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Ceturtdiena 20.02.2020 | Name days: Smuidra, Vitauts, Smuidris
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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.

CHANGE:

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.

Read more here

INVESTIGATION:

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.

Read more here

FIGHT:

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.

Read more here

CONCLUSION:

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.

Read more here

DEPARTURE:

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.

Read more here

SECURITY MEASURE:

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.

Read more here

ANNOUNCEMENT:

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.

Read more here

AGREEMENT:

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.

Read more here


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Denmark cancels Misāne’s extradition to SAR in favour of extradition to Latvia

On Thursday, 20 February, the Danish court approved the decision of the Danish office of the prosecutor to cancel Latvian citizen Kristīne Misāne’s extradition to the South African Republic. On top of that, the Danish office of the prosecutor has also decided to extradite the woman to Latvia instead, as reported by Ritzau.

Warmest winter anyone can remember is wreaking havoc on Lithuania’s nature and store shelves

This winter, so abnormally warm in Lithuania, is bewildering everyone and is wreaking havoc both in the nature and on the store shelves.

Finnish court acquits Baltic online alcohol seller over tax evasion

A court in Finland has delivered a not guilty ruling in a case, where a man had been charged with tax evasion over the online sale of alcohol to Finns in Latvia and Estonia, using online platforms, Finnish broadcaster YLE reports.

Latvian Saeima committee to consider initiative to establish a park at former Marss cycling track

On Thursday, 20 February, the Saeima decided to submit the collective initiative on establishing a part on the territory of the former cycling track Marss to the parliament’s National Security Committee for review, BNN was told by Saeima’s press-service.

Ruling in Maxima tragedy criminal case to be appealed

Riga City Pārdaugava Court’s ruling in the Maxima tragedy criminal case will definitely be appealed, said senior prosecutor Aivars Ostapko in an interview to Latvijas Radio on Thursday, 20 February.

Proposal voiced to deny Aivars Lembergs the option to enter the Saeima

A proposal has been voiced to deny suspended Ventspils mayor Aivars Lembergs, who is accused of committing serious crimes and is added to the list of sanctions of USA, the right to participate in Saeima’s activities, according to information from LTV.

Latvian police liquidates fake news site www.aumytests.net. Employee detained

Latvian State Police has detained a 2001-born young man for reporting fake news, BNN was informed by police.

Cyber security drill held by Estonia in NATO Parliamentary Assembly

In Brussels, during the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, Estonian experts have held a strategic cyber drill, where member state legislators have been asked to look for solutions in a simulated cyber incident, ERR reports.

Turkey warns of military operation in Syria to stop government-Russian forces

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has stated that Turkey’s offensive in north-eastern Syria could start at any moment with the aim of stopping an offensive of the Syrian government and Russian forces on opposition-controlled territory, BBC reports.

Riga Zoological Garden board members Līdaka and Morozovs laid off

Both Riga National Zoological Garden’s chairman of the board Ingmārs Līdaka and board member Andris Morozovs have been fired from their respective posts, as confirmed by Līdaka.

Enterprise Register decides KPV LV party’s February meeting had no decision-making authority

Latvia’s Enterprise Register has decided the 8 February repeated meeting of KPV LV members had no decision-making authority. This is why the Enterprise Register has set a term for prevention of problems or organization of a new meeting.

Germany hit by tragic shootings in bars; suspect found lifeless

In Germany, eight people have been killed and five injured in two shootings in the city of Hanau. Police have found the suspect dead at his residential address, DW reports.

Ķuzis’ friendship with KGB official is no problem to run with New Unity in elections

Ex-chief of Latvian State Police Ints Ķuzis has joined New Unity and intends to run in the upcoming snap elections in Riga, as BNN was informed by the party.

Kristīne 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.

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