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Saturday 16.12.2017 | Name days: Alvīne
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Lithuania’s political and economic diary. Lithuanian beef, chicken and pork pushes way into U.S.

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Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RULithuania might soon be given the green light to export meat products to the United States, Lithuanian Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevičius has been informed during his visit to the U.S.

The Lithuanian government issued statement on Thursday, October 9, that this was what the prime minister was told during a recent meeting with U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Thomas Vilsack:  the Food Safety and Inspection Service has drawn up the final draft equivalence verification audit report stating that the state meat quality control system in Lithuania meets all requirements and is equivalent to the exiting quality system in the United States.

The Lithuanian PM was also informed about the U.S. administration’s further procedures necessary for Lithuania to be included into the U.S. Federal Register of countries allowed to export meat products to the United States.

«Lithuania is very interested in developing trade ties with the United States in the area of meat products. U.S. institutions’ decision to recognize Lithuania’s control system for meat products as being equivalent to the U.S. control system is very important politically and economically, especially under the existing geopolitical conditions,» the Lithuanian Prime Minister said.

Lithuania considers introducing tax on cars in spring

In a major shift, the current ruling majority in the Lithuanian Seimas came back to the idea of introducing a car tax.

The tax could reportedly be introduced as early as next spring, after the municipal elections on March 1.

Bronius Bradauskas, the Chairman of the parliamentary Budget and Finance Committee, admitted that he had heard talks about the car tax. He also admitted that the Finance Ministry had also considered the new levy. He claimed, however, that the tax would not be introduced any time soon.

Minimum pay rise

Lithuanian parliament Chairwoman Loreta Graužinienė ponders that next July the minimum monthly salary could rise by LTL 100 (EUR 29).

According to the Seimas speaker, it is crucial to reduce social exclusion and one of the measures in this aspect is the growth of minimum monthly pay or non-taxable minimum income.

She hopes that these provisions will find a place in the 2015 state budget.

As reported, member of the Order and Justice Party Petras Gražulis has proposed to peg minimum wages to average salary, so that the former rises automatically to equal 50% of average salary recorded over the previous year. If the law is passed, minimum monthly salary would rise to LTL 1,150 (EUR 333).

Meanwhile Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevičius has said that minimum monthly salary could be raised after the municipal and mayoral elections next spring.

Minimum pay was last raised as recently as 1 October, from LTL 1,000 (EUR 290) to LTL 1,035 (EUR 300) per month.

Russia defies calls from Brussels to release Lithuanian fishing vessel

The European Commission, which is helping Lithuania to sort out the circumstances of the detention of a Lithuanian fishing vessel by Russian officials, has not received any response from Moscow to its inquiries, Lithuanian Agriculture Minister Virginija Baltraitienė told.

She said she has been notified of the fact by Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Commissioner Maria Damanaki on Wednesday, October 8.

«She sent a letter, saying that the European Commission had again turned to Russia with a repeated request for information. We have asked the European Commission twice and received an answer yesterday that they are making inquiries and asking Russia to provide information as to the coordinates (at the time of the detention of the vessel). However, Russia has not responded to the letters from the European Commission, » the minister told BNS, a Lithuanian news agency, on Thursday.

In her words, the issue of the arrested ship will be again raised during the European Union’s Agriculture and Fisheries Council in Luxembourg next week.

Immediately after the incident, the Lithuanian ministry turned to the North East Atlantic Fisheries Commission (NEAFC) for help to protect Lithuania’s interests in the release of the ship.

Earlier this week, a Russian court set a bail for the release of the Lithuanian fishing vessel at over EUR 3million. Representatives of the shipowner, Arctic Fishing, maintain the motion is inadequate and decided to appeal against the decision and request a lower bail.

Lithuania’s new energy minister uncertain over a new NPP construction

Lithuanian Energy Minister Rokas Masiulis has yet to make up his mind whether Lithuania needs a new nuclear power plant (NPP) in Visaginas. According to him, Lithuania is stepping up its position regarding energy security, thus there is no need to rush with the decision.

«Considerable work has been done on the project – there is a cross-party agreement that once the project is improved, further steps may be taken. We are working on this, » the minister told Lithuanian radio on Thursday, October 9.

He argued that Lithuania now is standing strong on its feet.

«With the Liquefied Natural Gas terminal we are at least sure that we will not be cut off from gas. We will have gas and, consequently, electricity. At the moment, generating electricity with gas would be more expensive, therefore, we will import a substantial amount. However, at least we are prepared and the situation similar to the one in Ukraine cannot happen here. From now on we must act wisely and see which option is best for us and which is the least expensive,» the Minister said.

Masiulis acknowledged that deliberations over the nuclear power plant have gone on excessively long.

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Citadele Index: businessmen are more optimistic about economic growth

After a four-year gap, optimism has been noticed in all of Latvia’s business sectors. For the third consecutive quarter Citadele Index value exceeds 50 points. Businessmen are also positive about the country’s economy and their own finances, according to the final Citadele Index study for 2017.

Bank of Latvia increases GDP growth outlook to 4.7% for 2017

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Latvian residents’ opinion of government’s work remains negative

Latvian residents voiced the biggest degree of dissatisfaction about the development of the situation in Latvia and the work performed by the government. Although the previous evaluation of government’s work had increased by four points, it has since declined by two points, according to data from Baltic International Bank’s Latvian Barometer.

Eel fishing to be restricted in Baltic Sea for three months

European Union Fisheries Council has decided to restrict eel fishing for three months in 2018 in all waters, including the Baltic Sea. Although the World Wide Fund for Nature and environmental organization in Europe view it as a notable first step, these efforts are unlikely to have a major impact on the most important problem – eel population continues declining rapidly, as noted by WWF.

