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Sunday 18.11.2018 | Name days: Doloresa, Aleksandrs

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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Week in Lithuania. Lithuanian government approves rules for paying whistleblowers

The Lithuanian government approved on Wednesday, November 14, rules for financially rewarding people who provide the authorities with valuable information on illegal activities.

BNN summary of the week: government formation in Latvia, Brexit plans, and Latvia’s 100th birthday

If someone hoped to see Latvia compile a government before the national holiday, they are going to be disappointed – three parties have decided to exit government formation talks headed by New Conservative Party. NCP’s prime minister candidate Jānis Bordāns receive criticism for having too ambitious and expensive goals. NCP, on the other hand, says parties did not try to study the party’s offers.

PUC commences dispute between AS Gaso and natural gas consumer

On Friday, 16 November, Public Utilities Commission decided to commence a dispute procedure between a natural gas consumer and AS Gaso in regards to natural gas supplies, as confirmed by the commission.

Latvian parties continue informal talks while next prime minister is being picked

While President Raimonds Vējonis is busy picking the next prime minister candidate, politicians of different parties are performing informal consultations. No official consultations are currently planned.

UN's global migration compact stirs up Estonia's calm politics

The Estonian government has taken a long time to reach a unanimous position on the United Nation's Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration. This has been criticised by Estonian President Kersti Kaljulaid, who has to attend a conference in favour of the document in Morocco in December.

Latvian authorities detain CityCommerce Bank co-owner accused of embezzlement

Reinis Tumovs, co-owner of Ukrainian CityCommerce Bank, has been detained in Latvia. He is suspected of embezzling nearly UAH 300 million (EUR 9.5 million), as confirmed by Ukrainian National Police Economy Protection Department on Thursday, 15 November.

Russia ordered to pay damages for Navalny's political arrests by human rights court

Russia has been ordered by the European Court of Human Rights to repay 64 000 euros in damages and costs for politically-motivated arrests of Russian anti-corruption activist Alexei Navalny.

Latvian president to consider Gobzems and Pabriks as perspective prime minister candidates

As parties’ efforts to form a new government continue, Latvia’s President Raimonds Vējonis plans to consider two new prime minister candidates – KPV LV leader Aldis Gobzems and Attīstībai/Par! candidate Artis Pabriks.

EC wants to reduce funding for supplies of fruits, vegetables and milk to schools

European Commission’s proposed regulation on organization of agriculture products market provides for reducing EU funding for the support programme on provision of fruits, vegetables and milk for schools by EUR 29.2 million or the same as United Kingdom’s share.

Genocide verdicts handed to Khmer Rouge leaders in Cambodia

In Cambodia, the two most senior living leaders of the Khmer Rouge Communist regime have been found guilty of their role in the atrocities that resulted in the deaths of at least 1.7 million in Cambodia between 1977 and 1979.

Latvian parties pick candidates to work in Saeima committees

Parties elected to the 13th Saeima have picked representatives to work in the parliament’s standing committees. Final decision will be made 20 November. Harmony may be represented by deputies Nikolajs Kabanovs and Jānis Tutins in Saeima’s Foreign Affairs Committee. Attīstībai/Par! has picked Artis Pabriks, and Union of Greens and Farmers has picked Uldis Augulis.

EU leaders: No appetite for renegotiating Brexit deal

EU leaders have dismissed talk of renegotiating the draft Brexit deal and warned the UK's political situation could make a «no-deal» more likely.

Some rain expected for Latvia’s centenary; cold snap expected next week

The sky will become clear every now and then. Still, some rain is expected for the country’s centenary. Wet snow is expected in the country’s eastern regions. It will be dry in the country for the most part next week, as reported by Latvian State Environment, Geology and Meteorology Centre.

Latvian ministry plans to form Media Ethics Council and develop Latvian Media Ethics Code

Culture Ministry has proposed forming Media Ethics Council. The majority of institutions of the media industry have started working on a self-regulatory council and development of a Single Latvian Media Ethics Code, as reported by the ministry’s public relations office manager Lita Kokale.

Harmony picks representatives in Saeima’s committees

Nikolajs Kabanovs and Jānis Tutins may become Harmony’s representatives in Saeima’s Foreign Affairs Committee, whereas Valērijs Agešins may become the party’s representative in the National Security Committee.

Lithuania’s corruption buster: firms donating to hospitals stand better chance in tenders

The majority of the winners of the tenders organised by major Lithuanian hospitals have expressed their gratitude to the health providers by making donations to them in the form of financial support.

Employment level in Latvia reached 65.3% in Q3 2018

920.1 thousand people or 65.3 % of Latvia population aged 15–74 were employed in Q3 2018. Over the year, employment rate grew by 1.7 percentage points and number of employed persons by 17.2 thousand.

Unemployment level in Latvia was 7% in Q3 2018

In Q3 2018 Latvian unemployment rate constituted 7.0 %. Compared to the previous quarter, unemployment rate fell by 0.7 percentage points, while over the year by 1.5 percentage points.

AS PKL Flote enforces EUR 1.35 million from Riga Freeport authority in court

The Department of Civil Cases of the Supreme Court has ruled that the verdict of Riga Regional Court – one that penalized Riga Freeport authority for breach of Competition Law against PKL Flote – was correct. Now Riga Freeport has ten days, starting with 13 November, to pay the company EUR 1.35 million to cover damages caused by this violation, BNN was told by PKL Flote board chairman Sergejs Odincovs.

British government loses two more members; EU sets date for Brexit summit

In the UK government, Brexit minister Dominic Raab and Northern Ireland's junior minister have resigned in disagreement with the country's draft withdrawal agreement with the EU, already passed by the government.

Saeima deputy: data protection regulation will not protect «KGB associates»

Documents detailing KGB workers’ names, nationality, work place, participation in the Communist party are not covered by the Personal Data Protection Regulation, stresses Saeima deputy Ritvars Jansons from the National Alliance ‘All for Latvia’ – ‘For Fatherland and Freedom/LNNK’.

EP: Moldova and Georgia should continue initiated reforms

Members of the European Parliament welcome the reforms Georgia has commenced. At the same time, Moldova was criticized for its worsened state of democracy and rule of law, as reported by EP press-secretary in Latvia Signe Znotiņa-Znota.

Germany economy shrinks for first time in three years

Germany economy has contracted by 0.2% in the third quarter of 2018, a first such result in the largest economy of the European Union in over three years.

Latvian president gives parties holiday break to continue talks

Latvian President Raimonds Vējonis calls off nomination of NCP candidate Jānis Bordāns to for government. Talks regarding the next prime minister candidate will continue after the state holiday.

Ireland satisfied with Brexit draft deal in every priority

The government of Ireland has stated that draft withdrawal agreement between Irish neighbour, the UK, and the European Union, Dublin had achieved a satisfying result in all its priorities, also regarding the border on the island of Ireland.

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