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Tuesday 25.09.2018 | Name days: Rauls, Rodrigo

BNN summary of the week: city council restricts deputies’ rights; Norvik Bank loses assets; EP to combat terrorism funding

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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: Announcement; Measures; Fight; Business; Opinion; Decline; Future.

ANNOUNCEMENT: European Parliament to combat terrorism funding more intensely

To halt terrorism funding, the European Union member states should monitor suspicious transactions and charity organizations, as well as exchange information about them more actively, members of the European Parliament propose.

In order to fight terrorism more effectively, it is necessary to oppose illegal trade of goods, arms, oil, narcotics and cigarettes, MEPs mentioned in the resolution approved on Thursday, 1 March.

They emphasize that part of the funding terrorists receive is acquired in Europe thanks to mutually linked international non-profit organizations, charity organizations and funds that serve as cover for criminal activities.

MEPs ask EU Council, European Commission and European External Action Service to form an EU anti-terrorism funding intelligence platform that would improve information exchange and coordination among finance institutions. This platform could be put under Europol’s authority, as proposed by the European Parliament.

Full article here

MEASURES: ministry proposes diverting Latvenergo’s profits towards reducing MPC

Considering Latvenergo’s increased profits, Latvia’s Economy Ministry proposes diverting EUR 78.9 million towards reducing the mandatory procurement component (MPC) burden, BNN was informed by the ministry.

«I believe the profit of the state-owned company should be invested in state and society’s interests. The increased profits from Latvenergo worth EUR 78.9 million should be diverted to cover MPC costs, specifically reducing the fixed MPC fee for consumers. This measure should be reflected in consumers’ bills in the near future,» Economy Minister Arvils Ašeradens told BNN.

He emphasized that Economy Ministry continues actively working and looking for ways to reduce MPC burden.

«We performed recovery of MPC commitments from TEC1 and TEC2 power stations last year. This helped us prevent a dramatic increase of MPC burden by at least 28% this year. Diversion of profits from Latvenergo concern would be a step towards reducing MPC burden for all consumers. It is a political choice – the decision on introduction of this solution is to be initiated by Economy Ministry and to be approved by the Cabinet of Ministers,» said the minister.

According to provisional data, Latvenergo worked with turnover of EUR 925,637 million last year, which is 0.6% less than it did in 2016. Latvenergo’s profits grew 2.5 times, reaching EUR 322,191 million, according to information submitted to Nasdaq Riga.

Full article here

FIGHT: Overnight discussions end with Riga City Council limiting members’ ability to ask questions

After more than eleven hours of tough talks, Riga City Council accepted amendments to the internal order that limit deputies’ ability to ask questions during meetings. The opposition voted against these changes.

Amendments provide that deputies from now on will have the right to ask no more than three questions during meetings. In addition, only one break will be allowed during viewings of matters. Rapporteurs will have the right for final statement.

Until now the right for breaks was available to every faction. On top of that, they were able to ask questions without restrictions, which is something the opposition often used.

The aforementioned amendments were proposed on Wednesday, 28 February. After nearly three hours of talks the matter was taken from the agenda. An extraordinary city council meeting was organized in the evening at 18:00.

During this meeting, members of the opposition asked for a break to discuss the proposal with leaders of other factions another day. Mayor of Riga Nils Ušakovs, however, said that 32 members of the city council who submitted this proposal wanted to discuss this matter immediately. The mayor said other discussions requested by the opposition would take place later.

After repeated requests before midnight, Ušakovs declared a short break to discuss this matter with coalition deputies.

After the discussion Ušakovs mentioned that ‘because of emotional tension, the coalition is not prepared to call off its proposal’. Nevertheless, he was given mandate to organize regular meetings of faction leaders to discuss the city council’s organization of work and ideas proposed by the opposition.

Juta Strīķe from the New Conservative Party proposed organizing a meeting for leaders of all six factions this night. Ušakovs supported this idea. Faction leaders agreed and the meeting continued at 01:45 a.m.

Full article here

BUSINESS: shareholder separates Russian Vjatka Bank from Norvik; puts it under his family’s control

Russian businessman Grigory Guselnikov and his family have acquired direct control over Vjatka Bank without mediation from Latvian Norvik Bank, as stated in Vjatka Bank’s announcement.

Guselnikov is also Norvik Bank’s largest shareholder.

«Grigory Guselnikov and Norvik Bank have realized a transaction with Vjatka Bank shares. As a result of this transaction, Vjatka Bank is no longer a subsidiary of Latvian Norvik Bank. As a result of this transaction, Guselnikov and his family have acquired direct control over Vjatka Bank without Norvik Bank’s mediation,» as noted in the bank’s announcement.

Vjatka Bank’s governor Sergei Tuvalkin explains this transaction was planned a long time ago.

Full article here

OPINION: Latvian parties exchange accusations about Lembergs criminal case

«I think you should be put in prison for what you have done,» as Artuss Kaimiņš from party told Inguna Sudraba during a meeting of Saeima’s Mandate, Ethics and Submissions Committee. Kaimiņš mentioned her dishonest behaviour in the parliamentary investigative committee, adding that Sudraba was in a conflict of interests.

