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Friday 22.03.2019 | Name days: Tamāra, Dziedra
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BNN summary of the week: KPV LV confused; Bank of Latvia head takes centre stage

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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: Investigation; Future; Environment; Conflict; Refusal.

INVESTIGATION: Authorities commence criminal prosecution against Bank of Latvia governor

Latvian prosecutor’s office has commenced criminal prosecution of bribery accused Bank of Latvia governor Ilmārs Rimšēvičs and businessman Māris Martinsons.

In the criminal process received from Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau on 18 June, a request is detailed to commence criminal prosecution of two people – Rimšēvičs and Martinsons. On 28 June, the prosecutor’s office made the decision to commence criminal prosecution of the two men, as BNN was told by Prosecutor General’s Office Public Relations specialist Una Reķe.

Bank of Latvia governor is accused of bribery, whereas the other person is accused of supporting bribery.

As previously reported, in February Rimšēvičs was made a suspect in a criminal case investigated by Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau. The size of the bribe in question is at least EUR 100,000. Martinsons was initially detained by authorities as a second suspect but was later released. Instead the businessman was applied with a security measure not associated with deprivation of freedom.

Rimšēvičs, on the other hand, is not allowed to perform his duties as governor of the Bank of Latvia, as well as meet certain people and travel from the country.

Full article here

FUTURE: Economy Ministry says it is necessary to reduce the volume of low-skilled workforce

Employment opportunities are set to expand in the next decade. However, demographic tendencies and regional labour market differences will create an even stronger need for labour force, according to Latvian Economy Ministry’s medium and long-term labour market outlooks.

«To ensure sustainable economic development, it is necessary to raise productivity in business sector, education system and every person’s life. Business has to become productive to reduce costs and raise wages to workers. The education system should provide the labour market with appropriate labour force with an emphasis on education system and competence-based approach. Every one of us should learn modern skills to help raise our competence and competitiveness on the labour market,» says Economy Minister Arvils Ašeradens.

Shortage of medium-skilled labor will become more pronounced. This will be felt the most by processing and construction sectors. Education offer structure has become more balanced and more in line with labour market needs. However, the number of specialist that enter the labour market is still below the desired level, according to information from the ministry.

Full article here

ENVIRONMENT:  Fire at BAO landfill for dangerous waste; fire fighters still on the scene

A fire started on the territory of AS BAO landfill for dangerous waste in Olaine last night. Latest reports state it has since been localized, as confirmed by State Fire and Rescue Service representative Inta Palkavniece.

Because dangerous chemical waste is stored at the landfill, fire fighters threw a great deal of resources to put out the fire – at least 34 fire fighters, said Palkavniece. SFRS reports that evacuation is not necessary. Nor is it necessary to establish any restrictions for residents to go outside.

Representatives of the State Environment Service have arrived at the scene.

BAO chairman confirmed that a fire appeared within the company’s owned territory in Olaine last night. He said the fire has been localized. The company has commenced discussions with the State Environment Service about consequences of the fire.

Full article here

CONFLICT: Opinion: the reasons behind accusations against KPV LV are confusing

«On a basic level we have a feeling there is nothing there, because the reasons behind accusations are confusing,» said KPV LV board member Linda Liepiņa in a telephone conversation with BNN after her interrogation at Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau.

Liepiņa also said the questions she was asked were associated with the addresses KPV LV’s previous addresses and the person who asked her to join the party. For the record, the person who asked her to join was Kaspars Upacieris.

KPV LV board member also mentioned that investigators who interviewed her made no attempts to turn the conversation towards any possible violations regarding possible illegal funding. Also she was asked no questions about other people associated with accusations imposed against the party.

When asked if accusations were fabricated, Liepiņa replied: «I cannot say. As far as I can tell, they [CPCB] are acting in response to an application from Ilmārs Poikāns».

CPCB mentioned in its statement to the press that two people have been found suspects in a criminal case launched in June 2017. The two are accused of illegal financing of political organizations, as well as group fraud.

Full article here

REFUSAL: Jurmala’s bronze tortoise sculpture to be auctioned off; municipality says it is illegal

During the artRiga art festival this autumn, it is planned to auction off one of Jurmala’s symbol – the famous bronze tortoise sculpture, says sculptor Jāņis Bārda’s wife Aivija Bārda.

