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Wednesday 19.02.2020 | Name days: Zane, Zuzanna
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BNN summary of the week: Burovs’ problems; Saeima’s dismissal; deficit because of doctors

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Latvia, Riga, waste management, 13th Saeima, Lithuania, Estonia, NATO, benefits, wages, doctors, protest, Maxima, Zolitude It seems not a week goes by without something happening in Riga City Council – Harmony’s issued ultimatum seems to have shaken up the ground beneath Riga Mayor Oļegs Burovs’ chair.

Burovs managed to fulfil one of Harmony’s requirements – dismiss Vadims Baraņņiks from the post of vice-mayor of Riga and his post in the municipality’s capital associations. However, the mayor soon admitted – if he fails to secure majority support in Riga City Council, he will step down and organize snap elections.

It is possible the situation will not end with this, because the opposition has collected the necessary number of signatures to initiate Burovs’ dismissal.

Meanwhile, signature collection has commenced in favour of dissolving the 13th Saeima. Publicly available information allows for the belief that authors of the idea and its loudest supporters are unlikely interested in ensuring welfare for Latvian residents. Both Latvia’s President Egils Levits and ex-President Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga say they see no reasons for dismissal of Latvia’s parliament.

Last week, Latvian doctors announced plans to organize a new protest outside the Saeima and demand dismissal for Healthcare Minister Ilze Viņķele. Her political party, meanwhile, proposes increasing budget deficit in Latvia to satisfy healthcare workers’ demands.

The BNN gives you a summary of the key events of the past week, told in news stories of the following topics: Tremors; Departure; Money search; Saeima’s dismissal; Six years; Search; Threats and Confidence.

TREMORS

Riga City Council opposition initiates mayor’s dismissal

Anna Vladova, Dainis Locs, Ieva Graudiņa-Šutko, Oļegs Burovs, Riga City Council, opposition, Vilnis Ķirsis

Riga City Council chairman Oļegs Burovs

Opposition parties in Riga City Council have collected the necessary 20 signatures to initiate the dismissal of Mayor Oļegs Burovs, as reported by For Latvia’s Development party’s representative Ieva Graudiņa-Šutko.

«We can see Burovs failing at managing the city council. This is why the decision has been made to request his dismissal,» she said.

In accordance with the Law on Local Governments, a meeting for non-confidence vote towards a city council chairman is to be organized within two weeks.

When asked why the opposition decided to «go the long way» instead of organizing extraordinary meetings in a single day, Vilnis Ķirsis explained that «Burovs may as well organize the meeting tomorrow».

He did not comment why the opposition has picked such a tactic, nor did he say if the opposition would even participate and vote at such a meeting.

Dainis Locis said this way the opposition will test Burovs’ ability to secure majority of votes.

Full article here

DEPARTURE

«Was never fit for vice-mayor’s post.» Baraņņiks loses post in Riga City Council

GKR, Harmony, Independent Deputies Faction, Riga, important, Vadims Baraņņiks

Vadims Baraņņiks

With votes from opposition deputies, Riga City Council’s Vice-Chairman Vadims Baraņņiks was removed from his post on Tuesday, 19 November. He was also removed from his post in Riga Freeport board.

Members of Harmony and Honour to Serve Riga, as well as all opposition members, voted in favour of Baraņņiks’ dismissal. A total of 40 votes were cast in favour of his dismissal.

Six independent deputies abstained in the vote.

According to representatives of the opposition, they supported Baraņņiks’ dismissal because «he was not fit for the post of vice-mayor».

At the same time, the opposition’s plan is organizing three consecutive extraordinary meetings without taking part in them thereby creating a precedent for dismissal of the city council.

Full article here

MONEY SEARCH

Attīstībai/Par! political party invites raising doctors’ wages at budget deficit’s expense

Attīstībai Par, budget deficit, budget 2020, Ilze Viņķele, doctors, wages

Healthcare Minister Ilze Viņķele

Political parties association Attīstībai/Par! (AP) invites allocating the necessary EUR 60 million for doctors’ wages at the expense of budget deficit, as reported by the political party’s representative Amālija Brūvere.

