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Ceturtdiena 22.03.2018 | Name days: Tamāra, Dziedra

Week in Lithuania. President calls PM's proposal on Russia commission «irresponsible»

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Lithuania’s President Dalia Grybauskaite

Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis has proposed this week to resume political contacts with Moscow and says that the Lithuania-Russia dialog could cover trade relations and energy, agriculture and transport issues, as well as the situation of Lithuanian teachers in the Baltic Sea exclave of Kaliningrad.

President Dalia Grybauskaitė on Thursday, January 4, described Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis’ proposal as «irresponsible».

According to the president, key strategic energy, transport or trade issues have to be dealt with the participation of EU institutions. In Grybauskaitė’s words, bilateral top-level political contacts can take place with countries demonstrating friendly relations.

Officials to draw up rescue plan for European Humanities University

Lithuanian officials plan to draw up a rescue plan for the Vilnius-based European Humanities University (EHU), which is on the brink of closure after getting a repeated negative evaluation from experts. Politicians and officials from the Education and Science Ministry and the Foreign Ministry held an informal meeting on Thursday, January 4, to discuss EHU’s situation. Minister Jurgita Petrauskienė said that the external review of EHU, whose students are mostly from Belarus, had identified its weaknesses. Nora Skaburskienė, director of the Lithuanian Centre for Quality Assessment in Higher Education, or SKVC, said that EHU needed radical reforms.

Lithuania plans to cut number of state enterprises

Lithuania will likely have only five companies with the status of a state enterprise in half a year’s time, including the Centre of Registers, the state car registration company Regitra, the State Forestry Enterprise, the Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant and an agricultural regulation company, Economy Minister Virginijus Sinkevičius said on Wednesday, January 3. According to the minister, the reduction of the number of state enterprises is aimed at abandoning certain activities and functions that are not important for the state and transferring some of these to the market. The plan calls for converting some state enterprises, such as Oro Navigacija (Air Navigation), Lietuvos Oro Uostai (Lithuanian Airports), the Klaipeda state seaport and Kelių Priežiūra (Road Maintenance), into public companies.

Court finds no grounds for indicting infamous author

The Vilnius Regional Court ruled on Wednesday, January 3, that there were no grounds for opening a pre-trial investigation regarding statements by Rūta Vanagaitė, an author and public relations specialist, about Lithuanian anti-Soviet resistance commander Adolfas Ramanauskas-Vanagas. Judge Vladislavas Lencikas believes that the writer made a mistake in failing to take all the material and NKVD methods into consideration. He said that Vanagaitė’s remarks were not so dangerous as to require considering subjecting Vanagaitė to criminal liability, noting that she had apologized in public for her comments. The Lithuanian Prosecutor General’s Office said in November that Vanagaitė’s remarks about Ramanauskas-Vanagas could not be recognized as a crime as there was no evidence that she had deliberately made false statements with the aim of undermining people’s respect.

Rifas to hire 100 amid expansion in Panevėžys

Rifas, a Panevėžys-based electronic system production company operated by Estonian group Harju Elekter, announced of expansion in Lithuania and plans to hire 100 new employees over the next three years in addition to the current staff of 120. Lithuania’s Economy Minister Virginijus Sinkevičius says the enlargement of Rifas is important for the regional economy of Panevėžys. Rifas receives goods and services from about 100 suppliers. Within the coming three years, Rifas plans to hire 100 electrical equipment installers, electrical and 3D mechanical engineers to design and produce systems for industrial companies and new-generation ships.

President acquires plot in Vilnius outskirts

President Dalia Grybauskaitė has paid 75,500 euros for a land site in the outskirts of Vilnius, news portal said on Tuesday, January 2. In a declaration of private interests submitted in late December, Grybauskaitė said that the deal to purchase the land had been finalised. The size of the plot has not been disclosed.

Achema, LTD agree with Gazprom on gas purchases in 2018

Fertilizer manufacturer Achema, Lithuania’s largest single natural gas consumer and the state-owned gas trading company Lietuvos Dujų Tiekimas (Lithuanian Gas Supply, or LDT) reported it had signed in late December contracts with Russia’s gas giant Gazprom on natural gas purchases in 2018. Achema plans to buy around 9 megawatt-hours (MWh), or around two-thirds of its gas, from Gazprom, with the rest to be purchased from Norway’s Statoil through the Klaipeda liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal.

Lithuania imposes further restrictions on alcohol market

After some tightening of alcohol consumption and sales in Lithuania in 2017, new, tighter restrictions are put in place this year. Starting January 1, all alcohol ads, with a few exceptions, are banned and the legal drinking age is raised from 18 to 20. Alcohol selling hours in retail stores are limited to between 10 a.m. and 8 p.m. from Mondays to Saturdays and between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. on Sundays. Alcoholic drinks are banned in sports arenas and sports halls during sports events. Cafes, pizzerias and bars will be able to serve alcoholic drinks in outside seating areas within 40 meters of the doors.

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Finance sector’s development council supports prohibition of shell companies

On Wednesday, 21 March, Latvian Prime Minister Māris Kučinskis’ managed Finance Sector’s Development Council supported initiative on prohibiting shell companies, as confirmed by the prime minister.

Level of producer prices in Latvia’s industry is up 3.4%

Compared to January, level of producer prices in the Latvian industry rose by 0.5 % in February 2018. Prices of products sold on the domestic market grew by 0.7 %, but prices of exported products went up by 0.3 %.

Minister: Latvia is far behind its neighbours in terms of digitization and e-skills

In terms of digitization and e-skills, Latvia is far behind its neighbouring countries and the rest of Europe, said Latvian Economy Minister Arvils Ašeradens in an interview to Latvijas Radio.

