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Ceturtdiena 17.10.2019 | Name days: Karīna, Gaits

BNN summary of the week: Muižnieks returns. Muddy costs of Latvia’s development. Scandal with Strods

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Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RUThis week Administrative District Court in Latvia decided to overturn the government’s decision on non-approval of Indriķis Muižnieks as rector of the University of Latvia. This also means the consequences of the government’s decision are also null and void, which includes Gvido Straube’s approval as acting rector. Now Muižnieks will take this post.

While some are waiting for Education and Science Minister Ilga Šuplinska to step down, Justice Minister Jānis Bordāns stresses – if coalition partners request her dismissal, the existing Cabinet of Ministers will cease to exist.

Yet another corruption scandal struck in Latvia this week. This time road maintenance company VAS Latvijas valsts ceļi board chairman Edgars Strods was the target. Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau (KNAB) has found out that there may have been abuse of official power. Following detainment by KNAB, Transport Ministry dismissed Strods. He has since been released from custody but he is not allowed to leave the country.

The State Audit also revealed several serious conclusions from audits. One of them was that expenses for Latvia’s development are non-transparent and such an approach ruins the state budget quality, because nearly half of financially supported activities in 2018 came not from ministries, but coalition parties’ work groups.

BNN provides a news summary about the key events of the week, including such topics as: Change, Conclusions, Agreement, Investigation, Fight, Departure, Security Measure.


Territorial reform in Latvia may «cull» 56% of municipal deputies

Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RUOnce the municipal territorial reform in Latvia is over, the total number of municipal deputies in Latvia may drop from 1 614 to 705, which is 56% less than what the country has now, according to amendments to the Law on Elections to Municipal Councils announced at the state secretaries meeting.

Based on the upcoming administrative territorial reform, Environment Protection and Regional Development Ministry has developed amendments to the aforementioned law. According to the ministry’s offer, the number of deputies could decline by 909.

The current system of municipal administrations consists of 1 614 deputies from 119 municipalities. The territorial reform intends to reduce the number of municipalities to 36.

«Considering the aforementioned, it is necessary to amend legislative regulations and ensure the number of municipal deputies meets the size of municipalities and is enough to ensure optimal ratio of political powers so that municipalities are able to make decisions in accordance with their functions,» the ministry explains.

Amendments are needed to also ensure competitiveness for the elected deputies and separate decision-making power from executive power.

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Document leak: what ties Latvia’s ex-president, Biden’s son and PrivatBank together?

Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RU

Raimonds Vējonis

The money Ukrainian gas and oil company Burisma Holdings transferred to Rosemont Seneca company owned by US Vice-President Joe Biden’s son Hunter Biden, which is involved in the growing scandal that has already lead to an impeachment procedure for US President Donald Trump, went through Latvia’s PrivatBank, according to Rosemont Seneca’s account lists leaked to the internet.

Last year, the now ex-President of Latvia Raimonds Vējonis had attended a forum in Monaco organized by an associate of Ukraine’s ex-president Viktor Yanukovich and owner of Burisma Holdings – Mykola Zlochevsky.

The Hill reports that in the period of time between spring 2014 and autumn 2015, Rosemont Seneca was receiving more than USD 166 000 a month from Burisma Holdings.

Rosemont Seneca’s leaked account reports from Morgan Stanley bank in New York mention that money transfer operations were performed using PrivatBank. USD 83 333.33 was transferred in a single operation.

Hunter Biden was Burisma Holdings supervisory council member in a time when his father was the US Vice-President and was in charge of diplomatic relations with Ukraine during Barack Obama’s presidential term.

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Competition Council’s decision on waste management services in Riga kept in effect

Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RUThe Administrative District Court has decided to keep in effect Competition Council’s (CC) temporary regulation aimed at preserving the structure of competition on the waste management market in Riga, as confirmed by CC.

«The decision of the court of justice is one more serious signal that Riga city’s planned monopolization of the waste management market in the next 20 years is dangerous. It might not only fundamentally change competition but also create uncontrollable consequences for residents,» says CC chairperson Skaidrīte Ābrama.