AP intends to submit its proposals for discussion to the government and will insist on expanding the state budget for 2020 in the near future, as reported by the party association.

Healthcare Minister Ilze Viņķele has submitted to Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš plans for healthcare development and reform approved by the previous government and improved by the current government in Latvia.

The political power references European Commission’s published assessment of EU member states’ budgets on 20 November, in which the EC outlines the negative effect the previous Latvian government’s exacted tax changes had on budget revenue and warns of resurfacing risks. At the same time, the EC is positive about Latvia’s budget plan. It is clear that even full compliance with EU regulations would allow reducing Latvia’s budget deficit by a little, reminds the party association.

EC’s published analysis mentions that «of all sectors, healthcare funding will decline the most: to 3.5% of GDP».

Full article here

SAEIMA’S DISMISSAL?

Ex-president: 13th Saeima is not responsible for previous parliament’s «cuckoo eggs»

13th Saeima, topical, dismissal, Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga

Ex-President of Latvia Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga

Latvia’s ex-president Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga believes there is no reason to dissolve the 13th Saeima.

If the previous Saeima left some «cuckoo eggs» for the new parliament before leaving, such as something in legislation, this does not mean the current Saeima is to blame, says Vīķe-Freiberga.

When asked if the ruling coalition in the Saeima made some mistake during the budget approval process and should the budget be returned for a repeated review, the ex-president stressed that all state institutions have to plan their work, continue their objectives and pay wages to their employees.

Full article here

SIX YEARS

Court sees personal promotion attempts in claims about delays with Maxima tragedy case

Erlens Ernstons, Maxima, Zolitude tragedy, important,Riga City Pardaugava Court denies claims made by a number of people about slow progress with the review of the criminal case regarding the Zolitude tragedy. On top of that, the court says those are attempts to secure positive personal promotion at the expense of the tragedy’s victims and such claims mislead society.

On Thursday, 21 November, one of the judges in charge of Zolitude tragedy case Erlens Ernstons told journalists about the discipline of participants of the process in attending all court sessions in spite of heavy involvement in other processes.

Court chairperson Adrija Buliņa said there are no reasons to believe the scheduled court session of 26 November might not happen. The court leaned that the sick judge Dzintra Zemitāne is unlikely to return to work. If this happens, the judge may be replaced with a reserve judge, in this case this may be Anita Grāvīte.

This means the review of the case will be continued and completed by a new team of judges.

Ernstons explains that the 11 September’s court session was postponed because of passing inability to work of the accused. The next court hearing was scheduled for 18 September.

On 13 September, information was received from judge Dzintra Zemitāne that she would take a sick leave on 14 September. Complying with the judge’s inability to work, the criminal case was taken from the review agenda five times, amending the criminal case’s review dates until 30 October.

Full article here

SEARCH

LTV: authorities search Riga Central Market’s Internal Security head’s office

ENAP, Riga Central Market, important, State PoliceLatvian authorities have performed a search in the office of the head of Riga Central Market’s Internal Security head Maksims Danovskis, according to information from LTV.

On Thursday, 21 November, State Police Economic Crimes Enforcement Unit performed a search at Riga Central Market. Information from LTV shows that authorities may have been looking for contraband cigarettes.

BNN received confirmation from State Police that on 21 November preventive measures in relation to illegal circulation of excise goods were performed at Riga Central Market. Police representative mentioned that more than 80 searches have been performed and multiple people have been detained. No detailed information was provided.

Full article here

THREAT

Lithuanian firefighters protest over low pay and outdated equipment

firefighters, wages, Lithuania, fireLithuanian firefighters have reminded of government commitments in the field in a protest in Vilnius over the average wage of 430 euros and outdated equipment.

LRT, the Lithuanian public broadcaster, reports that in a protest on Tuesday, November 19, dome 50 firefighters staged a rally outside the government building in Vilnius.

