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Ceturtdiena 18.07.2019 | Name days: Rozālija, Roze
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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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Lithuanian Railway will not terminate contract with Sigmen

Lithuanian state railway company Lietuvos geležinkeliai will not terminate its contract with Latvian company Sigmen, which is one of the region’s largest Russian width standard rail suppliers even though Lithuanian media had reported last month that the company is controlled by an ex-KGB officer Yuri Simonenkov, who may or may not have ties with Russia’s political leaders.

Mediator to be attracted to resolve Latvijas Radio crisis

To resolve the ongoing crisis at Latvijas Radio, the board of the radio plans to attract a mediator, as confirmed by the representatives of the public media at a press-conference on Wednesday, 17 July.

June’s inflation in Latvia above that of EU and Eurozone

In June 2019 inflation in Latvia was higher than the average in the European Union and Eurozone, according to data published by Eurostat.

Latvian police investigate seven cases with possible illegalities with MPC

Latvia’s State Police have commenced investigations of seven criminal processes involving possible illegalities with electricity mandatory procurement component, as confirmed by State Police press-representative Ilze Jurēvica.

France to restore Notre Dame for 850 million euros

France's Parliament has passed a law to restore the damaged roof of Notre Dame Cathedral, after a fire brought down its spire in April. The works would cost 850 million euros and could end in a modernised design of the spire of the medieval building.

Prime Minister: non-taxable minimum is more important than minimal wages

Instead of raising minimal wages, it would be better to raise non-taxable minimum, said Latvia’s Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš in an interview to public broadcaster LNT programme 900 seconds on Wednesday, 17 July.

EU’s Cybersecurity Agency to be headed by Estonian

The body responsible for online security in the European Union, the Agency for Cybersecurity, has picked Estonian Juhan Lepassaar to become its executive director.

Vehicle registration rise observed in Latvia in first half-year of 2019

Compared to the same period of 2018, registration rate of new light-weight vehicles in Latvia has increased 4.6% in January-June period of 2019. Latvia is among 12 EU member states in which rise was registered in this period, according to data published by European Automobile Manufacturers' Association.

Energy production support in Latvia to be paid only from state budget

Latvia’s Cabinet of Ministers has decided to support Economy Ministry’s proposal to cover state support costs for energy production solely from the state budget starting with 2021. This measure means these costs will no longer appear on residents’ and other energy consumers’ receipts for electricity.

Christine Lagarde steps down from managing IMF to head ECB

Christine Lagarde, the candidate for the post of the President of the European Central Bank has voiced plans to resign as managing director of the International Monetary Fund.

Von der Leyen’s post in German government to go to Merkel’s protege

Kramp-Karrenbauer, Angela Merkel's likely successor, is to become defence minister after current defence minister, Ursula von der Leyen, was voted EU Commission President.

Latvian prime minister expects resolution for Latvijas Radio situation

Culture Minister Nauris Puntulis should offer a solution for the funding problem currently present at Latvijas Radio, said Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš.

Latvian government approves funding for procurement of new electrical trains

Latvia’s government has approved state budget long-term commitment of EUR 255 888 753 to finance railway passenger transport company AS Pasažieru vilciens. This means PV might sign a contract with Škoda Vagonka soon, as confirmed by Transport Ministry.

Latvian Railway receives EC’s report on railway electrification

European Commission has submitted a positive report on Latvian Railway commenced railway network’s electrification in the initially planned volume, as reported by company’s representative Ella Pētermane.

Nausėda, visiting Poland, urged to get more personal than Grybauskaitė

Gitanas Nausėda, the new Lithuanian President, is in Poland on his first official visit abroad. Lithuanian political experts have commented to LRT, what should be the aim of the visit.

Latvian State Police request criminal prosecution of fake news portal owner

July 2019 marked the end of State Police investigation of a criminal process launched last year in relation to distribution of fake news. One Niks Endziņš was arrested as a result of the criminal process in 2018.

Moscow considering exchange of Ukrainian sailors before Ukraine election

Moscow has unveiled it’s taking part in discussion over a potential prisoner swap involving Ukrainian sailors that it arrested in 2019 last year. The development comes on the week of Ukrainian parliamentary elections.

Latvia to host EUROfusion General Assembly for the first time

The 26th EUROfusion General Assembly will be taking place in Riga this week 17th – 18th July. The heads of EUROfusion science project and participants from 24 countries will be taking part in this event.

Bribery accused LU vice-rector applied with major restrictions

Latvian Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau has applied restrictions for bribery accused University of Latvia vice-rector Baiba Broka. She is prohibited from working in the university’s procurement commission, as well as making decisions associated with control and supervision.

EU: Violations of Iran nuclear deal can still be reversed

European Union’s foreign ministers have concluded in a meeting on relations with Iran that the uranium enrichment carried out by Tehran breaching the Iran nuclear deal this summer is not significant.

Welfare Ministry requests EUR 54 million for welfare priorities in Latvia

Next year’s welfare priorities in Latvia will require additional funding of EUR 54 million, says Welfare Minister Ramona Petraviča.

Von der Leyen resigns as German minister before EP vote on her heading EC

Shortly before the Tuesday’s vote in the European Parliament on the candidacy of Ursula von der Leyen, the German Defence Minister has announced her resignation from the German federal government.

Pork prices in Latvia increase 10.5% over the course of a month

In May 2019, pork prices in Latvia increased 10.5% when compared to April and were 33.1% higher when compared to May 2018, according to data compiled by Latvian Agriculture Ministry’s Market and Direct Support Department.

Latvia’s finance market supervisor applies one million euro fine to Rigensis Bank

Latvia’s Finance and Capital Market Commission has decided to apply a fine of one million euros to Rigensis Bank AS for violating money laundering and terrorism financing prevention regulations, as confirmed by the commission.

Latvia’s Competition Council issues six warnings for possible cartel activity

In the first half-year of 2019, Latvia’s Competition Council organized six warnings to ten businesses and five private persons for possible involvement in cartels.

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