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Friday 26.04.2019 | Name days: Rūsiņš, Sandris, Alīna
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BNN summary of the week: Britain in tight spot; citizenship for all and Latvia's poor progress

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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: Change; Progress; Rejection; Conflict; Idea; Opinion; Delay.

CHANGE: Latvian president proposes giving citizenship to all children born in Latvia

Latvia’s President Raimonds Vējonis has submitted to the Saeima a legislative draft On Ceasing Provision of Non-Citizen Status to Children. This draft suggests giving children born to non-citizen parents Latvian citizenship upon birth starting from 1 January 2020 unless parents have decided on giving their child citizenship of another country, as reported by State President’s Chancellery.

«Every child born in Latvia should be given state citizenship. The country should provide conditions to prevent further issue of non-citizen status, because the initial goal behind non-citizen status was not preserving it for all indefinitely. It was a temporary status for people to decide if they want Latvian or any other country’s citizenship,» said the president.

In the annotation to the legislative draft the president mentions: «Abolishment of the non-citizen status issue for children is a symbolic step towards prevention of further fracturing of Latvia’s society and further consolidate forces for our country’s development.»

Full article here

PROGRESS: Latvia has not accomplished with reduction of inequality

In the past seven years Latvia’s government has not properly implemented the recommendations provided by the European Commission on reduction of inequality, European Anti-Poverty Network’s EAPN-Latvia board chairperson Laila Balga told LNT programme 900 seconds on Thursday, 21 March.

She said that Latvia received recommendations from the European Commission on ways of reducing inequality and balancing income as early as 2012. However, these recommendations were not taken into account by the Latvian government.

The expert says inequality is on a rise in spite of the general development trends. Currently the level of wealth of the richest residents is seven times larger than the level of wealth of the poorest residents.

Balga also says when compared to the rest of Europe, Latvia has the third most marginalized society income-wise.

Full article here

REJECTION: Comparing abortions to killing affects Estonian government talks

After figures of the Estonian Conservative People’s Party (EKRE) compared abortion to killing of people, the party’s partners in coalition talks have voiced criticism.

Estonian public broadcaster ERR reports that on Thursday, March 21, Prime Minister and Centre Party chairman Jüri Ratas wrote on social media that the conservatives should stop blaming doctors and women for abortions.

«Blaming gynecologists and women for incredibly difficult but deeply personal decisions is unacceptable. (..) This has to end. Unfortunately, the debate over such a personal and sensitive topic as abortion has groundlessly hurt a great many people,» the prime minister continued.

Full article here

CONFLICT: Teachers’ protest in Riga gathers 2,000 people

The protest act organized by Latvian teachers outside the Saeima building in Riga gathered approximately 2,000 people, according to Latvian public media.

According to local media, at first there were about 1,000 people participating. Around 10:00, however, their numbers had doubled.

Protesters held in their hands posters and balloons, demanding respect for their profession and higher wages from the government. At the end of the protest act those balloons were sent up in the air.

Full article here

IDEA: Ruling LFGU’s presidential hopeful Skvernelis unveils key foreign policy points

Lagging in the presidential polls behind the frontrunner Gitanas Nausėda and MP Ingrida Šimonytė, Lithuania’s prime minister Saulius Skvernelis, the presidential hopeful of the ruling Farmers and Greens Union, LFGU, is ready to move heaven and earth in attracting voters on his side.

Some of his proposals, like converting a nuclear power plant in Belarus’ Astravyets, just 50 kilometres away from Lithuanian capital Vilnius, into an ordinary gas-fuelled heat and power plant, have already triggered major firestorms, internationally too.

Yet the resilient former-policeman- turned-prime-minister-and-the-presidential-candidate-now does not show signs of slowing down and swimming with the tide churned up by the other two candidates above him.

This week Skvernelis unveiled his foreign policy program as the candidate and, right, it raised eye-brows of many.

Swinging at Dalia Grybauskaitė, who is about to end her term as Lithuania’s head-of-state, Skvernelis claimed that, under his presidency, only national and consensus-based foreign policies will be implemented.

«Not a personal foreign policy,» he said, hinting of Grybauskaitė’s unwillingness to consult foreign affairs pundits.

