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Wednesday 20.02.2019 | Name days: Smuidra, Vitauts, Smuidris

BNN summary of the week: 13th Saeima candidates; Europe’s G-Spot; Latvia’s digital government

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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: Announcement; Proposal; Expenses; Change; Opposition; Accusation.

ANNOUNCEMENT: Sixteen parties and party union candidate lists to participate in 13th Saeima elections

Submission period for candidate lists for 13th Saeima elections has officially concluded in Latvia. Latvia’s Centrist Party and Par Alternatīvu were the last parties to have submitted their candidate lists.

With that, a total of sixteen parties and party unions have submitted candidate lists for 13th Saeima elections. This is also three more candidate lists when compared to 2014 Saeima elections.

Latvia’s Centrist Party has 23 deputy candidates and Par Alternatīvu party has 37 candidates. Both lists were submitted in all regions included in Saeima elections – Riga, Vidzeme, Latgale, Kurzeme and Zemgale.

Central Election Commission reports that a total of 1,470 candidates will be taking part in upcoming elections. Fifteen candidates will be competing for each of the 100 seats in the Saeima. Compared to the previous elections, the number of candidates has increased – 1,156 candidates participated in Saeima elections in 2014.

Among the 13th Saeima candidates 68.3% are men and 31.7% are women. 79.2% of candidates have higher education, 20.3% have secondary education, and 0.5% of candidates only have primary education.

24.3% of candidates are aged 31 to 40 and 23.7% are aged 51 to 60. The average age of 13th Saeima candidates is 44.6 years. The oldest candidate is 88, and the youngest is 21.

Full article here

PROPOSAL: Apostolic visit to Lithuania: calls for Church to reveal expenditure now

Ahead of the papal visit on September 22-23, Lithuanian authorities and the Lithuanian Catholic Church have started putting together a budget for the event to make sure it goes smoothly. Most of the Lithuanian institutions in charge of it have already delivered initial estimates, however the Catholic Church insists it will make its financial reports public only after the visit.

Vilnius Archdiocese argues that the calculating of the costs is tentative and is subject to change. However, Diana Vilytė, head of Lithuania’s Public Procurement Office, exhorts the Church to reveal the numbers now.

In early July, the Lithuanian government decided to remunerate 1.75 million euros of costs related to preparations for the upcoming two-day visit of Pope Francis.

The bulk – over 1.2 million euros – will be allocated to the Catholic Church of Lithuania via the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. And the VIP Protection Department will receive up to 248,000 euros via the Ministry of the Interior.

Vilnius authorities are set to get up to 109,000 euros, and Kaunas authorities – up to 163,000 euros. Over 28,000 euros will be allocated to the Ministry of Health.

Government Vice Chancellor Alminas Mačiulis, who chaired the papal visit’s working group’s meeting in late July, expressed hope that the apostolic visit will cost less.

«We are trying to specify and discuss things, based on tender results and market prices, what we should spend the money on and what would be excessive,» Mačiulis said.

Meanwhile, the Lithuanian Catholic Church has said in a statement that the Government’s foreseen amount of 1.7 million can be «too big for a pope who is modest and shying any luxury».

Full article here

FUTURE:  LMT says digitizing paper documents cannot be considered digital state management

Transforming paper documents to electronic format cannot be considered digital state management, says Latvian mobile communications operator Latvijas Mobilais Telefons president Juris Binde.

He says the idea for digital state management is a matter of understanding. «Many officials believe that if we transform paper documents in electronic format, we will get digital state management. This does not work in reality, because we would require changing processes, not documents. Transferring paper documents to the electronic environment does not change a thing,» explains Binde.

Binde says it is necessary to raise ICT competence in state administration. «Most e-project failures are directly associated with incompetence of the client and oddities of the procurement system. If one large system is divided into four parts and auctioned off to different developers, it should come as no surprise when those four systems become incompatible with one another. It is a miracle when they do, however,» says Binde.

Full article here

EXPENSES: Latvian government promises higher pension indexation for 2018

On 1 October, pensions and benefits or their parts that do not exceed EUR 382 will be increased, says Latvia’s Welfare Ministry.

This means all pensions and benefits that are not larger than EUR 382 will be indexed. Pensions and benefits larger than EUR 382 will be indexed only for part of the paid amount – EUR 382. The increase will depend on the pension and benefit amount, as well as the applied index. Exceptions include politically repressed persons, Group 1 invalids and participants of Chernobyl disaster cleanup operation. Their pensions will be indexed for the full amount, the ministry explains.

Welfare Ministry notes that the index to be applied for retirement, invalidity, survivors’ pensions and insurance indemnities will be 1.0590.

«One novelty is that with 2018 onward, retirement pension indexation will be using different indexes that will depend on a person’s work history. The larger the work history, the larger the index will be applied and the larger pension increase people can expect,» the ministry explains.

Full article here

CHANGE: «G-spot» of Europe» – Vilnius’ new tourism slogan

Vilnius, the capital of mostly Catholic Lithuania, has launched a new, sexually-coloured tourism campaign, where the city is compared to a hidden point of female sexual pleasure.

