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Wednesday 29.01.2020 | Name days: Valērijs, Aivars

BNN summary of the week: Lembergs and ZZS stick together. «Borderline arbitrariness». Distrust in Burovs

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business, Latvia, Lithuania, border, Competition Council, construction, summary, recommendedIt seems there is no force in this world that can cut the ties between the Union of Greens and Farmers (ZZS) and the suspended Mayor of Ventspils Aivars Lembergs, who is accused of committing serious crimes. Even US sanctions, which have the potential to undermine funding for ZZS and its very existence, are not enough.

During their meeting none of the participants had even mentioned the idea of cutting ties with the infamous and criminally accused politician Lembergs and his party For Latvia and Ventspils. The same can be said for what the continuation of this cooperation could mean for ZZS.

Last week the State Audit published results of an audit that revealed misappropriation of at least seven million euros on the Latvian-Russian border. Interior Affairs Ministry, meanwhile, has not taken the institution’s recommendations on monitoring construction work there into account. «It is a big example of arbitrariness,» State Auditor Elita Krūmiņa comments the uncovered violations, adding that the range of violations is wide.

Nothing changes in Riga in the meanwhile – everything continues to crumble. The ruling coalition in Riga City council has difficulties with the coalition agreement and division of posts. This has led to a new split with Harmony and For Riga! bloc on one side and Honour to Serve Riga on the other. Although the two parties do not want to leave the coalition, they want to dismiss Burovs from the position of mayor of Riga.

The BNN gives you a summary of the key events of the past week, told in news stories of the following topics: Denying the obvious; Arbitrariness; Split; End of an era; Responsibility; Overblown project; Construction and Pollution.


ZZS meets with Lembergs. Cutting ties not among discussed topics

Aivars Lembergs, Edgars Tavars, Armands Krauze, sanctions, USA, ZZS, cooperation

Aivars Lembergs (L), ZZS board chairman Edgars Tavars and ZZS board member Armands Krauze

In spite of US sanctions, the Union of Greens and Farmers (ZZS) has decided to not cut ties with the suspended Mayor of Ventspils Aivars Lembergs, who is not only subjected to international sanctions but is also accused of committing serious crimes, and his party For Latvia and Ventspils.

As noted by ZZS board chairman Edgars Tavars, on Wednesday, 8 January, no one proposed discussing the topic of any changes being made to cooperation between ZZS and For Latvia and Ventspils during the ZZS faction and board joint meeting. Even Lembergs said his party believes it is necessary to maintain cooperation with ZZS.

Lembergs said that he intends to turn to the Constitutional Court over US sanctions. He says he was not given any rights to defend himself. He claims he is not informed about sanctions being applied to him, and that only Latvian institutions can apply sanctions against him.

When asked about the invitation from Saeima deputy and Latvian Farmers Union (LZS) board member Dana Reizniece-Ozola for Lembergs to leave politics entirely, ZZS board member and LZS board chairman Armands Krauze said there are many different opinions represented in his political party.

Full article here


VK: at least 7.14 million euros spent on Latvian-Russian border infrastructure illegally

State Border Guard, State Audit, procurement, construction, infrastructureWhen establishing Latvian-Russian border, at least EUR 7.14 million of budget finances and property was used illegally, as concluded by Latvian State Audit.

This audit, which looked into the establishment of border line infrastructure and the legality of use of state budget finances allocated for maintenance, concluded that although funding was used in full, construction was not finished on time – by 31 December 2019.

VK had previously invited Interior Affairs Ministry to prevent previously uncovered problems and delays in the establishment of eastern border infrastructure.

After the audit, VK admitted that the ministry did not sufficiently monitor activities regarding Latvian-Russian border infrastructure and the State Border Guard and Provision State Agency acted illegally with state budget funds.

Additionally, institutions allowed changes to approved construction solutions will cause more expenses for the state budget than initially calculated, VK concluded.

The actual situation shows that in order to finish the work on the Latvian-Russian border, it will be necessary to look for additional funding: EUR 4.69 million will be needed, of which only EUR 1.16 million will be available in Interior Affairs Ministry’s budget for 2020. EUR 42.69 million was allocated from the state budget funds for 2015-2022 to finance the establishment of the infrastructure of the state border. EUR 26.8 million was allocated for the Latvian-Russian border infrastructure, VK notes.

