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Saturday 24.08.2019 | Name days: Boļeslavs, Bērtulis

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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Hot weekend ahead in Latvia

Over this weekend, in Latvia, a wide anticyclone will determine the weather keeping the sunny and mostly dry weather of Friday, according to the Latvian Environment, Geology and Meteorology Centre.

IKEA to land in Estonia from next week

Swedish furniture design and retail chain IKEA plans to enter the Estonian market on August 29. According to the firm, it would first open an online store.

Levits: People on Baltic Way melted totalitarian regime in their hands

During the Baltic Way people melted a totalitarian regime in their hands, said Latvian President Egils Levits at the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the peaceful mass demonstration marked at the Castle of Riga.

Turn in high-profile court saga: Ventspils mayor receives state lawyer

The mayor of the Latvian port city Ventspils, Aivars Lembergs, who is charged with serious crimes and has been suspended from office, has been appointed a state lawyer in the long court process that has had many delays.

No obstacles to Riga signing waste contract on 20 years, says ministry, despite probe

Latvian Ministry of Environmental Protection and Regional Development has stated that the plan by the Riga City Council to award a waste management contract on 20 years is not against the law, despite competition regulator investigating alleged violations.

Riga pledges to increase use of Latvian in its kindergartens

The Riga municipality will continue increasing the use of the Latvian language in the kindergartens of the capital, the responsible department of the Riga City Council has stated in reaction to calls to switch all kindergarten groups to the official language.

France supports new, short Brexit talks for UK to leave with deal

Emmanuel Macron of France supported new, month-long Brexit negotiations to avoid a no-deal Brexit, but was against the removal of the Irish backstop from the deal – a key demand by his guest British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

Lithuania backs Sinkevičius as European Commission nominee

The Lithuanian parliament on Thursday, August 22, voted to support Virginijus Sinkevičius, the Lithuanian Minister of the Economy and Innovation, as the country’s pick for the next European Commission.

New member of Riga Freeport board rushes to meet controversial Šlesers, TV3 Ziņas says

Riga councilman Sandris Bergmanis has a day after being elected to the board of the Freeport of Riga Authority met with businessman and former Latvian minister Ainārs Šlesers, according to the news programme TV3 Ziņas.

Latvian power production drops to lowest level in year

Energy companies in Latvia produced 357 655 megawatt hours of power in July, which is the lowest level of national power output since July 2018. This allowed to cover 64% of the Latvian electricity consumption, according to AS Augstsprieguma tīkls.

Compensation payments of defunct Latvian PNB Banka begin

With operations of the Latvian bank, AS PNB Banka, stopped, the process of paying the guaranteed compensation to its clients has begun on August 22, according Citadele, the lender tasked with the payments.

Riga planning to introduce tourist fee – one euro per day

The Riga City Council is discussing a plan to introduce a tourist fee charging all places of tourist accommodation a fee of one euro per day.

Expert: With Belarus electricity freezing Baltics’ solidarity, Moscow is over the moon

In a blow to Lithuania’s far-reaching plans, Latvia has announced it looks forward to buying electricity from a nuclear power plant in Belarus’ Astravyets under construction 50 kilometres away from Vilnius.

WHO: Little risk from microplastics in drinking water

The World Health Organization has declared that the current level of microplastic particles in drinking water does not pose is not a serious risk for health, yet more research was necessary to determine their effects on human health.

Subsidies to controversial Riga transport company could increase by EUR 20 mln

Amid the criticism of the Riga municipal transport company Rīgas satiksme for its losses and their effect on the Latvian state budget, a plan has been voiced to increase its subsidies, now 120 million euros, by another 20 million euros, Latvian Radio reports.

Latvian Minister keeping adviser detained by corruption watchdog for now

Latvian Agriculture Minister Kaspars Gerhards will clarify the reason, why his advisor and the mayor of the city of Ogre, Egils Helmanis, has been detained by corruption investigators, to decide on keeping him in office.

Trump, Macron willing to readmit Russia to G7, despite Crimea annexation

The leaders of France and the United States have expressed their backing to readmitting Russia to the G7 conference of world powers in 2020, despite Ukraine’s Crimea still being held by Moscow, CNN reports.

Latvian excise tax income up by 8% in first half of 2018

The Latvian excise tax income in the first half of 2019 has been 521 million euros, –an increase by 39 million euros, or 8.1% – compared to the respective period last year, showed data by the Latvian State Revenue Service.

Latvian PM: Most of freely available 2020 budget funds already earmarked

Discussing the 2020 Latvian national budget, Latvian prime minister Krišjānis Kariņš pointed out that its fiscal space is limited by previous decisions and that the expected losses of the Riga transport company will not permit raising wages and pensions nationally.

Corruption watchdog detains Ogre city mayor Helmanis

The Latvian Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau has on Wednesday detained the mayor of central Latvian city of Ogre, Egils Helmanis, according to LETA news agency.

New members to Freeport of Riga Authority elected, despite criticism

The Riga City Council elected to the Board of the Freeport of Riga Authority, mayor Oļegs Burovs and councilman Sandris Bergmanis, despite heavy criticism of the latter for incompetence and lack of vision.

Italy loses government, coalition of right-wing, anti-establishment parties collapses

Italy has lost its government with Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announcing resignation after the right-wing League party pushed for no-confidence motion to its own government.

Kaljulaid opposed to Estonian minister after police chief scandal

Alleging that Estonian Interior Minister Mart Helme has violated the law by trying to sack top police chief, Estonian President Kersti Kaljulaid has stated that the minister has no place in the government.

Planned Latvian economic cases’ court conceptually backed by government

The plan by the Latvian Ministry of Justice to establish a court of economic cases has on Tuesday, August 20, been supported by the Latvian Cabinet of Ministers.

Riga deputy mayor posts go to Harmony and independent politician

In the Riga City Council, deputy mayors have been elected with one post going to Anna Vladova from Harmony and the other – to Vadims Baraņņiks from the group of independent councilmen.

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