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Ceturtdiena 20.06.2019 | Name days: Rasa, Rasma, Maira
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BNN summary of the week: Latvian parties continue talks; budget errors; container deposit system’s adoption

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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: Inspection; Decline; Hope; Conflict; Crime; Progress.

INSPECTION: Security Police: tram procurement in Daugavpils may negatively impact Latvia’s image

The plans of Daugavpils City Council to procure trams manufactured by the Russian military industrial complex present no direct threats. However, this deal may negatively impact Latvia’s international image, as explained by Security Police.

After receiving opinion from state institutions, Daugavpils City Council decided to purchase trams manufactured by the Russian military industrial complex. The trams will be procured by Lithuanian Railvec company for AS Daugavpils satiksme. The city council explains that the head of the transport company – Romāns Savickis – claimed at a meeting that he had received positive opinions from Foreign Affairs Ministry and Security Police.

As reported by Security Police, an investigation has been performed of this particular case. Although no direct threats were found, Latvia’s international image may suffer from this. Additionally, it could mean a breach of sanctions by Latvia. Security Police has informed the city council of the possible risks for national interests.

«SP believes the procurement of trams from the Russian company may negatively impact Latvia’s international image. It is important to consider that the tram procurement is performed using finances from European Union structure funds. That being the case, the municipality plans to procure goods from Russia in a time when this country is applied with international sanctions. Additionally, the municipality plans to procure trams produced by the Russian military industrial complex,» the police explains.

Full article here

DECLINE: Opinions of Latvian Finance and Healthcare ministries differ on healthcare budget

The funding for healthcare in the 2019 budget plan has caused a bit of confusion between Latvia’s Finance and Healthcare ministries. According to estimates from Finance Ministry, Latvia’s healthcare budge encompasses 4% of GDP, whereas information from Healthcare Ministry shows that it is only 3.5%.

According to Finance Ministry’s budget plan for 2019 approved by the government, healthcare budget will have reached 4% of GDP this year. Healthcare expenses will have reached 10.6% of all government expenditures. Similarly, next year’s budget plan provides that healthcare funding will remain at 4% of GDP, reaching 10.9% of government expenditures.

According to information from Healthcare Ministry, Latvia’s budget for healthcare composed 10% of all general government expenditures and 3.10% of GDP in 2016. Last year, it was 9.85% of government expenditures and 3.14% of GDP. At the same time, it is stated in the Healthcare Financing Law that healthcare funding needs to reach at least 4% of GDP in 2020.

HM representative Oskars Šneiders says that the ministry does not have any information to explain why the document states that this year’s healthcare budget has reached 4% of GDP. Additionally, information available to Healthcare Ministry shows that the healthcare budget is 3.5% of GDP. On top of that, the budget will remain roughly the same next year. The institution has requested Finance Ministry to explain how its calculations were performed.

Full article here

HOPE: Lithuania pins 2019 budget hopes on 200 million euros «out of shadow»

Lithuania’s record, revenue-wise, budget for 2019 is hinged on two key joints: the further growth of economy and the ability of the Farmers and Greens-orchestrated Government to extract a staggering 200 million euros out of the shadow economy.

The Government says the budget with 1, 516 billion euros in revenues, a 19,7 per cent year-on-year increase, is «reasonable» and «feasible», however the rosy numbers caught many economists in surprise – they have called the budget «blown out» and «advertising presumable deeds» of the ruling majority.

«We esteem that an amount of around 200 million euros can be collected and added to the budget,» Vilius Šapoka told the parliamentary Committee on Budget and Finance on Wednesday, October 24.

According to the minister, the shadow economy is shrinking for natural reasons, including economic growth, but major progress has been achieved in this area by the State Tax Inspectorate.

«Those additional measures of fighting the shadow economy it is taking and giving the result,» the minister said.

The government’s total tax revenue in 2019 is expected to grow by 30.1 per cent next year compared with this year to 8.019 billion euros. The value-added tax (VAT), the largest single source of tax revenue, should increase by 8.8 per cent to 3.85 billion euros.

Full article here

CONFLICT: Estonia sued by producer of flawed national ID cards

The Estonian Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) has been sued to court by Dutch digital security firm Gemalto, which, in turn, is subject to an apology and compensation claim from the Estonian institution over the making of insecure national ID cards.

Estonian public broadcaster ERR reported on Thursday, October 25, that Gemalto, which considered the institution’s claim of 152 million euros disproportionate and expressed hopes for a more amicable solution, argued that it had not breached its contract with the PPA and was seeking redress in the courts.

«As announced on 27 September 2018, Gemalto regrets the PPA’s sudden decision to suspend the almost completed negotiations without any cordial compromise agreement, followed by an unsubstantiated and unprecedented application by the PPA to the court, amounting to a total disproportionate amount compared with what PPA itself offered in a draft compromise agreement,» the firm stated.