Full article here


Another split? Riga City Council’s leading powers have trouble with coalition agreement

Riga City Council, For Riga!, split, Rīgas satiksmeFailure to agree on coalition agreement’s implementation could result in a possible split of Riga City Council’s ruling coalition, according to LETA agency’s unofficial information.

On Monday, 6 January, a meeting of coalition partners took place in Riga City Council. During this meeting, participants discussed the municipality’s budget for 2020. However, even before the budget’s approval heated arguments erupted between Riga’s Mayor Oļegs Burovs and deputies of For Riga! opposition bloc.

The coalition agreement provided for each coalition partner to have a specific field they would be responsible over. According to LETA, members of the coalition had also agreed on which institutions will be led by which coalition partner.

For example, members of the city council agreed to put the City Development Department in the hands of For Riga! bloc. Emīls Jakrins was appointed as this department’s acting director a couple of weeks ago. However, after coming back from vacation, Burovs decided to dismiss Jakrins.

Full article here


Skaidrīte Ābrama to leave Latvian Competition Council in April

Competition Council, internal changes, Skaidrīte Ābrama

Skaidrīte Ābrama

Skaidrīte Ābrama intends to leave her position as head of Latvian Competition Council (CC), as affirmed by Economy Minister Ralfs Nemiro.

Ābrama will leave her position of her own volition on 15 April. The minister adds her resignation came as a surprise, but he will approve it.

«I was surprised because we’ve had good cooperation so far. We discussed different topics together,» said the minister, wishing Ābrama a good rest and good fortune in her future career.

According to Nemiro, Economy Ministry will soon organize a selection process to search for a new head for Competition Council. The candidate selected in this process will have to be approved by the Cabinet of Ministers.

CC did not provide any detailed explanations for the reasons why Ābrama has decided to leave. The only thing that is known is that she has decided to step down on her own.  She will leave her post on 15 April.

Ābrama admits leaving for personal reasons. She denied any pressure from politicians or any industry supervised by the institution. She said had there been any pressure, she would not have decided to step down.

Full article here


Rīgas satiksme’s shareholder to ask prosecutor to assess council chairman’s approval

Rīgas satiksme , board, composition, KNAB, reasons, Džineta Innusa, Elīna Epalte-Drulle, Emīls Jakrins, Juris RadzevičsMunicipal public transport company Rīgas satiksme shareholder, executive director of Riga City Council Juris Radzēvičs, plans to turn to the office of the prosecutor over the approval of Rolands Klinčs as council chairman of Rīgas satiksme, he said in an interview to Latvijas Radio on Monday, 6 January.

Radzēvičs explained that lawyers have said that Klinčs’ approval had breached the proper procedure and that in the best case scenario he could have been appointed for a temporary period of time, not a full five-year term. Because of this he plans to turn to the office of the prosecutor to see if the council chairman’s approval procedure had reached any terms.

In regards to the approval of RS board, Radzēvičs noted that he has yet to receive documents that would provide justifications for the approval of Elīna Epalte-Drulle and Emīls Jakrins to the new board. RS capital shareholder explained it is important to understand that an approval of the board has happened. Additionally, it is important to consider the roles of the council chairman and council members in decision-making.

Full article here


Rail Baltica project could potentially exceed approved budget and implementation schedule

Rail Baltica, RB Rail, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, management, auditThe problems with Rail Baltica project’s management create the risk of exceeding the approved budget and implementation schedule, as concluded by Latvian State Audit (VK).

VK reports that Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian audit institutions have completed the joint audit that helped outline duties and responsibilities, as well as develop procedures for the management of Rail Baltica project.

Rail Baltica project is the biggest infrastructure project in the history of Baltic States’ independence. The 870 km long railway line from Tallinn to the Lithuanian and Polish border, according to current estimates, will cost EUR 5.79 billion. Rail Baltica project is 85% co-financed by the European Union from Connecting Europe Facility finances. According to financing documents, Rail Baltica co-financing recipients are member states’ ministries that are responsible for the project’s implementation, as well as the joint company AS RB Rail.

