bnn.lv Latviski   bnn-news.com English   bnn-news.ru По-русски
Wednesday 20.06.2018 | Name days: Rasa, Rasma, Maira
LatviaLatvia

Candle-lit supper and hunting afterwards send ripples across the border

FaceBook
Twitter
Draugiem
print
(+1 rating, 1 votes)

Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RU

Linas Jegelevičius for the BNN

A hunting trip involving Latvian and Lithuanian agriculture ministers threatens to temporarily sour the neighbours’ relations, but Lithuanian Parliament speaker Loreta Graužinienė hopes that it will not be the case. The Seimas chairwoman chalks the ruckus up to the nearing parliamentary election in Lithuania.

Relations will not be strained

«I believe it will not strain our bilateral relations. You know it all happens, but I hope all of it will be cleared. I think the ministers will meet again, and not in one format. I mean they will meet when there is necessity in the European Union to defend one or another position (we both have). We see both Latvian and Estonian politicians coordinating their positions,» the Seimas spokeswoman said in a radio interview.

In her words, the ruckus following the hunting has been ballooned «out of proportion» because of the looming parliamentary election in Lithuania on October 8.

In the wake of the headlines-grabbing revelation, Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaitė has said she was unsatisfied with the Lithuanian Agriculture minister Virginija Baltraitiene’s explanations about the trip and emphasised that it, attended by Latvian Agriculture minister Jānis Dūklavs, has caused diplomatic tensions with Latvia.

To remind, the cross-border hoopla stems from a candle-lit supper followed with a hunting trip – all in the Panevėžys region in north-eastern Lithuania. Among the invitees were not only both countries’ agriculture ministers, but also honchos of Lithuania’s meat processing enterprises. Notably, Jonas Milius, the embattled chief of Lithuania’s veterinary service, was also present at the posh dinner and the hunting trip afterwards.

Milius is fighting document forgery and abuse of power charges stemming from the allegations that he has closed eyes to the sales of bacteria-infested foods produced by Judex Company after MP Petras Gražulis, who has a stake in the business, approached Miliuswith the request not to ring alarm bells over the bacteriological findings in the products.

Both PM Algirdas Butkevičius and President Dalia Grybauskaitė have asked Milius to step down but he refused. Moreover, Baltraitienė, the minister, who supervises the Milius-led governmental agency, also chastised Milius before joining him on the hunting trip.

A public apology

On Monday, August 29, Baltraitiene made a public apology to her Latvian counterpart, Jānis Dūklavs, over the situation in connection to the recent dinner and hunting activity in Lithuania.

Citing «paranoic fears» and «search for pokemons» in Lithuania, she chalked the brouhaha to the nearing Seimas elections.

Baltraitienė and Dūklavs have given conflicting account of their dinner. The Lithuanian minister claimed that the businessmen were invited by Dūklavs, who denies it. There is also no clarity as of now to who paid for the party. The Lithuanian Agriculture Ministry said it had received no bills.

Baltraitiene hinted that the supper could have cost around 300 euros.

«Somewhere in the range. We were served among other dishes zeppelins. Some had one of them while others a couple of them,» she told Lithuanian media.

A single hog was hunted down during the hunting trip, Lithuanian media reported.

In the wake of the revelation, Dūklavs told LETA, a Latvian news agency, that he had been invited to dinner and hunting by Lithuanian Agriculture Minister Virginija Baltraitienė and was not aware  that some  meat sector big names had also been invited to it. He explained that when people receive an invitation to dinner they usually do not ask the host who else will attend it.

Dūklavs reasoned that the dinner and hunting trip in Lithuania had been paid for by Baltraitienė’s husband. This was what he had heard from some sources. But the Lithuanian minister claims it is not true.

«Let the Lithuanian side to say it. It is their opportunity to tell everything — who paid for what and how much,» the Latvian minister said.

Speaking to BNS, Latvian Prime Minister Maris Kucinskis (Greens/Farmers) told the agency that he believes that Agriculture Minister and fellow party member Jānis Dūklavs’ conduct was appropriate as far as his behaviour on his recent trip to Lithuania was concerned. The premier said he had no reason whatsoever not to believe Dūklavs’ explanation and claim any violations on the minister’s part.

«The issue of the ministers’ meeting was a bit exaggerated,» the Latvian PM said.

Minister in hot water

Meanwhile on the other side of the border the hunting story has spurred Lithuania’s Chief Official Ethics Commission to open an inquiry into the possible conflict of interests of Minister Virginija Baltraitienė and chief veterinary officer Jonas Milius.

