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Friday 06.12.2019 | Name days: Niklāvs, Niks, Nikolajs
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BNN summary of the week: assessment of posts; alcohol wars; doing business with KGB

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Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RULast week seats were shaken up in Riga City Council, Office of the Prosecutor General and the country transport industry.

The «Rebellious four» proposes «starting anew» in Latvia’s capital and have all deputies step down from their posts. On top of that, after putting off decision-making for a long time, the Saeima agreed to permit commencement of criminal prosecution of KPV LV Saeima faction chairman Atis Zakatistovs. Additionally, deputies of Latvia’s parliament have gathered enough signatures to commence evaluation of Prosecutor General Ēriks Kalnmeiers suitability for his post.

While Latvian Railway’s council continues putting off dismissal of the company’s board, Lithuanian media and authorities have begun actively assessing Lithuanian Railway’s business operations. Lithuanian public media turns attention that for years the state railway company has cooperated with a company owned by ex-KGB agent. It is worth adding that Latvian Railway has had dealings with this company for years. Contracts worth five million euros were signed in May alone.

The week also passed with ‘high grade’ topics. While Latvia and Estonia are engaged in active discussions about alcohol prices, Lithuania has decided to ban child champagne.

BNN offers a summary of this week’s topical news in a variety of categories: Lost Rights; Restriction; High-grade strategy; Chancellery of the President; Questionable dealings; Evaluation; Estonia’s choice; Riga City Council.

LOST RIGHTS:

Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RUSaeima committee permits KPV LV member’s criminal prosecution

On Wednesday, 5 June, Saeima’s Mandate, Ethics and Submissions Committee supported the proposal to permit commencement of KPV LV Saeima faction leader Atis Zakatistovs’ criminal prosecution.

Latvia’s Saeima plans to decide on this topic on 6 June. The Prosecutor General’s Office was the institution that submitted the request to commence Zakatistovs’ criminal prosecution.

Saeima’s Mandates, Ethics and Submissions Committee had postponed the viewing if the request from the prosecutor’s office for a long time – the topic remained idle since the end of April. This only served to create different speculations behind the scenes. In the middle of May, the committee agreed to provide deputies time to go through materials of the case.

Janīna Kursīte-Pakule, chairperson of the committee, explained that once materials of the case have been properly studied and in the context of other such cases it was decided to allow deputies go through documents. The prosecutor’s office voiced no objections or demands to have the topic addressed immediately.

Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau (KNAB) has asked the prosecutor’s office to prosecute Zakatistovs and Viesturs Tamužs for fraudulent activities. The prosecutor’s office then turned to the Saeima with a request to permit Zakatistov’s prosecution. The decision to commence criminal prosecution of Viesturs Tamužs was made later.

Full article here

RESTRICTION:

Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RULatvia’s State Agency of Medicines halts registration of Rigvir medication

Until all problems with Rigvir medication have been resolved, State Agency for Medicines (SAM) has decided to put on hold its registration.

SAM explains that several quality defects were found for several Rigvir medication series this year. This is why the decision was made to halt its distribution. The company that registered Rigvir – SIA Latima – still has not determined any specific, clear reason for the quality defect, SAM explains.

The agency also notes the company has not fulfilled its duty in accordance with requirements of the post-registration period to update medication’s documents. This is why SAM has halted Rigvir’s registration certificate until all problems have been resolved. The company has several tasks to perform to restore medication’s registration.

38 patients, five healthcare institutions and 16 oncologists have turned to the Health Inspectorate (HI) with a request to permit them to continue therapy using Rigvir. In response to requests, HI permitted distribution of a single type of Rigvir medication for patients already undergoing melanoma treatment.

The inspectorate notes that requirements of the Cabinet of Ministers provide an order that dictates that in the event of an emergency it is allowed to supply medication to patients who have already started using medication. At the same time HI stresses that medication will not be provided to new patients.

Full article here

HIGH-GRADE STRATEGY:

Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RULatvian and Estonian ministers discuss solutions for alcohol prices

After the meeting of the Council of the Baltic Sea States, Estonia’s Foreign Affairs Minister Urmas Reinsalu and his Latvian colleague Edgars Rinkēvičs discussed the topic of alcohol prices, as reported by Estonian public media ERR.

