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Ceturtdiena 05.12.2019 | Name days: Sabīne, Sarma, Klaudijs
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BNN summary of the week: bumps of EP elections; LDz mystical expenses; OECD’s outlook for Baltics

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Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RUThe past week’s main topic was European Parliament elections. Unfortunately, Latvia’s readiness for digitization of the election process to allow residents to vote from any election site turned out lacking.

Long queues and lengthy registration period for people who came to vote early at a different election site they are registered with was proof of a chaotic state and doubts the election process was organized professionally.

Things got heated even more on the second day of early elections, when the option to vote at any election site was denied completely. The situation did not change on Friday either, as those who had plans to vote elsewhere were forced to change their plans or not vote at all. One can only hope this blunder by Latvia’s Central Election Commission will not affect EP election results in Latvia.

Meanwhile in Estonia the week passed with rather happy news. One of country’s businesses has become the most valuable start-up in Europe. OECD also predicts the country to have the most rapid economic growth among Baltic States.

BNN offers a summary of this week’s topical news in a variety of categories: Assessment; Shadowy deals; Growth; Prediction; Three; Treasure; Warning.

ASSESSMENT

Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RULatvia’s Prime Minister proposes assessing governance of EP elections once they are done

The current state of European Parliament elections in Latvia suggests there is a need to assess governance immediately after their end, said Latvia’s Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš.

He has met with leadership of all important institutions to determine the current situation and discuss solutions. The prime minister expects proactive involvement from the Central Election Commission (CEC) to ensure successful European Parliament election process without technical accidents and keep society informed.

Full article here

SHADOWY DEALS

Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RULatvian Railways reportedly wastes money with self-promotion in sports; UGF might be involved

Last year and at the beginning of this year, Latvian Railways (LDz) spent at least two million euros on self-promotion. A considerable portion of this money was provided to sports organizations, of which multiple have ties with the Union of Greens and Farmers (UGF), as reported by public broadcaster Latvian Television (LTV) programme De Facto.

The programme reports that at least one million euros of the more than two million euros that was allocated for self-promotion went to sports organizations. Contracts are not publicly accessible, and the ties between sports organizations and LDz is only noticeable through the company’s logos on sports t-shirts, posters, cars and motorcycles.

«It was very hard for us to acquire any kind of information from LDz. Basically every letter references some commercial secret – that any actions with funding are a commercial secret. I believe information as to how capital associations use their funding to support their or non-government organizations should be freely accessible,» says Transport Minister Tālis Linkaits.

De Facto is aware that this year, a day prior to replacement of political power over Latvia’s transport sector a promotion contract worth EUR 55 000 was signed with Dobele motorsports club MX4 Dobele. This club has ties to ex-transport minister Uldis Augulis’ son. A week later a new contract was signed with another one of Augulis’ home city Dobele motorsports associations Tautas sporta bāze worth EUR 60,000.

Full article here

GROWTH

Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RUOECD: Baltic region’s most rapid growth predicted for Estonia

Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has published its latest outlook. In it, the organization expects Latvia to experience the slowest economic growth among Baltic States.

According to the latest estimates from OECD, Latvia’s GDP will grow 2.7% this year and the next. In previous outlooks published last November, OECD predicted Latvia’s GDP growth to reach 3.9% in 2019.

Coordinated consumer price index in Latvia, according to OECD, will grow by 2.6% this year and 2.5% in next year. Unemployment level in Latvia is expected to be 7% this year and 6.8% next year, the outlook suggests.

OECD notes that economic growth in Latvia is becoming slower because the export market’s situation continues worsening as is the use of EU funds. At the same time, household consumption contributes to economic growth even though wage growth will gradually increase inflation. The organization also welcomed the commitment of Latvia’s new government to fight against grey economy and financial crimes.

Full article here

PREDICTION

Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RU

Latvia’s Transport Minister Tālis Linkaits

Minister says results of train procurement suggest possible liquidation of Pasažieru vilciens

Results of the electric train procurement of joins stock company Pasažieru vilciens (PV) make one consider possible liquidation of the company, Latvia’s Transport Minister Tālis Linkaits told journalists on 21 May.

After considering the decision and recommendations from the Procurement Monitoring Bureau (PMB), PV decided to declare Czech company Škoda Vagonka (Škoda) as the winner of the train procurement project.

Linkaits predicts this is not the final decision in the aforementioned procurement, because it is likely results will be challenged again.

The minister also referenced Finance Minister Jānis Reirs’s statement shared during the government meeting on reputation problems of the winner of the procurement. This puts at risk the use of money allocated by EU funds.

According to Linkaits, PV was made a hostage in a «clash of different interests» with the train procurement project, in which the board of PV searched for opportunities to correctly fulfil all requirements associated with the procurement set by PMB, procurement specifications, etc.

