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Friday 15.02.2019 | Name days: Olafs, Aloizs, Alvils, Olavs
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BNN summary of the week: a new government in Latvia; hope for new ministers; EP election preparations

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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: Government; Conflict; Hope; EP Elections; Opinion; Agreement.

GOVERNMENT: Politicians discuss the pros and cons of Kariņš’s government

Latvian politicians have commenced preliminary debates before the vote on New Unity politician Arturs Krišjāņis Kariņš’s forming government’s approval. BNN offers the pros and cons provided by opposition deputies.

In his pre-vote speech, Kariņš said: «The 13th Saeima elections. What was the result? On the one hand people say there was no clarity, but on the other hand the nation has elected people in our nation. The people are our reflection. The key for our government is not fighting each other over power, but looking for common ground. One person cannot do much – we have to combine our forces.»

He also stressed the new government is prepared to look at every single proposal from the opposition. «We will not be the ones to reject proposals simply because they come from the opposition.»

Kariņš said there are seven topics the government will focus on: sorting of the financial system, strengthening of rule of law, continuation of previous government’s initiated healthcare and education reforms, abolishment of MPC system, territorial reformation and resolution of demographic problems.

«By accomplishing these tasks we will implement fiscal discipline principles and maintain a clear euro-Atlantic course,» he said.

Kariņš also mentioned in his speech that «our [Latvia’s] neighbour Russia has become aggressive», adding that «this presents a challenge not only for Latvia but the rest of the world as well».

Full article here

CONFLICT: Jurašs lawyer says raising charges is no longer possible due to statute of limitations

In accordance with requirements of the Criminal Process Law, the prosecutor is required to launch criminal prosecution within ten days of receiving materials of the criminal case from an investigative institutions – in this case State Security Service. However, in the case with Juris Jurašs, the prosecutor received materials of the case on 8 January, but this term is already passed, says Jurašs’ lawyer Aleksandrs Berezins.

He says if the Saeima decides in favour of allowing Jurašs’ criminal prosecution, the prosecutor is no longer able to make the decision on prosecuting him, because the term provided by the law has already run out.

The lawyer explains he does not understand the prosecutor’s decision «if he knows it is written black on white that he has ten days to submit the case to the committee. Now that he has missed the deadline, he [the prosecutor] wants to do something. This is what I am confused about,» says Berezins.

The State Security Service confirmed the criminal process was submitted to the prosecutor’s office on 8 January.

As it is known, the Prosecutor General’s Office to the Saeima in which it is requested to commence criminal prosecution of Jurašs for disclosing and official secret.

Full article here

HOPE: BATL hopes the new transport minister will put an end to ‘feasts’ at ports and LDz

Baltic Association – Transit and Logistics board member Ivars Landmanis says the industry expects the new transport minister in Latvia to sort things out to improve the industry’s international competitiveness. «This includes implementation of rather brave reforms for railway freight and port administration, which is something the industry has either not seen at all or something that has been implemented very poorly.»

Considering the commitment of Latvia’s new transport minister to implement objectives detailed in the government declaration, as well as his own professional work in the transport sector, BATL believes the minister could pull it off.

BATL stresses that the new minister should first and foremost establish a dialogue with representatives of all players in the industry, not maintain the same «dogs bark, caravan continues» approach. «I cannot comment on other transport sectors, but in transit sector, representatives of private companies – ones that attract cargoes and secure income for LDz and ports – are left ignored, their opinions are simply not taken into account. Current policy-makers, port administration and state capital associations largely continue pushing their own agenda and lobby it through different associations that represent them.»

BATL mentions the assessment of the work performed by LDz, considering indexes of recent years show that resource use and investments remain ineffective and continue having a negative effect on railway freight costs, as one of the main topical directions for work. «It is important to optimize costs, primarily putting an end to unrelated costs, such us sponsoring and advertisement projects. It should be reminded that LDz’s main function is ensuring modern and effective infrastructure and its maintenance, not cargo freight.»

Full article here

EP ELECTIONS: Harmony picks its main candidate for European Parliament elections

Harmony political party’s main candidate for European Parliament elections will be Saeima deputy and chairman of the Sustainable Development Committee Vjačeslavs Dombrovskis, as confirmed by Riga City Council Chairman Nils Ušakovs in an interview to LNT 900 seconds programme.

He said this decision was made by the party unanimously. The party has yet to decide on its other candidates.

‘I think this was the correct decision – he is a politician with a great deal of experience and is publicly well-known and supported,’ said Ušakovs.

