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Monday 19.08.2019 | Name days: Melānija, Imanta
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BNN summary of the week: grey worries; Baltics elect presidents; Riga's mayor leaves

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Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RUElection period’s end. EU residents, Lithuania and Latvia’s Saeima were busy in elections this week. Looking back at results, activity of Baltic residents in European Parliament elections was slightly higher than expected. New Unity won EP elections in Latvia. In neighbouring countries, however, opposition parties are the ones who celebrated victory.

In Estonia, elections were won by Reform Party and Social Democratic Party, whereas in Lithuania success was achieved by ex-prime minister Andrius Kubilius’ party Homeland Union – Lithuanian Christian Democrats.

Baltic States also elected two new presidents. Latvia elected Egils Levits and Lithuania elected Gitanas Nausėda.

Meanwhile, Riga City Council is engulfed in chaos. Following Nils Ušakovs’ election to the European Parliament, Harmony and Honour to Serve Riga seem to have turned on one another in the ruling coalition. Dainis Turlais has been elected Mayor of Riga. But it is the vice-mayor’s post that has caused a major dispute between the two parties, which could threaten (or reward) Riga with emergency municipal elections.

BNN offers a summary of this week’s topical news in a variety of categories: EP Elections in Baltics; President in Lithuania; President in Latvia; Swinging; Bubble; Green side; Estonia’s strategy; Riga City Council.

EP Elections in Baltics:

Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RUNew and old faces appear among Latvia’s representatives in European Parliament

Official results of European Parliament elections in Latvia state that the current European Commission member Valdis Dombrovskis, suspended Mayor of Riga Nils Ušakovs and standing member of the European Parliament Roberts Zīle have been elected as the country’s representatives.

Sandra Kalniete and Tatyana Zhdanok will also continue working in the European Parliament.

Newcomers from Latvia include the suspended Mayor of Riga Nils Ušakovs, ex-Vice-Mayor of Riga Andris Ameriks, politologist Ivars Ijabs and Culture Minister Dace Melbārde.

Official election results show that New Unity received 26.24% of votes, followed by Harmony (17.45%) and National Alliance «All for Latvia – For Fatherland and Freedom/LNNK» (16.4%).

Other parties include Attīstībai/Par! (12.42%) and Latvian Russians Union (6.24%).

Full article here

PRESIDENT IN LITHUANIA:

Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RU

Lithuanian President-elect Gitanas Nausėda, left, speaks to Lithuania’s President Dalia Grybauskaitė, during a meeting at the President’s palace in Vilnius, Lithuania

Outgoing Lithuanian President Grybauskaitė lambasted at home, may snatch a top Brussels job

Nausėda, who ran the election campaign as an independent candidate, breezed to an easy victory in in the runoff election last Sunday, with 65,86 per cent of the voters wanting him as Lithuania’s next president, while Ingrida Šimonytė, the presidential hopeful of the opposition Conservatives (Homeland Union- Lithuanian Christian Democrats, HU-LCD) gathered 32,86 per cent.  Nausėda’s support doubled compared with the first round of voting two week ago.

The president-elect vowed to fight social divide in the country and underscored that he will continue fighting oligarchs, against which Grybauskaitė has waged war. Although Nausėda emphasised he wants stability in the government, yet he is in favour of holding parliament elections next spring, rather than in the fall, so that a new government could immediately start drafting a new state budget. Nausėda also hinted that he would soften the rhetoric toward Russia, but underlined that Lithuania’s relations with Russia will not change substantially until Moscow alters its behaviour toward Ukraine.

Full article here

PRESIDENT IN LATVIA:

Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RU

Egils Levits

Egils Levits elected as President of Latvia

With 61 votes in favour the ruling coalition’s candidate Egils Levits was elected by the Saeima as the new President of the Republic of Latvia.

32 Saeima deputies voted against him. Ombudsman Juris Jansons received eight votes in favour and 85 votes against him, whereas 24 Saeima deputies voted in favour of Didzis Šmits and 69 voted against. Two votes were declared invalid.

In 1982 Levits graduated from the Faculty of Law of the University of Hamburg. Three years later he also graduated from the university’s Faculty of Social Sciences and Philosophy.

