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Friday 24.01.2020 | Name days: Krišs, Eglons, Ksenija
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BNN summary of the week: hospital crisis. Empty seats. Riga City Council’s debates on seats

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

Some jokes sometimes cost thousands. A phone call received by Pauls Stradins Clinical University Hospital regarding a planted bomb caused the hospital’s administration to evacuate patients and halt all operations that day, costing the state several thousand euros, according to the hospital’s board chairperson Ilze Kreicberga. The exact amount is unknown at the moment but it is clear that it will not be a small one.

Meanwhile, two women considered their jobs. The head of Latvia’s National Electronic Mass Media Council chairperson Dace Ķezbere, who is accused of inaction in her post, announced plans to leave her post. Meanwhile, another politician mired in scandals Baiba Broka, who had only recently recovered her job at the University of Latvia, decided to leave the university following a backlash.

There are other empty seats that fill the minds of hopeful politicians. Riga City Council deputies excluded from Harmony have started considering supporting the mayoral candidate of Honour to Serve Riga – Oļegs Burovs. The do admit, however, it will not be easy working in such a coalition. It seems the grudge against Harmony remains fresh.

BNN offers you a summary of the most topical developments of the week, including topics such as: Expensive call; Farewell?; Deal; Dirty business; New ambassador; Slowing; Investigators; Inspection.

EXPENSIVE CALL:

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

Pauls Stradins Clinical University Hospital board chairperson Ilze Kreicberga

Stradins Hospital’s idleness will definitely cost the state several thousands

The idleness suffered by Pauls Stradins Clinical University Hospital when an anonymous phone call detailed bombing threats on 31 July will likely cost the state several thousand euros, said the hospital’s board chairperson Ilze Kreicberga in an interview to public broadcaster LNT programme 900 seconds.

She refrained from mentioning any specific amounts, saying that estimates will be performed soon. She did say, however, that the amount will be considerable.

Kreicberga expects the hospital to return to normal around the beginning of next week. Daycare and emergency medical assistance service are already back to normal. Currently it is necessary to review the work that was postponed because of yesterday’s events, as well as determine the state of patients who were moved to other hospitals and the patients who were released.

Full article here

FAREWELL?

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NEPLP chairperson Dace Ķezbere

Latvia’s national media council chairperson considers leaving post

Latvia’s National Electronic Mass Media Council (NEPLP) chairperson Dace Ķezbere considers leaving her post. She says she has yet to write her resignation, but it will be done.

NEPLP may provide more information on this soon.

NEPLP member Aurēlija Ieva Druviete says Ķezbere has informed other members of the council of her decision to step down. However, Druviete says she does not now if the resignation is ready or not.

Ķezbere is planning to leave NEPLP in September, when the Saeima gathers for its autumn session and will be able to decide on her dismissal, said Druviete. Until a replacement has been found, Ķezbere’s duties may be performed by vice-chairman Ivars Āboliņš. Druviete does not plan to step down from her post, however.

Currently NEPLP has four members. In April, Council member Gunta Līdaka had announced her decision to leave. No selection process was organized after she left and council members divided her duties among themselves.

As previously reported, Latvian Association of Journalists (LAJ) has asked the 13th Saeima to discuss the possibility of evaluating the work performed by members of the National Electronic Mass Media Council (NEPLP) and replace old council members with new ones.

Full article here

Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RUBribery accused Baiba Broka decides to leave her work at University of Latvia

On Tuesday, 30 July, corruption accused politician Baiba Broka submitted a resignation to the administration of the University of Latvia, according to information from LETA.

Broka submitted her resignation, stressing that she has not committed any of the crimes she is accused of. In her resignation submitted to LU rector Indriķis Muižnieks, Broka notes that she has decided to leave to protect the reputation of the university in which she had worked since 1997.

LU vice-rector Ina Druviete has confirmed that Broka’s resignation has been received.

Broka will leave her job at the University of Latvia 30 July.

Druviete stresses that the university respects Broka’s choice and respects her decision made in the name of protecting the institution’s reputation.

Borka has yet to offer comments on this.

BNN had previously reported that just recently Broka had secured a new post in the university – she was appointed as legal affairs expert in the administration’s support group.

