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Friday 26.04.2019 | Name days: Rūsiņš, Sandris, Alīna
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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Diena editorial office has withdrawn the publication and has apologized for the headline and statements contained in the article, which stated, among other things, that the lawyer was applied with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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Opinion: minister intends to end injustice, UGF prepares «non-surrender plan»

It is no surprise why the Union of Greens and Farmers wants to stop the administrative territorial reform – once it has been implemented UGF could lose influence in local administrations, because the largest counties will have more deputies and therefore there will be much smaller chances of using ‘hobby groups’ to pull through decisions, writes regional newspaper Ventspilnieks.

70 000 air passengers affected by strike in Scandinavian SAS airline

Due to a strike by pilots of the Scandinavian airline SAS in Sweden, Denmark and Norway, on Friday about 70,000 passengers have been affected by over 600 cancelled flights.

Verbal terror in Ventspils City Council forces opposition to ask government to step in

«We have informed the government that as representatives of Ventspils residents we no longer have any moral and ethical reasons to participate in the work done by the illegal administration of Ventspils City Council. We have told the government that we will not participate in the work of the municipality until the government and authorities have performed measures to stabilize the situation in Ventspils City Council,» as reported by deputies of the opposition of Ventspils City Council.

Estonians worried about haze, smell of smoke, apparently from fires in Russia or Belarus

In central and southern Estonia, a cloud of bluish haze has made people and fire-fighters worried about possible wildfires, but meteorologists and NASA point to smoke coming from Russia and Belarus.

9th Youth Saeima to discuss the place of youngsters in Latvia and EU

The 9th Youth Saeima gathered for its first meeting on Friday, 26 April. The main topic of the meeting will be the place of youngsters in Latvia and Europe, as reported by Saeima’s press-service.

Video: Biden joins U.S. Presidential race, branded 'Sleepy Joe' by Trump

Former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden has announced his candidacy for the U.S. 2020 presidential election. U.S. President Donald Trump has charactarised his potential rival as 'Sleepy Joe'.

Following Deglava Bridge closure, minister expects Riga City Council to regulate traffic

Following the closure of A.Deglava Street overpass, Latvia’s Interior Affairs Minister Sandis Ģirģens expects Riga City Council to become involved in regulating road traffic and actively informing society about alternative roles.

Ukraine's new language law seen as divisive by President-elect Zelenskiy

Ukrainian Verkhovna Rada has passed a law giving a special status to the Ukrainian language and making it mandatory for public sector workers. The measure has been charactarised as divisive both by President-elect Zelenskiy and Russia.

Meteorologists promise summer-like warmth up to +27° C in Latvia on weekends

On Friday, 26 April, weather in Latvia will be dictated by low atmospheric pressure area. Some local rain and even thunderstorms are expected in the afternoon, as reported by Latvia’s Environment, Geology and Meteorology Centre.

National Media Council reduces LTV board to one

Latvia’s National Electronic Mass Media Council has decided to change the status of the board of LTV, reducing the number of board members from three to one, as reported by lsm.lv.

Latvia’s employment indexes exceeded average EU indexes in 2018

Last year, Latvia’s employment level for residents aged 20-64 years was 76.8%, which is higher than the average index in the European Union. Latvia was among 13 member states who had achieved employment goals for 2020 last year, according to data compiled by Eurostat.

Lithuanian teachers follow into their Latvian and Polish colleagues’ footsteps

Teachers across the Baltics, and in Lithuania too, are clamouring for higher wages. Encouraged by teacher strikes earlier the month in Poland, also by teachers’ growing dissatisfaction with the remuneration in neighbouring Latvia, at least one influential Lithuanian teachers’ trade union said this week it does not rule out streets protests if the restarted negotiations with the Ministry of Science and Education fail to produce desired results.

CIB: consumer lending in a rise, whereas mortgage lending is down in Latvia

The number of loan commitments among private persons has reached a number of 1.1 million loan contracts. The total loan burden for residents for both delayed and timely paid loans is nearing EUR 6 billion, according to data from the Credit Information Bureau.

Latvia’s Saeima supports publication of KGB expanded filing system

On Thursday, 25 April, Saeima deputies supported in the first reading amendments to the Law on Preservation, Use and Publication of Documents of KGB, as confirmed by Saeima’s press-service.

First toast to Kim-Putin friendship made in Russia's Far East

In Russia, the first meeting between North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and Russian President Vladimir Putin has been held, followed by Putin's remarks that for Pyongyang to denuclearize, it needs legal assurances that its sovereignty would be respected.

Latvian Transport Ministry to focus on public transport service in 2020 budget

Latvia’s Transport Ministry’s priorities in the 2020 budget will be, like in previous years, public transport services and road repairs, says Transport Minister Tālis Linkaits.

Latvian Saeima proposes celebrating 13 May as State Language Day

On Thursday, 25 April, deputies of Latvia’s Saeima conceptually supported amendments to the Law on Festive, Memorable and Celebrated Days. Amendments provide for delegating to the Cabinet of Ministers the rights to set special holidays dedicated to specific jobs.

Friendship behind closed doors – «grey cabinet of ministers» and «good deed champions»

Einars Repše’s phrase – «How can you not promise?» – has long since become part of political folklore. The Union of Greens and Farmers is no exception – do one thing, promise another and focus on something completely different after elections.

Putin nearing eastern Ukraine to Russia by offering passports

An order to facilitate issuing Russian passports for residents of pro-Kremlin separatist-controlled eastern Ukraine has been signed by Russian President Vladimir Putin, prompting condemnation from Ukraine's President-elect.

Swedbank’s profit in Q1 up EUR 29 million in spite of scandals

Swedbank’s profit in Q1 2019, compared to the same period of 2018, has grown to reach EUR 29 million. The reason for this was increased economic activity by the bank’s clients and therefore bigger income for the bank, as reported by the bank’s representative Jānis Krops.

New Estonian government appointed to office by Kaljulaid

The new Estonian government under Prime Minister Jüri Ratas from the Centre Party has been appointed into office by Estonian President Kersti Kaljulaid.

Riga City Council hasn’t a clue how to prove safety of Deglava overpass

Riga City Council’s Transport Department has not been informed as to what documents regarding the safety of Deglava overpass are requested by State Construction Control Bureau, said the head of the department Emīls Jakrins during an extraordinary meeting of the Transport Affairs Committee.

Scotland seeking second referendum on independence from Britain

In order to determine Scotland's future after Brexit, Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has voiced plans to hold a second referendum on Scottish independence by 2021 if the country is pulled out of the European Union.

CC: Riga’s public transport company directed the nano-water procurement

Riga municipality’s public transport company SIA Rīgas satiksme was the director of the nano-water procurement, said head of the Competition Council Skaidrīte Ābrama during a press-conference.

Saeima paves way for full opening of «KGB bag»

On Wednesday, 24 April, Saeima’s Human Rights and Public Affairs Committee deputies supported in the first reading amendments to the KBG Law. This will provide the full publication of all KGB documents stored in Latvia’s National Archive, as reported by Saeima’s press-service.

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