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Ceturtdiena 09.04.2020 | Name days: Valērija, Žubīte
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BNN summary of the week: LDz scandal; Lithuania prepares for elections; Lembergs’ forgetfulness

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Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RULast week’s biggest announcement in Latvia came from Transport Minister Tālis Linkaits, who said «Latvian Railways current management cannot be trusted». The company is suspected of corruption and internal scheming. Meanwhile, LDz could not fully explain during their press-conference why Linkaits’ claims are untrue and veered from the topic, thereby only increasing suspicions that the company board does fear being «disqualified».

 Meanwhile, Lithuania is preparing for presidential elections.

Estonia is busy determining the most popular political party that could enter the next European Parliament.

BNN offers a summary of this week’s topical news in a variety of categories: Announcement; Confidence; Fight; Damage; Fears; Survey; Truth.

ANNOUNCEMENT

Minister says administration of Latvian Railway cannot be trusted

The current administration of Latvian Railway cannot be trusted – they do not understand European Commission’s free market regulations. Moreover – there are suspicions of corruption and internal scheming within the company, said Latvia’s Transport Minister Tālis Linkaits during a press-conference.

Latvian Railway chairman and president Edvīns Bērziņš, board member and vice-president Aivars Strakšas, as well as vice-president Ainis Stūrmanis received the biggest portion of bashing from the minister for «non-transparent activities».

«I have met with LDz administration and shared with them my impression about the company’s overall work. When I began my work in the ministry, I made it clear we would assess all companies for compliance with good corporate management principle to prevent different kinds of scheming and crimes of corruption, which have been historically recorded here. And respectively, after performing the assessment, I informed the administration of Latvian Railway that

I cannot trust them due to a number of reasons,» said Linkaits.

Full article here

CONFIDENCE

Ombudsman Juris Jansons proposed as second presidential candidate in Latvia

Latvia’s Farmers Union, which is part of Union of Greens and Farmers, has decided to pick ombudsman Juris Jansons as their state presidential candidate, as confirmed by UGF board chairman Armands Krauze.

He added that Jansons has agreed to stand candidate for the presidential post.

Talks with political parties forming UGF regarding the ombudsman’s candidacy have taken place. It is expected he might be picked as UGF’s candidate, said the politician. Latvia’s Green Party still needs to make its decision on this topic, added Krauze.

LFU has decided to pick Jansons for the presidential post because he is politically neutral. Additionally, LFU appreciates the ombudsman’s work in resolving many public problems, as well as his overall competence, said the politician.

Latvia’s Green Party’s chairman Edgars Tavars said on Wednesday that his party does not object to Jansons’ candidacy. «Mr. Jansons is a much respected candidate. We do not object, but we want to learn his opinion on multiple important topics,» said Tavars.

Full article here

FIGHT

After meeting with minister, Ventspils opposition decides to resume work in city council

After meeting with Latvia’s Environment Protection and Regional Development Minister Juris Pūce, opposition deputies of Ventspils City Council concluded that the minister is aware of and fully understands the situation in the city council. Because of that, members of the opposition have decided to once again start attending meetings of the city council, as confirmed by Ventspils City Council opposition deputy and European Parliament member candidate Ģirts Valdis Kristovskis.

As previously reported, all members of Ventspils City Council opposition had decided to stop attending city council meetings because on 12 April the ruling coalition refused to provide them with information regarding the municipality’s and some of its capital associations’ payments to Ventspils Development Agency.

On Thursday, 9 May, opposition deputies Ģirts Valdis Kristovskis, Dace Korna, Aivis Landmanis and Ivars Landmanis met with minister Juris Pūce and officials of the ministry and informed them how their rights to take part in work of city council’s committees and councils are unlawfully restricted and that they are not provided access to information regarding the municipality’s work and spending.

Full article here

DAMAGE

State Audit says Medical Treatment Risk Fund does not function in patients’ interests

Medical Treatment Risk Fund was formed in Latvia to ensure patients are able to receive compensation for potential damages caused during the medical treatment process, but it does not perform its main function because it does not work in patients’ interests, as concluded by Latvia’s State Audit in an audit performed to analyse Medical Treatment Risk Fund’s paid compensation and the process’ compliance with regulations.

The money the fund offers is vital for the health and life of many patients because they allow taking action immediately to reduce and prevent possible negative consequences. In certain cases, waiting for decisions regarding payment of compensation results in said money being received by inheritors of patients that needed the money, State Audit concluded evaluating the work performed by the fund’s remuneration system.

