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Sunday 22.07.2018 | Name days: Marija, Marika, Marina

BNN summary of the week: ban on shell companies, irresponsible behaviour and electricity bills for farmers

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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: Fight; Future; Decline; Criticism; Recklessness and Change.

FIGHT: problems in nursing homes and social care centres are associated with lack of funding

Problems in nursing homes and social care centres are largely associated with lack of funding, because it is not possible to perform high-quality work using currently available resources. This is the responsibility of ministries and the government, as ombudsman Juris Jansons mentioned in an interview to Latvijas Radio.

This is also true for Rauda nursing home, where the ombudsman had recently reported violations. The manager of the institution is not able to get by with available funding. Because of that, there are too many open vacancies and turnover of employees is very high.

Jansons believes the main problem is that clients of aforementioned centres are not treated with respect. Often the reason for this is the lack of employees and the lack of knowledge among existing employees – most of the time employees do this kind of work because they have «no alternatives».

During multiple visits to Rauda nursing home, representatives of the ombudsman’s office had noted a number of violations of established acts and even human rights.

The report on the case revolving around Rauda nursing home mentions that workers of the Ombudsman’s office visited the nursing home four times – 13 May 2016, 20 May 2016, 18 January 2017 and 6 June 2017.

After surveying living conditions, representatives of the ombudsman’s office concluded that approximately half of the rooms provided to clients are smaller than what is required by Cabinet of Ministers regulations. This is because of existing nursing home construction standards, which allow rooms with two beds to have an area of 11.8 m2. The report also mentions that administration of the nursing home believes increasing room size would result in a reduced number of clients, which would inevitably lead to the institution’s insolvency or increased prices. Because of that, it is not possible to provide living conditions compliant with regulations to all clients.

Full article here

FUTURE: Finance sector’s development council supports prohibition of shell companies

On Wednesday, 21 March, Latvian Prime Minister Māris Kučinskis’ managed Finance Sector’s Development Council supported initiative on prohibiting shell companies, as confirmed by the prime minister.

«We have reached an agreement on prohibition of shell companies in Latvia,» said Kučinskis, adding that the government plans to review this matter on 3 April, and the Saeima – on 8 April.

Finance Minister Dana Reizniece-Ozola says that the goal behind prohibition of shell companies is making sure Latvia’s financial sector is stable, sustainable, secure and able to offer services that provide support for the national economy, not create risks. ‘We have agreed on a plan of actions. A total of 22 proposals submitted by the regulator, finance ministry, Association of Latvian Commercial Banks and non-government organizations, the main goal of which is reducing the proportion of risky clients in the country’s banking sector,’ she said.

The minister is also confident that new measures will help sort out the financial sector.

At the same time, Pēters Putniņš, head of the Finance and Capital Market Committee, mentioned that banks have been ten days to come up with strategic plans on future operations, specifically how they intend to cover losses caused by rejection of shell companies. «We expect this process to be relatively rapid. Because of that, it is highly important for stability’s sake to give banks some time to think things over,» he said.

FCMC had previously reported that among clients of Latvian banks are 26,081 shell companies, including two based in Latvia. The proportion of shell companies in all Latvian banks is 36.57%. Their proportion in the foreign clients segment is 44.5%.

Full article here

DECLINE: Minister: Latvia is far behind its neighbours in terms of digitization and e-skills

In terms of digitization and e-skills, Latvia is far behind its neighbouring countries and the rest of Europe, said Latvian Economy Minister Arvils Ašeradens in an interview to Latvijas Radio.

Although Latvia’s economy has become more competitive in recent years, growing from a small economy to part of OECD and European Union, Lithuania and Estonia remain ahead. This is particularly true when it comes to digitization and e-services, the minister said.

He mentioned that Latvia managed to grow its economy by 4.5% without increasing the number of employed people. This means productivity has grown considerably. «Introduction of innovations is Latvia’s largest problem. Although the country has made some progress, many other countries are far ahead already,» said Ašeradens.

He emphasized that it is important to continue investing funds in education and re-qualification opportunities for people. «Future economy will be based solely on knowledge,» said the minister.

