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BNN summary of the week: prime minister without solutions; birth rates down; organic food rules

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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; Growth; Business; Assessment; Fight; Future.

CHANGE: Latvia’s reputation worsens in investors’ eyes

In the evaluation of the business environment, Latvia was given 14 points among in a competition with twenty one countries. Latvia received the highest score for the quality of domestic deliveries, labour costs, payment discipline and higher education system.

Latvia’s weak points, on the other hand, include insufficient corruption combating measures, according to results of a study performed by German-Baltic Chamber of Commerce.

Latvia’s score in thirteen criteria out of twenty has become worse than it was a year ago. Investors are especially sceptical about Latvia’s tax system and corruption-combating system. Productivity and state procurements are also given low scores.

Interviewed businessmen are optimistic the most about three factors – state support, vocational education system and availability of specialists. Similar to a year prior, academic higher education and payment discipline remain good.

Such results are from interviews of 78 businesses present in Latvia. A total of 1,698 businessmen took part in the study. Business location-wise, Latvia is put on 6th place among 21 countries. This is one spot higher than the score given to Latvia by local businessmen.

Full article here

GROWTH: Organic food: MEPs support stricter regulations

On Thursday, 19 April, European Parliament approved new requirements and rules for production of high-quality organic food products, as BNN was told by EP Information Office in Latvia.

With 466 votes in favour, 124 votes against, and 50 MEPs abstaining, the European Parliament supported regulations for production and labelling of organic products. Members of the parliament and EU Council had reached an agreement in regards to said regulations last July.

The most notable improvements include strict and risk-based inspections along the entire supply chain. Thanks to the parliament’s pressure, it has been decided that inspections of all stages of food production will be performed at least once a year or once every two years if no violations were discovered in the last three years. In addition, imported products will have to comply with new EU standards. Current rules make non-EU producers to comply with similar standards. The new requirements will replace old ones in the next five years, EP notes.

The European Parliament wants to enhance production of organic food in Europe. This includes a wider offer of organic seeds and organically bred animals. Exceptions for the use of non-organic seeds and animals will be cancelled in 2035. Mixed-type farming: farms that perform traditional and organic farming will be allowed to continue doing that, as long as organic farming is separate from traditional farming. Certification of small farms will be simplified, as noted by EP.

Full article here

BUSINESS: East Capital’s fund buys Galleria Riga shopping centre

Asset-management company East Capital’s real estate fund East Capital Baltic Property Fund III has completed the deal for the purchase of Galleria Riga shopping centre.

Fritrade SE and AS Titan Invest sold the property. All participating sides agreed to keep the price of the deal undisclosed.

Galleria Riga shopping centre was opened in October 2010. The shopping centre has a total area of 24,300 m2 with stable tenants – Rime, fashion brands COS, H&M, SuitSupply, Mango, Reserved, Lloyd and Ecco, as well as a sports club and a restaurant floor.

«Galleria Riga has a unique location in the city centre with excellent operational results and a great potential for future development. We plan to continue developing and increasing property value for our investors,» says East Capital Baltics AS CEO Madis Raidma.

The deal was financed by Swedbank. It was consulted by Vilgerts law firm and Ernst&Young.

East Capital Baltic Property Fund III is a real estate fund formed by East Capital in 2015. It invests in high-quality real estate commercial properties in Tallinn, Riga and Vilnius.

Full article here

ASSESSMENT: Latvian Prime Minister offers no solution for finding additional money for teachers’ wages

Latvia’s Prime Minister Māris Kučinskis is not yet ready to provide any proposals to help resolve the matter regarding the deficit of finances for the planned increase of teachers’ wages in the country. He says there aren’t enough numbers and analysis results to formulate an opinion.

According to Education and Science Minister Kārlis Šadurskis, there might not be enough money to afford the planned increase of wages for teachers next year. He says it is because some municipalities have only formally reorganized their local school networks. Because of that, the expected budget-saving plan will not come through.

Kučinskis told LNT that he has yet to go through Šadurskis’ words and arguments. He says he does not have the numbers and arguments that would help formulate an opinion about wage rise for teachers. The promise given by the government to allocate the same amount gained from municipalities’ school network reorganization to help increase teachers’ wages remains in effect.

The prime minister admits that if the school network in Latvia is made smaller on paper by merging certain schools, it does not help save money. Latvia is ahead of Europe when it comes to education infrastructure costs – there are a lot of schools, but not many students. He expects from Šadurskis a plan to resolve this situation.