Full article here

DEAL:

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Valērijs Petrovs (L) and Aleksejs Rosļikovs (R)

Riga City Council’s independent deputies may consider working with HSR

Riga City Council’s Independent Deputies Faction (IDF), which combines deputies excluded from Harmony, would be prepared to sign a cooperation agreement with Honour to Serve Riga (HSR) faction, admits IDF leader Valērijs Petrovs.

According to Petrovs, the scenario in which Harmony and HSR form a coalition is currently being discussed. Additionally, there is a possibility of HSR and IDF signing a cooperation agreement, too. If such an agreement was reached, HSR mayoral candidate Oļegs Burovs would receive at least 32 votes in his support.

Petrovs stresses, however, talks regarding possible cooperation with HSR «are in the state of discussion», because it is hard to tell how realistic it would be to make decisions if Harmony and IDF have no mutual communication.

«We have started discussing potential cooperation models with HSR, but we have no such communication with Harmony. Talks are complicated because the matter is as well – will we be able to make any decisions once a mayor has been elected,» said Petrovs, adding that «there is room to reach an agreement with HSR».

Not division of seats is being discussed at the moment, Petrovs claims, even though faction representatives had previously stressed that one of their requests is keeping Vadims Baraņņiks as vice-mayor of Riga.

Full article here

DIRTY BUSINESS:

Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RUCompetition Council launches case against Riga City Council and Getliņi EKO

Latvia’s Competition Council (CC) has initiated a case against Riga City Council and Getliņi EKO for possible breach of EU establishing treaty. A temporary measure is requested, which could mean the halting of the re-signing of the waste management contract.

Other possible violations are also being investigated.

CC head Skaidrīte Ābrama explained in a conversation to LTV programme Rīta Panorāma on Tuesday, 30 July, that Riga City Council has been sent a letter detailing uncovered facts. A response will be expected until 8 August. She said that

a temporary measure would allow CC to study if the waste management contract could affect competition in Riga.

A full evaluation would require up to two years, says the head of CC.

Ābrama says there are concerns that the waste management model employed between Riga City Council and Getliņi EKO could potentially reduce competition in Riga’s waste management industry to nothing. She stressed that CC had warned about this two years ago, but the municipality did not take the warning seriously.

Full article here

NEW AMBASSADOR:

Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RUPotential US ambassador to urge Latvia to combat money laundering more actively

Career diplomat nominated to become the next US ambassador to Latvia John Carwile told the U.S. Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee that if he is approved in this post, he will urge Latvia’s government to develop and implement reforms to improve prevention of corruption and money laundering.

Carwile also said he will support efforts to resolve the matters left unsolved from the Holocaust, such as the restitution of Jewish property.

According to him, his intention is reinforcing US-Latvian relations, while also defending and promoting US interests in Latvia and Europe.

«The ties binding the United States and Latvia are unbreakable. We lead together in NATO with our commitment to collective defence and our defence spending investments. Our economic ties are vibrant. We cooperate throughout Europe and Central Asia in the promotion of democracy, good governance, market economies, and the rule of law. And we collaborate daily to ensure our transatlantic community remains strong and resilient,» said Carwile.

«If confirmed by the Senate, I intend to strengthen the U.S.-Latvian relationship while advocating for and advancing U.S. interests in Latvia and throughout Europe. I will strengthen our robust security cooperation. I will work to increase our bilateral trade and investment. I will expand upon our already strong cooperation in advancing democracy, rule of law, and development in Eastern Partnership states and across Central Asia,» he added.

Full article here

SLOWING:

Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RUFlash estimate – Latvia’s GDP up 2.1% in Q2 2019

Compared to Q2 2018, the gross domestic product volume has increased by 2.1 % in Latvia in Q2 2019.

Main upward pressure on the GDP was exerted by the volume increase in services, including rise of 2.5 % in retail trade, according to the flash estimate from the Central Statistical Bureau of Latvia.

Compared to Q1 2019, GDP grew by 0.8 %, according to seasonally and calendar adjusted data.