The sculptor’s family explains their decision with the fact that the municipality has failed to pay in full for the sculpture in the last decade. ‘Due to recent events, our family needs a new home. Because of that, we have decided to sell the bronze tortoise. There is a great deal of interest for it,’ says the family’s representative.

Bārda mentioned that the sculptor still has not received the full payment for the sculpture even though 20 years have passed. She also mentioned events that took place in 1995. According to her, Jurmala City Council had placed an order for a sculpture in 1995. «However, when the sculpture was complete the money for it was transferred to then the city’s chief artist Egīls Kuks’ personal bank account. He promised to give the money to Jānis. However, hoping to make money, he decided to put it all in a bank as a deposit. That bank later went bankrupt, and the money was lost,» explains Bārda, adding that the family still has not received the money even though they had invested their personal money in the sculpture’s creation.

The municipality had allocated LVL 8,000 for the sculpture. According to Bārda, the tortoise is her family’s property, because no one paid for it and there is no commission agreement with the municipality. Her family also has Kuks’ promissory note.

Jurmala City Council representatives, on the other hand, claim «Aivija Bārda is neither the author nor the owner of the sculpture». Therefore the planned auction is viewed by the city council as illegal.

Full article here


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Crumbling buildings and the future of Riga’s slums

There are many empty buildings in Riga at the moment. However, Riga’s slums have a way to be reborn. One option is Rail Baltica, which could potentially change the situation with jobs in the city centre. Developers might have many complicated objectives ahead of them, considering that more and more people may decide to relocate to Riga’s central districts, said Riga city’s chief architect Gvido Princis in a conversation with BNN about Riga’s slums.

EC Vice-President: like other countries, Latvia has limited progress with EC recommendations

Latvia has limited progress when it comes to implementation of recommendations from the European Commission. Nevertheless, Latvia does not fall from the general EU context, when most member states have a small or limited progress with recommendations, said EC Vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis during a joint meeting with Latvian Saeima’s committees.

Comparing abortions to killing affects Estonian government talks

After figures of the Estonian Conservative People's Party compared abortion to killing of people, the party's partners in coalition talks have voiced criticism.

Latvian Olainfarm minority shareholders urged to attend shareholder meeting

Co-owners of Valerijs Maligins inheritance Nika Saveļjeva and Signe Baldere-Sildedze, as well as Annas Emīlija Maligina’s mother invite Latvian pharmaceutical company Olainfarm minority shareholders to attend an extraordinary shareholders meeting and actively propose their candidates for the council.

Social workers’ wages in Latvia to grow by average of EUR 145 a month

Latvian government has decided to allocate an additional amount of EUR 4.8 million to increase wages for state social care centres starting from 1 April 2019. This will allow increasing their wages by an average of EUR 145 a month. This is provided by the 2019 state budget that has been approved by the Latvian parliament in the first reading, as confirmed by Welfare Ministry.

Germany pushes for funding cuts to EU members violating core values

Germany's federal Foreign Minister believes the European Union should start reducing its solidary funding and introduce sanctions on member states that adopt legislation contrary to European values, for example, free press, rule of law and independent courts.

Association reports Latvia suffers the most from emerging HIV cases

In 2018, 326 new HIV infection cases were registered in Latvia, according to information from Disease Prevention and Control Centre. Inga Upmace, chairperson of Baltic HIV Association, says that even though this is less when compared to 2017, Latvia remains an unfortunate leader among Baltic States for emerging HIV infection cases.

Poll: 40% Britons have felt powerless or angry over Brexit

About 40 percent of the adult population of the United Kingdom have been feeling powerless, angry or worried by Brexit in the past 12 months, a mental health poll showed.

Riga City Council wants a large loan from Latvia’s State Treasury for bridge project

To finance the reconstruction of Krasta Street and Brasas Bridge, Riga City Council plans to take a EUR 14.23 million loan from Latvia’s State Treasury, according to documents added to the working agenda of Riga City Councils Finance and Administrative Affairs Committee.

EU postpones British withdrawal to April 12 or May 22

The United Kingdom has been given two extra weeks by the European Union to decide for the third time on its withdrawal agreement and to leave on April 12 if it is not passed or to leave on May 22 if it is passed.

