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Friday 10.04.2020 | Name days: Anita, Anitra, Zīle

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.


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


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


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


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


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


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


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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Riga City Council's snap elections to be rescheduled for 29 August

The snap elections for Riga City Council are planned to be rescheduled for 29 August, according to amendments submitted by Latvia’s Environment Protection and Regional Development Ministry to the Law on Dismissal of Riga City Council.

Latvian government supports idea to support municipal companies during crisis

Municipalities in Latvia will have the right to receive state budget loans to increase base capital of municipal companies if their turnover drops more than 50% because of COVID-19 crisis, as provided by amendments supported by the Cabinet of Ministers on Thursday, 9 April.

Nordic Investment Bank lends Latvia EUR 500 million to battle COVID-19

The Nordic Investment Bank and Republic of Latvia have signed a loan contract on provision of EUR 500 million for ten years. The loan is expected to be used to finance efforts to battle COVID-19 pandemic, BNN was told by Finance Ministry.

Churches in Estonia give guidance on Easter home services

For the coming Easter, the Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church is overcoming the epidemiological ban on public assembly with online services, guidance for small home services and phone conversations, Archbishop Urmas Viilma unveiled, ERR reports.

COVID-19 update in Baltics. 589 infections in Latvia, 955 in Lithuania, 1 207 in Estonia

The number of confirmed COVID-19 infections in Latvia has reached 589, increasing by 12 new cases in the past day. Lithuanian media, meanwhile, report 955 confirmed cases.

KNAB still sees no corruption at Ventspils City Council in spite of proof

Although Latvian Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau (KNAB) is openly told Aivars Lembergs’ propaganda campaign is financed using public finances even after US sanctions, which proved Ventspils City Council ignores sanctions, the bureau still says this information does not contain indication of a criminal offence involving corruption.

EU Court: Poland has to reform disciplinary body in its Supreme Court

The European Court of Justice has called on Poland to stop the operation of the Disciplinary Panel of the Polish Supreme court to separate it from the influence of the parliament and government, British public broadcaster BBC reports.

Riga’s administrators reserve EUR 13.87 million to battle COVID-19

During the approval of the city’s 2020 budget, Riga’s interim administrators decided to increase Riga’s reserve fund’s volume to EUR 13.87 million.

US presidential election set to be battle between Biden and Trump

In the US, Senator Bernie Sanders has left the fight for the presidential candidate nomination from the Democratic Party. He has left ex-Vice President Joe Biden the only contender for the nomination and the rival to President Donald Trump in the 2020 US presidential election, American news agency AP reports.

EUR 45.5 million to be diverted for support of agriculture in Latvia

To reduce the COVID-19 crisis in agriculture sector Latvia’s government will divert EUR 45.5 million, as agreed by Finance Minister Jānis Reirs’ work group for support of entrepreneurship and employed people on Wednesday, 8 April.

Global number of COVID-19 cases surpasses 1.5 million

Globally, the number of the confirmed infection cases of the novel coronavirus has exceeded 1,5 million, while a total of 329 thousand people are believed to have recovered. US is still the worst affected nation by the number of infections, German public broadcaster DW and American John Hopkins University report.

Reminder: no visits during Easter holiday

The holiday is near and people want to know if they can meet relatives and friends. Latvian Healthcare Ministry reminds – the virus has no holidays. Any private events involving people who do not live together are prohibited.

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.

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