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Wednesday 21.03.2018 | Name days: Una, Unigunde, Dzelme, Benedikts

BNN summary of the week: prosecutor’s weakness, education in Latvian, fintech centre opens in Latvia

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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: Announcement; Approval; Fight; Complaint; Opinion; Decline and Future.

ANNOUNCEMENT: Bank of Latvia governor prohibited from performing duties in ECB council

The governor of the Bank of Latvia Ilmārs Rimšēvičs is denied the right to perform duties associated with his post in the council of the European Central Bank, as confirmed by the Bank of Latvia.

The bank’s press secretary Jānis Silakalns reports that the institution has received information from Rimšēvičs’ lawyer that his client is not allowed to perform duties associated with his work in European Central Bank’s council.

«From this it can be concluded that Rimšēvičs will no longer come to work in the Bank of Latvia and will not delegate duties to the next representative of the Bank of Latvia to ECB meetings,» said Silakalns.

He also notes that while Rimšēvičs is unable to perform his duties as governor of the Bank of Latvia, he will not be paid his salary. He will also have no access to the bank’s information systems and documents.

Full article here

APPROVAL: Anti-money Laundering Service’s leader to compete for another term

The current head of Latvia’s Office for Prevention of Laundering of Proceeds Derived from Criminal Activity has decided to participate in the open selection process to stay in his post for a repeated term.

The 61-year-old Burkāns has confirmed that he would like to stay for another four-year term. He will likely submit his application next week.

«I have invested all of my effort in the service. I have not looked at other job opportunities. I needed time to assess the situation surrounding the service,» said Burkāns.

The chief of the service mentioned that the fight against crime will never be over. Still, he wants to keep working in the service to make sure the next officers would receive cases in the best possible condition. «I’m not saying cases do not fit international requirements. It is worth mentioning that requirements change all the time,» said Burkāns.

He mentioned that his service works in a very narrow range, which requires deep knowledge in law, financial affairs and money laundering prevention measures. «There is no institution in Latvia that trains officers in money laundering prevention – this is something we have to learn in time,» adds Burkāns.

Full article here

FIGHT: RB Rail CEO says someone is publicly defaming her; accusations of lobbying Latvia’s interests are baseless

While Lithuania actively expresses dissatisfaction with the work performed by the CEO of RB rail Baiba Rubesa, ‘the accused’ tells BNN that an active defamatory campaign is being realized against her. She says it all started with the news regarding the distrust Lithuanian and Estonian shareholders had voiced against her.

The sky is growing mighty dark over Rail Baltica project. Many are waiting for the sun to shine – the sun being the 21 March meeting, during which Baltic shareholders will decide the future of the railway project.

Meanwhile, there have been a lot of criticisms and baseless accusations voiced in the public space in recent weeks, adding unnecessary emotional outline to the project. This makes it hard to separate truth from lies. According to experts – if Rubesa loses her post, Latvia will lose the chance to put another one of its representatives in this post.

Latvia’s position as a shareholder in RB Rail does not offer much clarity on the matter regarding Rubesa’s possible dismissal. In the vote regarding Rubesa’s dismissal, Andris Linužs, who is the head of European Railway Lines, abstained in the vote. His was only one of three votes in RB Rail – the other two belong to Lietuvos geležinkeliai and Rail Baltic Estonia. The neutral vote from Linužs can hardly be called support for Rubesa – it is more of a cautious observer’s position. When asked about his decision, Rubesa mentioned that «Linužs has not worked long enough in this post».

Full article here

COMPLAINT: Riga City Council violated democratic principles – controversial rules should be cancelled

«Rules approved by Riga City Council violate democratic principles and do not comply with the Constitution of the Republic of Latvia. Because of that, changes are unsupportable. Restrictions do not allow deputies to fully participate in decision-making processes and represent the interests of their voters. Latvia is an independent and democratic country – deputies in a democratic country have the right to ask as many questions as necessary. Only under such conditions it is possible to ensure all decisions are made in accordance with the law,» says Latvia’s Environment Protection and Regional Development Minister Kaspars Gerhards.

On 2 March, 2018, the ministry received amendments from Riga City Council that provide for limiting the total number of questions city council members are allowed to ask during meetings to three. Another noteworthy change is the limitation of the length within which city council members are allowed to express their opinions to one minute.

The ministry sent Riga City Council a letter on 6 March, requesting the administration to reconsider the questionable amendments.

Full article here

OPINION: NCP leader views prosecutor general’s weakness as threat to Latvia’s state security

Leader of the New Conservative Party and prime minister candidate Jānis Bordāns views the weakness of prosecutor general Ēriks Kalnmeiers as a threat to Latvia’s state security.

