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Ceturtdiena 14.12.2017 | Name days: Gaisma, Auseklis
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BNN summary of the week: Vējoņis’ authority under fire and Loginovs ordered to repay illegal donations

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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; Truth; Business; Future; Growth and Opinion.

BUSINESS: CETA between EU and Canada comes into force

On Thursday, 21 September, the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement between the European Union and Canada came into force, as confirmed by European Commission’s r press service in Latvia.

Expressing his happiness over this important turn for Europe’s trade policy, European Commission’s chairman Jean-Claude Juncker said: «This agreement reflects what we want to see for our trade policy – a growth instrument that will benefit Europe’s businesses and residents and provide finances that will help project our values using opportunities provided by globalization, as well as define rules for international trade. This trade agreement has been reviewed in depth in parliaments of different countries – it reflects citizens’ great interest for trade policy.»

Juncker also notes that intensive exchange of opinions about CETA throughout the entire process demonstrates the democratic nature of Europe’s decision-making process.

European Commission’s office in Latvia reports that Juncker hopes that member states will perform comprehensive discussions about the agreement’s ratification process in member states. «Now is the time for our businesses and residents to benefit the most from this opportunity. Anyone can see that our trade policy can provide specific benefits for all.»

More here

FIGHT: Delna invites Saeima to support initiative to liquidate option to abstain from votes

Society for openness Delna invites Saeima deputies to support public initiative and liquidate the option for deputies to abstain from votes.

On Monday, 18 September, Saeima received an initiative that gathered more than 11,000 signatures, asking to liquidate the option to abstain from voting for members of the parliament. Delna asks Saeima to support the initiative and thereby increase both the openness and responsibility of deputies, as well as general trust towards the Saeima.

The organization’s announcement mentions that Delna expects their elected deputies to be active and responsible, and that they will be able to find their way in specific matters and explain their decisions clearly and publicly. «By abstaining from votes, deputies demonstrate their passiveness and having to make explanations. This kind of behaviour only increases the general distrust towards politicians.»

Delna representatives also note that the option to abstain misleads society into thinking that being present at a parliamentary meeting without a clear position on a specific matter is normal. «In practice, deputies use the option to abstain fairly regularly. One of the goals behind doing so is making sure the parliament votes against. The Saeima approves its decisions when 50% +1 of the parliament’s members vote in favour. With that said, there are also situations possible when there are more votes in favour than there are against, but the matter of the vote ends up declined because votes against and abstain together make up more than votes in favour. This means deputies who abstain from voting basically vote against.»

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DECLINE: KNAB commences criminal process in state institution’s service

Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau has commenced a criminal process for, possibly, illegal activities in a state institution service.

KNAB and State Border Guard had detained employees of the State Education Content Centre as part of a criminal process. Those employees are suspected of providing desired state language category to persons in exchange for material wealth an in circumvention of the order stated in regulations, as reported by the bureau.

Such behaviour provided third country nationals with an opportunity to receive legal rights to stay in Latvia and other EU member states.

Five persons are declared suspects and ten have been provided with status of a person under criminal process.

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TRUTH: Judins says parliamentary committee «is going nowhere»

The work performed by Saeima’s investigative committee in charge of oligarch case does not fit the established goal to investigate and analyse possible state capture, says member of the committee and Unity’s Saeima faction Andrejs Judins.

He admits that the committee is divided: one side has him and deputy Ritvars Jansons from the National Alliance and the rest of the committee is on the other side.

The majority of members do not understand their primary goal – investigating and analysing signs of state capture, because they think it is enough to listen to presentations and close meetings without discussions, says Judins. This is why the politician is positive that his public proposal for discussions has been heard by the committee’s chairperson Inguna Sudraba and that she has decided to hold a discussion on conclusions made so far at the next meeting.

The politician notes that some members are completely disinterested in committee’s work. Judins says he does not understand how it is possible to work if a member of the committee does not take the time to go to the Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau to go through materials of the case the committee has been tasked with analysing. Parliamentary committee’s member Igors Pimenovs was asked if he gone through materials of the criminal process. Pimenovs responded by saying that he first wishes to focus on documents from the operative case.

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GROWTH: Court orders Loginovs and Pečaks to pay back illegally spent finances

Riga Regional Court has ordered former Riga Freeport CEO Leonids Loginovs and his deputy Aigars Pečaks to repay illegally spent finances in the amount of EUR 856,951.

On Tuesday, 18 September, Riga Regional Court applied a fine of EUR 45,600 to Loginovs and EUR 34,200 to Pečaks for abuse of official power.

Loginovs also has to pay back EUR 207,856 from illegally spend finances, and Pečaks has to pay back EUR 378,750. On top of that, the two have to pay back an additional amount of EUR 270,345 together.

Loginovs is also prohibited from taking post in state and municipal institutions and capital associations for a period of three years and six months. The same restriction has been applied to Pečaks for two years and eight months.

