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Friday 20.07.2018 | Name days: Ramona, Ritma
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BNN summary of the week: medicinal cannabis in Lithuania, cargo anti-record, and Lemberg’s dwindling influence in UGF

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Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RUBNN offers a summary of this week’s topical news in a variety of categories: Fight; Growth; Truth; Future and Opinion.

BUSINESS: Bite Latvija buys Stream Networks and Latnet

Mobile commutations operator Bite Latvija has signed a purchase agreement for 100% of shares of Stream Networks and its subsidiary Latner Serviss, as BNN was informed by Bite manager in Latvia Kaspars Buls.

Buls said by combining Bite’s output with Stream Networks and Latnet Service’s competence in development of ICT solutions and service provision will set the foundation for modern mobile communications and formation of ICT services portfolio for corporate clients.

«By combining our forces, we will be able to integrate mobile communication services with modern ICT solutions, such as optic internet, IP telephone services, video surveillance, cloud services and other modern business services,» says Buls.

Full article here

FIGHT: LDz cannot raise tariffs and perform rail electrification under cargo anti-record

Because Latvijas dzelzceļš has set an anti-record in cargo transports in the first ten months of this year, Saeima deputy and member of the National Economy Committee Anrijs Matīss says raising the fee for the use of infrastructure cannot be allowed. He adds that the intended railway electrification project should be considered very carefully.

According to him LDz should drop generous advertisement and sponsoring contracts, as well as perform internal reformation.

Warnings about the dramatic situation with railway cargo transports were first voiced in summer. LDz, however, continued using status policy and reported on supposed cargo volume increase in spite of experiencing serious declines in summer months. In October, low cargo indexes could no longer sustain major cargo declines, and statistical information finally revealed the downward-spiralling tendency.

In the first ten months of 2017, LDz handled only 36 million tonnes of cargoes, which is the lowest index in the past decade. More than 40,000 tonnes of cargoes were carried by rail before the month of October. In 2012, this volume was 51 million tonnes. The situation keeps getting worse.

Matīss believes that increasing infrastructure fees in such a situation would be a short-sighted and irresponsible decision, one that would make Latvia the country with the most expensive railway infrastructure in the European Union. «It would not improve competitiveness, and cargo decline would continue. Raising prices under declining turnover would be madness,» said the Saeima deputy.

Full article here

TRUTH: Ašeradens admits the need to change Unity’s operational model

Unity’s chairman and Latvia’s Economy Minister Arvils Ašeradens see no reason to recall and reform Unity’s Saeima faction, as requested by Kustības Par! members. He does admit, however, that it is necessary to change the party’s operational model.

As Ašeradens stated in an interview to Viens pret vienu programme on Tuesday, 14 November, processes in Unity with Solvitas Āboltiņa’s participation did not go as they should have. This became clear to him when he became the leader of the party. «The situation turned different after I took over the party’s reins,» said Ašeradens. At the same time, he reminded that in certain cases he had voted against other members of the board «in an attempt to maintain balance in the party for a little longer and find a solution».

When asked to comment on the initiative proposed by members of Kustības Par! to change the name of Unity’s Saeima faction, Ašeradens said that this proposal came as a surprise to him. Nevertheless, he sees no reason to rename the faction. He also added that the parliament does not have a tradition of recalling entire factions. At the same time, Unity’s leader said it is important to reach an agreement on the faction’s operational model and how opinions are coordinated on the inside. «Until now we concentrated on a single-person policy, but I would rather see teamwork.»

Full article here

GROWTH: Latvia reaches highest employment level in past 20 years

Latvian employment rate has increased by 1.8 percentage points over the year. In Q3 2017, Latvian employment rate was the highest one recorded during the two past decades – 63.6 %. Employment rate exceeding 63 % (constituting 63.1 %) was recorded only in Q2 2008.

In Q3 2017, in Latvia there were 903.0 thousand employed persons aged 15–74, which is 8.0 thousand more than a year ago, according to data from the Labour Force Survey performed by Central Statistical Bureau of Latvia.

Compared to the previous quarter of 2017, in the 3rd quarter employment rate rose by 1.0 percentage points, while the number of employed persons by 11.3 thousand. The most significant increase in the number of employed persons was recorded within the age groups 45–54 and 55–64 (5.8 thousand and 2.8 thousand, respectively).