In the past Levits also served as Latvia’s ambassador to Germany, Switzerland, Austria and Hungary. He was also a deputy in the 5th Saeima, as well as Latvia’s Justice Minister. Levits was later elected as Latvia’s representative to European Human Rights Court and a short while later Levits became a judge of European Union Court of Justice.

Egils Levits is also the co-author of Latvia’s 4 May, 1991, Declaration for Independence and had participated in the development of the preamble to the Constitution of the Republic of Latvia.

Full article here

SWINGING:

Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RU

Prosecutor General of the Republic of Latvia Ēriks Kalnmeiers

Latvian ruling coalition considers discussing country’s prosecutor general in Saeima

Politicians of the ruling coalition in Latvia believe it may be possible to discuss in the Saeima Prosecutor General Ēriks Kalnmeiers’ suitability for his post if there are justifiable reasons.

Discussion of this topic was initiated by Latvia’s Justice Minister Jānis Bordāns. A week ago, however, partners of the coalition said they wish to see a justifiable reason for such a step before making decisions.

On Monday, 27 May, partners once again discussed the aforementioned topic and agreed to forward discussions to the Saeima – the institution would work on the text of a specific request to decide on the topic later.

Bordāns stresses that he has questions for the Prosecutor General’s Office in regards to organization of work and rule of law. Nevertheless, the topic needs to be reviewed by the Saeima – prepare a document deputies would later evaluate and decide on signing to later submit to the Supreme Court of Justice for investigation.

It is important for us to move towards a country ruled by law and sort out our judicial system. This is why the role of the Prosecutor General’s Office needs to be evaluated, believes Bordāns. This investigation may serve as a measure, adds the minister. He also voiced readiness to meet with Saeima deputies and explain everything.

KPV LV deputy Artuss Kaimiņš says Latvia’s Justice Ministry will prepare a vision to offer deputies for review.

Full article here

BUBBLE:

Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RUExpert: Estonia nears real estate bubble; Latvia still has a way to go

In the past ten years, Latvia’s residents were more careful with mortgage loans than their Estonian neighbours. Currently the total volume of mortgage loans in Latvia is twice as small when compared to Estonia, as reported at Bigbank’s organized financial sector’s strategic development forum by Bigbank Latvia governor Ģirts Kurmis.

Intensive money lending in Estonia influences more rapid real estate price rice and brings new housing to the market. This also brings the domestic real estate market closer to a bubble. Latvia, on the other hand, is not at risk as the country’s economy has been stronger and in a better state lately when compared to 2008, says Krūms.

At the end of 2018 the total mortgage loan portfolio of Latvian banks reached EUR 4.08 billion, whereas in Estonia it was EUR 7.1 billion. When translated to their respectable population size, the average volume of loan commitments in Latvia per capita is EUR 2 100, whereas in Estonia it is EUR 5 300, says Kurmis.

Both countries differ from one another when it comes to the number of newly-built houses. Between 2012 and 2017 one house a year was built on average in Latvia per 1 000 residents, whereas in Estonia it was three or 2.7 new houses. In 2007, an average of 3.2 new houses were built in Latvia per 1 000 residents to well-known results, said Kurmis.

Full article here

GREEN SIDE:

Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RUOECD praises Latvia’s growth; urges to focus more on environment

Latvia’s economic growth in recent years has been impressive. Unemployment continues to decline, quality of life and welfare continue to improve. However, Latvia should focus more on environmental matters, said Secretary General of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Anhel Gurria during the presentation of Latvia’s economic outlook on Wednesday, 29 May.

The report mentions that although Latvia’s economy and employment are on a rise, the country should reduce inequality more actively, as well as think about challenges related to the environment and the ageing of the population.

OECD predicts GDP growth in Latvia to reach 2.7% in 2019 and 2020 in spite of the fact that global economic growth and investment volume gradually become slower. This is why Latvia is urged to increase productivity to make the level of quality of life reach the average level of OECD member states.

«Thanks to sound macroeconomic policies and strong reform efforts, Latvia has achieved impressive economic growth over recent years. Unemployment is falling, living standards and well-being are improving, and Latvia has decoupled economic growth from greenhouse gas emissions, through trail-breaking use of renewable energy. To build on this performance, it is critical that Latvia continues economic reforms that make growth more robust, inclusive and environmentally friendly,» said Anhel Gurria during the presentation.

