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Ceturtdiena 20.02.2020 | Name days: Smuidra, Vitauts, Smuidris
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BNN summary of the week: minister vs. minister. Riga’s agony. Anti-coronavirus measures in Latvia

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Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, summary, KNAB, conflict, Riga City Council, sanctions, China, RTAB, corruption, Maxima, recommendedThe ongoing conflict within Economy Ministry has reached the government’s ears. Justice Minister Jānis Bordāns has asked Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš to dismiss Economy Minister Ralfs Nemiro. The core of the issue is the minister’s infamous advisor Pāvels Rebenoks.

Bordāns criticizes Nemiro on ‘focusing all efforts on putting people close to him but lacking in qualifications to posts in one of Latvia’s largest and most strategically important company – AS Latvenergo’. It seems Rebenoks’ appointment to Latvenergo is so important that it forces the minister to ignore concerns from security services and makes him transfer rebellious state secretaries to other posts.

Kariņš so far has voiced only condemnation about this – ‘Latvenergo council members should be picked only through a personnel selection process – appointment of associates to important posts is unacceptable’.

Meanwhile, there is no end to conflicts within Riga City Council. It seems mayor Oļegs Burovs is of the same opinion. This is why he and the opposition have reached an agreement to call three consecutive meetings with no quorum, thereby creating legal basis for the entire city council’s dismissal.

‘Let’s wash our hands!’ Kariņš proposed at the beginning of the week, commenting on Latvia’s preparation for the possibility of the coronavirus spreading in the country. No infection cases have been observed in Latvia so far. Nevertheless, responsible services have already made preparations. Residents are urged to be careful and maintain personal hygiene, as well as look up information about the situation at reliable sources.

The BNN gives you a summary of the key events of the past week, told in news stories of the following topics: Disagreements; Opposite to dismissal; Don’t panic; Complaints; Searches; A look back; Conclusion; Language protectors; Chinese cameras.

DISAGREEMENTS

Latvian justice minister asks prime minister to dismiss economy minister

Jānis Bordāns, Ralfs Nemiro, Latvenergo, Saeima, KPV LV

Latvia’s Justice Minister Jānis Bordāns (L) and Economy Minister Ralfs Nemiro (R)

Latvian Justice Minister Jānis Bordāns has asked Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš to dismiss Economy Minister Ralfs Nemiro over the situation with Latvenergo.

The justice minister is concerned that the situation at Economy Ministry may mean Ralfs Nemiro, instead of executing the objective outlined in the government declaration – liquidating MPC – is putting all efforts into appointing people close to him and people with insufficient qualifications and questionable reputation to one of the most strategically important state companies – Latvenergo.

Bordāns says that Nemiro’s activities involving Latvenergo do not comply with principles of good management.

«Additionally, the ministry’s administrative head, who has so far acted responsibly to prevent the situation from destabilizing, is asked to leave his post,» says Bordāns.

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OPPOSITE TO DISMISSAL

Failing to secure quorum for last meeting, Riga City Council faces dismissal

Riga City Council, dismissal, quorum, opposition, SaeimaUpon failing to secure quorum at the last organized meeting, deputies of Riga City Council have generated a legal basis for the city council’s dismissal.

In accordance with the Law on Local Governments, three consecutive meetings with no quorum of votes is one of the reasons that allow the Saeima to decide on a city council’s dismissal.

Quorum of votes at Riga City Council is secured with at least 31 deputies participating in a meeting. No more than 24 deputies had taken part in the last three meetings. Today’s meeting was attended by 23 deputies.

None of the representatives of opposition parties took part in the meeting. Some of Honour to Serve Riga had also decided to skip the meeting today.

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DON’T PANIC

Officials: there is no reason to panic over possible spread of coronavirus in Latvia

coronavirus, Latvia, preventive measures, prime minister, Krišjānis Kariņš, healthcare minister, Ilze ViņķeleThere is no reason to panic over a possible spread of coronavirus in Latvia. Responsible services have prepared countermeasures, as stressed by Latvian officials after a meeting of the Crisis Management Council on Tuesday, 4 February.

Latvian Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš stressed that not a single case of coronavirus infection has been noted in Latvia so far. Nevertheless, responsible services have prepared for possible infection cases and actively exchange information about the situation.

«I can recommend only one thing – we have to wash our hands!» said the prime minister.

