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Wednesday 08.04.2020 | Name days: Dana, Dans, Danute, Edgars
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BNN summary of the week: end of Lembergs Era? New governor for Bank of Latvia; fight for Riga City Council

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The overthrowing of the «old league» in Latvia has caused a domino effect. The most notable event to have taken place this week is the addition of Aivars Lembergs and four of the associations he has influence over to the list of sanctioned persons USA. This has shaken up the established order in Ventspils and Latvia.

This caused a number of other events to take place: several major companies have left Latvian Transit Business Association; Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš has ordered Environment Protection and Regional Development Minister Juris Pūce to assess how the work done by Ventspils City Council is influenced by the situation; Riga Freeport and Ventspils Freeport have come under state control; Lembergs has left his position in Latvian Olympic Committee’s Executive Committee; and the US government has denied Lembergs and his family entry to USA.

Other noteworthy news includes the appointment of Mārtiņš Kazāks as the new governor of the Bank of Latvia.

Meanwhile, AS Citadele Bank has decided to acquire all LLC UniCredit Leasing shares, including its branch offices in Estonia and Lithuania.

Latvia’s Disease Prevention and Control Centre has declared the beginning of an influenza epidemic in Latvia.

The BNN gives you a summary of the key events of the past week, told in news stories of the following topics: End’s Beginning; Position; Health; Business Deal; Rise; Change; Fight.

END’S BEGINNING:

USA adds Aivars Lembergs to its «black list»

Aivars Lembergs. sanctions, USA, OFAC, corruption, black list

Aivars Lembergs

On Monday, 9 December, based on the so-called Magnitsky Law, US Department of Treasury Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC) established sanctions against a number of people and their organizations in Europe, Asia and Latin America, including the suspended Mayor of Ventspils Aivars Lembergs.

«Corruption steals away a country residents’ resources, basic services and economic capabilities, all the while making a small number of people rich and contributing to destruction of the environment, political instability and conflicts,» said US Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin.

OFAC mentioned four organizations owned or controlled by Lembergs – Ventspils Freeport authority, Ventspils Development Agency, Business Development Association and Latvian Transit Business Association.

Full article here

POSITION:

Mārtiņš Kazāks officially becomes governor of the Bank of Latvia

Bankf of Latvia, Mārtiņš Kazāks, Saeima, governor

Mārtiņš Kazāks

On Thursday, 12 December, Latvia’s Saeima officially approved Mārtiņš Kazāks as the new governor of the Bank of Latvia, as BNN was told by Saeima’s press-service.

76 deputies voted for Kazāks. One deputy abstained in the vote.

Previously Kazāks was a council member at the Bank of Latvia. He was also chief economist at Swedbank, as well as a member of the Fiscal Discipline Council. He received a Bachelor’s degree in economics in the University of Latvia, as well as Master’s and PhD in economics in University College London and a diploma in economics in Cambridge University.

The Saeima needed to appoint a new governor of the Bank of Latvia because 21 December will mark the end of the term for the current governor – Ilmārs Rimšēvičs.

Full article here

HEALTH:

Influenza epidemic commences in Latvia

influenza, Latvia, patients, vaccination11 December marks the beginning of an influenza epidemic in Latvia, as reported by Disease Prevention and Control Centre (SPKC).

Flu and other upper respiratory infection monitoring data shows that in the 45th week of the year, the number of patients who turned to healthcare institutions and were later diagnosed with flu in two out of ten cities included in the monitoring had exceeded 100 cases per 100 000 residents.

265.5 flu cases per 100 000 residents were registered in Jelgava and 159.8 cases per 100 000 residents in Riga.

The average flu intensity in Latvia has reached 108.6 cases per 100 000 residents. Infection rates are the highest among children between 0-4 and 5-14 years.

Last week, the spread of flu was observed in Daugavpils, Gulbene, Jekabpils, Jurmala, Liepaja and Rezekne. Intensity varied from 14.6 cases (Jurmala) to 86.5 cases (Liepaja) per 100 000 residents.

Full article here

BUSINESS DEAL:

Citadele Bank acquires UniCredit Leasing active in Baltic States

Citadele, UniCredit, leasing, acquisitionCitadele Bank has acquired 100% of shares in LLC UniCredit Leasing, including its Estonian and Lithuanian branch offices, thereby acquiring control over all UniCredit Leasing operations in Baltic States, BNN was told by the bank.

As part of the deal, which is planned to be concluded in Q1 2020, Citadele also plans to acquire 100% of shares in LLC UniCredit Insurance Broker (including its Estonian branch office).

Citadele Bank’s total net leasing loan volume reaches EUR 1.1 billion, the bank reports. «Once the deal is over, Citadele will enter the Top 3 leading companies of Latvia’s leasing market and become one of the leaders among Baltic States.»

Full article here

RISE:

November’s inflation in Latvia reportedly at 2.1%

statistics, Latvia, CSP, inflation, prices, NovemberCompared to November 2018, the average level of consumer prices rose by 2.1 % in November 2019. Prices of goods had increased by 1.8 % and prices of services by 2.9 %. Compared to 2015, in November 2019 consumer prices were 9.1 % higher. Prices of goods had increased by 7.8 % and prices of services by 12.3 %.