«We have decided to open an inquiry into the conduct of Minister Virginija Baltraitienė and Chief of the (State Food and) Veterinary Service Jonas Milius amid the public doubts that they could have confused interests by going to an informal meeting, which was, according to the press, a hunt. Members of the commission have questions in connection to participants, financing, etc.,» the commission’s chairman Romas Valentukevičius told BNS Lithuania on Wednesday, August 31.

The inquiry was opened after Baltraitienė turned to the commission. She said she wanted «to clear all doubts about possible conflict of interests during the Latvian delegation’s official visit in Lithuania.» The commission decided to expand the probe to include Milius’ role. The panel has three months for the decision, however, noted would probably reach a conclusion faster.

In Valentukevičius’ words, both the minister and the chief veterinary officer would be summoned to the panel’s meeting, with plans to talk to other participants of the dinner and hunt, except for Latvia’s Agriculture Minister Jānis Dūklavs.

PM wants to see what ethics watchdogs say

Meanwhile, Lithuania’s Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevičius says he will wait for conclusions from the Chief Official Ethics Commission as to whether Minister Virginija Baltraitiene did not confuse interests by attending a dinner and hunting activity.

«When it comes to the minister of agriculture, I call upon the Chief Official Ethics Commission to draw its conclusion as soon as possible so that I could receive it and plan my steps,» Butkevičius told journalists at the government on Monday, August 29.

PM said he had asked Baltraitienė for two things – first, to turn to the ethics watchdogs over the dinner story and, second, hold a news conference to «publicly address the doubts.» He said he listened to the live broadcast of the conference but did not specify whether his doubts had been dispelled.

Butkevičius did not comment on whether he considered Baltraitienė suitable for the post, adding that decisions about chief veterinary officer Jonas Milius would be made after hearing his report by September 7 at the latest.

Ref: 020/111.111.111.4045


Leave a reply

Doctors unjustifiably charged fees for services worth 255,000 last year

Last year, authorities found that medical institutions that provide state budget-financed healthcare services had charged fees for services worth EUR 254,994, according to data compiled by Health Inspectorate.

Budget Committee picks Swedbank economist for Bank of Latvia Council

On Tuesday, 19 June, Saeima’s Budget and Finance Committee unanimously decided to submit to the Saeima a decision project regarding approval of Mārtiņš Kazāks for the post of member of the council of the Bank of Latvia, as confirmed by Saeima’s press-service.

Farmers Saeima proposes declaring state of emergency in Latvia’s agriculture sector

Farmers Saeima association has sent a letter to Latvia’s State Chancellery, Agriculture Ministry, Finance Ministry and Latvian Association of Local and Regional Governments, detailing a request addressed to the Cabinet of Ministers and Saeima to declare a state of emergency in the country’s agriculture sector because of the lasting drought.

IT specialist’s lawyers appeal client's arrest in recent restaurant case

Lawyers of Edgars Štrombergs, who is the accused party in the Vairāk saules restaurant cash register data manipulation case, have appealed the security measure applied to him, as confirmed by sworn attorney Mareks Halturins.

Russian and Belarusian arms control experts hosted by Lithuania

Russian and Belarusian arms control inspectors have been hosted by Lithuania as NATO forces trained across the Baltic states and Poland in exercise Saber Strike 2018.

Latvia’s ports suffer freight volume decline in first five months of 2018

Latvian ports handled 27.072 million tonnes of freight in the first five months of this year, which is 7.5% less when compared to the same period of last year, according to data compiled by Transport Ministry.

Bicycle rickshaws in Tallinn will need safety belts from July

Seeking to regulate the provision of bicycle rickshaw services in the Estonian capital, the Tallinn City Council has is to more particular bicycle rickshaw regulations that would align the services closer to car taxis.

158 election sites to open in Riga during next Saeima elections

A total of 158 election sites are planned to be opened in Riga for this autumn’s Saeima elections, as confirmed by documents prepared by Riga City Council.

30% of Latvian residents are dissatisfied with their family’s financial state

Residents’ overall mood has declined considerably across all survey positions. Residents have become the most negative about Latvia’s economic situation – 31% of them believe it has worsened. When asked to voice their outlooks for Latvia’s economy in a year from now, 17% of respondents said it will have improved, according to results of Baltic International Bank’s latest Latvian Barometer.