Over the course of five years, Medical Treatment Risk Fund has received requests from more than 900 patients and more than 200 decisions were made in which damage was recognized and compensations worth EUR 4.4 million were paid. The audit evaluated accessibility of the fund, the time it takes to assess patients’ requests, the procedure for determining the amount of remuneration and the formation of fund’s finances.

Full article here

FEARS

Lithuania selects next President as inequality, poverty top issues

Despite Lithuania’s long economic upswing, regional differences in wages and polarisation of population are key national problems before the Lithuanian presidential election due on Sunday, May 12.

French news agency AFP reports that a total nine candidates are vying to replace two-term independent incumbent Dalia Grybauskaite, but surveys show that only three stand any real chance of making it to the expected May 26 run-off coinciding with European parliament elections.

Top candidated are centre-left Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis, conservative-backed ex-finance minister Ingrida Šimonytė and independent economist Gitanas Nausėda.

Full article here

SURVEY

Leading Estonian parties, candidates prior to EP elections

Reformists, a major opposition party in the Estonian parliament, are leading combined results of polls before the European Parliament’s elections, where Estonians will pick their favourites to fill the six national seats.

Estonian public broadcaster ERR reports that the aggregate results of polls conducted during the past three weeks by Norstat pollster showed that the Reform Party would currently earn the votes of 22.1% of those surveyed, while another 20.3% would vote for Centre.

Social Democrats, meanwhile, currently command the support of 19.3% of voters, while 12.4% would vote for the Estonian Conservative People’s Party (EKRE) and another 9.8% for national-conservative Isamaa.

Full article here

TRUTH

Lembergs forced to clarify declaration, increasing declared income by half

Suspended mayor of Ventspils Aivars Lembergs, who is also accused of serious crimes, has clarified data in his declaration for 2018, increasing his declared income by EUR 372,144 or more than half than his initially declared amount.

LETA agency had previously noticed in the official’s declaration that Lembergs had apparently sold shares in Latvian Shipping Company for EUR 307,144, but the income section of his declaration did not show this amount and the total income stated therein was EUR 333,461. When LETA asked why this amount was not stated as income, Lembergs said it was a mistake and that he will correct it in the declaration. Because of that, his declaration had briefly disappeared from State Revenue Service’s database for a couple of days. The entry has since been updated and the declaration is once again accessible.

The updated declaration mentions income from the aforementioned sale of shares and his mother’s gifted EUR 65,000. Thus, Lembergs’ income was EUR 705,605 in 2018.

As previously reported, Lembergs biggest source of income last year was Ventspils Development Agency, which raises questions regarding the source of its finances. As president and board member in the agency, Lembergs earned EUR 93,389 last year. EUR 44,301 was earned by the suspended Ventspils mayor at Ventspils Freeport authority, where he works as board chairman. His wage as chairman of Ventspils City Council was EUR 20,067 last year.

Lembergs’ pension was EUR 72,740 or more than EUR 6,000 a month last year. Lembergs started receiving his pension in 2016. Lembergs also earned EUR 44,301 as chairman of Ventspils Freeport authority. As president and board member of Latvia’s Transit Business Association, Lembergs earned EUR 24,000 last year.

Full article here


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Court of first instance rejects Ušakovs’ appeal on dismissal as mayor of Riga

On Wednesday, 8 April, the Administrative District Court rejected Harmony politician Nils Ušakovs’ applications in which he appealed the order issued by Environment Protection and Regional Development Minister Juris Pūce on his dismissal from the post of mayor of Riga, as reported by the court.

Latest on COVID-19 in Baltics. 577 in Latvia, 912 in Lithuania, 1 185 in Estonia

The number of COVID-19 infection cases in Latvia has reached 577, increasing by 29 cases in the past day. Lithuanian media, meanwhile, report 912 confirmed infection cases. Public data in Estonia reports 1 185 infection cases in this Baltic State.

Inflation in Republic of Latvia reportedly at 1.4% in March

Compared to March 2019, the average level of consumer prices rose by 1.4 % in March 2020. Prices of goods have increased by 0.9 % and prices of services by 2.7 %.

Lithuania’s BC chief: «Latvia’s COVID-19 support for business has been swifter»

It is official: Lithuania is extending lockdown until April 27 to combat the coronavirus pandemic which death toll in the country stood at 15 as of Wednesday noon. As many as 912 persons were diagnosed with COVID-19 by then.

Lithuania on path to allow price regulation in government

In Lithuania, the majority of legislators in the Seimas, have backed draft amendments that set forth allowing the government to regulate the prices of essential goods during this time of quarantine, Lithuanian public broadcaster LRT reports.

