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Friday 20.07.2018 | Name days: Ramona, Ritma
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BNN summary of the week: inequality in Estonia; envelope wage war in Latvia, gas alternatives in Lithuania

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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: Decline; Growth; Fight; Business; Future and Opinion.

BUSINESS: there are three possible airBaltic investors in consideration

With the process to attract new investors for airBaltic coming closer to the finish line, three potential contenders are currently in consideration, said Latvian Transport Minister Uldis Augulis in an interview to Rīta panorama.

Augulis says Lazard Freres continues searching for a new investor for the second consecutive year. The process has entered the final phase. There are three possible candidates, and the government should make its choice before the end of the year.

According to Augulis, all submitted offers are good and interesting, which will benefit society and the national economy. He did not say which countries those potential investors come from. He only said that they are from all over the world.

He reminds that the main criteria for evaluation of the investor include making sure airBaltic and Riga airport are able to continue developing.

The minister notes that there is no rush with airBaltic’s sale. If the government does not find any of the candidates satisfactory, the selection process will be continued.

Full article here

FIGHT: Ventspils opposition deputies ask Lembergs’ security measure to be amended

Ventspils City Council deputies Ģirts Valdis Kristovskis, Dace Korna, Aivis Landmanis and Ivars Landmanis have turned to Judge Boris Geimanis’ led judges with a request to amend the security measure applied to Aivars Lembergs.

Deputies note that Lembergs, who is accused of serious crimes, openly ignores the restrictions imposed against him. «This is about the security measure that prohibits Lembergs from acting as the chairman of Ventspils City Council and Ventspils Freeport authority, which were applied in August 2007. The situation in which the accused Lembergs continues working in those posts is not just illogical and absurd, but also illegal,» says Kristovskis.

Deputies point out that application of the aforementioned security measure prohibits Lembergs from performing all duties as chairman of Ventspils City Council and Ventspils Freeport authority.

Opposition deputies of Ventspils City Council believe the security measure applied by the court is ineffective. This is why when asking the court to clarify or amend the security measure for Lembergs, they referenced the opinion provided to them in September by Environment Protection and Regional Development Ministry, which stated that the current security measure applied to Lembergs is insufficient and should be reviewed.

With that, deputies have asked the court to decide on amending the security measure in accordance with Section 249 of the Criminal Procedure Law. Opposition members believe the court should prohibit the accused to take any managing post in Ventspils municipality. «Amending the security measure would help achieve the goal if it directly prohibited Lembergs to serve as chairman of Ventspils City Council and Ventspils Freeport authority until a ruling is reached in the criminal process he is involved in,» explains Kristovskis.

Full article here

DECLINE: economic inequality in Estonia is wider than ever before

The economy of Estonia is in its best condition, yet inequality in the society is greater than ever before, evaluated the head of Swedbank Eesti in a business conference.

Estonian public broadcaster ERR reports that Robert Kitt noted at the Rimi Business Conference on Wednesday, November 1: «Our economy is doing very well now — wages are growing, export is growing, and pension funds are doing fine. (..) But we have to acknowledge that inequality is also greater than ever before. We have people in Estonia who cannot cope in the present economic environment.»

Full article here

GROWTH: time to forget about non-traceability of envelope wages

Research performed and planned by Latvian State Revenue Service are a serious signal for the fact that it is time to forget about the illusion that no one will ever find out about people who are paid envelope wages, says SRS deputy director Dace Pelēka.

In order to continue following one of main priorities aimed at improving honest competition and reduction of grey economy, SRS has performed a large-scale data analysis and has calculated the level of tax debt in the country and separate sectors of the national economy. Calculations do not affirm the belief about envelope wage recipients and their employers, SRS notes.

«SRS has large volumes of data that help identifying taxpayers that pay envelope wages. By applying more and more modern analysis methods, SRS has begun tackling the existing tax non-payment problem. Data acquired from studies will help in the development of programmes based on taxpayers’ behaviour models to combat this problem,» Pelēka comments.

Finance Ministry’s Grey Economy Combating Coordination Department director Kārlis Ketners admits: «Large-scale and well-performed studies by SRS show that the service has improved and enhanced its analytical capacity. Data acquired from this study is very useful in the context of combating grey economy and will help us improve work with taxpayers in control, prevention and educational fields.»