Algis Lisauskas, the president of the Association of Firefighters Unions, told LRT.lt that, due to underfunding, firefighters may have to celebrate Christmas without a pay.

«This year, we have a funding gap of 2.6 million euros. This means that we will not be able to pay firefighters in December,» Lisauskas explained.

According to him, municipal firefighters make, on average, 430 euros a month and the equipment they use is hopelessly antiquated. If things don’t change, municipal fire services might collapse, Lisauskas said.

Firefighter unions have estimated that, in order to operate and meet the commitments to their workers, the services will need 32 million euros of the central government’s funding, but the current budget proposal only assigns 27 million.

Full article here

CONFIDENCE

Estonia sees no alternative to NATO and says it’s strong

Foreign Minister of Estonia, Urmas Reinsalu, NATO, Russia, London

Foreign Minister of Estonia Urmas Reinsalu

Estonia’s top diplomat Urmas Reinsalu (Pro Patria) has announced prior to a meeting with counterparts from other NATO nations that he considers the alliance strong and sees no alternatives to it.

Estonian public broadcaster ERR reports that on Wednesday, November 20, Reinsalu is among the NATO foreign ministers meeting in Brussels to discuss burden sharing, defence and deterrence, Russia and China.

«NATO is strong and there is no alternative to it. The Alliance plays an irreplaceable role in Estonia’s and Europe’s security.

Maintaining a strong transatlantic bond is the duty of each and every ally, and in the last five years European allies and Canada have notably increased their spending on defence,» Estonia’s Foreign Minister stated ahead of the meeting.

Full article here


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Kristīnes Misāne’s representatives say her extradition is temporarily halted

The extradition of Latvian citizen Kristīne Misāne, who is accused of kidnapping her own child, to the South African Republic has been temporarily halted, as Delfi TV ar Jānis Domburs was told by the woman’s sister Mārīte Batraka.

Estonian wind farm land sold for EUR 51.4 million

In Estonia, the auction of a 160-hectare plot of land intended for the erection of wind turbines, has been won by Estonian energy giant Eesti Energia, which offered the price of 51.5 million euros, ERR reports.

Citskovskis: around 3 000 people have left state administration in Latvia in three years

Over the course of three years the number of people employed in Latvia’s state administration has reduced by 3 000 people, as reported by State Chancellery director Jānis Citskovskis at a meeting of Saeima’s Public Administration and Local Government Committee on Wednesday, 19 February.

European Central Bank annuls PNB Bank’s license

The European Central Bank has made a decision to liquidate PNB Bank’s license, as confirmed by Latvia’s Finance and Capital Market Commission.

Number of births in Latvia has increased in January since last year

Over the past four years, birth number is declining, however during the year there are months when greater birth number is registered. Provisional data of the Central Statistical Bureau of Latvia show that 1.6 thousand newborns were registered in January 2020, which is 5 % more than in the corresponding month a year ago.

133 jobs in welfare liquidated in Latvia last year

A total of 133 jobs were liquidated in Latvia’s welfare sector last year. This was done to reduce and optimize institutions and administration in this sector, as confirmed by Welfare Minister’s advisor Liesma Kalve.

Latvia needs almost 300 million euros to afford Rail Baltica

The funding Latvia needs to implement Rail Baltica project is EUR 297 620 500. This includes EUR 242 385 425 from the Connecting Europe Facility and EUR 55 235 075 from the state co-financing, as reported by Transport Ministry’s communication office.

Spanish government approves digital tax, but waits for OECD deal

As European Union member states seek to tax the profitable business of tech giants, Spanish government has passed a digital services tax, which could affect such US companies as Facebook and Google, according to The Guardian.

Estonian police finds potentially fatal substances added to illegal drugs

In Estonia, the police have informed the society about finding rat poison and washing powder in illegal drugs, ERR reports.

Kariņš: it is blatant we’ve had to wait for so long for a ruling in Maxima tragedy case

It is blatant that we have had to wait for more than six years between the Maxima tragedy and a ruling in the criminal case, said Latvian Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš in an interview to LTV programme Rīta panorama on 19 February.