LCCI: increase of electricity bills for thousands of companies in unacceptable

Latvian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) categorically opposes increasing electricity bills for the majority of small and medium-sized companies due to mandatory procurement component’s differentiation. The organization believes that this would basically introduce a new additional tax, making them even less competitive.

Head of Latvian Association of Regions to spend Christmas thinking on remaining in the party

Dissatisfied with multiple decisions made by Latvian Association of Regions (LAR), Riga City Council member Mārtiņš Bondars will spend the holiday thinking about his place in this political party, as he mentioned in his interview to Rīta panorama or LTV.

Estonian fund permitted to purchase several Latvia energy production companies

Latvian Competition Council has permitted Estonian fund to purchase several energy production and agricultural companies.

Meat processing giant sees room for growth in ready-to-eat foods

Consumption in the meat market segment of ready-to-eat foods is growing quickly, evaluated Finnish meat processing group HKScan that is planning to invest eight million euros in its factory in Estonia.

To fight for national minority schools, Russian representatives promise to hold a referendum

Defenders of Russian schools in Latvia promise to organize a referendum for autonomy of national minority schools, said co-chairman of Latvian Russians Association Miroslavs Mitrofanovs in regards to the transition to education only in Latvian language.

Tax payment process from capital growth to change in Latvia

As part of the tax reform, changes will be added to the Personal Income Tax Law starting from 1 January 2018. One of the changes is associated with payment and declaration of income from capital growth. The tax rate and the term for submission of declarations on income from capital growth will change next year.

Tusk deems EU migrant quotas ineffective as some states oppose taking in migrants

Donald Tusk, the head of the Council of the European Union and chairman of this week's EU summit, has evaluated that mandatory EU-wide quotas are ineffective and that there is a split between east and west as regards asylum policy.

Riga City Council’s 2018 budget – poorly planned or well-developed?

As the vote for the 2018 budget of Riga City Council draws near, representatives of all opposition parties say they will not support it as long as politicians of the ruling coalition continue viewing the city’s most important financial document as good and aimed at development.

Euro area economy has grown quicker than expected, European Central Bank estimated

Growth has been at a faster pace in the eurozone prompting the European Central Bank to raise its economic growth forecasts.

Weekends in Latvia expected to be snowy

A layer of snow will form in Latvia’s central and western regions that will remain until the middle of next week, as reported by State Environment, Geology and Meteorology Centre.

Opinion: Latvia at risk of restricting healthcare to 300,000 people

Kustība Par! political party has sent a letter to Latvia’s President Raimonds Vējonis, asking him to return to the Saeima the recently approved law on healthcare funding legislative draft. According to the party, the law restricts healthcare for 300,000 people in Latvia.

Lithuania’s 2018 budget focuses on spending cuts, NATO commitment and social security

Lithuania's 2018 budget, approved this week by the Seimas, Lithuanian Parliament, makes history for being the first budget ever with fewer spending for the governmental sector, the commitment to NATO of earmarking 2 per cent of the gross domestic product to defence and bigger allotments for social security. The budget was adopted by 84 MPs, 29 voted against, with 15 abstentions.

EU member states have to strengthen measures against sexual abuse of children

Member states of the European Union have to take more serious measures and cooperate more intensely with Europol and information technology industry to better combat sexual abuse of children, as noted by members of the European Parliament.

Latvian parliament views initiative for changing VAT rate for food product

On Thursday, 14 December, Latvia’s Saeima made its decision on the collective application that proposes reducing VAT on everyday healthy food products and increasing VAT on unhealthy products.

Maxima: residents have become more conservative in their choice of products

In Q2 and Q3, a higher degree of conservatism was noticed in residents’ choice of products. The number of buyers who gladly purchase new products has declined, whereas the number of buyers who do not change anything in their purchasing habits has increased, according to results of a study performed by Maxima.

Civil processes to be sped up and simplified in Latvia

On Thursday, 14 December, Saeima supported amendments to the Civil Process Law in the final reading. Amendments propose several major changes to the process of review of civil processes to make court sessions quicker and more efficient.

State Auditor dissatisfied with parliament’s slow legislative process

Latvian State Auditor Elita Krūmiņa plans to inquire to the Saeima about the delay with the approval of the legislative draft on the expansion of authority of her institution, as she mentioned in an interview to Rīta panorama programme of LTV.

Aldaris commences exports to France, China and Netherlands

Aldaris concludes 2017 with three new export contracts, commencing exports of products to China, France and Netherlands. Until now Aldaris has exported products to eight markets, with the largest one being United Kingdom, taking up 78.71% from Aldaris export volume, as reported by the company.

Estonian budget passed with 0.25 billion-euro deficit

The Estonian Riigikogu with 55 votes against 41 has passed the country’s 2018 state budget bill planning to spend by 0.25 billion more than it is planned to earn.

AFSAL: loan requests in non-banking industry are declined in 69% of all cases

In the first six months of 2017 Alternative Financial Services Association of Latvia (AFSAL) issued a total amount of EUR 84.7 million in consumer loans. No increase is noted in this amount when compared with the same period of 2016. Increase did not exceed 0.2%, as reported by the association.

European Parliament supports changes for combating activities detailed in Panama Papers

Public registries with names of true owners of businesses, effective protection of whistle-blowers and stricter requirements for financial intermediaries are some of the proposals intended to assist with the fight against tax avoidance, as noted by members of the European Parliament.

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