INVESTIGATORS:

Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RUViolations of SRS employees may be investigated by Internal Security Bureau

Latvian Interior Affairs subordinated Internal Security Bureau (ISB) may be entrusted with investigating violations committed by employees of the State Revenue Service (SRS), the ministry reports.

This is something covered by the ministry’s prepared amendment drafts for the Criminal Process Law and other associated legislation.

Established legislation states that ISB’s competence covers the investigation of violations committed by employees of institutions subordinated to Interior Affairs Ministry, except for SRS.

Crimes committed by SRS workers in their line of work are investigated by SRS Internal Security Office.

European Court for Human Rights, on the other hand, has decided that the criterion for an independent and objective investigation is considered achieved in cases when the investigation is performed by representatives of the same institution.

Full article here

INSPECTION:

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State Revenue Service director general Ieva Jaunzeme

SRS head under fire again? Finance Ministry initiates another inspection

During Latvian Finance Minister Jānis Reirs’ vacation his replacement, Agriculture Minister Kaspars Gerhards, has initiated another inspection of work done by the State Revenue Service, as reported by <i>TV3</i> on 1 August 2019.

Finance Ministry’s representative Aleksis Jarockis confirmed in a conversation with the programme that the inspection was launched following a request of some legal person. The inspection will focus on the legal side of work performed by the service, not some specific official.

As it is known, in July another inspection focused on the work of SRS. As a result of it, Finance Ministry’s commission asked the minister to issue a verbal reprimand to SRS director general Ieva Jaunzeme for reporting controversial information.

Jarockis had previously explained that a service inspection had taken place in regards to publicly reported information and facts in relation to the initiative to reduce the taxpayers’ burden.

Full article here


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Linkaits: banks once again service Ventspils Freeport terminals

The situation with Ventspils Freeport is gradually becoming more relaxed. On top of that, banks once again service port terminals there, as Latvian Transport Minister Tālis Linkaits affirmed in a conversation with journalists on Thursday, 23 January.

Aivars Lembergs picks ex-prime minister’s freelance advisor Grudulis as his lawyer for debates

The suspended Mayor of Ventspils Aivars Lembergs, who is also accused of committing serious crimes and is under US sanctions, has picked once the prime minister of Latvia Māris Kučinskis’ freelance advisor Māris Grudulis as his lawyer for debates in court, as was announced in court on Thursday, 23 January.

What is Lithuanian President’s main reason to skip Jerusalem Holocaust forum?

Lithuanian President Gitanas Nausėda has unexpectedly flip-flopped on where and how to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp in Poland. First, he said he will attend the commemoration in Jerusalem, but then changed his mind to pay homage to the Jewish victims in Auschwitz, in Poland. The reason? Well, there is no clear official reason for that – President’s Office did not provide one.

Audit: Rail Baltica slowed by poor risk management and slow progress with municipalities

Delays and cost increase of Rail Baltica project is heavily affected by no risk management and no strategy, as well as slow progress in cooperation with municipalities and passive alienation of properties, Latvian State Audit concluded in its latest report.

China stops public transport in two cities over coronavirus

In China, a new strain of coronavirus has claimed the lives of 17 people. To keep it form spreading, local authorities have stopped the public transport to and from the cities of Wuhan and Huanggang.

BNN investigation | Rebenoks and Krieķis may have plans to return to Olainfarm board despite ties to serious crimes

Ex-Olainfarm officials Mārtiņš Krieķis and Pāvels Rebenoks, the latter also serving as Latvian Economy Minister Ralfs Nemiro’s advisor, may return to the company’s board to, possibly, continue walking «well-travelled path» paved with non-transparent deals, according to information available to BNN.

In Estonia, forgetting to register child’s name can lead to municipality choosing it

Estonian law obliges parents to register the name of their child in a month’s time after giving birth. In the unlikely case of them being late, the law opens right to a local municipality to choose it.

Lukashenko: Belarus needs to diversify its oil imports, introducing Baltic supplies

As Minsk and Moscow are in talks to solve a dispute over the continuation of oil imports from Russia, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has said that Russian supplies could be cut to 30-40% of Belarus’ total imports.