«Now is the time for the municipal administration to answer a simple question – is a 20 year-long monopoly over waste management in Riga is the best solution for residents and competition alike?» asks Ābrama.

On 9 September CC enforced a temporary solution that provides Riga municipal administration and SIA Getliņi EKO multiple duties, including putting a stop to the contract signed by Riga municipal administration, SIA Getliņi EKO and AS Tīrīga on collection and transportation of unsorted and sorted household waste. The temporary regulation provides the rights to continue providing waste management services by market participants who did this prior to the contract’s signing, and consumers – the right to pick from available waste management companies.

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State Audit on budgets: eleven billion euros remain unaccounted for

Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RUAfter the audit performed by Latvia’s State Audit (SA) on state budget fulfilment and municipalities’ finances there is no clarity as to the use or records of EUR 11 billion, as public broadcaster LTV programme Rīta Panorāma was told by SA council member Zita Zariņa.

EUR 11 billion comes from the state budget and balance of existing finances. SA has not been able to confirm the use or records of this amount, as reported by Zariņa.

It was also found that approximately 30% of finances allocated for developed are not used for initial goals and instead remain in the hands of departments. This allows them to use the money for goals not even related to development, SA representative says.

«We believe the system should be fair. If we request ten times more money or if we need ten times more money than we can afford to spend of development expenditures left every year, the money that is not used for development goals should be returned to the ‘box’,» stresses Zariņa.

She proposed that is this case it would not be remiss to create an «intermediate box» that would store unspent amounts of money to later to be used for other needs.

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Politicians Ušakovs and Rubiks removed from the board of Harmony Centre

Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RU

From the left: Nils Ušakovs and Alfrēds Rubiks

European Parliament member Nils Ušakovs and politician Alfrēds Rubiks have been excluded from Harmony Centre’s board, according to an official entry in the Latvian Herald.

The entry mentions that Harmony Centre’s board will consist of Valērijs Agešins, Artūrs Rubiks and Jānis Urbanovičs from now on.

The party union was founded in 2005 by National Harmony Party, New Centre and Daugavpils City Party. In 2010, Harmony was formed from the merging of National Harmony Party, New Centre and Social Democrats Party. Daugavpils City Party joined the union later. Latvia’s Socialist Party maintains its independent party status and together with Harmony they form Harmony Centre.

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KNAB’s detained Latvijas valsts ceļi board member is dismissed

Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RU

Edgars Strods

As the shareholder in road maintenance company VAS Latvijas valsts ceļi (LVC), Latvia’s Transport Ministry has decided to dismiss board member Edgars Strods from his post following his detainment by Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau (KNAB).

The decision was made on Tuesday, 1 October, during an extraordinary shareholder meeting.

According to the ministry, no confidence was voiced for Strods because of KNAB’s investigation. Transport Ministry believes that KNAB’s voiced suspicions are too serious to ignore and Strods cannot remain in his post, as this would put at risk the company’s reputation and impact public interests.

At the same time, shareholders made the decision to attract an independent auditor to perform an in-depth inspection of LVC’s procurement procedures and other associated processes.

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Administrative court decides to overturn non-approval of Muižnieks as LU rector

Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RU

Indriíis Muiþnieks

Administrative District Court has decided to overturn the government’s decision to not approve Indriķis Muižnieks as rector of the University of Latvia, as confirmed by the court.

This means the all of the consequences from the aforementioned decision are null and void, including approval of Gvido Straube as acting rector of the University of Latvia. Now Muižnieks will take this post.

The court reports that now there is no legal reason to organize elections again.

The court admits there is a reason to apply temporary protection, because the overturned order is seemingly illegal and its remainder could create serious damages, prevention of which could be hard or even impossible.

The court seemingly concluded that some of the violations outlined in the order are impossible to find, whereas other violations have no legal merit, as they are either not related to the election process or too insignificant to consider.