Full article here

FUTURE: Lithuania to consider gas import alternatives after 2024

With Baltic States unable to reach an agreement in regards to the location of the regional liquefied natural gas terminal, Lithuanian government has lost the opportunity to ask for European Union’s support in purchasing Independence ship of Klaipeda terminal. The decision has been made to search for alternative solutions, BNS was told by Lithuanian Energy Minister Žygimantas Vaičiūnas.

Klaipedos nafta has recently announced an international contest to searcg for natural gas import alternatives.

«This does not mean we have given up on buying the ship back. Our goal is securing competitive prices now and in the future. This is why, having assessed the situation in the region and the need for security for supplies, we wish to look for alternatives. We have to be certain if there would even be a need for a ship after 2024. Only then will we be able to consider other scenarios,» said the minister.

Lithuania’s lease of the floating gas storage facility ends in 2014. The contract was signed with Norwegian Hoegh LNG for ten years.

According to the minister, Lithuania hopes to receive several gas supply scenarios in the first quarter of 2018.

Full article here

OPINION: orphanages with even the prettiest walls will never replace a family

On Wednesday, 1 November, there was a large discussion organized during the ‘Child needs – ideals and reality in out-of-home care’ conference at Riga Castle on the topic of child needs in out-of-home care and the country’s realized de-institutionalization process.

The conference was attended by 400 out-of-home care professionals and decision-makers: Saeima and municipal deputies, state administration representatives, managers of municipal social services and orphan courts, heads of out-of-home care institutions and other specialists, and NGO organizations’ representatives.

When the discussion reached the topic of the necessary changes for children’s out-of-home care, First Lady of Latvia Iveta Vējone proposed always asking the same question first – what is best for the child? «Every child needs a family, a home and environment where they can grow with love and safety,» said Vējone, adding that orphanages will never be able to offer that, even with the prettiest of walls, the best of toys and the smallest groups. She proposed providing larger support to foster families, adopting parents and guardians, as well as making sure finances in foster families follow children, not institutions.

The First Lady also invited to learn from experience gained from SOS Child villages and family support centres.

Full article here

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Children with functional disorders to receive services financed by EU funds

Child invalids will have access to social services intended to improve their social skills and mobility. More than EUR 4.2 million has been allocated for this goal from the European Social Fund, as confirmed by Latvia’s Central Financing and Contracting Agency.

Producer price level in industry up 4.3% in Latvia

Compared to June 2017, the average level of producer prices in Latvian industry increased by 4.3 % in June 2018. Prices of products sold on the domestic market rose by 4.8 % and those of exported products by 3.7 %.

Total tax debts in Latvia in July – 1.212 billion euros

At the beginning of July total tax debts in Latvia, including outstanding debts, halted debts and debts applied with repayment term extensions, accounted for EUR 1.212 billion, which is 0.8% less than a month prior, according to data from the State Revenue Service.

Survey: every third Latvian resident has received illegal loan offers

Nearly every third resident in Latvia or 31% of respondents admit having received offers to use illegal loan services, as concluded in a survey performed by Latvian Alternative Financial Services Association and SKDS.

Libya opposed to EU's idea to establish migrant centres in North Africa

Libya is against the solution of the European Union to set up migrant centres in the North African country as a means to keep migrants from arriving in the bloc and Libya would not be convinced with financial support, its Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj has noted.

Arrest warrant on Catalan ex-President cancelled by Spain

The Supreme Court of Spain cancelled a European arrest warrant for former Catalan regional leader Carles Puigdemont, as Germany refused to extradite him to face accusations of rebellion for declaring the independence of Spain's region, Catalonia in 2017.

Latvian government plans to allow handing expired food to charity

Latvia’s Agriculture Ministry has prepared amendments to the Law on the Supervision of the Handling of Food that provide permission to hand over certain types of food products to charity after the end of their expiry date.

Estonian industrial producer prices up 2.9% since June 2017

Estonian industrial producer price index has risen by 2.9% between June 2017 and the first summer month this year, resulting in an increase of export prices as well, Estonian statisticians have estimated.

Putin urges NATO to quit «irresponsibly» developing ties with Ukraine, Georgia

Russia's President Vladimir Putin cautioned NATO against developing deeper relations with Ukraine and Georgia, evaluating such a policy was irresponsible and would have consequences for the military alliance.

