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Wednesday 17.10.2018 | Name days: Karīna, Gaits
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BNN summary of the week: Baltics thankful to USA; transit industry’s risks; CPCB’s latest search

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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: Meeting; Opinion; Change; Fight; Response; Growth.

MEETING: Baltic-U.S. summit has removed doubt about U.S. support

The leadership of Estonian parliamentary committees has commented that at the Baltic-U.S. summit meeting in Washington, U.S. President Donald Trump has removed doubt about the seriousness of American commitment to Baltic security.

Estonian public broadcaster ERR reports on Wednesday, April 4, that Chairman of the National Defence Committee of the Riigikogu Hannes Hanso evaluated: «Trump very seriously addressed first the history of how the U.S. never recognized the Soviet occupation of Estonia, through what our relationships as allies are today. (..) He also said that he is very much looking forward to the next 100 years of our good and close allied relationship.»

Full article here

OPINION: Russia’s missile-firing tests should be approached with a cool head

«Discussions of Russia’s planned missile-firing tests above Latvia’s exclusive economic zone in the Baltic Sea are going very intensely in the public space. A great deal of attention is provided to this matter. It is important to keep in mind, however, that these tests have a clear propaganda role, so we should approach them with a cool head,» says Latvia’s Foreign Affairs Minister Edgars Rinkēvičs.

Intensive discussions of Russia’s planned missile-firing tests in the public space can be considered a success of Russia’s propaganda, says the minister.

The politician reminded that Latvia’s Foreign Affairs Ministry has asked ambassadors to NATO and OCSE to present this matter for discussions during the next meeting.

Foreign Affairs Ministry underlines that international laws allow organizing such military exercises. It is also the duty of Latvia’s Civil Aviation Agency to ensure safety of passing aircraft. Institutions responsible for maritime security also have a duty to ensure there are no ships passing through the area while military exercises are underway.

«It is not a matter of someone giving permission. International laws allow countries to organize military exercises. The fact that Russia’s planned missile-firing tests are provocative and intimidating has been confirmed by Prime Minister Māris Kučinskis, Latvia’s President Raimonds Vējonis and officials from Defence Ministry,» said the politician.

Full article here

CHANGE: liberalization of the gas market has increased competition among traders

An open gas market has increased safety for supplies, energy independence and competition among traders, as noted by Economy Ministry.

Tuesday, 3 April, marked one year since the opening of Latvia’s gas market for free competition.

«Looking back at the development of Latvia’s natural gas market, I believe the most important factor of success was the wholesale trade price of gas. Latest statistics from the European Commission shows that Latvia concluded 2017 with one of the lowest wholesale gas price in the European Union – 17.11 EUR/MWh. This price is also the lowest in the Baltic Sea region, and even lower than the price in Germany,» comments Latvia’s Economy Minister Arvils Ašeradens.

It is also mentioned that the change has also created conditions for development of competition among traders. It has also helped increase security of gas supplies and Latvia’s energy independence. It has also helped strengthen Europe’s gas market, said the minister.

«To preserve competitiveness of natural gas, it is necessary to continue moving towards a unified Baltic and Finnish gas market,» says Ašeradens.

The ministry reports that competition has increased among gas traders over the course of the year. Their numbers now reach 35 in Latvia.

«We have also separated gas transmission and storage functions from Latvia’s gas monopolist Latvijas Gāze. Those functions are now performed by Conexus Baltic Grid. The transmission system is now managed by Gaso,» the ministry notes.

Full article here

DECLINE: Corruption watchdog performs searches at Latvian State Roads

Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau has performed searches at Latvian State Roads, as confirmed by the company’s representatives.

Searches were performed on Wednesday, 4 April. Latvian State Roads representatives could not explain the reason why CPCB decided to perform searches in the company.

Representatives say none of the company’s employees were arrested.

LTV reports that Anastasija Udalova, board member of Latvian State Roads, has submitted her resignation. Her decision to step down was motivated by family affairs.

So far it has not been possible to contact CPCB to find out if searches are associated with any criminal process. The Criminal Process Law states that a search is an investigative act intended to locate important evidence or documents for an ongoing criminal process.

