Supervisory Council chairperson Riia Sillave.

Syrian rebel groups in eastern Ghouta announce ceasefire

In the besieged eastern Ghouta territory in Syria, which has been under heavy air strikes and artillery fire for about a month, several opposition rebel groups have agreed to ceasefire.

EU member states on Skripal attack: «Highly likely» Russia was responsible

The European Union has stated it would recall its ambassador to Moscow for consultations after heads of member states and their governments agreed it was very likely that Russia was responsible for the attack with a chemical weapon on a Russian-British double agent.

Weather to remain cold in Latvia until Easter; more snowfall expected

Weather in Latvia is expected to become cold again after a brief period of warmth. Air temperature will drop again at the beginning and the middle of next week; some areas may experience frost again, as reported by Latvian State, Environment, Geology and Meteorology Centre.

Farmers in Latvia dissatisfied with resolution of electricity-related problems

Two months have passed since farmers in Latvia had received unjustifiably large electricity bills. Countless meetings and discussions have taken place in those two months. Unfortunately, no decisive measures have been undertaken to resolve the problem. Farmers are confused with decision-makers’ incisiveness in a matter important to the national economy, as noted by the Farmers’ Saeima.

Life after 25 May: is this the end for free publication of photo galleries from events?

Many of us like to check out photos from concerts, conferences or sport events on gallery portals and social networks to have a look at guests of those events. However, after 25 May, when General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) comes into force, the situation will no longer be the same.

Saeima to establish legal framework for Baltic cooperation in disaster prevention

On Thursday, 22 March, Latvian Saeima supported a legislative draft, ratification of which will help create legal framework with other Baltic States in prevention of disasters, as reported by the parliament’s press-service.

Number of complaints with postal services on a rise in Latvia

Public Utilities Commission has compiled information about complaints submitted by residents in regards to postal services in 2017. The number of complaints has increased alongside opposing views about package terminals – the regulator has received 37 complaints in total.

Output of livestock products in Latvia increased in 2017

Compared to 2016, output of meat grew by 4.6 % and output of milk by 1.4 % in 2017. In 2017, in Latvia 91.2 thousand tonnes of meat were produced, which is 4.0 thousand tonnes or 4.6 % more than in 2016. The most significant increase was observed in the output of poultry (of 11.3 %) and pork (4.7 %).

Turkey's offensive in Syria condemned by NATO ally Germany

Angela Merkel, the head of the German federal government has stated that Turkey’s military offensive in the northern Syrian town of Afrin was unacceptable and she blamed Russia for simply watching, while attacks by Syrian government forces on besieged eastern Ghouta continue.

Finance minister still believes tax reform in Latvia has brought results

«The tax reform has given us the results we had expected, especially in regards to combating envelope wages,» said Latvia’s Finance Minister Dana Reizniece-Ozola in an interview to 900 seconds programme of LNT.

Planned hospital reorganisation in Lithuanian regions irks both mayors and patients

If the plan of the Lithuanian Ministry of Health to overhaul treatment services in the provinces does not hit a snag, the rural hospitals will be soon providing only essential care and nursing, the focus will be on out-patient care and treatment will be available only in larger county hospitals.

Ventspils beach high in popularity this week; Lembergs gets spotlight time as well

Ventspils ended up in the spotlight in an unusual way this week: seals washed up on the beach there. Animal Freedom emphasizes that human contact with baby seals would hurt them. Residents are asked to maintain at least 50 m distance from them. However, the suspended Mayor of Ventspils Aivars Lembergs decided to take photos with baby seals and publish them on his Facebook profile.

Ombudsman: problems in nursing homes and social care centres are associated with lack of funding

Problems in nursing homes and social care centres are largely associated with lack of funding, because it is not possible to perform high-quality work using currently available resources. This is the responsibility of ministries and the government, as ombudsman Juris Jansons mentioned in an interview to Latvijas Radio.

Estonian music authors receive record royalties for 2017

The organisation, which is tasked by collecting royalties for local and foreign music in Estonia, the Estonian Authors' Society, has received six million euros in royalties in 2017, which is its record level.

Facebook sorry for permitting exploitation of 50 million user data in politics

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has apologised for the social network failing to ensure enough privacy to its users that allowed for data on about 50 million of its users to abused by a political consultancy firm.

Zhdanok’s replacement to promote non-citizen matter in European Parliament

Miroslavs Mitrofanovs, who has taken Tatyana Zhdanok’s place in the European Parliament, plans to promote the matter of non-citizens in the institution.

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