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Monday 17.02.2020 | Name days: Konstance, Donats
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BNN summary of the week: Lay-offs at LDz. KNAB wrapped around ZZS’ finger. Ķuzis steps down

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summary. Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, LDz, plans, business, audit, Riga, dismissal, State Police, recommendedThe last week demonstrated that not everything that glitters is gold. Although previously Latvian Railway proudly reported growing freights and revenue, the statement released in the middle of the week suggests the company is not in the best state – the company plans to lay off 1 500 workers by the end of the year.

Wrapped around a finger – this is how it is possible to describe the decision made by Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau (KNAB) to permit the payment of state funding for the Union of Greens and Farmers (ZZS) despite the party’s close ties to Aivars Lembergs, who is subjected to US sanctions. KNAB has concluded there is no legal foundation to refuse paying ZZS state funding. The bureau does add, however, that the political party should take into account the restrictions established by US sanctions. This was the decision made by the corruption enforcement bureau in spite of the political party’s close ties with its ‘martyr’ Lembergs.

Last week, like lightning amidst a clear sky appeared the announcement from Latvian State Police chief Ints Ķuzis regarding him stepping down. The chief of police said he had made this decision at the end of 2019.

Meanwhile, Interior Affairs Minister Sandis Ģirģens does not hide his disappointment with Ķuzis’ work. The two had an agreement – if some high-ranking police official were to be caught committing violations, Ķuzis would have to step down. The chief of police denies making this decision under pressure, however.

The BNN gives you a summary of the key events of the past week, told in news stories of the following topics: Mass lay-offs; Wrapped around a finger; Departure; Reaction; Mutiny; Slum crisis; Border alcohol and Birth rate increase.

MASS LAY-OFFS

Latvian Railway plans to lay off 1 500 employees

LDz, lay-offs, railway, future, plansLatvian Railway (LDz) plans to terminate labour relations with approximately 1 500 employees before the end of 2020, as reported by the company’s representative Ella Pētermane.

The reduction of the number of employees is planned to be carried out in several stages. On Thursday, 16 January, LDz submitted relevant information to Latvia’s State Employment Agency.

«Without a doubt – cutting ties with employees is a painful decision for any company. Nevertheless, I am confident we have to make this step to ensure LDz is able to restore its financial balance, profitability and competitiveness in the region and on the international market in the future,» said LDz board chairman Māris Kleinbergs.

Full article here

WRAPPED AROUND A FINGER

KNAB decides to give ZZS state funding in spite of US sanctions against Lembergs

KNAB, Aivars Lembergs, sanctions, ZZS, state budget, fundingIn spite of sanctions imposed against Aivars Lembergs by the US Department of the Treasury Office for Foreign Asset Control (OFAC), Latvian Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau (KNAB) has decided to provide the Union of Greens and Farmers (ZZS) state funding of EUR 489 163.

KNAB believes there is no legal basis for not providing ZZS with state budget funding. At the same time, the bureau notes ZZS has a duty to comply with restrictions outlined in US sanctions, as well as requirements of Law on International Sanctions and National Sanctions of the Republic of Latvia.

«Latvia’s problem is that authorities are focused only on areas in which the person under sanctions – Aivars Lembergs – has ownership rights. At the same time, authorities do not look towards the state of his control and influence through politician, associations and state institutions after having been applied with sanctions,» BNN was previously told in an interview by Aivis and Ivars Landmanis.

When deciding on allocation of funding for parties, KNAB decided to not pay Latvian Russians Union because its stated account is not in a credit institution registered in Latvia, which is against what is outlined in the Law on Financing of Political Organizations.

Full article here

DEPARTURE

LTV: Latvian State Police chief to step down soon

State Police, Latvia, Ints Ķuzis, resignation

Latvian State Police Chief Ints Ķuzis

Chief of Latvian State Police Ints Ķuzis will soon step down from his position, as reported by LTV News Service.

According to information from LTV, Ķuzis will submit his resignation on Wednesday, 15 January, and will officially leave his post on 10 February.

Using social media, Ķuzis commented that he made his decision at the end of last year. In his statement, the chief of State Police says he had to work in a time difficult for the police, but he nevertheless managed to accomplish much.

