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Tuesday 18.06.2019 | Name days: Madis, Alberts

BNN summary of the week: Latvia’s negative fiscal space; Russia vs. Lithuania; Diena’s scandal

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Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RUThis week, Latvia discussed its future fiscal space for 2020. It is expected to be -11.9 million euros. Meanwhile, public transport company Rīgas satiksme remains in the centre of a scandal, while Harmony actively stagnates any decision-making processes in this. While some are unable to decide others are actively making grandiose plans – one of the biggest announcements this week was the proposal to reduce the number of municipalities in Latvia from 119 to 35.

Lithuania and Russia have taken to each other’s throats over the trial of 67 former Soviet officials for violence committed in Vilnius in 1991. This has caused Moscow to commence an investigation against judges responsible for the ruling.

Meanwhile, Estonia has become concerned over a possible threat to the country’s liberal democracy, which has surfaced in the central power since Conservative People’s Party of Estonia has come to force.

BNN offers a summary of this week’s topical news in a variety of categories: Finances; Resignation; Change; Fight; Environment; Justice; Meeting.

FINANCES: Finance Ministry upgrades Latvia’s GDP outlook to 3.2% for 2019

Latvia’s Finance Ministry has upgraded the country’s GDP growth outlook for 2019 by 0.2 percentage points – to 3.2%, according to the ministry’s Latvia’s Stability Programme 2019-2020 project.

The ministry explains that Latvia’s Stability Programme is one of the elements of the annual state budget legislative draft and medium-term budget’s preparation cycle. With that, it covers macro-economic index outlooks for 2019, 2020 and 2022, fiscal outlooks and general government budget balance goals.

Considering the rapid growth of Latvia’s economy I 2018, GDP growth outlook for 2019 has been upgraded by 0.2 percentage points – to 3.2%. GDP growth outlook for 2020 is expected to be 3%.

According to estimates from Finance Ministry, the cyclic development of Latvia’s national economy reached its peak in 2018. In the coming years economic growth could be below last year’s, when GDP growth reached 4.8%.

According to the ministry’s estimates, the deficit of the government’s 2019 budget will be 0.5% of GDP. This is the same level previously estimated for the 2019 budget in initial stages of the budget’s development process. Medium-term budget’s general government budget deficit is not allowed to exceed 0.4% of GDP in 2020, 0.2% of GDP in 2021 and 0.3% of GDP in 2022.

Full article here

RESIGNATION: Earthquake at national media council? Prominent council members steps down

Gunta Līdaka, a member of Latvia’s National Electronic Mass Media Council responsible for supervision over commercial television industry, has announced her decision to step down, as reported by LTV.

Līdaka said that considering the current situation surrounding the National Electronic Mass Media Council, she finds it impossible to continue working there.

«There is a situation that requires a solution. Unfortunately, to look for a solution, the public media and council are being used as a political tool to settle scores,» said Līdaka.

BNN had previously reported that the National Electronic Mass Media Council has decided to approve Einārs Giels as the new chairman of LTV and Eva Juhņēvičs as an LTV board member. Neither has any experience working in the media sector.

Full article here

CHANGE: Latvian ministry proposes reducing number of municipal deputies from 1,614 to 686

Following the administrative territory reform, it is planned to reduce the number of municipal deputies from 1,614 to 686, said Latvia’s Environment Protection and Regional Development Minister Juris Pūce at a press-conference on Wednesday, 10 April.

Presenting the administrative territorial reform’s project, Pūce said the goal behind the reduction of the number of municipal deputies is ensuring fair representation in accordance with the number of residents to help better organize work of municipal committee and separate executive power from decision-making power.

Authors of the reform offer maintaining the same number of municipal deputies in Riga (60) and Jurmala (15).

Municipalities in which the number of residents is under 30,000 would have 14 deputies, whereas the number of deputies in municipalities in which populations range from 30,001 to 60,000 is proposed to be set at 19.

Full article here

FIGHT: Russia irked by Lithuania’s January 13 massacre ruling, seeks retaliation

Russia’s grudge against four Lithuanian judges who issued the ruling in the high-profile January 13 case has translated this week in a criminal investigation by Russia’s Investigative Committee (RIC) on the grounds of what Russia deems is unlawful criminal prosecution.

At the cusp are Aiva Survilienė, Virginija Pakalnytė-Tamošiūnaitė and Artūras Šumskas, the judges of Vilnius Regional Court, and also Ainora Kornelija Macevičienė, the retired chair of the judicial panel, all of whom handed down the sentence in late March.

Foreign minister: Russia is vengeful

Following the RIC decision, Lithuania’s Foreign minister Linas Linkevičius called it «some sort of revenge.»«It’s difficult to evaluate it in some way as this is a deplorable situation…Russia should realize that although many years have passed, justice must prevail and that there’s no statute of limitations for such cases,» he said.

