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Wednesday 20.03.2019 | Name days: Made, Irbe
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BNN summary of the week: government formation in Latvia; medicinal marijuana in Lithuania; EU vs. Lembergs

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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: Progress; Justice; Change; Outlook; Future; Growth; Government.

PROGRESS: Latvia wants to ratify EU-Japanese strategic partnership agreement

On Thursday, 11 October, Latvia’s Saeima approved in the first reading a legislative draft in accordance with which it is planned to ratify the Strategic Partnership Agreement between European Union and its member states one side and Japan on the other.

It is expected that it will improve bilateral involvement of Europe and Japan in further improvement of political dialogue and cooperation in fields like human rights, security and peace affairs, as reported by Saeima’s press-service.

This agreement will have a positive effect on mutual relations between Latvia and Japan, as well as present opportunities for expanded cooperation and perspectives for further development of Latvia’s national economy in fields like research, energy and transports, as mentioned in the legislative draft’s annotation.

The parliament notes that the agreement includes topics such as human rights, weapons of mass destruction, international criminal affairs, as well as combating terrorism. The agreement also covers cooperation in economics and finances, customs, taxes, agriculture and other fields.

The agreement also provides for the formation of a Combined Committee between EU and Japan to coordinate general partnership.

Full article here

JUSTICE: European court prohibits Aivars Lembergs from governing Ventspils

On Thursday, 11 October, European Court for Human Rights announced its verdict in the case in which Lemgergs sued Latvian state. Judges unanimously declined the complaint submitted by the formally dismissed Mayor of Ventspils Aivars Lembergs in relation to possible violation of election rights, as reported by Latvia’s Foreign Affairs Ministry.

In the plea submitted to European Court for Human Rights on 22 August 2017, Lembergs complained about the prohibition imposed on him to perform duties as chairman of Ventspils City Council. He also claimed that voters had expressed their will by electing him in Ventspils City Council. On top of that, he also said public surveys showed that Voters want to see him as chairman of the city council.

The security measure applied to Aivars Lembergs – prohibition to perform duties as chairman of Ventspils City Council – does not allow him to work in this post. Lembergs believes this breaches election rights guaranteed by the Convention.

Full article here

CHANGE: Lithuanian MPs back legalisation of marijuana in prescription medications

Lithuanian Saeima has adopted a bill to allow doctors to prescribe marijuana-based medications.

British medicine news aggregator Medical Xpress reports that the lawmakers voted 90-0 with three abstentions to support the legislation that will now go to President Dalia Grybauskaitė to be signed into law.

«It is a historic decision to ensure that patients can receive the best possible treatment. (..) Of course, it does not mean cannabis will be available to get at a drugstore to smoke before going to a nightclub,» commented MP Mykolas Majauskas who submitted the bill.

Full article here

OUTLOOK: Latvia’s Finance Ministry increases GDP growth outlook to 4.2% for 2018

Finance Ministry has increased the growth domestic product growth outlook for 2018 from 4% to 4.2%. At the same time, the ministry has reduced economic growth outlook for 2019.

In April 2018, Latvia’s government supported the country’s Stability Programme 2018-2021. The programme predicted Latvia’s GDP to grow 4% in 2018 and 3.4% in 2019. Next week, however, the Cabinet of Ministers will present the latest Latvian macroeconomic outlook, which provides that the country’s GDP will grow 4.2% in 2018 and 3% in 2019.

By increasing GDP outlook for 2018 by 0.2 percentage points, the ruling coalition agreed on allocation of an additional amount of EUR 5.7 million to the country’s defence sector. A relevant decision was made to ensure funding for defence reaches 2% of the country’s GDP.

Full article here

FUTURE: Latvia plans to invest EUR 650,000 in RB Rail capital

Latvian state intends to invest EUR 650,000 in the capital of SIA European Railway Lines, which will then invest this amount in AS RB Rail, as the government decided on Tuesday, 9 October.

European Railway Lines is Latvia’s shareholders in Baltic joint venture RB Rail, which was founded specifically to implement Rail Baltica project.

Transport Ministry mentions in the annotation to this decision that the amount from European Railway Lines will be passed to RB Rail, thereby securing a proportionally equal amount of capital shares as Lithuania and Estonia.

