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Friday 22.06.2018 | Name days: Ludmila, Laimdots, Laimiņš
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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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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.

EU imposes tariffs on blue jeans, motorcycles and other U.S. export goods

The European Union will introduce retaliatory tariffs against U.S. exports on Friday, EU Trade Commissioner has stated a top official has stated in the bloc's reaction to Washington imposing steep duties on steel and aluminium earlier in June.

Latvia’s Saeima proposes improving job-combining rules for state officials

On Wednesday, 20 June, Latvian parliament’s Public Administration and Local Government Committee decided to submit for review amendments to the Law on Prevention of Conflict of Interest in Activities of Public Officials.

Ukraine's anti-corruption court law insufficient to IMF commitments

The International Monetary Fund has commended the Ukrainian parliament for passing a law to establish an anti-corruption court and pointed to need to amend it to ensure the court can work effectively.

Opinion: they’re trying to shut us up; KPV LV is inconvenient for current government

«We are inconvenient for the current government, the established order, because for the first time a party is prepared to use facts in its rhetoric in the pre-election period. They are trying to shut us up,» said KPV LV prime minister candidate Aldis Gobzems at a press-conference after Artuss Kaimiņš was taken away by Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau.