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Sunday 16.12.2018 | Name days: Alvīne
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BNN summary of the week: 13th Saeima elections; open presidential election

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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: Change; Tender; Opinion; Fight; Future; Elections.

CHANGE: Saeima supports «opening KGB bag» in the final reading

Latvian Saeima supported in the final reading the publication of KGB files on the internet. 71 Saeima deputies voted in favour of this decision.

A number of Concord deputies, as well as one representative of the Union of Greens and Farmers – Armands Krauze – abstained in the vote. UGF member Arvīds Ulme voted against the publication of KGB files. It should be added that four Concord members voted in favour of amendments.

Now President Raimonds Vējonis will have to decide on the law’s announcement.

Files of Latvian KBG office will be made publicly accessible for research at Latvia’s National Archive. Part of them will be published on the archive’s official website.

To improve the opportunity for residents to study consequences of Latvia’s occupation period, the National Archive will make it possible to access several KGB files on its website this year, as amendments require it. The Cabinet of Ministers will establish the order for residents’ access of files published on the website of Latvian National Archive.

The files planned to be published this year will include KGB officials’ phone books, registry of freelance agents, the agency’s statistical information and alphabetic database. Later on it is planned to publish other files associated with KGB activity in Latvia.

Full article here

TENDER: Rīgas mikroautobusu satiksme becomes the only contender in minibus services procurement

AS Liepājas autobusu parks and AS Nordeka, which had previously submitted numerous complaints about SIA Rīgas satiksme’s organized minibus transport services procurements, have decided to no longer participate in them. With that, the only contender that has applied for the most recent one is Rīgas mikroautobusu satiksme.

At the end of August, the Supreme Court satisfied the side plea submitted by Liepājas autobusu parks and Nordeka in the criminal case regarding the procurement organized by Rīgas satiksme. With this decision, the Supreme Court declared it impossible to continue the procurement procedure without amending two of its points – evaluation of contenders’ proposed ticket system and evaluation of their financial offers.

Rīgas satiksme representative Baiba Bartaševiča-Feldmane explains that the company has performed all the necessary improvements and that a new talk procedure was initiated at the beginning of September. Nevertheless, Liepājas autobusu parks decided not to participate. «Only one contender has submitted their offer in the talks procedure – Rīgas mikroautobusu satiksme. Application submission concluded this week. If the contender’s office meets provided requirements, the contract for provision of minibus services in Riga will be signed with them,» says Bartaševiča-Feldmane.

Full article here

OPINION: Opinion: railway electrification project’s costs may reach those of Parex Bank or MPC

«The railway electrification project may potentially leave Latvian taxpayers with nothing. Cost-wise this project comes close to the financial strife that was caused by Parex Bank’s liquidation or even mandatory procurement component system’s potential losses. The only difference is that it is still possible to avoid the potentially ruinous outcome of the electrification project. If I, as head of the responsible state institution, were asked by state institutions advice on what should be done, I would say this – the risk is so massive that the project needs to be halted immediately. It should remain idle until a re-assessment has been performed – the latest data collected, mistakes fixed and a repeated audit performed for the study used to base all current estimates on,» said Juris Iesalnieks, Director of Latvia’s State Railway Administration, in an interview to BNN.

«Latvian Railway’s attitude towards investments is not always serious»

In regards to the railway electrification project’s implementation in Latvia, Iesalnieks says that as head of the responsible state institution he cannot put it in either positive or negative category. «All those below should have strict and careful calculations, and generally our institution is in favour of the project. But will its benefits help cover the losses? Unanswered questions and information kept secret from state institutions only serve to crate concerns and doubts about the necessity of this project and its quality.»

It should be said that the State Railway Administration supervises the state policy in railway freight industry and the national transport development programme. However, in spite of that, no one in the institution has access to the study into the electrification project. Iesalnieks adds that the only institution that has expressed an interest for opinions in this matter is the State Audit.

Full article here

FIGHT: Tax avoiders sentenced to prison after SRS criticized court rulings

At the end of September, five people were sentenced to prison for tax avoidance. This ruling comes right after the State Revenue Service criticized the court justice system for previous rulings in criminal cases dealing with financial crimes.

It is mentioned in the prosecutor office’s statement to the press that on 21 September Riga City Latgale Suburb Court announced the verdict in a criminal case in which two company officials were accused of tax avoidance and three other people were accused of supporting tax avoidance.

