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BNN summary of the week: Mūrniece apologizes; the end for LNT; viewing of Rimšēvičs’ case

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Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, economy, construction, Saeima, healthcare, railway, Rail Baltica, Z-Towers, Bank of Latvia, court of justiceNovember’s first Saeima meeting commenced with atypical crowds surrounding the parliament. Doctors and opponents of the regional reform protested outside the Saeima, one group after another, on Thursday, 7 November.

Neither group succeeded in accomplishing their plans. The municipal reform was supported in the first reading and doctors failed to secure more funding for their wages. Saeima’s speaker Ināra Mūrniece apologized for the parliament’s unreasonable decision in regards to increase of doctors’ wages.

Doctors plan to continue protesting, however. The Pull Down Flag, Light a Candle protest will be taking place in Latvia from 8th to 14th November.

Nevertheless, in spite of failed efforts from some people, certain changes have been accomplished, specifically in the media sector. All Media Baltics has confirmed plans to merge LNT and TV3 news services. In the future, the media plans to work only with TV3 brand.

Last week, Riga District Court finally started viewing the criminal case against governor of the Bank of Latvia Ilmārs Rimšēvičs and businessman Māris Martinsons. It is expected the court process will likely last a long time.

The BNN gives you a summary of the key events of the past week, told in news stories of the following topics: Apology, Merge; Major case; New court; Expensive farewell; Game of Towers; Future; Vaccination and Development.

APOLOGY:

Saeima speaker apologizes to doctors for making an unreasonable decision

topical, Saeima, protest, healthcare budget, Ināra Mūrniece, Kārlis Rācenis«On behalf of myself and the Saeima, I want to deeply apologize to healthcare workers for last year’s impossible decisions in regards to wage increase. It is not possible to complete in the current situation. At the same time, we are aware healthcare industry in in dire need for funding, and we are prepared to continue working with the sector to find a solution for the problem in the coming years,» said Saeima speaker Ināra Mūrniece, meeting with representatives of the Day Without Doctor protest on Thursday, 7 November.

Although the Saeima’s vote on the increase of wages for doctors last year had the best intentions, it had not financial backing and turned out too optimistic. This applies to both the economic outlook and state budget options. This was tough lesson for the parliament, said Mūrniece.

At the same time, the Saeima speaker stressed that healthcare sector’s funding remains a priority for the Saeima and the government.

A total of EUR 200 million is outlined for the healthcare industry in the state budget next year. This includes EUR 60 million for the increase of wages for healthcare workers. «When forming the budget, we looked to making it balanced and ensuring an increase for other sectors, because it is in our duty to divide available resources in the interest of all society,» comments Mūrniece.

Full article here

MERGE:

All Media Baltics to liquidate LNT news service; to work with TV3 brand instead

topical, All Media Baltics, Channel 2, LNT, LNT News, TV3Media group All Media Baltics intends to work with TV3 brand in Baltics from December onward, as reported by the company.

At the same time, the media group itself will work with TV3 Grupa brand.

The media group plans changes for the television channel’s portfolio, making content in accordance with interests of a specific audience. Additionally, LNT will no longer continue operating in its current form.

The company reports that All Media Baltics will expand television channel TV3 volume of news, transferring a portion of the content from LNT news service. The media group also plans to form a unified news service.

Starting next year, TV3 Mini channel will be created specifically for child audience. TV3 Life will be a channel tailored for women. New channels will replace LNT and Channel 2 in the media group’s television channel portfolio.

According to information from LETA, there will no longer be a TOP 10 of LNT news from next year onward. LNT programmes like 900 seconds and Degpunktā will remain.

It is planned that following reorganization the new platform will show 900 seconds programme at 06:00 AM, TV3 news digest at 18:00 PM, Bez Tabu programme at 19:10, TV3 news at 20:00 PM, Degpunktā at 20:35 PM. The news programme will conclude with Sports news at 20:55 and weather forecast at 20:58.

Also according to news from LETA, reorganization will also lay off about 30 employees.

Full article here

MAJOR CASE:

Lawyer: Rimšēvičs as member of ECB Council has immunity from criminal proceedings

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

ApsūdzētieThe accused Bank of Latvia governor Ilmārs Rimšēvičs (L) and businessman Māris Martinsons (R)

Mārtiņš Kvēps, lawyer of the corruption-accused governor of Bank of Latvia Ilmārs Rimšēvičs, believes, as a member of the European Central Bank, his client has immunity from criminal proceedings, criminal prosecution and criminal charges. This is why on Monday, 4 November, Rimšēvičs’ defender decided to ask Riga District Court in Jurmala to turn to the European Court of Justice so that it can make a pre-judicial decision on this matter.

