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Tuesday 24.10.2017 | Name days: Renāte, Modrīte, Mudrīte
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BNN summary of the week: the dark side of construction and the level of state control over gas

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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; Business; Fight; Decline; Truth and Growth.

Change: Latvian state should take over Conexus Baltic Grid

Latvian state should buy the controlling package of shares in gas transmission and storage operator Conexus Baltic Grid, says Latvian MEP Krisjanis Karins.

He emphasizes that Latvia’s gas market was dominated for a long time by Latvijas gaze and Gazprom. This is why it should be viewed as an opportunity for Latvia to recover control over critical infrastructure – Incukalns gas storage facility and gas pipeline.

When asked if it is not enough for Conexus Baltic Grid’s largest shareholders to sell their shares in the company before the end of the year and the state has pre-purchase and veto rights, and that regulations already govern the function of Conexus Baltic Grid on the free market, Karins said no, emphasizing the importance of having a capable company contribute to the function of the free market and the creation of a unified Baltic market.

Full article here

Business: Five European companies agree to finance Nord Stream 2

Nord Stream 2 and five European energy companies have signed the project’s financing agreement and have shown their readiness to provide funding equal to 50% of the project’s total costs, as confirmed by the company.

Current estimates state the project’s costs may be around EUR 9.5 billion. Each European company participating in the project will invest EUR 950 million.

Although funding for Nord Stream 2 will be secured by Engie, OMV, Shell, Uniper and Wintershall, Gazprom will remain the only shareholder in the project, as stated in the company’s announcement.

Company representatives note that the readiness of European companies to finance the project is proof of Nord Stream 2 project’s strategic importance for Europe’s gas market. It will benefit competition and ensure long-term and medium-term energy security, especially considering the expected decline in gas production in Europe.

Full article here

Fight: Work safety at a construction field: problem, myth or unnecessary extra

The matter of work safety in construction remains a topical and complex matter. One of the examples is the construction process of Kekava primary school, in relation to which residents have voiced serious concerns for the safety of the people at work there. Construction firm Abora, meanwhile, says there is nothing to those rumours, and that those are merely «foolish words» coming from dissatisfied workers.

BNN decided to dig into this matter.

The second stage of the construction process of Kekava primary school commenced in January 2015. After all the necessary documents and technical specifications were prepared, a tendering process was announced for the third stage of the construction process.

Abora won the tender. This company was also responsible for the previous two stages of the construction process. The contract was signed by Kekava City Council Chairman Andis Damlics and Abora board member Juris Kravalis on 18 August 2015, according to information available on the website.

BNN has since acquired photos from Kekava residents, showing that workers at the construction field have insufficient equipment. On top of that, workers themselves have expressed serious concerns about their own safety when working there.

Full article here

Truth: Lembergs continues prolonging court process; prosecutors concerned

Aivars Lembergs’ criminal case remains in court for the ninth year. The past seven months have been spent solely on listening to Aivars Lembergs’ testimony. Prosecutors are concerned that the accused may be using his testimony to prolong the court process, as reported by Latvijas Radio about the state of the criminal case and prosecutors’ opinion of it.

Prosecutors have amended charges a little bit in the criminal case revolving around Aivars Lembergs. The accused believes prosecutors are the ones who have been delaying the court process for years. Prosecutors, on the other hand, say: «The court is not the party that breaches the established term. Aivars Lembergs is the one who breaches the term.»

Lembergs has noted on Twitter that prosecutors have softened the charges against him and part of the charges has been lifted completely. «Thereby charges have been left considerably flatter». Lembergs added that this is the third variant of the charges presented in the past nine years and that prosecutors have been delaying the case for years.

Full article here

Growth: number of Baltic tourists’ trips to USA increases

In the summer season, Baltic tourists prefer to travel by air to Asia and UAE. The most popular destinations reachable by land include Italy, Spain and Germany, according to information compiled by travel agency Estravel and car rent company Budget.

When picking their destinations, people from Baltic States most often prefer countries with a warm climate. «Thailand, UAE, Canary Islands and USA are all popular destinations. The summer season begins in May, when people mostly want to travel to Greece, Turkey and Spain,» says Estravel representative, adding that Baltic resident also often travel to neighbouring countries.

