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Wednesday 17.10.2018 | Name days: Karīna, Gaits
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BNN summary of the week: festivities in Latvia; free bus trips in Estonia; double-citizenship resolution in Lithuania

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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; Direction; Suspicion; Decline; Fight; Growth; Festivities.

CHANGE: Seimas paves way for dual citizenship, Constitutional Court hurdle ahead

The Lithuanian legislature, Seimas, has lowered the threshold for the adoption of constitutional amendments on a dual citizenship referendum.

In a vote this week, 67 legislators voted for the amendments to the Referendum Law, three were against and 16 abstained the amendments remove the requirement for more than half of all Lithuanian citizens entitled to vote to say «yes» in a referendum to amend Article 12 of Chapter 1 of the Constitution defining citizenship.

The same requirement will apply to all binding referendums, i.e. a proposal would be deemed as approved if more than half of voters who turned out, but at least one-third of all citizens with the right to vote, voted in favour.

The only exception that would remain in place would be the requirement for least three-fourths of all citizens with the right to vote to say «yes» to amending Article 1 of the Constitution that reads, «The State of Lithuania shall be an independent democratic republic».

Full article here

DIRECTION: Work group to discuss further increase of wages for doctors in Latvia

On Thursday, 5 July, Latvia’s Healthcare Ministry will be holding a meeting of a work group at 15:00. During this meeting, members of the work group will discuss wage rise for doctors, as confirmed by Latvian Health and Social Care Union chairman Valdis Keris.

LSVADA had previously asked Healthcare Minister Anda Čakša to form a work group to discuss the matter regarding wage rise.

Keris voiced this proposal to Saeima’s Public Health Sub-committee a month ago, adding that this year’s wage increase was the first step to ensure adequate pay for doctors. The goal, however, is reaching the previously promised wage size that would be equal to two average wages in the country.

Full article here

SUSPICION: Corruption watchdog suspected of leaking information about businessman Martinsons’ associates

It is entirely possible that information regarding businessman Māris Martinsons’ associates had been leaked from Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau, impeding the investigation of the ‘builders’ case’ and the case launched against Bank of Latvia governor Ilmārs Rimšēvičs, as reported by Diena.

The newspaper reports that two CPCB operatives Jānis Miķelsons and Modris Briška are well-acquainted with the accountant featured in Martinsons’ case – Anta Dišereite. Diena has published a photo that depicts the three people together on vacation. Miķelsons is in civil marriage with Dišeraite. Diena allows that those ties were used for the information leak.

According to unofficial information, the wiretapping that helped gather evidence in the case against Rimšēvičs and Martinsons took place at Taureņi bathhouse outside of Riga’s borders in Babīte direction. «There the suspects held regular secret meetings with politicians representing Riga City Council’s ruling powers and opposition parties».

Diena allows that Rimšēvičs and Martinsons were not arrested several years ago because the two operatives involved in the case – Miķelsons and Briška – were acquainted with Dišereite, who is involved in another criminal case launched against Martinsons. Similar to him, Dišereite was made a suspect in the so-called ‘builders case’. As part of its investigation, Finance Police had performed a search in July 2014 and had detained a person suspected of tax fraud and money laundering. According to Diena, results of this investigation may have been better, had there been no information leak.

Full article here

DECLINE: SRS found violations at 94% of inspected trade locations

State Revenue Service performed preventive inspections around Latvia in June. A total of 821 traders were checked. Violations were noted in 94% of cases, as reported by the service.

Inspections were performed to study the actual situation and consult traders.

SRS notes that only some of the inspected trade locations used cash registers and cash systems that fit technical requirements. In 754 cases inspected cash register systems were not compliant with new requirements.

Full article here

FIGHT: Prosecutor issues warning to Riga City Council and Rīgas satiksme officials

On 21 June, the prosecutor of the specialized prosecutor’s office for organized crime and other sectors issued a warning to officials of Riga City Council and Rīgas satiksme in regards to nano-water procurement projects, as confirmed by Prosecutor General’s Office public relations specialist Una Rēķe.

She reports that the prosecutor’s office is currently working on a criminal process associated with fraud and laundering of finances acquired through fraud realized in procurements of nano-technological chemicals.

The prosecutor’s office adds that as part of this criminal process, investigators have assessed actions of members of the organized group in question and officials of Rīgas satiksme – members of the procurement commission – and their actions in procurement procedures.

Full article here

GROWTH: Bus trips free for locals in most part of Estonia

As Estonia expands its free bus scheme for local population, in 11 of the 15 counties of the northern Baltic country, bus rides are free of charge to local residents.

Estonian public broadcaster ERR reports on Monday, July 2, that the scheme was put in place on Sunday and to use it each passenger claiming their right to free transport needs to either validate their trip using their travel card and a card reader on the bus, or then get a free ticket from the bus driver.

Public buses, but not inter-county coaches, are now free to use to all county residents in Valga, Võru, Viljandi, Lääne, Põlva, Järva, Jõgeva, Tartu, Ida-Viru, Hiiu and Saare County.

Full article here

FESTIVITIES: XXVI Latvian Song and XVI Dance Celebration week

XXVI Song and XVI Dance Celebration week has reached its mid-point – in four days there have been nearly 30 events that were widely attended. So far Song and Dance Celebration has been attended by approximately 120,000 people. All participants of the celebration have arrived in Riga. Soon the culmination of the celebration will take place in Latvia’s capital – Great Band Concert, Mara’s Country large-scale performance, the final concert Following the Starry Path and Sing Along Night, says XXVI Latvian Song and XVI Dance Celebration public relations specialist Inga Vasiļjeva.

