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Friday 15.02.2019 | Name days: Olafs, Aloizs, Alvils, Olavs
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BNN summary of the week: fight with Jurašs, «visiting» Riga’s mayor, and problems with SRS

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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: Fight; Dismissal; Crisis; Departure; Problems; Healthcare.

FIGHT: Latvian Saeima decides to permit commencement of Juris Jurašs’ criminal prosecution

With 73 votes in favour and 17 votes against, the Saeima has decided to permit criminal prosecution of Juris Jurašs from New Conservative Party for public disclosure of official secret.

BNN had previously reported that the Prosecutor General’s Office had submitted materials of the criminal case to the Saeima, requesting permission to commence criminal prosecution against Juris Jurašs.

During debates in the Saeima, New Conservative Party’s members tried convincing deputies that by deciding in favour of Jurašs’ criminal prosecution they support political persecution. Krišjānis Feldmans noted that at the time of the bribe offer Jurašs was not a politician.

Linda Ozola said: «Deputies and the Saeima do not decide the truth. We are about to decide if a Saeima deputy elected by the people has the right to perform his duties or not.»

Andrejs Judins from New Unity stressed that emotions should be tossed aside when voting either in favour or against Jurašs’ criminal prosecution. According to him, if criminal prosecution is denied, many question will remain unanswered, because Saeima deputies do not have access to full materials of the case.

Full article here

DISMISSAL: Take #2: opposition collects signatures to repeat Ušakovs’ dismissal vote

Opposition parties in Riga City Council have collected the necessary number of votes to once again request the organization of an extraordinary meeting to hold a vote on dismissal of Riga’s Mayor Nils Ušakovs, as confirmed by National Alliance’s faction representative Edvards Ratnieks.

In accordance with the Local Governments Law, the chairman has two weeks to organize such a meeting. If a regular meeting is planned in the same period of time, the matter regarding the dismissal should be added to its agenda.

Opposition deputies decided to organize a repeated dismissal vote after the searches performed by Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau in Ušakovs’ office in Riga City Council and his home on Wednesday, 30 January.

Environment Protection and Regional Development Minister Juris Pūce has asked KNAB to provide information and explanations for the searches. The ministry explains that this information will be necessary for it to evaluate the work performed by Riga City Council and consider applying monitoring instruments.

There was an attempt to dismiss the chairman of Riga City Council in December 2018. However, with votes from Harmony and Honour to Serve Riga, Ušakovs managed to keep his post.

Full article here

CRISIS: U.S. Midwest hit by unusually cold weather and freezing winds

In the U.S., untypically cold weather has hit the Midwest region with temperatures dropping below -20 degrees, worsened by strong wind.

AFP news agency reported on January 31, that the extreme weather has now been blamed for as many as eight deaths.

Postal deliveries were suspended and people were encouraged to stay home in over 10 U.S. states, where the worst freeze to grip the region in a generation is being experienced.

Full article here

DEPARTURE: Koļegova’s departure is in her and civil service’s best interest

The decision to step down by the head of Latvia’s State Environment Service is in her and the civil service’s best interest, as agreed upon by Environment Protection and Regional Development Minister Juris Pūce and Inga Koļegova on Tuesday, 29 January.

Pūce says he had a meeting with Koļegova this Monday. During this meeting, the two had discussed matters related to Koļegova personally and the State Environment Service. The two agreed that it would be best for her to step down, said Pūce.

«I believe it would be wasteful to discuss the service’s previous activities. I intend to concentrate on finding an appropriate replacement and a way to improve the service’s work to make sure it serves Latvia even better from now on,» added the minister.

He explained that he has asked the ministry’s state secretary Rinalds Muciņš to prepare proposals on how to pick the best possible leader for the service.

Pūce mentioned that there are two options at present – picking a new leader using a personnel selection process or promoting an existing employee. The decision will be made in the coming days.

Until a new leader has been appointed, deputy director general Aina Stašāne will be in charge of SES.

Full article here

PROBLEMS: Latvian state has no ‘fish’ to offer to sports industry; UGF takes away last fishing rod

Potential winners of Olympic medals in Latvia are in the process of consideration: to continue their career in sports or take up a different path. This is because Latvia’s sports industry is going through a dramatic financing decline. This situation was caused by the reform implemented by the government under the Union of Greens and Farmers.

