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Ceturtdiena 19.07.2018 | Name days: Jautrīte, Kamila, Digna
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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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Association: around 3,3000 people know of their HIV infection but receive no treatment

HIV remains a serious problem in Latvia – around 3,300 people are aware of their status but receive no treatment and continue spreading the infection. Because of that, it is necessary to act quickly for Latvia to lose its status as HIV kingdom and limit the spread of the infection, says Baltic HIV Association, informing decision-makers and responsible officials in institutions and hospitals about the HIV/AIDS situation.

Driver shortage may force reduction of international road haulage volumes

Latvia’s road haulage companies have started experiencing shortage of drivers. On top of that, if employment conditions for residents of non-EU member states do not change, it may be necessary to reduce the volume of road haulage volumes, says Latvijas auto president Valdis Trēziņš.

Lattelecom’s turnover up 9% in first half-year of 2018

Lattelecom Group’s turnover reached EUR 98.7 million in the first half-year of 2018, growing by 9% in comparison with the same period of 2017, according to unaudited financial results.

1,140 fewer births registered in Latvia in 2017

Since 2016 the number of births in Latvia is declining again. Compared to 2016, a total of 1,140 births fewer were registered in 2017. Also, the provisional number of births registered over the first six months of 2018 (9,664 children) is by 664 children smaller than that registered over the respective period of 2017.

Citadele Bank decides to reform Lithuanian subsidiary as a branch office

Citadele Bank has decided to reform its Lithuanian subsidiary as a branch office, as confirmed in the statement the bank submitted to Nasdaq Riga.

Russian pension age hike discussed amid protest outside Duma

As the Russian paliament votes on the proposal to gradually increase he pension age to 65 for men and 63 for women, some 200 people were seen protesting against the reform in Moscow.

Corruption watchdog chief says bureau has done no illegal actions

After going through Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau’s past investigative activities, the bureau’s chief – Jēkabs Straume – found it confusing that officers often took no appropriate actions after acquiring evidence or receiving indications regarding necessary steps.

Illegal border crossings to Estonia on rise after Russia World Cup

Football fans with temporary residency permits of the Russia World Cup, or fan Ids, are trying to illegally cross the Russian border with Estonia, a member of the European Union.

Estonian 13-year-old lethally overdoses fentanyl

Estonian prosecutors have accused a 15-year old of negligent homicide after a girl, 13, passed away from fentanyl overdose.

Wild party competition and political chaos – what goes on during pre-election period?

If we compare who fought under 5% barrier some 8-12 years ago, we will see Daugava’s diggers, head nurse parties and eurosceptics parties whose ability to create some form of a working party programme was very weak. Now political parties’ competitiveness is so high that up to eight parties may successfully overcome the 5% barrier and this points to healthy competition. At the same time, in all this competitive mess it is impossible to understand where parties get financing and access to media resources, politologist and Providus think tank head researcher Iveta Kažoka commented on the pre-election period in an interview to BNN.

Google fined with EUR 4 billion for competition abuse with Android

Google has been fined by the European Commission with a fine of 4.34 billion euros illegal abuse of its dominant market position and the executive of the European Union is set to move on with investigations into other possible practices of unfair competition by the U.S. company.

Turkey removes post-coup attempt state of emergency

The government of Turkey has decided to end the nationwide state of emergency that was imposed in 2016 after a failed coup attempt, state media have reported.

House arrest of Russian theatre director Serebrennikov extended

A court in Russia prolonged the house arrest of Kirill Serebrennikov, a leading Russian theatre and cinema director, until August 22 as he waits for a criminal trial charged with of embezzlement of state funds.

NCP picks Jurašs, Strīķe, Bordāns, Feldmanis and Šuplinska as its headliners

Latvia’s New Conservative Party has picked Juris Jurašs, Juta Strīķe, Jānis Bordāns, Krišjānis Feldmanis and Ilga Šuplinska as its headliner candidates for Saeima elections.

Bank: residents spend an average of 50 to 100 euros on health every quarter

84% of residents aged 18 to 74 have used medical services in the past three months. Only 5% of all costs were covered by health insurance, according to a survey by Norvik Banka.

Countries sign third Rail Baltica co-financing agreement

Connecting Europe Facility co-financing agreement for the construction of Rail Baltica railway infrastructure was signed by participating member states on 13 July. The value of the agreement is EUR 130 million. CEF’s contribution will reach EUR 110 million, which is equal to 85% of all applicable costs, as confirmed by RB Rail communication consultant Ligita Brodiņa.

Saeima plans to increase compensations for child victims

Saeima’s Legal Affairs Committee supported for the third reading amendments that provide for increasing state compensations to child victims.

Sweden asks for help to fight wildfires behind Arctic Circle

Sweden has called for help of European Union neighbours to put out wildfires, some raging in territories behind the arctic circle.

Latvijas Krajbanka administrator recovered EUR 1,038 million in June

The administrator of the liquidated Latvijas Krajbanka recovered EUR 1,038 million in June, which is 6.9 times more than a month prior, according to the official outlook published in Latvian Herald.

Estonians warned of heat wave, high UV radiation

Weather forecasters in Estonia have warned the population of hot weather conditions, because temperatures are forecast to reach 30-31 degrees Celsius this week.

Minister says police have leads in Bunkus murder case

Police have found new leads in the murder case of former insolvency administrator Mārtiņš Bunkus, said Interior Affairs Minister Rihards Kozlovskis in an interview to 900 seconds programme of LNT.

Average EU market prices for dairy products grew in May

Compared to April, dairy product prices in Latvia did not increase in May. In the EU, however, average market prices continued growing in May, according to information compiled by Agriculture Ministry’s Market and Direct Support Department.

ECHR: Russia violated human rights in Pussy Riot and Politkovskaya cases

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has found Russia guilty of human rights violations in its handling of two high-profile cases – its arrest and conviction of Pussy Riot protest group in 2012 and the investigation into journalist Anna Politkovskaya's murder.

Draft making eID card a compulsory document from 2023 onward remains inactive

Latvia’s government has yet to review the legislative draft that makes electronic ID card a compulsory personal identification document for all residents of Latvia older than 15.

Latvia imported 7% less cigarettes in five months of 2018 than it did a year ago

In the first five months of 2018, Latvia imported 1.828 billion cigarettes, which is 7% less than the amount imported in the same period of last year, according to data compiled by the State Revenue Service.