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Friday 21.09.2018 | Name days: Matīss, Modris, Mariss

BNN summary of the week: EP aims to combat sexual harassment and airBaltic may get a new investor soon

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Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RUBNN offers a summary of this week’s topical news in a variety of categories: Change; Decline; Growth; Business; Future and Opinion.

CHANGE: changes in Russian schools needed for formation of unified political nation

Latvia requires a unified political nation, which is impossible to achieve living in different education spaces. With that, it is only natural for the process to progress towards our youth studying together, Latvian Education Minister Kārlis Šadurskis told Rīta panorama programme about the intended education reforms in Russian-speaking schools.

Šadurskis called people who opposed planned reforms as political forces interested in keeping as many youngsters as possible with weak Latvian language skills living in Russian propaganda space.

According to the politician, there are no more unclear aspects about expected reforms. All teachers in Latvia have to know the state language at the highest level. If they do not, each separate municipality is to be held responsible. Teachers have had many opportunities to learn the language in the past fifteen years. Education programmes are ready as well.

When asked if reforms could potentially cause a decline of education quality for Russian-speakers, Šadurskis avoided answering the question directly. Instead he rhetorically asked if authors of such statements truly think that Russians are dumber than others and cannot learn other languages.

Full article here

BUSINESS: Transport Ministry is open for a full disposal of state-owned airBaltic shares

Latvian Transport Ministry is currently engaged in reviewing specific offers for attraction of investors for airBaltic. A full privatization of the company is not out of the question, says the ministry’s state secretary Kaspars Ozoliņš.

He says attraction of an investor is the main challenge at the moment. «We have been very productive lately. The ministry has enlisted help from Lazard Freres to evaluate potential strategic partners for airBaltic. There is one major nuance, however. As the largest shareholder, the state has to ensure the company’s development. And for the company to develop there have to be shareholders who would invest in it.»

Ozoliņš also emphasized that it is important to keep in mind EU regulation that states how state investments are considered state support. «This is why state support would not be beneficial for the company’s development. Basically it is hard for the state to serve as shareholder, because laws do not permit investment opportunities available to a private investor,» Ozoliņš explains.

At the same time, he notes that aviation should not be left unattended. «Aviation is a business that goes nowhere when it stands in one place. As we all know, the global aviation market is currently in bad shape, considering that many well-known companies have ended up in difficult situations, except for airBaltic, which continues being successful. This year, without a doubt, was the most successful one in the company’s history. We cautiously predict next year to be better. At the same time, we see what is currently happening in Europe – with Monarch, Air Berlin and Alitalia.»

Full article here

DECLINE: Pabriks: there is a serious risk of drop in quality in the ranks of Latvia’s army

Declining physical exercise among youngsters affects the quality of Latvia’s armed forces, says Latvian MEP Artis Pabriks.

«The announcement by National Armed Forces regarding the necessity to ease the requirement for health and physical tests in order to secure more personnel for the army is yet another sign of a possible decline in quality in the ranks of Latvia’s army. Although requirements currently remain unchanged, this situation could have a serious impact on our soldier’s fitness,» Pabriks comments.

Full article here

GROWTH: European Parliament staff and members call for action against sexual harassment

Working as an assistant to a French member of parliament, Jeanne Ponté, had experienced the first time of sexual harassment after two weeks in the job.

British public broadcaster BBC reports that remembering the behaviour of a German MEP in 2014 Jeanne Ponté, now 27 years old, told: «He was waiting for me at the exit. (..) He stopped me walking past and put his arms around my waist, asking me if I was new.»

Full article here

FUTURE: Saeima conceptually supports next year’s state budget project

On Thursday, 26 October, Latvia’s Saeima support the state budget project for 2018 and accompanying legislative drafts.

56 Saeima deputies voted in favour of next year’s budget project and 39 parliamentarians voted against.

In total, the Saeima reviewed two new legislative drafts and amendments to 26 laws, as well as a legislative draft on content of medium-term budget and the budget project itself.

Proposals for legislative drafts will be allowed to be submitted until 31 October. The government and Saeima commission will review proposals in November. The decision regarding the approval of the state budget will be made at the end of November.

When forming the next year’s budget, politicians decided to drop the so-called deputy quotas. This means there will not be any additional funding for proposals from parliamentarians. Nevertheless, they will be able to submit proposals for more efficient use of funding.

The 2018 budget project’s revenue is planned at EUR 8.75 billion, which is EUR 725.11 million more than the year before. Expenditures are planned at EUR 8.95 billion or EUR 624.82 million more than this year.

Full article here

OPINION: government does not consider science a resource for state development

The government does not consider science a resource for state development, but rather only an expenditure position, said Mārcis Auziņš, former rector of the University of Latvia in an interview to 900 seconds program of LNT.

Auziņš says science is a powerful resource for state development. Still, scientists are partly to blame themselves, because they have failed to show to society what they are working on and how the government could use the potential of the scientific resource.

The former LU rector also expressed criticism towards the organization of the scientific management process in which formalities are more important than the result.

Full article here


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Lithuanian PM, a presumable presidential hopeful, set to curb grocery price growth

Having chastised food retailers on many occasions for high grocery prices, Saulius Skvernelis, the Lithuanian Prime Minister, stepped forward in the bid to harness local supermarkets. The presumed presidential candidate of the ruling Farmers and Greens (LVŽS) has summoned this week executives of major retail food chains, scolded them and reaffirmed his pledge to rein in the edging up prices.

Industrial prices in Estonia – up by 3.4% on year

The industrial price index in Estonia has risen from August 2017 to August this year by 3.4%, official statistics show.