Full article here

FIGHT: Unity: there are municipalities, in which heads of administration think they are kings

During their meeting with Latvia’s Environment Protection and Regional Development Minister Kaspars Gerhards, members of Unity’s Saeima faction concluded that there is still a lot of work left on the road towards enhancing democratic principles in municipal administrations.

Unity members urged the minister to immediately cancel the new rules adopted by Riga City Council that limit deputies’ rights to ask questions during meetings, as reported by the party.

«Democracy is a value that cannot be approached on a surface level or selectively. Environment Protection and Regional Development Ministry, regardless of opposition deputies’ political beliefs or sympathy, has to ensure compliance with democratic principles in the work performed by municipal administrations and put an end to rules that limit deputies’ rights,» says chairman of Unity’s Saeima faction Hosams Abu Meri.

He says opposition deputies represent a considerable portion of residents. However, after listening to opinions of several municipal deputies, it was concluded that there are municipalities the leaders of which consider themselves kings, ignoring basic principles of democracy and denying deputies the right to represent their voters in an equal manner, says Abu Meri.

«The ministry’s actions in certain cases we consider correct. We should continue active work in order to make sure all municipalities are treated equally,» says the deputy.

Full article here

FUTURE: Birth rates in Latvia down – estimated population around 1 million 925 thousand

Since 2016 birth number in Latvia is reducing – in 2017 number of live births may be approximately one thousand smaller than in 2016. Number of newborn registered during the first three months of 2018 (4,612 children) also was smaller than that recorded in the same period of 2017 – by 336 children.

Death number registered over the last four years is fairly stable – 28.5 thousand. Over the first three months of this year, 8,004 deaths were registered, which is 27 deaths fewer than in Q1 2017.

Latvian natural increase is still negative. During the first three months of 2018, as the number of deaths exceeded the number of births, Latvia population declined by 3 083 persons (in the corresponding period of 2017 – by 3,083).

Full article here


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Minister: Latvia and Croatia have absolute understanding on EU multi-year budget matter

Latvia and Croatia have an absolute understanding when it comes to European Union’s multi-year budget, said Latvia’s Foreign Affairs Minister Edgars Rinkēvičs after his meeting with Croatian Foreign and European Affairs Minister Marija Pejčinović Burić.

Shocking tendency: narcotics consumption on a rise among youngsters

Crimes involving illegal turnover of psychotropic substances comprised 5.9% of all crimes registered in Latvia in 2017. There is also a worrying trend observed – use of narcotics is on a rise among youngsters, as reported by Latvia’s State Revenue Service during a press-conference on Friday, 25 May.

NATO member states propose exchanging information more actively

NATO member states should exchange information more quickly and more actively to remain ahead of Russia, said NATO intelligence head Arndt Freytag von Loringhoven.

Study: Riga residents remain dissatisfied with house management

Nearly every second Riga resident is dissatisfied with the quality of house management service quality, according to results of a recent study performed by Latvijas namsaimnieks on residents’ satisfaction with apartment building management in the capital.

Dutch and Australian governments believe Russia responsible for MH17 tragedy, say Netherlands

Over the crash of the Malaysian passenger airline in Ukraine that took the lives of 298 people, the Dutch government has stated on Friday, May 25, that it together with Australia holds Russia rosponsible for what they saw as its downing with a missile.

Finance Ministry: growth observed for general budget revenue in Q1

In the first four months of 2018, Latvia’s general budget revenue had exceeded expenditures, forming a surplus of EUR 239.9 million, which is EUR 69.2 million more when compared to the same period of last year. A surplus formed for the state consolidated budget (EUR 160.1 million) and municipal consolidated budget (EUR 79.9 million), as reported by Finance Ministry.

Irish voters at ballot boxes in abortion referendum

Ireland's abortion referendum is taking place on Friday, May 25, as the mostly Catholic nation is asked if they wish for a strict ban on abortion to be upheld. Canadian-British news agency Reuters reported on Friday, May 25, that according to opinion polls Irish voters are set to overturn one of the world’s strictest prohibitons on pregnancy terminations. Voters in the once conservatively Catholic nation will be asked if they wish to lift a prohibition that was written in the constitution by a popular vote in 1983, and eased in 2013 for cases, where the mother’s life is in danger. As to the protection of «traditional» family values Ireland, allowed divorce by a small majority only in 1995, but three years ago became the first country in the world to adopt gay marriage by a referendum.

Police in Kuldiga confiscate 3.3 million illegal cigarettes; shut down illegal alcohol production to boot

Kuldiga Country State Police have arrested one person on suspicion of illegal excise goods turnover and have confiscated more than 3.3 million illegal cigarettes, which is the largest volume police in Kuldiga have arrested so far. In addition, authorities have also shut down illegal vodka production, as confirmed by State Police.

