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Tuesday 25.09.2018 | Name days: Rauls, Rodrigo
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BNN summary of the week: growing emigration in Lithuania, better investors’ mood in Latvia

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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: Change, Business, Fight, Decline, Growth, Opinion, Future.

CHANGE: 2017 – the safest year for Latvia’s roads

Last year turned out to be the safest year for Latvia’s roads. This is because the number of deaths caused by traffic accidents turned out to lowest in recent years – 134, which is 15% less when compared with 2016. This also includes the lowest number of pedestrians who died in traffic accidents – 50, which is 9% less when compared with 2016, as reported by Latvian Transport Ministry.

The ministry notes that Latvia is one of the leaders among EU member states when it comes to reducing the number of deaths on roads. 158 deaths in 2016 was the lowest index in the country’s history, and the 16% decline in comparison with 2015 was the fourth most rapid decline of deaths in the European Union.

Full article here

BUSINESS: Conexus applies for certification with Gazprom shareholders still on board

In spite of the fact that there are representatives from Russian Gazprom concern among shareholders of Conexus Baltic Grid, the company has decided to submit an application to the Public Utilities Commission for certification.

Conexus chairperson Zane Kotāne explains – to accomplish ownership rights division’s main objective, Conexus, regardless of the composition of its shareholders, has managed to ensure that the transmission system’s operator is able to make decisions independently, ensuring transparency and avoiding discrimination towards transmission system’s users and market participants.

When preparing necessary documents, Conexus complied with European Commission’s explanations regarding separation of ownership rights and execution of control in compliance with requirements for transmission system operator’s independence.

With that, Conexus has prepared documents in accordance with Public Utilities Commission’s requirements for certification, which detail the necessary information to prove safe function of IT systems, protection of commercial information and equal treatment of all market participants.

Full article here

FIGHT: Ventspils Freeport’s lawsuit on lease termination is legally absurd

The company Kālija parks denies allegations regarding any violations of the signed lease and calls Ventspils Freeport authority’s claim for termination of land and dock lease unjustified and legally absurd, as noted by the company’s council member Aivars Gobiņš.

«Kālija parks does not agree with Ventspils Freeport authority’s claim, because it is unjustified, unproven, legally absurd and unacceptable,» as detailed in the company’s commentary submitted to court.

Kālija parks believes it has not violated the established land and dock lease. The company adds that no contracts regarding provision of additional income for Ventspils Freeport authority were ever signed by the company. The company notes that all the income Ventspils Freeport authority wishes to charge is already included in the agreed rent, and the freeport authority’s claim does not detail any complaints regarding any missed payments from Kālija parks. Ventspils Freeport authority has no right to enforce any other monetary transactions on the company working on leased port territory, as stated by Kālija parks.

Full article here

DECLINE: someone should take responsibility for the poorly-made e-health system

Latvian Medial Association (LMA) proposes forming a parliamentary investigative committee to evaluate the failed introduction of the e-health system and identify those responsible for its failure. In an open letter to Saeima’s Social and Employment Matters Committee chairperson Aija Barča and Health sub-committee chairman Romualds Ražuks, LMA points to a number of flaws associated with the development process and difficulties with this system’s introduction.

The association notes that at least the bare minimum of the e-health system was supposed to come online 1 January. This includes tools for issue of sick leave certificates and prescriptions. Expensive advertisements posted on mass media websites, praising e-health system, are the only functioning part of the system, the association notes.

At the same time, representatives note that the actual e-health system is unreliable at best – experts report long periods of down time for doctors, pharmacies and patients every day. Patients and doctors spend an enormous amount of time to prescribe and receive medication. The association is especially worried about problems associated with issue of medication for children, sugar diabetics and asthma patients – people whose lives depend on getting medicine as quickly as possible.

Full article here

GROWTH: Foreign investors’ mood improves further in Latvia

The general mood of foreign investors in Latvia has improved in the past year, said Professor Arnis Sauka of Stockholm School of Economics in Riga at the presentation of the Foreign Investment Environment Index 2017 on Wednesday, 10 January.

He also said problems have not changed much, most of them are associated with the country’s demographic situation and labour force availability.

Interviewed investors gave Latvia’s investment attractiveness a score of 2.5 out of 5 in 2017, whereas the score given to Latvia the year before was only 2 out of 5. Efforts of Latvian policy-makers to improve the country’s investment environment were given a score of 2.9 points (2.3 points in the past) by interviewed investors.