The choice of a destination depends on convenient flight routes and the overall safety level of the chosen destination. Estravel representative notes that the number of travel arrangements made to Egypt has declined. Instead, Baltic tourists more often decide to travel to United Arab Emirates.

International car rent company Budget reports that this year’s observations show that the most popular destinations reachable by land in Europe from Baltic States include Italy, Spain and Germany.

Full article here

Decline: Last year foreign travellers stayed in Latvia for longer, but spent less money

In 2016, foreign travellers crossed the border of Latvia 6.8 million times, which is 0.7 % less than during the previous year. Last year foreign travellers spent EUR 645.2 million in Latvia – EUR 97.0 million or 13.1 % less than in 2015.

In 2016, Latvia was visited by 1.8 million foreign overnight travellers (11.4 % less than in 2015), spending 12.3 % less and the expenditure amounting to EUR 474.4 million. Latvia was visited for the first time by 30.1 % of the foreign travellers. As compared to the previous year, the total number of nights spent increased by 7.6 %, reaching 8.8 million nights. Visitors stayed in Latvia for 4.9 days on average – 0.9 days more than in 2015, according to data from the Central Statistical Bureau of Latvia.

Compared to the previous year, there was an increase in the number of foreign overnight travellers from Poland – of 8.6 %, Lithuania – of 8.5 %, Germany – of 6.7 %, and the United Kingdom – of 4.8 %. In turn, there was a decrease in the number of foreign overnight travellers from Sweden – of 37.1 %, Belgium – of 34.6 %, the Czech Republic – of 23.4 %, Russia – of 20.3 %, and Estonia – of 7.0 %.

Full article here

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Pabriks: losing control over airBaltic would be a mistake for Latvia

«If attraction of an investor for Latvian’s national airline airBaltic results in full privatization of the company, Latvian state would make a strategic mistake,» says MEP Artis Pabriks.

Another person may be involved in NSL and ZZS illegal financing case

Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau’s launched criminal process regarding possible illegal financing of parties To Latvia from the Heart and Union of Greens and Farmers has identified another involved person.

Mortality from strokes in Latvia may grow significantly in the near future

To raise awareness of the dramatic situation with strokes in Latvia and motivate decision-makers into improving stroke prevention measures and treatment and increasing funding for this area, cardiologists and neurologists invite officials to come to a discussion.

Pavļuts: party unions would be welcome, but not for politically technical reasons

In preparation for Saeima elections, unions should be considered by parties that have similar goals, not politically technical considerations, said Kustība Par leader Daniels Pavļuts in an interview to Rīta panorama programme.

Minister: changes in Russian schools needed for formation of unified political nation

Latvia requires a unified political nation, which is impossible to achieve living in different education spaces. With that, it is only natural for the process to progress towards our youth studying together, Latvian Education Minister Kārlis Šadurskis told Rīta panorama programme about the intended education reforms in Russian-speaking schools.

Czech election won by party of police-sought billionaire Babiš

In the parliamentary election of the Czech Republic, which took place over the weekend, centrist party ANO has won. It is chaired by billionaire Andrej Babiš, who has been stripped of the immunity of a member of parliament over suspected wrongdoing in attracting European Union farming subsidies.

Rīgas satiksme limits competition; agreements prevent ‘others’ from entering the market

Competition Council believes Rīgas satiksme’s contracts with private companies limit competition, because they prevent other players from entering the market, as reported by De Facto programme of LTV.

Weather will be clear and dry in Latvia at first; set to change in second half of the week

On Monday and Tuesday weather will be dictated by increased atmospheric pressure – weather will remain clear and dry. Wind will draw in from the east and south-east, which will be strong along the coast in Kurzeme, as reported by Environment, Geology and Meteorology Centre.

Spain denies effort to strip Catalonia of autonomy amount to coup

The Foreign Minister of Spain, Alfonso Dastis, has dismissed claims that the effort of the central government to introduce direct rule in the separatist region of Catalonia can be considered as a coup d'état as it is seen in Barcelona.