He suggests that the judges implicated in the case refrain from making trips to Russia or Russia-friendly countries as they, according to him, can expect provocations or various other actions there.

Full article here

ENVIRONMENT: Ilves warns against Estonia turning back on liberal democracy

Former Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves, in an apparent criticism of the Conservative People’s Party of Estonia (EKRE), has expressed concern over the effects statements by the party could have, despite not mentioning EKRE by name.

Estonian public broadcaster ERR reports that in a social media post Ilves wrote on Wednesday, April 10: «Intolerance, hate, mockery, threats, calling Estonian citizens of other ethnicities a Kremlin-induced cancer, saying people with different skin colors should be ‘shown the door,’ calling people with different sexual orientations ‘invalids’ who should be stripped of their right to vote».

Full article here

JUSTICE: Diena newspaper associated with infamous Latvian oligarchs sued for possible defamation

If a media proudly reports unverified information with a goal to mislead society, sooner or later it will have to answer for it in court. This is what happened to Diena media – a criminal process has been launched against it for possibly intentional defamation of Swiss lawyer Rudolf Meroni, as confirmed by Financial and Economic Crime Investigation Prosecutor’s Office.

The criminal process was launched for both defamation in Diena newspaper and social media Facebook and Twitter.

The criminal process was launched in accordance with Part 2 of Section 157 of the Criminal Law: for defamation in mass media, which is punishable with temporary deprivation of liberty or community service, or a fine.

Diena’s offered apology, smaller than its self- advertisement panel, is not enough

As previously reported, after nearly six months Diena finally withdrew the false news that was reported by one of its journalists – Guntars Gūte – had reported without fact-checking about Swiss lawyer Rudolf Meroni, branding him with a status in some criminal process.

Diena confirmed in its official statement that its journalist had made a mistake and his article contained false information, specifically regarding Latvian State Police Organized Crime Enforcement Office making Meroni a suspect in a criminal process.

Full article here

MEETING: BATL says Belarus is very important for Latvia’s transit sector

The transit sector in Latvia has adapted to the market conjuncture in recent years. One of the biggest future potentials is associated with Belarus, which is an important region for railway freight. On top of that, Belarus is a major logistics hub on the transit way to China, said board member of Baltic Association – Transit and Logistics Ivars Landmanis during a meeting with a delegation from Belarus.

Representatives of BATL met this week with high-ranking delegation from Belarus. Members of the delegation included Belarusian state oil company Belneftekhim head Andrei Ribakov, Transport and Communications Minister Aleksey Avramenko, Deputy Economy Minister Yuri Chebotar, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Belarus in Latvia Vasily Markovich and other high-ranking officials.

BATL stresses that this visit was very important, because servicing freight from Belarus is very important for Latvia’s transit industry. Additionally, Belarus is an important hub for international freight headed from Asia through Latvia to Scandinavian countries. Cooperation with the joint Chinese-Belarusian industrial park Great Stone, which is part of the One Belt – One Way concept, is equally important for future growth.

«The visit of high-ranking delegation from Belarus to companies part of BATL and Ventspils Freeport demonstrates favourable future cooperation perspectives that will provide considerable contribution for our country’s economy,» says Landmanis.

Full article here

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Latvian PM: If Estonia breaks deal on alcohol excise, we’re forced to respond

If Estonia has broken a deal with Latvia on alcohol excise tax, then Latvia is left to no choice, but to respond with a corresponding cut in excise, said Latvian Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš.

Never too late to marry – elderly marriages jump in Latvia

Over the year 2018 in Latvia, the total number of marriages fell by 0.7 %, the number of marriages concluded by elderly population grew 1.7 times, data from the Central Statistical Bureau of Latvia showed.

Eesti Energia suggests introducing customs tax to cheap Russian power

Estonian state energy firm Eesti Energia has proposed introducing a customs tax to electricity imported by Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania from Russia.

Social care centre in Latvia blamed for severe human rights violations

Latvian Ombudsman’s Office has found severe human rights violations in the social care centre Ezerkrasti and accused the institution of not complying with recommendations to it. Ezerkrasti is a branch of the state social care centre Riga, located outside the Latvian capital.

Unmarried couples’ law to be proposed in Latvia

In the Latvian Saeima, this week, a draft Law on Unmarried couples would be proposed by the party alliance Attīstībai/Par!.

Glass fibre maker Valmieras stikla šķiedra files for legal protection

Latvia-based glass fibre maker AS Valmieras stikla šķiedra has on Monday, June 17, announced filing for the start of legal protection proceedings aimed at ensuring sustainable continuation of group level operations.

Summer solstice week to be warm-to-hot in Latvia

As Latvia readies for the traditional summer solstice and Līgo festivities in the weekend, meteorologists expect the beginning of the week to be warm and sunny, whereas in the second half of the week, temperatures could rise and rain could set in.