On 22 August 2018, it was decided at a shareholders meeting to increase RB Rail capital by tree euros by releasing three new dematerialized shares with nominal value of one euro each to make sure that after the increase RB Rail capital reaches EUR 1,950,012. Each share’s earnings reach EUR 649,999 and total sale price (including nominal value and emission earning) is EUR 1,950,000. To do that and preserve proportionally equal shares as Lithuania and Estonia, it is necessary to perform the fourth increase of capital for European Railway Lines by EUR 650,000.

Full article here

GROWTH: Estonian President becomes honorary citizen of South Korea capital

Estonian President Kersti Kaljulaid is on a visit to South Korea, where she has become an honorary citizen of its capital Seoul.

Estonian public broadcaster ERR cited President Kaljulaid as stating a ceremony to mark the honour expressed to her: «Both countries are forward looking. (..) We have a lot to learn from each other, and together can be spokespersons for digital societies globally».

The Mayor of Seoul Park Won-soon has received the honour becoming a Estonian e-Resident.

Full article here

GOVERNMENT: No government formation announcement expected Latvia this week

With KPV LV refusing to attend repeated talks with the New Conservative Party on Friday, 12 October, and Attīstībai/Par! party announcing commencement of mutual talks with separate political forces, chances of hearing any news about the next government’s composition this week become zero.

Bilateral talks on the formation of a new government have been organized by NCP and KPV LV. For two days now NCP has been regularly meeting with newly elected political parties, except Concord. The second phase of talks commenced on Friday. Talks will be continued with KPV LV, Attīstībai/Par!, National Alliance and New Unity. NCP has refused to cooperate with the Union of Greens and Farmers in the new government.

KPV LV has met with three parties since Tuesday – NCP, AP and NA. The party also plans to meet with New Unity on Friday and with UGF next Monday, even though previously the party wanted nothing to do with it because UGF had delegated representatives that were not elected to the new Saeima. KPV LV does plan to meet with Concord as part of ‘consultations’, but it will not be government-formation talks.

Because KPV LV has yet to meet with all elected parties, it was decided not to meet with NCP for repeated talks this Friday.

Full article here


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Latvian minister: we should work with convicts, not isolate them

People who are currently isolated from society in prisons should not be kept isolated – they should be allowed to re-socialize, said Latvian Justice Minister Jānis Bordāns at a press-conference about the study on former inmates’ abilities to re-socialize.

Brexit extension: Theresa May won’t as for more than 50 days

British Prime Minister Theresa May wants only a short Brexit term extension that will not exceed 50 days, as reported by The Guardian.

Business Index: 56.7% of businessmen in Latvia believe government hurt businesses

When asked about the influence Latvia’s government has on the country’s entrepreneurship, 56.6% of interviewed businessmen said the government interferes with the sector, whereas only 7.3% said the government provides assistance, according to results of Turība University’s Business Index.

Moody’s affirms Latvian energy company Latvenergo’s credit rating at Baa2

International credit rating agency Moody’s has affirmed the credit rating of Latvian energy company AS Latvenergo at Baa2 with a stable future outlook, as stated in Latvienergo’s announcement.

Teachers’ protest in Riga gathers 2,000 people

The protest act organized by Latvian teachers outside the Saeima building in Riga gathered approximately 2,000 people, according to Latvian public media.

Latvian Competition Council looks into scandalous «nano-water» case

The Competition Council in Latvia has acquired information regarding the so-called nano-water case, suggesting that municipal public transport company SIA Rīgas satiksme had taken part in a cartel agreement, coordinating an offer of one of the contenders and informing the company in advance of the happenings to ensure their victory in the procurement.

Latvian minister: EU cannot move away from multi-sided trade rules

The European Union cannot afford moving away from multi-sided trade rules, said Latvian Foreign Affairs Minister Edgars Rinkēvičs, participating in a meeting of the General Affairs Council in Brussels.

Latvian Prime Minister says MPC abolishment on 31 March may cost EUR 1 billion

If the mandatory procurement component system is abolished on 31 March, this could cost the country around EUR 1 billion, said Latvian Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš in an interview to LTV programme Rīta Panorāma.

