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Monday 19.08.2019 | Name days: Melānija, Imanta
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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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EU: Rīgas satiksme cuts Latvian budget fiscal room in 2020 by 72 mln EUR

The Riga city company Rīgas satiksme should, according to European Union criteria, be in included in the general government sector, thus it would cut the fiscal space of the 2020 Latvian state budget by 72 million euros, Finance Ministry stated.

Latvijas Krājbanka’s administrator recovered 542 thousand euros in July

The administrator of the insolvent Latvian bank Latvijas Krājbanka recovered 524 444 euros in July, which is by 75% more than a month earlier, according to the official gazette Latvijas Vēstnesis.

Latvian post-reform administrative centres to have 2 000 - 630 000 populations

After the planned administrative reform of Latvia, the population size of the administrative centres of the new municipalities is expected to vary from 2 000 to 632 000 people, according to a conceptual report by the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Regional Development.

A week of warm, but changing weather forecast for Latvia

Weather in Latvia this week is expected to be summer-like and warm, with rain expected on Thursday and Friday, according to the Latvian Environment, Geology and Meteorology Centre.

Kabul wedding terror attack committed by Islamic State, the group says

Responsibility for the terror attack in Afghanistan, where explosives killed 63 people. has been claimed by the Afghan branch of the Islamic State terrorist group.

British Gibraltar releases seized Iran oil tanker

An Iranian oil tanker detained by Gibraltar, part of the United Kingdom, has sailed away from port after being allowed to do so despite Washington’s call to detain it again.

BNN summary of the week: Latvia’s biggest budget; PNB Bank halts operations; Latvia sad with Latvia

Some positive news surfaced in Latvia this week – Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš announced that the country’s next budget will be the largest one yet and will exceed EUR 10 billion. In spite of this, however, financial difficulties have been observed – PNB Bank has ended up in a tight spot. The bank’s shortage of funds has forced Finance and Capital Market Commission to halt all of the bank’s financial operations.

Week in Lithuania: PM Skvernelis undergoes surgery, Nausėda meets Merkel, rebukes Latvia

Last week, President Gitanas Nausėda rejected the government’s candidate for EU judge, hints of big changes at Šiaulių Bankas ahead

Independent Deputies Faction joins forces with Honour to Serve Riga

Riga City Council’s Independent Deputies Faction has signed a cooperation agreement with Honour to Serve Riga political party, pledging support for the party’s mayoral candidate Oļegs Burovs, as LETA was told by the faction’s leader Valērijs Petrovs on Monday, 18 August.

Saeima’s MPC investigation committee requests information on every issued license

The parliamentary committee formed to investigate the mandatory procurement component has requested access to information regarding every issued MPC license and decision made by officials in regards to this field, says the committee’s representative Ilze Vanaga.

Latvian athlete receives two-year disqualification

Former Latvian long jumper Ineta Radeviča has received a two-year disqualification, as confirmed by International Association of Athletics Federation’s Athletics Integrity Unit.

Minister: state budget funds will not be used to compensate PNB Bank’s clients

The Deposit Guarantee Fund is sufficient to pay compensations to affected PNB Bank clients. This means not a cent from Latvia’s state budget will be used, said Latvia’s Finance Minister Jānis Reirs in a telephone conversation with public broadcaster LTV programme Rīta Panorāma on Friday, 16 August.

Estonia to invest 22 million in construction of a new TV house

Estonian government has set aside EUR 22 million for the construction of a new public television building, as reported by Estonian public media ERR.

Another one falls – Latvian FCMC halts PNB Bank’s operations

Operations of PNB Bank [formerly Norvik Banka] have been halted in Latvia, as confirmed by Finance and Capital Market Commission.

Unemployment index in Latvia drops – rate down to 6.4% in Q2

In Q2 2019 Latvian unemployment rate constituted 6.4 %. Compared to the previous quarter, unemployment rate fell by 0.5 percentage points, and compared to the rate recorded a year ago, it dropped by 1.3 percentage points.

64.7% of Latvia’s population reportedly employed in Q2 2019

905.6 thousand people or 64.7 % of Latvia’s population aged 15–74 were employed in Q2 2019.

Lithuanian Conservatives’ tensions: can the party split?

The Conservative Homeland Union - Lithuanian Christian Democrats (TS-LKD) have risen to unseen heights lately – although in the opposition now, in 2016 parliamentary election the party racked up a record support in its 30 years’ history.

Minister: Latvia’s social budget surplus has reached one billion

The surplus of the state social budget has come close of the pre-crisis level – EUR 1 billion, said Latvian Welfare Minister Ramona Petraviča in an interview to LTV programme Rīta panorama on 15 August.

Riga City Council permitted to elect mayor after two-month deadline

In spite of the fact that 21 August will mark two months of Riga City Council working without a mayor, a condition that permits Latvia’s Saeima to dismiss the entire city council, deputies of the municipality will nonetheless have the right to elect a mayor after the deadline, says Environment Protection Minister Juris Pūce’s advisor for legal affairs Valdis Verners.

Lithuanian president unhappy with Latvia’s decision to purchase energy from Belarus

Lithuanian President Gitanas Nausėda has voiced sadness over Latvia’s decision to purchase electrical energy produced at Astravets nuclear power plant in Belarus not far from the Lithuanian border. He admits, however, that this decision was not unexpected for him.

State Real Estate claims ReRe Būve 1 may be trying to circumvent the law

Construction company Rere Būve 1 publicly voices desire to continue implementing the construction contract. However, the construction company’s submitted work schedule for reconstruction of New Riga Theatre has everything changed – volume of work, terms and budget, Latvian State Real Estate reports.

Lithuanian mountaineer dies climbing French Alps

Lithuanian 38-year-old mountaineer Vytautas Mažeika died in a 50 m fall in the French Alps, Lithuanian public media LRT reports with reference to 15min.lt.

Estonia decides to reform pension system; increase not promised

Helir-Valdor Seeder, leader of Estonian coalition party Isamaa, has confirmed that the government has agreed on his proposed pension reform, as reported by Estonian public media ERR.

Ruling party in Lithuania promises national agreement for education affairs

While more and more small town schools close down in Lithuania, the leader of the ruling party promises a «national agreement» for education affairs, as reported by Lithuanian public media LRT.

Viesturs Zeps’ has yet to convince NCP and Unity to support him as mayoral candidate

Mayoral candidate in Riga Viesturs Zeps still has not convinced New Conservative Party and Unity to support him, according to what he said in an interview to public broadcaster LTV programme Rīta panorama on Thursday, 15 August.