Latvian government takes over National Opera building

The government has decided to take over the Latvian National Opera and Ballet building and hand it over to Culture Ministry for management, as reported by the ministry’s representative Lita Kokale.

Ukraine warfare escalates; OSCE calls for restraint

In Eastern Ukraine, this week has been marked with a deadly battle between Ukrainian government forces and Kremlin-backed separatists. The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe has called on sides to adhere to agreed ceasefire, US news portal Radio Free Europe reports.

Rīgas satiksme new management’s stance on contract with Rīgas karte remains unclear

Municipal public transport company LLC Rīgas satiksme’s new board offers no clarity in relation to potentially terminating the contract with LLC Rīgas karte, as Saeima’s Public Expenditures and Audit Committee was told by RS board chairperson Džineta Innusa.

UK would not give visas to unskilled EU labour after Brexit

The British government has announced its immigration plan for the period after Brexit. It sets forth not issuing visas to unskilled labour from European countries, the BBC reports.

Attīstībai/Par! and Progressive party to run in Riga elections together

Party union Attīstībai/Par! and the Progressive party have decided to put together a shared list of candidates in the upcoming snap elections in Riga. Mārtiņš Staķis will be their mayoral candidate, as confirmed by Attīstībai/Par! representative Aleksis Zoldners.

Einars Repše becomes Baltic International Bank’s council head’s advisor

Latvia’s ex-prime minister and once the governor of the Bank of Latvia Einars Repše has become the advisor to Baltic International Bank’s council chairman Valērijs Belokoņs, as confirmed by the bank.

Prosecutor General’s Office requests Denmark to extradite Misāne to Latvia

The Office of the Prosecutor General of the Republic of Latvia has sent a request to Danish authorities regarding the extradition of Kristīne Misāne to the country, as confirmed by the office’s press-secretary Laura Majevska.

In pictures: UK hit by heaviest winter floods of past years

The storm Dennis has heavy flooding to the United Kingdom as widespread rainfall came a week after the powerful storm Ciara, according to The Guardian.

FDP: economic growth may be slowed by multiple global and domestic risks

Latvia’s Fiscal Discipline Council agree on Finance Ministry’s analysis, expecting the strong effect from slowed economic growth to remain in 2020, the council says.

Estonia dismisses Beijing’s call to amend intelligence report unfavourable to China

Estonian diplomats have rejected a call by the Chinese Embassy in Tallinn to amend an annual security report by the Estonian Foreign Intelligence Service pointing to growing influence of China in Estonia, ERR reports.

Latvian ex-state secretary has no plans to take disciplinary case to court

Economy Ministry’s state secretary Ēriks Eglītis, who was suspended from his post, has no plans at the moment to take the disciplinary case to court, as the man confirmed in an interview to Latvijas Radio on Tuesday, 18 February.

Multi-billionaire Bezos promises USD 10 billion to help tackle climate change

In the US, the founder of the e-commerce giant Amazon, Jeff Bezos, has pledged to allocate a funding of USD 10 billion for fighting climate change, British public broadcaster BBC reports.

Latvia will continue fighting for fair financing in EU’s next multi-year budget

It is in Latvia’s interests to reach a timely agreement on the next European Union (EU) multi-year budget to help contribute to projects and secure uninterrupted investments in Latvia, as reported by Foreign Affairs Ministry.

Land acquisition for Rail Baltica going slow in Estonia

As Estonia seeks a stretch of land across the country for the construction of the pan-Baltic railway Rail Baltica, only 32 plots of land have been acquired out of some 650 needed, Estonian public broadcaster ERR reports.

Construction engineer Sergets sentenced to six years in prison in Maxima tragedy case

On Tuesday, 18 February, Riga City Pārdaugava Court commenced reading the ruling in the so-called Maxima tragedy criminal case, sentencing construction engineer Ivars Sergets to six years in prison, as well as five year prohibition to work in his profession.


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