Kvēps justified his request by saying that in accordance with his client’s immunity, it is not possible to raise charges for actions related to his post in ECB. According to the defence, if the office of the prosecutor wants to raise charges against Rimšēvičs for such activities, they have to turn to the ECB with a request to revoke Rimšēvičs’ immunity. Kvēps also referenced reports from European Union Court of Justice advocate general in the case in which Rimšēvičs was restored in his post as governor of the Bank of Latvia. Kvēps interpreted the words of the advocate general as it was not possible to raise charges against Rimšēvičs,

Prosecutor Viorika Jirgena noted that the matter on the expansion of the term of immunity should not be asked to the European Court of Justice, because the moment the initial case was decided, the court has been able to evaluate any violations of Rimšēvičs’ criminal procedural rights, but this was not done.

Full article here

NEW COURT:

Latvian government supports creation of courts for economic affairs

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

Latvia’s Justice Minister Jānis Bordāns

On Tuesday, 5 November, Latvia’s government supported Justice Ministry’s initiative to found a specialized economic affairs court, which could start working 1 January 2021.

Interior Affairs Minister Sandis Ģirģens is against law amendments. He says development of regulations did not take into account objections from the Justice Council. Additionally, he says amendments will not resolve the problems the coalition is committed to fighting.

Interior affairs minister invites performing an audit of the justice sector prior to adopting new amendments.

«We have to perform an audit of the justice sector, assess all legislative acts and mistakes of the past to move forward. I want to wait for the audit first and only then start working on new legislative acts,» says Ģirģens. He also says the new regulation creates corruption risks.

Justice Minister Jānis Bordāns, on the other hand, says each reform has supporters and opponents, adding the law amendments were developed using audit results. At the same time, Bordāns stresses that corruption risks are mentioned to slow down creation of a new court.

Full article here

EXPENSIVE FAREWELL:

LTV: ex-LDz chairman’s paid compensation for leaving may reach quarter of a million

Aivars Strakšas, Edvīns Bērziņš, Jānis Lange, compensation, Latvian Railway, Panorāma, important

Edvīns Bērziņš

The compensation paid to ex-chairman of Latvian Railway (LDz) Edvīns Bērziņš and board member Aivars Štrakšas may reach EUR 250 000 and EUR 200 000, respectively, as reported by public broadcaster LTV programme Panorāma.

The declarations submitted to the State Revenue Service (VID) show that this year Bērziņš was paid by LDz EUR 341 910, whereas Strakšas was paid by the company EUR 286 330. Panorāma notes these amounts appeared after the two of them had submitted their declarations – amounts detailed in documents have increased by EUR 100 000 and EUR 50 000, respectively.

Bērziņš explained to public media that he had included in his declaration the compensation amount paid to him for leaving LDz.

Full article here

GAME OF TOWERS:

Z-Towers developer, construction office and Burovs go at each other over Twin Towers

Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RUZ-Towers project developers have turned to State Police and Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau (KNAB) over intentional delays with the building’s commissioning, as reported by AS Tower Construction Management commercial director Andžejs Neguliners.

He says the company has sent an official letter to State Police and KNAB, allowing for the possibility that some official or several are intentionally delaying the commissioning of the building in violation of their duties.

«Such behaviour is illegal, and we have done and will continue doing all we can to protect the rights and interests of taxpayers and international investors,» says Neguliners.

He stresses that over the course of the last several years the company has actively worked to assist with development of plans at meetings to make sure work of experts meets expectations for quality and compliance with international requirements.

«The voiced criticisms are baseless, which is something we have outlined in official letters to Riga City Council, the economy minister and Prime Minister. We have provided requested information in regular correspondence with Riga City Construction Office. This is why we and Riga’s Mayor Oļegs Burovs are confused over behaviour of the construction office,» comments Neguliners.

Tower Construction Management believes Riga City Council representative’s published letter is wasteful manipulation.

Full article here

FUTURE:

Rail Baltica airport station’s construction may cost 250 – 280 million euros for Latvia

Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RURailway project Rail Baltica station’s construction at Riga International Airport may cost around 250 – 280 million euros. The exact amount will be clarified soon – in the second stage of the construction tender, says Rail Baltica implementer in Latvia Eiropas dzelzceļa līnijas board chairman Kaspars Vingris.