OECD: Latvian employees work longest hours in Baltics

In a comparison of Baltic countries per average annual hours worked, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development has found earlier this year that the average Latvian worker spends 1,910 hours at work, followed by the Lithuanian employee with 1,885 hours and the average Estonian worker with 1,855 hours.

12th Saeima failed to complete half of its pre-election promises in field of justice

In 2014, Delna – society for openness and Providus think tank received support from all parties represented in the 12th Saeima in regards to an action plan to help strengthen the rule of law in the country.

Russia carries out military drills in Gulf of Finland

Russian Defence Ministry has stated that in the Baltic Sea Gulf of Finland, which has Finland, Russia and Estonia in its coastline, the Russian military has performed drills for its tactical special operations units.

Prime minister doubts Anti-Money Laundering Service head’s competence

«The work performed by the service requires drastic changes. Whether or not it can be done by its current head [Viesturs Burkāns], I am not sure,» said Latvian Prime Minister Māris Kučinskis in an interview to LNT, commenting on the work performed by Latvian Anti-Money Laundering Service.

Vilnius chosen for office of game developer Lockwood Publishing from UK

UK's mobile game developer Lockwood Publishing has unveiled plans to open its first overseas office in Vilnius, pointing to the industry's talent in Lithuania and the wider region.

Association: municipalities should organize their work on their own

On 6 March, Latvian Association of Local and Regional Governments reviewed the letter sent to Riga City Council by Environment Protection and Regional Development Ministry, in which the institution ordered the municipality to review their internal order and lift restrictions on the length of debates and the number of questions deputies are allowed to ask.

Canada moves to increase gun control

Canada's federal federal government has proposed new gun control measures, but they could reduce support to the ruling Liberal Party in rural areas, where guns are widely owned and used.

Minister: EU should work on rules to make sure social networks cannot be manipulated

«European Union needs to react to the Facebook data scandal and develop strict regulations to make sure social networks cannot be used to manipulate people. Appropriate regulations are needed in the matter regarding political campaigns performed on social networks, which is gradually becoming a common occurrence nowadays,» says Latvian Foreign Affairs Minister Edgars Rinkēvičs.

Profits of Latvian State Roads increased by 8.6% last year

Turnover of Latvian State Roads reached EUR 14.529 million last year, which is 10.3% more when compared to 2016. The company’s profits increased by 8.6% - to EUR 59,485, according to the published interim financial report.

Slovak President casts doubt over impartiality of proposed government

In a continuation of the political crisis in Slovakia, Slovak President Andrej Kiska has not accepted a the newly proposed government deeming it possibly unable to supervise an impartial investigation of the two murders that have shaken the Eastern European nation.

France's ex-leader Sarkozy in custody over links with Libya

French ex-President Nicolas Sarkozy has been taken in custody on March 20 and was held in custody on Tuesday and interrogated amid an investigation into whether late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi added funds to his 2007 election campaign.

KVV Liepājas metalurgs’ steelworks bought out by Austrian Smart Stahl

The auction for the sale of the insolvent KVV Liepājas metalurgs rolling mill equipment concluded with the victory of Austrian Smart Stahl GmbH, as confirmed by insolvency administrator Guntars Koris.

Entomologist: at least 5% of ticks in Latvia are infected with encephalitis

There have been cases of tick activity during the winter period in Latvia this year. As air temperature increases, ticks become active and start popping up. This means residents should seriously consider vaccination to avoid getting encephalitis from tick bites, entomologists say.

Rail Baltica station’s construction at Riga airport will cost EUR 4.5 million

Creation of a separate railway station and related infrastructure at Riga International Airport as part of Rail Baltica project will cost EUR 4.5 million, says the project’s manager in Latvia and board member of European Railway Lines company Andris Linužs.

Norwegian minister steps down to keep minority government in power

In a move to avoid the collapse of the Norwegian minority government, its Justice Minister Sylvi Listhaug resigned amid a political storm she had caused by blaming an opposition party of not being harsh enough toward terrorism suspects.

Political party calls for immediate action to resolve «over-salted Riga» problem

Member of For Latvia’s Development political party’s Riga City Council faction Ansis Ansbergs urges the administration to find a quick solution to the excessive use of salt during the winter season because it has a negative impact on both human and animal health, as well as the state of buildings, cars and plant life in the capital.

MEP: fair competition should be secured for all European farmers

Sixteen members of the European Parliament from Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia and Poland submitted a joint proposal on Monday, 19 March, for a resolution regarding the future of the Common Agricultural Policy with a request to equalize the level of direct payments across all of Europe starting from 2021.

Estonia prison sentence upheld to Syrian man for causing burns to wife

In the Estonian criminal case, where a Syrian man has been convicted to 10 years in prison over causing corporal damage to his wife by setting her on fire, Estonian Supreme Court has rejected his appeal.

Olainfarm’s sales volume increased by 16% over the course of the year

Provisional consolidated data from Olainfarm for February 2018 shows that product sales volumes have reached EUR 10.69 million, which is 33% more when compared with the same period of 2017.

Minister: it is not impossible for banks to reduce number of risky clients to 5%

It is not impossible for Latvian banks to reduce the number of risky clients to 5%, says Finance Minister Dana Reizniece-Ozola.

Syrian Afrin left by 220 000 civilians, Turkish-supported rebels loot town

After seizing the northern Syrian town of Afrin from Kurdish militia, Syrian rebels supported by Turkey have been looting properties, journalists have reported. The town has been left by estimated 220 000 civilians.

Ministry orders Riga City Council to lift restrictions on questions

Latvia’s Environment Protection and Regional Development Ministry has asked Riga City Council to act and fix violations of democratic principles in the newly approved rules for deputies.

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