Full article here

ESTONIA’S STRATEGY:

Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RU

Estonia’s Prime Minister Jüri Ratas

Estonian government strikes budget deal; alcohol excise could be cut by 25%

The Estonian government has agreed on its first state budget that among other priorities aims to considerably reduce alcohol excise as Estonians have been favouring cheaper liquor in neighbouring Latvia.

Estonian public broadcaster ERR reports that Estonian Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Centre Party) stated in a press release that on Monday, May 28, a principal agreement has been reached on the 2020-2023 state budget strategy and the 2020 state budget bill.

«What is important is that the government decided to increase pensioners’ tax-exempt income by €50 per month,» Ratas explained.

Full article here

RIGA CITY COUNCIL:

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Mayor of Riga Dainis Turlais

Dainis Turlais elected Mayor of Riga after nine hour-long discussions

On Thursday, 30 May, members of Riga City Council elected Dainis Turlais from Honour to Serve Riga (HSR) political party as Mayor of Riga.

No other candidate was proposed. Turlais was picked by the previous mayor – Nils Ušakovs. 32 deputies of the ruling coalition voted in favour of Turlais, whereas 23 opposition deputies decided to not participate in the vote.

«It was far easier for me to do my job, including in wartime, than it is now to take the seat of chairman of Riga City Council,» said Dainis Turlais after his election.

He thanked Riga City Council deputies for their support and the opportunity they gave him to work, adding that he has proved his readiness. «I have proved my readiness to work to ensure the capital grows, people are happy and satisfied. I promise to not betray your trust and I fully understand it will be a hard task,» said the politician.

The mayor said there is no difference who could take the post because all deputies present at the meeting «were made to serve their people and Riga». «We are committed to doing everything to make people friendlier, hardier and more respectful to their neighbours regardless of nationality, age and religious beliefs,» said Turlais.

Full article here


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EU: Rīgas satiksme cuts Latvian budget fiscal room in 2020 by 72 mln EUR

The Riga city company Rīgas satiksme should, according to European Union criteria, be in included in the general government sector, thus it would cut the fiscal space of the 2020 Latvian state budget by 72 million euros, Finance Ministry stated.

Latvijas Krājbanka’s administrator recovered 542 thousand euros in July

The administrator of the insolvent Latvian bank Latvijas Krājbanka recovered 524 444 euros in July, which is by 75% more than a month earlier, according to the official gazette Latvijas Vēstnesis.

Latvian post-reform administrative centres to have 2 000 - 630 000 populations

After the planned administrative reform of Latvia, the population size of the administrative centres of the new municipalities is expected to vary from 2 000 to 632 000 people, according to a conceptual report by the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Regional Development.

A week of warm, but changing weather forecast for Latvia

Weather in Latvia this week is expected to be summer-like and warm, with rain expected on Thursday and Friday, according to the Latvian Environment, Geology and Meteorology Centre.

Kabul wedding terror attack committed by Islamic State, the group says

Responsibility for the terror attack in Afghanistan, where explosives killed 63 people. has been claimed by the Afghan branch of the Islamic State terrorist group.

British Gibraltar releases seized Iran oil tanker

An Iranian oil tanker detained by Gibraltar, part of the United Kingdom, has sailed away from port after being allowed to do so despite Washington’s call to detain it again.

BNN summary of the week: Latvia’s biggest budget; PNB Bank halts operations; Latvia sad with Latvia

Some positive news surfaced in Latvia this week – Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš announced that the country’s next budget will be the largest one yet and will exceed EUR 10 billion. In spite of this, however, financial difficulties have been observed – PNB Bank has ended up in a tight spot. The bank’s shortage of funds has forced Finance and Capital Market Commission to halt all of the bank’s financial operations.

Week in Lithuania: PM Skvernelis undergoes surgery, Nausėda meets Merkel, rebukes Latvia

Last week, President Gitanas Nausėda rejected the government’s candidate for EU judge, hints of big changes at Šiaulių Bankas ahead

Independent Deputies Faction joins forces with Honour to Serve Riga

Riga City Council’s Independent Deputies Faction has signed a cooperation agreement with Honour to Serve Riga political party, pledging support for the party’s mayoral candidate Oļegs Burovs, as LETA was told by the faction’s leader Valērijs Petrovs on Monday, 18 August.

