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Wednesday 08.04.2020 | Name days: Dana, Dans, Danute, Edgars

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.


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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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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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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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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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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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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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

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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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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Latest on COVID-19 in Baltics. 577 in Latvia, 912 in Lithuania, 1 185 in Estonia

The number of COVID-19 infection cases in Latvia has reached 577, increasing by 29 cases in the past day. Lithuanian media, meanwhile, report 912 confirmed infection cases. Public data in Estonia reports 1 185 infection cases in this Baltic State.

Inflation in Republic of Latvia reportedly at 1.4% in March

Compared to March 2019, the average level of consumer prices rose by 1.4 % in March 2020. Prices of goods have increased by 0.9 % and prices of services by 2.7 %.

Lithuania’s BC chief: «Latvia’s COVID-19 support for business has been swifter»

It is official: Lithuania is extending lockdown until April 27 to combat the coronavirus pandemic which death toll in the country stood at 15 as of Wednesday noon. As many as 912 persons were diagnosed with COVID-19 by then.

Lithuania on path to allow price regulation in government

In Lithuania, the majority of legislators in the Seimas, have backed draft amendments that set forth allowing the government to regulate the prices of essential goods during this time of quarantine, Lithuanian public broadcaster LRT reports.

BNN EXPLAINS | Envelope wages – one of the main reasons why idleness benefits may be denied

People need certainty – if they honestly pay taxes, they should be able to receive support from the state in the event of a crisis, since they have taken care of the state all this time by paying taxes, BNN was told in a phone conversation by chairman of LBAS Egils Baldzēns.

Criminal process launched against Aivars Lembergs for defamation

On 7 April 2020 State Police Kurzeme RP Saldus Department’s Criminal Police Office commenced a criminal process against Aivars Lembergs for untrue statements and claims he has used on multiple occasions during meetings of Ventspils City Council and Finance Committee against city council deputy Ģirts Valdis Kristovskis, as BNN was told by Kristovskis.

Latvia’s Prime Minister: we are financially well-situated in this crisis

We are financially well-situated in this crisis, said Latvia’s Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš in an interview to LTV programme Rīta panorama.

Latvian government supports dismissal of State Land Service’s director general

Latvia’s Cabinet of Ministers has supported Justice Ministry’s prepared decision project that details the dismissal of the State Land Service director general Solvitai Zvidriņa from her post, as confirmed by Justice Ministry.

China lifts lockdown in Wuhan

In the Chinese city of Wuhan, where the global pandemic of COVID-19 began, a lockdown has been lifted for the first time since January, British news portal The Guardian reports.

Support in Latvia for COVID-19 crisis prevention reaches four billion euros

The volume of support available in Latvia to finance preventive measures to overcome COVID-19 crisis has reached four billion euros, as reported by Latvian Finance Minister Jānis Reirs on Tuesday, 7 April.

Another month stuck home. Latvian government extends state of emergency

The state of emergency declared in Latvia because of COVID-19 pandemic has been extended until 12 May, as confirmed by Foreign Affairs Minister Edgars Rinkēvičs on social media on 7 April.

75 reports on competition distortions reported to Competition Council in 2019

Last year, the Competition Council received a total of 75 reports related to competition distortions caused by public persons, according to information listed in the latest public account for the institution’s more significant accomplishments in 2019 and developments in competition rights enforcement in Latvia.

Australia quashes child abuse convictions against cardinal Pell

A court in Australia has overturned child sex abuse convictions against cardinal George Pell after he was found guilty and received a prison term, British news portal The Guardian reports.

Education and Science Ministry considers not cancelling centralized exams

Latvia’s Education and Science Ministry considers the option to not cancel centralized exams, especially for 12th graders, as reported on Tuesday, 7 April, by Education Minister Ilga Šuplinska during a meeting with Saeima’s Education, Culture and Science Committee.

Estonian government in two minds on cutting public spending to help economy

Should public spending be cut to help restore the economy? Two of the three parties in the Estonian government have opposing views on this as economic recovery is increasingly discussed, Estonian public broadcaster ERR reports.

Riga International Airport plans to lay off 500 employees

Because of consequences caused by COVID-19, Riga International Airport plans to lay off 500 employees, as BNN was informed by the company.

Poland planning to hold presidential election as postal ballot

The Polish presidential election in May should be held as a postal ballot, the country’s legislators have decided. Opponents of the idea argue that this means putting public health at risk, British-Canadian news agency Reuters reports.

COVID-19 update in Baltics. 548 infected in Latvia, 880 in Lithuania, 1 149 in Estonia

The total number of confirmed coronavirus COVID-19 infection cases in Latvia has reached 548, increasing by six in the past day.

Latvian president urges not to sort idleness benefit recipients based on tax debts

When assessing whether or not a company meets requirements for idleness benefit eligibility, Latvia’s President Egils Levits urges the government to not sort them based on tax debts.

British PM Johnson treated from COVID-19 in intensive care

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been moved to intensive care in London with his COVID-19 symptoms worsening as the outbreak is claiming more lives in the United Kingdom, British news portal The Guardian reports.

Riga City Council snap elections pushed back to 5 September

The ruling coalition in Latvia has agreed to push back Riga City Council snap elections to 5 September, as journalists were told by politicians after a meeting of ruling parties on Monday, 6 April.

US death toll of COVID-19 nears 11 000

The US, which is the country with the highest number of confirmed COVID-19 infections, has on Tuesday, April 7, reached a total number of COVID-19-related deaths of 10 986, according to the US John Hopkins University and German public broadcaster DW.

Prime Minister says Latvia will neither enhance nor relieve restrictions

We do not plan to enhance restrictive measures, but neither do we plan to relieve restrictions – the storm is not over. Nevertheless, we are on the correct path, said Latvian Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš in an interview to Latvijas Radio.

Spanish coronavirus death toll drops for fourth day in a row

In Spain, for the fourth day a row, the number of COVID-19 related deaths per day has decreased as the country has the most confirmed cases in infection in Europa, BBC reports.

Recovery from COVID-19 confirmed for 16 people in Latvia

So far 16 people in Latvia have made a successful recovery from COVID-19, as reported by Latvian Disease Prevention and Monitoring Centre (SPKC) Infectious Diseases Risk Analysis and Prevention Department director Jurijs Perevoščikovs at a press-conference on Monday, 6 April.

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