Kaimiņš mentioned her involvement in several cases associated with Aivars Lembergs – one of the main accused in the so-called Oligarchs case. He also reminded Sudraba that concerns about her honesty are only increased by the fact that she was consulted by the lawyer of Lembergs’ son.

On Wednesday, 28 February, Saeima’s Mandate, Ethics and Submissions Committee viewed Sudraba’s application in relation to Kaimiņš’s statements, including invitation to arrest her.

The committee decided to give Kaimiņš a written warning for some of his statements, including the proposal to arrest Sudraba.

Sudraba asked the committee to assess Kaimiņš’s statements. Vitalijs Orlovs, chairman of the committee, said this would be the ninth time when members of the committee discuss complaints about Kaimiņš’s statements.

The committee agreed to issue Kaimiņš a written warning.

During discussions in the Saeima in regards to Sudraba’s dismissal from the parliamentary committee, Kaimiņš noted that the committee had accepted the final report most investigators had never read before approval. The politician invited Sudraba to pick her own punishment, adding that she should be arrested for her work in the committee. During a different meeting, he mentioned how Sudraba had converted to «Orthodoxy to get Russian voices».

Full article here

DECLINE: ABLV Bank: 300 people to lose jobs next week; construction of New Hanza Quarter disrupted

Next week, 30% or 300 people will lose their jobs in ABLV Bank, as confirmed by the bank’s chairman Ernests Bernis. Among those people are highly-qualified workers – financiers, marketing specialists and others. The bank’s representative adds that this means families that have a total of 700 children under the age of 12 will suffer lay-offs.

The credit institution currently has more than 900 employees.

«The decision to commence liquidation was made independently from us. We had to make a decision that would protect the business. This is why the decision has been made to self-liquidate. This was the toughest decision in my life. It has effectively erased the work we have done over the past 25 years,» said Bernis.

The bank’s chairman emphasized that the bank’s council agreed on 26 February meeting to perform all the necessary measures to disprove the report published by FinCEN and restore their reputation.

ABLV Bank co-owner and council chairman Olegs Fils has said «it is hard to believe what has happened». He promised the bank’s board will do all it can to supervise everything that applies to liquidator work.

Explaining why the bank decided in favour of self-liquidation, Bernis said this is the board’s way of protecting the bank from unprofessional activities. It is also emphasized that all matters regarding the bank’s future will depend on liquidators that will manage this process.

The bank’s representatives say they still have to submit the self-liquidation plan to the Finance and Capital Market Commission within the next five days. FCMC plans to review this matter within 30 days. While the evaluation and approval of liquidators continues, the bank’s board will continue working as usual.

ABLV Bank has proposed candidates for the liquidation group. Among the candidates are Elvijs Vēbers from Elvijs Vēbers un partneri sworn attorneys office, New Hanza Capital chairman Andris Kovaļčuks and board member of ABLV Corporate Finance Arvīds Kostomārovs. Liquidator candidates are to be approved by FCMC.

Full article here

FUTURE: Billion-euro pulp factory becomes «hot potato» in Estonia

Reacting to the Estonian ministries of finance and environment suggesting that a billion-euro pulp factory planned by the firm EstFor could be erected in either the city of Tartu or the town of Viljandi, the Mayor of Tartu has objected to the idea.

«The plant would be allowed to discharge [smelly exhausts] on 54 days of the year, which the people of Tartu certainly won’t agree with,» the ERR cited Tartu Mayor Urmas Klaas as stating. «Another thing is that the plant would have such an environmental impact on the water quality both of the Emajõgi river as well as Lake Peipus that we wouldn’t be able to meet the conditions set out in the water management plan».

Full article here


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PHOTO: Pope Francis visits Riga Cathedral and meets seniors at St Jacob’s Cathedral

Pope Francis visited both Riga Castle and Riga Cathedral, where a service was held under his supervision. There he met with different Latvian officials. After that, the pope met with senior citizens at St Jacob’s cathedral.

Pope Francis arrives in Latvia for an official visit

Pope Francis arrived in Latvia on Monday, 24 September. He was greeted at the airport by President Raimonds Vējonis, Archbishop Zbigņevs Stankevičs and other public figures.

Week in Lithuania. President proposes amendments to restrict bailiffs' remuneration

Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaitė is putting forward amendments aimed at restricting bailiffs' financial remuneration to up to 15 per cent of the amount recovered.

BNN summary of the week: pre-election heat, rule of law in Latvia, Baltics prepare for Pope’s visit

BNN offers a summary of this week’s topical news in a variety of categories: Elections; Change; Stagnation; Fight; Visit; Investigation.

Court reschedules viewing of criminal case due to Non-citizens Congress leader’s poor health

Riga City Vidzeme Suburb Court announced today that the viewing of the criminal case in which leader of Non-citizens Congress Aleksandrs Gapoņenko is accused of inciting national hate will be postponed to a later date.