Until now project’s implementers have not been able to ensure activities outlined in financing agreements are implemented in accordance with the schedule and the approved budget, notes VK.

Full article here


Bypass in Sarkandaugava to cost 42.5 million; builders – Binders, LNK Industries and Latvijas tilti

construction, tender, Riga, bypass, Procurment Monitoring Bureau, complaints, costsRiga City Council’s Transport Department has signed a contract worth EUR 42.5 million with an association of suppliers OTC for the construction of a new bypass in Sarkandaugava, the department reports.

The contract provides for 1st stage of construction of the transport bypass over railway like Riga-Skulte. According to information available on the website of the Procurement Monitoring Bureau (IUB), OTC is composed of three construction companies – LLC Binders, AS LNK Industries, and AS Latvijas tilti.

The amount detailed in the contract without VAT is EUR 31.11 million. EUR 27 million of construction costs is planned to be taken from co-financing provided by the EU Cohesion Fund, one million euros will come from the state budget and the rest – from the municipality’s finances.

According to department representative Ilze Dimante, with the beginning of the construction season, which is expected to commence in April, work will commence to construct a two-level junction between Viesturs prospect and Tvaika Street.

The construction project provides for a transport solution for vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists, as well as establishing junctions and entryways.

Full article here


Neringa mayor: Curonian Lagoon’s pollution may reach Latvia

Baltic Sea, sewage, treatment, Lithuania, Grigeo, Grigeo Klaipeda, pollutionIt is entirely possible that most of the untreated sewage polluting Curonian Lagoon by Grigeo Group cardboard production plant in Klaipeda has flowed deeper into the Baltic Sea, admits Mayor of Neringa Darius Jasaitis.

According to him, considering the direction of the currents, no more than one-fifth of the total pollution volume remains in the waters of the lagoon, whereas in the open see, which is a much larger body of water, pollution is more dispersed.

«As Mayor of Neringa I should be happy over this, but as a citizen of Lithuania I cannot be happy over this,» said Jasaitis. «In the end its will end up at our Latvian neighbours, because this much is decided by the currents.»

Full article here

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Levits: search for a new location for VDD would delay project and create losses

If the government decides to look for a new location for the State Security Service’s new headquarters, it could delay construction by several years and create considerable financial losses, Latvian President Egils Levits told journalists on Wednesday, 29 January.

Estonian children start school with 49.5% missing some vaccines, study finds

In Estonia, 49.5% of first-graders are not fully vaccinated in the framework of a state vaccination programme, a study, cited by Estonian public broadcaster ERR, has found.

Four persons detained in criminal case on the laundering of 50 million euros

Four persons have been detained in the criminal process on the laundering of no less than EUR 50 million, as part of which searches were performed at ABLV Bank on Tuesday, 28 January, according to information from LETA.

SEB operating revenue in Estonia was EUR 173.5 million in 2019

The operating revenue of the Estonian branch of the Swedish SEB bank was 173.4 million euros in 2019, Estonian public broadcaster ERR reports.

Retail trade turnover in Latvia increases 2.3%

Compared to 2018, total retail trade turnover rose by 2.3 % in 2019. Turnover of retail trade in food products increased by 1.2 %, turnover of retail trade in non-food products, except for retail sale of automotive fuel, rose by 4.0%, whereas turnover of retail sale of automotive fuel – by 0.4 %.

Latvian State Police warn about encryption ransomware virus attacks

Latvian State Police periodically receive complaints from private and legal persons regarding different encryption ransomware virus attacks. Viruses of this kind encrypt files and hard disks, denying owners the use of their computers and information stored therein, police report.

Lithuania operations announced by US military firm NBC Security

An announcement of entering the Lithuanian market has been made by the American military and defence company NBC Security, which aims to open a manufacturing facility in the Baltic country.

Kariņš: coalition’s partner wants to combine all three special services in Latvia, but I won’t allow it

One of the ruling coalition’s partners wants to combine all three of Latvia’s special services, said Latvian Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš in an interview to TV3 programme 900 seconds, on Wednesday, 29 January, adding he would be against such a proposal.