«Nobody knows where it is but when you find it – it’s amazing,» reads the expanded slogan on the web site, where visitors are invited to build their «personal pleasure map» of the Lithuanian capital.

British news portal The Independent reports that critics from the Catholic clergy have questioned the timing of the campaign in a country where the majority of residents identify as Catholic.

Full article here

OPPOSITION: Minister refuses to meet with Vairāk saules restaurant owners; representatives dissatisfied

Latvian Interior Affairs Minister Rihards Kozlovskis believes he has no right to become involved in State Police’s handled criminal case launched against Vairāk saules restaurant network. Because of that, he has decided to not meet with owners of the network and representatives of Latvian Chamber of Commerce and Industry to discuss this matter.

Representatives of Vairāk saules network say by doing this the minister is trying to avoid his direct duties.

One of its members turned to LCCI, requesting assistance in resolving the situation that formed in relation to investigative measures performed by State Police – the company’s inability to recover documents and information previously confiscated during searches and needed to perform business activities. LCCI told the minister that it is necessary to search for solutions to avert risks for the restaurant network’s continued function and discuss the possibility of amending some regulations in the process.

Interior Affairs Ministry explains that the minister values the support LCCI provides to Latvian businessmen by representing their interests in efforts to sort out the business environment. Nevertheless, the ministry notes that criminal investigations are governed by law, and the minister is not authorized to supervise the criminal process.

The minister also added that the judge who authorized the search details in documents the items confiscated during the search and their relation to the case. This means the judge is the one responsible for explaining what is and what is not important to any specific criminal case.

The minister has no reason to doubt if actions performed by the investigator and supervision provided by the judge over the criminal process were in accordance with requirements of the law, the interests of the national economy, and without unjustified interference in the company’s economic activities.

The minister believes necessary criminal procedure activities in the aforementioned criminal process should be performed as quickly as possible.

Full article here

ACCUSATION: SES chief accused of hiding transactions worth EUR 300,000 from her income declaration

State Environment Service manager Inga Koļegova failed to disclose transactions worth EUR 300,000 in her income declaration, according to information the prosecutor’s office.

The prosecutor’s office has submitted the criminal case to Riga City Latgale Suburb Court. The viewing of the case is scheduled for 27 September.

The prosecutor office told the press that the person is accused of detailing false information in their income declaration.

According to the decision to submit the criminal case to the court, in their income declarations for 2013, 2014, and 2015, the state official did not include information regarding their real estate property, transactions worth more than 20 minimal monthly wages, as well as other information associated with the official’s material state.

The official also did not detail large transactions worth more than EUR 300,000 in their income declaration. In their declaration for 2014 and 2015, the official detailed false information regarding transactions worth more than EUR 600,000, the prosecutor’s office report.

As previously reported, an inspection was commenced on 7 September 2016 in relation to problems with Koļegova’s income declaration and possible violations.

Because of Unity’s opposition, the government postponed Koļegova’s approval as SRS director general. She was proposed for the post by the Union of Greens and Farmers and the National Alliance. Prime Minister Māris Kučinskis announced later that he will check Unity’s submitted information regarding Koļegova and the dividends she received from Pallogs. On 12 August, Koļegova announced her decision to withdraw her candidacy.

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Risky projects that are «under watch» in Latvia: electrification, Krievu Island and Rīgas tramvajs

«Latvia’s biggest mistake getting its hands on finances to afford EU projects is that these projects are more often than not organizes specifically to use said finances, and no though is put into work on achieving results or even if results of said projects could even turn out positive for the country in the end. We see this with railway electrification, Krievu Island and Rīgas tramvajs project,» said Transport Minister Tālis Linkaits in an interview to BNN.

Putin warns U.S., Russia could target Washington with missiles

Assuming Washington could deploy short or intermediate-range nuclear weapons in Europe, Russia would target with nuclear weapons not only the countries where they are stationed, but the United States itself, Russian President Vladimir Putin has stated.

In spite of austerity measures, Rīgas satiksme’s grants could reach EUR 134 million

In spite of ongoing austerity measures, grants needed for SIA Rīgas satiksme may grow by another EUR 12 million and reach EUR 134 million, admits the company’s temporary board chairman Anrijs Matīss.

Cemex announces sale of its Baltic and Nordic assets

Cemex has made the decision to sell assets in Baltic and Nordic countries worth EUR 340 million to Germany company Schwen, as confirmed by Cemex representatives.

Swedbank refrains from commenting information about its possible involvement in money laundering

Citing confidentiality, AS Swedbank has decided to refrain from commenting on information reported by Swedish television regarding the bank’s involvement in money laundering, said the bank’s Risk Management Office in Latvia Juris Bogdanovs.

UK's May to give another try in Brussels, as EU doesn't expect breakthrough

The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Theresa May, returns to Brussels on Wednesday, seeking to convince European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker to save her Brexit deal. A representative of the British PM for May called the Brussels trip «significant» as part of a process of engagement to try to agree on the changes her government believes parliament needs to pass the deal.

