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Monday 19.08.2019 | Name days: Melānija, Imanta
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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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EU: Rīgas satiksme cuts Latvian budget fiscal room in 2020 by 72 mln EUR

The Riga city company Rīgas satiksme should, according to European Union criteria, be in included in the general government sector, thus it would cut the fiscal space of the 2020 Latvian state budget by 72 million euros, Finance Ministry stated.

Latvijas Krājbanka’s administrator recovered 542 thousand euros in July

The administrator of the insolvent Latvian bank Latvijas Krājbanka recovered 524 444 euros in July, which is by 75% more than a month earlier, according to the official gazette Latvijas Vēstnesis.

Latvian post-reform administrative centres to have 2 000 - 630 000 populations

After the planned administrative reform of Latvia, the population size of the administrative centres of the new municipalities is expected to vary from 2 000 to 632 000 people, according to a conceptual report by the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Regional Development.

A week of warm, but changing weather forecast for Latvia

Weather in Latvia this week is expected to be summer-like and warm, with rain expected on Thursday and Friday, according to the Latvian Environment, Geology and Meteorology Centre.

Kabul wedding terror attack committed by Islamic State, the group says

Responsibility for the terror attack in Afghanistan, where explosives killed 63 people. has been claimed by the Afghan branch of the Islamic State terrorist group.

British Gibraltar releases seized Iran oil tanker

An Iranian oil tanker detained by Gibraltar, part of the United Kingdom, has sailed away from port after being allowed to do so despite Washington’s call to detain it again.

BNN summary of the week: Latvia’s biggest budget; PNB Bank halts operations; Latvia sad with Latvia

Some positive news surfaced in Latvia this week – Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš announced that the country’s next budget will be the largest one yet and will exceed EUR 10 billion. In spite of this, however, financial difficulties have been observed – PNB Bank has ended up in a tight spot. The bank’s shortage of funds has forced Finance and Capital Market Commission to halt all of the bank’s financial operations.

Week in Lithuania: PM Skvernelis undergoes surgery, Nausėda meets Merkel, rebukes Latvia

Last week, President Gitanas Nausėda rejected the government’s candidate for EU judge, hints of big changes at Šiaulių Bankas ahead

Independent Deputies Faction joins forces with Honour to Serve Riga

Riga City Council’s Independent Deputies Faction has signed a cooperation agreement with Honour to Serve Riga political party, pledging support for the party’s mayoral candidate Oļegs Burovs, as LETA was told by the faction’s leader Valērijs Petrovs on Monday, 18 August.

Saeima’s MPC investigation committee requests information on every issued license

The parliamentary committee formed to investigate the mandatory procurement component has requested access to information regarding every issued MPC license and decision made by officials in regards to this field, says the committee’s representative Ilze Vanaga.

Latvian athlete receives two-year disqualification

Former Latvian long jumper Ineta Radeviča has received a two-year disqualification, as confirmed by International Association of Athletics Federation’s Athletics Integrity Unit.

Minister: state budget funds will not be used to compensate PNB Bank’s clients

The Deposit Guarantee Fund is sufficient to pay compensations to affected PNB Bank clients. This means not a cent from Latvia’s state budget will be used, said Latvia’s Finance Minister Jānis Reirs in a telephone conversation with public broadcaster LTV programme Rīta Panorāma on Friday, 16 August.

Estonia to invest 22 million in construction of a new TV house

Estonian government has set aside EUR 22 million for the construction of a new public television building, as reported by Estonian public media ERR.

Another one falls – Latvian FCMC halts PNB Bank’s operations

Operations of PNB Bank [formerly Norvik Banka] have been halted in Latvia, as confirmed by Finance and Capital Market Commission.

Unemployment index in Latvia drops – rate down to 6.4% in Q2

In Q2 2019 Latvian unemployment rate constituted 6.4 %. Compared to the previous quarter, unemployment rate fell by 0.5 percentage points, and compared to the rate recorded a year ago, it dropped by 1.3 percentage points.

64.7% of Latvia’s population reportedly employed in Q2 2019

905.6 thousand people or 64.7 % of Latvia’s population aged 15–74 were employed in Q2 2019.

Lithuanian Conservatives’ tensions: can the party split?

The Conservative Homeland Union - Lithuanian Christian Democrats (TS-LKD) have risen to unseen heights lately – although in the opposition now, in 2016 parliamentary election the party racked up a record support in its 30 years’ history.

Minister: Latvia’s social budget surplus has reached one billion

The surplus of the state social budget has come close of the pre-crisis level – EUR 1 billion, said Latvian Welfare Minister Ramona Petraviča in an interview to LTV programme Rīta panorama on 15 August.

Riga City Council permitted to elect mayor after two-month deadline

In spite of the fact that 21 August will mark two months of Riga City Council working without a mayor, a condition that permits Latvia’s Saeima to dismiss the entire city council, deputies of the municipality will nonetheless have the right to elect a mayor after the deadline, says Environment Protection Minister Juris Pūce’s advisor for legal affairs Valdis Verners.

Lithuanian president unhappy with Latvia’s decision to purchase energy from Belarus

Lithuanian President Gitanas Nausėda has voiced sadness over Latvia’s decision to purchase electrical energy produced at Astravets nuclear power plant in Belarus not far from the Lithuanian border. He admits, however, that this decision was not unexpected for him.

State Real Estate claims ReRe Būve 1 may be trying to circumvent the law

Construction company Rere Būve 1 publicly voices desire to continue implementing the construction contract. However, the construction company’s submitted work schedule for reconstruction of New Riga Theatre has everything changed – volume of work, terms and budget, Latvian State Real Estate reports.

Lithuanian mountaineer dies climbing French Alps

Lithuanian 38-year-old mountaineer Vytautas Mažeika died in a 50 m fall in the French Alps, Lithuanian public media LRT reports with reference to 15min.lt.

Estonia decides to reform pension system; increase not promised

Helir-Valdor Seeder, leader of Estonian coalition party Isamaa, has confirmed that the government has agreed on his proposed pension reform, as reported by Estonian public media ERR.

Ruling party in Lithuania promises national agreement for education affairs

While more and more small town schools close down in Lithuania, the leader of the ruling party promises a «national agreement» for education affairs, as reported by Lithuanian public media LRT.

Viesturs Zeps’ has yet to convince NCP and Unity to support him as mayoral candidate

Mayoral candidate in Riga Viesturs Zeps still has not convinced New Conservative Party and Unity to support him, according to what he said in an interview to public broadcaster LTV programme Rīta panorama on Thursday, 15 August.