According to charges presented by Specialized Prosecutor’s Office for Organized Crime and Other Sectors, one company’s tax avoidance caused damages to the state budget worth EUR 337,731, whereas similar crimes committed by another company caused damages to the state budget worth EUR 521,510.

First instance court found the accused guilty and sentenced them to prison for up to two years. All five suspects were arrested in the courtroom.

Full article here

FUTURE: European Parliament approves new rules for audiovisual media; child protection enhanced

On Tuesday, 2 October, MEPs approved improved rules for audiovisual media. These new rules ensure better child protection and limiting the amount of advertisements and make sure at least 30% of shown content was made in Europe, as BNN was informed by EP press-secretary in Latvia Signe Znotiņa-Znota.

The new rules will apply not only to broadcasting organizations but also service providers who offer video-on-demand. The same applies to video-sharing platforms such as Netflix, YouTube or Facebook, the EP notes.

The parliament also adds that audiovisual media service providers will have to prohibit any content inciting violence, hatred and terrorism, while gratuitous violence and pornography.

Video-sharing platforms will have to act in case when users mark content as inappropriate. New rules do not provide adding filters for content upload. Nevertheless, platforms will have to secure mechanisms for users to employ in order to report inappropriate content.

New rules also introduce stricter restrictions for advertisements and product placement on children’s TV programmes and video-on-demand platforms. In talks with member states’ representatives, MEPs also came to the formation of a special data protection mechanism, which will not allow audiovisual service providers to use date on their consumers for commercial purposes, says Signe Znotiņa-Znota.

Full article here

ELECTIONS: Security Police receives word of possible vote-buying in Saeima elections

Latvian Security Police has received information regarding possible illegal influencing of a person’s right to elect deputies.

Police have commenced an investigation into this matter.

Security Police also states that they have no information to confirm the fact of direct and systematic attempts by foreign powers to influence 13th Saeima elections.

Looking back at past elections, Security Police intends to observe elections in order to identify and prevent possible risk factors for elections.

Security Police reminds that intentional interference with a person’s right to vote is a criminal offence. Illegal actions include use of violence, blackmail, threats, bribery or other forms of illegal influence. The Criminal Law also provides liability for intentionally wrong vote-counting, as well as deliberate breach of voting privacy by a state official or election commission’s member.

Security Police urges Latvian residents to report cases when other people promise monetary compensation or other benefits in exchange for votes directed to a specific candidate or party. Residents are also asked to inform authorities about cases when there are suspicions regarding possible illegalities committed by members of the election commission.

Full article here


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Experts: fiscal consolidation is unavoidable next year

The new government will have to perform fiscal consolidation when compiling the state budget for 2019. This opinion was sent to the Saeima and Cabinet of Ministers by the Fiscal Discipline Council in relation to the 13th Saeima’s approval of amendments for the Healthcare Law that provide for a 20% wage increase for doctors starting next.

Ventspils opposition: the Constitution stands above municipality’s opinions on city governance

«For us to work to our full capacity, we require information and stay in the loop. If the work of the city council was organized during meetings of the city council and committees, we would have this opportunity. But because the work of the city council is put under other institutions – committees, in this case – and we [majority of opposition deputies] are not allowed to participate in those meetings and receive documents, this means our rights as deputies and voters are being limited. This, we believe, is the most important aspect to be breached,» said Ventspils City Council opposition deputy Aivis Landmanis said during a hearing of the Administrative Court in Liepaja in regards to Ventspils City Council’s refusal to adopt proportionality principles in committees and other structures.

EU offers Britons clarification, but no renegotiation of Brexit deal

European Union member state leaders and the blocs top officials have stated at a summit with British Prime Minister Theresa May, that the Brexit withdrawal agreement that lacks clear support in UK parliament was not open for renegotiation.

Estonia raises minimum wage

The minimum monthly wage in Estonia has been approved at the level of 540 euros, which is an increase from 500 euros.

This year e-signature was used to sign more than 5.7 million documents in Latvia

This year, e-signature was used more than half a million times a month in Latvia. A total of 5.7 million documents have been signed using this function in Latvia so far. More than 25,000 now use e-signature function on their smart-phones.

Trump distances himself from crimes committed by his lawyer

Reacting to the conviction of American lawyer Michael Cohen over campaign funding violations, U.S. President Donald Trump has distanced himself from the lawyer and accused him of attempts to embarrass Trump.