Dutch soldiers in Lithuania go ice diving as part of NATO winter training

Lithuania, Dutch and Czech forces from one of NATO’s battlegroups undergo cold weather training in February, experiencing winter diving and acquiring other skills for survival in extreme weather conditions.

Brussels: Hungary lying about Juncker, Soros and mandatory migrants

Hungarian government has been criticised by European Commission officials for putting up election campaign posters with claims that EU headquarters has weakened on purpose European Union's external borders to allow in more migrants.

airBaltic to cease using Boeing 737 in autumn 2019

Latvian national airBaltic airline plans to cease using Boeing 737 in autumn 2019 or a year earlier than initially planned, as confirmed by the airline’s representative Alise Briede.

Prime Minister: Latvian teachers are hostages of municipalities

Teachers are hostages of municipalities, said Latvian Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš, commenting on teachers’ wages subject in an interview to LTV programme Rīta Panorāma.

Minister: Latvia needs a new housing policy

Latvia needs a new housing policy, says Economy Minister Ralfs Nemiro. He says most of Latvia’s residential houses were built during the Soviet regime. This is why a number of subjects related to the housing policy have become topical.

Levits: the state president must not serve as executor to any party

«The state president must not serve as executor to only one party,» believes Judge Egils Levits of the Court of Justice of the EU, adding that it is because of this reason it is so hard to find a president that would meet the requirements of all political parties. ‘The president needs to have sufficient metal capacity and authority to convince politicians about common state interests,» said the only presidential candidate to have had been publicly discussed by the ruling coalition in Latvia so far.

Danske Bank to quit Baltic states, Russia, after asked to leave by Estonia

Danske Bank has been asked to leave Estonia amid a large-scale money laundering scandal. Denmark's largest lender has also decided to leave the markets of Latvia, Lithuania and Russia.

Minister: Latvia is dissatisfied with reduced EU funding for agriculture

«Funding reductions for the General Agricultural Policy and Cohesion Policy are unacceptable for Latvia. In accordance with European Commission’s proposal, Latvian farmers will have reached 77% of the average direct payment level in the EU by 2026. Latvia is also dissatisfied with funding reduction for rural development,» said Latvian Foreign Affairs Minister Edgars Rinkēvičs during the 19 February meeting of the EU General Affairs Council.

UN: 200 families encircled by Islamic State fighters in Syria

In Syria, around two hundred families are currently trapped in a small area under the rule of Islamic State terrorist group, which is preventing some civilians from fleeing the territory, according to the UN.

Saeima committee: adoption of deposit system is an investment in cleaner environment

Adoption of a package deposit system is an opportunity to invest in a cleaner environment, said members of Saeima’s Economic, Agricultural, Environmental and Regional Policy Committee and Environment and Climate Sub-Committee on Tuesday, 19 February.

Lursoft: nearly 32,000 Latvian companies have disclosed true beneficiaries

31,800 Latvian companies have disclosed their true beneficiaries. Of those businesses, 28,300 had registered this information last year. Among the most frequently mentioned names of beneficiaries in Latvia are Aigars Kesenfelds, Guntis Rāvis and Ernests Bernis, according to data from Lursoft.

Lasting drought caused the lowest yield of cereals in recent years in Latvia

In 2018 harvested production of grain constituted 2.1 million tonnes, which is 635.2 thousand tonnes or 23.6 % less than a year ago and the smallest harvested production recorded over the past five years.

Criminals in Latvia planned to kidnap a bailiff and kill him after receiving ransom

According to what Latvian State Police reported during a press conference on 19 February, criminals in Latvia planned to kidnap some court bailiff, demand ransom of EUR 350,000 and kill him after receiving the ransom.

Russian warplanes intercepted four times near Baltic borders last week

Allied fighters from the NATO Air Policing Mission in the Baltics have been scrambled four times over the last week as Russian military aircraft neared the borders of the Baltic states as they moved between Kaliningrad and mainland Russia.

Estonian ex-Eurocrat convicted of rape in Brussels

A court in Belgium has found an Estonian man, who is a former high-ranking official of the European Union, guilty of rape and sentenced to four years in jail.

BTA: number of insurance claims up by more than a quarter

The number of insurance claims in Latvia at the beginning of 2019 has increased 28.4% when compared to the same month of 2018, and by 55.3% when compared to January of 2017, as reported by BTA Baltic Insurance Company representative Elīna Rasmane.

Latvia’s budget has received at least EUR 1.5 million paid in bail money in past five years

In the last five years, Latvia’s state budget has received EUR 1,535,000 in the form of bail money paid in different criminal cases, according to information from the Court Administration.

16 U.S. states oppose Trump's border wall emergency in court

16 U.S. states have opposed at a federal court the national emergency declaration over border security announced by the U.S. government as its President Donald Trump seeks to fund a border wall from military budget.

Minister: we need to reject the two basket healthcare system’s funding model

Currently the main topics in healthcare include rejecting the two basket healthcare system’s funding model and instead stick to a single basket system in which ‘doctors don’t have to take responsibility for playing with people’s lives’, said Latvian Healthcare Minister Ilze Viņķele in a phone interview to LTV programme Rīta Panorāma.