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Ceturtdiena 20.02.2020 | Name days: Smuidra, Vitauts, Smuidris
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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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Denmark cancels Misāne’s extradition to SAR in favour of extradition to Latvia

On Thursday, 20 February, the Danish court approved the decision of the Danish office of the prosecutor to cancel Latvian citizen Kristīne Misāne’s extradition to the South African Republic. On top of that, the Danish office of the prosecutor has also decided to extradite the woman to Latvia instead, as reported by Ritzau.

Warmest winter anyone can remember is wreaking havoc on Lithuania’s nature and store shelves

This winter, so abnormally warm in Lithuania, is bewildering everyone and is wreaking havoc both in the nature and on the store shelves.

Finnish court acquits Baltic online alcohol seller over tax evasion

A court in Finland has delivered a not guilty ruling in a case, where a man had been charged with tax evasion over the online sale of alcohol to Finns in Latvia and Estonia, using online platforms, Finnish broadcaster YLE reports.

Latvian Saeima committee to consider initiative to establish a park at former Marss cycling track

On Thursday, 20 February, the Saeima decided to submit the collective initiative on establishing a part on the territory of the former cycling track Marss to the parliament’s National Security Committee for review, BNN was told by Saeima’s press-service.

Ruling in Maxima tragedy criminal case to be appealed

Riga City Pārdaugava Court’s ruling in the Maxima tragedy criminal case will definitely be appealed, said senior prosecutor Aivars Ostapko in an interview to Latvijas Radio on Thursday, 20 February.

Proposal voiced to deny Aivars Lembergs the option to enter the Saeima

A proposal has been voiced to deny suspended Ventspils mayor Aivars Lembergs, who is accused of committing serious crimes and is added to the list of sanctions of USA, the right to participate in Saeima’s activities, according to information from LTV.

Latvian police liquidates fake news site www.aumytests.net. Employee detained

Latvian State Police has detained a 2001-born young man for reporting fake news, BNN was informed by police.

Cyber security drill held by Estonia in NATO Parliamentary Assembly

In Brussels, during the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, Estonian experts have held a strategic cyber drill, where member state legislators have been asked to look for solutions in a simulated cyber incident, ERR reports.

Turkey warns of military operation in Syria to stop government-Russian forces

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has stated that Turkey’s offensive in north-eastern Syria could start at any moment with the aim of stopping an offensive of the Syrian government and Russian forces on opposition-controlled territory, BBC reports.

Riga Zoological Garden board members Līdaka and Morozovs laid off

Both Riga National Zoological Garden’s chairman of the board Ingmārs Līdaka and board member Andris Morozovs have been fired from their respective posts, as confirmed by Līdaka.

Enterprise Register decides KPV LV party’s February meeting had no decision-making authority

Latvia’s Enterprise Register has decided the 8 February repeated meeting of KPV LV members had no decision-making authority. This is why the Enterprise Register has set a term for prevention of problems or organization of a new meeting.

Germany hit by tragic shootings in bars; suspect found lifeless

In Germany, eight people have been killed and five injured in two shootings in the city of Hanau. Police have found the suspect dead at his residential address, DW reports.

Ķuzis’ friendship with KGB official is no problem to run with New Unity in elections

Ex-chief of Latvian State Police Ints Ķuzis has joined New Unity and intends to run in the upcoming snap elections in Riga, as BNN was informed by the party.

Kristīne Misāne’s representatives say her extradition is temporarily halted

The extradition of Latvian citizen Kristīne Misāne, who is accused of kidnapping her own child, to the South African Republic has been temporarily halted, as Delfi TV ar Jānis Domburs was told by the woman’s sister Mārīte Batraka.

Estonian wind farm land sold for EUR 51.4 million

In Estonia, the auction of a 160-hectare plot of land intended for the erection of wind turbines, has been won by Estonian energy giant Eesti Energia, which offered the price of 51.5 million euros, ERR reports.

Citskovskis: around 3 000 people have left state administration in Latvia in three years

Over the course of three years the number of people employed in Latvia’s state administration has reduced by 3 000 people, as reported by State Chancellery director Jānis Citskovskis at a meeting of Saeima’s Public Administration and Local Government Committee on Wednesday, 19 February.

European Central Bank annuls PNB Bank’s license

The European Central Bank has made a decision to liquidate PNB Bank’s license, as confirmed by Latvia’s Finance and Capital Market Commission.

Number of births in Latvia has increased in January since last year

Over the past four years, birth number is declining, however during the year there are months when greater birth number is registered. Provisional data of the Central Statistical Bureau of Latvia show that 1.6 thousand newborns were registered in January 2020, which is 5 % more than in the corresponding month a year ago.

133 jobs in welfare liquidated in Latvia last year

A total of 133 jobs were liquidated in Latvia’s welfare sector last year. This was done to reduce and optimize institutions and administration in this sector, as confirmed by Welfare Minister’s advisor Liesma Kalve.

Latvia needs almost 300 million euros to afford Rail Baltica

The funding Latvia needs to implement Rail Baltica project is EUR 297 620 500. This includes EUR 242 385 425 from the Connecting Europe Facility and EUR 55 235 075 from the state co-financing, as reported by Transport Ministry’s communication office.

Spanish government approves digital tax, but waits for OECD deal

As European Union member states seek to tax the profitable business of tech giants, Spanish government has passed a digital services tax, which could affect such US companies as Facebook and Google, according to The Guardian.

Estonian police finds potentially fatal substances added to illegal drugs

In Estonia, the police have informed the society about finding rat poison and washing powder in illegal drugs, ERR reports.

Kariņš: it is blatant we’ve had to wait for so long for a ruling in Maxima tragedy case

It is blatant that we have had to wait for more than six years between the Maxima tragedy and a ruling in the criminal case, said Latvian Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš in an interview to LTV programme Rīta panorama on 19 February.

Latvian government takes over National Opera building

The government has decided to take over the Latvian National Opera and Ballet building and hand it over to Culture Ministry for management, as reported by the ministry’s representative Lita Kokale.

Ukraine warfare escalates; OSCE calls for restraint

In Eastern Ukraine, this week has been marked with a deadly battle between Ukrainian government forces and Kremlin-backed separatists. The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe has called on sides to adhere to agreed ceasefire, US news portal Radio Free Europe reports.

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