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Wednesday 20.02.2019 | Name days: Smuidra, Vitauts, Smuidris
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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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Risky projects that are «under watch» in Latvia: electrification, Krievu Island and Rīgas tramvajs

«Latvia’s biggest mistake getting its hands on finances to afford EU projects is that these projects are more often than not organizes specifically to use said finances, and no though is put into work on achieving results or even if results of said projects could even turn out positive for the country in the end. We see this with railway electrification, Krievu Island and Rīgas tramvajs project,» said Transport Minister Tālis Linkaits in an interview to BNN.

Putin warns U.S., Russia could target Washington with missiles

Assuming Washington could deploy short or intermediate-range nuclear weapons in Europe, Russia would target with nuclear weapons not only the countries where they are stationed, but the United States itself, Russian President Vladimir Putin has stated.

In spite of austerity measures, Rīgas satiksme’s grants could reach EUR 134 million

In spite of ongoing austerity measures, grants needed for SIA Rīgas satiksme may grow by another EUR 12 million and reach EUR 134 million, admits the company’s temporary board chairman Anrijs Matīss.

Cemex announces sale of its Baltic and Nordic assets

Cemex has made the decision to sell assets in Baltic and Nordic countries worth EUR 340 million to Germany company Schwen, as confirmed by Cemex representatives.

Swedbank refrains from commenting information about its possible involvement in money laundering

Citing confidentiality, AS Swedbank has decided to refrain from commenting on information reported by Swedish television regarding the bank’s involvement in money laundering, said the bank’s Risk Management Office in Latvia Juris Bogdanovs.

UK's May to give another try in Brussels, as EU doesn't expect breakthrough

The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Theresa May, returns to Brussels on Wednesday, seeking to convince European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker to save her Brexit deal. A representative of the British PM for May called the Brussels trip «significant» as part of a process of engagement to try to agree on the changes her government believes parliament needs to pass the deal.

Dutch soldiers in Lithuania go ice diving as part of NATO winter training

Lithuania, Dutch and Czech forces from one of NATO’s battlegroups undergo cold weather training in February, experiencing winter diving and acquiring other skills for survival in extreme weather conditions.

Brussels: Hungary lying about Juncker, Soros and mandatory migrants

Hungarian government has been criticised by European Commission officials for putting up election campaign posters with claims that EU headquarters has weakened on purpose European Union's external borders to allow in more migrants.

airBaltic to cease using Boeing 737 in autumn 2019

Latvian national airBaltic airline plans to cease using Boeing 737 in autumn 2019 or a year earlier than initially planned, as confirmed by the airline’s representative Alise Briede.

Prime Minister: Latvian teachers are hostages of municipalities

Teachers are hostages of municipalities, said Latvian Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš, commenting on teachers’ wages subject in an interview to LTV programme Rīta Panorāma.

Minister: Latvia needs a new housing policy

Latvia needs a new housing policy, says Economy Minister Ralfs Nemiro. He says most of Latvia’s residential houses were built during the Soviet regime. This is why a number of subjects related to the housing policy have become topical.

Levits: the state president must not serve as executor to any party

«The state president must not serve as executor to only one party,» believes Judge Egils Levits of the Court of Justice of the EU, adding that it is because of this reason it is so hard to find a president that would meet the requirements of all political parties. ‘The president needs to have sufficient metal capacity and authority to convince politicians about common state interests,» said the only presidential candidate to have had been publicly discussed by the ruling coalition in Latvia so far.

Danske Bank to quit Baltic states, Russia, after asked to leave by Estonia

Danske Bank has been asked to leave Estonia amid a large-scale money laundering scandal. Denmark's largest lender has also decided to leave the markets of Latvia, Lithuania and Russia.

Minister: Latvia is dissatisfied with reduced EU funding for agriculture

«Funding reductions for the General Agricultural Policy and Cohesion Policy are unacceptable for Latvia. In accordance with European Commission’s proposal, Latvian farmers will have reached 77% of the average direct payment level in the EU by 2026. Latvia is also dissatisfied with funding reduction for rural development,» said Latvian Foreign Affairs Minister Edgars Rinkēvičs during the 19 February meeting of the EU General Affairs Council.

UN: 200 families encircled by Islamic State fighters in Syria

In Syria, around two hundred families are currently trapped in a small area under the rule of Islamic State terrorist group, which is preventing some civilians from fleeing the territory, according to the UN.

Saeima committee: adoption of deposit system is an investment in cleaner environment

Adoption of a package deposit system is an opportunity to invest in a cleaner environment, said members of Saeima’s Economic, Agricultural, Environmental and Regional Policy Committee and Environment and Climate Sub-Committee on Tuesday, 19 February.

Lursoft: nearly 32,000 Latvian companies have disclosed true beneficiaries

31,800 Latvian companies have disclosed their true beneficiaries. Of those businesses, 28,300 had registered this information last year. Among the most frequently mentioned names of beneficiaries in Latvia are Aigars Kesenfelds, Guntis Rāvis and Ernests Bernis, according to data from Lursoft.

Lasting drought caused the lowest yield of cereals in recent years in Latvia

In 2018 harvested production of grain constituted 2.1 million tonnes, which is 635.2 thousand tonnes or 23.6 % less than a year ago and the smallest harvested production recorded over the past five years.

Criminals in Latvia planned to kidnap a bailiff and kill him after receiving ransom

According to what Latvian State Police reported during a press conference on 19 February, criminals in Latvia planned to kidnap some court bailiff, demand ransom of EUR 350,000 and kill him after receiving the ransom.

Russian warplanes intercepted four times near Baltic borders last week

Allied fighters from the NATO Air Policing Mission in the Baltics have been scrambled four times over the last week as Russian military aircraft neared the borders of the Baltic states as they moved between Kaliningrad and mainland Russia.

Estonian ex-Eurocrat convicted of rape in Brussels

A court in Belgium has found an Estonian man, who is a former high-ranking official of the European Union, guilty of rape and sentenced to four years in jail.

BTA: number of insurance claims up by more than a quarter

The number of insurance claims in Latvia at the beginning of 2019 has increased 28.4% when compared to the same month of 2018, and by 55.3% when compared to January of 2017, as reported by BTA Baltic Insurance Company representative Elīna Rasmane.

Latvia’s budget has received at least EUR 1.5 million paid in bail money in past five years

In the last five years, Latvia’s state budget has received EUR 1,535,000 in the form of bail money paid in different criminal cases, according to information from the Court Administration.

16 U.S. states oppose Trump's border wall emergency in court

16 U.S. states have opposed at a federal court the national emergency declaration over border security announced by the U.S. government as its President Donald Trump seeks to fund a border wall from military budget.

Minister: we need to reject the two basket healthcare system’s funding model

Currently the main topics in healthcare include rejecting the two basket healthcare system’s funding model and instead stick to a single basket system in which ‘doctors don’t have to take responsibility for playing with people’s lives’, said Latvian Healthcare Minister Ilze Viņķele in a phone interview to LTV programme Rīta Panorāma.