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Ceturtdiena 09.04.2020 | Name days: Valērija, Žubīte
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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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Court of first instance rejects Ušakovs’ appeal on dismissal as mayor of Riga

On Wednesday, 8 April, the Administrative District Court rejected Harmony politician Nils Ušakovs’ applications in which he appealed the order issued by Environment Protection and Regional Development Minister Juris Pūce on his dismissal from the post of mayor of Riga, as reported by the court.

Latest on COVID-19 in Baltics. 577 in Latvia, 912 in Lithuania, 1 185 in Estonia

The number of COVID-19 infection cases in Latvia has reached 577, increasing by 29 cases in the past day. Lithuanian media, meanwhile, report 912 confirmed infection cases. Public data in Estonia reports 1 185 infection cases in this Baltic State.

Inflation in Republic of Latvia reportedly at 1.4% in March

Compared to March 2019, the average level of consumer prices rose by 1.4 % in March 2020. Prices of goods have increased by 0.9 % and prices of services by 2.7 %.

Lithuania’s BC chief: «Latvia’s COVID-19 support for business has been swifter»

It is official: Lithuania is extending lockdown until April 27 to combat the coronavirus pandemic which death toll in the country stood at 15 as of Wednesday noon. As many as 912 persons were diagnosed with COVID-19 by then.

Lithuania on path to allow price regulation in government

In Lithuania, the majority of legislators in the Seimas, have backed draft amendments that set forth allowing the government to regulate the prices of essential goods during this time of quarantine, Lithuanian public broadcaster LRT reports.

BNN EXPLAINS | Envelope wages – one of the main reasons why idleness benefits may be denied

People need certainty – if they honestly pay taxes, they should be able to receive support from the state in the event of a crisis, since they have taken care of the state all this time by paying taxes, BNN was told in a phone conversation by chairman of LBAS Egils Baldzēns.

Criminal process launched against Aivars Lembergs for defamation

On 7 April 2020 State Police Kurzeme RP Saldus Department’s Criminal Police Office commenced a criminal process against Aivars Lembergs for untrue statements and claims he has used on multiple occasions during meetings of Ventspils City Council and Finance Committee against city council deputy Ģirts Valdis Kristovskis, as BNN was told by Kristovskis.

Latvia’s Prime Minister: we are financially well-situated in this crisis

We are financially well-situated in this crisis, said Latvia’s Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš in an interview to LTV programme Rīta panorama.

Latvian government supports dismissal of State Land Service’s director general

Latvia’s Cabinet of Ministers has supported Justice Ministry’s prepared decision project that details the dismissal of the State Land Service director general Solvitai Zvidriņa from her post, as confirmed by Justice Ministry.

China lifts lockdown in Wuhan

In the Chinese city of Wuhan, where the global pandemic of COVID-19 began, a lockdown has been lifted for the first time since January, British news portal The Guardian reports.

Support in Latvia for COVID-19 crisis prevention reaches four billion euros

The volume of support available in Latvia to finance preventive measures to overcome COVID-19 crisis has reached four billion euros, as reported by Latvian Finance Minister Jānis Reirs on Tuesday, 7 April.

Another month stuck home. Latvian government extends state of emergency

The state of emergency declared in Latvia because of COVID-19 pandemic has been extended until 12 May, as confirmed by Foreign Affairs Minister Edgars Rinkēvičs on social media on 7 April.

75 reports on competition distortions reported to Competition Council in 2019

Last year, the Competition Council received a total of 75 reports related to competition distortions caused by public persons, according to information listed in the latest public account for the institution’s more significant accomplishments in 2019 and developments in competition rights enforcement in Latvia.

Australia quashes child abuse convictions against cardinal Pell

A court in Australia has overturned child sex abuse convictions against cardinal George Pell after he was found guilty and received a prison term, British news portal The Guardian reports.

Education and Science Ministry considers not cancelling centralized exams

Latvia’s Education and Science Ministry considers the option to not cancel centralized exams, especially for 12th graders, as reported on Tuesday, 7 April, by Education Minister Ilga Šuplinska during a meeting with Saeima’s Education, Culture and Science Committee.

Estonian government in two minds on cutting public spending to help economy

Should public spending be cut to help restore the economy? Two of the three parties in the Estonian government have opposing views on this as economic recovery is increasingly discussed, Estonian public broadcaster ERR reports.

Riga International Airport plans to lay off 500 employees

Because of consequences caused by COVID-19, Riga International Airport plans to lay off 500 employees, as BNN was informed by the company.

Poland planning to hold presidential election as postal ballot

The Polish presidential election in May should be held as a postal ballot, the country’s legislators have decided. Opponents of the idea argue that this means putting public health at risk, British-Canadian news agency Reuters reports.

COVID-19 update in Baltics. 548 infected in Latvia, 880 in Lithuania, 1 149 in Estonia

The total number of confirmed coronavirus COVID-19 infection cases in Latvia has reached 548, increasing by six in the past day.

Latvian president urges not to sort idleness benefit recipients based on tax debts

When assessing whether or not a company meets requirements for idleness benefit eligibility, Latvia’s President Egils Levits urges the government to not sort them based on tax debts.

British PM Johnson treated from COVID-19 in intensive care

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been moved to intensive care in London with his COVID-19 symptoms worsening as the outbreak is claiming more lives in the United Kingdom, British news portal The Guardian reports.

Riga City Council snap elections pushed back to 5 September

The ruling coalition in Latvia has agreed to push back Riga City Council snap elections to 5 September, as journalists were told by politicians after a meeting of ruling parties on Monday, 6 April.

US death toll of COVID-19 nears 11 000

The US, which is the country with the highest number of confirmed COVID-19 infections, has on Tuesday, April 7, reached a total number of COVID-19-related deaths of 10 986, according to the US John Hopkins University and German public broadcaster DW.

Prime Minister says Latvia will neither enhance nor relieve restrictions

We do not plan to enhance restrictive measures, but neither do we plan to relieve restrictions – the storm is not over. Nevertheless, we are on the correct path, said Latvian Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš in an interview to Latvijas Radio.

Spanish coronavirus death toll drops for fourth day in a row

In Spain, for the fourth day a row, the number of COVID-19 related deaths per day has decreased as the country has the most confirmed cases in infection in Europa, BBC reports.


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