On 15 May, an appeal process was launched for this criminal case. Following a request from the prosecutor, court debates have been scheduled for September.

The prosecutor was the one who submitted an appeal in this case. Riga City Northern District Court acquitted Loginovs and Pečaks.

The court’s ruling can be appealed within ten days after publication of the full text, which is planned for 3 October.

The criminal case against Loginovs and Pečaks was launched for abuse of official power, performing illegal donations and paying bonuses. The accused deny their guilt in the incriminated crimes.

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FUTURE: Ozoliņš says transit and logistics industries should communicate more actively

Mutual communication and information exchange among businesses working in the industry is the pre-condition for improvement of Latvia’s transit industry, said Transport Ministry’s state secretary Kaspars Ozoliņš at a meeting of the Logistics Council.

The Logistics Council discussed the situation in the transit and logistics industry, as well as predictions and proposals for improving competitiveness.

Council members (Latvian Post, Riga International Airport, Ventspils Freeport, Transit Business Association, Liepaja Special Economic Zone, Latvian Auto, Baltic Association – Transport and Logistics, Riga Freeport and LDz Logistics) provided topical information about the situation in different businesses, work and plans for attraction of cargoes and different problematic matters and external influence.

It is emphasized that the situation in which Russian cargoes – mostly coal and oil products – have a tendency to decline has to be taken into account. This forces businesses to concentrate their efforts on alternative cargo segments and new markets.

It was noted at the meeting that there is a number of positive tendencies forming for the increase of container and Ro-Ro cargoes at ports, as well as development of cargo transports in aviation and e-commerce cargoes’ growth passing through Latvian Post in transit.

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OPINION: Politologist comments whether Vējoņis’ authority is at risk or not

Saeima’s vote in which Latvian President Raimonds Vējoņis’ proposal on the status of non-citizens’ children was not pushed forward was as though a strike against the president’s authority, comments Filips Rajevskis.

The politologist added that it is not worth to look for winners in this vote, because the coalition and opposition are in the roles of losers in this case. The president is the biggest loser in this case, however. As an experienced politician, he should have known better than to push this matter through the Saeima. The claim that Vējoņis only had an interest in merely raising this issue and then allowing it to disappear after one vote is questionable.

«Such a legislative draft would require a referendum, but it is unlikely Vējoņis will be brave enough to initiate it,» Rajevskis says.

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Turkey and 56 other countries recognise East Jerusalem as capital of Palestine

In a summit of the Organisation of Islamic Co-operation, held in reaction to Washington’s decision to recognise the city of Jerusalem as only the capital of Israel, Turkey and 56 other Muslim countries have called on the rest of the world to recognise «the State of Palestine and East Jerusalem as its occupied capital».

Ventspils City Council opposition member sees possibility of working with Unity

«If Unity is interested, and wants to come back to the values it once had, we may consider working with this party. My knowledge and experience from the past 5-6 years may be useful in restarting political cooperation and restoration of lost influence,» said Ventpils City Council opposition member Ģirts Valdis Kristovskis.

FM mentions progress in combating grey economy; prime minister expects more

Latvia will continue combating grey economy in construction field and fight envelope wages, said Latvian Finance Minister Dana Reizniece-Ozola during the ministry’s Taxpayer Forum 2017 organized by the ministry on Wednesday, 13 December.

EP agrees to EU moving on to phase II of Brexit talks

Members of the European Parliament have overwhelmingly supported what has been negotiated upon in the joint EU-UK progress report in Brexit talks and have recommended Brussels to move on to phase two negotiations on the future relations of the parties.

Businessmen share stories: ‘surviving’ and taking risks in Latvia when starting a business

The silent period – the time for Christmas wishes – has begun. Snow covers Tukums, and the city slowly becomes white. Everything is quiet at Pils ielā. The phone rings, interrupting a quiet moment of watching snowflakes fall under the light of a lantern. «You’re here for us, aren’t you?» BNN goes to interview manager of Merci Cafe Anija Rabkeviča (23) and cafe’s founder Rinalds Pluģis (22). They tell about their experience of ‘surviving’ in Latvia.

BATL: Transport Ministry plans to increase burden on taxpayers’ shoulders

Latvian Transport Ministry’s developed development plan for the transit industry, which was presented to Saeima’s National Economy Committee this week, states that raising competitiveness in the country requires subsidizing railway cargo transports.

Croat soldier dies in Lithuania barracks

A soldier from the Croat contingent in Lithuania, who served in the Rukla military town as part of NATO international forces, has passed away.

LMP President: proposal for LMT and Lattelecom merge was only politically discussed

Only political discussions were held proposal on the merge between Latvijas Mobilais Telefons and Lattelecom, and it is good that this matter has been taken off the agenda, said LMT President Juris Binde in an interview to Rīta Panorāma programme of LNT.