As it is known, submission of candidate lists for the EP elections will be taking part from 6 March until 21 March.

Full article here

OPINION: Lembergs is not deserving of the 1991 Barricade Participant’s Commemorative Badge

«It still remains unclear where Chairman of Ventspils Executive Committee Aivars Lembergs was during the January 1991 barricades. He has yet to provide a clear answer. However, in spite of that, Lembergs is not shy to mention in his biography that he was awarded the 1991 Barricade Participant’s Commemorative Badge,» BNN was told by Ventspils City Council opposition deputy Ģirts Valdis Kristovskis.

He explains: «Like every year, commemorative events were organized in many parts of Latvia this January. Unfortunately, no such events were held in Ventsils, even though during the January 1991 barricades period this city was home to the United Self-Defence and Coordination Council, which helped organize and coordinate participation of hundreds of Ventspils residents in efforts to protect Latvia’s independence in Riga.»

«Aivars Lembergs’ participation in the 1991 barricades remains unknown to this day»

Without a doubt these historic events and Ventspils residents who stood guard during this decisive period of Latvia’s history deserve respect. Unfortunately, commemorative events in Ventspils are left with no attention year after year. It is possible the commemoration of 1991 Barricades and Ventspils residents who took part in it is forgotten because nothing is known about the activities of Aivars Lembergs during the 1991 Barricades period.

Considering the aforementioned, as well as the fact that to attract attention to and properly evaluate the participation of Ventspils residents in the January 1991 barricades need to be determined. Evaluation is also needed for certain facts about the involvement of Aivars Lembergs during this sensitive period of Latvia’s history.

Full article here

AGREEMENT: Latvia and Britain reach agreement over citizen status after Brexit

Latvia and Britain have reached a mutual agreement that in the event Britain exits the European Union without an agreement, the status of both countries’ citizens will not change after Brexit, said Latvian Foreign Affairs Minister Edgars Rinkēvičs in an interview to LTV programme Rīta panorama.

He says a mutual agreement was reached on Monday, 21 January. However, official statements from the British government and Latvian Saeima are expected. «Saeima’s Foreign Affairs Committee has started working on it. Even after that we will still have many other matters to discuss, including law amendments. I don’t think things will go smoothly. Let’s be honest: it’s a process that cannot be properly predicted,» admits Rinkēvičs.

Full article here


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Latvian President: All should acknowledge constitutional values as their own

At the anniversary of the Constitution of the Republic of Latvia, President Raimonds Vējonis, urged everyone in Latvia «to acknowledge the values of the Constitution as one's own and be ready to stand for the basic law both in big issues and in aspects of daily life».

Court rules EUR 200 thousand bail for criminal suspect of Riga transport firm

A court in the Latvian capital has set at 200 000 euros the bail money for ex-board chairman of the Riga public transport company Rīgas satiksme, who is a suspect in the criminal case over possible corrupt procurement dealings at the municipal firm.

Grave terror attack shakes Kashmir, conflict region of India, Pakistan

A terror attack has taken place in the disputed region of Kashmir, a long source of argument between India and Pakistan, taking the lives of 44 people.

British parliament rejects government's approach to Brexit talks

As the government of the United Kingdom sought the backing of the British Parliament to its strategy for the remaining weeks of Brexit talks with the European Union, a motion endorsing the government's strategy was rejected with a majority of 45 votes.

Lithuanian lawmakers set to backtrack on «Norwegian-type» child welfare protection

The Lithuanian lawmakers have sent this week a mixed message on their resolve to root out child abuse in Lithuanian families. As the MPs backtracked from the stringent Norwegian-type child welfare protection law to a more lenient one, not-criminalizing corporal punishment in certain cases, some experts warn that the reverse can trigger a spike of child abuse cases.

Drivers warned in Latvia as roads slippery in warmer temperatures

Black frost is hampering driving on Latvia's main and regional roads. The road administration body Latvijas Valsts ceļi (LVC) says that maintenance teams are covering the roads with antiskid materials and advises drivers to be very careful.

Programmer, physiotherapist and pilot – top professions on Latvian Job Shadow Day

The Job Shadow Day 2019 was held on February 13 in Latvia and the professions of programmer, physiotherapist and pilot were the most attractive as 1 545 companies offered the chance to follow working specialists throughout the day, according to the data by Junior Achievement Latvia.

Macedonia starts name-change from signs to currency, passports

Macedonia's official gazette has published the name-change agreement, launching a campaign of renaming the country as North Macedonia and allowing for its accession to NATO and eventually the European Union.