«Rail Baltica project at Riga airport is unique because it is the first passenger railway station construction project since 1937, as well as the first railway ramp and 1 435 mm standard railway line project,» says Vingris.

He says the first level will include the entry point to the station’s building, the second level will include the waiting area and checkouts, as well as the connector with the developing airport expansion. The third level will include the passenger train station platform. It is also planned to build and access route to the airport’s cargo terminal.

The first stage of the tender was announced 3 November. The first stage includes selection of candidates which will conclude in January 2020. Then the candidates who pass the first stage will be asked to submit a financial and technical offer. The contract with chosen the chosen company is planned to be signed before the end of 2020. Construction work may commence in 2021.

Full article here

VACCINATION:

Child vaccination: Lithuanian legislators back mandatory vaccines

polio, measles, rubella, Lithuania, Seimas, vaccineIn Lithuania, legislation to make child vaccines against polio, measles and rubella mandatory has received the support of the Seimas in the first vote.

Lithuanian public broadcaster LRT reports on Thursday, November 7, that the bill, drafted by the Social Democratic faction, has cleared the first hurdle by one vote. To become a law, it will have to be endorsed by the government and voted on once more in the parliament.

«With the measles spreading in Lithuania, over 5,000 children remain non-vaccinated each year,» the bill’s authors say in the explanatory note.

According to them, 128 measles cases were registered in the country between January 1 and March 13 this year, a sharp increase from 30 cases reported throughout last year.

Full article here

DEVELOPMENT:

Estonia to invest EUR 300 million in electrifying all rail network

Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RUEstonian state railway company Eesti Raudtee has voiced plans to build electric railway infrastructure on the entire 800-kilometre network would take seven years and 300 million euros to complete.

Estonia public broadcaster ERR reports on Tuesday, November 5, Estonia’s rail network currently is a combination of electric and diesel trains for both passengers and freight.

Head of Eesti Raudtee Erik Laidvee, explained that works should start in 2022 and electrifying the entire 800-km network would be complete by 2028.

Full article here


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Aivars Lembergs leaves his post in Latvian Olympic Committee

On Friday, 13 December, individual member of Latvian Olympic Committee and member of its Executive Committee Aivars Lembergs announced to LOK board his decision to leave the organization, BNN was told by LOK press-secretary Mārtiņš Mālmeisters.

Ralfs Kļaviņš and Edvīns Bērziņš leave the board of Latvian Transit Business Association

Chairman of Riga Commercial Port Ralfs Kļaviņš and ex-chairman of Latvian Railway Edvīns Bērziņš have left the board of Latvian Transit Business Association, according to information from Firmas.lv.

US sanctions will not affect companies in which Lembergs no longer has any influence

The sanctions introduced by USA against Lembergs will not affect the companies over which he no longer has control thanks to a ruling of the court.

Liquidation of discount fares on multiple RMS routes would help save money for Rīgas satiksme

By liquidating multiple discounts for passenger fares on multiple LLC Rīgas mikroautobusu satiksme routes, LLC Rīgas satiksme public transport company hopes to save approximately EUR 1.75 million a year.

Tallinn region GDP portion decreases in Estonian economy

In 2018, 65% of the Estonian gross value added was created in Harju county, while the rest of the country is inching closed with Harju county, the official statistics of the Baltic country showed.

EU prolongs targeted sanctions against Russia over Ukraine

The European Union has extended for another six months its sanctions against Russia’s energy, finance and military sectors. The continued restrictive measures are said to remain in full until Minsk peace deal is implemented.

Local government representatives will no longer work at Riga and Ventspils freeport

Following the coming into force of amendments to the Law on Ports, representatives of Riga City Council and Ventspils City Council will lose their respective posts in the board of Riga Freeport and Ventspils Freeport, the law states.

Total tax debts in Latvia at December’s beginning – EUR 869.4 million

At the beginning of December, total tax debts in Latvia, including outstanding, halted and extended debts, were equal to EUR 869.367 million, which is 1.9% less than a month prior, according to data from the State Revenue Service.

In UK’s Brexit election, Conservatives win comfortable majority

In the British snap parliamentary election aimed at breaking the Brexit impasse, the ruling Conservative Party has won gaining a comfortable majority, according to close to complete results.