«In the past several years we have done a lot to help outline the future for the police. I believe the new police should be organized by a new chief of police!» said Ķuzis.

Previously, Interior Affairs Minister Sandis Ģirģens said he and Ķuzis have an agreement – if some high-ranking police official is caught committing some crime, Ķuzis will have to resign.

Full article here

REACTION

Latvian Saeima to ask Denmark to not extradite Kristīne Misāne to South African Republic

Latvia, Denmark, South African Republic, extradition, criminal prosecutionOn Thursday, 16 January, Latvian Saeima made the decision to protect the rights of Latvian citizen Kristīnes Misāne, asking the Danish parliament and Danish law enforcers to support their Latvian colleagues and find a solution to avoid extraditing her to the South African Republic, as reported by Saeima’s press-service.

Latvian parliamentarians mention in the decision that Misāne is currently held under arrest in Denmark, and Danish judicial system has decided to extradite her to the South African Republic for criminal prosecution for alleged crimes committed there.

The decision also references Section 98 of the Constitution of the Republic of Latvia, which states that every person bearing a passport issued by the Republic of Latvia is under the country’s protection, and reports from international organizations regarding inappropriate treatment of people in prisons of the South African Republic.

Full article here

MUTINY

GKR helps overthrow Riga’s vice-mayors and put an end to ruling coalition

Riga City Council, Anna Vladova, Oļegs Burovs, dismissal, vote, coalition, opposition

Anna Vladova and Oļegs Burovs

Riga City Council vice-chairperson Anna Vladova and deputy Druvis Kleins lost their respective posts at an extraordinary meeting on Thursday, 16 January. This happened because multiple deputies from Honour to Serve Riga (GKR) voted together with the opposition in favour of dismissing them.

31 representatives from opposition parties – Unity, For Latvia’s Development, New Conservative Party, National Alliance «All for Latvia – For Fatherland and Freedom/LNNK», as well as Independent Deputies Faction – voted in favour of Vladova’s dismissal.

Multiple GKR deputies with «free vote» also supported her dismissal, because Harmony did not withdraw their signatures previously given in favour of dismissing Mayor Oļegs Burovs. GKR deputies who voted against Vladova include Burovs, Ainārs Baštiks, Mihails Gavrilovs and former Harmony member turned GKR member Baiba Rozentāle.

Harmony, For Riga! bloc and a couple of GKR members voted against Vladova’s dismissal. Together they gathered 21 votes. Five more GKR members abstained in the vote.

30 city council members voted in favour of Kleins’ dismissal – deputies from Unity, For Latvia’s Development, New Conservative Party, National Alliance «All for Latvia – For Fatherland and Freedom/LNNK», as well as Independent Deputies Faction and multiple members of GKR.

Full article here

SLUM CRISIS

Audit: majority of Latvian housing stock has degraded to a state of a slum

VK, audit, housing stock, Latvia, maintenanceSince the denationalization effective access to housing security in Latvia does not exist and most of the housing stock has degraded up to a state of a slum, as concluded by the Latvian State Audit.

Of the 82 apartment building chosen by VK at random for inspection, 51 or 62% of buildings with 736 apartments and about 1 500 people living have been found to have damages related to non-compliance with fire safety regulations. According to data from the State Fire and Rescue Service, the most common reason for fires in 279 apartment buildings was inappropriate use of heating appliances and chimneys, which is the responsibility of owners. Accidents could have been avoided through active involvement from building managers and construction authorities.

While buildings continue to degrade, putting at risk the people living there, pedestrians and the environment, the costs of repairs also continue to increase, authors of the audit say.

VK has confirmed that to provide residents living in these 51 potentially unsafe buildings with new and safe housing, it would be necessary to invest EUR 29 million into creation of a new housing stock.

Full article here

BORDER ALCOHOL

Estonian residents continue actively purchasing alcohol in Latvia

alcohol, prices, Estonia, Latvia, excise tax, differenceEstonian alcoholic drinks retailers say cross-border trade with Latvia remains active. On top of that, Estonian residents purchase not only cheaper alcoholic beverages but also new tobacco products.

The price difference between Estonia and Latvia remains large even though Estonia had reduced excise tax for alcohol in summer last year to reduce cross-border trade, said manager of Alko1000 network of stores selling alcoholic beverages Einars Visnapū.