In late September, the PPA turned to court in Estonia claiming 152 million euros from the maker of the country’s electronic identity cards, Gemalto, as the company produced over 700 000 cards that were subsequently found to have a security risk.

The revelation dealt a large blow to Estonia’s digital reputation.

Estonian police is claiming 152 million euros from the maker of the country’s electronic identity cards, Gemalto, as the company produced over 700 000 cards that were subsequently found to have a security risk. The revelation dealt a large blow to Estonia’s digital reputation.

Full article here

CRIME: to better battle prostitution, police should focus on punishing clients

In the fight against prostitution and human trafficking, police should devote more time prosecuting the ‘clients’ of those services, not prostitutes, as it is in many countries, said Per-Anders Sunesson, Swedish Ambassador at Large for Combating Trafficking in Persons.

According to him, the so-called Swedish money, in which responsibility is demanded from the client and prostitutes are freed of the fear of being punished, focuses on the person who exploits other people. This practice has been adopted by France, Ireland and other countries.

Sunesson says it is easy to arrest women pulled into prostitution. It is far more important to make it clear that the ‘client’ does something wrong, too. Sweden made this step in 1999, with a law that punishes the purchase of sex. At the same time, ‘service providers’ are freed from criminal liability.

Sweden’s ambassador for special assignments said this practice has brought good results – it is now rare to find people who believe prostitution is acceptable. «Very few people in Sweden buy women and girls for sexual needs. This is because society has undergone massive changes,» said Sunesson.

Additionally, he says that implementation of Swedish model has allowed for more successful combating of human trafficking. «Compared to other countries, we have fewer problems with human trafficking. Every now and then certain cases of human exploitation surface, including cases when people are brought to Sweden to beg on streets. At the same time, when compared to other countries, Sweden is better off when it comes to victims sold for sexual exploitation,» said the expert.

Full article here

PROGRESS: Saeima conceptually supports adoption of container-deposit system

On Thursday, 25 October, Saeima conceptually supported amendments to the Packaging Law. These amendments provide for the adoption of a container-deposit system. The goal of the planned system is ensuring maximum re-use of containers, as reported by Saeima’s press-service.

It is mentioned in the legislative draft that the container-deposit system is used to collect, sort, transport, store recycle and regenerate used containers. It is planned that labels used for containers part of the system will include special guidelines.

It is expected that upon purchasing goods in deposit containers, consumers will pay the price for the product and the deposit fee, which will be stated separately on the price tag. Container recipient will pay and issue consumers a receipt upon receiving containers for depositing, the parliament explains.

The legislative draft states that sellers will have to accept all forms of containers approved for depositing or secure a separate location for collection of said containers near their location. Information regarding the nearest container deposit donation point should be put in a visible location for residents to use. The actual container depositing location is to be set up and maintained by the system’s operator, however.

Full article here


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Latvia readying 15% alcohol excise rate cut in tit for tat to Estonia

In a measure seen in Riga as provoked unexpectedly by Estonian legislators, the Latvian Saeima has passed in the first reading the plan to cut the alcohol excise duty on liquor by 15%.

Estonian military surveillance plan rejected by Kaljulaid to reach court

Rejected as unconstitutional by the Estonian President, Kersti Kaljulaid, the plan to expand military surveillance in the country will reach the Estonian Supreme Court in autumn. the President and the Estonian parliament disagree on the provisions of the amended Defence Forces Organisation Law.

Latvia rejects Unmarried Couple’s Law intended for cohabiting partners

The Latvian parliament has on Thursday, June 20, rejected the draft Unmarried Couple’s Law proposed by MPs from the governing New Unity and coalition member Development/For! for the protection of cohabitating unmarried partners.

Lithuania not to change alcohol excise yet, while Latvia readies reaction to Estonia’s -25%

The much-praised unity of the Baltics in the 1990s has fallen through multiple times over the countries’ independent history and the last blow to it came this month from Estonia, which unilaterally made a 25 percent cut on alcohol excise tax in bid to lure alcoholic beverage lovers from neighbouring countries.

Swedbank not leaving Baltics, says newly appointed chairman Persson

Swedbank shareholders have elected former Swedish Prime Minister Göran Persson as its new chairman. He has started off by dismissing the possibility of leaving Baltic markets amid investigations.

Rejecting access to state secrets to Latvian MP, body points to his «dishonesty»

Rejecting access to Latvian state secrets to controversial MP Aldis Gobzems, the Latvian Constitution Protection Bureau has pointed to hid «dishonesty» and a possible legal violation, according to the decision shown on Facebook by the lawmaker himself.