Riga City Council’s interim administration may be entrusted to VARAM state secretary Balševics

If the Saeima votes in favour of dismissing Riga City Council, the interim municipal administration may be entrusted to Environment Protection and Regional Ministry’s state secretary Edvīns Balševics, according to the ministry’s Riga City Council dismissal legislative draft to be decided on by the government on 17 December.

EU member states commit to 2050 carbon neutrality, Poland opts out

European Union’s 26 members, including the Baltic states, have supported the planned political course to considerably reduce the greenhouse gas emissions to net-zero by 2050. Coal-powered Poland said it could not reach the goal and opted out.

Latvia’s prime minister forms a work group to ensure Ventspils Freeport’s operations

On Thursday, 12 December, Latvia’s Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš has issued an order on formation of a work group under Transport Minister Tālis Linkaits in order to ensure undisrupted operations at Ventspils Freeport, as reported by the prime minister’s press-secretary Sandris Sabajevs.

Ministry: to prevent damaging Latvian sports sector’s reputation, Lembergs should leave LOK

To avoid letting US sanctions negatively affect Latvian Olympic Committee and spread to the reputation of the country’s sports sector, the ministry can only ask Aivars Lembergs step down as member of LOK Executive Committee, BNN was told by Education and Science Ministry.

Budget Committee declines residents’ request to postpone increasing funding for parties

Saeima’s Budget and Finance Committee has rejected a public initiative signed by more than 11 000 residents. This initiative requested postponing the planned increase of funding for political parties.

Lower election threshold in Lithuania – more democracy or chaos?

The Lithuanian legislature, Seimas, has lowered this week the parliamentary election threshold to 3 per cent for political parties and 5 per cent for coalitions.

Russia expels German diplomats, retaliating to German step over Berlin murder

Russia has asked two diplomats of the German Embassy to leave the country. This is a tit-for-tat measure after Germany declared two Russian diplomats personae non grata as Berlin investigates an international murder in the German capital, TASS reported.

Riga Freeport and Liepaja Special Economic Zone to leave LTAB

Riga Freeport and Liepaja Special Economic Zone will leave Latvian Transit Business Association managed by Aivars Lembergs, as both are subjected to US sanctions.

Lembergs’ influence over Ventspils Freeport needs to end, bank supervisors say

The goal of the US sanctions is reducing Aivars Lembergs’ economic and political influence over Ventspils Freeport and other companies under his control. Sanctions are not meant to paralyse companies, rather seeing how they are used to process deals influenced by the person under sanctions – Aivars Lembergs, said Finance and Capital Market Commission head Santa Purgaile during a press-conference on Thursday, 12 December.

USD 25 million offered in Weinstein sage to 30 alleged sexual abuse victims

In the U.S. movie industry scandal surrounding sexual abuse claims against film producer Harvey Weinstein his lawyers have offered a USD 25-million settlement to more than 30 women, The Guardian reports.

Legal Affairs Committee supports lifting judge immunity for administrative violation cases

Saeima’s Legal Affairs Committee supported prior to the second reading legislative drafts to the Law on Judicial Power and Law on Judges Disciplinary Liability intended to lift the immunity of judges in administrative violation cases, as confirmed by Justice Ministry.

Estonian-Finnish gas interconnection unveiled

Estonia and Finland have held ceremonies to unveil the gas pipeline Balticconnector, built to connect the gas transmission networks of both countries separated by the Baltic Sea.

Mārtiņš Kazāks officially becomes governor of the Bank of Latvia

On Thursday, 12 December, Latvia’s Saeima officially approved Mārtiņš Kazāks as the new governor of the Bank of Latvia, as BNN was told by Saeima’s press-service.

What is Ventspils Development Agency and what will its members do now?

Among the organizations against which US Department of Treasury Office for Foreign Asset Control has adopted sanctions is also Ventspils Development Agency. In accordance with OFAC issued Global Magnitsky General Licence Nr.1, global partners have 30 days to cease all cooperation with this organization.

Israel on way to third parliamentary election in year

Israeli legislators have been unable to overcome a prolonged political crisis. The Knesset has given its initial approval to the third parliamentary election in the Middle Eastern country in a year’s time after legislators proved unable to form a majority coalition.

Social Integration Fund torn over NGO support priorities

Although sides of the Social Integration Fund have argued over priorities of the Non-Government Organizations Fund, the contest to start using funding allocated to NGOs may yet be announced this year, allows Social Integration Fund council member and Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš’s representative Imants Parādnieks.


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