Minister does not exclude possibility of number of municipalities in Latvia increasing

The Administrative Territorial Reform offers reducing the number of municipalities to 39 in Latvia. Still, it is possible there may be one or two more, said Latvian Environment Protection and Regional Development Minister Juris Pūce in an interview to LTV programme Rīta Panorāma on Thursday, 23 January.

Thirteen people die from influenza in Latvia

Three people died from influenza in Latvia last week, increasing the number of victims to 13 for this year’s flu season, according to monitoring data of acute upper respiratory tract infections published by Disease Prevention and Control Centre.

Lithuania tries to halt haulage firm exodus to Poland with new tax

Lithuania is introducing a new «exit tax» to keep road haulage firms from relocating to other European Union member states. The firms say that other ways of moving business abroad will be used.

Corruption fighters: corruption perception indexes decline in Latvia in 2019

Latvia’s positions had worsened slightly in 2019 in global anti-corruption coalition Transparency International composed Corruption Perception Index.

UK parliament passes draft Brexit law

In London, the draft law on the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union has been finally passed by the Houses of Parliament after years of inability of British legislators to decide on their preferred way out of the bloc.

Harmony prepared to approve Riga’s 2020 budget after Burovs’ dismissal

Political party Harmony will not approve Riga municipality’s 2020 budget while Oļegs Burovs remains in charge of the city council, as reported by the be faction’s head Maksims Tolstojs.

British landlords support cards showing rights of EU guest workers after Brexit

After Brexit, which is due to start with February, European Union citizens will have to prove their settled status when looking for flats. Private landlords has supported a change in the Brexit law for EU citizens to have physical cards to prove it.

Survey: 86% believe roads should be among state budget priorities in Latvia

A total of 86% Latvian residents believe maintenance and repair work of roads should be among state budget priorities, according to results of a survey by SKDS.

Vitenbergs: every investment is vital for Latvia’s national economy

Investments are the foundation for a free market economy and every investment is vital for Latvia’s national economy, said chairman of Saeima’s Economic, Agricultural, Environmental and Regional Policy Committee Jānis Vitenbergs.

Kaljulaid in Antarctica: We enable Estonians to work online from anywhere

Visiting Antarctica, Estonian President Kersti Kaljulaid intends to do her daily work demonstrating the geographical flexibility working online can give. The head of state also pointed to the alarming speed of climate change visible in the far south.

Producer price level in Latvia’s industry declines 1.1% in December

In December 2019 the level of producer prices in the Latvian industry has reduced by 0.4 %. The level of prices of products sold on the domestic market has dropped by 0.2 %, and prices of exported products by – 0.6 %.

Moneyval report: Latvia has generally completed issued recommendations

Moneyval Committee of Experts on the Evaluation of Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing Measures of the Council of Europe has upgraded its report regarding Latvia completing the 11 recommendations it was previously presented, according to published information.

Russian energy advantage in Baltics should be stopped, says Energy Commissioner

Baltic power producers are subjected to European Union’s emissions tax, while Russian and Belarusian producers are not despite all competing on the Baltic market. Energy Commissioner Kadri Simson believes that this should be solved.

Employee reduction at Latvian Railway started at the end of 2019

Latvian Railway had commenced reassessment of its functions and operations in the second half of 2019. This is why the reduction of the number of employees commenced gradually at the end of 2019, as reported by LDz representative Ella Pētermane.

Those with voting rights are slow to sign referendum for municipal election regulations

Between 16 and 21 January, a total of 1 137 people with voting rights cast their votes in favour of the referendum intended to introduce changes to regulations that govern snap municipal elections, as reported by Latvian Central Election Commission representative Laura Zaharova.

Video: Thunberg and Trump clash over climate in Davos

«Our emissions have to stop» versus «import our oil and natural gas» – these were the conflicting calls from Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg and U.S. President Donald Trump in the World Economic Forum.

Kariņš: the minister should not ease requirements for State Police chief candidates to appoint someone specific

Easing requirements for candidates wishing to become chief of State Police is unacceptable, and such behaviour creates suspicions that something is wrong with the process, said Latvian Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš in an interview to LTV programme Rīta Panorāma on Wednesday, 22 January.


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