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Friday 06.12.2019 | Name days: Niklāvs, Niks, Nikolajs

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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For the first time since 2003, woman possibly infected with rabies dies in Latvia

A woman that was possibly infected with rabies has died in Daugavpils, as reported by Disease Prevention and Control. This may be the first death caused by rabies in Latvia since 2003.

French pension strike engages 800 000 people

In France, the first day of mass demonstrations and public sector strike has involved over 800 000 in marches in many cities of the country, as protesters seek to force President Emmanuel Macron not to push forward with pension reform.

Interior Affairs Minister wants to use modern technologies to combat contraband

To ensure a more effective way to combat against contraband, Latvia’s Interior Affairs Minister Sandis Ģirģens wants to use modern technologies that would work in parallel to customs officers. He said as much in an interview to LTV programme Rīta Panorāma on Friday, 6 December.

Ušakovs says he wants to start in Riga City Council snap elections

Member of the European Parliament and ex-Mayor of Riga Nils Ušakovs says he is prepared to start in snap elections in Riga if they are organized, as confirmed by Harmony chairman Jānis Urbanovičs.

Germany’s Merkel to visit Auschwitz Holocaust camp for first time

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has headed the German government since 2005, will on Friday, December 6, visit the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland.

VID officials will need to have spotless reputation, Saeima decides

From now on, officials of the State Revenue Service will need to have a spotless reputation. This is decided by Saeima’s amendments to the Law on State Revenue Service approved in the final reading on 5 December, as BNN was told by Saeima’s press-service.

Brazil at risk of losing vote in UN General Assembly because of high debts

There are risks that because of failure to pay its debts to the United Nations Organization, Brazil could lose its voting rights in the UN General Assembly, Reuters reports.

Strained Lithuanian budget is desperate for additional sources of revenues

With the adoption of the new year’s budget skidding, two major professional groups – teachers and doctors – have had this week their demand for higher salaries satisfied, thus deepening the holes in the shallowing budget. Where to scoop up money to patch all the gaps and satisfy all the demands? This week, Seimas, Lithuanian legislature, was in a frantic search for additional sources of revenues.

Estonian Police and Border Guard Board official detained on suspicion of embezzlement

Estonian Internal Security Service has detained a senior officer of Police and Border Guard Board at the South Prefecture on suspicion of document forgery and embezzlement of more than EUR 250 000, as reported by Estonian public media ERR.

Saeima supports government’s decision to extend state of emergency in Riga

On Thursday, 5 December, Saeima agreed with the government’s decision to extend the state of emergency with waste management in Riga’s administrative territory until 12 March 2020, as reported by the Saeima’s press-service.

Flu infection rates remain low in Latvia, but infection spread continues nonetheless

A total of 30 clinically confirmed flu infection cases were registered in Latvia’s healthcare institutions. Nevertheless, virus activity remains low in the country, according to the latest monitoring report on influenza and acute upper respiratory tract infections compiled by Disease Prevention and Control Centre.

France braces for intense protests over Macron’s intended pension reform

France shaken by this decade’s biggest protests in which trade unions urge other residents to oppose French President Emmanuel Macron’s intended pension reform, Reuters reports.

Marguerite Fund to sell Conexus shares to Japanese Marubeni fund

Shareholder in Latvian natural gas transmission and storage system operator Conexus Baltic Grid, Marguerite Fund plans to sell its owned 29.06% of Conexus shares to Japanese company Marubeni fund.

Saeima’s majority may move towards Riga City Council’s dismissal

The majority of Latvia’s Saeima may vote towards dismissing Riga City Council, according to unofficial information from LETA. There is also a more reserved position on this, but generally it is admitted that Riga City Council’s dismissal process will be initiated.

National Economy Committee invites reviewing Rail Baltica project’s management structure

«Considering the unstable situation and lasting stagnation with the project’s management, the National Economy Committee invites Transport Ministry to review the structure of RB Rail,» says Economic, Agricultural, Environmental and Regional Policy Committee chairman Jānis Vitenbergs.

«Riga’s residents overpay.» Kleins proposes terminating contract with Rīgas karte

Riga City Council vice-chairman and shareholder in municipal company LLC Rīgas satiksme Druvis Kleins, has ordered the company’s lawyers to assess the option of quickly terminating the contract with LLC Rīgas karte, as confirmed by Kleins, who represents For Riga! bloc in the city council.

Newspaper: Russia plans to deploy a motorized division in Kaliningrad next year

Russia has plans to deploy a motorized division in Kaliningrad Oblast, which shares borders with Poland and Lithuania, as reported by Russian government newspaper Rossiyskaya Gazeta.

Ex-president says conflicts with territorial reform surface where the rich refuse to share

The objective of the territorial reform remains unchanged – forming economically more efficient administrative territories. This means creating counties able to sustain themselves and develop economically. Conflicts with the reform usually surface in areas, where the rich refuse to share. There are also situations when the poor want to receive and do nothing on their own, BNN was told by ex-President of Latvia Valdis Zatlers.

October’s industrial production output in Latvia increases 3%

Compared to October 2018, industrial production output increased by 3 % in October 2019, according to calendar adjusted data at constant prices.

Iceland’s prime minister urges making welfare a budget priority

Iceland’s Prime Minister Katrin Jakobsdottir urges the government to focus on priorities that serve the interest of families and nature, not focus exclusively on economic growth, BBC reports.

NATO leaders meet in spite of tension to discuss security challenges

In spite of ongoing rows, leaders of NATO member states met near London on Wednesday, 4 December, to discuss important topics like cyber security and strategic challenges created by China, BBC reports.

Latvian government extends state of emergency with waste management in Riga

Although Riga City Council has stated multiple times that it is not necessary to extend the state of emergency with waste management, Latvia’s government has nevertheless decided to extend it until March 2020.

Nemiro: Latvia has not yet decided if it wants to acquire Gazprom’s shares in Conexus>

Latvia will consider every offer from transmission and storage system operator Conexus Baltic Grid shareholder to purchase company shares, says Economy Minister Ralfs Nemiro.

SEB Bank clients now able to use mobile devices to pay for goods and services

SEB Bank clients who have a mobile phone with Android OS are now able to pay for goods and services using their phones. It is possible to use mobile phones to for transactions up to EUR 150 in Latvia and abroad using contact-free terminals, the bank reports.

Kleins: we may have to review who receives public transport discounts in Riga

Considering the complicated financial situation at Rīgas satiksme public transport company, it may be necessary to review which groups of people receive discounts and benefits, said Riga City Council’s vice-chairman Druvis Kleins in an interview to Latvijas Radio on Wednesday, 4 December.

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