Māris Kučinskis had promised last year to find a compensating mechanism, saying that ‘the situation is being monitored and the sports industry will not suffer’. Dana Reizniece-Ozola promised the same thing. However, the current amount of funding is not enough and tax benefits for donators have since been cut. This is why Latvia’s sports industry wants to save what is left, according to activities of ‘I support sport!’ initiative in recent months.

Sports industry’s broken fishing rod

«At the beginning of the 90s the sports industry was given an inexcusably small budget in the form of funding from the state budget. A fishing rod of sorts was given in the form of tax benefits. We were told basically: ‘Go ahead and fish!’ But then the fish ran out and the fishing rod was taken away. Now we have nothing. Then the country recovered and realized the base funding is considerably below what is needed,» said council chairman of Latvian Sports Federation and one of the supporters of the ‘I support sport!’ initiative Einars Fogelis in a conversation with BNN.

It should be said that a tax reform was launched in 2018. This reform changed the order under which companies are allowed to donate money to sports. Before the tax reform companies could receive corporate income tax discount in the form of 85% of the donated amount but no higher than 20% of the total paid tax amount.

Full article here

HEALTHCARE: Flu epidemic in Latvia picks up in strength

The flu epidemic in Latvia had spread considerably last week. 17 people have already died from this disease or complications caused by it, according to data from the Disease Prevention and Monitoring Centre.

The average age of those victims is 71. Flu has also claimed the life of a man 30-39 years old. All of those patients suffered from chronic illnesses. None of them were vaccinated against flu.

In the previous flu season, 91 people died from flu or complications caused by it. A year prior the death toll was 75 people.

Last week, flu intensity in Latvia had reached 298.4 cases per 100,000 residents. A week prior, flu intensity was 196.1 cases per 100,000 residents.

Data from SPKC shows flu cases have been registered in nearly all cities included in the monitoring. This does not include Jekabpils and Gulbene. In seven cities flu intensity has exceeded the threshold of an epidemic. Intensity is reportedly the highest in Valmiera and Riga.

Full article here


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Latvian President: All should acknowledge constitutional values as their own

At the anniversary of the Constitution of the Republic of Latvia, President Raimonds Vējonis, urged everyone in Latvia «to acknowledge the values of the Constitution as one's own and be ready to stand for the basic law both in big issues and in aspects of daily life».

Court rules EUR 200 thousand bail for criminal suspect of Riga transport firm

A court in the Latvian capital has set at 200 000 euros the bail money for ex-board chairman of the Riga public transport company Rīgas satiksme, who is a suspect in the criminal case over possible corrupt procurement dealings at the municipal firm.

Grave terror attack shakes Kashmir, conflict region of India, Pakistan

A terror attack has taken place in the disputed region of Kashmir, a long source of argument between India and Pakistan, taking the lives of 44 people.

British parliament rejects government's approach to Brexit talks

As the government of the United Kingdom sought the backing of the British Parliament to its strategy for the remaining weeks of Brexit talks with the European Union, a motion endorsing the government's strategy was rejected with a majority of 45 votes.

Lithuanian lawmakers set to backtrack on «Norwegian-type» child welfare protection

The Lithuanian lawmakers have sent this week a mixed message on their resolve to root out child abuse in Lithuanian families. As the MPs backtracked from the stringent Norwegian-type child welfare protection law to a more lenient one, not-criminalizing corporal punishment in certain cases, some experts warn that the reverse can trigger a spike of child abuse cases.

Drivers warned in Latvia as roads slippery in warmer temperatures

Black frost is hampering driving on Latvia's main and regional roads. The road administration body Latvijas Valsts ceļi (LVC) says that maintenance teams are covering the roads with antiskid materials and advises drivers to be very careful.

Programmer, physiotherapist and pilot – top professions on Latvian Job Shadow Day

The Job Shadow Day 2019 was held on February 13 in Latvia and the professions of programmer, physiotherapist and pilot were the most attractive as 1 545 companies offered the chance to follow working specialists throughout the day, according to the data by Junior Achievement Latvia.

Macedonia starts name-change from signs to currency, passports

Macedonia's official gazette has published the name-change agreement, launching a campaign of renaming the country as North Macedonia and allowing for its accession to NATO and eventually the European Union.

Dozens of British ex-ambassadors call for delay of Brexit

A group of over 40 British ex-ambassadors have urged the country's Prime Minister Theresa May to delay the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union, British media report.