Survey: 55% of employed people are not paid for overtime

More than half of employed people work overtime. On top of that, 55% of them are not paid for working overtime and 45% are paid, according to results of a survey performed by CV Market.

Estonian military receives anti-tank missiles, bought with U.S. funding

The Estonian military has acquired another lot of missiles for the American-made man-portable Javelin antitank system bought with U.S. money allocated for supporting European defence measures.

Tallinners can claim millions for overpriced water, says competition watchdog

In the Estonian capital, the result of a legal dispute between water utility company Tallinna Vesi and the Estonian Competition Authority is that consumers are considered to be able to claim tens of millions of euros in compensation for overcharged water tariffs that have been in place for a number of years.

Latvian Association of Regions decides against working with For Latvia’s Development political party

It was decided at a meeting of representatives of Latvian Association of Regions (LAR) that the party will not work with For Latvia’s Development. The party has also decided to start in 13th Saeima elections with its own list of candidates.

Italy in state of emergency after fire at Austria gas hub

Italy has declared a state of emergency in its natural gas sector as a large explosion at a major natural gas hub in Austria killed one person, injured at least 18 and is prone to affect supplies in central Europe.

LEC: more expensive MPC is a serious burden for international competition

«To maintain GDP growth rate, the government should address priority matters like prevention of mandatory procurement component costs and electricity price rise to reduce costs for both businesses and residents. It is very important for employers to have the energy policy closely tied with production, because processing industry is the main driving force behind development of Latvia’s national economy,» says Latvian Employers’ Confederation (LEC) Director General Līga Meņģelsone.

Pilots of Ryanair expected to strike prior to Christmas

The clients of Irish low-fare airline Ryanair will face inconvenience before Christmas as pilots and crew announced industrial action seeking to achieve union recognition and better conditions in the company, which is criticised by unions that it fails to offer pilots the same pay and conditions as its rivals.

Corruption in public sector remains a major problem in Latvia

Money laundering activities and grey economy are in decline in Latvia. However, corruption in the country’s public sector and smuggling activities remain serious problems for the national economy, as noted in the report on unaudited economy, corruption in the public sector and money laundering activities in Latvia published by Latvian Chamber for Commerce and Industry on Tuesday, 12 December.

Saakashvili released from detention in Ukraine

Former Georgian President, now opposition activist in Ukraine, Mikheil Saakashvili, has been released from arrest by a judge, who denied a request from prosecutors to subject him to house arrest, but the case against him continues.

Justice Minister: Latvia will continue supporting Macedonia’s judicial sector

Latvia’s Justice Minister Dzintars Rasnačs has met with his Macedonian colleague Bilen Saliji, who arrived in Latvia to sign the Memorandum for Cooperation between Latvian Justice Ministry and Macedonian Justice Ministry.

Survey: 65% of Latvian travellers avoid regions at risk of terrorist attacks

The majority or 65% of Latvian respondents mentioned that whenever they make travel arrangements, they try to avoid regions in which there is a high probability of terrorist attacks or natural catastrophes, according to the latest Latvia Tours Travel Index.

Ex-Interior Ministry’s state secretary offered becoming a candidate to manage Eastern Hospital

The only offer extended to the now former state secretary of Latvia’s Interior Affairs Ministry Ilze Pētersone-Godmane to help her stay in state administration was the offer to become a candidate for the most of head of Riga Eastern Clinical University Hospital, as reported by Latvijas Avīze.

Ministry’s parliamentary secretary emphasizes EU’s unity in the Middle East process

«Latvia continues supporting the solution that can be achieved through direct talks between Israel and Palestine with compliance of interests of both sides and making Jerusalem the capital of both countries. The European Union has to remain a reliable partner for Israel and Palestine. We have to continue the open dialogue with both sides and ensure EU’s unity in the Middle East peace process,» says Latvian Foreign Affairs Ministry’s parliamentary secretary Zanda Kalniņa-Lukaševica.

Estonian entrepreneur in Russia convicted to 12 years in prison

A court in Russia has convicted an Estonian aviation technology entrepreneur to a 12-year prison term in a high-security prison, Russian media report.

Countryside tourism may be threatened by unfair competition

Countryside tourism businesses are threatened by unfair competition and growing bureaucracy, as emphasized by Latvian Countryside Tourism Association Lauku ceļotājs after discussing this season’s results at four regional business seminars.

Estonia fights marginalisation pushing for relocation of 13 institutions to regions

As Estonia seeks to relocate part of government agencies out of the capital Tallinn, Estonian government ministers have been reminded that by the middle of January an action plan is required from them on the relocation of the central offices of 13 Estonian state institutions.

Finance Ministry: exports of goods reached a new record in October

The volume of exports continued growing in November, reaching EUR 1,070,600 at the end of the month and setting a new record for exports for one month’s time. This export index is the highest in the history of statistical records in Latvia, Finance Ministry stated in its report, commenting on data from the Central Statistical Bureau.

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