Bordāns claims that Kalnmeiers’ announcements sound more like attempts to compromise the people who have been making it hard for criminals to rob the country, and have been combating corruption all this time. It is possible that someone is working on new provocations and defamatory campaigns against members of NCP that will likely surface prior to 13th Saeima elections, he adds. «I think the less honest workers of state institutions are scared of members of NCP taking over the justice sector in the country after elections,» says the leader of NCP.

The plummeting international reputation Latvia has experienced as a result of possible corruptive management of the country’s financial sector proves that a malignant tumour, created by dirty money, has exploded, says Bordāns. Considering developments of recent days, NCP has come forth with a request to perform immediate measures to replace not only the management of the Bank of Latvia, but Finance and Capital Market Commission as well. The party also proposes performing reforms in relation of internal organization of monitoring of those institutions.

The party believes Latvia has ended up in a situation when the country is represented in the European Central Bank by a person with questionable reputation. There is a person in the management board of the Bank of Latvia who is held suspect of corruptive activities. FCMC, on the other hand, is managed by the same person who represented Aivars Lembergs, who remains accused of serious crimes, in council of Latvian Shipping Company and Ventbunkers.

Full article here

DECLINE: Skycop reports airline worker strikes are becoming a serious problem

Last year, airline workers’ strikes had put at least 400,000 travellers in an inconvenient situation. Experts predict that because of the unstable financial situation of different European airlines, strikes will become an even bigger problem in the future.

Union strikes are already considered an emergency when they happen. Because of that, flight disruptions cannot be compensated. Nevertheless, Skycop is committed to changing existing EU legislation to make sure strikes of airline employees are no longer classified as emergency circumstances.

After the strike of British Airlines employees last year, when tens of thousands of flights were cancelled, it became clear that European airlines were stuck in crisis. This has created a sense of concern for the aviation sector. As a result, more and more airline employees turn to their respective trade unions for compensation, as reported by Skycop.

Full article here

FUTURE: First Baltic fin-tech accelerator opens up

Swedbank headquarters in Riga has become the home for B2B [business to business] accelerator Startup Wise Guys start-up support programme. Nine start-ups from nine corners of the world were picked from 80 contenders, as reported by Swedbank representatives.

As part of Wise Guys Fintech programme, the nine international start-ups will spend the next three months in a dynamic and educational environment, developing their businesses, founding contacts with banking experts from Baltic States and Sweden, as well as other world-class mentors. In addition, participants of the accelerator programme will receive EUR 20,000 to further develop their business.

The bank explains that the programme gathers young businessmen from Latvia, Sweden, Czech Republic, Poland, France, Ukraine, Armenia, India and USA. Ideas from participants of the accelerator programme are aimed at financial solutions, such as payment services using Facebook Messenger, contribute to the development of money saving culture, make currency exchange more efficient for businesses, video identification for clients, etc.

Aside from the accelerator programme, Swedbank has also created additional space to accommodate participants of the programme. In the future, it will be home from all kinds of innovative projects.

Full article here


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Prime minister doubts Anti-Money Laundering Service head’s competence

«The work performed by the service requires drastic changes. Whether or not it can be done by its current head [Viesturs Burkāns], I am not sure,» said Latvian Prime Minister Māris Kučinskis in an interview to LNT, commenting on the work performed by Latvian Anti-Money Laundering Service.

Vilnius chosen for office of game developer Lockwood Publishing from UK

UK's mobile game developer Lockwood Publishing has unveiled plans to open its first overseas office in Vilnius, pointing to the industry's talent in Lithuania and the wider region.

Association: municipalities should organize their work on their own

On 6 March, Latvian Association of Local and Regional Governments reviewed the letter sent to Riga City Council by Environment Protection and Regional Development Ministry, in which the institution ordered the municipality to review their internal order and lift restrictions on the length of debates and the number of questions deputies are allowed to ask.

Canada moves to increase gun control

Canada's federal federal government has proposed new gun control measures, but they could reduce support to the ruling Liberal Party in rural areas, where guns are widely owned and used.

Minister: EU should work on rules to make sure social networks cannot be manipulated

«European Union needs to react to the Facebook data scandal and develop strict regulations to make sure social networks cannot be used to manipulate people. Appropriate regulations are needed in the matter regarding political campaigns performed on social networks, which is gradually becoming a common occurrence nowadays,» says Latvian Foreign Affairs Minister Edgars Rinkēvičs.

Profits of Latvian State Roads increased by 8.6% last year

Turnover of Latvian State Roads reached EUR 14.529 million last year, which is 10.3% more when compared to 2016. The company’s profits increased by 8.6% - to EUR 59,485, according to the published interim financial report.