Full article here

OPINION: Latvia needs representatives in EP the country can be proud of

«Latvian voters should keep in mind that Latvia is represented by only eight members in the European Parliament. It is vital to find candidates we would not be ashamed of. There is no other recipe – if you want to affect the composition of the European Parliament, it is important to remember that results from votes. Nothing will change if we stand on the sidelines,» said Latvian Culture Minister and MEP candidate Dace Melbārde in an interview to BNN.

«I was surprised to see that many European Parliament candidates are not associated with politics»

Latvia’s Culture Minister Dace Melbārde (National Alliance ‘All for Latvia’ – ‘For Fatherland and Freedom/LNNK’) is a candidate for European Parliament Elections 2019. She says «it is time to try something new». «I am in favour of rotating officials in posts. People should change jobs every now and then. Sitting in one place, drowning in routine eventually forces a person to notice the time has come for change.» She says this is necessary «to ensure dynamic progress and motivation to accomplish more».

When asked by BNN who could replace her as Latvia’s Culture Minister if she is elected in the European Parliament, Melbārde said: «I have some potential candidates picked out, but it is too soon to speak of this.»

The minister said it was a surprise for her to see among candidates for the European Parliament people who are not associated with politics. As for her colleague, so to speak, Ansis Pūpols, who is a former and not-so-former journalist from Nekā personīga and his decision to submit his candidacy in spite of the fact that the two professions are incompatible based on the journalist code of ethics, she said the following: «What he should do is draw a clear line when he becomes a politician and stops being a journalist. Those are two incompatible fields.»

Full article here

DELAY: EU postpones British withdrawal to April 12 or May 22

The United Kingdom has been given two extra weeks by the European Union to decide for the third time on its withdrawal agreement and to leave on April 12 if it is not passed or to leave on May 22 if it is passed.

British news portal The Guardian reports that in long talks on Thursday, March 21, agreed to delay the exit deadline of March 29.

Under the deal agreed by May, Britain will now stay a member state until April 12 if the withdrawal agreement is rejected by the British Parliament at the third time of asking.

At the same time, the UK government will be able to seek a longer extension during that period if it can both «indicate a way forward» and agree to hold European elections.

Full article here


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70 000 air passengers affected by strike in Scandinavian SAS airline

Due to a strike by pilots of the Scandinavian airline SAS in Sweden, Denmark and Norway, on Friday about 70,000 passengers have been affected by over 600 cancelled flights.

Verbal terror in Ventspils City Council forces opposition to ask government to step in

«We have informed the government that as representatives of Ventspils residents we no longer have any moral and ethical reasons to participate in the work done by the illegal administration of Ventspils City Council. We have told the government that we will not participate in the work of the municipality until the government and authorities have performed measures to stabilize the situation in Ventspils City Council,» as reported by deputies of the opposition of Ventspils City Council.

Estonians worried about haze, smell of smoke, apparently from fires in Russia or Belarus

In central and southern Estonia, a cloud of bluish haze has made people and fire-fighters worried about possible wildfires, but meteorologists and NASA point to smoke coming from Russia and Belarus.

9th Youth Saeima to discuss the place of youngsters in Latvia and EU

The 9th Youth Saeima gathered for its first meeting on Friday, 26 April. The main topic of the meeting will be the place of youngsters in Latvia and Europe, as reported by Saeima’s press-service.

Video: Biden joins U.S. Presidential race, branded 'Sleepy Joe' by Trump

Former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden has announced his candidacy for the U.S. 2020 presidential election. U.S. President Donald Trump has charactarised his potential rival as 'Sleepy Joe'.

Following Deglava Bridge closure, minister expects Riga City Council to regulate traffic

Following the closure of A.Deglava Street overpass, Latvia’s Interior Affairs Minister Sandis Ģirģens expects Riga City Council to become involved in regulating road traffic and actively informing society about alternative roles.

Ukraine's new language law seen as divisive by President-elect Zelenskiy

Ukrainian Verkhovna Rada has passed a law giving a special status to the Ukrainian language and making it mandatory for public sector workers. The measure has been charactarised as divisive both by President-elect Zelenskiy and Russia.

Meteorologists promise summer-like warmth up to +27° C in Latvia on weekends

On Friday, 26 April, weather in Latvia will be dictated by low atmospheric pressure area. Some local rain and even thunderstorms are expected in the afternoon, as reported by Latvia’s Environment, Geology and Meteorology Centre.

National Media Council reduces LTV board to one

Latvia’s National Electronic Mass Media Council has decided to change the status of the board of LTV, reducing the number of board members from three to one, as reported by lsm.lv.

