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Wednesday 24.04.2019 | Name days: Nameda, Visvaldis, Ritvaldis
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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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Medicines for people with mental disorders to become more accessible in Latvia

To improve accessibility of medicines for people suffering from psychological and behavioural disorders, Latvia’s government decided to expand the list of diagnoses eligible for state-compensated medicines on Tuesday, 23 April.

Belarus halts exports of low quality oil products to Baltics, other neighbours

Belarusian Oil Company has announced the temporary suspension of light oil products to the Baltic states, Poland and Ukraine explaining that low-quality oil products have been supplied by Russia to Belarusian refineries.

Producer prices in Latvia: increase of 4.1% in March

Compared to March 2018, average level of producer prices in Latvian industry increased by 4.1 % in March 2019. The level of prices of products sold on the domestic market rose by 6.5 % and that of exported products – by 1.9 %.

Saeima deputy confident on the need to dismiss National Mass Media Council

Considering recent development, the National Electronic Mass Media Council should be dismissed, says head of Saeima’s Human Rights and Public Affairs Committee Artuss Kaimiņš.

Estonian President continues to meet with ministerial candidates

As outgoing Estonian Prime Minister Jüri Ratas' is likely to form his second government with the controversial Conservative People's Party of Estonia and the national-conservative Pro Patria, Estonian President is meeting with his ministerial candidates.

Teachers demand from Latvia’s ministry specific amendments to regulations

Latvian Trade Union of Education and Science Employees sent a letter to Latvia’s Education and Science Ministry on Tuesday, 23 April. In it, representatives demand strict guarantees and specific amendments to regulations to ensure increase of wages for teachers in accordance with the schedule.

Catalonia – key issue in Spanish pre-election debate

As Spain nears its early general election on Sunday, April 28, its outgoing Prime Minister faced criticism from his opponents over Catalonia's secession crisis.

Latvian minister orders closure of Deglava Bridge in Riga

Latvia’s Interior Affairs Minister Sandis Ģirģens has ordered State Police to close down Deglava Bridge starting with Thursday, 25 April.

Sri Lanka death toll rises. Authorities had been warned about possible attacks

In Sri Lanka, the number of people killed in attacks on churches and hotels has reached 290 people, while it has been revealed that national authorities had been warned about possible attacks.

Road construction company Binders to attract workers from Ukraine and Belarus

Latvian road construction company SIA Binders experiences a shortage of workers. Because of that, the company plans to attract guest workers from Ukraine and Belarys, says Bindars board chairman Aigars Sēja.

Ukrainian presidential election won by Zelensky on hopes of change

The run-off of the Ukrainian presidential election has been won by comedian Volodymyr Zelensky, who has promised change and better relations with Russia.

Air temperature to reach +23° C in Latvia this week

Dry weather will remain in most of Latvia this week. The sun will shine often and there will be slow eastern and south-eastern wind. However, strong wind is expected to come on Wednesday, 24 April, and precipitation is expected at the end of the week.

Forevers: 615 tonnes of grilled meat was consumed in Latvia last year

615 tonnes of meat products for grilling was sold in Latvia in 2018, according to sales data from meat processing company Forevers.

Every day hens in Latvia produce an egg for every resident

The number of laying hens in Latvia, when compared to 2017, had increased 19.2% in 2018, reaching 3 million, according to data from the Central Statistical Bureau of Latvia. Compared to the previous year, the total number of domestic birds has increased 9.3%, reaching 5.4 million, which is the largest index since 1992.

73% of residents believe they benefit from Latvia’s membership in EU

Approximately 73% of residents believe Latvia benefits from membership in the European Union. Interviewed residents mainly outline job opportunities, economic growth and security, according to the latest data compiled by Eurobarometer.

General government budget deficit in Latvia reached EUR 295.4 million last year

In 2018 general government budget deficit accounted for EUR 295.4 million or 1 % of the Gross Domestic Product and general government consolidated gross debt amounted to EUR 10.6 billion or 35.9 % of the GDP.

Egils Levits optimistic about his chances becoming Latvia’s president

Presidential candidate and European Court of Justice Judge Egils Levits is optimistic about his chances of becoming Latvia’s next president.

Estonia’s government to be formed by standing Prime Minister Jüri Ratas

On Thursday, 17 April, Estonia’s parliament entrusted formation of the country’s government to Centre Party’s chairman and standing Prime Minister Jüri Ratas.

At least 29 die as German tourist bus runs off road in Portugal

At least 29 people were killed and 27 were injured when a German tourist bus ran off the road on Madeira Island in Portugal, as reported by BBC.

EY: businessmen show very positive outlook towards global economy

The latest Ernst&Young EY Global Capital Confidence Barometer reveals a generally optimistic outlook businessmen have around the world – 93% of interviewed company CEOs believe the economic situation in the world is steadily improving. The same opinion was voiced by 73% of interviewed CEOs last year.

Orkla Latvija signs contract for construction of Laima manufacturing plant in Ādaži

On Wednesday, 17 April, Orkla Latvia signed a contract worth EUR 8.9 million with construction company Merks on the construction of a Laima manufacturing plant in Ādaži, BNN was told by Orkla Latvija representative Lineta Mikša.

As police arrive, Peru’s ex-president commits suicide

Ex-president of Peru Alan García committed suicide on Wednesday, 17 April, when police arrived to arrest him for corruption.

Estonia’s president to meet with Putin; the two will discuss Baltic security

On Thursday, 18 April, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin will meet with Estonia’s President Kersti Kaljulaid, as reported by Estonian public media ERR.

Europe’s borders to be reinforced – a specialist corps to be formed by 2027

On Wednesday, 17 April, the European Parliament approved a new law to strengthen Europe’s border and coast guard, as reported by EP representative in Latvia Signe Znotiņa-Znota.

Latvian residents engage in marriages more often than before

Over the past three years the number of registered marriages has risen slightly. In 2018, 13.4 thousand marriages were registered, which is 200 marriages more than in 2017 when the increase recorded over the year constituted 148 marriages.