The two ministers agreed that finance ministries of both countries should consult with one another on changes to excise tax regulations.

On 4 June, Estonia’s Prime Minister Jüri Ratas said no alcohol price war was discussed with his Latvian colleagues, ERR reports.

«Latvia and Estonia share an active and multi-sided cooperation on different levels. One of this year’s most notable events will be the centenary of the Battle of Cesis, which we plan to celebrate together. We are satisfied to see that the two countries share stable economic relations. We want to maintain this tight economic cooperation in the future. We want to strengthen and diversify inter-industrial cooperation by using innovations and new technologies,» said Rinkēvičs.

Full article here

CHANCELLERY OF THE PRESIDENT:

Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RU

Andris Teikmanis

Latvian president appoints the head of the Chancery of the President

Latvia’s newly-elected President Egils Levits has appointed Andris Teikmanis as the head of the Chancellery of the President. Teikmanis has agreed to take this post in July, once he is finished with his duties as ambassador.

Ambassador Solveiga Silkalna has been picked as Levits’ advisor for foreign affairs. Like Teikmanis she has agreed to enter this post in July, as confirmed by the president’s public relations advisor Aiva Rozenberga.

Teikmanis currently serves as Latvia’s ambassador in USA. According to Foreign Affairs Ministry’s compiled information regarding Teikmanis biography, he was born in 1959 and hold education in law.

His career starts in Soviet years – 1983 – as investigator for Riga City Police. He later became a judge. After restoration of Latvia’s independence he was a member of the Supreme Council and on 4 May 1990 he signed the Declaration on the Restoration of Independence of the Republic of Latvia.

Since 1994, he has worked as a diplomat and has been Latvia’s ambassador to Britain, Australia, New Zealand, Russia, Germany and the European Council. From 2008 to 2013 he was Latvian Foreign Ministry’s state secretary.

Full article here

QUESTIONABLE DEALINGS:

Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RULithuanian Railways signs contracts worth EUR 130 million with ex-KGB agent

Lithuanian Railways [Lietuvos geležinkeliai] has signed contracts worth EUR 130 million with ex-KGB officer Yuri Simonenkov’s owned company Sigmen, as reported by Lithuanian public media LRT.

Simonenkov’s network of contacts from his time in KGB reaches all the way to people close to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

In spite of his connections with Russian political elite, Lithuanian law enforcement has not checked any of the contracts, LRT reports. Nevertheless, in some cases the committee responsible for investigating influence of business transactions on state security had prohibited Lithuanian Railways from signing contracts with Sigmen.

It is worth mentioning that contracts with Sigmen are nothing new for Latvian Railway either, as in May 2019 the two companies signed contracts worth nearly EUR 5 million, according to data accessible on the website of Latvian Procurement Monitoring Bureau.

Officially Sigmen shares are owned by Simonenkov’s wife. Lithuanian public media reports that the ex-KGB officer and his associates have ties with other ex-KGB officials and agents, reaching all the way to Putin’s associates and oligarchs applied with US sanctions.

Nevertheless, Sigmen has no problems participating in public tenders in Lithuania. Lithuanian Railways is also involved in Rail Baltica process and is currently busy building the 15 km-long railway line in Kaunas. Rails are supplied by Sigmen.

Full article here

EVALUATION:

Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RU

Ēriks Kalnmeiers

Themis wills it: Latvian Saeima deputies agree to evaluate prosecutor general’s work

Latvian Saeima successfully collects 34 signatures from deputies to commence New Conservative Party’s (NCP) proposed evaluation of Prosecutor General Ēriks Kalnmeiers’ suitability for his post.

Now the topic will be discussed and decided on by the Saeima.

One of the precedents that allows for the evaluation of the prosecutor general’s suitability for his post is when the chairman of the Supreme Court of Justice issues an order for it following a request from one-third of Saeima deputies.

In accordance with the law, the evaluation is performed by a judge of the Supreme Court of Justice authorized by the chairman of the Supreme Court of Justice. If the evaluation yields one or several reasons covered by law to warrant the prosecutor general’s dismissal, the Saeima can decide to dismiss the prosecutor general from his post.

Deputies of the ruling coalition have already signed the request.