Latvian parliament not in a hurry to support president Vejonis for a second term

Political parties represented in the Saeima are not eager to support President Raimonds Vējonis for his remainder for a second term.

Weather in Latvia will remain warm and even hot at times

Weather in Latvia in the nearest couple of days will be dictated by a cyclone. Because of that the sky will be partially covered by clouds; thunderstorms are also expected, as reported by State Environment, Geology and Meteorology Centre.

Hungary sued in EU Court for criminalising help to illegal immigrants

The European Union's executive body has stated that a law in Hungary that criminalises support for illegal immigrants is in breach with EU law and Hungary has now been referred to the European Court of Justice for the alleged non-compliance.

Estonians buy alcohol in Latvia; country loses EUR 20 million in six months

Latvian stores located close to the Latvian-Estonian border have sold 1.6 million litres of strong alcoholic drinks in the first half year of 2019. This means Estonia has lost more than EUR 20 million in taxes, according to data from Association of Estonian Alcohol Producers and Importers.

Lithuania’s election watchdog slams ruling LFGU over popular TV series

Political messages can be channeled in various ways and the ruling now Lithuanian party, LFGU has chosen a very delicate way of the communications – through a TV series featuring the beauty and the ambiance of Naisiai, a picturesque settlement in Siauliai district.

Association: around 3,3000 people know of their HIV infection but receive no treatment

HIV remains a serious problem in Latvia – around 3,300 people are aware of their status but receive no treatment and continue spreading the infection. Because of that, it is necessary to act quickly for Latvia to lose its status as HIV kingdom and limit the spread of the infection, says Baltic HIV Association, informing decision-makers and responsible officials in institutions and hospitals about the HIV/AIDS situation.

Driver shortage may force reduction of international road haulage volumes

Latvia’s road haulage companies have started experiencing shortage of drivers. On top of that, if employment conditions for residents of non-EU member states do not change, it may be necessary to reduce the volume of road haulage volumes, says Latvijas auto president Valdis Trēziņš.

Lattelecom’s turnover up 9% in first half-year of 2018

Lattelecom Group’s turnover reached EUR 98.7 million in the first half-year of 2018, growing by 9% in comparison with the same period of 2017, according to unaudited financial results.

1,140 fewer births registered in Latvia in 2017

Since 2016 the number of births in Latvia is declining again. Compared to 2016, a total of 1,140 births fewer were registered in 2017. Also, the provisional number of births registered over the first six months of 2018 (9,664 children) is by 664 children smaller than that registered over the respective period of 2017.

Citadele Bank decides to reform Lithuanian subsidiary as a branch office

Citadele Bank has decided to reform its Lithuanian subsidiary as a branch office, as confirmed in the statement the bank submitted to Nasdaq Riga.

Russian pension age hike discussed amid protest outside Duma

As the Russian paliament votes on the proposal to gradually increase he pension age to 65 for men and 63 for women, some 200 people were seen protesting against the reform in Moscow.

Corruption watchdog chief says bureau has done no illegal actions

After going through Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau’s past investigative activities, the bureau’s chief – Jēkabs Straume – found it confusing that officers often took no appropriate actions after acquiring evidence or receiving indications regarding necessary steps.

Illegal border crossings to Estonia on rise after Russia World Cup

Football fans with temporary residency permits of the Russia World Cup, or fan Ids, are trying to illegally cross the Russian border with Estonia, a member of the European Union.

Estonian 13-year-old lethally overdoses fentanyl

Estonian prosecutors have accused a 15-year old of negligent homicide after a girl, 13, passed away from fentanyl overdose.

Wild party competition and political chaos – what goes on during pre-election period?

If we compare who fought under 5% barrier some 8-12 years ago, we will see Daugava’s diggers, head nurse parties and eurosceptics parties whose ability to create some form of a working party programme was very weak. Now political parties’ competitiveness is so high that up to eight parties may successfully overcome the 5% barrier and this points to healthy competition. At the same time, in all this competitive mess it is impossible to understand where parties get financing and access to media resources, politologist and Providus think tank head researcher Iveta Kažoka commented on the pre-election period in an interview to BNN.

Google fined with EUR 4 billion for competition abuse with Android

Google has been fined by the European Commission with a fine of 4.34 billion euros illegal abuse of its dominant market position and the executive of the European Union is set to move on with investigations into other possible practices of unfair competition by the U.S. company.