Dozens of British ex-ambassadors call for delay of Brexit

A group of over 40 British ex-ambassadors have urged the country's Prime Minister Theresa May to delay the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union, British media report.

Port of Ventspils sees 40% boost in cargo turnover on year

Cargo turnover at the Freeport of Ventspils has in January 2019, compared to the respective month in 2018, jumped by 40.12% or 593 tonns, according to data from the Port Administration.

New CEO of Rail Baltic project is Finnish railway executive Riihimäki

To advance the pan-Baltic railway project, the Supervisory Board of RB Rail AS has appointed Timo Riihimäki as Chief Executive Officer and Chairperson of the Management Board of the Rail Baltica Joint Venture.

Latvian PM sees no chance no significantly raise teacher salaries in 2019

Despite promises to teachers made by the previous government, Latvia is currently unable to significantly raise the wages of teachers, because it would require either increasing the budget deficit or higher taxes, Latvian Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš has told on Wednesday, in an interview with LNT's programme 900 sekundes.

Estonian startups attract EUR 328 million in 2018

The Estonian startup sector has in 2018 attracted combined investments of 328 million euros with Taxify, Pipedirve and Monese being the top performers, according to calculations by Startup Estonia.

U.S. sees power vacuum in Eastern Europe as exploited by Russia, China

U.S Secretary of State Mike Pompeo evaluated that in Eastern Europe, China and Russia endanger the democratic and free-market gains made since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 by the means of predatory investment and political meddling.

Ukraine peace agreement not fulfilled, UN finds

The Minsk peace accord of 2015 stands unimplemented in eastern Ukraine as over 3,300 people have been killed and 1.5 million people displaced in the five-year conflict, U.N. officials stated.

Latvian conductor Nelsons wins Grammies in U.S.

Latvian conductor Andris Nelsons has added two Grammy music awards to his list of honours for the work with the Boston Symphony Orchestra. At the Grammy music awards ceremony in the U.S. on Sunday, February 10, the Latvian won the prize for the best orchestral performance with the Boston Symphony Orchestra in the record Shostakovich: Symphonies Nos. 4&11.

Riga Mayor survives another no-confidence vote

The embattled Mayor Riga Nils Ušakovs has survived a vote of no-confidence as the opposition parties criticised him over corruption scandals involving the Riga City Council.

Justice Minister: Justice does exist in Latvia, but it's selective

«I'm in politics precisely, because as a citizen and a lawyer, I wasn't satisfied with the influence on the court and political system from people, operating outside these spheres. To my mind, this influence is the reason of long trials in Latvia. Another problem is the lack of specialists, who could solve economic crimes – if politicians would be very interested in this, many cases would have been solved over the past ten years. There are two options: there have either been unprofessional politicians, or they have been interested in having the situation remain the way it was,» said Latvian Justice Minister Jānis Bordāns in an interview with the BNN.

Spain starts historic trial against Catalan independence figures

Spain is beginning court proceedings against 12 leaders of the region of Catalonia for their role in the region's independence referendum and the subsequent declaration of separation from Spain.

Estonia convicts ex-army officer, his father for treason

A court in Tallinn has convicted ex-officer of the Estonian Defence Forces, Deniss Metsavas, his father for state treason, finding them guilty of selling state secrets to Russian intelligence.

Troubles continue in Latvian anti-establishment party KPV LV

In the Latvian anti-establishment party KPV LV, Saeima member Linda Liepiņa has decided to leave the post of the party's Co-chairperson and member of the board.

Thaw and warm temperatures expected in Latvia this week

The weather in Latvia, in the first part of the week will be mostly warm for winter-time and precipitation in the form of rain and wet snow can be expected, according to a weekly forecast from the Latvian Environment, Geology and Meteorology Centre.

Defence Minister: Deployment of allied missiles in Latvia is «dreaming»

The issue of the deployment of the missiles of allied forces in Latvia is far from being relevant, «it's dreaming», commented Latvian Defence Minister on Monday, February 11, in an interview with LTV's news programme Rīta panorāma

Hungary' s mothers of four to be exempt from paying income tax

In Hungary, the government is boosting financial support to families with several children, according to measures presented by Prime Minister Viktor Orbán. On Sunday, February 10, the significant measures announced by Viktor Orbán during an annual address, encouraging women to have more children.

UK government pushes for more time for Brexit negotiations

A month and two weeks before the United Kingdom is due to leave the European Union, the government of Theresa May seeks to buy more time in the British parliament for her talks with Brussels to reach concessions that would allow the adoption of the Brexit deal.