New Unity starts consultations with parties on forming government with Kariņš in charge

New Unity will insist on getting Finance Ministry in the new government, because it is only logical to have this ministry managed by the prime minister’s party, says NU representative and Saeima deputy Ojārs Ēriks Kalniņš.

Strasbourg terrorist «neutralised» after opening fire on police

The attacker suspected of killing two people and injuring 12 more people at a Strasbourg Christmas market has been shot dead by French police.

Next week in Latvia to start off with snowfall

The end of the week is not expected to have any major weather changes in Latvia, whereas next week will start off with snowfall and gradual decline of air temperature, promises Latvian Environment, Geology and Meteorology Centre.

Court arrests Harmony sponsor and Honour to Serve Riga party member

Riga City Vidzeme District Court issued an arrest to businessman Aleksandrs Krjačeks on Thurday, 13 December. He was previously detained by Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau in the criminal case regarding procurements organized by SIA Rīgas satiksme, as confirmed by the man’s lawyer Valdis Ulmanis.

Saeima: increase of doctors’ wages should be a government priority

When preparing the budget plan for the next three years, the government should allocate money for the 20% increase of doctors’ wages. This is provided by changes to Healthcare Financing Law, approved by the Saeima in two readings on Thursday, 13 December.

airBaltic to perform more flights between Riga and Liepaja

During a visit today in Liepaja CEO of Latvian airline airBaltic Martin Gauss announced that airBaltic will increase the number of domestic flights between Riga and Liepaja from three to five weekly as of summer season 2019.

Court arrests Škoda commercial director; CPCB request arrests for two more people

Latvian court has arrested Škoda commercial director Vladislav Kozak following a request from Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau in relation to the criminal case regarding procurements performed by Rīgas satiksme.

EY: investments in crypto currency offers have largely failed

86% of 141 initial crypto currency offers presented last year have lost value over the course of the first eight months of this year. Additionally 30% of them have lost nearly all of their value, according to Initial Coin Offerings study by EY.

Estonian criminal figure convicted in Ireland

A court in Ireland has convicted Estonian criminal figure Imre Arakas, finding him guilting of conspiracy to murder.

As income increase, housing becomes more accessible in all Baltic capitals

Housing Accessibility Index improved in all Baltic capitals in Q3 2018. The main factor for this was the growth of average net salaries. Additionally, beneficial economic development also improved households’ interest for housing acquisition, which was reflected both in increased activity on the apartment market and household loan portfolio growth.

Lithuanian PM suspects Kremlin-backed opposition behind teacher attacks

The nearer municipal council, presidential and EP elections, the more sparkles Lithuania’s political leadership spews out. With the linguistic weaponry exhausted in the Seimas, the party leaders seek help from intelligence services.

EP proposes stricter monitoring of militants returning to Europe to combat terrorism better

The European Parliament has presented proposals for better measures against radicalization, better data exchange and support of victims of terrorism, as well as several other proposals for European Union’s strategy for terrorism prevention.

Latvian media organizations found Media Ethics Council

On Wednesday, 12 December, Latvian Media Ethics Council was founded. It is a public organization meant to unite media organizations and legal persons associated with the media sector and supervise compliance with the council’s statutes and code of ethics, the council explains.

U.S. President's former lawyer sentenced to prison

The former personal attorney of U.S. President Donald Trump has been handed a prison sentence for violations of the rules of election campaign. A New York court has sentenced Michael Cohen to three years in federal prison.

Latvian parties hear New Unity leader’s offer; opinions on coalition still differ

Political parties in Latvia are prepared to listen to New Unity and its prime minister candidate Krišjāņis Kariņš’s initiative in the government formation process.

British PM stays after no-confidence vote, attends EU summit

British Prime Minister Theresa May has survived a no-confidence vote in her ruling Conservative Party and on Thursday attends a summit of the European Union.

European Parliament ratifies EU-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement

On Wednesday, 12 December, gave green light for EU-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement, which is EU’s all-time largest mutual trade agreement.

Businessman Māris Martinsons brought to court. What will the court decide?

Businessman Māris Martinsons has been brought to testify in court. As it is known, he was detained by Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau on 11 December.

Employers become more open to 3rd level pension contributions

Employers in Latvia have begun making more active contributions to 3rd level pension plans. Residents’ interest towards crating pension savings continues growing, too. Compared to the period of last year, the size of contributions to private pension funds has increased 10% in the first nine months of 2018.

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