«People make mistakes. The media write Estonia has reduced excise tax by 25% and that alcohol is now cheaper in our country – it is most definitely not cheap. The price difference with Latvia remains as high as it was at the beginning, may be even larger,» Visnapū told BNS news agency on Tuesday, 14 January.

Full article here

BIRTH RATE GROWTH

Statistics: Lithuania registers first population growth year since 1990s

demographics, migration, Lithuania, population growth, Baltic states

Lithuania’s fans hold their national flag during the Basketball World Cup Group L second round game between Dominican Republic and Lithuania in Nanjing on September 9, 2019

In Lithuania, for the first time since the 1990s, its population has grown during the year 2019, according to Statistics Lithuania.

The official statistical body of the country, Statistics Lithuania, stated in a post on its Facebook page (in Lithuanian) that «for the first time since the 1990s, more people have immigrated than emigrated and the permanent population has increased by 145».

According to its calculations, the top emigration destination for Lithuanians was the United Kingdom, while the top countries, from which people immigrated to Lithuania were Ukraine and Belarus.

Full article here


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Week in Lithuania: retailer Maxima got in trouble, Turkish firm’s assets frozen, New Agency set up

Lithuania's concessions provided to the Polish business group Orlen, operating an oil refinery in Lithuania's Mažeikiai, have helped to improve bilateral relations but were not the key element in their thaw, Lithuanian President Gitanas Nausėda said this week.

BNN summary of the week: Levits urges protecting officials. Riga City Council toppled. Tax changes planned

The BNN gives you a summary of the key events of the past week, told in news stories of the following topics: Serious signals; Perseverance; Dismissal; Tax changes; Media supervisors; Inflation; Slower over the bridge and Belief protectors.

Prime minister orders development of proper government MPC monitoring rules

Latvian Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš has ordered Economy Minister Ralfs Nemiro to immediately commence work on a new mandatory procurement component monitoring project and submit it as soon as possible to ensure efficient control over the system, as confirmed by the prime minister’s office.

1 700 medics infected with coronavirus in China; six dead so far

More than 1 700 medics in China are confirmed infected with the new coronavirus. Six of them have already died, as confirmed by healthcare officials.

Number of foreign guests hosted in Latvian places of accommodation up 1.6%

2.85 million foreign and Latvian visitors stayed at Latvian tourist accommodation establishments in 2019, which is 1.6 % more than in 2018. Compared to the previous year, the number of nights spent by visitors increased by 2.6 %, reaching 5.51 million in 2019.

Experts approve Riga Central Station’s Rail Baltica regional train reception solution

A solution has been found to install a four-lane railway section at Riga Central Railway Station to replace the existing two-lane section. This will help secure not only international and airport connectivity for Rail Baltica trains but also further improve intercity and suburban train services, as reported by the project’s representatives.

Beness Aijo asks Vladimir Putin for political asylum; claims Russia has released him

Beness Aijo, who fled Latvia to avoid criminal prosecution for calls of a violent overthrowing of the government, has asked Russian President Vladimir Putin to provide him political asylum. He also claims Russian authorities have released him from custody.

Share prices plummet on stock markets over concerns for coronavirus

On Thursday, 13 February, share prices around the world plummeted as concerns over the Covid-19 coronavirus epidemic in China. London Stock Exchange index declined shortly after British Finance Minister Sajid Javid’s sudden resignation.

Saeima to add considerable amendments to Criminal Procedure Law

On Thursday, 13 February, Latvian Saeima approved amendments to the Criminal Procedure Law that provide the duty to provide truth in testimony if a person uses the right to testify.

Week’s end in Latvia will be snowy, rainy and windy

Strong wind, which may reach a speed of 25 m/sec along the coast, is expected at this week’s end in Latvia. Air temperature, however, will remain mostly unchanged, as reported by Latvian State Environment, Geology and Meteorology Centre.

National Alliance and New Unity may run in Riga City Council elections separately

Following the decision made by the New Conservative Party to run in upcoming Riga City Council snap elections separately, a similar decision will likely be made by the National Alliance «All for Latvia – For Fatherland and Freedom/LNNK» and New Unity.