The minister is also certain not a single decision made thus far brings Latvia «closer to new trains». According to him, there is no clear solution to continue the train procurement.

Full article here

THREE

Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RU

Egils Levits (L), Juris Jansons (M), and Didzis Šmits (R)

All presidential candidates in Latvia meet requirements of the law

All perspective presidential candidates announced so far – European Union Court of Justice Judge Egils Levits, Ombudsman Juris Jansons and Saeima deputy Didzis Šmits – meet requirements of the law and are able to stand candidate for this post, according to Saeima Mandate, Ethics and Submissions Committee’s head Janīna Kursīte-Pakule.

The committee’s chairperson informed Saeima deputies that all received reports state that candidates meet the requirements set by the Law on Election of the State President.

The law states that it is only allowed to elect Latvian citizens who have reached the age of 40 by the time Election Day comes. Another requirement is that candidates must not have citizenship of another country. It is not allowed to elect as state president a person declared incapable of rational decisions or has criminal record, except for cases when the person underwent rehabilitation or if the criminal record was erased.

Full article here

TREASURE

Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RU

TransferWise co-founder Taavet Hinrikus

Estonia-developed TransferWise highest-valued fintech start-up in Europe

The Estonia-developed cash transfer service TransferWise has been valued at 3,1 billion euros. This makes the British-based firm the leading financial technology start-up by value.

U.S. business news portal CNBC reports on Wednesday, May 22, that the Britain-based firm has reached success by lowering fees and adding a slick online platform to help consumers move money globally and track their transfers in a field dominated by American giants like Western Union and MoneyGram.

TransferWise is not expanding its capital with the investment, but instead offering employees and early investors the chance to sell some of their stake in a 261 million secondary deal.

The parties that purchased shares from existing investors are European private equity group Vitruvian Partners and U.S. investment firms Lone Pine Capital and Lead Edge Capital. Early investors Andreessen Horowitz and Baillie Gifford increased their holdings in the company, CNBC reported.

Full article here

WARNING

Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RU

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg

Stoltenberg expresses NATO’s full readiness to react to Russian cyberattacks

NATO stood ready to respond to cyber attacks from Russia and other possible adversaries with all its capabilities, the Secretary General of the alliance has stated.

French news agency AFP reports that during a visit to London on Thursday, May 23,

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg’s warning came with the bloc’s members on alert for interference in European Parliament elections taking place this week.

Western allies accuse Russia of trying to sway the outcome of the 2016 US presidential vote and using cyber technology to cripple the infrastructure of rival Ukraine, accusations categorically denied by the Kremlin.

«For deterrence to have full effect, potential attackers must know we are not limited to respond in cyber space when we are attacked in cyber space. We can and will use the full range of capabilities at our disposal,»

Stoltenberg stated during a joint press appearance in London with UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt.

Full article here


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VID officials will need to have spotless reputation, Saeima decides

From now on, officials of the State Revenue Service (VID) will need to have a spotless reputation. This is decided by Saeima’s amendments to the Law on State Revenue Service approved in the final reading on 5 December, as BNN was told by Saeima’s press-service.

Brazil at risk of losing vote in UN General Assembly because of high debts

There are risks that because of failure to pay its debts to the United Nations Organization, Brazil could lose its voting rights in the UN General Assembly, Reuters reports.

Strained Lithuanian budget is desperate for additional sources of revenues

With the adoption of the new year’s budget skidding, two major professional groups – teachers and doctors – have had this week their demand for higher salaries satisfied, thus deepening the holes in the shallowing budget. Where to scoop up money to patch all the gaps and satisfy all the demands? This week, Seimas, Lithuanian legislature, was in a frantic search for additional sources of revenues.

Estonian Police and Border Guard Board official detained on suspicion of embezzlement

Estonian Internal Security Service has detained a senior officer of Police and Border Guard Board at the South Prefecture on suspicion of document forgery and embezzlement of more than EUR 250 000, as reported by Estonian public media ERR.

Saeima supports government’s decision to extend state of emergency in Riga

On Thursday, 5 December, Saeima agreed with the government’s decision to extend the state of emergency with waste management in Riga’s administrative territory until 12 March 2020, as reported by the Saeima’s press-service.

Flu infection rates remain low in Latvia, but infection spread continues nonetheless

A total of 30 clinically confirmed flu infection cases were registered in Latvia’s healthcare institutions. Nevertheless, virus activity remains low in the country, according to the latest monitoring report on influenza and acute upper respiratory tract infections compiled by Disease Prevention and Control Centre.

France braces for intense protests over Macron’s intended pension reform

France shaken by this decade’s biggest protests in which trade unions urge other residents to oppose French President Emmanuel Macron’s intended pension reform, Reuters reports.