Slovak President casts doubt over impartiality of proposed government

In a continuation of the political crisis in Slovakia, Slovak President Andrej Kiska has not accepted a the newly proposed government deeming it possibly unable to supervise an impartial investigation of the two murders that have shaken the Eastern European nation.

France's ex-leader Sarkozy in custody over links with Libya

French ex-President Nicolas Sarkozy has been taken in custody on March 20 and was held in custody on Tuesday and interrogated amid an investigation into whether late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi added funds to his 2007 election campaign.

KVV Liepājas metalurgs’ steelworks bought out by Austrian Smart Stahl

The auction for the sale of the insolvent KVV Liepājas metalurgs rolling mill equipment concluded with the victory of Austrian Smart Stahl GmbH, as confirmed by insolvency administrator Guntars Koris.

Entomologist: at least 5% of ticks in Latvia are infected with encephalitis

There have been cases of tick activity during the winter period in Latvia this year. As air temperature increases, ticks become active and start popping up. This means residents should seriously consider vaccination to avoid getting encephalitis from tick bites, entomologists say.

Rail Baltica station’s construction at Riga airport will cost EUR 4.5 million

Creation of a separate railway station and related infrastructure at Riga International Airport as part of Rail Baltica project will cost EUR 4.5 million, says the project’s manager in Latvia and board member of European Railway Lines company Andris Linužs.

Norwegian minister steps down to keep minority government in power

In a move to avoid the collapse of the Norwegian minority government, its Justice Minister Sylvi Listhaug resigned amid a political storm she had caused by blaming an opposition party of not being harsh enough toward terrorism suspects.

Political party calls for immediate action to resolve «over-salted Riga» problem

Member of For Latvia’s Development political party’s Riga City Council faction Ansis Ansbergs urges the administration to find a quick solution to the excessive use of salt during the winter season because it has a negative impact on both human and animal health, as well as the state of buildings, cars and plant life in the capital.

MEP: fair competition should be secured for all European farmers

Sixteen members of the European Parliament from Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia and Poland submitted a joint proposal on Monday, 19 March, for a resolution regarding the future of the Common Agricultural Policy with a request to equalize the level of direct payments across all of Europe starting from 2021.

Estonia prison sentence upheld to Syrian man for causing burns to wife

In the Estonian criminal case, where a Syrian man has been convicted to 10 years in prison over causing corporal damage to his wife by setting her on fire, Estonian Supreme Court has rejected his appeal.

Olainfarm’s sales volume increased by 16% over the course of the year

Provisional consolidated data from Olainfarm for February 2018 shows that product sales volumes have reached EUR 10.69 million, which is 33% more when compared with the same period of 2017.

Minister: it is not impossible for banks to reduce number of risky clients to 5%

It is not impossible for Latvian banks to reduce the number of risky clients to 5%, says Finance Minister Dana Reizniece-Ozola.

Syrian Afrin left by 220 000 civilians, Turkish-supported rebels loot town

After seizing the northern Syrian town of Afrin from Kurdish militia, Syrian rebels supported by Turkey have been looting properties, journalists have reported. The town has been left by estimated 220 000 civilians.

Ministry orders Riga City Council to lift restrictions on questions

Latvia’s Environment Protection and Regional Development Ministry has asked Riga City Council to act and fix violations of democratic principles in the newly approved rules for deputies.

Observers of Russia election see lack of genuine choice, numerous irregularities

Official results of the Russian presidential election showed that Vladimir Putin received in a competition of eight candidates over 76% of votes and European observers have found the election has been conducted efficiently, but that there has been a lack of choice.

Olainfarm: tax law does not allow applying for tax discount in investment projects

Rushed changes to the Corporate Income Tax Law, approved as part of the expansive tax reform, do not allow businesses with prior permission from the government to apply for CIT discounts in investment projects to receive said discounts if their historic profits are not divided into dividends.

EU agrees to UK's transition period before Brexit

In a breakthrough in the Brexit talks, the UK gave its consent on Monday to an agreement with the European Union that a tangible border would not be established between British-ruled Northern Ireland and Ireland to have the bloc agree to retain most EU advantages for close to two years leaving the union.

Latvia experiences one of the most rapid export rises among EU member states in January

In January 2017, Latvia experienced one of the most rapid export increases among EU member states when compared to the same month of the previous year, according to data published by Eurostat on Monday, 19 March.

Russian citizens living in Latvia provided more support to Putin than citizens in Russia

During the presidential elections in Russia last week, support provided to President Vladimir Putin by Russian citizens living in Latvia turned out considerably larger than it was in Russia.

Every third illegally downloaded software programme – infected with a virus

Data compiled by International Data Corporation shows: every third illegally downloaded software programme is infected with malicious software. Nevertheless, 69% of consumers and 33% of businesses in Europe procure computers with software from unsafe sources.