Compared to November 2018, the greatest influence on the average level of consumer prices was exerted by the rise in prices of goods and services related to housing, food and non-alcoholic beverages, alcoholic beverages and tobacco products, goods and services related to recreation and culture, health care, restaurant and hotel services, as well as the decline in prices of goods and services related to transport in November 2019, according to data from the Central Statistical Bureau of Latvia.

Over the year, prices within the group of food and non-alcoholic beverages increased by 2.5 %. Prices of dried, salted or smoked meat (up by 6.9 %), pork (10.7 %), poultry (3.9 %), and meat products (4.0 %) had the most significant upward influence on the average price level within the group. Upturn was also registered in prices of bread (of 4.9 %), fresh fruit (6.1 %), bakery products (3.6 %), chocolate (5.2 %), yoghurt (5.1 %), sugar (5.7 %), and potatoes (6.3 %). Reduction, in turn, was recorded in prices of coffee (of 6.5 %), milk (5.8 %), eggs (3.5 %), fresh vegetables (1.0 %), as well as cheese and curd (1.1 %).

The average level of alcoholic beverage and tobacco product prices went up by 4.5 %. Prices of alcoholic beverages had increased by 4.6 %, which was mainly influenced by the change in beer prices. Tobacco product prices grew on average by 4.5 %.

Full article here

CHANGE:

Local government representatives will no longer work at Riga and Ventspils freeport

Riga Freeport, Ventspils Freeport, board, legislative changes, government, SaeimaFollowing the coming into force of amendments to the Law on Ports, representatives of Riga City Council and Ventspils City Council will lose their respective posts in the board of Riga Freeport and Ventspils Freeport, the law states.

On Thursday, 12 December, Saeima approved in two readings amendments to the Law on Ports, which provide for changes to the composition of the boards of Riga Freeport and Ventspils Freeport, as BNN was told by Saeima’s press-service.

Amendments to the law state that authorities of Riga and Ventspils ports will be put under direct supervision of the Cabinet of Ministers.

Full article here

FIGHT:

Riga City Council’s interim administration may be entrusted to VARAM state secretary Balševics

Riga City Council, VARAM, snap elections, Edvīns Balševics, Oļegs Burovs, interim administrationIf the Saeima votes in favour of dismissing Riga City Council, the interim municipal administration may be entrusted to Environment Protection and Regional Ministry’s (VARAM) state secretary Edvīns Balševics, according to the ministry’s Riga City Council dismissal legislative draft to be decided on by the government on 17 December.

The interim administration’s vice-administrator’s position may be entrusted to Finance Ministry’s Legal Affairs Department director Artis Lapiņš. One other administration member could be Justice Ministry’s Legal Affairs deputy director Aleksejs Remesovs.

Snap elections are planned for 29 February 2020.

In accordance with the Law on Municipalities, when adopting the law on the city council’s dismissal, an interim administration is appointed to the administrative territory following the proposal from the Cabinet of Ministers. The interim administration will perform its functions until the day the newly elected city council gathers for the first meeting.

Full article here


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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.

Recovery from COVID-19 confirmed for 16 people in Latvia

So far 16 people in Latvia have made a successful recovery from COVID-19, as reported by Latvian Disease Prevention and Monitoring Centre (SPKC) Infectious Diseases Risk Analysis and Prevention Department director Jurijs Perevoščikovs at a press-conference on Monday, 6 April.

Kilometre-long freight train from China to pass through Latvia this week

This week a freight train pulling 100 containers forming a kilometre-long chain will pass through Latvia on its way from China to Kaliningrad Oblast, as BNN was told by Latvian Railway.

Design work commences across the entire Rail Baltica route in Latvia

Rail Baltica project management joint company RB Rail has signed two contracts on behalf of Latvia’s Transport Ministry for design and design supervision services on the remaining sections of Rail Baltica route in Latvia, as BNN was informed by the company.

Meduza: Head of Russian doctors’ organisation arrested during delivery of protective equipment to hospitals

The chairwoman of the Russian Doctors’ Alliance has been hit after being arrested by police as she was in a group of activists trying to deliver personal protection equipment to hospitals in the Novgorod region of Russia, Meduza news portal reports.

NEPLP wants 1.6 million euros for media to overcome COVID-19 crisis in Latvia

The National Electronic Mass Media Council has prepared historically the largest state support programme for electronic TV and radio to ensure uninterrupted production of domestic content and broadcasts during COVID-19 crisis. The volume of support is estimated at 1.6 million euros, as reported by NEPLP.

Estonian top virologist: Peak of COVID-19 will be flattened out

Estonian virologist Irja Lutsar, who is part of the Estonian government’s working group of COVID-19 has forecast that the peak point of the outbreak of the novel coronavirus in Estonia will be long, Estonian public broadcaster ERR reports.


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