Full article here

CRITICISM: Farmers in Latvia dissatisfied with resolution of electricity-related problems

Two months have passed since farmers in Latvia had received unjustifiably large electricity bills. Countless meetings and discussions have taken place in those two months. Unfortunately, no decisive measures have been undertaken to resolve the problem. Farmers are confused with decision-makers’ incisiveness in a matter important to the national economy, as noted by the Farmers’ Saeima.

«In the past two months we have held multiple discussions with representatives of Economy Ministry and industry representatives to find appropriate solutions for this problem. On top of that, we have sent letters with proposals that would be optimal and acceptable for electricity consumers with a clear seasonality. Unfortunately, no solution has been found so far. The proposal from Economy Ministry and Public Utilities Commission is a formal one and will not help resolve the problem,» the association continues.

Farmers’ Saeima chairman Juris Lazdiņš says: «The problem with power output needs to be resolved at its core. There is no room for cosmetic repairs. Public Utilities Commission’s and Economy Ministry’s proposal would resolve the problem only for a small number of farmers, which is unacceptable for us. In about two weeks from now farmers will receive the third wave of unjustifiably large electricity bills and will be forced to once again pay for officials’ poorly performed work.»

Full article here

RECKLESSNESS: Ventspils beach high in popularity this week; Lembergs gets spotlight time as well

Ventspils city ended up in the spotlight in an unusual way this week: seals washed up on the beach in Ventspils. Animal Freedom association emphasizes that human contact with baby seals would hurt them. Residents are asked to maintain at least 50 m distance from them. In spite of recommendations, however, the suspended Mayor of Ventspils Aivars Lembergs decided to take photos with baby seals and publish them on his Facebook profile.

Of course, Lembergs is not the only one who decided to post photos on the internet. However, while other residents received harsh words for coming close to baby seals, Lembergs has received nothing but praise for his actions.

People continue voicing their surprise on social networks. However, while some people are happy, this whole situation creates a great deal of stress on baby seals.

Full article here

CHANGE: Life after 25 May: is this the end for free publication of photo galleries from events?

Many of us like to check out photos from concerts, conferences or sport events on gallery portals and social networks to have a look at guests of those events. However, after 25 May, when General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) comes into force, the situation will no longer be the same.

Unless the poster receives permission from the person depicted on photos to be posted, it will not be allowed to publish them on different resources.

This is not expected to apply to publication of photos for journalistic needs.

«No, GDPR does not mean people will not be allowed to take photos and publish them. Because the regulation’s goal is protecting people’s privacy, organizers of different events will have to take into account several conditions, including the context of events and permission from participating people for the publication of photos,» says attorney Ieva Andersone from Sorainen law firm.

GDPR will affect all companies – creative, media and communication industry are no exception. Sorainen law firm’s attorney Ieva Andersone and Squalio IT company productivity solutions specialist Kristaps Sedols explain the factors organizers of public events will have to take into account:

-First of all, images to be made publicly accessible must not allow viewers to identify specific people. For example, panorama views, group photos, pictures of event locations, arms holding cups, etc.;

-Secondly, photos depicting event managers, moderators, lectors, musicians are allowed to be published if those people provided permission for that. People associated with organization of concerts or their broadcasting know very well that world-famous musicians do not permit photos to be taken of the entire event. They often establish specific rules in accordance with which people are allowed to take photos. GDPR requirements are similar. The only difference is that they apply all visitors, explains Andersone;

-Thirdly, it is allowed to publish photos if people depicted on them have given their permission;

-Lastly, requirements for the use of photos for journalistic needs, if it is done with intention of publishing information in the interest of society, remain unchanged. This exception is provided by the Personal Data Protection Law, which specifies GDPR rules in Latvia. Other exceptions are planned for data processing for academic, artistic or literary needs.

Full article here

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Week in Lithuania. Liberals ex-leader fails to recover confiscated cash

Eligijus Masiulis, a former Liberal Movement leader on trial in a major political corruption case, has failed to recover cash that was found and seized during searches of his home.