Trees worth two hundred thousand euros disappear in Latvian border works

Developing the Latvia-Russia border, in eastern Latvia, a protected natural territory has been destroyed and timber worth over two hundred thousand euros has disappeared, reported Nekā Personīga programme of TV3 channel.

Latvian MPs request Supreme Court to evaluate Prosecutor General Kalnmeiers

Latvian legislators have asked the Latvian Supreme Court to evaluate consistency of the work of Prosecutor Ēriks Kalnmeiers with his post over inactivity in money laundering prevention and other shortcomings.

Gynaecologists in Germany fined advertising abortions

A court in Berlin has found two gynaecologists guilty of advertising how they carry out abortions in their clinic, fining them two thousand euros each. A pair of anti-abortion campaigners had reported the gynaecologists' website ad to German prosecutors.

Week in Lithuania: MP Gražulis in hot water, heat-related water supply disruptions in Kaunas

Last week, Lithuania marked the Day of Mourning and Hope, outgoing president Dalia Grybauskaite delivered her last annual address, president-elect Gitanas Nausėda spoke out against taxing owners of old polluting car, but MP Petras Gražulis suspected of bribery.

BNN summary of the week: Waiting for new Culture Minister; Misleading by Supreme Court chair; bank watchdog overhaul

In the past week in Latvia, changes were announced in the Financial and Capital Market Commission, which will have new a management and duties. A substitute has been proposed for Dace Melbārde as the Latvian Culture Minister after her election to the European Parliament. The conservatives have picked Nauris Puntulis, an opera singer and current Riga City councillor, for the post. The candidate gave an interview to BNN on his priorities in the post.

IN PICTURES: Victims of Communist genocide remembered in Latvia

At the Freedom Monument in Latvia on Friday, June 14, there was held a ceremony to honour the victims of the Communist genocide against the people of Latvia. The mass arrests of innocent people were committed on the night from June 13 to 14.

Moscow sees U.S. decision of another thousand troops to Poland as sensitive

The Russian government stated the Russian army was closely tracking U.S. plans to send an additional thousand of its troops Poland as a deputy minister criticised the move as probably «aggressive».

Europol: Risks of Russian money laundering still exist in Baltics

In the Baltic states, there still exist risks for the laundering of money from Russia, said official from European police agency Europol, Pedro Felicio, who works on anti-money laundering measures in the body. He added that the problem is amplified by «zero cooperation from the side of Russia».

Data: 47.3% Latvian restaurants had tax debt over last six months

47.3% of Latvian restaurants and cafes had a tax debt exceeding 150 euros in the past six months, yet the total taxes paid by the sector have surged by 19.87% on year, data by business database Lursoft showed.

Latvian parliament in no rush to discuss Jewish restitution payment of EUR 40 mln

The Latvian Saeima has postponed the discussion of a draft law to compensate the Latvian Jewish community in the amount of 40 million euros for property confiscated by totalitarian powers in the mid-20th century in the then occupied Latvia.

Latvian Supreme Court chairman blamed for misleading PM over new court

Latvian Supreme Court chairman Ivars Bičkovičs has misrepresented to the Prime Minister the opinion of the Justice Council on the plan of a new economic cases’ court, says Latvian Justice Minister Jānis Bordāns. Two members of the council voted in favour of the establishment of the new court, while nine members were against it.

Latvian Health Ministry pushing for fairer competition in medicines’ market

Seeking lower prices of medicines for patients on the Latvian market, the country’s Health Ministry, is working on measures to improve access to medicines.

Approved: Latvian financial watchdog to have new management, more duties

The Latvian parliament has passed amendments to the Law of the Financial and Capital Market Commission aimed at strengthening the prevention of money laundering and terrorism funding in the financial and capital market.

Latvia cancels healthcare funding system of «two baskets»

People in Latvia will maintain access to healthcare services in the framework of mandatory health insurance by 2021 just as now, regardless of insurance payments made.

Estonia confirms alcohol U-turn to recover booze tourists from Latvia

As Estonia tries to recover its alcohol customers lost to neighbouring Latvia due to high excise duty, the parliament in Tallinn has passed a 25% cut in excise duty rate.

All Souls’ Day two? Lithuania eyes new national holiday

Members of the Lithuanian Seimas propose making the All Souls’ Day a national holiday in the majority Catholic Baltic country adding one holiday to the calendar in early November.

Lithuania's next President set to take bull by horns in tackling poverty

Lithuania’s president-elect Gitanas Nausėda has touched one issue – social exclusion and high level of income inequality in Lithuanian society – a lot more than all the others.

Latvian aviation can reach level of Sweden in ten years, says Transport Minister

The aviation sector of Latvia could by 2030 reach with increased efforts the level of Sweden in terms of passenger numbers, flights and cargo handling per capita, stated Latvian Transport Minister Tālis Linkaits.