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Ceturtdiena 20.06.2019 | Name days: Rasa, Rasma, Maira

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


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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


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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


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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


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


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


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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


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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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Researchers: Eastern Latvian cities promote Russia’s influence in Latvia

Despite Latvia’s difficult relations with Russia, two major Latvian cities engage in initiatives adhering to the interests of the eastern neighbour, researchers of the Centre for East European Policy Studies have found in a new, revealing study.

Experts on Latvia’s compensations to Jewish community: Good idea poorly developed

The Latvian draft law on paying compensations to the Latvian Jewish community for the real estate confiscated by Nazi and Communist occupation powers embodies a good idea, yet the requested sum and articles of law lack clear substantiation, legal experts commented to BNN.

Hollywood filmmaking in Tallinn? Estonia considering EUR 5 million support

The Estonian government is reviewing a request from film director Christopher Nolan, renown for Hollywood thriller blockbusters, to support with five million euros a film currently shot in Tallinn. Estonian state movie budget for 2018 is two million euros.

Annual inflation in Latvia, Estonia among EU's highest

Data on the annual inflation rate in the European Union showed that price rise in Latvia was 3.5%, followed by Estonia with 3.1%, Eurostat reports.

Nausėda’s pick for doctor seen as éminence grise of Lithuanian health care

Lithuanian President-elect Gitanas Nausėda has chosen Remigijus Žaliūnas as his personal doctor. The pick is seen as controversial by LRT broadcaster over Žaliūnas’ contacts with both business heavyweights and policy makers.

Latvian Prime Minister not to bend to budget appetite of extra EUR 600 million

For the Latvian state budget of 2020, the ministries have submitted requests exceeding the spending plans by 600 million euros, said Latvian Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš to Rīta Panorāma TV programme. The PM also expressed determination not to raise taxes.

Availability of cancer diagnostics in Latvia worsening critically, surgeon warns

The availability of cancer diagnostics and chemotherapy in Latvia is worsening critically, warned the head of the Oncology Clinic of the Riga Eastern University Hospital, surgeon Armands Sīviņš.

Take two: Trump starts re-election campaign for U.S. President

U.S. President Donald Trump has officially opened his bid to be re-elected to the post in the 2020 election. The new campaign slogan is: «Keep America great». There are 39 other candidates competing in the race to White House.

Ban on anonymous comments suggested after Baltic Pride in Vilnius

To stem offensive comments on Lithuanian internet media, member of the Seimas Vytautas Kernagis has suggested banning such anonymous expression of opinion, yet European case law upholds the right of authorless speech online, LRT reports.

Plaster to education: Latvian teachers’ pay increased for 2019 alone

The Latvian government has approved the rise of the lowest pay rate of teachers, but funds for this purpose have been earmarked only for the second half of 2019.

Pay cut to major Latvian port board members approved by government

The salary of the board members of major Latvian ports has been cut by a quarter in a decision by the Latvian Cabinet of Ministers.

Nordea bank searched in Denmark over money laundering allegations

The Danish offices of the Scandinavian Nordea Bank have been searched by police as a probe in alleged money laundering is being conducted, Bloomberg reports.

Fire Service: Violations in new Ventspils music school prevented

In the newly-built Ventspils Musical High School and concert hall Latvija, which had problems with fire safety, the Latvian State and Fire Rescue Service has found in a repeated inspection that the violations have been fixed.

UN: 2.2 billion people globally still lack safe drinking water

A report by the United Nations Children’s Fund and the World Health Organisation has found in study that 1 in 3 people or 2.2 billion people around the world lack safely-managed drinking water, while 673 million people practice open defecation.

Key owner of pharmaceutical giant Olainfarm changes board member over distrust

In Olmafarm, the largest owner of the Latvian pharmaceutical giant Olainfarm, changes in the management board have taken place over no-confidence, according to a decision of the majority of the co-heirs of Olmafarm seen by LETA news agency.

Lithuanian experts: No way of stopping coming nuclear power plant of Belarus

Options that could stop the building of a nuclear power plant in Belarus have been exhausted, experts in neighbouring Lithuania have said to its public media.

Latvia pushing for joint stance of Baltic-Nordic MPs on security policy

Ahead of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Organisation of Security and Cooperation in Europe, it is key for the legislators of the eight Baltic-Nordic states to have a common position on security policy, said MP Inese Ikstena, head of the Latvian delegation.

Latvian coalition undertakes to rise teacher salaries over reform

Recognising that education reforms in Latvia have been initiated, the ruling coalition has pledged to pass the decision to allocate funds to rising teacher salaries, as indicated by Latvian Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš. Kariņš stated that the coalition parties have established that «reforms envisaged by Minister of Education Ilga Šupilinska have been initiated».

Latvian Enterprise Register: Companies not revealing true beneficiaries to be wound up

Once changes to the Latvian Law on the Prevention of Money Laundering and Terrorism Financing are signed by State President, the Enterprise Register will be tasked with winding up legal entities not revealing their true beneficiaries.

Latvian PM: If Estonia breaks deal on alcohol excise, we’re forced to respond

If Estonia has broken a deal with Latvia on alcohol excise tax, then Latvia is left to no choice, but to respond with a corresponding cut in excise, said Latvian Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš.

Never too late to marry – elderly marriages jump in Latvia

Over the year 2018 in Latvia, the total number of marriages fell by 0.7 %, the number of marriages concluded by elderly population grew 1.7 times, data from the Central Statistical Bureau of Latvia showed.

Eesti Energia suggests introducing customs tax to cheap Russian power

Estonian state energy firm Eesti Energia has proposed introducing a customs tax to electricity imported by Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania from Russia.

Social care centre in Latvia blamed for severe human rights violations

Latvian Ombudsman’s Office has found severe human rights violations in the social care centre Ezerkrasti and accused the institution of not complying with recommendations to it. Ezerkrasti is a branch of the state social care centre Riga, located outside the Latvian capital.

Unmarried couples’ law to be proposed in Latvia

In the Latvian Saeima, this week, a draft Law on Unmarried couples would be proposed by the party alliance Attīstībai/Par!.

Glass fibre maker Valmieras stikla šķiedra files for legal protection

Latvia-based glass fibre maker AS Valmieras stikla šķiedra has on Monday, June 17, announced filing for the start of legal protection proceedings aimed at ensuring sustainable continuation of group level operations.