Apple fined 5 million euros for customer rights violations in Australia

A court in Australia has ruled that U.S. tech firm Apple has to pay a fine of 5.7 million euros refusing to repair iPhones and iPads that had been serviced by third parties as those actions breached consumer law.

Latvian coalition still torn about attracting highly-qualified guest workers

Because of differences in opinions among ministries, Latvia’s government is unlikely to support and view the proposal to ease the issue of EU blue card to highly-qualified guest workers without appropriate higher education, says Prime Minister Māris Kučinskis.

Corruption watchdog requests criminal prosecution of Bank of Latvia head

Latvia’s Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau has sent materials of a criminal case to the prosecutor’s office with a request to commence criminal prosecution of Bank of Latvia governor Ilmārs Rimšēvičs and businessman Māris Martinsons.

Riga City Council votes to add Vidzeme market to Riga Central Market’s capital

Riga City Council’s City Property Development Committee has voted in favour of adding Vidzeme Market to AS Riga Central Market’s capital. Opposition members voted against this during the meeting.

Police dismantle criminal group specialising in storage and transportation of excise goods

Officers of Latvia’s State Revenue Service discovered a suspicious shipment during a routine inspection of a vehicle at Riga Passenger Port. With help from State Police, officers found more than 2.3 million illegal cigarettes and 960 litres of spirit, as confirmed by police.

airBaltic receives its ninth Bombardier CS300 aircraft

On 17 June, Latvia’s airBaltic airline received its ninth Bombardier CS300 aircraft. The airline plans to expand its existing aircraft fleet with 14 CS300 aircraft before the end of the year.

Employment agency invites employers to apply for new job support programme

Employers will be able to apply for participation in a programme of the European Social Fund to help create subsidized jobs for unemployed people. Eighteen offices of Latvia’s State Employment Agency will be offering registration until 27 June.

Programme: government continues working on MPC plan’s cancellation

The disproportionate mandatory procurement component costs have become one of the biggest political scandals in Latvia since autumn last year. Attempts to put an end to the MPC system are continuing alongside the search of those responsible for the dysfunctional system. The government’s work group say it is impossible to completely cancel the system, as reported by Nekā Personīga programme.

De Facto: ABLV Bank’s self-liquidation – controlled or not so much?

«Controlled self-liquidation» – this is the undefined procedure Finance and Capital Market Commission has picked for ABLV Bank. This decision came after three months of document assessment, discussions with politicians and active media campaigns, as noted by De Facto journalists.

Latvia police investigate link between murdered insolvency administrator and missing businessman

Latvia’s State Police have begun an investigation of a possible link between the murdered insolvency administrator Mārtiņš Bunkus and the missing businessman Andris Bojārs, as confirmed by police representative Ilze Jurēvica.

Hundreds of migrants rejected in Italy allowed to leave ships in Spain

Migrants taken on rescue ships in the Mediterranean Sea and turned away by Italy and Malta have arrived in Spain's port of Valencia as three ships arrived in the harbour, including the Aquarius, which rescued the 630 migrants the week before.

Monday expected to be exceptionally hot in Latvia

Cool masses of air will flow into Latvia at the beginning of the week. Wind speed will increase as well. Several rain-cloud zones will pass through the country. Monday is expected to be the hottest day of this week in Latvia, as air temperature will likely reach +23° C… +26° C in most of the country. South-east regions of Latvia may even experience air temperature of +29° C.

Week in Lithuania. Lithuanian Railways joins European train system Interrail

Lithuanian state railway company Lietuvos Geležinkeliai has joined Interrail, a European train system that allows passengers to buy cheaper tickets for train travel across Europe.

Zolitūde tragedy lawyer criticises Latvian laws as favourable to insolvency administrators, not business owners

Outspoken Latvian lawyer, Aldis Gobzems, who defends in civil trials the victims of the Zolitūde supermarket collapse, where 54 people died and dozens suffered injuries, has joined the KPV LV party for the parliamentary election and is pointing to perceived political support to a few successful insolvency administrators.

Eurozone simulation with monthly billions to be quit in 2018

The European Central Bank has stated it would quit end its massive programme to stimulate the eurozone economy by buying bonds for 30 billion euros each month in December.

Human traffickers in Hungary sent to prison for 71 people dead in meat truck

For the deaths of 71 migrants, who suffocated in a sealed meat truck in Hungary in August 2015, a Hungarian court has sentenced four men to 25-year jail terms after finding them guilty of people-smuggling.