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Monday 17.02.2020 | Name days: Konstance, Donats
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BNN summary of the week: Moneyval report. Scandal over VDD building. Žagars and Kairišs at the helm of Dailes theatre

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Latvia, Estonia, Lithiania, economy, Moneyval, VDD, construction costs, Dailes, management, corruption, armed forces, Ventspils Freeport, banks, basketball, Raimonds Vējonis, Baltic Way, recommended It seems the repair efforts for Latvia’s financial market have paid off. Moneyval published its report this week, which concludes Latvia has successfully completed recommendations for tidying its finance sector. There are still areas in need of improving, but there is room for hope Latvia will not be grey-listed.

Latvian State Security Service (VDD) received a bit of public relations crisis this week. Although for a long time city environment activists have talked about setting up a park on the territory of the former Marss cycling track and have even collected the necessary number of signatures to submit the initiative to the Saeima, VDD announced this week that all this talk has been for nothing. The territory was picked for VDD’s new building in 2017. Currently VDD is spread across multiple buildings of varying state. How much will the new building cost? The media have reported different theories. VDD, however, has this information is a state secret.

Dailes Theatre may get a new face. Juris Žagars has been chosen as its director and Viesturs Kairišs – as its creative director. This may mean a complete 180 turn for the theatre.

The BNN gives you a summary of the key events of the past week, told in news stories of the following topics: Foundation for hope; Distribution of land; 180 turn; Drop; Trust; Thaw; New presidency and Baltic Ways.

FOUNDATION FOR HOPE

Moneyval report: Latvia has generally completed issued recommendations

Moneyval, Latvia, grey list, report, terrorismMoneyval 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.

Moneyval believes Latvia has generally completed recommendations in areas like financial sanctions in relation to terrorism and terrorism financing; financial sanctions in relation the spread of nuclear arms; non-government organizations; in-depth client assessment; in-depth assessment of specific non-finance businesses and professions; regulation of financial institutions; cash couriers and other forms of international cooperation.

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DISTRIBUTION OF LAND

Information about VDD new office building’s construction costs is a state secret

VDD, building, construction, plan, cycling track, MarssAlthough some media have mentioned different amounts of money the construction of a new office for the State Security Service (VDD) at the location of former Marss cycling track may cost, the service reports that this information is considered a state secret.

State Real Estate (VNI) representative Inta Plūmiņa said in accordance with VDD public statement about the use of the piece of land any additional information about it can be provided only by the user – VDD.

The order issued by the government in relation to this project’s implementation in August 2017 is binding for VNI as a state company and it has reported all information the company is permitted to disclose.

On Thursday, 23 January, VDD declared that information related to the building project is classified in accordance with the Law on Official Secrets.

Part of the information previously made a secret in relation public interest over the piece of land picked for the new building for VDD was declassified and reported to the media in a press-statement on 22 January. Other information related to the project is classified. This is why VDD is not able to provide comments.

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180 DEGREES TURN

Change of concept? Viesturs Kairišs becomes Dailes Theatre’s artistic director

Dailes, theatre, Viesturs Kairišs, director, approval

Viesturs Kairišs

Dailes Theatre’s board member Juris Žagars has picked Viesturs Kairišs as the theatre’s new artistic director, as journalists were told by Žagars on Thursday, 23 January.

He mentioned that Kairišs will be the theatre’s artistic director, not manager, because Kairišs’ duties include only responsibility for artistic contents but also for the financial situation.

Žagars also mentioned that the two have already begun working on the future repertoire.

As previously reported, Žagars was picked a winner from a total of 13 contenders for the post of Dailes Theatre board member.

As reported by Culture Ministry, the duty of Dailes Theatre’s new board member will be ‘ensuring the theatre’s artistic growth while also maintaining the variety of the theatre’s art and accessibility, as well as its financial stability’.

The head of the selection committee, Culture Ministry’s state secretary Dace Vilsone explains that Žagars received the largest number of points thanks to his considerable experience in culture sector – especially in the theatre sector.