Latvian energy giant’s council suspended; members satisfied with accomplishments

The council of the Latvian state energy giant AS Latvenergo has been removed by Economy Minister over lack of productivity. Yet its members have stated they were satisfied with the achievements of their work.

Researchers: Eastern Latvian cities promote Russia’s influence in Latvia

Despite Latvia’s difficult relations with Russia, two major Latvian cities engage in initiatives adhering to the interests of the eastern neighbour, researchers of the Centre for East European Policy Studies have found in a new, revealing study.

Experts on Latvia’s compensations to Jewish community: Good idea poorly developed

The Latvian draft law on paying compensations to the Latvian Jewish community for the real estate confiscated by Nazi and Communist occupation powers embodies a good idea, yet the requested sum and articles of law lack clear substantiation, legal experts commented to BNN.

Hollywood filmmaking in Tallinn? Estonia considering EUR 5 million support

The Estonian government is reviewing a request from film director Christopher Nolan, renown for Hollywood thriller blockbusters, to support with five million euros a film currently shot in Tallinn. Estonian state movie budget for 2018 is two million euros.

Annual inflation in Latvia, Estonia among EU's highest

Data on the annual inflation rate in the European Union showed that price rise in Latvia was 3.5%, followed by Estonia with 3.1%, Eurostat reports.

Nausėda’s pick for doctor seen as éminence grise of Lithuanian health care

Lithuanian President-elect Gitanas Nausėda has chosen Remigijus Žaliūnas as his personal doctor. The pick is seen as controversial by LRT broadcaster over Žaliūnas’ contacts with both business heavyweights and policy makers.

Latvian Prime Minister not to bend to budget appetite of extra EUR 600 million

For the Latvian state budget of 2020, the ministries have submitted requests exceeding the spending plans by 600 million euros, said Latvian Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš to Rīta Panorāma TV programme. The PM also expressed determination not to raise taxes.

Availability of cancer diagnostics in Latvia worsening critically, surgeon warns

The availability of cancer diagnostics and chemotherapy in Latvia is worsening critically, warned the head of the Oncology Clinic of the Riga Eastern University Hospital, surgeon Armands Sīviņš.

Take two: Trump starts re-election campaign for U.S. President

U.S. President Donald Trump has officially opened his bid to be re-elected to the post in the 2020 election. The new campaign slogan is: «Keep America great». There are 39 other candidates competing in the race to White House.

Ban on anonymous comments suggested after Baltic Pride in Vilnius

To stem offensive comments on Lithuanian internet media, member of the Seimas Vytautas Kernagis has suggested banning such anonymous expression of opinion, yet European case law upholds the right of authorless speech online, LRT reports.

Plaster to education: Latvian teachers’ pay increased for 2019 alone

The Latvian government has approved the rise of the lowest pay rate of teachers, but funds for this purpose have been earmarked only for the second half of 2019.

Pay cut to major Latvian port board members approved by government

The salary of the board members of major Latvian ports has been cut by a quarter in a decision by the Latvian Cabinet of Ministers.

Nordea bank searched in Denmark over money laundering allegations

The Danish offices of the Scandinavian Nordea Bank have been searched by police as a probe in alleged money laundering is being conducted, Bloomberg reports.

Fire Service: Violations in new Ventspils music school prevented

In the newly-built Ventspils Musical High School and concert hall Latvija, which had problems with fire safety, the Latvian State and Fire Rescue Service has found in a repeated inspection that the violations have been fixed.

UN: 2.2 billion people globally still lack safe drinking water

A report by the United Nations Children’s Fund and the World Health Organisation has found in study that 1 in 3 people or 2.2 billion people around the world lack safely-managed drinking water, while 673 million people practice open defecation.

Key owner of pharmaceutical giant Olainfarm changes board member over distrust

In Olmafarm, the largest owner of the Latvian pharmaceutical giant Olainfarm, changes in the management board have taken place over no-confidence, according to a decision of the majority of the co-heirs of Olmafarm seen by LETA news agency.

Lithuanian experts: No way of stopping coming nuclear power plant of Belarus

Options that could stop the building of a nuclear power plant in Belarus have been exhausted, experts in neighbouring Lithuania have said to its public media.

Latvia pushing for joint stance of Baltic-Nordic MPs on security policy

Ahead of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Organisation of Security and Cooperation in Europe, it is key for the legislators of the eight Baltic-Nordic states to have a common position on security policy, said MP Inese Ikstena, head of the Latvian delegation.

Latvian coalition undertakes to rise teacher salaries over reform

Recognising that education reforms in Latvia have been initiated, the ruling coalition has pledged to pass the decision to allocate funds to rising teacher salaries, as indicated by Latvian Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš. Kariņš stated that the coalition parties have established that «reforms envisaged by Minister of Education Ilga Šupilinska have been initiated».

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