For example, the matter regarding mandates of members of LU Constitutional Assembly is in the hands of the institution and cannot be interfered with by allowing the Cabinet of Ministers to approve the rector. Although there is no legal effect over the resolution of the dispute, the court has declared it worth recording that the elected Constitutional Assembly member’s mandate, if the member put its down, is allowed to be passed to the next elected person who receives the second largest amount of votes after the elected person. Additionally, the court admits that the rector has the right to call an extraordinary meeting of the Constitutional Assembly.

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Shut-down apartment building near Zolitude tragedy site to be finished

Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RURiga City Council and Zolitūde 21.11. Association have reached an agreement in regards to the shut-down apartment building located in Riga, Priedaines Street 20. The plan is finishing the building’s development to ensure it is safe to use for living, as confirmed by the association’s head Regīna Ločmele-Luņova.

Riga City Council and Estonian SIA Prana property plan to terminate joint-ownership over the real estate property located in Zolitude, Priedaines Street 20, where Maxima supermarket had caved in on 21 November 2013. Although this proposal was approved by Riga City Council’s City Property Committee in July, Zolitūde 21.11. Association, which represents the interests of victims and relatives of victims of the tragedy, objected to it, stressing that ownership rights can be terminated only if the municipal administration has no way to buy back the building or have it used for public needs.

According to Ločmele-Luņova, the association had met with Riga City Council chairman Oļegs Burovs to discuss this situation.

Burovs had explained that businessmen are prepared to sell the building no cheaper than two or three million euros. However, the municipality believes that in a situation of shortage of finances it would not be wise to buy back a building that is sure to be demolished soon after.

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Latvia decides: Non-citizen children to receive citizenship from 2020

The Latvian parliament passed in the final reading on Thursday, October 17, the draft law that sets forth granting citizenship to new-born children of the non-citizens of Latvia.

Drugstores should focus on health care over money-making, Estonian Minister says

As Estonia is working on a pharmacy regulation reform aimed at reducing the influence of drug wholesalers on pharmacies, Estonian Social Affairs Minister Tanel Kiik has said pharmacy services ought to be focused on healthcare instead of business.

Confiscated EUR 29 mln: Latvia waiting for evidence from Ukraine

As Ukraine seeks to recover from Latvia 29 million euros that have been confiscated by a Latvian court, Ukraine has to provide evidence as it has promised to do, according to Latvian President Egils Levits.

E-commerce for prison inmates considered in Estonia

Estonian prisoners could be allowed to buy products using rather than using current prison shops, such is the option considered at the country’s Centre of Registers and Information Systems.

Riga to keep cooperating with ticket servicing firm, allocating EUR 20.6 mln

Rīgas satiksme, the transport company of the Latvian capital, will not terminate cooperation with SIA Rīgas karte, meaning that the population would pay 20.6 million euros for it.

Video: Evacuation in Lithuania amid fire at tyre recycling plant

Alytus in southern Lithuania was hit by a cloud of black smoke from a fire at a large tyre recycling plant. A hospital nearby has been evacuated.

Von der Leyen’s commission postponed after three commissioner candidates rejected

The next European Commission is to begin its term in office later than expected as the November 1 coronation has been postponed so that three member states could offer new candidates to replace a trio rejected by the European Parliament.

Probing infections in Latvia, salmonella found in meat from Poland

As infection outbreaks in Latvia are under investigation, laboratory tests showed salmonella bacteria in Polish-origin poultry samples taken from SIA Gaļsaimnieks.

Germany to allow Huawei equipment on 5G networks

The Chinese tech giant Huawei will not be banned from the 5G mobile networks in Germany as Berlin stated it wants to create «a level playing field» for vendors.

OECD: Bribery prevention results in Latvia disproportionate to cross-border risks

Latvia’s results in fighting bribery are still disproportionate with the risks of cross-border bribery and money laundering the country is subjected to, says the Working Group on Bribery of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

In pictures: Ukrainian President Zelenskiy in Latvia

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and the Ukrainian first lady made an official visit to Latvia on Wednesday, October 16.

airBaltic not planning to cancel flights with Airbus A220

airBaltic does not plan to reduce its flights with the Airbus A220-300 plane, after Swiss International Air Lines decided to do this being concerned over the aircraft’s engine problems, according to a statement of the Latvian airline on social media.

