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Ceturtdiena 09.04.2020 | Name days: Valērija, Žubīte

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

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Latvia, Estonia, Lithuiania, Latvenergo, taxes, speed limits, benefits, Riga City Council, dismissal, Saeima, recommendedLatvenergo case continued shaking the government last week, and even President Egils Levits was forced to comment on this.

Latvia’s high-ranking officials sent a letter in which they outline concerns over the lack of mechanism to protect state secretaries from political score-settling.

In response to it, the president stressed that no one has the right to demand illegal actions or decisions that oppose state interests.

«Such a letter signed by officials from all of the top state civil services is a serious signal. It is clear the processes are not sufficiently transparent and not backed by strong arguments,» said Levits.

Economy Minister Ralfs Nemiro’s advisor Pāvels Rebenoks decided to pull out from Latvenergo council members selection process. The minister said, however, he does not exclude the possibility of repeating the selection process.

Something most politicians and observers have waited for years to occur has finally happened – Saeima has decided on dismissal of Riga City Council. The president is not expected to promulgate the decision. However, the pre-election promotion campaign has already begun. Attīstībai/Par! political party’s mayoral candidate Mārtiņš Staķis already smiles at residents from every other promotion office. Other coalition parties, meanwhile, are working on plans for elections and alliances.

On top of that, last week came with proposals for new tax changes – changes for non-taxable minimum, increase of benefits for families, minimal wage changes, as well as excise tax changes for cigarettes.

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.


President: no one is allowed to demand illegal activity from an official

Egils Levits, Latvenergo, prime minister, Krišjānis Kariņš, Jānis Citskovskis, Ralfs Nemiro, Ēriks Eglītis, approval, influencing, Latvia

Latvia’s President Egils Levits

No one is allowed to demand from an official to act illegally or against state interests, said Latvia’s President Egils Levits, answering the letter in which concerns are voiced in regards to political score-settling over refusal to perform possibly illegal orders from a state minister.

«Such a letter signed by officials from all of the top state civil services is a serious signal. It is clear the processes are not sufficiently transparent and not backed by strong arguments,» Levits admits, urging Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš to act in order to resolve the situation.

«I believe there is a point in the proposal suggested by state civil service officials in forming a single and effective mechanism to help see if behaviour of state secretaries or other top-ranking officials is appropriate,» says Levits.

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Economy Minister allows for repeated Latvenergo council members selection process

Olainfarm, Ralfs Nemiro, Latvenergo, council, approval, Ēriks Eglītis

Economy Minister Ralfs Nemiro

Latvian Economy Minister Ralfs Nemiro from KPV LV does not exclude the possibility of a repeated Latvenergo council members’ selection process.

The minister allows that, considering the discussion regarding the state of Latvenergo council, it is entirely possible a new process could be organized again. Such a possibility is not really considered real now, but it will be decided on once security institutions have submitted their conclusions on contenders picked in the last selection process. This may take a month.

Latvian Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš told journalists that the organization and completion of the Latvenergo council members selection process is the economy minister’s responsibility. At the same time, he added that the fact that someone has withdrawn from the process, does not put it at risk.

«The economy minister needs to ensure one of the country’s largest companies has an active and competent council,» said Kariņš.

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Latvian parliament dissolves Riga City Council

Saeima, Riga City Council, dismissal, Harmony, Honour to Serve Riga, ZZS, opinions, legislation, waste managementThe 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.

Although only four coalition parties had voted in favour of the legislative act and only the minimal number of votes was gathered in the first reading, all political parties represented in the ruling coalition voted in favour of Riga City Council’s dissolution on Thursday this week. 62 deputies voted in favour and 22 voted against.

«The situation in Riga is, mildly putting it, not good,» said Environment Protection and Regional Development Minister Juris Pūce in his speech to the Saeima. He said the time has come to dissolve the current administration of Riga City Council and tidy up the capital city.

«After transferring to Brussels, the ex-mayor of Riga sees no fault of his own in what is currently happening in the city council. [Ex-mayor of Riga Nils] Ušakovs had created his own kingdom with vassals in Riga. We could feel this for a long time, but it only became clear when the mayor was forced to flee,» said the minister, adding that Ušakovs had secured the approval of people close to him in different important posts in the municipality.

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

Latvia, taxes, expenses, income, tax changesIn 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.

At the same time, it is planned to raise minimal wage from EUR 430 to EUR 500 in 2021.

This is an offer from ministries and may change in talks with social partners.

The government’s action plan includes Finance Ministry’s goal to develop medium-term state tax policy guidelines by 31 March 2020. The goal of guidelines is ensuring support for improvement of quality of life, national economy growth and international competitiveness.