Saeima’s MPC investigation committee requests information on every issued license

The parliamentary committee formed to investigate the mandatory procurement component has requested access to information regarding every issued MPC license and decision made by officials in regards to this field, says the committee’s representative Ilze Vanaga.

Latvian athlete receives two-year disqualification

Former Latvian long jumper Ineta Radeviča has received a two-year disqualification, as confirmed by International Association of Athletics Federation’s Athletics Integrity Unit.

Minister: state budget funds will not be used to compensate PNB Bank’s clients

The Deposit Guarantee Fund is sufficient to pay compensations to affected PNB Bank clients. This means not a cent from Latvia’s state budget will be used, said Latvia’s Finance Minister Jānis Reirs in a telephone conversation with public broadcaster LTV programme Rīta Panorāma on Friday, 16 August.

Estonia to invest 22 million in construction of a new TV house

Estonian government has set aside EUR 22 million for the construction of a new public television building, as reported by Estonian public media ERR.

Another one falls – Latvian FCMC halts PNB Bank’s operations

Operations of PNB Bank [formerly Norvik Banka] have been halted in Latvia, as confirmed by Finance and Capital Market Commission.

Unemployment index in Latvia drops – rate down to 6.4% in Q2

In Q2 2019 Latvian unemployment rate constituted 6.4 %. Compared to the previous quarter, unemployment rate fell by 0.5 percentage points, and compared to the rate recorded a year ago, it dropped by 1.3 percentage points.

64.7% of Latvia’s population reportedly employed in Q2 2019

905.6 thousand people or 64.7 % of Latvia’s population aged 15–74 were employed in Q2 2019.

Lithuanian Conservatives’ tensions: can the party split?

The Conservative Homeland Union - Lithuanian Christian Democrats (TS-LKD) have risen to unseen heights lately – although in the opposition now, in 2016 parliamentary election the party racked up a record support in its 30 years’ history.

Minister: Latvia’s social budget surplus has reached one billion

The surplus of the state social budget has come close of the pre-crisis level – EUR 1 billion, said Latvian Welfare Minister Ramona Petraviča in an interview to LTV programme Rīta panorama on 15 August.

Riga City Council permitted to elect mayor after two-month deadline

In spite of the fact that 21 August will mark two months of Riga City Council working without a mayor, a condition that permits Latvia’s Saeima to dismiss the entire city council, deputies of the municipality will nonetheless have the right to elect a mayor after the deadline, says Environment Protection Minister Juris Pūce’s advisor for legal affairs Valdis Verners.

Lithuanian president unhappy with Latvia’s decision to purchase energy from Belarus

Lithuanian President Gitanas Nausėda has voiced sadness over Latvia’s decision to purchase electrical energy produced at Astravets nuclear power plant in Belarus not far from the Lithuanian border. He admits, however, that this decision was not unexpected for him.

State Real Estate claims ReRe Būve 1 may be trying to circumvent the law

Construction company Rere Būve 1 publicly voices desire to continue implementing the construction contract. However, the construction company’s submitted work schedule for reconstruction of New Riga Theatre has everything changed – volume of work, terms and budget, Latvian State Real Estate reports.

Lithuanian mountaineer dies climbing French Alps

Lithuanian 38-year-old mountaineer Vytautas Mažeika died in a 50 m fall in the French Alps, Lithuanian public media LRT reports with reference to 15min.lt.

Estonia decides to reform pension system; increase not promised

Helir-Valdor Seeder, leader of Estonian coalition party Isamaa, has confirmed that the government has agreed on his proposed pension reform, as reported by Estonian public media ERR.

Ruling party in Lithuania promises national agreement for education affairs

While more and more small town schools close down in Lithuania, the leader of the ruling party promises a «national agreement» for education affairs, as reported by Lithuanian public media LRT.

Viesturs Zeps’ has yet to convince NCP and Unity to support him as mayoral candidate

Mayoral candidate in Riga Viesturs Zeps still has not convinced New Conservative Party and Unity to support him, according to what he said in an interview to public broadcaster LTV programme Rīta panorama on Thursday, 15 August.