PM Kariņš recommends spending confiscated EUR 29 mln as single investment

Latvian Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš has recommended the 29 million euros confiscated by the Riga Regional Court for being criminally-acquired to be spent on a one-off investment, according to an interview to LNT programme 900 sekundes.

Latvian security service develops terrorism financing prevention strategy

The Latvian State Security Service (VDD) has prepared its Strategy for the Prevention of Terrorism Financing 2019-2021 with its goal being improvements of the system of preventing such financing, developing Latvia’s abilities to fight such illegal attempts and to improve the country’s reputation in foreign financial markets.

Estonian President sends invitation to Russian President

Estonian head of state Kersti Kaljulaid has invited her Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin to visit the Baltic country during a gathering of Finno-Ugric peoples in 2020.

Riga transport company needs additional 2.9 million euros

Rīgas satiksme, the transport company of the Latvian capital, will request from the municipal budget an additional allocation of 2.9 million euros, said Rīgas satiksme’s council chairman in an interview with Latvijas radio.

Government decides: Latvia will have 39 municipalities

The Latvian government has backed the draft Law on Administrative Territories and Populated Places that sets forth cutting the number of municipalities in Latvia from 119 to 39.

Rail Baltica: In rebuilding of Riga Central Station deadlines and quality are key

In Rail Baltica, the new railway project, the rebuilding of the Riga Central Station is planned, where meeting deadlines and quality are key, said the head of Eiropas dzelzceļa līnijas, the company responsible for the project in Latvia, commenting on how the project could be affected by involved builders ReRe grupa being under the scrutiny of the Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau and the Competition Council.

Deal or extension? Last day of Brexit talks on before decisive EU summit

The Brexit delegations from London and Brussels are on Wednesday, October 16, spending their last day of talks before a key European Union summit intended either to discuss a potential deal or to decide on an extension of the Brexit process.

Exclusive | Latvian MP: Top justice figures, Bičkovičs and Kalnmeiers, working like this in private sector, would be sacked long ago

The Moneyval report has told us not only that Latvia is unable to deal with financial crimes, but also that long court cases are under scrutiny. It is about the scale of money laundering – branding us a major power of money laundering. The expert committee also has questions: where are the guilty ones and where are the sentencing rulings? «The same Lembergs’ case; believe me, Moneyval is observing carefully, how it’s going forward,» MP Gatis Eglītis (NCP), the head of the Financial Sector Supervision Committee of Saeima Budget and Finance (Taxation), said in an interview with the BNN.

Latvian medical workers to hold unprecedented protests against funding cuts

Latvian Trade Union of Health and Social Care Workers has decided to hold protests it calls unprecedented against state budget plans that would result in reduced funding for health care, according to the LVSADA Council.

History repeating: Lemberg’s-linked medium recalls false news about Meroni

Once again, a medium linked to the criminally-accused Latvian politician Aivars Lembergs has been forced to admit its lies and to recall its unfounded claims directed at lawyer Rudolf Meroni. This time the recall has been published by Neatkarīgā Rīta Avīze daily.

Unity: Riga City Council tries to retain structure of despite liquidation

In the Riga City Council, opposition Unity faction fears a near-million increase of the municipality’s Public Relations Division could be coming in city budget effectively to transfer the structure of, the foundation up for liquidation.

Latvian minister: System wants its people as Prosecutor General, top court chairman

«There is information that the system prepares its heirs and wishes to appoint people close to it,» discussing reforms in the Latvian justice system, including the changing of the chairman of the Supreme Court and the Prosecutor General, has said the Latvian Justice Minister speaking to Latvijas Televīzija programme Rīta Panorāma.

Latvian coalition reaches deal to support changed administrative reform

Latvian government parties have agreed to support the country’s major administrative and territorial reform expanding the initial plan of cutting the number of municipalities in Latvia from 119 to 36.