Since the end of Q4 2012, Latvian employment rate has been exceeding the European Union (EU) average indicator (59.8 % in Q2 2017), and in Q3 2017 it was equal to that registered in Lithuania (63.6 %), however lower than that recorded in Estonia (68.3 %).

Full article here

FUTURE: Medical cannabis bill paves way in Lithuanian legislature

Otherwise conservative Lithuania has made a big stride forward legalising cannabis for medical use with 92 Lithuanian parliamentarians voting Thursday, November 15, to open the bill draft on medication containing cannabis. The law draft should go back to the parliamentary floor for deliberations on December 12.

After the vote, which registered only one abstention with none opposed to it, Mykolas Majauskas, a Conservative MP and chairman of the Seimas Commission for Suicide and Violence Prevention, who has been an outspoken spearhead of the legislation, stated the amendment is «the first time»that a decision on such a sensitive issue enjoys a broad public and political support.

Full article here

OPINION: Lambergs no longer has major influence over UGF to get him picked for the coalition

Concerns about possible cooperation between Union of Greens and Farmers and Harmony in the next government are nothing more than infantile and amateurish pre-election slogan intended for poorly-informed voters, says For Latvia’s Development board member Edgars Jaunups.

At the same time, he notes that perhaps this is what Aivars Lembergs wants, but he no longer has the kind of influence over the party he once had to pull off something like that.

He says every person who anything about Latvia’s politics understands that «getting a decision to let Harmony join UGF would be as impossible as it would be for this party to join the National Alliance».

«The average UGF deputy in the Saeima is such a big national that they do not seem all that different from members of NA. Aivars Lembergs may want such a coalition, but he has long since lost the influence he once had over UGF to dictate the partners to form the coalition,» says Jaunups.

The politician is confident that UGF faction leader Augusts Brigmanis would never agree to form a coalition with Harmony, because he is «already an old man and he now thinks more about concluding his political career». In spite of his experience working in the Soviet Union, Brigmanis has spent the last twenty years building up his image of a national politician, says Jaunups.

Full article here

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SRS: cash register reform still stagnates, but has become much faster than it was last year

The cash registers reform continues stagnating. However, it has become much faster than it was a year ago, as reported by State Revenue Service.

Specialists to search for solutions to topical environmental problems in Ventspils

On Friday, 20 July, a meeting was held between Ventspils Commercial Port representatives and specialists from State Environment Service.

Children with functional disorders to receive services financed by EU funds

Child invalids will have access to social services intended to improve their social skills and mobility. More than EUR 4.2 million has been allocated for this goal from the European Social Fund, as confirmed by Latvia’s Central Financing and Contracting Agency.

Producer price level in industry up 4.3% in Latvia

Compared to June 2017, the average level of producer prices in Latvian industry increased by 4.3 % in June 2018. Prices of products sold on the domestic market rose by 4.8 % and those of exported products by 3.7 %.

Total tax debts in Latvia in July – 1.212 billion euros

At the beginning of July total tax debts in Latvia, including outstanding debts, halted debts and debts applied with repayment term extensions, accounted for EUR 1.212 billion, which is 0.8% less than a month prior, according to data from the State Revenue Service.

Survey: every third Latvian resident has received illegal loan offers

Nearly every third resident in Latvia or 31% of respondents admit having received offers to use illegal loan services, as concluded in a survey performed by Latvian Alternative Financial Services Association and SKDS.

Libya opposed to EU's idea to establish migrant centres in North Africa

Libya is against the solution of the European Union to set up migrant centres in the North African country as a means to keep migrants from arriving in the bloc and Libya would not be convinced with financial support, its Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj has noted.

Arrest warrant on Catalan ex-President cancelled by Spain

The Supreme Court of Spain cancelled a European arrest warrant for former Catalan regional leader Carles Puigdemont, as Germany refused to extradite him to face accusations of rebellion for declaring the independence of Spain's region, Catalonia in 2017.