Airbnb and Vilnius sign «historic» agreement, taxmen to zero in on short-term rentals

Long chastised for little regulation, Airbnb, a popular short-term rentals platform, was praised this week in Lithuania after capital city Vilnius and Airbnb inked an agreement, envisioning that from February 1 onwards Airbnb will automatically collect Vilnius city tourism tax due per night and per person and transfer the sum directly to the City of Vilnius on behalf of hosts.

Latvian parliament dissolves Riga City Council

The Saeima has decided to dissolve Riga City Council. The city council remains active, however, because the law on its dismissal will come to force the next day after its promulgation. Now President Egils Levits has ten days to make his decision on the promulgation.

Tallinn residents reject proposal to limit driving speed to 40 km/h

Residents of Tallinn have rejected mayor Mihhail Kõlvart’s proposal to limit driving speed within city limits to 40 km/h, forcing the municipality to look for other ways to control road traffic speed, as reported by Estonian public media ERR.

Journalists Kalderauska and Eglītis approved as members of National Electronic Mass Media Council

On Thursday, 13 February, Latvia’s Saeima approved journalists Ieva Kalderauska and Jānis Eglītis as new members of the National Electronic Mass Media Council.

European Parliament urges putting an end to illegal pet trade

To protect animal welfare, pet owners and public health, the European Parliament urges the European Union to come up with an action plan to put an end to illegal pet trade, BNN was informed by EP press-secretary in Latvia Jānis Krastiņš.

Kariņš: Baltic and Nordic region should become Europe’s leader

«Baltic and Nordic countries region will be a leader in Europe when it comes to climate policy, innovations and hybrid-security matters. It is in our interest to enhance this commitment by implementing a reasonable and ambitious policy in these sectors,» said Latvian Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš during his meeting with Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin.

Animal rights activists show footage of cruel treatment of animals at Lithuanian fur farm

Animal rights activists have made a video recording depicting unacceptable conditions in which minks are kept in some fur mark in Lithuania, as reported by Lithuanian public media LRT with reference to Daily Mail.

Latvian government proposes increasing state family benefits

In the context of expected tax changes it is proposed to increase the family state benefit for children, estimating that this may cost an additional amount from EUR 81 to EUR 97 million a year, according to information available to LETA in regards to the offer for tax policy guidelines for 2021 to 2025.

Lawyers: Olainfarm talks should be analysed by law enforcement institutions

Analysis of recorded Olainfarm talks should be entrusted to law enforcement institutions, and all lawyers should distance themselves from people like Mārtiņš Krieķis. «This would be fair,» said board member of United Multidisciplinary Trade Union, lawyer Alvis Pīlāgs and chairman of Latvian Lawyers Association Rihards Bunka about Krieķis as «person without ethics» in an interview to BNN.

Latvia to request Russia to hand over detained National-Bolshevik Beness Aijo

Latvian office of the prosecutor will ask Russia to hand over the recently detained National Bolshevik Beness Aijo, who had fled Latvia several years ago to join Moscow-supported militants in Eastern Ukraine.

Non-taxable minimum and PIT rates proposed to be changed in context of tax changes

In the context of upcoming tax changes in Latvia it is proposed to change the differentiated non-taxable minimum and PIT, as stated in tax policy guideline changes for 2021 to 2025 available to LETA.

Fox News misinterprets facts by calling Lithuanian cities «the deadliest», LRT says

Although Lithuania stands out among other EU member states with its negative statistics with murders, it is wrong to call Lithuanian cities «the deadliest», as reported by Lithuanian public media fact-checking project LRT Facts, which has called the news reported by American media a «Manipulative/sensationalist headline».

SPRK: level of dissatisfaction with electronic communication services up in Latvia

Compared to 2018, the level of dissatisfaction with service contracts among Latvian consumers had increased 20% last year, whereas complaints over the quality of services had increased 9%, according to information compiled by the Public Utilities Commission on complaints received about electronic communication services.

Saeima opposition will not put obstacles for snap elections in Riga

The opposition of Latvia’s Saeima will not turn to President Egils Levits in relation to the legislative draft detailing dismissal of Riga City Council. This means members of the opposition will not put obstacles in the way for snap elections in Riga City Council.


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