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Friday 28.02.2020 | Name days: Skaidrīte, Justs, Skaidra
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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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Gints Miķelsons put in charge of Latvian Construction Contractors Partnership

From 1 March 2020 onward Gints Miķelsons, who has been the head of Latvian Sustainable Construction Council will be in charge of the Latvian Construction Contractors Partnership, as confirmed by construction contractors.

While Latvia’s GDP grows 2.2%, other Baltic States experience more rapid growth

In 2019, Latvia experienced the slowest GDP growth among Baltic States, according to data from Latvia’s Central Statistical Bureau of Latvia.

Latvia’s GDP growth reportedly 2.2% in 2019

Compared to 2018, the economic growth continued and Gross Domestic Product increased by 2.2 %. In 2019, GDP at current prices amounted to EUR 30.5 billion. Compared to Q3, in Q4 2019 GDP at constant prices grew by 0.1 %, according to seasonally and calendar adjusted data.

Retail trade turnover in Latvia up 2.6% in January

Compared to January 2019, total retail trade turnover rose by 2.6 % in January 2020. Turnover of retail trade in food products grew by 4.4 %.

Vilnis Ķirsis to remain in charge of Unity’s faction in Riga

On Thursday, 27 February, Vilnis Ķirsis was once again picked as the head of Unity party’s faction in Riga, as confirmed by the party.

Latvia and USA sign joint declaration to enhance 5G network security

On Thursday, 27 February, Latvia’s Foreign Affairs Minister Edgars Rinkēvičs and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo sign a joint US-Latvian declaration on 5G network security, as reported by Foreign Affairs Ministry.

Estonian Tallink Grupp sees profit growth of EUR 9.7 million on year

Estonian provider of ferry transport and related services Tallink Grupp has worked in 2019 with a net profit of 49.7 million euros, according to its unaudited financial results of the year, as reported by Estonian public broadcaster ERR.

Jakrins reportedly a beneficiary in a company that organizes Brasas and Deglava bridge repairs

Long-standing Riga City Council official Emīls Jakrins, who was in charge of the Transport Department not long ago, is beneficiary and factual owner of LLC TecPro Construction, which is a contractor to Lithuanian company Kauno tiltai, which has been hired by the city council to repair Brasas and Deglavas bridges, as reported by Diena newspaper, referencing unofficial information.

UK ready to switch to WTO trade rules if no EU by end of year

The British government has declared that unless concessions are made by Brussels in EU-UK talks on their future cooperation, the former EU member would trade with the bloc on WTO rules from 2021, British news portal The Guardian reports.

Residents able to submit compulsory income declarations by 1 June; VID urges using EDS

March 2020 will mark the beginning of the three-month period within which all residents for whom it is compulsory will be able to submit their income declaration for 2019. This period will last three years for residents for whom this process is voluntary, as reminded by the State Revenue Service.

Lithuanian border guards start informing travellers about the situation with Covid-19

As the new coronavirus Covid-19 continues spreading in Europe, Lithuanian border guards have begun informing travellers from Latvia and Poland about necessary protective measures.

Turkish soldiers killed in Syria, in regime airstrike, Ankara says

In the current epicentre of the Syrian civil war, 33 soldiers of the NATO member state Turkey have been killed as Syrian government military aviation carried out attacks on Turkish military posts set up in its neighbouring country, German broadcaster DW reports citing Ankara.

Weather in Latvia to be winter-like at week’s end

Weather in Latvia is expected to be winter-like at the end of the week – air temperature is expected to drop below 0° C at night in most of the country. In some areas cold snap may be felt during the day, as reported by Latvian Environment, Geology and Meteorology Centre.

First coronavirus infection case found in Lithuania

The first coronavirus infection case is confirmed in Lithuania, as mentioned in Lithuanian government’s statement released on Friday, 28 February, as reported by 15min.lt.

SPKC urges passengers of 26 February Istanbul-Riga flight to respond

Latvia’s Disease Control and Prevention Centre is looking for passengers who flew together with confirmed coronavirus patient from Istanbul to Riga on Wednesday, 26 February.

Regional hospitals in Latvia report high demand for protective clothing

Because of the outbreak of the new coronavirus Covid-19, demand has considerably increased for individual protective clothing, which forces prices to go up, as reported by heads of hospitals.

Rail Baltica not just marvelled, but cussed too in Lithuania

If implemented, the ambitious 5.8-billion euro Rail Baltica project aiming to build a nearly 1000-kilometer rail link from Helsinki to Poland through Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia will be a major infrastructural achievement of the Baltics, but the possibility of dashing at the now surreal speed of 250 kilometres per hour as soon as in 2026, when the project is slated for completion, comes at expense of many land owners in Lithuania’s six municipalities, which will be crossed by the European-gauge tracks.

Construction costs in Latvia up 2.8% in January

Compared to December 2019, the level of construction costs in Latvia fell by 0.2 % in January 2020. Labour remuneration of workers reduced by 0.9 %, prices of building materials – by 0.1 %, but maintenance and operational costs of machinery and equipment – rose by 0.2 %.

In Greece, violent protests against new migrant camps continue for 3rd day

In Greece, continued protests and clashes have resulted in over 60 people suffering injuries as people on the islands of Lesbos and Chios protest against the construction of new migrant centres, British public broadcaster BBC reports.

Minister says Latvia’s initiated territorial reform will create more sustainable municipalities

The report from the European Commission mentions that Latvian government’s initiated administrative territorial reform will create more sustainable municipalities with greater capacity and ability to provide services of comparable quality, as reported by Environment Protection and Regional Development Ministry.

Latvian Saeima changes the prosecutor general’s selection order

On Thursday, 27 February, Latvia’s Saeima approved amendments to the order under which the country’s prosecutor general is selected.

Textile producer in Lithuania complies with Greenpeace standards in industrial textile making

Lithuanian textiles producer Utenos Trikotažas has been deemed by environmental protection organisation Greenpeace as complying with the standards of the later as to not using hazardous chemicals and being fair and transparent in its business, LRT reports.

From March onward prices of alcoholic beverages to increase in Latvia

Through a measured and gradual increase of excise tax rate policy, starting with 1 March 2020 the excise tax rate for alcoholic beverages in Latvia will increase, as confirmed by the State Revenue Service.

435 whistle-blower reports received in eight months in Latvia

In the first year of the Whistleblowing Law, Latvian central state institutions have received 435 reports from whistle-blowers, as reported by the State Chancellery.

Estonia finds first positive coronavirus case

In Estonia, the first case of a person being infected with the novel coronavirus has been found, stated Estonian Social Affairs Minister Tanel Kiik on Thursday, February 27, as cited by Estonian public broadcaster ERR.


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