«Žagara has excellent strategic planning, work management and organizational skills, risk assessment ability and, more importantly, result-oriented work. Žagars’ proposed development vision for Dailes Theatre as a stable, highly professional and financially successful culture institution with a good reputation among theatre-goers and critics successfully swayed members of the committee in his favour,» Vilsone explained the committee’s decision.

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DROP

Corruption fighters: corruption perception indexes decline in Latvia in 2019

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

Last year, Latvia was given 56 points on a scale from 0 to 100, where 0 means there is no corruption in society’s perception and 100 means there is a high corruption level in the country. In 2018 Latvia’s score was 58 points, which gave the country 41st place among 180 countries.

In the latest index Latvia shares 44th– 47th place with Costa Rica, Czech Republic and Georgia.

Similarly to previous years, in 2019 Latvia’s score in Transparency International index is worse than the score of other Baltic States.

Lithuania has 60 points in the index and shares 35th – 38th place with Brunei, Israel and Slovenia. Estonia – like Ireland – has 74 points and shares 18th – 19th place with the country. Both Lithuania and Estonia have received one point more than they had in the previous year.

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TRUST

Latvian residents trust National Armed Forces the most and the Saeima the least

Latvia, NBS, army, defence, respondentsLatvia’s residents trust the country’s National Armed Forces (NBS) and the president the most and the Saeima the least, according to the survey performed by Latvian National Security Academy’s Security and Strategic Research Centre.

The survey focuses on the correlation between trust in institutions and the desire to defend the country. Aside from state institutions and municipalities, the survey also analysed the trust in NBS, because the survey about the factors that dictate the will of Baltic States residents to defend their country fund that aside from national pride other important factors include political trust and trust in armed forces.

The highest level of trust among institutions included in the survey is noted for NBS, which is trusted by 63% of respondents. According to researchers, it is important to pay attention to significant differences among ethnic groups, because armed forces are trusted by 78% of respondents whose families use Latvian language to communicate and only 34% of respondents whose families use Russian language.

Considering the trust in armed forces affects the will to defend the country, it is possible it is one of the reasons that explain why the will to defend the country is lower among representatives of national minorities in Latvia, the survey mentions.

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THAW

Linkaits: banks once again service Ventspils Freeport terminals

Ventspils Freeport, Latvia, Transport Minister, Tālis Linkaits, OFAC, Aivars Lembergs, sanctionsThe 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.

Ventspils Freeport CEO Andris Purmalis says the situation was discussed with terminals in December, when the situation was critical. During discussions, participants explained what needed to be done to avoid sanctions imposed by US State Department of the Treasury Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC) after 8 January.

«Everything was discussed. We talked about terminal that were more diligent with their homework and which were struggling with theirs by 9 January. For some the period of ‘homework’ turned out longer than for others,» explained Purmalis, saying he understands the banks that want guarantees that the aforementioned sanctions would not affect companies.

He also explained that if a state-managed institution – Ventspils Freeport authority – has a contract with a terminal, banks have to understand the state has already checked the terminal on its side.

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NEW PRESIDENCY

Raimonds Vējonis elected as president of Latvian Basketball Association

Raimonds Vējonis, LBS, president, election

Raimonds Vējonis

On Tuesday, 21 January, former president of Latvia Raimonds Vējonis was elected president of Latvian Basketball Association (LBS), as reported by Latvian public media portal lsm.lv.

34 LBS members voted in favour of Vējonis and 14 members voted in favour of Anete Jēkabsone-Žogota. Nine votes were declared void.

There were three candidates for the LBS president post: Raimonds Vējonis, Anete Jēkabsone-Žogota and Kaspars Cipruss. The latter decided to withdraw his candidacy shortly before the vote, urging members to vote for Vējonis instead.

