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Wednesday 17.07.2019 | Name days: Aleksejs, Aleksis

BNN summary of the week: Diena newspaper’s mistake, Latvia’s train problems and NATO anniversary

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Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RUThis week, popular Latvian newspaper Diena admitted committing a serious mistake – publishing false information about Swiss lawyer Rudolf Meroni. It took the newspaper nearly six months to admit a mistake it should have fixed within a week.

Meanwhile competition remains steep for lucrative posts in public media – the seat of the chairman and board members in LTV. Einārs Giels has been elected as chairman of LTV board. Eva Juhņēviča has been elected a board member. Nevertheless, New Conservative party is not satisfied with this decision, calling out the lack of media independence during the selection process and in the outcome.

At the end of March, Riga City Council has also approved a budget with historically the largest expenditures – EUR 1,083.7 million expenditures and budget deficit of EUR 111 million.

BNN offers a summary of this week’s topical news in a variety of categories: Confession; Fight; Crimes; Decline; Change; Security; Agreement.

CONFESSION: Diena newspaper takes nearly six months to admit Rudolf Meroni is not a suspect in a criminal case

«Lack of objectivity, clarity or superficial reporting of events is inexcusable,» such editorial guidelines can be found in Diena newspaper’s description. However, it seems that not only superficial reporting but also publication of untrue information has taken place there. It is hard for Diena newspaper to admit mistakes, especially considering that it has taken the newspaper almost six months to officially withdraw the false news one of its journalists – Guntars Gūte – had published without basic fact-checking and based solely, it seems, on desired fantasies about Swiss lawyer Rudolf Meroni.

In its official statement on the withdrawal of previously reported information, Diena confirms that one of their journalists made a mistake, and that the information this journalist had reported was not true, specifically the part about Latvian State Police Organized Crime Enforcement Department making Rudolf Meroni a suspect in a criminal case.

Diena editorial office has withdrawn the publication and has apologized for the headline and statements contained in the article, which stated, among other things, that the lawyer was applied with such a serious status. Nevertheless, this apology came nearly six months after the article’s publication. But doesn’t such a serious mistake – branding a person a suspect in a criminal case – warrant a quicker response in accordance with standards of good journalism?

Full article here

FIGHT: Authorities prohibit Latvian railway company from contracting Škoda Vagonka

Latvia’s Procurement Monitoring Bureau has prohibited railway company AS Pasažieru vilciens from signing a train procurement contract with Czech company Škoda Vagonka, according to published information.

Procurement Monitoring Bureay has reviewed Spanish company Patentes Talgo S.L. application regarding Pasažieru vilciens’ organized talks on Suburb Passenger Train and Maintenance Equipment Supply and Personnel Training.

The Procurement Monitoring Bureau’s committee mentioned in its report that Talgo objects to Škoda Vagonka’s submitted electricity consumption. PMB recognized the part of Talgo’s application that doubts if the equipment Škoda Vagonka offers to supply can reduce electricity consumption is even part of trains and if the information regarding reduced energy consumption is justified.

Talgo also mentions that Škoda’s offered train maintenance costs are unjustifiably low. Talgo also questions inclusion of costs for unplanned repairs in the offer. After analysing the opinion of one of the sides, Procurement Monitoring Bureau recognized it as justified.

Full article here

CRIMES: Lithuania convicts ex-Soviet officers for death of 14 in 1991 January Events

Seeking justice for the January Events in Vilnius in 1991, a court in Lithuania has convicted a former Soviet Defence Minister and a senior KGB figure of war crimes and crimes against humanity, when Lithuanians sought to reestablish their independence.

U.S. state broadcaster Radio Free Europe, reports that in a March 27 ruling, the court in Vilnius sentenced former Soviet Defense Minister Dmitry Yazov in absentia to 10 years in prison. Former KGB officer Mikhail Golovatov was sentenced in absentia to 12 years in prison.

The ruling is a result of three years of proceedings focusing on the deaths of 14 people killed by the Soviet Army in January 1991.

Full article here

DECLINE: Latvian television company employee fired after Russia Today incident

Latvian Television employee Harijs Lavkinaitis has been fired from his job because of the interview to Russia Today shown in LTV News Service’s studio, LTV board member Ivars Priede told Saeima Human Rights and Public Affairs Committee during a meeting.

Lavkinaitis had violated his duties by lending LTV resources to a news outlet that is considered hostile to Latvia, said Priede.

