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Tuesday 19.03.2019 | Name days: Jāzeps
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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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Latvian prime minister urges sorting the system, not raising taxes

A number of sectors require reforms to avoid raising taxes to increase revenue, said Latvian Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš during a meeting of Saeima’s Budget and Finance Committee on Monday, 18 March.

Stoltenberg calls NATO the most successful alliance in world history

NATO is the strongest, most successful alliance in history, wrote NATO’s Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in an article dedicated to the expansion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

Heavy rainfall in Indonesia causes floods and landslides; death toll reaches 77

Approximately 77 people have been killed in mountain villages hit by floods and landslides caused by intense rainfall in Indonesia’s Papua Province, according to the latest information reported by Indonesian authorities.

Number of job vacancies in Latvia up 33.4% in 2018

In 2018, there were 22.7 thousand job vacancies in Latvia, which is 5.7 thousand vacancies or 33.4 % more than in 2017.

Swedbank: more than 1,400 Latvian families purchased property in regions last year

In 2018, Swedbank had issued more than 1,400 loans for property purchases within 50 km radius around Riga. This is an average of six loans issued every work day, as reported by Swedbank representative Jānis Krops.

Minister: Latvia may require radical image change because of finance sector’s problems

Considering the problems in the country’s finance sector, it will be necessary to work on radically changing the country’s image, says Latvian Foreign Affairs Minister Edgars Rinkēvičs.

Riga Mayor’s wife suspected of dubious employed in public water supply company

For eight years Riga Mayor Nils Ušakovs’ office manager Iveta Strautiņa-Ušakova worked as a consultant for municipal water supply company Rīgas Ūdens, as reported by LTV investigative journalism programme De Facto.

Latvian Centre Party to take part in European Parliament elections

A list of candidates compiled by Centre Party from Latvia has been submitted for European Parliament elections. The list is composed of fifteen candidates. This makes it the fifth list of candidates to be submitted for EP elections in Latvia so far, as reported by Central Election Commission.

Air temperature in Latvia to stay positive this week; more precipitation expected

Weather will be dominated by cyclone activity this week. Wind speed will also increase in the country’s western parts in the first half of the week. At the end of the week, air temperature to become chilly at night, as reported by Latvian State Environment, Geology and Meteorology Centre.

Week in Lithuania. N-plant invites bids for repository construction contract

Lithuania's Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant, which was shut down a decade ago and is now being decommissioned, invited bids for the construction of a 100-million-euro near surface repository for low and intermediate level short-lived radioactive waste.

BNN summary of the week: when is Brexit? Estonia’s government worries; more problems with Rīgas satiksme

BNN offers a summary of this week’s topical news in a variety of categories: Attempt; Decision; Investigation; Scandal; Legislation; Expectation.

Suspect in criminal case leaves post in Alkom-Trans

SIA Alkom-Trans chairman Aleksandrs Krjačeks, who is a suspect in a criminal case regarding SIA Rīgas satiksme’s procurements, has decided to step down, according to information from Lursoft.

Eurostat: Latvia had higher annual inflation than average in EU and Eurozone

In February 2019, Latvia’s inflation was higher than the average in European Union and Eurozone, according to data published by Eurostat on Friday, 15 March.

Harmony and New Harmony to compete for seats in European Parliament

Association of parties Alternative Party, which received only 0.34% support from voters in the recent Saeima elections, has decided to start in upcoming European Parliament elections with a new name – New Harmony, as reported by Latvijas Radio.

ABLV Bank’s liquidators recover assets worth EUR 37.938 million in February

In February 2019, liquidators of ABLV Bank had successfully recovered assets worth EUR 37.938 million, which is 21% less than a month prior, according to the annual account published in Latvian Herald.

Polish Catholic church reveals mass child sex abuse by clergy

The administration of the Polish Catholic Church has stated it has since 1990 registered child sex abuse affecting 625 underage victims by 382 clergymen. Poland's Catholic Church authorities revealed the data on Thursday, March 14.

Insurer: children receive 11% more injuries during school breaks

During school breaks the frequency at which children receive injuries is 11% higher when compared to the year’s average, according to data from BTA Baltic Insurance Company.

Survey: one-fifth of Latvian residents do not protect their data on mobile phones

Although modern smartphones have several security options that help protect user data, results of a survey by Samsung Electronics Baltics show that 19% of Latvian residents do not use any of those data protection options.

Estonia's Ratas rejects Verhofstadt's opinion on coalition with anti-migrant party

Belgian member of the European Parliament, Guy Verhofstadt, who heads the parliament's Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe group, has urged acting Estonian Prime Minister Jüri Ratas not to build a government coalition with the anti-migrant Conservative People's Party of Estonia.

Opinion: Baltic residents have cooled down towards Russian-Ukrainian conflict

Ever since the annexation of the Crimean Peninsula five years ago it seems a ‘cooling process’ has begun among residents of Baltic States in relation to the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, said University of Latvia researcher Mārtiņš Kaprāns in an interview to LNT programme Rīta Panorāma on Friday, 15 March.

New Zealand shaken by tragic terror attacks in mosques

40 people have lost their lives in New Zealand, where terror attacks have been committed in two mosques in the city Christchurch today, according to the country's government. The tragic events have taken place on Friday, March 15.

Minister: EC should not be allowed to cut financing to countries with low court independence

From the perspective of the European Union’s legislation and democracy, European Commission should not be given rights to halt funding only because EC thinks the rule of law is insufficient in some country, says Latvian Foreign Affairs Minister Edgars Rinkēvičs.

EU's Tusk to call for long delay of Brexit

European Council President Donald Tusk has said he will invited to EU leaders «to be open to a long extension» of the Brexit deadline, if the UK needs to rethink its strategy and get consensus after it decided to ask for a delay.

Weather to remain rainy in Latvia; air temperature expected above 0° C

At the end of the week, a cyclone will approach Latvia from Scandinavia’s side, which will bring rain and wet snow to many parts of Latvia, as reported by State Environment, Geology and Meteorology Centre.

Latvian Saeima votes to make mental healthcare more accessible

In the near future, it is planned to significantly improve accessibility of mental healthcare in Latvia. The goal is to provide residents with evidence-based, modern, quality mental healthcare. This is provided by the Plan to Improve Access to Mental Health Care for 2019-2020 approved announced at the State Secretaries meeting of Thursday, 14 March, as confirmed by Healthcare Ministry’s representative Anna Strapcāne.