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Tuesday 16.07.2019 | Name days: Hermīne, Estere

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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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.

Latvia’s industrial output growth reportedly the most rapid among Baltics

Industrial production output in Latvia in May 2019 when compared to the same period of 2018 has increased 1.7%, which is a more rapid growth rate than the average in the EU, according to data published by Eurostat.

Riga’s ex-mayor to report to corruption watchdog about change of residence

The suspect in the criminal case regarding several procurement projects of Riga municipality’s public transport company Rīgas satiksme, former mayor of Riga and newly-elected European Parliament member Nils Ušakovs has been applied with a security measure – the need to report change of residence to authorities.

Bribery accused National Alliance member leaves party but stays in Riga City Council

Suspended vice-rector in University of Latvia Baiba Broka has decided to temporarily cease working in the National Alliance «All for Latvia-For Fatherland and Freedom/LNNK». At the same time, however, she has no plans to step down from her post in Riga City Council.

Gitanas Nausėda officially becomes President of Lithuania

On Friday, 12 July, Lithuania’s newly-elected President Gitanas Nausėda is giving his solemn vow, taking the reins from previous president Dalia Grybauskaitė, who remained in this post for ten years.

Latvia’s Education Ministry spots problems with LU rector’s election process

Education and Science Ministry has uncovered multiple violations committed in the recent election of the rector for the University of Latvia. It is likely that the standing rector Indriķis Muižnieks will not be approved, as reported by TV3 News on Thursday, 11 July.

Estonian businessman Ossinovski donates to son's Social Democratic party

Estonian businessman mired in corruption scandals Olegs Ossinovski had donated EUR 25 000 to Estonia’s Social Democratic Party when his son Jevgeni Ossinovski was the party’s chair.