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Friday 26.04.2019 | Name days: Rūsiņš, Sandris, Alīna
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BNN summary of the week: end’s beginning; management in a bus; happy Latvians

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Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RUThe first week of April brought comical and sad events for Latvia. Riga’s Mayor Nils Ušakovs, for example, has no reason to laugh – Latvia’s Environment Protection and Regional Development Minister Juris Pūce has announced the mayor’s dismissal. Yes, dismissal of Riga’s mayor was discussed for a long time by the current and previous government in Latvia.

Another long process was finally finished this week – Latvia’s government approved the country’s 2019 state budget.

On 1 April, Latvia’s pharmaceutical company Olainfarm elected a new board, presumably in a bus outside the company gates. The next day, Latvia’s Enterprise Register recognized this decision as legal. Shortly after, Nasdaq Riga started trading company shares.

Meanwhile, storm clouds are gradually gathering over the heads of LTV Einārs Giels and members of the National Electronic Mass Media Council – politicians and industry experts doubt the rationale behind approval of the new board of LTV. Will Giels’ dream for the future of television remain a dream?

NATO, meanwhile, celebrated its 70th birthday, while researchers decided to study how happy Latvian residents are.

BNN offers a summary of this week’s topical news in a variety of categories: End’s Beginning; Confusion; Bus Board; Long Wait Over; Sailor to Spy; Happy Latvians; President Steps In.

END’s BEGINNING: Latvia’s environment minister dismisses Riga’s mayor

On Friday, 5 April, Environment Protection and Regional Development Minister Juris Pūce dismissed Mayor of Riga Nils Ušakovs, according to information published in Latvian Herald.

Ušakovs is accused of not fulfilling his duties as shareholder in public transport company SIA Rīgas satiksme, violation of regulations, as well as non-compliance with his duties as chairman of Riga City Council and violation of multiple regulations while in this post.

While his work was being evaluated, Ušakovs told journalists that Pūce’s request for explanations from him was weak and heavily politicized.

Full article here

CONFUSION: Latvian National Media Council’s inability to justify Giels’ approval is a reason to worry

The lack of arguments from the National Electronic Mass Media and LTV board chairman Einārs Giels’ lack of experience working in the media sector, which can be surmised from his public statements, are incredibly worrying signals that the decision was not made in the interest of the future development of national television company, says LTV board member Ivars Priede.

On 3 April, National Electronic Mass Media Council chairperson Dace Ķezbere met with LTV senior and middle management and editors. Priede says during the conversation she was not able to put to rest doubts about Giels.

Workers said after looking through Giels’ CV, they found no mention of professional qualifications the media council requested from candidates in the personnel selection process. When told about this, the head of the national media council said: «You speaking just like Unity right now».

Priede believes communication of this kind and «mention of political sympathies in a time when the second most important decision made by the media council is not explained appropriately to neither LTV workers or society, does not  contribute to mutual trust».

During the discussion Ķezbere tried convincing LTV workers that this would be the best possible option and asked fiving Giels 100 days to work and then evaluate the quality of his work.

Full article here

BUS BOARD: Storm’s over? Olainfarm shares return to Nasdaq Riga trading

On Thursday, 4 April, Nasdaq Riga board decided to start trading Latvian pharmaceutical company Olainfarm shares, as confirmed in the stock market’s announcement.

The monitoring status applied to the company on 29 March has been called off, too.

The stock market notes that following the decisions made at the 1 April extraordinary meeting of shareholders, conditions that caused the halt on trading of the company’s shares and monitoring status are no longer topical.

On 1 April, Latvia’s Enterprise Register decided to register changes to Olainfarm board and council composition.

Olainfam council is currently led by economist Gundars Bērziņš. Council members include Jānis Buks, Kārlis Krastiņš, Andrejs Saveļjevs and Haralds Velmers. This council was composed by Olainfarm shareholders owning 61.5% during a meeting in a shuttle bus that was parked outside the entrance to the main building on Monday, 1 April.

Full article here

LONG WAIT OVER: Latvia’s Saeima approves 2019 budget and rejects all proposals from opposition

On Wednesday, 3 April, Latvia’s Saeima approved the country’s budget for 2019 and denied all proposals submitted to the budget law by members of the opposition.

59 members of the Saeima voted in favour of the budget and 34 voted against. The budget received support from deputies of the coalition. The opposition, including KPV LV party’s internal opposition members Linda Liepiņa, Karina Sprūde and Didzis Šmits, voted against the budget law. Janīna Jalinska from the Union of Greens and Farmers did not participate in the vote.

The discussions regarding the budget and fourteen associated legislative drafts lasted the whole day – Saeima meeting lasted for ten hours with breaks.

In his speech to the Saeima, Latvia’s Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš said this is a technical budget that was largely compiled by the previous government. He thanked Saeima deputies for their work, stressing how they care about the country’s development – opposition and coalition alike.

On Thursday, 4 March, politicians will start working on the 2020 budget draft. Already there are many desires. However, the budget’s ability to satisfy all of them is limited. Kariņš urged Saeima deputies to think in a longer term perspective because development is a gradual process. This is why politicians should put the correct foundation to assist with development and residents’ welfare, said the prime minister.

Politicians of Latvia’s ruling coalition had previously said that this would be a technical budget, stressing that because of this reason requests for additional funding would be rejected.

Full article here

SAILOR TO SPY: Lithuania sentences man for spying for Russia

A court in Lithuania has punished a sailor to seven years’ imprisonment for spying in favour of Russia.

American state-funded Radio Free Europe reports that the Klaipeda court on Wednesday, April 3, announced the Lithuanian citizen gave Russian intelligence classified information about the city’s sea terminal and other infrastructure in 2015-17.

The man was identified in Lithuanian media as sailor mechanic Romanas Šešelis.

Full article here

HAPPY LATVIANS: Latvian residents have never been happier than now

The happiness index for Latvian residents has reached its record high value this year, according to results of a survey by SKDS agency.

In January 2019, residents were asked if they feel happy. The happiness index was calculated based on answers with four levels of satisfaction – happy, more likely happy, more likely unhappy, and unhappy.

The value of each provided answer was summed up and later compiled into a list.

The happiness index varies from -100 to +100.

January’s recorded happiness index reached a value of +41.9, which is the highest value of the index in history. Over the course of the year the index grew 2.2 points.

Full article here

PRESIDENT STEPS IN: Estonian President nominates Reform Party, not active Centre to form government

Estonian president Kersti Kaljulaid has on Friday nominated Kaja Kallas, the chairwoman of the election-winning Reform Party, to try an form the next government. This could prove difficult as three other parties have been in unofficial coalition talks for some time now.

Estonian public broadcaster ERR reports that President Kaljulaid explained in a press release on Friday, April 5, that the leader of the party who won the most mandates in the 3 March general election has to have the opportunity to try and form a government, and to say what she would stand for as prime minister and what her vision is for Estonia’s future.

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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