Latvian parliament approves transition to competence-based approach in education content

On Thursday, 20 September, Latvia’s Saeima approved in the final reading amendments to the Education Law, necessary for the gradual introduction of competence-based approach in education materials.

Latvian Saeima wants to disallow shareholders to work in company management board

On Thursday, 20 September, Saeima approved in the first reading amendments to the Credit Institutions Law that provide for multiple measures to enhance Latvia’s finance system and its long-term stability, as reported by the parliament’s press-service.

Aglone Council prohibits residents from organizing protests during Pope Francis’ visit

A protest against the Catholic Church’s ban on abortions and expression of shock in relation to the recent sex scandals involving Catholic priests was planned to take place in Aglone during Pope Francis’ visit, but the city council decided to disallow them.

Latvian parliament conceptual supports pension bonus indexation

On Thursday, 20 September, Saeima supported in the first reading several initiatives for a more rapid pension climb for several groups of pensioners, as reported by Saeima press-service.

Majority Saeima deputies support open president vote; UGF members fail to decide unanimously

On Thursday, 20 September, amendments to the Constitution regarding open election of the state president were approved in the second reading.

Four Estonian parties have strong support, enough to enter Riigikogu

Four Estonian parties are believed to currently have enough support to enter the Estonian parliament, a broad opinion poll showed, as leading parties compete for voter backing.

Vitol Group concerned over state of rule of law in Latvia; turns to state officials

One of the largest energy resource traders in the world – Vitol Group – has sent a letter to Latvia’s highest ranking officials, expressing deep concern over the rule of law and application of legislative acts in the litigation between LatRosTrans and Polocktransneft Druzba over the EUR 66 million worth technological oil.

As Pope heads to Baltics, more attention to Catholic sex abuse

The time, when Roman Catholic Pope Francis is set to visit the Baltics, greatly differs from the visit by Saint John Paul II in 1993. There is public resentment over the countries spending several million euros to host the trip of the pontiff and the Catholic sex abuse scandals are topic of discussion.

Officials asked to take responsibility for misuse of state resources

If misuse of state resources takes place, officials have to take responsibility and pay for the damages caused to the state, says Public Expenditure and Audit Committee chairman Andris Bērziņš.

May asks EU not to divide Britain, while Brussels waits for UK change of position

At a European Union summit in Austria, UK's Prime Minister Theresa May called on EU leaders leave behind "unacceptable" Brexit demands that according to her may rip Britain apart.

Saeima decides to divide EUR 8.3 million of healthcare budget funds to finance reforms

Saeima’s Budget and Finance Committee has supported the initiative to divide EUR 8.277 million from the planned chronic patient care funding to further finance reforms in the country’s healthcare system.

20 complaints received in first 10 days of data protection regulation

In the first 100 days since adoption of European General Data Protection Regulation, Latvia’s Data State Inspectorate has received 20 data protection violation reports, said the centre’s director Daiga Avdejanova during a meeting of Saeima’s European Affairs Committee.

Ministry: non-banking lenders should assess clients’ solvency more carefully

Although certain improvements have been noticed in the industry, Latvia’s Economy Ministry invites amendments to make non-banking lenders perform more careful evaluation of clients’ solvency and allow creditors exchange information with one another.

Saeima argues over request to assess attempts to cancel «morality amendments»

During a meeting of Saeima’s Inquiry Committee, certain members and NGO representatives exchanged harsh words on Saeima opposition deputies’ request to Prime Minister Māris Kučinskis on association Papardes zieds’ protection of interests for the cancellation of so-called morality amendments.

EU residents believe European authorities should be more involved in certain areas

According to results of European Parliament’s Eurobarometer study, published eight weeks prior to elections in EU, residents believe European authorities should be more involved in certain matters. Priorities include terrorism threats, unemployment and environmental protection.

Estonian internet user growth strongest among elderly

The share of internet users in Estonia has continued to grow in 2018 and has over the past three months increased the most among 65–74-year-olds, official statistics show.

Regulator invited to assess calculation of electricity transmission tariff

Conclusions made by State Audit in relation to tariffs employed by Sadales tīkls show that recommendations received from OECD a couple of years ago in relation to public service tariff calculation should be carefully considered and adopted to ensure balance the interests of consumers and service providers.

Latvian police points towards stagnation in road traffic safety

So far this year 91 people have died in road traffic accidents in Latvia. According to State Police Road Traffic Safety Office Chief Normunds Krapsis, stagnation is present for road traffic safety.

Latvian government to attract EUR 29.5 million to restore Latgale’s degraded territories

On Tuesday, 18 September, Latvia’s Cabinet of Ministers supported the action plan for Latgale region’s economic growth 2018-2021, which provides for attracting of EUR 29.5 million to help restore the region’s degraded territories.

China announces retaliatory tariffs on U.S. goods, seeks free trade support

Beijing has stated it would impose a duty tariff increase on American imports worth 60 billion U.S. dollars in a reaction to Washington's announcement to add tariffs on imports from China worth 200 billion U.S. dollars.

Montenegro to join NATO battalion stationed in Latvia

According to NATO Deputy Supreme Allied Commander in Europe James Everard, Montenegro plans to join the multi-national battalion currently stationed in Latvia.

U.S. looking seriously at Poland's request for American base on its soil

U.S President Donald Trump has noted the country was looking seriously at a request from Poland for a permanent U.S. military base in the fellow NATO member state and agreed that Polish concerns about possible Russian aggression were shared.

Russian plane near Syria shot down by ally targeting Israeli planes

The Russian military plane, which went missing on Monday, has been shot down by its ally Syria targeting Israel's war planes and the number of servicemen lost in the event has been corrected from 14 to 15, the Russian government stated.