Full article here

FIGHT: transit decline is a threat to social security

Baltic Association – Transit and Logistics President Inga Antāne has turned to members of the European Parliament in Latvia and EC Vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis with an open letter, asking the European Commission to take measures to protect Europe’s ports by providing support programmes similar to other sectors.

She says that a situation when the cargo crisis caused by Russia’s decision to divert its cargoes to its own ports is allowed to increase social inequality in Latvia, which can have equal political, economic and social risks, cannot be allowed.

«Poverty and social inequality can be a serious threat the country’s democracy. Such a serious crisis in the transit industry cannot possible have no effect on the social sector. This is why we invite MEPs as Latvia’s representatives and ambassadors in the European Parliament to promote this matter on the level of the European Commission to help strengthen Europe’s external ports by providing support programmes to help them recover previous cargo volumes. Such a support programme would help divert cargoes from other ports or help attract new cargoes. Similar support programmes have been introduced in other industries to help reduce unemployment. In Latvia’s case it is important to ensure social security and reduce the country’s dependence on Russia,» comments Antāne.

Full article here

RESPONSE: NATO Secretary General says alliance doesn’t want a new arms race with Russia

NATO does not want a new arms race with Russia, says the alliance’s secretary general Jens Stoltenberg, adding that relations between the two sides are already tense after the poisoning of the former double agent Sergei Skripal in the UK.

«We don’t want a new arms race, so we are focused on how can we respond” in a “firm strong predictable, but also measured and defensive, way,» Stoltenberg told reporters in Ottawa alongside Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

«We don’t want a new Cold War,» he added.

«We will continue to strive for a more constructive relationship with Russia,» Stoltenberg concluded.

Full article here

GROWTH: Healthcare reform allegedly helped reduce patient queues by 42%

As a result of the recent healthcare reform, patient queues to specialists have reduced by an average of 42%. Nevertheless, wait lists to some specialists remain quite long, says Latvia’s Healthcare Minister Anda Čakša.

The largest queues for physical examinations have reduced by 33%, whereas queues for services in day-care centres have reduced by 68%, said the minister, adding that queues for day-care centre services were the largest before the reform. The average wait time for queues was 407 days on average before the reform. The wait time has been reduced to 132 days on average at the beginning of 2018.

The minister admits that waiting time for day-care centres remains long, reaching 500 days for some services. For example, the waiting line for a consultation with an ophthalmologist in Riga Eastern Clinical University Hospital’s Bikernieki day-care centre used to be 5,000 days and is now 560 days (a decline of 89%).

Čakša believes accomplished results – the noticeable reduction of queues – show that the reform’s chosen direction is correct. «I feel satisfied, because the main aspects – accessibility of healthcare services and doctors’ wages – have been successfully realized,» said the minister.

Full article here


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Russia starts trial against director Serebrennikov after long house arrest

In Moscow, the court proceedings against Russian theatre and cinema director Kirill Serebrennikov has begun on Wednesday, which is over a year after he was put under house arrest in a controversial embezzlement case.

Latvian Saeima wants to further enhance Anti-Money Laundering Service’s authority

On Tuesday, 16 October, members of Saeima’s Defence, Internal Affairs and Corruption Prevention Committee supported in the first reading amendments to the Law on the Prevention of Money Laundering and Terrorism Financing.

Canada enforces legalisation of marijuana, expects economic benefits

Canada is legalising marijuana for recreational use on Wednesday and economists forecast that the new manufacturing sector would bring many new jobs, investment and tax income.

Additional funding of EUR 232 million to be allocated for EU projects in 2018

Additional funding of EUR 232 million will be allocated for different European Union policy instruments and other kinds of foreign financial assistance projects before the end of 2018, as decided by Latvia’s Cabinet of Ministers on Tuesday, 16 October.

EU expects something creative from London for Brexit summit to deliver

The remaining European Union member states will expect in Brexit-focused summit that the UK would bring a creative solution to the issue of Irish border that has halted the talks.

Government formation process in Latvia remains clouded by unanswered questions

Political parties in the process of forming a new government in Latvia still have not reached an agreement on the future coalition and the person to take post as prime minister.

Lithuania and Ukraine to co-operate in Fintech

The central banks of Lithuania and Ukraine have committed to working together to promote the development of financial innovations and have signed a Co-operation Agreement in the Area of Innovation Development.

