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Tuesday 18.06.2019 | Name days: Madis, Alberts
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BNN summary of the week: fight for seats in Saeima; Valdgale’s fire, and blue-green problem in Baltics

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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: fire; decline; warning; growth; truth; rating.

FIRE: Putting out peat fire in Valdgale will require waiting for autumn rainfall

In spite of use of helicopters, the only way to liquidate the peat fire in Valdgale County is waiting for autumn rainfall, says State Fire and Rescue Service representative Inta Palkavniece.

Helicopters have contributed a lot to putting out the bog fire, because they’ve helped keep the fire within the safety perimeter as well as perform fire-fighting activities inside the perimeter. Nevertheless, in spite of helicopters, it is likely full liquidation of the fire will be ensured by autumn rainfall, said the SFRS representative.

Palkavniece also said organization work and sorting of formalities is currently being performed to speed up the arrival of an additional helicopter from Belarus.

Although there is some wind at the fire location, open flame burning is not present. Fire fighters and other specialists continue fire-fighting activities at the site.

As it is known, Latvian fire fighters together with a helicopter provided by Lithuanian armed forces have been combating the fire in Valdgale County for more than a week without rest. The fire first appeared in a peat bog and then quickly spread to a nearby forest.

Full article here

DECLINE: Healthcare Ministry not in a hurry to organize final meeting to discuss doctors’ pay

The work group handling matters associated with matters of doctor wages in Latvia needs more time to prepare its report and perform the necessary calculations. This is why the final meeting will not be taking place this week.

It was previously planned that the work group would present its report by 27 July.

According to Healthcare Ministry’s representative Oskars Šneiders, it is necessary to perform estimates before the conclusive meeting can be organized. These estimates will be backed by information the ministry expects to receive from healthcare institutions.

Šneiders said preparing information is hard work. It is expected that this work will be finished this week. «If we receive all the necessary information soon, the conclusive meeting may be organized next week,» said the ministry’s representative.

Latvian Health and Social Care Unions is worried that Healthcare Ministry has decided not to organize the meeting of the work group because of unexplained reasons.

The union’s chairman Valdis Keris notes that the ministry’s delays in approval of jointly developed wage principles seem suspicious. «It would be a shame if everything the work group and government have accomplished was nothing more than a theatrical performance,» said Keris.

The union hopes the ministry’s promises about increasing wages for doctors remain in force.

Full article here

WARNING: Blue-green algae spread more and more in Baltic Sea thanks to human activities

The growth of blue-green algae in the Baltic Sea is a historic occurrence. However, it is thanks to human activities that the intensity of this process continues growing, explains head of Marine Ecology Laboratory of the University of Latvia Elmīra Boikova.

She says intensive growth of blue-green algae in hot weather conditions in the Baltic Sea was observed a couple of centuries ago. This phenomenon is natural for the Baltic Sea. However, it is thanks to human activities, anthropogenic load and agricultural waste water that this phenomenon has been spreading more wildly lately, causing major damages to the ecosystem.

«Blue-green algae have been present in the Baltic Sea for a very, very long time. Growth of these algae was observed as far back as the 18th century – when intensive industrial activities were not yet present. The question is scale of growth of these algae in the past?» said the researcher.

In spring, when river water carries nitrogen and phosphorus to the sea, it causes algae that feed of those substances to grow more. In summer, however, when inorganic nitrogen is close to zero, blue-green algae begin to grow. These algae are able to absorb nitrogen from the air, says Boikova.

The expert says that as blue-green algae grow they become buoyant, gathering on the surface of the water. Blue-green algae do not present a valuable source of nutrition for other organisms, and they do more harm than good – in large volumes they start slowly dividing and slowly sinking to the seabed and using up oxygen. This creates anoxic zones. Such zones were previously observed in Baltic Sea’s deepest areas, such as the Gotland Deep. Finnish researchers have been warning for decades that the spread of anoxic zones have been rapidly spreading, and one of the reasons for this is the rapid growth of blue-green algae, Boikova explains.

Full article here

GROWTH: Latvian government supports initiative to donate food to charity

On Tuesday, 24 July, Latvia’s government supported amendments put together by Agriculture Ministry to Law on the Supervision of the Handling of Food. These amendments permit donating food to charity after reaching minimal expiry term.

To reduce food waste, amendments state that products with a specific expiration date and ones that have reached a minimal expiry term but still considered acceptable for consumption will be permitted to be distributed to charity organizations, the ministry explains.