Less precipitation expected in Latvia this week and more sunlight expected next week

On weekends the sky will be equally cloudy and sunny. Some rain is expected only on Saturday and the night to Sunday. On the night to Saturday, there will be clear sky and air temperature will drop to 0° C… -4° C, according to Latvian State Environment, Geology and Meteorology Centre.

Producer price level in industry in Latvia up 0.6% in February

Compared to January, the level of producer prices in Latvian industry rose by 0.6 % in February 2019. Prices of products sold on the domestic market grew by 1.2 %, but prices of exported products remained the same.

Latvian president proposes giving citizenship to all children born in Latvia

Latvia’s President Raimonds Vējonis has submitted to the Saeima a legislative draft On Ceasing Provision of Non-Citizen Status to Children. This draft suggests giving children born to non-citizen parents Latvian citizenship upon birth starting from 1 January 2020 unless parents have decided on giving their child citizenship of another country, as reported by State President’s Chancellery.

Expert: Latvia has not accomplished with reduction of inequality

In the past seven years Latvia’s government has not properly implemented the recommendations provided by the European Commission on reduction of inequality, European Anti-Poverty Network’s EAPN-Latvia board chairperson Laila Balga told LNT programme 900 seconds on Thursday, 21 March.

Ruling LFGU’s presidential hopeful Skvernelis unveils key foreign policy points

Lagging in the presidential polls behind the frontrunner Gitanas Nausėda and MP Ingrida Šimonytė, Lithuania’s prime minister Saulius Skvernelis, the presidential hopeful of the ruling Farmers and Greens Union, LFGU, is ready to move heaven and earth in attracting voters on his side.

Banks in Estonia adopt increased anti-money laundering regulations

The Estonian Banking Association has decided to task its member lenders to fullfil anti-money laundering due diligence measures in an attempt to further heal Estonian banking reputation scarred by the Danske Bank money-laundering scandal.

Penalty to be applied to people for causing trouble for whistle-blowers in Latvia

Additions to the Latvian Code of Administrative Violations provide the application of a fine of up to EUR 14,000 to a legal person for causing trouble for whistle-blowers or their family members, as reported by Latvian State Chancellery.

New Zealand bans sales of semi-automatic weapons after Christchurch shootings

Assault rifles and military-style semi-automatics have been banned in New Zealand in a government reaction to the Christchurch mosque shootings.

Latvian parties submit 15 candidate lists for European Parliament elections

Five more Latvian political parties and party associations have submitted candidate lists to the Central Election Commission for upcoming European Parliament elections. So far participating parties include the National Alliance, Latvian Association of Regions, Latvian Social Democratic Workers Party, New Conservative Party and KPV LV.

Study: 55.6% of businessmen complain about high taxes in Latvia

Looking at the amount of taxes companies pay, 55.6% of businessmen and CEOs said there are too high, 36.5% said taxes are a bit too high, whereas 7.2% said taxes are as high as they need to be, according to data from Turība University’s Business Index.

Brussels: EU to support short Brexit postponement, if London passes deal

In the Brexit saga, a no-deal withdrawal is possible again as Donald Tusk has warned EU leaders will only agree to a short delay if MPs back Theresa May’s deal in March.

Allowance for people suffering from serious disability to be increased by EUR 100 in Latvia

From 1 July the Latvian government plans to increase the allowance for children and adults who require special care and who suffer from serious health problems from childhood.

Latvian minister: we should work with convicts, not isolate them

People who are currently isolated from society in prisons should not be kept isolated – they should be allowed to re-socialize, said Latvian Justice Minister Jānis Bordāns at a press-conference about the study on former inmates’ abilities to re-socialize.

Brexit extension: Theresa May won’t as for more than 50 days

British Prime Minister Theresa May wants only a short Brexit term extension that will not exceed 50 days, as reported by The Guardian.

Business Index: 56.7% of businessmen in Latvia believe government hurt businesses

When asked about the influence Latvia’s government has on the country’s entrepreneurship, 56.6% of interviewed businessmen said the government interferes with the sector, whereas only 7.3% said the government provides assistance, according to results of Turība University’s Business Index.