Producer prices in industry up 1.0% in Latvia in August

Compared to July, level of producer prices in the Latvian industry rose by 1.0 % in August 2018. Level of prices of products sold on the domestic market grew by 1.9 %, but of exported products – went up by 0.1 %.

Bishop: priest suspected of sexual abuse to be operated on in hospital

Pāvels Zeiļa, who is a priest of Rezekne Aglona diocese and the suspect in the criminal case regarding sexual violence and human trafficking, will undergo a complicated surgery on Friday, 21 September, as reported by Bishop Jānis Bulis.

Study: residents withdraw money from ATMs less often but in larger amounts

Every now and then discussions about dropping cash money altogether become active in society, AS PrivatBank representatives say.

HND Grupa design company, involved in Zolitude tragery, declared insolvent

Building engineer Ivars Sergets company HND Grupa, which was involved in the case revolving around the Maxima supermarket that collapsed in Zolitude, killing 54, not five years ago, has been declared insolvent, as reported by Latvijas Avīze.

Deputy Chief of State Fire and Rescue Service suspected of misappropriation

Latvia’s Interior Affairs Ministry’s Internal Security Bureau has detained deputy chief of State Fire and Rescue Service Ints Sēlis and one other official – a senior inspector, as reported by Panorāma programme of LTV.

Washington sanctions China for buying Russian military equipment

U.S. government has introduces sanctions against the Chinese army over a purchase of fighter jets and missile systems from Russia, despite a U.S. sanctions law targeting Moscow for attempts to sway in the 2016 U.S. election.

Autumn expected to begin soon in Latvia

Friday, 21 September, is expected to be warm in Latvia. Sun and considerable amount of clouds are expected, but not precipitation. Wind will draw in from the south, reaching a speed of 15-17 m/sec in western and central regions, as reported by Latvia’s Environment, Geology and Meteorology Centre.

Brexit: a finish line with no end in sight

Less than 200 days are left before Britain officially leaves the European Union. The state of the agreement between Britain and EU only serves to create more chaos, from which neither Britain nor EU, or even Latvia will benefit.

EU underlines to London: No-deal Brexit also option

European Union's top officials and member state leaders planned to push for a Brexit deal in October, while urging London to give ground on the issues trade and the Irish border by November, to avoid a no-deal Brexit.

Lithuanian PM, a presumable presidential hopeful, set to curb grocery price growth

Having chastised food retailers on many occasions for high grocery prices, Saulius Skvernelis, the Lithuanian Prime Minister, stepped forward in the bid to harness local supermarkets. The presumed presidential candidate of the ruling Farmers and Greens (LVŽS) has summoned this week executives of major retail food chains, scolded them and reaffirmed his pledge to rein in the edging up prices.

Industrial prices in Estonia – up by 3.4% on year

The industrial price index in Estonia has risen from August 2017 to August this year by 3.4%, official statistics show.

Latvian parliament approves transition to competence-based approach in education content

On Thursday, 20 September, Latvia’s Saeima approved in the final reading amendments to the Education Law, necessary for the gradual introduction of competence-based approach in education materials.

Latvian Saeima wants to disallow shareholders to work in company management board

On Thursday, 20 September, Saeima approved in the first reading amendments to the Credit Institutions Law that provide for multiple measures to enhance Latvia’s finance system and its long-term stability, as reported by the parliament’s press-service.

Aglone Council prohibits residents from organizing protests during Pope Francis’ visit

A protest against the Catholic Church’s ban on abortions and expression of shock in relation to the recent sex scandals involving Catholic priests was planned to take place in Aglone during Pope Francis’ visit, but the city council decided to disallow them.

Latvian parliament conceptual supports pension bonus indexation

On Thursday, 20 September, Saeima supported in the first reading several initiatives for a more rapid pension climb for several groups of pensioners, as reported by Saeima press-service.

Majority Saeima deputies support open president vote; UGF members fail to decide unanimously

On Thursday, 20 September, amendments to the Constitution regarding open election of the state president were approved in the second reading.

Four Estonian parties have strong support, enough to enter Riigikogu

Four Estonian parties are believed to currently have enough support to enter the Estonian parliament, a broad opinion poll showed, as leading parties compete for voter backing.

Vitol Group concerned over state of rule of law in Latvia; turns to state officials

One of the largest energy resource traders in the world – Vitol Group – has sent a letter to Latvia’s highest ranking officials, expressing deep concern over the rule of law and application of legislative acts in the litigation between LatRosTrans and Polocktransneft Druzba over the EUR 66 million worth technological oil.

As Pope heads to Baltics, more attention to Catholic sex abuse

The time, when Roman Catholic Pope Francis is set to visit the Baltics, greatly differs from the visit by Saint John Paul II in 1993. There is public resentment over the countries spending several million euros to host the trip of the pontiff and the Catholic sex abuse scandals are topic of discussion.

Officials asked to take responsibility for misuse of state resources

If misuse of state resources takes place, officials have to take responsibility and pay for the damages caused to the state, says Public Expenditure and Audit Committee chairman Andris Bērziņš.

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