TM: the ministry is open for a full disposal of state-owned airBaltic shares

Latvian Transport Ministry is currently engaged in reviewing specific offers for attraction of investors for airBaltic. A full privatization of the company is not out of the question, says the ministry’s state secretary Kaspars Ozoliņš.

Week in Lithuania. Election watchdog’s decision puts budget grants for Liberals in question

A total of 45,336 euros in the costs of the training organised by an Institute of Applied Politics owned by Sarunas Gustainis, a former MP and former member of the Liberal Movement, for the party should be recognised as non-monetary contribution, says a task force established by the Lithuanian Central Electoral Commission.

BNN summary of the week: birth and death rates in Latvia turn out shocking. Gambling halls to close down

BNN offers a summary of this week’s topical news in a variety of categories: Fight; Truth; Business; Future.

Professor: by taking money away from science, the state shoots itself in the foot

The matter regarding insufficient funding for science has recently become more topical in the public space. President of Latvian Academy of Sciences Ojārs Spārītis is rather critical of the situation: Latvia has lied to the European Union and European Commission about making sure that funding for science reaches 1.5% of GDP by 2020.

To prevent fraud, audit of MPC recipients to be performed in Latvia

Latvian Economy Ministry intends to perform an audit of mandatory procurement component recipients and use new regulations to combat fraudulent activities, as confirmed by Economy Minister Arvils Ašeradens.

Rail Baltic procurements to be processed using Electronic Procurements System

Following the changes to Latvian Republic’s Public Procurements Law, all new procurements for Rail Baltica administered by RB RAIL will be processed using a free electronic information system and its e-contest subsystem.

Estonian construction price index pushed up by wages

The construction price index in Estonia has in July-September of 2017 increased by 0.9% in comparison to second quarter this year and by 1.7% from July-September of 2016, Estonian statisticians have estimated.

Surplus of Latvia’s government budget reached 9.5 million euros in 2016

In 2016 general government budget surplus accounted for EUR 9.5 million or 0.04 % of the Gross Domestic Product, whereas general government consolidated gross debt amounted to EUR 10 091.6 million or 40.6 % of the GDP.

Latvia to invest EUR 5.9 million into formation of unified port network

Ports of Riga planning region and Kurzeme planning region have commenced an important tourism project. The goal of this project is creating a unified yacht port network in Latvia and Estonia with quality services that would allow developing sailing tourism and attract foreign sailing enthusiasts in the future, reports the regions’ representative Inese Ozoliņa.

Graft-suspected Tartu deputy mayors resign

In Estonia's second largest city, Tartu, Deputy Mayors Artjom Suvorov and Valvo Semilarski have stepped down from office, Estonian press reported, after the politicians were arrested under suspicion of graft.

Expert: workers of Latvia’s NGO sector have high ‘burnout’ risk

Workers of Latvia’s NGO sector have a high burnout risk, said once the director of Providus Dace Akule in an interview to Latvijas Radio.

Producer: many young people come to work in the film industry

Latvia’s film industry has been steadily growing these past several years, and it is especially gratifying that many young people are coming to work in the industry, says director and producer, representative of Film Angels Productions Jānis Kalējs.

Pollution blamed for every sixth premature death globally

Nine million premature deaths globally in 2015 are said to be related to pollution, a study has found pointing to presence of harmful matter in air, water and workplace as the three main risk factors.

Infectologist: influenza kills biologically the weakest, including children and pregnant women

Influenza is an infection that affects both children and adults. However, it kills those who are biologically weak, says Immunization State Council chairperson and infectologist of Children’s Vaccination Centre Dace Zavadska.

Investor activity made easier between Latvia and Vietnam

An intergovernmental agreement has been signed between the Republic of Latvia and Socialist Republic of Vietnam on prevention of double taxation and tax avoidance in relation to income tax.

Colder masses of air to enter Latvia in coming days; precipitation to be limited

Although high atmospheric pressure will be present above Latvia in the coming days, southern regions in Latvia will experience short-term precipitation on Saturday, 12 October, caused by the cyclone active above Poland. Colder masses of air will enter Latvia in the coming days.