Three fields in which no major progress was observed in the past 12 months include the demographic situation, labour force accessibility, as well as healthcare and social system. Investors gave the demographic situation a score of 1.6 points out of 5. 74% of interviewed investors said they have seen no improvements in this field in the past year.

«Yes, not major changes are expected with the country’s demographic situation, but we do wish to see at least some progress. If progress is achieved, this field will not have a declining tendency. In this case investors do not look at how many children were born – they focus more on political initiatives and measures undertaken to improve the demographic situation. We have yet to see any positive changes in this field. And if no positive changes are noticed, what can we expect from the future?» said Sauka.

Full article here

OPINION: Estonia deems Zapad as Russia’s simulated attack on West

Russia practiced a massive military attack against Western Europe in the joint Russian-Belarusian large-scale drill Zapad, has claimed the commander of the Estonian Defence Forces.

«Let me be clear: With the exercise Zapad 2017, Russia simulated a large-scale military attack against NATO,» Lieutenant General Riho Terras said to German daily Bild as cited U.S. news portal Newsweek. «It was not targeted toward the Baltic states only, as it was a theater-wide series of exercises spanning from high North to the Black Sea.»

Full article here

FUTURE: Lithuania President exhorts mayors to be more proactive in tackling devastating emigration

A research by the Lithuanian bureau of the International Organization for Migration (LBIOM) introduced to all the mayors and a couple dozen editors-in-chief of national and regional newspapers in the Presidential Palace Wednesday makes the same conclusion: emigration is Lithuania’s biggest scourge – the view is shared by the President’s Office and the Lithuanian population alike.

However, the country has not until now drawn up an effective plan to stem the decamping. Furthermore, with new émigrés receiving wide support at their new homes abroad, Lithuania has not so far set up a single organization tasked with helping those who come back, although much has been talked about it.

Due to the gaps in the policy, the municipalities are mostly preoccupied with keeping their current dwellers than attempting to return those who already left, the research showed.

«We can say definitely that the municipalities feel having lost their battle over their departed residents. They feel whatever they do is way too little compared what the Western countries can offer them. There’s understanding that the state, not the municipalities has to address the problem (of emigration),» said Audra Sipavičenė, head of the LBIOM.

The survey is the first of the type during the 27 years of independent Lithuania.

The stats put the number of Lithuanian population at 3.7 million inhabitants in 1990 and it was thought to be at ca 2.85 million in 2017. However, authorities unofficially say the number of 2.5 is more realistic.

Full article here

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PHOTO: Pope Francis visits Riga Cathedral and meets seniors at St Jacob’s Cathedral

Pope Francis visited both Riga Castle and Riga Cathedral, where a service was held under his supervision. There he met with different Latvian officials. After that, the pope met with senior citizens at St Jacob’s cathedral.

Pope Francis arrives in Latvia for an official visit

Pope Francis arrived in Latvia on Monday, 24 September. He was greeted at the airport by President Raimonds Vējonis, Archbishop Zbigņevs Stankevičs and other public figures.

Week in Lithuania. President proposes amendments to restrict bailiffs' remuneration

Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaitė is putting forward amendments aimed at restricting bailiffs' financial remuneration to up to 15 per cent of the amount recovered.

BNN summary of the week: pre-election heat, rule of law in Latvia, Baltics prepare for Pope’s visit

BNN offers a summary of this week’s topical news in a variety of categories: Elections; Change; Stagnation; Fight; Visit; Investigation.

Court reschedules viewing of criminal case due to Non-citizens Congress leader’s poor health

Riga City Vidzeme Suburb Court announced today that the viewing of the criminal case in which leader of Non-citizens Congress Aleksandrs Gapoņenko is accused of inciting national hate will be postponed to a later date.

Producer prices in industry up 1.0% in Latvia in August

Compared to July, level of producer prices in the Latvian industry rose by 1.0 % in August 2018. Level of prices of products sold on the domestic market grew by 1.9 %, but of exported products – went up by 0.1 %.

Bishop: priest suspected of sexual abuse to be operated on in hospital

Pāvels Zeiļa, who is a priest of Rezekne Aglona diocese and the suspect in the criminal case regarding sexual violence and human trafficking, will undergo a complicated surgery on Friday, 21 September, as reported by Bishop Jānis Bulis.

Study: residents withdraw money from ATMs less often but in larger amounts

Every now and then discussions about dropping cash money altogether become active in society, AS PrivatBank representatives say.