Full article here


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Baltic states do slightly worse in Global Competitiveness Report

In the Global Competitiveness Report 2018 released by the World Economic Forum, Lithuania and Estonia have dropped by two positions, while all Baltic states remain among the top 45 most competitive economies in the world.

Latvian corruption prevention bureau undergoes reorganization; several experienced officials retire

Reorganization has been performed at Latvia’s Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau. As a result of this reorganization, seven of the bureau’s officials have decided to resign. Six of them have decided to retire.

Russia starts trial against director Serebrennikov after long house arrest

In Moscow, the court proceedings against Russian theatre and cinema director Kirill Serebrennikov has begun on Wednesday, which is over a year after he was put under house arrest in a controversial embezzlement case.

Latvian Saeima wants to further enhance Anti-Money Laundering Service’s authority

On Tuesday, 16 October, members of Saeima’s Defence, Internal Affairs and Corruption Prevention Committee supported in the first reading amendments to the Law on the Prevention of Money Laundering and Terrorism Financing.

Canada enforces legalisation of marijuana, expects economic benefits

Canada is legalising marijuana for recreational use on Wednesday and economists forecast that the new manufacturing sector would bring many new jobs, investment and tax income.

Additional funding of EUR 232 million to be allocated for EU projects in 2018

Additional funding of EUR 232 million will be allocated for different European Union policy instruments and other kinds of foreign financial assistance projects before the end of 2018, as decided by Latvia’s Cabinet of Ministers on Tuesday, 16 October.

EU expects something creative from London for Brexit summit to deliver

The remaining European Union member states will expect in Brexit-focused summit that the UK would bring a creative solution to the issue of Irish border that has halted the talks.

Government formation process in Latvia remains clouded by unanswered questions

Political parties in the process of forming a new government in Latvia still have not reached an agreement on the future coalition and the person to take post as prime minister.

Lithuania and Ukraine to co-operate in Fintech

The central banks of Lithuania and Ukraine have committed to working together to promote the development of financial innovations and have signed a Co-operation Agreement in the Area of Innovation Development.

Tragic gas poisoning in family home investigated in Estonia

In Tallinn, the death of two children from gas poisoning is under investigation. The tragic accident in a semi-detached house in the Estonian capital has taken place on Saturday, October 13.

Progressive party proposes forming a government in Latvia with no oligarchs

Political party Progressive offers parties elected to the Saeima to put an end to oligarchs’ rule over Latvia’s politics and form a government that would help end the state capture tradition in the country.

Latvian president announces law on publication of KGB files

On Tuesday, 16 October, Latvian President Raimonds Vējonis announced the law on publication of Latvian KGB files, as confirmed by the entry in Latvian Herald.

Pupils in Ukraine learn to hide in case of bombardment

In the Donbas war, over 10,000 people have been killed since 2014, therefore war drills and bomb shelters have become part of daily life for hundreds of schools near the frontline.

NCP’s proposed government model receives the first rejection

The government model proposed by the New Conservative Party has received its first rejection. Additionally, there are other parties that believe it is necessary to agree on tasks before picking posts.

Orthodox Church of Russia breaks away from Ecumenical Patriarchate

The Orthodox Church of Russia has announced cutting contacts with the leading body of the Church, the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Istanbul, after its decision to allow the Ukrainian church to become independent from Moscow. The decision has not been recognised by Moscow.

Latvian president announces amendments allowing for open election of state president

Latvian President Raimonds Vējonis has announced amendments to the country’s constitution that allow for open election of the state president, as noted in the official statement published in Latvian Herald.

UGF includes active ministers in its group for government formation talks

The Union of Greens and Farmers has delegated Latvia’s Defence Minister Raimonds Bergmanis and Agriculture Minister Jānis Dūklavs to its group for government formation talks, as confirmed by the party’s board chairman Armands Krauze.

Latvian government supports 2019 budget project

On Monday, 15 October, Latvia’s Cabinet of Ministers supported Finance Ministry’s prepared 2019 budget plan project. State budget revenue in 2019 is planned at EUR 9.178 billion, which is EUR 217 million more when compared to 2018, whereas state budget expenditures are planned at EUR 9.205 billion, which is EUR 96 million more when compared to 2018.

EC Vice-President: growth of Latvia’s economy is delayed by banking sector’s problems

Development of Latvia’s economy is delayed by problems in the country’s banking and transit sectors, says European Commission’s Vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis.

Danske Bank's rating lowered over Estonia branch scandal

American ratings agency Moody's has lowered its long-term ratings for Denmark's larges lender, Danske Bank, embroiled in a scandal of possible money laundering in Estonia.

Residents’ debts before non-finance companies remain the highest in Latvia

The debts of Latvian residents before non-finance companies have doubled over the course of the past half-year, reaching 305,000 unpaid bills, according to data from the Credit Information Bureau.

Hungary enforces ban on living rough in public areas

In Hungary, a constitutional rule, which bans people from living in public areas, has come into effect with imprisonment as a potential penalty.

Minister: current government may yet decide on MPC reform

The decision on reformation of the mandatory procurement component may be made by Latvia’s current government, said Economy Minister Arvils Ašeradens in an interview to Latvijas Radio.

Brexit talks unable to solve Irish border issue days before decisive EU summit

Weekend talks between the leading Brexit negotiators did not end with a draft settlement as there is no agreement on the issue of the Northern Irish border shortly before a make-or-break European Union summit.

Latvian ministers do not support merging healthcare and welfare ministries

Latvian Healthcare Minister Anda Čakša and Welfare Minister Jānis Reirs do not support the proposal on merging their respective institutions, as both ministers said, commenting on the information regarding new Saeima parties’ plans for the two ministries.

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