The offer presented by ministries urges a discussion of two PIT progressiveness scenarios, where each provides a number of variants for changing the current system.

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Saeima committee picks TV3 journalists Kalderauska and Eglītis for posts in NEPLP

NEPLP, Saeima, president, Egils Levits, committee, mass mediaOn Thursday, 30 January, Saeima’s Human Rights and Public Affairs Committee picked TV3 journalists Ieva Kalderauska and Jānis Eglītis for vacant posts in the National Electronic Mass Media Council (NEPLP).

Members of the committee were united in the opinion regarding Kalderauska’s candidacy for the post, stressing that she left a very good impression. Deputies had different opinions about the other candidate.

Considering opposition opinions, additional discussions were organized to discuss Eglītis.

In an attempt to find the best solution to picking the second candidate, deputies agreed to each mention a person they are prepared to vote for.

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Consumer prices in Latvia reach 2.2% in January

CSP, statistics, Latvia, inflationCompared to January 2019, the average level of consumer prices rose by 2.2 % in January 2020. Prices of goods have increased by 2.0 %, and prices of services – by 2.7 %.

Compared to 2015, in January 2020 consumer prices were 9.2 % higher. Prices of goods have increased by 7.7 %, and prices of services – by 13.1 %.

Compared to January 2019, the average level of consumer prices was mainly influenced by the rise in prices of food and non-alcoholic beverages, goods and services related to transport, alcoholic beverages and tobacco products, goods and services related to recreation and culture, health care as well as restaurant and hotel services in January 2020, according to data from the Central Statistical Bureau of Latvia.

Over the year, prices within the group of food and non-alcoholic beverages increased by 3.4 %. Prices of pork (upturn of 16.5 %), dried, salted or smoked meat (7.6 %), poultry (6.3 %) and meat preparations (10.2 %) had the strongest upward influence on the average price level within the group. Rise was also registered in prices of fresh fruit (of 14.1 %), bakery products (4.4 %), sugar (7.3 %), flours and other cereals (4.3 %), ice cream (4.5 %), fruit and vegetable juices (3.8 %), yoghurt (2.7 %), rice (10.1 %). Reduction was recorded in prices of cheese and curd (of 4.2 %), coffee (1.9 %), butter (4.1 %) and sour cream (2.4 %).

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

Tallinn, traffic control, speed,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.

The proposal to limit driving speed in Tallinn to 40 km/h was presented in autumn 2019. The idea was justified with how several other countries use this method to control transport flow and increase capacity of roads.

However, survey results show that Tallinn resident are unhappy with such changes. Because of that, Kõlvart decided instead to propose the use traffic lights and electronic road signs to control road traffic.

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Lithuania joins US president’s led religious freedom alliance

Lithuania, religion, USA, Donald Trump, International Religious Freedom AllianceLithuania has become one of 27 countries that to join the International Religious Freedom Alliance headed by US President Donald Trump, as reported by Lithuanian public media LRT.

US President Donald Trump’s administration launched the alliance on the eve of the National Prayer Breakfast on 5 February. The initiative was described as the first international coalition that stands in favour of religious freedom in the entire world. It is planned the alliance will focus opposing blasphemy laws and repression against those who switch religion, as well as opposing the use of technology for religious oppression. It is possible sanctions could be used achieve goals of this organization.

Aside from Lithuania, countries part of this alliance include Albania, Austria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Colombia, Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Gambia, Georgia, Greece, Hungary, Israel, Kosovo, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Senegal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Togo, the UK, Ukraine and, naturally, USA.

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EU Court: Poland has to reform disciplinary body in its Supreme Court

The European Court of Justice has called on Poland to stop the operation of the Disciplinary Panel of the Polish Supreme court to separate it from the influence of the parliament and government, British public broadcaster BBC reports.

Riga’s administrators reserve EUR 13.87 million to battle COVID-19

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US presidential election set to be battle between Biden and Trump

In the US, Senator Bernie Sanders has left the fight for the presidential candidate nomination from the Democratic Party. He has left ex-Vice President Joe Biden the only contender for the nomination and the rival to President Donald Trump in the 2020 US presidential election, American news agency AP reports.

EUR 45.5 million to be diverted for support of agriculture in Latvia

To reduce the COVID-19 crisis in agriculture sector Latvia’s government will divert EUR 45.5 million, as agreed by Finance Minister Jānis Reirs’ work group for support of entrepreneurship and employed people on Wednesday, 8 April.

Global number of COVID-19 cases surpasses 1.5 million

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Reminder: no visits during Easter holiday

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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

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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

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75 reports on competition distortions reported to Competition Council in 2019

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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

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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.

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