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BALTIC WAYS

Lithuania to rename roads in honour of Baltic Way; to urge Estonia and Latvia to do the same

Lithuania, roads, Baltic Way, initiative, commemorationLithuania plans to honour the historic Baltic Way protest that took place 30 years ago. The country’s motorways on which the Baltic Way took place will be named after it. The country also plans to invite Estonia and Lithuania to do the same, as reported by Lithuanian Transport Ministry.

Lithuanian vice transport minister Vladislavas Kondratovičius says the idea was presented by the Committee on Freedom Fights and National Historical Memory.

«We want to commemorate the event and name those several sections where people lined up more then three decades ago,» Kondratovičius told BNS news agency.

He reported that the final decision will be made by the Lithuanian government. Similarly the decision will be made to invite the other two Baltic States to do the same.

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Denmark plans to have Latvian citizen Misāne handed over to South African Republic

On Friday, 14 February, the Danish court ruled not to release Latvian citizen Kristīne Misāne from custody. In the South African Republic the woman is accused of kidnapping her own child, as LTV was informed by Misāne lawyer.

Week in Lithuania: retailer Maxima got in trouble, Turkish firm’s assets frozen, New Agency set up

Lithuania's concessions provided to the Polish business group Orlen, operating an oil refinery in Lithuania's Mažeikiai, have helped to improve bilateral relations but were not the key element in their thaw, Lithuanian President Gitanas Nausėda said this week.

BNN summary of the week: Levits urges protecting officials. Riga City Council toppled. Tax changes planned

The BNN gives you a summary of the key events of the past week, told in news stories of the following topics: Serious signals; Perseverance; Dismissal; Tax changes; Media supervisors; Inflation; Slower over the bridge and Belief protectors.

Prime minister orders development of proper government MPC monitoring rules

Latvian Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš has ordered Economy Minister Ralfs Nemiro to immediately commence work on a new mandatory procurement component monitoring project and submit it as soon as possible to ensure efficient control over the system, as confirmed by the prime minister’s office.

1 700 medics infected with coronavirus in China; six dead so far

More than 1 700 medics in China are confirmed infected with the new coronavirus. Six of them have already died, as confirmed by healthcare officials.

Number of foreign guests hosted in Latvian places of accommodation up 1.6%

2.85 million foreign and Latvian visitors stayed at Latvian tourist accommodation establishments in 2019, which is 1.6 % more than in 2018. Compared to the previous year, the number of nights spent by visitors increased by 2.6 %, reaching 5.51 million in 2019.

Experts approve Riga Central Station’s Rail Baltica regional train reception solution

A solution has been found to install a four-lane railway section at Riga Central Railway Station to replace the existing two-lane section. This will help secure not only international and airport connectivity for Rail Baltica trains but also further improve intercity and suburban train services, as reported by the project’s representatives.

Beness Aijo asks Vladimir Putin for political asylum; claims Russia has released him

Beness Aijo, who fled Latvia to avoid criminal prosecution for calls of a violent overthrowing of the government, has asked Russian President Vladimir Putin to provide him political asylum. He also claims Russian authorities have released him from custody.

Share prices plummet on stock markets over concerns for coronavirus

On Thursday, 13 February, share prices around the world plummeted as concerns over the Covid-19 coronavirus epidemic in China. London Stock Exchange index declined shortly after British Finance Minister Sajid Javid’s sudden resignation.

Saeima to add considerable amendments to Criminal Procedure Law

On Thursday, 13 February, Latvian Saeima approved amendments to the Criminal Procedure Law that provide the duty to provide truth in testimony if a person uses the right to testify.

Week’s end in Latvia will be snowy, rainy and windy

Strong wind, which may reach a speed of 25 m/sec along the coast, is expected at this week’s end in Latvia. Air temperature, however, will remain mostly unchanged, as reported by Latvian State Environment, Geology and Meteorology Centre.

National Alliance and New Unity may run in Riga City Council elections separately

Following the decision made by the New Conservative Party to run in upcoming Riga City Council snap elections separately, a similar decision will likely be made by the National Alliance «All for Latvia – For Fatherland and Freedom/LNNK» and New Unity.