HND Grupa design company, involved in Zolitude tragery, declared insolvent

Building engineer Ivars Sergets company HND Grupa, which was involved in the case revolving around the Maxima supermarket that collapsed in Zolitude, killing 54, not five years ago, has been declared insolvent, as reported by Latvijas Avīze.

Deputy Chief of State Fire and Rescue Service suspected of misappropriation

Latvia’s Interior Affairs Ministry’s Internal Security Bureau has detained deputy chief of State Fire and Rescue Service Ints Sēlis and one other official – a senior inspector, as reported by Panorāma programme of LTV.

Washington sanctions China for buying Russian military equipment

U.S. government has introduces sanctions against the Chinese army over a purchase of fighter jets and missile systems from Russia, despite a U.S. sanctions law targeting Moscow for attempts to sway in the 2016 U.S. election.

Autumn expected to begin soon in Latvia

Friday, 21 September, is expected to be warm in Latvia. Sun and considerable amount of clouds are expected, but not precipitation. Wind will draw in from the south, reaching a speed of 15-17 m/sec in western and central regions, as reported by Latvia’s Environment, Geology and Meteorology Centre.

Brexit: a finish line with no end in sight

Less than 200 days are left before Britain officially leaves the European Union. The state of the agreement between Britain and EU only serves to create more chaos, from which neither Britain nor EU, or even Latvia will benefit.

EU underlines to London: No-deal Brexit also option

European Union's top officials and member state leaders planned to push for a Brexit deal in October, while urging London to give ground on the issues trade and the Irish border by November, to avoid a no-deal Brexit.

Lithuanian PM, a presumable presidential hopeful, set to curb grocery price growth

Having chastised food retailers on many occasions for high grocery prices, Saulius Skvernelis, the Lithuanian Prime Minister, stepped forward in the bid to harness local supermarkets. The presumed presidential candidate of the ruling Farmers and Greens (LVŽS) has summoned this week executives of major retail food chains, scolded them and reaffirmed his pledge to rein in the edging up prices.

Industrial prices in Estonia – up by 3.4% on year

The industrial price index in Estonia has risen from August 2017 to August this year by 3.4%, official statistics show.

Latvian parliament approves transition to competence-based approach in education content

On Thursday, 20 September, Latvia’s Saeima approved in the final reading amendments to the Education Law, necessary for the gradual introduction of competence-based approach in education materials.

Latvian Saeima wants to disallow shareholders to work in company management board

On Thursday, 20 September, Saeima approved in the first reading amendments to the Credit Institutions Law that provide for multiple measures to enhance Latvia’s finance system and its long-term stability, as reported by the parliament’s press-service.

Aglone Council prohibits residents from organizing protests during Pope Francis’ visit

A protest against the Catholic Church’s ban on abortions and expression of shock in relation to the recent sex scandals involving Catholic priests was planned to take place in Aglone during Pope Francis’ visit, but the city council decided to disallow them.

Latvian parliament conceptual supports pension bonus indexation

On Thursday, 20 September, Saeima supported in the first reading several initiatives for a more rapid pension climb for several groups of pensioners, as reported by Saeima press-service.

Majority Saeima deputies support open president vote; UGF members fail to decide unanimously

On Thursday, 20 September, amendments to the Constitution regarding open election of the state president were approved in the second reading.

Four Estonian parties have strong support, enough to enter Riigikogu

Four Estonian parties are believed to currently have enough support to enter the Estonian parliament, a broad opinion poll showed, as leading parties compete for voter backing.

Vitol Group concerned over state of rule of law in Latvia; turns to state officials

One of the largest energy resource traders in the world – Vitol Group – has sent a letter to Latvia’s highest ranking officials, expressing deep concern over the rule of law and application of legislative acts in the litigation between LatRosTrans and Polocktransneft Druzba over the EUR 66 million worth technological oil.

As Pope heads to Baltics, more attention to Catholic sex abuse

The time, when Roman Catholic Pope Francis is set to visit the Baltics, greatly differs from the visit by Saint John Paul II in 1993. There is public resentment over the countries spending several million euros to host the trip of the pontiff and the Catholic sex abuse scandals are topic of discussion.

Officials asked to take responsibility for misuse of state resources

If misuse of state resources takes place, officials have to take responsibility and pay for the damages caused to the state, says Public Expenditure and Audit Committee chairman Andris Bērziņš.

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