To do this, the Cabinet of Ministers first needs to establish in which situations, which product groups and in what order it is permissible to distribute products to charity organizations. New regulations should come into force 1 July 2019.

The Saeima still has to approve amendments in three readings.

Full article here

TRUTH: Ventspils port: inspectors found no violations; coal sprinkling to increase

Ventspils Commercial Port has plans to increase water sprinkling of coal heaps this summer to reduce drought and the possibility of the wind carrying coal particles into the air, representatives say. It is also mentioned that dust particle monitoring machines work day and night at coal-handling complexes to help control coal particle concentration in the air within acceptable limits (50 µg/m3).

It is mentioned that specialists from the State Environment Service have confirmed compliance of coal dust concentration with acceptable norms. Specialists visited the port and surveyed the situation together with representatives from the port. No violations were found.

«VCP performs all the necessary measures to reduce coal dust volumes. However, the company has no power over the heat and drought, or direction of the wind. Nevertheless, in spite of the weather, data from measurements performed by Latvia’s Environment, Geology and Meteorology Centre shows that the quality of air in Ventspils matches requirements of regulations and coal particle concentration levels in the air do not exceed permitted levels,» VCP representatives say.

Experts say coal dust is not the only source of air pollution. «We should not forget about transport and production plant emissions. In addition, coal freight volumes have declined significantly. Because of that, the volume of coal dust concentration in the air cannot be as high as it was in the past. VCP performs constant coal dust monitoring. Data control is performed by State Environment Service’s Ventspils Regional Office. So far it seems dust concentration fits acceptable norms.»

Similar to previous years, stone coal heaps are sprinkled with water regularly. A so-called water wall is created by sprinklers to prevent coal dust from spreading. Sprinkling is currently performed more intensely than before because of intense heat and strong wind, VCP stresses.

Full article here

RATING: KPV LV had the largest rating increase in July; UGF suffered the largest decline

This July, the largest rating increase was experienced by KPV LV political party, according to data from a survey performed by SKDS at the request of LTV.

The survey was performed after the detainment of KPV LV leader Artuss Kaimiņš.

Survey results show that Harmony’s rating grew by 0.4 percentage points when compared to the June. The rating of the Union of Greens and Farmers declined by 2 percentage points, the rating of the National Alliance grew by 0.7 percentage points, whereas the rating of  Attīstībai/Par declined by 0.3 percentage points.

The rating of KPV LV grew by 2.6 percentage points. New Conservative Party’s rating grew by 0.1 percentage points, and New Unity’s rating grew by 0.2 percentage points.

Full article here


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Latvian Enterprise Register: Companies not revealing true beneficiaries to be wound up

Once changes to the Latvian Law on the Prevention of Money Laundering and Terrorism Financing are signed by State President, the Enterprise Register will be tasked with winding up legal entities not revealing their true beneficiaries.

Latvian PM: If Estonia breaks deal on alcohol excise, we’re forced to respond

If Estonia has broken a deal with Latvia on alcohol excise tax, then Latvia is left to no choice, but to respond with a corresponding cut in excise, said Latvian Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš.

Never too late to marry – elderly marriages jump in Latvia

Over the year 2018 in Latvia, the total number of marriages fell by 0.7 %, the number of marriages concluded by elderly population grew 1.7 times, data from the Central Statistical Bureau of Latvia showed.

Eesti Energia suggests introducing customs tax to cheap Russian power

Estonian state energy firm Eesti Energia has proposed introducing a customs tax to electricity imported by Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania from Russia.

Social care centre in Latvia blamed for severe human rights violations

Latvian Ombudsman’s Office has found severe human rights violations in the social care centre Ezerkrasti and accused the institution of not complying with recommendations to it. Ezerkrasti is a branch of the state social care centre Riga, located outside the Latvian capital.

Unmarried couples’ law to be proposed in Latvia

In the Latvian Saeima, this week, a draft Law on Unmarried couples would be proposed by the party alliance Attīstībai/Par!.

Glass fibre maker Valmieras stikla šķiedra files for legal protection

Latvia-based glass fibre maker AS Valmieras stikla šķiedra has on Monday, June 17, announced filing for the start of legal protection proceedings aimed at ensuring sustainable continuation of group level operations.

Summer solstice week to be warm-to-hot in Latvia

As Latvia readies for the traditional summer solstice and Līgo festivities in the weekend, meteorologists expect the beginning of the week to be warm and sunny, whereas in the second half of the week, temperatures could rise and rain could set in.