Port of Ventspils sees 40% boost in cargo turnover on year

Cargo turnover at the Freeport of Ventspils has in January 2019, compared to the respective month in 2018, jumped by 40.12% or 593 tonns, according to data from the Port Administration.

New CEO of Rail Baltic project is Finnish railway executive Riihimäki

To advance the pan-Baltic railway project, the Supervisory Board of RB Rail AS has appointed Timo Riihimäki as Chief Executive Officer and Chairperson of the Management Board of the Rail Baltica Joint Venture.

Latvian PM sees no chance no significantly raise teacher salaries in 2019

Despite promises to teachers made by the previous government, Latvia is currently unable to significantly raise the wages of teachers, because it would require either increasing the budget deficit or higher taxes, Latvian Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš has told on Wednesday, in an interview with LNT's programme 900 sekundes.

Estonian startups attract EUR 328 million in 2018

The Estonian startup sector has in 2018 attracted combined investments of 328 million euros with Taxify, Pipedirve and Monese being the top performers, according to calculations by Startup Estonia.

U.S. sees power vacuum in Eastern Europe as exploited by Russia, China

U.S Secretary of State Mike Pompeo evaluated that in Eastern Europe, China and Russia endanger the democratic and free-market gains made since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 by the means of predatory investment and political meddling.

Ukraine peace agreement not fulfilled, UN finds

The Minsk peace accord of 2015 stands unimplemented in eastern Ukraine as over 3,300 people have been killed and 1.5 million people displaced in the five-year conflict, U.N. officials stated.

Latvian conductor Nelsons wins Grammies in U.S.

Latvian conductor Andris Nelsons has added two Grammy music awards to his list of honours for the work with the Boston Symphony Orchestra. At the Grammy music awards ceremony in the U.S. on Sunday, February 10, the Latvian won the prize for the best orchestral performance with the Boston Symphony Orchestra in the record Shostakovich: Symphonies Nos. 4&11.

Riga Mayor survives another no-confidence vote

The embattled Mayor Riga Nils Ušakovs has survived a vote of no-confidence as the opposition parties criticised him over corruption scandals involving the Riga City Council.

Justice Minister: Justice does exist in Latvia, but it's selective

«I'm in politics precisely, because as a citizen and a lawyer, I wasn't satisfied with the influence on the court and political system from people, operating outside these spheres. To my mind, this influence is the reason of long trials in Latvia. Another problem is the lack of specialists, who could solve economic crimes – if politicians would be very interested in this, many cases would have been solved over the past ten years. There are two options: there have either been unprofessional politicians, or they have been interested in having the situation remain the way it was,» said Latvian Justice Minister Jānis Bordāns in an interview with the BNN.

Spain starts historic trial against Catalan independence figures

Spain is beginning court proceedings against 12 leaders of the region of Catalonia for their role in the region's independence referendum and the subsequent declaration of separation from Spain.

Estonia convicts ex-army officer, his father for treason

A court in Tallinn has convicted ex-officer of the Estonian Defence Forces, Deniss Metsavas, his father for state treason, finding them guilty of selling state secrets to Russian intelligence.

Troubles continue in Latvian anti-establishment party KPV LV

In the Latvian anti-establishment party KPV LV, Saeima member Linda Liepiņa has decided to leave the post of the party's Co-chairperson and member of the board.

Thaw and warm temperatures expected in Latvia this week

The weather in Latvia, in the first part of the week will be mostly warm for winter-time and precipitation in the form of rain and wet snow can be expected, according to a weekly forecast from the Latvian Environment, Geology and Meteorology Centre.

Defence Minister: Deployment of allied missiles in Latvia is «dreaming»

The issue of the deployment of the missiles of allied forces in Latvia is far from being relevant, «it's dreaming», commented Latvian Defence Minister on Monday, February 11, in an interview with LTV's news programme Rīta panorāma

Hungary' s mothers of four to be exempt from paying income tax

In Hungary, the government is boosting financial support to families with several children, according to measures presented by Prime Minister Viktor Orbán. On Sunday, February 10, the significant measures announced by Viktor Orbán during an annual address, encouraging women to have more children.

UK government pushes for more time for Brexit negotiations

A month and two weeks before the United Kingdom is due to leave the European Union, the government of Theresa May seeks to buy more time in the British parliament for her talks with Brussels to reach concessions that would allow the adoption of the Brexit deal.