Tragic gas poisoning in family home investigated in Estonia

In Tallinn, the death of two children from gas poisoning is under investigation. The tragic accident in a semi-detached house in the Estonian capital has taken place on Saturday, October 13.

Progressive party proposes forming a government in Latvia with no oligarchs

Political party Progressive offers parties elected to the Saeima to put an end to oligarchs’ rule over Latvia’s politics and form a government that would help end the state capture tradition in the country.

Latvian president announces law on publication of KGB files

On Tuesday, 16 October, Latvian President Raimonds Vējonis announced the law on publication of Latvian KGB files, as confirmed by the entry in Latvian Herald.

Pupils in Ukraine learn to hide in case of bombardment

In the Donbas war, over 10,000 people have been killed since 2014, therefore war drills and bomb shelters have become part of daily life for hundreds of schools near the frontline.

NCP’s proposed government model receives the first rejection

The government model proposed by the New Conservative Party has received its first rejection. Additionally, there are other parties that believe it is necessary to agree on tasks before picking posts.

Orthodox Church of Russia breaks away from Ecumenical Patriarchate

The Orthodox Church of Russia has announced cutting contacts with the leading body of the Church, the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Istanbul, after its decision to allow the Ukrainian church to become independent from Moscow. The decision has not been recognised by Moscow.

Latvian president announces amendments allowing for open election of state president

Latvian President Raimonds Vējonis has announced amendments to the country’s constitution that allow for open election of the state president, as noted in the official statement published in Latvian Herald.

UGF includes active ministers in its group for government formation talks

The Union of Greens and Farmers has delegated Latvia’s Defence Minister Raimonds Bergmanis and Agriculture Minister Jānis Dūklavs to its group for government formation talks, as confirmed by the party’s board chairman Armands Krauze.

Latvian government supports 2019 budget project

On Monday, 15 October, Latvia’s Cabinet of Ministers supported Finance Ministry’s prepared 2019 budget plan project. State budget revenue in 2019 is planned at EUR 9.178 billion, which is EUR 217 million more when compared to 2018, whereas state budget expenditures are planned at EUR 9.205 billion, which is EUR 96 million more when compared to 2018.

EC Vice-President: growth of Latvia’s economy is delayed by banking sector’s problems

Development of Latvia’s economy is delayed by problems in the country’s banking and transit sectors, says European Commission’s Vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis.

Danske Bank's rating lowered over Estonia branch scandal

American ratings agency Moody's has lowered its long-term ratings for Denmark's larges lender, Danske Bank, embroiled in a scandal of possible money laundering in Estonia.

Residents’ debts before non-finance companies remain the highest in Latvia

The debts of Latvian residents before non-finance companies have doubled over the course of the past half-year, reaching 305,000 unpaid bills, according to data from the Credit Information Bureau.

Hungary enforces ban on living rough in public areas

In Hungary, a constitutional rule, which bans people from living in public areas, has come into effect with imprisonment as a potential penalty.

Minister: current government may yet decide on MPC reform

The decision on reformation of the mandatory procurement component may be made by Latvia’s current government, said Economy Minister Arvils Ašeradens in an interview to Latvijas Radio.

Brexit talks unable to solve Irish border issue days before decisive EU summit

Weekend talks between the leading Brexit negotiators did not end with a draft settlement as there is no agreement on the issue of the Northern Irish border shortly before a make-or-break European Union summit.

Latvian ministers do not support merging healthcare and welfare ministries

Latvian Healthcare Minister Anda Čakša and Welfare Minister Jānis Reirs do not support the proposal on merging their respective institutions, as both ministers said, commenting on the information regarding new Saeima parties’ plans for the two ministries.

Expert: there are no reasons to believe Latvia could change its Euro-Atlantic direction

There are no reasons for concerns that Latvia’s new government may change the country’s Euro-Atlantic direction. Nevertheless, the question how Latvia positions itself in the Euro-Atlantic community will remain topical, says director of the Latvian Institute of International Affairs Andris Sprūds.

Merkel's partners lose historic majority in Bavaria state election

German Chancellor Angela Merkel's partner party suffered their worst election result since 1950, losing votes to the far-right and the ecologist Greens.

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