Chairman of the committee Artuss Kaimiņš stressed again that precedents related to function of the National Electronic Mass Media Council prove that it is necessary to approve the new law of Public Electronic Mass Media Governance Law as soon as possible. Other participants, including Māris Kučinskis and Ināra Mūrniece, stressed that after today’s decision everyone should calm down and then tackle decisions again with cold reason.

LTV representatives had previously explained that letting Russia Today in LTV 3rd studio on 14 March was a personal and one-sided decision made by content production department employee Harijs Lavkinaitis’ personal decision.

Full article here

CHANGE: Latvian state and municipalities prohibited by law to discriminate private businesses

The state and municipalities, if they hold decisive influence over some business sector, will not be allowed to create different competition conditions and thereby discriminate private businesses. Competition Council will monitor institutions’ and capital associations’ compliance with this measure.

On Thursday, 28 March, the Saeima supported in the final reading amendments to the Competition law. These changes make it a must for administrative institutions, as well as capital associations in which public persons have decisive influence, to ensure fair competition, as reported by Saeima’s press-service.

«Although municipalities are not prohibited from engaging in entrepreneurship, the possibility of their presence and practice distorting competition is real. Amendments to the Competition Law will provide entrepreneurs with confidence that municipalities provide fair competition conditions,» said chairman of Saeima’s Economic, Agricultural, Environmental and Regional Policy Committee Jānis Vitenbergs.

Full article here

SECURITY: President says joining NATO is Latvia’s biggest accomplishment in past 15 years

«Latvia’s joining of NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation) fifteen years ago was the most important event for our country since the restoration of independence. Today we are stronger than we’ve ever been. Together with our National Armed Forces our allies – NATO member states – stand guarding our country’s security,» says Latvia’s President Raimonds Vējonis.

The president says in the 21st century the world has faced many complex threats and challenges. It is possible to avert those threats and overcome challenges only by working together and strengthening NATO and EU defensive initiatives. At the same time, it is equally important to continue work to ensure NATO member states are able to oppose traditional and hybrid threats.

Celebrating the 15th anniversary of Latvia joining NATO, a festive guard change was carried out at Riga Castle in the morning on 29 March 2019. NATO flag was also raised above Riga Castle’s Tower of the Holy Spirit.

Events were attended by Commander of Mechanized Infantry Brigade Lieutenant Colonel Sandris Gaugers, Lieutenant Colonel Philippe Sauvé, Commander of the Battle Group for NATO Extended Presence in Latvia, as well as NATO battle group representatives from Albania, Czech Republic, Italy, Canada, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia and Spain and US military attaché in Latvia.

Full article here

AGREEMENT: Chances of molten salt nuclear reactor to be considered in Estonia

Estonia’s energy company Fermi Energia and Moltex Energy, a British-Canadian firm, which is pushing for the implementation of the salt nuclear reactor technology, have agreed to look into the feasibility and chances to licence a molten salt nuclear reactor in the Baltic country.

Estonian public broadcaster ERR reports on Tuesday, March 26, that according to Fermi Energia CEO, Kalev Kallemets, their joint ambition is to bring a first fourth-generation small modular reactor online by the early 2030s.

«We are delighted to be working closely with Moltex Energy on this vital project. It is important for Estonia to have its own source of clean, cheap energy, and Moltex’s innovative technology has huge potential for us,» Kallemets noted in a press release.

Full article here

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Latvian government approves funding for procurement of new electrical trains

Latvia’s government has approved state budget long-term commitment of EUR 255 888 753 to finance railway passenger transport company AS Pasažieru vilciens. This means PV might sign a contract with Škoda Vagonka soon, as confirmed by Transport Ministry.

Latvian Railway receives EC’s report on railway electrification

European Commission has submitted a positive report on Latvian Railway commenced railway network’s electrification in the initially planned volume, as reported by company’s representative Ella Pētermane.

Nausėda, visiting Poland, urged to get more personal than Grybauskaitė

Gitanas Nausėda, the new Lithuanian President, is in Poland on his first official visit abroad. Lithuanian political experts have commented to LRT, what should be the aim of the visit.

Latvian State Police request criminal prosecution of fake news portal owner

July 2019 marked the end of State Police investigation of a criminal process launched last year in relation to distribution of fake news. One Niks Endziņš was arrested as a result of the criminal process in 2018.

Moscow considering exchange of Ukrainian sailors before Ukraine election

Moscow has unveiled it’s taking part in discussion over a potential prisoner swap involving Ukrainian sailors that it arrested in 2019 last year. The development comes on the week of Ukrainian parliamentary elections.

Latvia to host EUROfusion General Assembly for the first time

The 26th EUROfusion General Assembly will be taking place in Riga this week 17th – 18th July. The heads of EUROfusion science project and participants from 24 countries will be taking part in this event.