Airbnb and Vilnius sign «historic» agreement, taxmen to zero in on short-term rentals

Long chastised for little regulation, Airbnb, a popular short-term rentals platform, was praised this week in Lithuania after capital city Vilnius and Airbnb inked an agreement, envisioning that from February 1 onwards Airbnb will automatically collect Vilnius city tourism tax due per night and per person and transfer the sum directly to the City of Vilnius on behalf of hosts.

Latvian parliament dissolves Riga City Council

The Saeima has decided to dissolve Riga City Council. The city council remains active, however, because the law on its dismissal will come to force the next day after its promulgation. Now President Egils Levits has ten days to make his decision on the promulgation.

Tallinn residents reject proposal to limit driving speed to 40 km/h

Residents of Tallinn have rejected mayor Mihhail Kõlvart’s proposal to limit driving speed within city limits to 40 km/h, forcing the municipality to look for other ways to control road traffic speed, as reported by Estonian public media ERR.

Journalists Kalderauska and Eglītis approved as members of National Electronic Mass Media Council

On Thursday, 13 February, Latvia’s Saeima approved journalists Ieva Kalderauska and Jānis Eglītis as new members of the National Electronic Mass Media Council.

European Parliament urges putting an end to illegal pet trade

To protect animal welfare, pet owners and public health, the European Parliament urges the European Union to come up with an action plan to put an end to illegal pet trade, BNN was informed by EP press-secretary in Latvia Jānis Krastiņš.

Kariņš: Baltic and Nordic region should become Europe’s leader

«Baltic and Nordic countries region will be a leader in Europe when it comes to climate policy, innovations and hybrid-security matters. It is in our interest to enhance this commitment by implementing a reasonable and ambitious policy in these sectors,» said Latvian Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš during his meeting with Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin.

Animal rights activists show footage of cruel treatment of animals at Lithuanian fur farm

Animal rights activists have made a video recording depicting unacceptable conditions in which minks are kept in some fur mark in Lithuania, as reported by Lithuanian public media LRT with reference to Daily Mail.

Latvian government proposes increasing state family benefits

In the context of expected tax changes it is proposed to increase the family state benefit for children, estimating that this may cost an additional amount from EUR 81 to EUR 97 million a year, according to information available to LETA in regards to the offer for tax policy guidelines for 2021 to 2025.

Lawyers: Olainfarm talks should be analysed by law enforcement institutions

Analysis of recorded Olainfarm talks should be entrusted to law enforcement institutions, and all lawyers should distance themselves from people like Mārtiņš Krieķis. «This would be fair,» said board member of United Multidisciplinary Trade Union, lawyer Alvis Pīlāgs and chairman of Latvian Lawyers Association Rihards Bunka about Krieķis as «person without ethics» in an interview to BNN.

Latvia to request Russia to hand over detained National-Bolshevik Beness Aijo

Latvian office of the prosecutor will ask Russia to hand over the recently detained National Bolshevik Beness Aijo, who had fled Latvia several years ago to join Moscow-supported militants in Eastern Ukraine.

Non-taxable minimum and PIT rates proposed to be changed in context of tax changes

In the context of upcoming tax changes in Latvia it is proposed to change the differentiated non-taxable minimum and PIT, as stated in tax policy guideline changes for 2021 to 2025 available to LETA.

Fox News misinterprets facts by calling Lithuanian cities «the deadliest», LRT says

Although Lithuania stands out among other EU member states with its negative statistics with murders, it is wrong to call Lithuanian cities «the deadliest», as reported by Lithuanian public media fact-checking project LRT Facts, which has called the news reported by American media a «Manipulative/sensationalist headline».

SPRK: level of dissatisfaction with electronic communication services up in Latvia

Compared to 2018, the level of dissatisfaction with service contracts among Latvian consumers had increased 20% last year, whereas complaints over the quality of services had increased 9%, according to information compiled by the Public Utilities Commission on complaints received about electronic communication services.


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