Marguerite Fund to sell Conexus shares to Japanese Marubeni fund

Shareholder in Latvian natural gas transmission and storage system operator Conexus Baltic Grid, Marguerite Fund plans to sell its owned 29.06% of Conexus shares to Japanese company Marubeni fund.

Saeima’s majority may move towards Riga City Council’s dismissal

The majority of Latvia’s Saeima may vote towards dismissing Riga City Council, according to unofficial information from LETA. There is also a more reserved position on this, but generally it is admitted that Riga City Council’s dismissal process will be initiated.

National Economy Committee invites reviewing Rail Baltica project’s management structure

«Considering the unstable situation and lasting stagnation with the project’s management, the National Economy Committee invites Transport Ministry to review the structure of RB Rail,» says Economic, Agricultural, Environmental and Regional Policy Committee chairman Jānis Vitenbergs.

«Riga’s residents overpay.» Kleins proposes terminating contract with Rīgas karte

Riga City Council vice-chairman and shareholder in municipal company LLC Rīgas satiksme Druvis Kleins, has ordered the company’s lawyers to assess the option of quickly terminating the contract with LLC Rīgas karte, as confirmed by Kleins, who represents For Riga! bloc in the city council.

Newspaper: Russia plans to deploy a motorized division in Kaliningrad next year

Russia has plans to deploy a motorized division in Kaliningrad Oblast, which shares borders with Poland and Lithuania, as reported by Russian government newspaper Rossiyskaya Gazeta.

Ex-president says conflicts with territorial reform surface where the rich refuse to share

The objective of the territorial reform remains unchanged – forming economically more efficient administrative territories. This means creating counties able to sustain themselves and develop economically. Conflicts with the reform usually surface in areas, where the rich refuse to share. There are also situations when the poor want to receive and do nothing on their own, BNN was told by ex-President of Latvia Valdis Zatlers.

October’s industrial production output in Latvia increases 3%

Compared to October 2018, industrial production output increased by 3 % in October 2019, according to calendar adjusted data at constant prices.

Iceland’s prime minister urges making welfare a budget priority

Iceland’s Prime Minister Katrin Jakobsdottir urges the government to focus on priorities that serve the interest of families and nature, not focus exclusively on economic growth, BBC reports.

NATO leaders meet in spite of tension to discuss security challenges

In spite of ongoing rows, leaders of NATO member states met near London on Wednesday, 4 December, to discuss important topics like cyber security and strategic challenges created by China, BBC reports.

Latvian government extends state of emergency with waste management in Riga

Although Riga City Council has stated multiple times that it is not necessary to extend the state of emergency with waste management, Latvia’s government has nevertheless decided to extend it until March 2020.

SEB Bank clients now able to use mobile devices to pay for goods and services

SEB Bank clients who have a mobile phone with Android OS are now able to pay for goods and services using their phones. It is possible to use mobile phones to for transactions up to EUR 150 in Latvia and abroad using contact-free terminals, the bank reports.

Kleins: we may have to review who receives public transport discounts in Riga

Considering the complicated financial situation at Rīgas satiksme public transport company, it may be necessary to review which groups of people receive discounts and benefits, said Riga City Council’s vice-chairman Druvis Kleins in an interview to Latvijas Radio on Wednesday, 4 December.

Latvian pupils’ mathematics score above average among OECD member states

Latvian pupils’ mathematics skills are reportedly higher than average among member states of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, according to results of OECD PISA 2018.

Environment Ministry to decide on Riga City Council’s dismissal this week

Latvia’s Environment Protection and Regional Development Ministry’s lawyers will prepare a report this week on whether or not it is necessary to initiate dismissal of Riga City Council, as journalists were told by Environment Protection Minister Juris Pūce on Tuesday, 3 December.

Turkey upholds veto against NATO Baltic defence plans; Lithuania hopes for compromise

Ankara has reiterated its stance of blocking the adoption of updated Baltic defence plans in NATO as a bargaining chip in its attempts to label Kurdish groups in Syria as terrorists, according to the Turkish policy.

In spite of suspicions of fraud in VID, government promotes Kaspars Podiņš to general

Although multiple objections have been voiced in regards to Kaspars Podiņš’s work as chief of State Revenue Service’s Tax and Customs Office, Latvia’s Cabinet of Ministers has nevertheless decided to promote him to general.

Estonian pupils – best among European nations in PISA education test

Estonian pupils’ skills have topped the list of European nations in the latest ranking of average education results of the survey of Programme for International Student Assessment carried out by the OECD in 79 countries and economies.

Latvia’s ruling coalition officially agrees on Kazāks as chosen Bank of Latvia governor

Parties of the ruling coalition in Latvia have agreed to pick the central bank’s council member Mārtiņš Kazāks as their chosen candidate for the posting of governor of the Bank of Latvia, politicians told journalists on Tuesday, 3 December after a meeting of ruling parties.


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