BNN EXPLAINS | Envelope wages – one of the main reasons why idleness benefits may be denied

People need certainty – if they honestly pay taxes, they should be able to receive support from the state in the event of a crisis, since they have taken care of the state all this time by paying taxes, BNN was told in a phone conversation by chairman of LBAS Egils Baldzēns.

Criminal process launched against Aivars Lembergs for defamation

On 7 April 2020 State Police Kurzeme RP Saldus Department’s Criminal Police Office commenced a criminal process against Aivars Lembergs for untrue statements and claims he has used on multiple occasions during meetings of Ventspils City Council and Finance Committee against city council deputy Ģirts Valdis Kristovskis, as BNN was told by Kristovskis.

Latvia’s Prime Minister: we are financially well-situated in this crisis

We are financially well-situated in this crisis, said Latvia’s Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš in an interview to LTV programme Rīta panorama.

Latvian government supports dismissal of State Land Service’s director general

Latvia’s Cabinet of Ministers has supported Justice Ministry’s prepared decision project that details the dismissal of the State Land Service director general Solvitai Zvidriņa from her post, as confirmed by Justice Ministry.

China lifts lockdown in Wuhan

In the Chinese city of Wuhan, where the global pandemic of COVID-19 began, a lockdown has been lifted for the first time since January, British news portal The Guardian reports.

Support in Latvia for COVID-19 crisis prevention reaches four billion euros

The volume of support available in Latvia to finance preventive measures to overcome COVID-19 crisis has reached four billion euros, as reported by Latvian Finance Minister Jānis Reirs on Tuesday, 7 April.

Another month stuck home. Latvian government extends state of emergency

The state of emergency declared in Latvia because of COVID-19 pandemic has been extended until 12 May, as confirmed by Foreign Affairs Minister Edgars Rinkēvičs on social media on 7 April.

75 reports on competition distortions reported to Competition Council in 2019

Last year, the Competition Council received a total of 75 reports related to competition distortions caused by public persons, according to information listed in the latest public account for the institution’s more significant accomplishments in 2019 and developments in competition rights enforcement in Latvia.

Australia quashes child abuse convictions against cardinal Pell

A court in Australia has overturned child sex abuse convictions against cardinal George Pell after he was found guilty and received a prison term, British news portal The Guardian reports.

Education and Science Ministry considers not cancelling centralized exams

Latvia’s Education and Science Ministry considers the option to not cancel centralized exams, especially for 12th graders, as reported on Tuesday, 7 April, by Education Minister Ilga Šuplinska during a meeting with Saeima’s Education, Culture and Science Committee.

Estonian government in two minds on cutting public spending to help economy

Should public spending be cut to help restore the economy? Two of the three parties in the Estonian government have opposing views on this as economic recovery is increasingly discussed, Estonian public broadcaster ERR reports.

Riga International Airport plans to lay off 500 employees

Because of consequences caused by COVID-19, Riga International Airport plans to lay off 500 employees, as BNN was informed by the company.

Poland planning to hold presidential election as postal ballot

The Polish presidential election in May should be held as a postal ballot, the country’s legislators have decided. Opponents of the idea argue that this means putting public health at risk, British-Canadian news agency Reuters reports.

COVID-19 update in Baltics. 548 infected in Latvia, 880 in Lithuania, 1 149 in Estonia

The total number of confirmed coronavirus COVID-19 infection cases in Latvia has reached 548, increasing by six in the past day.

Latvian president urges not to sort idleness benefit recipients based on tax debts

When assessing whether or not a company meets requirements for idleness benefit eligibility, Latvia’s President Egils Levits urges the government to not sort them based on tax debts.

British PM Johnson treated from COVID-19 in intensive care

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been moved to intensive care in London with his COVID-19 symptoms worsening as the outbreak is claiming more lives in the United Kingdom, British news portal The Guardian reports.

Riga City Council snap elections pushed back to 5 September

The ruling coalition in Latvia has agreed to push back Riga City Council snap elections to 5 September, as journalists were told by politicians after a meeting of ruling parties on Monday, 6 April.

US death toll of COVID-19 nears 11 000

The US, which is the country with the highest number of confirmed COVID-19 infections, has on Tuesday, April 7, reached a total number of COVID-19-related deaths of 10 986, according to the US John Hopkins University and German public broadcaster DW.

Prime Minister says Latvia will neither enhance nor relieve restrictions

We do not plan to enhance restrictive measures, but neither do we plan to relieve restrictions – the storm is not over. Nevertheless, we are on the correct path, said Latvian Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš in an interview to Latvijas Radio.

Spanish coronavirus death toll drops for fourth day in a row

In Spain, for the fourth day a row, the number of COVID-19 related deaths per day has decreased as the country has the most confirmed cases in infection in Europa, BBC reports.


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