Bribery accused LU vice-rector applied with major restrictions

Latvian Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau has applied restrictions for bribery accused University of Latvia vice-rector Baiba Broka. She is prohibited from working in the university’s procurement commission, as well as making decisions associated with control and supervision.

EU: Violations of Iran nuclear deal can still be reversed

European Union’s foreign ministers have concluded in a meeting on relations with Iran that the uranium enrichment carried out by Tehran breaching the Iran nuclear deal this summer is not significant.

Welfare Ministry requests EUR 54 million for welfare priorities in Latvia

Next year’s welfare priorities in Latvia will require additional funding of EUR 54 million, says Welfare Minister Ramona Petraviča.

Von der Leyen resigns as German minister before EP vote on her heading EC

Shortly before the Tuesday’s vote in the European Parliament on the candidacy of Ursula von der Leyen, the German Defence Minister has announced her resignation from the German federal government.

Pork prices in Latvia increase 10.5% over the course of a month

In May 2019, pork prices in Latvia increased 10.5% when compared to April and were 33.1% higher when compared to May 2018, according to data compiled by Latvian Agriculture Ministry’s Market and Direct Support Department.

Latvia’s finance market supervisor applies one million euro fine to Rigensis Bank

Latvia’s Finance and Capital Market Commission has decided to apply a fine of one million euros to Rigensis Bank AS for violating money laundering and terrorism financing prevention regulations, as confirmed by the commission.

Latvia’s Competition Council issues six warnings for possible cartel activity

In the first half-year of 2019, Latvia’s Competition Council organized six warnings to ten businesses and five private persons for possible involvement in cartels.

Estonian expedition Antarctica 200 leaves for six-month journey

Marking 200 years since the discovery of the Antarctic, a group of Estonian-lead explorers have left for the six-month sea journey to the world’s southern-most continent.

Balticovo: eggs of caged hens will gradually disappear from shelves

Eggs from caged hens will likely disappear from Europe’s shelves in time, predicts egg and egg product manufacturing company Balticovo council chairman Valdis Grimze.

Latvia’s Taxi Drivers Register has around 6 000 drivers; 114 have been excluded from it

Since June 2018, when the Taxi Drivers Register was adopted, nearly 6 000 drivers have registered with it, whereas more than 100 drivers have been excluded from it, as reported by the Road Transport Directorate.

President: Latvianness is intended for everyone

Latvianness is intended for everyone, said Latvia’s President Egils Levits in an interview to public broadcaster LNT programme 900 seconds in regards to ways of reducing societal split.

Deadly plane crash in Sweden could take year to be solved

After Sweden’s leisure plane crash that took the lives of nine people over the weekend, authorities could take a year to determine the cause of the tragedy.

Fifth break announced in trial of Jelgava Hospital bribery case

The trial in the bribery case involving Jelgava Hospital manager Andris Ķipurs has been put on hold for the fifth time, the court reported.

Von de Leyen seeks to secure MEP support to head European Commission

Member state nominee for the top job of the European Union, Ursula von der Leyen, has spent two weeks seeking to ensure support from members of the European Parliament to her candidacy to the post the president of the European Commission.

Warmth to gradually return to Latvia this week: upwards of +25 C expected

This week, rain will be observed in at least one of Latvia’s regions. Nevertheless, warmer masses of air will also flow into the country, making air temperature reach +25° C.

NATO’s right to deploy in Latvia in crisis situations to be outlined in legislation

In the event of crisis situations NATO forces will be able to deploy in Latvia from beyond its border, as provided by amendments to the Latvian State Border Law the government will discuss on 16 July.

Trump’s war powers on Iran limited by U.S. Congress

U.S. President Donald Trump’s powers to potentially take his country to war with Iran have been blocked by American legislators setting forth congressional authorization to such a move. Tensions between the to countries have escalated since early June.

Week in Lithuania: Nausėda, a new President, inaugurated, Skvernelis stays as PM, mayor handcuffed

Last week, Kaunas marked 75th anniversary of ghetto liquidation, Nausėda presented his team, MPs initiated simpler MP mandate revocation procedures.

BNN summary of the week: new presidents; radio station rings alarm; bribery at LU

Last week, Egils Levits officially became President of the Republic of Latvia. For his first foreign visit, he picked Estonia, where he met with the country’s president Kersti Kaljulaid. The week also marked the end for Lithuania President Dalia Grybauskaitė’s era in the country, as economist Gitanas Nausėda successfully took her place.