Healthcare Minister Ilze Viņķele stressed the importance of personal hygiene and added – residents should consult with family doctors about doubts and suspicions.

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COMPLAINTS

RTAB head accuses Riga’s mayor of document forging; asks KNAB to investigate

RTAB, KNAB, conflict, Guntars Grīnvalds, Jānis Jenzis, Ieva Lasmane

Guntars Grīnvalds

Riga Tourism Development Bureau (RTAB) board chairman Guntars Grīnvalds has asked Latvian Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau (KNAB) to investigate possible document forging in the institution.

He believes document-forging was committed in a group at RTAB and that other board members delegated by the municipality – RTAB board member Ieva Lasmane and Latvian Restaurants Association president and office board member Jānis Jenzis, as well as Riga’s Mayor Oļegs Burovs – were involved in it. He also said it is possible other founders may have been involved without them even knowing it.

Grīnvalds claims – although he has tried to introduce new good management in the institution, the years-long blowback of illegalities has been stronger, which resulted in him becoming «a manager inconvenient for schemes».

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SEARCH

Baltic Media Alliance co-owner Solodovs a suspect in VDD criminal process

Baltic Media Alliance, Oļegs Solodovs, EU sanctions, VDDOne of the suspects in the criminal process commenced by Latvian State Security Service (VDD) over violation of international sanctions is LLC Baltic Media Alliance co-owner and board chairman Oļegs Solodovs, according to unofficial information from LETA.

According to information from Firmas.lv, Latvian citizen Solodovs owns 50% of company shares, the other half of shares is owned by Russian citizen Aleksejs Pļasunovs.

Solodovs has been board chairman of Baltic Media Alliance since its foundation in 2007. Pļasunovs is also a board member, according to data from Firmas.lv.

On Tuesday, 4 February, VDD performed multiple searches in Riga and Tallinn. Searches were performed as part of 19 December 2019 criminal process – on violation of EU sanctions in a group following a prior agreement.

As reported by VDD, a number of court-sanctioned searches were performed in cooperation with Estonian Security Police at locations associated with suspects in Riga and Tallinn. Police confiscated a number of documents and data storage devices during those searches.

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A LOOK BACK

Number of criminal cases commenced by KNAB reaches forty seven in 2019

KNAB, corruption, reportWhen it comes for corruption prevention, in 2019 Latvian Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau (KNAB) accomplished its best result in the past decade – a total of 47 criminal processes were commenced, according to the statement released by KNAB.

When compared to 2010, the number of commenced criminal processes has increased 24%. Although the number of criminal cases submitted for commencement of criminal prosecution has reduced, it should be stressed that in 2019 KNAB had multiple large and complicated criminal processes in the works. Investigation of those cases requires a lot of time and manpower, KNAB explains.

In 2019, KNAB sent requests for commencement of criminal prosecution of 15 criminal processes against 31 people. 15 of the bureau’s ongoing criminal cases were terminated.

The majority of people prosecuted in 2019 were accused of document forging and using forged documents, as well as fraud, bribery and accepting bribes.

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CONCLUSION

Maxima tragedy criminal case viewing concludes; ruling promised in mid-February

Maxima, trial, ruling, courtOn Tuesday, 4 February, Riga City Pārdaugava Court concluded listening to the last words of the accused in the so-called Zolitude Maxima supermarket tragedy criminal case and announced the ruling will be announced on 18 February.

In accordance with the Criminal Procedure Law, the court can announce a shortened ruling and then write a full ruling later following which the two involved sides are able to decide on appealing.

During 4 February court session the accused denied allegations, expressed sympathy for the victims and their relations, as well as said they are confused over the charges presented to them.

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LANGUAGE PROTECTORS

Calls for Estonian subtitles in film festivals voiced by Estonian Culture Minister

Estonia, Estonian language, language protection, subtitles, translation, filmsTõnis Lukas, the Estonian Culture Minister, has encouraged organisers of cultural events to ensure state language subtitles with theatre and film festivals, as well as future public funding in mind, according to Estonian broadcaster ERR.

The minister voiced his position as to the compliance with the country’s Language Law in the context of criticism in Estonian media of a documentary film festival that lacked Estonian language subtitles to a majority of its apparently foreign language films.

On Thursday, February 6, ERR quoted Lukas as saying: «In a situation where there was criticism in the media earlier this week that a documentary festival had next to no Estonian subtitles, I find it unfitting and believe it would be appropriate for the state to require events that it finances to adhere to the Language Act in the future.»

