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Monday 18.02.2019 | Name days: Kintija, Kora

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.

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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.

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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Week in Lithuania. Lithuania to hold referendum on reducing number of MPs

A referendum on reducing the number of lawmakers to 121 from the existing 141 will be held on May 12 alongside the presidential election in Lithuania, the country's parliament has decided after 58 lawmakers voted in favour on Thursday, February 14, 42 were against and two abstained.

Latvian President: All should acknowledge constitutional values as their own

At the anniversary of the Constitution of the Republic of Latvia, President Raimonds Vējonis, urged everyone in Latvia «to acknowledge the values of the Constitution as one's own and be ready to stand for the basic law both in big issues and in aspects of daily life».

Court rules EUR 200 thousand bail for criminal suspect of Riga transport firm

A court in the Latvian capital has set at 200 000 euros the bail money for ex-board chairman of the Riga public transport company Rīgas satiksme, who is a suspect in the criminal case over possible corrupt procurement dealings at the municipal firm.

Grave terror attack shakes Kashmir, conflict region of India, Pakistan

A terror attack has taken place in the disputed region of Kashmir, a long source of argument between India and Pakistan, taking the lives of 44 people.

British parliament rejects government's approach to Brexit talks

As the government of the United Kingdom sought the backing of the British Parliament to its strategy for the remaining weeks of Brexit talks with the European Union, a motion endorsing the government's strategy was rejected with a majority of 45 votes.

Lithuanian lawmakers set to backtrack on «Norwegian-type» child welfare protection

The Lithuanian lawmakers have sent this week a mixed message on their resolve to root out child abuse in Lithuanian families. As the MPs backtracked from the stringent Norwegian-type child welfare protection law to a more lenient one, not-criminalizing corporal punishment in certain cases, some experts warn that the reverse can trigger a spike of child abuse cases.

Drivers warned in Latvia as roads slippery in warmer temperatures

Black frost is hampering driving on Latvia's main and regional roads. The road administration body Latvijas Valsts ceļi (LVC) says that maintenance teams are covering the roads with antiskid materials and advises drivers to be very careful.

Programmer, physiotherapist and pilot – top professions on Latvian Job Shadow Day

The Job Shadow Day 2019 was held on February 13 in Latvia and the professions of programmer, physiotherapist and pilot were the most attractive as 1 545 companies offered the chance to follow working specialists throughout the day, according to the data by Junior Achievement Latvia.

Macedonia starts name-change from signs to currency, passports

Macedonia's official gazette has published the name-change agreement, launching a campaign of renaming the country as North Macedonia and allowing for its accession to NATO and eventually the European Union.

Dozens of British ex-ambassadors call for delay of Brexit

A group of over 40 British ex-ambassadors have urged the country's Prime Minister Theresa May to delay the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union, British media report.

Port of Ventspils sees 40% boost in cargo turnover on year

Cargo turnover at the Freeport of Ventspils has in January 2019, compared to the respective month in 2018, jumped by 40.12% or 593 tonns, according to data from the Port Administration.

New CEO of Rail Baltic project is Finnish railway executive Riihimäki

To advance the pan-Baltic railway project, the Supervisory Board of RB Rail AS has appointed Timo Riihimäki as Chief Executive Officer and Chairperson of the Management Board of the Rail Baltica Joint Venture.

Latvian PM sees no chance no significantly raise teacher salaries in 2019

Despite promises to teachers made by the previous government, Latvia is currently unable to significantly raise the wages of teachers, because it would require either increasing the budget deficit or higher taxes, Latvian Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš has told on Wednesday, in an interview with LNT's programme 900 sekundes.

Estonian startups attract EUR 328 million in 2018

The Estonian startup sector has in 2018 attracted combined investments of 328 million euros with Taxify, Pipedirve and Monese being the top performers, according to calculations by Startup Estonia.

U.S. sees power vacuum in Eastern Europe as exploited by Russia, China

U.S Secretary of State Mike Pompeo evaluated that in Eastern Europe, China and Russia endanger the democratic and free-market gains made since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 by the means of predatory investment and political meddling.

Ukraine peace agreement not fulfilled, UN finds

The Minsk peace accord of 2015 stands unimplemented in eastern Ukraine as over 3,300 people have been killed and 1.5 million people displaced in the five-year conflict, U.N. officials stated.

Latvian conductor Nelsons wins Grammies in U.S.

Latvian conductor Andris Nelsons has added two Grammy music awards to his list of honours for the work with the Boston Symphony Orchestra. At the Grammy music awards ceremony in the U.S. on Sunday, February 10, the Latvian won the prize for the best orchestral performance with the Boston Symphony Orchestra in the record Shostakovich: Symphonies Nos. 4&11.

Riga Mayor survives another no-confidence vote

The embattled Mayor Riga Nils Ušakovs has survived a vote of no-confidence as the opposition parties criticised him over corruption scandals involving the Riga City Council.

Justice Minister: Justice does exist in Latvia, but it's selective

«I'm in politics precisely, because as a citizen and a lawyer, I wasn't satisfied with the influence on the court and political system from people, operating outside these spheres. To my mind, this influence is the reason of long trials in Latvia. Another problem is the lack of specialists, who could solve economic crimes – if politicians would be very interested in this, many cases would have been solved over the past ten years. There are two options: there have either been unprofessional politicians, or they have been interested in having the situation remain the way it was,» said Latvian Justice Minister Jānis Bordāns in an interview with the BNN.

Spain starts historic trial against Catalan independence figures

Spain is beginning court proceedings against 12 leaders of the region of Catalonia for their role in the region's independence referendum and the subsequent declaration of separation from Spain.

Estonia convicts ex-army officer, his father for treason

A court in Tallinn has convicted ex-officer of the Estonian Defence Forces, Deniss Metsavas, his father for state treason, finding them guilty of selling state secrets to Russian intelligence.

Troubles continue in Latvian anti-establishment party KPV LV

In the Latvian anti-establishment party KPV LV, Saeima member Linda Liepiņa has decided to leave the post of the party's Co-chairperson and member of the board.

Thaw and warm temperatures expected in Latvia this week

The weather in Latvia, in the first part of the week will be mostly warm for winter-time and precipitation in the form of rain and wet snow can be expected, according to a weekly forecast from the Latvian Environment, Geology and Meteorology Centre.

Defence Minister: Deployment of allied missiles in Latvia is «dreaming»

The issue of the deployment of the missiles of allied forces in Latvia is far from being relevant, «it's dreaming», commented Latvian Defence Minister on Monday, February 11, in an interview with LTV's news programme Rīta panorāma

Hungary' s mothers of four to be exempt from paying income tax

In Hungary, the government is boosting financial support to families with several children, according to measures presented by Prime Minister Viktor Orbán. On Sunday, February 10, the significant measures announced by Viktor Orbán during an annual address, encouraging women to have more children.

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