Trees worth two hundred thousand euros disappear in Latvian border works

Developing the Latvia-Russia border, in eastern Latvia, a protected natural territory has been destroyed and timber worth over two hundred thousand euros has disappeared, reported Nekā Personīga programme of TV3 channel.

Latvian MPs request Supreme Court to evaluate Prosecutor General Kalnmeiers

Latvian legislators have asked the Latvian Supreme Court to evaluate consistency of the work of Prosecutor Ēriks Kalnmeiers with his post over inactivity in money laundering prevention and other shortcomings.

Gynaecologists in Germany fined advertising abortions

A court in Berlin has found two gynaecologists guilty of advertising how they carry out abortions in their clinic, fining them two thousand euros each. A pair of anti-abortion campaigners had reported the gynaecologists' website ad to German prosecutors.

Week in Lithuania: MP Gražulis in hot water, heat-related water supply disruptions in Kaunas

Last week, Lithuania marked the Day of Mourning and Hope, outgoing president Dalia Grybauskaite delivered her last annual address, president-elect Gitanas Nausėda spoke out against taxing owners of old polluting car, but MP Petras Gražulis suspected of bribery.

BNN summary of the week: Waiting for new Culture Minister; Misleading by Supreme Court chair; bank watchdog overhaul

In the past week in Latvia, changes were announced in the Financial and Capital Market Commission, which will have new a management and duties. A substitute has been proposed for Dace Melbārde as the Latvian Culture Minister after her election to the European Parliament. The conservatives have picked Nauris Puntulis, an opera singer and current Riga City councillor, for the post. The candidate gave an interview to BNN on his priorities in the post.

IN PICTURES: Victims of Communist genocide remembered in Latvia

At the Freedom Monument in Latvia on Friday, June 14, there was held a ceremony to honour the victims of the Communist genocide against the people of Latvia. The mass arrests of innocent people were committed on the night from June 13 to 14.

Moscow sees U.S. decision of another thousand troops to Poland as sensitive

The Russian government stated the Russian army was closely tracking U.S. plans to send an additional thousand of its troops Poland as a deputy minister criticised the move as probably «aggressive».

Europol: Risks of Russian money laundering still exist in Baltics

In the Baltic states, there still exist risks for the laundering of money from Russia, said official from European police agency Europol, Pedro Felicio, who works on anti-money laundering measures in the body. He added that the problem is amplified by «zero cooperation from the side of Russia».

Data: 47.3% Latvian restaurants had tax debt over last six months

47.3% of Latvian restaurants and cafes had a tax debt exceeding 150 euros in the past six months, yet the total taxes paid by the sector have surged by 19.87% on year, data by business database Lursoft showed.

Latvian parliament in no rush to discuss Jewish restitution payment of EUR 40 mln

The Latvian Saeima has postponed the discussion of a draft law to compensate the Latvian Jewish community in the amount of 40 million euros for property confiscated by totalitarian powers in the mid-20th century in the then occupied Latvia.

Latvian Supreme Court chairman blamed for misleading PM over new court

Latvian Supreme Court chairman Ivars Bičkovičs has misrepresented to the Prime Minister the opinion of the Justice Council on the plan of a new economic cases’ court, says Latvian Justice Minister Jānis Bordāns. Two members of the council voted in favour of the establishment of the new court, while nine members were against it.

Latvian Health Ministry pushing for fairer competition in medicines’ market

Seeking lower prices of medicines for patients on the Latvian market, the country’s Health Ministry, is working on measures to improve access to medicines.

Approved: Latvian financial watchdog to have new management, more duties

The Latvian parliament has passed amendments to the Law of the Financial and Capital Market Commission aimed at strengthening the prevention of money laundering and terrorism funding in the financial and capital market.

Latvia cancels healthcare funding system of «two baskets»

People in Latvia will maintain access to healthcare services in the framework of mandatory health insurance by 2021 just as now, regardless of insurance payments made.

Estonia confirms alcohol U-turn to recover booze tourists from Latvia

As Estonia tries to recover its alcohol customers lost to neighbouring Latvia due to high excise duty, the parliament in Tallinn has passed a 25% cut in excise duty rate.

All Souls’ Day two? Lithuania eyes new national holiday

Members of the Lithuanian Seimas propose making the All Souls’ Day a national holiday in the majority Catholic Baltic country adding one holiday to the calendar in early November.

Lithuania's next President set to take bull by horns in tackling poverty

Lithuania’s president-elect Gitanas Nausėda has touched one issue – social exclusion and high level of income inequality in Lithuanian society – a lot more than all the others.