Latvian politicians fail to find a way to increase wages for teachers yet again

A day before teachers’ planned protest act Latvian politicians failed to convince Latvian Trade Union of Education and Science Employees about the options to find money to increase wages of teachers this year. With that, teachers intend to go through with the plan to hold a protest on Wednesday, 20 March.

Latvia’s 2020 budget draft sent to the parliament for first viewing

On Tuesday, 19 March, Latvian Saeima’s Budget and Finance Committee conceptually supported this year’s state budget project and decided to submit it to the parliament for its first viewing. The committee decided to submit 14 additional legislative drafts associated with the budget, as reported by Saeima’s press-service.

Minister: Latvia needs representatives in EP the country can be proud of

«Latvian voters should keep in mind that Latvia is represented by only eight members in the European Parliament. It is vital to find candidates we would not be ashamed of. There is no other recipe – if you want to affect the composition of the European Parliament, it is important to remember that results from votes. Nothing will change if we stand on the sidelines,» said Latvian Culture Minister and MEP candidate Dace Melbārde in an interview to BNN.

Rigvir medication distribution in Latvia halted temporarily

Bio-technology company Rigvir has decided to halt distribution of Rigvir medication in Latvia temporarily, as confirmed by Rigvir Group CEO Kristīne Jučkoviča.

Finance commission’s head says Latvia has too many banks for its small market

It is clear there are too many banks for Latvia’s domestic market, said chairman of Finance and Capital Market Commission Pēteris Putniņš in an interview to LTV programme Rīta Panorāma on Tuesday, 19 March.

Latvian residents become more optimistic about government’s work

In one month’s time Latvian residents’ opinion of Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš’s government has improved, according to data from SKDS study.

Dutch authorities arrest Utrecht tram shooter

According to Dutch authorities, the man who opened fire in a tram in Utrecht, killing three and injuring five, has been arrested.

Parliament: Latvian universities should be among 500 best in the world

Latvia’s leading universities have a clear vision for the future. It is topical for continued development of the country’s education and science sector.

Latvian minister to request police investigation in public transport company

Latvia’s Environment Protection and Regional Development Ministry has finished its analysis of the audit performed in municipal public transport company SIA Rīgas satiksme. Soon the ministry plans to ask law enforcement institutions to provide their opinion on whether or not there had been fictive employment or other violations committed by the company, as reported by TV3 news.

Latvian prime minister urges sorting the system, not raising taxes

A number of sectors require reforms to avoid raising taxes to increase revenue, said Latvian Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš during a meeting of Saeima’s Budget and Finance Committee on Monday, 18 March.

Stoltenberg calls NATO the most successful alliance in world history

NATO is the strongest, most successful alliance in history, wrote NATO’s Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in an article dedicated to the expansion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

Heavy rainfall in Indonesia causes floods and landslides; death toll reaches 77

Approximately 77 people have been killed in mountain villages hit by floods and landslides caused by intense rainfall in Indonesia’s Papua Province, according to the latest information reported by Indonesian authorities.

Number of job vacancies in Latvia up 33.4% in 2018

In 2018, there were 22.7 thousand job vacancies in Latvia, which is 5.7 thousand vacancies or 33.4 % more than in 2017.

Swedbank: more than 1,400 Latvian families purchased property in regions last year

In 2018, Swedbank had issued more than 1,400 loans for property purchases within 50 km radius around Riga. This is an average of six loans issued every work day, as reported by Swedbank representative Jānis Krops.

Minister: Latvia may require radical image change because of finance sector’s problems

Considering the problems in the country’s finance sector, it will be necessary to work on radically changing the country’s image, says Latvian Foreign Affairs Minister Edgars Rinkēvičs.

Riga Mayor’s wife suspected of dubious employed in public water supply company

For eight years Riga Mayor Nils Ušakovs’ office manager Iveta Strautiņa-Ušakova worked as a consultant for municipal water supply company Rīgas Ūdens, as reported by LTV investigative journalism programme De Facto.

Latvian Centre Party to take part in European Parliament elections

A list of candidates compiled by Centre Party from Latvia has been submitted for European Parliament elections. The list is composed of fifteen candidates. This makes it the fifth list of candidates to be submitted for EP elections in Latvia so far, as reported by Central Election Commission.