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CHINESE CAMERAS

Cameras banned by US used to monitor Lithuanian leaders

Hikvision, Dahua, cameras, Lithuania, security, US, sanctionsThe video surveillance cameras manufactured in China by companies applied with US sanctions are used in cars used by Lithuanian political leaders, as well as in areas like state border guard and migration control, as concluded by journalists of Lithuanian public media LRT.

Chinese companies Hikvision and Dahua are on the list of US sanctions, because US authorities have found that Beijing has involved companies in repressions against Uighurs and other Islamic minorities in China. Australia’s government found in 2018 that video cameras manufactured by both companies are used for spying.

LRT journalists have found that video surveillance cameras manufactured by Hikvision and Dahua are used by Lithuanian migration and police services, the State Border Guard, State Security Service and the state air traffic control company Oro Navigacija.

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Kristīnes 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.

Rīgas satiksme new management’s stance on contract with Rīgas karte remains unclear

Municipal public transport company LLC Rīgas satiksme’s new board offers no clarity in relation to potentially terminating the contract with LLC Rīgas karte, as Saeima’s Public Expenditures and Audit Committee was told by RS board chairperson Džineta Innusa.

UK would not give visas to unskilled EU labour after Brexit

The British government has announced its immigration plan for the period after Brexit. It sets forth not issuing visas to unskilled labour from European countries, the BBC reports.

Attīstībai/Par! and Progressive party to run in Riga elections together

Party union Attīstībai/Par! and the Progressive party have decided to put together a shared list of candidates in the upcoming snap elections in Riga. Mārtiņš Staķis will be their mayoral candidate, as confirmed by Attīstībai/Par! representative Aleksis Zoldners.

Einars Repše becomes Baltic International Bank’s council head’s advisor

Latvia’s ex-prime minister and once the governor of the Bank of Latvia Einars Repše has become the advisor to Baltic International Bank’s council chairman Valērijs Belokoņs, as confirmed by the bank.

Prosecutor General’s Office requests Denmark to extradite Misāne to Latvia

The Office of the Prosecutor General of the Republic of Latvia has sent a request to Danish authorities regarding the extradition of Kristīne Misāne to the country, as confirmed by the office’s press-secretary Laura Majevska.

In pictures: UK hit by heaviest winter floods of past years

The storm Dennis has heavy flooding to the United Kingdom as widespread rainfall came a week after the powerful storm Ciara, according to The Guardian.

FDP: economic growth may be slowed by multiple global and domestic risks

Latvia’s Fiscal Discipline Council agree on Finance Ministry’s analysis, expecting the strong effect from slowed economic growth to remain in 2020, the council says.

Estonia dismisses Beijing’s call to amend intelligence report unfavourable to China

Estonian diplomats have rejected a call by the Chinese Embassy in Tallinn to amend an annual security report by the Estonian Foreign Intelligence Service pointing to growing influence of China in Estonia, ERR reports.

Latvian ex-state secretary has no plans to take disciplinary case to court

Economy Ministry’s state secretary Ēriks Eglītis, who was suspended from his post, has no plans at the moment to take the disciplinary case to court, as the man confirmed in an interview to Latvijas Radio on Tuesday, 18 February.

Multi-billionaire Bezos promises USD 10 billion to help tackle climate change

In the US, the founder of the e-commerce giant Amazon, Jeff Bezos, has pledged to allocate a funding of USD 10 billion for fighting climate change, British public broadcaster BBC reports.

Latvia will continue fighting for fair financing in EU’s next multi-year budget

It is in Latvia’s interests to reach a timely agreement on the next European Union (EU) multi-year budget to help contribute to projects and secure uninterrupted investments in Latvia, as reported by Foreign Affairs Ministry.

Land acquisition for Rail Baltica going slow in Estonia

As Estonia seeks a stretch of land across the country for the construction of the pan-Baltic railway Rail Baltica, only 32 plots of land have been acquired out of some 650 needed, Estonian public broadcaster ERR reports.

Construction engineer Sergets sentenced to six years in prison in Maxima tragedy case

On Tuesday, 18 February, Riga City Pārdaugava Court commenced reading the ruling in the so-called Maxima tragedy criminal case, sentencing construction engineer Ivars Sergets to six years in prison, as well as five year prohibition to work in his profession.


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