Estonian parliament to vote on divisive pension reform

In the Estonian parliament votes on pension reform are planned as the opposition has pledged to do its utmost to keep it from being passed amid concerns what effects the chance of withdrawing second pillar payments ne masse could have.

Six persons reportedly involved in case for laundering of 50 million euros

According to LETA, six people are involved in the criminal process regarding the laundering of illegally obtained funds of nearly EUR 50 million. As part of this criminal process, Latvian Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau performed a search at ABLV Bank on Tuesday, 28 January.

International evacuations from China held as coronavirus infections exceed SARS

The European Union and other countries are organising the evacuation of their citizens from China, where the infection cases of the new coronavirus have exceeded the SARS outbreak.

One step closer towards changing prosecutor general replacement order

On Tuesday, 28 January, Latvian Saeima’s Defence, Internal affairs and Corruption Prevention Committee conceptually supported planned law amendments that provide for changing the order under which the country’s prosecutor general is replaced.

Trump offers new Middle East peace plan

US President Donald Trump has offered a new peace plan for the turbulent Middle East region. It envisages the recognition by the US of Israeli occupied territories and a map of territories for the establishment of a state of Palestine.

Government: climate and energy plan for 2030 is a step towards climate neutrality

The National Energy and Climate Plan for 2030 (NEKP) supported by Latvian Cabinet of Ministers is an intermediate stage on the path towards accomplishment of climate neutrality in 2050, ministers admitted during a meeting on Tuesday, 28 January.

Latvian Economy Minister does not have plans to make taxes «green»

Currently there is no specific plan to use taxes to improve state goals in relation to climate neutrality in Latvia, said Economy Minister Ralfs Nemiro at a press-conference after a government meeting on Tuesday, 28 January.

KNAB’s search at ABLV Bank related to laundering of 50 million euros

The search performed at ABLV Bank by Latvian Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau on Tuesday, 28 January, is related to the laundering of at least EUR 50 million between 2015 and 2018, as reported by the office of the prosecutor.

Aviation giant Airbus concedes to corruption investigators in France, UK and US

World’s largest airplane maker, European multinational has agreed to potentially very expensive settlements with bribery investigators in France, the UK and the US.

Latvian government sets term for Riga and Ventspils port board members – five years

On Tuesday, 28 January, Latvian government adopted amendments to the by-laws of Riga and Ventspils port management boards, setting the term at five years for port board members.

Delna: Latvia is not doing well with corruption prevention

For years Latvia’s position has stagnated in the Global Anti-Corruption Coalition Transparency International composed Corruption Perception Index because our country is not doing well with corruption prevention, said Society for Openness Delna director Liene Gātere in an interview to Latvijas Radio on Tuesday, 28 January.

In Estonian choice of child names, Western European names replace Russian ones

In Estonia, the lists of most popular child names in 2019 have shown changes in trends compared to the year 1989 as the popularity of Russian language names has lost ground to names associated with German and English-inspired ones.

Corruption watchdog performs search at liquidated ABLV Bank

On Tuesday, 28 January, Latvian Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau performed investigative activities at the liquidated ABLV Bank.

Ķirsis: the current Riga City Council should not be the ones to decide on 2020 budget

Considering to the shadow of corruption looming over the current composition of Riga City Council and their failures, they should not be the ones to approve the municipality’s budget for 2020, said opposition deputy Vilnis Ķirsis in an interview to TV3 programme 900 seconds.

Nausėda in Auschwitz: «We must identify the hate-inciting forces»

Lithuanian President Gitanas Nausėda has visited the Auschwitz-Birkenau memorial for the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the notorious death camp, where pointed to the need to « identify the hate-inciting forces», who can lead to devastating consequences.

Olainfarm: Olmafarm misleads society about alleged shareholder meeting

By reporting information about the shareholder meeting that allegedly took place Friday, 24 January, medicines manufacturer Olainfarm’s largest shareholder LLC Olmafarm council and board mislead society and ignore the ruling of the court, Olainfarm representatives say.

U.S. military plane crashes in Afghanistan

In eastern Afghanistan, a U.S. military plane has crashed. U.S. forces in the country and NATO alliance have not provided details on possible casualties and the cause of the crash.

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