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Sunday 18.03.2018 | Name days: Ilona, Adelīna

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.»

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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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Remembrance day of Latvian Legionnaires passes with shouts and two arrests

The Legionnaires’ remembrance procession in Riga on Friday, 16 March, passed peacefully. Nevertheless, several conflicts did take place among differently-minded people near the Freedom Monument. Two individuals were arrested by police.

Influenza intensity in Latvia – moderate when compared to other European nations

A comparison of influenza activity in Europe shows that it is high or very high in several countries. Latvia’s influenza intensity is considered moderate, as noted by epidemiologist Raina Nikiforova.

Hourly labour costs in Latvia grew 7.3% in 2017

Compared to Q4 2016, in Q4 2017 hourly labour costs rose by 54 cents or 7.3 %, reaching EUR 8.02. Seasonally adjusted data show identical changes – rise of 7.3 %.

Rietumu Banka claims it has not worked with high-risk clients for years

Rietumu Banka has been steadily rejecting high-risk clients for years and has significantly reduced the volume of transactions, as mentioned by the bank’s representatives.

Lithuanian and Estonian businessmen are ahead of Latvia in terms of investments

In Latvia, 36% of small and medium-sized companies have plans to invest in the development of their business this year. In Estonia and Lithuania, on the other hand, the proportion of businesses with development plans is 42% and 46%, respectively, according to results of a recent study performed by SEB Bank.

Russia pledges maximum pressure on UK amid ex-spy poisoning row

Russian top diplomat in the UK has envisaged on Friday, March 16, that the Kremlin would use maximum pressure on London as Moscow insists it has not been involved in the poisoning of a former Russian-British double agent with a Russian-made chemical weapon, as has been found by British investigators.

Latvia’s ministry: Crimea’s annexation is illegal

18 March 2018 will mark four years since the Russian Federation violated Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity by annexing the Crimean Peninsula and causing military aggression in the country’s eastern region. With its actions the Russian Federation has violated international law and basic principles of international relation, says Latvia’s Foreign Affairs Ministry.

Building gas pipe to Finland, Estonia to organise works for EUR 135 million

Continuing the works on the Balticconnector gas pipeline between Estonia and Finland, the Estonian natural gas network company Elering has stated that around 135 million euros, including a 98-million-euro funding from the European Union, will be invested in the project.

Replacement of cash registers rejected by SRS would cost half a million euros

The State Revenue Service has declined 18,000 cash registers as unfitting for requirements established by the Cabinet of Ministers. Fixing the problems found in them would cost half a million euros, as reported by LNT News.

Latvian Anti-Nazi Committee presented with protest restrictions on 16 March

Administrative District Court has compiled a shortened ruling, in which it rejected Latvian Anti-Nazi Committee’s application and preserved the decision imposed by Riga City acting CEO on 13 March 2018 on establishing restrictions on the planned gathering and protest act for 16 March unchanged.

U.S. introduces Russian sanctions for election meddling and cyber-attacks

Washington has introduced sanctions against 19 Russian individuals and five entities blaming them for attempts to sway the 2016 U.S. election and perceived cyber-attacks.

Slovakian PM Fico replaced with fellow party member

Slovakian head of government Robert Fico has stepped down after the murder of a journalist shed light on corruption in Slovakia, prompting nationwide protests. The long-standing Prime Minister had offered to resign earlier this week if the ruling coalition was allowed to finish its term.

Weekends will be cold and sunny in Latvia; next week will have volatile weather

Starting with Sunday, 18 March, air temperature in Latvia will rise above zero in most of the country, as reported by State Environment, Geology and Meteorology Centre.

Lithuania’s ruling LFGU party remains unscathed by scandals

It seems that, for now, Lithuania‘s ruling Farmers and Green Union has been nearly damage-proof despite the lambasting.

Latvian Civic Alliance: non-government sector should aim towards cooperation

Latvian Civic Alliance has invited the management of Latvia’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry to meet to discuss ongoing cooperation between organizations representing the business sector and the NGO sector.

Saeima rejects National Alliance’s proposal to make 16 March an official remembrance day

Latvia’s Saeima has decided to reject the proposal submitted by the National Alliance on making 16 March an official remembrance day.

43.6% of Latvian households have difficulties with making ends meet

In 2017 the share of households admitting that pay for usual necessary expenses with difficulty or great difficulty constituted 43.6 %, which is 1.5 percentage points more than in 2016.

Saeima voices support for Rail Baltica project’s progression

On Thursday, 15 March, the Saeima made a decision to support Rail Baltica project’s progression. In its decision, the parliament invited Latvia’s Cabinet of Ministers to provide all the necessary support for the project’s successful realization to ensure the project is realized in accordance with established terms and does not lose funding or support from the European Union, as reported by Saeima’s press-service.

Fast snow shovelling linked to cardiac fatalities, Finnish study finds

In Finish doctoral study, it has been concluded that snow should be shovelled calmly, not provoking stress and increased adrenaline in human blood that could lead to cardiac arrest.

Riga’s mayor spent at least eight million euros of residents’ money to promote himself

Over the course of the past three years, at least EUR 8 million of residents’ money has been used to promote the image of the Mayor of Riga Nils Ušakovs. This money was used to buy media, employ young members of Harmony, and finance ‘in-house protestors’ and using social networks, as estimated by Re:Baltica research journalism center.

Slovenia's head of government resigns amid protests and struggling railway investment

The Slovenian head of government Miro Cerar has stepped down from office in reaction to troubles with an expensive railway project and mounting opposition by trade unions.

NAF Commander: Latvia and Estonia have joint military procurements planned

Latvia and Estonia have joint military procurements planned, Commander of Latvia’s National Armed Forces Leonīds Kalniņš told journalists after his meeting with Commander of Estonia’s Defence Forces Riho Terras.

Estonia's switch to free higher education proved right choice, says Ratas

The switch to free higher education made by Estonia in 2013 has proved to be the right choice for a small country, even though critics have pointed to potentially less motivated students, has stated the Estonian Prime Minister Jüri Ratas.

President: we will not give away our scientists’ ideas for free

It is necessary to concentrate all resources on research performed by Latvian scientists with patent potential. This will help secure returns for Latvia’s national economy, said President of Latvia Raimonds Vējonis during his meeting with rector of Riga Technical University Artūrs Zeps.

Members of the European Parliament propose avoiding «trade wars»

MEPs emphasized in debates regarding the trade restrictions imposed by USA that European Union should not get involved in a trade war, and be ready to protect its citizens, as BNN was told by EP Information office in Latvia.

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