BNN had previously reported that NCP leader Jānis Bordāns’ Justice Ministry proposed in May to re-evaluate the work performed by Prosecutor General Ēriks Kalnmeiers and his suitability for his post.

Full article here

ESTONIA’S CHOICE:

Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RUEstonian government picks Kadri Simson for European commissioner’s post

Estonian government coalition has picked ex-Economy Minister Kadri Simson for the post of European commissioner, Estonian public media ERR reports.

Simson was picked by her colleague and Estonian Prime Minister Jüri Ratas. The Centre Party also reportedly supports her as a candidate.

Simson is proposed both as current European Commissioner Andrus Ansip’s temporary replacement until October and his successor for the next five-year term.

Because Ansip was elected to the European Parliament earlier in May, he will have to choose between his job as European Commissioner and Member of the European Parliament.

As European Commissioner, Ansip was responsible for digital affairs. Simson’s possible range of responsibilities is currently unknown.

Full article here

RIGA CITY COUNCIL:

Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RUEx-Harmony members urge parties in Riga to resign from posts and start over

The Independents Deputies Faction, which consists of four deputies previously excluded from Harmony, in Riga City Council has presented a proposal for all political parties represented in the city council to step down from their posts, including the mayor, vice-mayors and heads of committees, and «reboot» the city council.

This proposal was detailed in a letter sent to Riga’s Mayor Dainis Turlais and all factions in the city council, as confirmed by Independent Deputies Faction’s leader Valērijs Petrovs.

«Considering what has happened at Riga City Council since the last meeting and with respect of the interests of all residents, we invite all political parties elected to the city council to take political responsibility for the situation in the municipality,» the open letter mentions.

It is worth adding that in this letter the situation in Latvia’s capital city is described as a political crisis.

The faction believes that all proposals to resolve the situation so far – removing specific officials from posts, dividing spheres of interest, or organizing emergency elections in Riga – will likely deepen the crisis.

Full article here


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Estonia’s prime minister: Rail Baltica project unlikely to be finished on time

It is unlikely European standard railway width project Rail Baltica will be finished on time – by 2026, admits Estonia’s Prime Minister Jüri Ratas.

Estonia points to human rights violations in occupied parts of Georgia, Ukraine

Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Reinsalu has noted in a meeting of the OSCE that violations of international rights and fundamental rights along with the continued crises in Georgia and Ukraine endanger security in the wider region of OSCE countries.

For the first time since 2003, woman possibly infected with rabies dies in Latvia

A woman that was possibly infected with rabies has died in Daugavpils, as reported by Disease Prevention and Control. This may be the first death caused by rabies in Latvia since 2003.

French pension strike engages 800 000 people

In France, the first day of mass demonstrations and public sector strike has involved over 800 000 in marches in many cities of the country, as protesters seek to force President Emmanuel Macron not to push forward with pension reform.

Interior Affairs Minister wants to use modern technologies to combat contraband

To ensure a more effective way to combat against contraband, Latvia’s Interior Affairs Minister Sandis Ģirģens wants to use modern technologies that would work in parallel to customs officers. He said as much in an interview to LTV programme Rīta Panorāma on Friday, 6 December.

Ušakovs says he wants to run in Riga City Council snap elections

Member of the European Parliament and ex-Mayor of Riga Nils Ušakovs says he is prepared to start in snap elections in Riga if they are organized, as confirmed by Harmony chairman Jānis Urbanovičs.

Germany’s Merkel to visit Auschwitz Holocaust camp for first time

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has headed the German government since 2005, will on Friday, December 6, visit the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland.

VID officials will need to have spotless reputation, Saeima decides

From now on, officials of the State Revenue Service will need to have a spotless reputation. This is decided by Saeima’s amendments to the Law on State Revenue Service approved in the final reading on 5 December, as BNN was told by Saeima’s press-service.

Brazil at risk of losing vote in UN General Assembly because of high debts

There are risks that because of failure to pay its debts to the United Nations Organization, Brazil could lose its voting rights in the UN General Assembly, Reuters reports.

