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Monday 24.09.2018 | Name days: Agris, Agrita
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BNN summary of the week: kebab industry’s fears, insiders in anti-corruption bureau, and Latvia’s crumbling roads

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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: Fight; Fear; Opinion; Confusion; Truth.

FIGHT: transit association considers halting expensive railway electrification project

After the government’s decision to go through with railway electrification, which is one of the most expensive projects in Latvia’s history, President of Baltic Association – Transport and Logistics Inga Antāne considers turning to the Central Finance and Contracting Agency to halt this half a billion euros worth project at least until the government can secure full transparency and provide strategic solutions to halt cargo decline.

«Otherwise this project will be as though using a powerful snow-clearing machine in summer – there will not be any use for it,» the association notes.

BATL emphasizes that Latvia is a railway superpower. The country is a leader in Europe in terms of rail length per capita. «To maintain such an infrastructure in Latvia, it is necessary to carry 60 million tonnes of cargoes annually. According to the association’s estimates, Latvia already lacks one-third for this plan’s completion. Losses will only increase in the coming years, considering Russia’s decision to divert its cargoes away from Latvia in favour of its own ports. Experience of companies part of BATL shows that oil and coal cargoes from Russia are coordinated at a mere 5%, whereas the volume of such cargoes was coordinated at 90% at the beginning of the year,» explains the association.

Full article here

CONFUSION: National Security Committee member Tutins denied access to official secrets

Saeima deputy and member of the National Security Committee Jānis Tutins has been denied access to official secrets, as confirmed by the politician.

The parliamentarian now considers appealing the decision made by the Constitution Protection Bureau to prosecutor general Ēriks Kalnmeiers.

Tutins requested to be provided with access to official secrets after his election into Saeima’s National Security Committee in June. He was elected to replace Valērijs Agešins, who left Riga to work in Liepaja City Council.

Harmony faction leader in the Saeima Jānis Urbanovičs said Tutins is surprised with this decision and wants to know the reasons behind it. Urbanovičs criticized this situation, adding that «special services should explain what they want or if they simply do not want a single member of Harmony join the committee,» said Urbanovičs.

Full article here

FEAR: MEP move to ban phosphates used in kebab meat said to endanger massive industry

As the European Parliament pushes to bar the phosphates, used to keep seasoned kebab meat moist and aromatic, is considered as a grave threat to the existence of the popular fast food.

British news portal the Guardian wrote that across Europe, some 200,000 people work in the industry, and in Germany, where the doner kebab is the most popular fast food, the news have caused fears of in German association of doner kebab producers that «this would be the death sentence for the entire doner kebab industry in the European Union».

Full article here

OPINION: Latvian road association hopes politicians are tired of their indecisiveness

«There is no money, roads continue getting worse, residents continue getting more and more dissatisfied, politicians continue promising, and all this seems a bit like an old and boring film that is shown again and again,» says chairman of Latvijas Ceļu būvētājs Andris Bērziņš.

The association notes that after many years of requests from the entire industry and LCB, the Saeima has finally made steps towards proper funding of the road industry. The parliament has approved deputy Anrijs Matīss’ proposal and has asked the government to approve the plan to increase funding for roads in the state budget programme before 1 July 2018. It is planned to divert an additional 80% from excise tax on fuel for this initiative.

«Unfortunately, the Saeima has forgotten to make it clear when the industry can expect to receive those 80%: the government is free to schedule everything as far as 2025 or 2225. We can reveal a little secret – in the past ten years the Saeima has actively used the option to postpone allocation of actual funding to a much later date. It is a sort of tradition,» comments Bērziņš.

Still, LCB hopes that things turn out differently this time, and that roads will be provided with appropriate funding in 2020.

Full article here

TRUTH: Zatlers says Rīdzene talks are authentic; Šlesers had an informer in KNAB

The talks recorded in Rīdzene Hotel are authentic. In addition, then the politician Ainārs Šlesers had mentioned that he had an informer in Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau, said ex-president of Latvia Valdis Zatlers during a meeting of the parliamentary investigative committee.

Zatlers’ interview commenced with questions from the committee’s head – Inguna Sudraba. In particular, she asked if Zatlers was aware of the secret meetings in the hotel when he was president.

«I can confidently say that they [talks] are authentic,» said Zatlers. Šlesers was the one who told him about the recording. He complained to the president that KNAB was illegally listening in on his meetings and that he had an informer in the bureau who told him about this. Šlesers asked Zatlers to ‘do something about that’ as president.

Šlesers refused to give Zatlers the name of his informer, however. Considering that Zatlers was president and therefore had no right to intervene in the investigation, the conversation between the two ended with that.

Full article here

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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.

May asks EU not to divide Britain, while Brussels waits for UK change of position

At a European Union summit in Austria, UK's Prime Minister Theresa May called on EU leaders leave behind "unacceptable" Brexit demands that according to her may rip Britain apart.

Saeima decides to divide EUR 8.3 million of healthcare budget funds to finance reforms

Saeima’s Budget and Finance Committee has supported the initiative to divide EUR 8.277 million from the planned chronic patient care funding to further finance reforms in the country’s healthcare system.

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