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Monday 25.06.2018 | Name days: Maiga, Milija
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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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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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