Latvian government plans to allow handing expired food to charity

Latvia’s Agriculture Ministry has prepared amendments to the Law on the Supervision of the Handling of Food that provide permission to hand over certain types of food products to charity after the end of their expiry date.

Estonian industrial producer prices up 2.9% since June 2017

Estonian industrial producer price index has risen by 2.9% between June 2017 and the first summer month this year, resulting in an increase of export prices as well, Estonian statisticians have estimated.

Putin urges NATO to quit «irresponsibly» developing ties with Ukraine, Georgia

Russia's President Vladimir Putin cautioned NATO against developing deeper relations with Ukraine and Georgia, evaluating such a policy was irresponsible and would have consequences for the military alliance.

Latvian parliament not in a hurry to support president Vejonis for a second term

Political parties represented in the Saeima are not eager to support President Raimonds Vējonis for his remainder for a second term.

Weather in Latvia will remain warm and even hot at times

Weather in Latvia in the nearest couple of days will be dictated by a cyclone. Because of that the sky will be partially covered by clouds; thunderstorms are also expected, as reported by State Environment, Geology and Meteorology Centre.

Hungary sued in EU Court for criminalising help to illegal immigrants

The European Union's executive body has stated that a law in Hungary that criminalises support for illegal immigrants is in breach with EU law and Hungary has now been referred to the European Court of Justice for the alleged non-compliance.

Estonians buy alcohol in Latvia; country loses EUR 20 million in six months

Latvian stores located close to the Latvian-Estonian border have sold 1.6 million litres of strong alcoholic drinks in the first half year of 2019. This means Estonia has lost more than EUR 20 million in taxes, according to data from Association of Estonian Alcohol Producers and Importers.

Lithuania’s election watchdog slams ruling LFGU over popular TV series

Political messages can be channeled in various ways and the ruling now Lithuanian party, LFGU has chosen a very delicate way of the communications – through a TV series featuring the beauty and the ambiance of Naisiai, a picturesque settlement in Siauliai district.

Association: around 3,3000 people know of their HIV infection but receive no treatment

HIV remains a serious problem in Latvia – around 3,300 people are aware of their status but receive no treatment and continue spreading the infection. Because of that, it is necessary to act quickly for Latvia to lose its status as HIV kingdom and limit the spread of the infection, says Baltic HIV Association, informing decision-makers and responsible officials in institutions and hospitals about the HIV/AIDS situation.

Driver shortage may force reduction of international road haulage volumes

Latvia’s road haulage companies have started experiencing shortage of drivers. On top of that, if employment conditions for residents of non-EU member states do not change, it may be necessary to reduce the volume of road haulage volumes, says Latvijas auto president Valdis Trēziņš.

Lattelecom’s turnover up 9% in first half-year of 2018

Lattelecom Group’s turnover reached EUR 98.7 million in the first half-year of 2018, growing by 9% in comparison with the same period of 2017, according to unaudited financial results.

1,140 fewer births registered in Latvia in 2017

Since 2016 the number of births in Latvia is declining again. Compared to 2016, a total of 1,140 births fewer were registered in 2017. Also, the provisional number of births registered over the first six months of 2018 (9,664 children) is by 664 children smaller than that registered over the respective period of 2017.

Citadele Bank decides to reform Lithuanian subsidiary as a branch office

Citadele Bank has decided to reform its Lithuanian subsidiary as a branch office, as confirmed in the statement the bank submitted to Nasdaq Riga.

Russian pension age hike discussed amid protest outside Duma

As the Russian paliament votes on the proposal to gradually increase he pension age to 65 for men and 63 for women, some 200 people were seen protesting against the reform in Moscow.

Corruption watchdog chief says bureau has done no illegal actions

After going through Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau’s past investigative activities, the bureau’s chief – Jēkabs Straume – found it confusing that officers often took no appropriate actions after acquiring evidence or receiving indications regarding necessary steps.

Illegal border crossings to Estonia on rise after Russia World Cup

Football fans with temporary residency permits of the Russia World Cup, or fan Ids, are trying to illegally cross the Russian border with Estonia, a member of the European Union.

Estonian 13-year-old lethally overdoses fentanyl

Estonian prosecutors have accused a 15-year old of negligent homicide after a girl, 13, passed away from fentanyl overdose.