Strained Lithuanian budget is desperate for additional sources of revenues

With the adoption of the new year’s budget skidding, two major professional groups – teachers and doctors – have had this week their demand for higher salaries satisfied, thus deepening the holes in the shallowing budget. Where to scoop up money to patch all the gaps and satisfy all the demands? This week, Seimas, Lithuanian legislature, was in a frantic search for additional sources of revenues.

Estonian Police and Border Guard Board official detained on suspicion of embezzlement

Estonian Internal Security Service has detained a senior officer of Police and Border Guard Board at the South Prefecture on suspicion of document forgery and embezzlement of more than EUR 250 000, as reported by Estonian public media ERR.

Saeima supports government’s decision to extend state of emergency in Riga

On Thursday, 5 December, Saeima agreed with the government’s decision to extend the state of emergency with waste management in Riga’s administrative territory until 12 March 2020, as reported by the Saeima’s press-service.

Flu infection rates remain low in Latvia, but infection spread continues nonetheless

A total of 30 clinically confirmed flu infection cases were registered in Latvia’s healthcare institutions. Nevertheless, virus activity remains low in the country, according to the latest monitoring report on influenza and acute upper respiratory tract infections compiled by Disease Prevention and Control Centre.

France braces for intense protests over Macron’s intended pension reform

France shaken by this decade’s biggest protests in which trade unions urge other residents to oppose French President Emmanuel Macron’s intended pension reform, Reuters reports.

Marguerite Fund to sell Conexus shares to Japanese Marubeni fund

Shareholder in Latvian natural gas transmission and storage system operator Conexus Baltic Grid, Marguerite Fund plans to sell its owned 29.06% of Conexus shares to Japanese company Marubeni fund.

Saeima’s majority may move towards Riga City Council’s dismissal

The majority of Latvia’s Saeima may vote towards dismissing Riga City Council, according to unofficial information from LETA. There is also a more reserved position on this, but generally it is admitted that Riga City Council’s dismissal process will be initiated.

National Economy Committee invites reviewing Rail Baltica project’s management structure

«Considering the unstable situation and lasting stagnation with the project’s management, the National Economy Committee invites Transport Ministry to review the structure of RB Rail,» says Economic, Agricultural, Environmental and Regional Policy Committee chairman Jānis Vitenbergs.

«Riga’s residents overpay.» Kleins proposes terminating contract with Rīgas karte

Riga City Council vice-chairman and shareholder in municipal company LLC Rīgas satiksme Druvis Kleins, has ordered the company’s lawyers to assess the option of quickly terminating the contract with LLC Rīgas karte, as confirmed by Kleins, who represents For Riga! bloc in the city council.

Newspaper: Russia plans to deploy a motorized division in Kaliningrad next year

Russia has plans to deploy a motorized division in Kaliningrad Oblast, which shares borders with Poland and Lithuania, as reported by Russian government newspaper Rossiyskaya Gazeta.

Ex-president says conflicts with territorial reform surface where the rich refuse to share

The objective of the territorial reform remains unchanged – forming economically more efficient administrative territories. This means creating counties able to sustain themselves and develop economically. Conflicts with the reform usually surface in areas, where the rich refuse to share. There are also situations when the poor want to receive and do nothing on their own, BNN was told by ex-President of Latvia Valdis Zatlers.

October’s industrial production output in Latvia increases 3%

Compared to October 2018, industrial production output increased by 3 % in October 2019, according to calendar adjusted data at constant prices.

Iceland’s prime minister urges making welfare a budget priority

Iceland’s Prime Minister Katrin Jakobsdottir urges the government to focus on priorities that serve the interest of families and nature, not focus exclusively on economic growth, BBC reports.

NATO leaders meet in spite of tension to discuss security challenges

In spite of ongoing rows, leaders of NATO member states met near London on Wednesday, 4 December, to discuss important topics like cyber security and strategic challenges created by China, BBC reports.

Latvian government extends state of emergency with waste management in Riga

Although Riga City Council has stated multiple times that it is not necessary to extend the state of emergency with waste management, Latvia’s government has nevertheless decided to extend it until March 2020.

Nemiro: Latvia has not yet decided if it wants to acquire Gazprom’s shares in Conexus>

Latvia will consider every offer from transmission and storage system operator Conexus Baltic Grid shareholder to purchase company shares, says Economy Minister Ralfs Nemiro.


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