Latvia’s employment indexes exceeded average EU indexes in 2018

Last year, Latvia’s employment level for residents aged 20-64 years was 76.8%, which is higher than the average index in the European Union. Latvia was among 13 member states who had achieved employment goals for 2020 last year, according to data compiled by Eurostat.

Lithuanian teachers follow into their Latvian and Polish colleagues’ footsteps

Teachers across the Baltics, and in Lithuania too, are clamouring for higher wages. Encouraged by teacher strikes earlier the month in Poland, also by teachers’ growing dissatisfaction with the remuneration in neighbouring Latvia, at least one influential Lithuanian teachers’ trade union said this week it does not rule out streets protests if the restarted negotiations with the Ministry of Science and Education fail to produce desired results.

CIB: consumer lending in a rise, whereas mortgage lending is down in Latvia

The number of loan commitments among private persons has reached a number of 1.1 million loan contracts. The total loan burden for residents for both delayed and timely paid loans is nearing EUR 6 billion, according to data from the Credit Information Bureau.

Latvia’s Saeima supports publication of KGB expanded filing system

On Thursday, 25 April, Saeima deputies supported in the first reading amendments to the Law on Preservation, Use and Publication of Documents of KGB, as confirmed by Saeima’s press-service.

First toast to Kim-Putin friendship made in Russia's Far East

In Russia, the first meeting between North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and Russian President Vladimir Putin has been held, followed by Putin's remarks that for Pyongyang to denuclearize, it needs legal assurances that its sovereignty would be respected.

Latvian Transport Ministry to focus on public transport service in 2020 budget

Latvia’s Transport Ministry’s priorities in the 2020 budget will be, like in previous years, public transport services and road repairs, says Transport Minister Tālis Linkaits.

Latvian Saeima proposes celebrating 13 May as State Language Day

On Thursday, 25 April, deputies of Latvia’s Saeima conceptually supported amendments to the Law on Festive, Memorable and Celebrated Days. Amendments provide for delegating to the Cabinet of Ministers the rights to set special holidays dedicated to specific jobs.

Friendship behind closed doors – «grey cabinet of ministers» and «good deed champions»

Einars Repše’s phrase – «How can you not promise?» – has long since become part of political folklore. The Union of Greens and Farmers is no exception – do one thing, promise another and focus on something completely different after elections.

Putin nearing eastern Ukraine to Russia by offering passports

An order to facilitate issuing Russian passports for residents of pro-Kremlin separatist-controlled eastern Ukraine has been signed by Russian President Vladimir Putin, prompting condemnation from Ukraine's President-elect.

Swedbank’s profit in Q1 up EUR 29 million in spite of scandals

Swedbank’s profit in Q1 2019, compared to the same period of 2018, has grown to reach EUR 29 million. The reason for this was increased economic activity by the bank’s clients and therefore bigger income for the bank, as reported by the bank’s representative Jānis Krops.

New Estonian government appointed to office by Kaljulaid

The new Estonian government under Prime Minister Jüri Ratas from the Centre Party has been appointed into office by Estonian President Kersti Kaljulaid.

Riga City Council hasn’t a clue how to prove safety of Deglava overpass

Riga City Council’s Transport Department has not been informed as to what documents regarding the safety of Deglava overpass are requested by State Construction Control Bureau, said the head of the department Emīls Jakrins during an extraordinary meeting of the Transport Affairs Committee.

Scotland seeking second referendum on independence from Britain

In order to determine Scotland's future after Brexit, Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has voiced plans to hold a second referendum on Scottish independence by 2021 if the country is pulled out of the European Union.

CC: Riga’s public transport company directed the nano-water procurement

Riga municipality’s public transport company SIA Rīgas satiksme was the director of the nano-water procurement, said head of the Competition Council Skaidrīte Ābrama during a press-conference.

Saeima paves way for full opening of «KGB bag»

On Wednesday, 24 April, Saeima’s Human Rights and Public Affairs Committee deputies supported in the first reading amendments to the KBG Law. This will provide the full publication of all KGB documents stored in Latvia’s National Archive, as reported by Saeima’s press-service.

Normunds Staņēvičs becomes head of Food Union in Europe

As of mid-April of this year, Normunds Staņēvičs, the European CFO of international dairy product and ice-cream group Food Union and CEO of JSC Rīgas piena kombināts, becomes head of Food Union’s European division.

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