BNN summary of the week: open presidential election in Latvia and no more plastic bags for shoppers

BNN offers a summary of this week’s topical news in a variety of categories: Future; Change; Fight; Decline; Business; Progress.

SRS: cash register reform still stagnates, but has become much faster than it was last year

The cash registers reform continues stagnating. However, it has become much faster than it was a year ago, as reported by State Revenue Service.

Specialists to search for solutions to topical environmental problems in Ventspils

On Friday, 20 July, a meeting was held between Ventspils Commercial Port representatives and specialists from State Environment Service.

Children with functional disorders to receive services financed by EU funds

Child invalids will have access to social services intended to improve their social skills and mobility. More than EUR 4.2 million has been allocated for this goal from the European Social Fund, as confirmed by Latvia’s Central Financing and Contracting Agency.

Producer price level in industry up 4.3% in Latvia

Compared to June 2017, the average level of producer prices in Latvian industry increased by 4.3 % in June 2018. Prices of products sold on the domestic market rose by 4.8 % and those of exported products by 3.7 %.

Total tax debts in Latvia in July – 1.212 billion euros

At the beginning of July total tax debts in Latvia, including outstanding debts, halted debts and debts applied with repayment term extensions, accounted for EUR 1.212 billion, which is 0.8% less than a month prior, according to data from the State Revenue Service.

Survey: every third Latvian resident has received illegal loan offers

Nearly every third resident in Latvia or 31% of respondents admit having received offers to use illegal loan services, as concluded in a survey performed by Latvian Alternative Financial Services Association and SKDS.

Libya opposed to EU's idea to establish migrant centres in North Africa

Libya is against the solution of the European Union to set up migrant centres in the North African country as a means to keep migrants from arriving in the bloc and Libya would not be convinced with financial support, its Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj has noted.

Arrest warrant on Catalan ex-President cancelled by Spain

The Supreme Court of Spain cancelled a European arrest warrant for former Catalan regional leader Carles Puigdemont, as Germany refused to extradite him to face accusations of rebellion for declaring the independence of Spain's region, Catalonia in 2017.

Latvian government plans to allow handing expired food to charity

Latvia’s Agriculture Ministry has prepared amendments to the Law on the Supervision of the Handling of Food that provide permission to hand over certain types of food products to charity after the end of their expiry date.

Estonian industrial producer prices up 2.9% since June 2017

Estonian industrial producer price index has risen by 2.9% between June 2017 and the first summer month this year, resulting in an increase of export prices as well, Estonian statisticians have estimated.

Putin urges NATO to quit «irresponsibly» developing ties with Ukraine, Georgia

Russia's President Vladimir Putin cautioned NATO against developing deeper relations with Ukraine and Georgia, evaluating such a policy was irresponsible and would have consequences for the military alliance.

Latvian parliament not in a hurry to support president Vejonis for a second term

Political parties represented in the Saeima are not eager to support President Raimonds Vējonis for his remainder for a second term.

Weather in Latvia will remain warm and even hot at times

Weather in Latvia in the nearest couple of days will be dictated by a cyclone. Because of that the sky will be partially covered by clouds; thunderstorms are also expected, as reported by State Environment, Geology and Meteorology Centre.

Hungary sued in EU Court for criminalising help to illegal immigrants

The European Union's executive body has stated that a law in Hungary that criminalises support for illegal immigrants is in breach with EU law and Hungary has now been referred to the European Court of Justice for the alleged non-compliance.

Estonians buy alcohol in Latvia; country loses EUR 20 million in six months

Latvian stores located close to the Latvian-Estonian border have sold 1.6 million litres of strong alcoholic drinks in the first half year of 2019. This means Estonia has lost more than EUR 20 million in taxes, according to data from Association of Estonian Alcohol Producers and Importers.

Lithuania’s election watchdog slams ruling LFGU over popular TV series

Political messages can be channeled in various ways and the ruling now Lithuanian party, LFGU has chosen a very delicate way of the communications – through a TV series featuring the beauty and the ambiance of Naisiai, a picturesque settlement in Siauliai district.

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.