Flats built in Tallinn, construction volume in Estonia up by 21%

Construction companies in Estonia have in the first three months of 2018 expanded their production by 21%, Estonian statisticians have estimated.

Latvian Healthcare Ministry promises to improve chronic patients’ care

To improve chronic patient care, Latvia’s Healthcare Ministry has developed a project of rules that will govern the order in which the state pays for medical treatment of chronic, cancer and cardio-vascular diseases in medical institutions.

Weekends in Latvia expected to be hot; air temperature may reach +28° C

This week’s Saturday and Sunday will be hot in Latvia. Aside from summer-like weather, this also means increased possibility of fires, as reported by Latvia’s State Environment, Geology and Meteorology Centre.

Sweden recognises sex without active agreeing rape

Sweden has passed a new law saying that sex without consent is rape, even when there are no threats or force involved, stating that passivity is not a sign of agreeing to sex.

EU member states begin enforcing General Data Protection Regulation

Starting with Friday, 15 May, all European Union member states start enforcing the General Data Protection Regulation, which provides stricter requirements for personal data processing.

Pyongyang after U.S. refusal still willing to enter negotiations

Pyongyang has stated that North Korea was still ready to engage in talks at any time in any form after U.S. President Donald Trump unexpectedly cancelled his meeting with the head of North Korea, Kim Jong-un.

Lithuania moves forward with tax and pension reform

The heavily amended bills on taxes and pensions will have a significant impact on the Lithuanian citizens’ lives if Seimas, the country’s legislature, approves for them in their current form.

Riga City Council decides not to discuss matter of anti-corruption measures in Rīgas satiksme

Failing to reach a consensus on whether or not the matter regarding anti-corruption measures in Rīgas satiksme should be viewed behind closed doors, Riga City Council’s Security, Public Order and Corruption Prevention Committee decided to postpone its review.

Latvian companies in Vietnam to be provided with stable tax payment regime

Latvian businesses working in Vietnam are to be provided with a stable tax-payment regime that will not be subject to amendments of Vietnam’s regulations.

Saeima conceptually supports law amendments to reduce PIT debt formation

On Thursday, 24 May, Latvia’s Saeima approved in the first reading amendments to the Personal Income Tax Law that were proposed to reduce the possibility of PIT debt after application of differentiated non-taxable minimum or progressive rate on income, explains Saeima press-service.

Minister: unemployment is no longer Latvia’s main challenge

Latvia’s main challenge is no longer unemployment, rather the lack of qualified work force, said Welfare Minister Jānis Reirs at the opening of «Employment in Latvia yesterday, today and tomorrow» conference.

MH17 investigators: plane downed by Russian military unit

Dutch prosecutors, who are investigating the tragic crash of the Malaysian passenger plane that fell down in eastern Ukraine in 2014 taking the lives of 298 people, have stated that it has been downed by a missile released by a unit of the Russian Armed Forces.

Latvian Saeima gives green light to improve anti-doping regulation

On Thursday, 24 May, Latvia’s Saeima supported amendments to the Sports Law that provide for improving anti-doping regulation in the country and improve the autonomy of the anti-doping organization through the establishment of Latvian Anti-Doping Bureau, as confirmed by Saeima’s press-service.

Lithuania to host summit of women political leaders

Lithuania and its President Dalia Grybauskaitė will host the 2018 summit of the forum of Women Political Leaders, which is to take place in Vilnius from June 6 to 8.

Green energy becomes more and more attractive for Latvian residents

As technologies continue developing, the use of green energy gradually becomes more and more attractive to Latvian residents. The majority of respondents note that they may start using biomass, solar batteries and even wind turbines in the next ten years, according to results of Baltic International Bank’s latest Latvian Barometer.

Tartu railway routes operating again, system recovery from fire worth millions

In Estonia, railway traffic around the second city of Tartu interrupted last week by a cable fire has been restored with a temporary solution. To fully restore the automatic system, Estonian Railways estimate, millions of euros could be spent.

Committee chairman: municipalities’ involvement in state re-emigration policy is vital

«It is necessary to establish local governments’ responsibility in the country’s general re-emigration policy, because their role is vital. It is also important to involve the private sector. Re-emigration is not just a responsibility for regional coordinators; it is also a complex venture in which we should divide responsibility,» says chairman of Saeima’s Citizenship Committee Ritvars Jansons.

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