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Friday 23.08.2019 | Name days: Valgudis, Ralfs, Vitālijs
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BNN summary of the week: new presidents; radio station rings alarm; bribery at LU

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Last week, Egils Levits officially became President of the Republic of Latvia. For his first foreign visit, he picked Estonia, where he met with the country’s president Kersti Kaljulaid. The week also marked the end for Lithuania President Dalia Grybauskaitė’s era in the country, as economist Gitanas Nausėda successfully took her place.

Among other developments in Latvia, it is worth mentioning the approval of Riga City Council deputy Nauris Puntulis in the post of Culture Minister. On top of that, Culture Ministry’s worries have expanded with the emergency rung by Latvijas Radio New Service, which accuses the board of the radio of inaction and causing a crisis in the public media.

Latvia’s Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau offered a look at the so-called ‘seventh heaven’ to politician Baiba Broka and businessmen Gints Rāvis and Ivars Millers. KNAB suspects the bribery is associated with University of Latvia House of Letters construction project.

Perhaps it is good news that the next generation is unlikely to be successful in bribery, considering poor average scores in the math exam. Unfortunately, Latvian school children demonstrated the worst score in math exam in the past decade.

BNN offers you a summary of the most topical developments of the week, including topics such as: Presidents, New shoes, Emergency, Protest, Bribe, Mathematicians and Growth.

PRESIDENTS:

Egils Levits officially becomes President of Latvia

On Monday, 8 July, Egils Levits gave his solemn vow and officially became president of the Republic of Latvia.

In his speech, Levits outlined his desire to reduce inequality and make Latvia a modern country. He also complimented the work done by his predecessors.

«We inherited our country from previous generations. A country to call our own – it is a treasure. Our goal is leaving next generations a country in a better state than it was when we received it,» said Levits.

«There is no ideal country, because that implies halted progress,» said Levits, concluding his speech and urging people to work for the country’s benefit.

BNN had previously reported that in the first open state president’s election in Latvia, 61 Saeima deputies voted in favour of Egils Levits. 31 deputies voted against him.

Full article here

Gitanas Nausėda officially becomes President of Lithuania

On Friday, 12 July, Lithuania’s newly-elected President Gitanas Nausėda is giving his solemn vow, taking the reins from previous president Dalia Grybauskaitė, who remained in this post for ten years.

In the morning of the Day of Inauguration, Gitanas Nausėda will visit the Monument to Jonas Basanavičius. After that he will attend the festive meeting in the Lithuanian Seimas, during which he will present his solemn vow. Once the ceremony is over, Lithuanian Armed Forces and the Riflemen’s Union will line-up in the Independence Square outside the Seimas, after which there will be a parade of Lithuania Armed Forces on Gediminas Avenue.

A service will be held in the afternoon at Vilnius Cathedral.

Once the ceremony is over, the new president will participate in a ceremonial handover of the Presidential Palace. He will also read a speech. In accordance with the Constitution, Dalia Grybauskaitė will step down as president. The president will then have 15 days to propose a candidate for the post of the country’s next prime minister.

A festive concert will be held at Simono Daukanto Square. The concert will include performances from musicians hailing from ten regions of Lithuania. Around evening, Gitanas Nausėda will hold an inaugural reception will be held in the palace courtyard.

Full article here

NEW SHOES:

Latvia has a new culture minister – Saeima approves Nauris Puntulis for the job

Latvia’s parliament has appointed ex-Riga City Council deputy, opera singer Nauris Puntulis for the post of culture minister of Latvia with 63 votes in favour and 20 votes against.

It is worth mentioning that only Harmony’s members and non-faction deputy Jūlija Stepaņenko, who was originally a member of Harmony, voted against Puntulis as a culture minister candidate.

Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš reminded in his speech addressed to the Saeima that construction of the National Concert Hall is included in the government declaration. He added that Puntulis with push the construction of the concert hall forward.

Vita Anna Tērauda (AP) said Puntulis is a good candidate to replace Dace Melbārde, adding that he will be able to maintain culture infrastructure. He also reminded that Culture Ministry is responsible for enhancing the media space, adding that he hopes there will be sufficient funding for public media.

Full article here

EMERGENCY:

News Service of Latvijas Radio requests board members to step down

Wednesday, 10 July, the News Service of Latvijas Radio detailed no trust the board of Latvijas Radio in an open letter. Members of the board have been asked to either step down or brace for dismissal.

On top of that, the News Service has asked Latvia’s National Electronic Mass Media Council (NEPLP) to not only dismiss the board of Latvijas Radio but also avert a crisis in the media. Authors of the letter also ask Saeima committee responsible for this field to assess NEPLP competence in governance of public radio station.

Journalists of Latvijas Radio accuse the board of inaction, having no interest in a strong and independent radio and actively weakening the News Service. According to authors of the letter, the board ‘has intentionally acted in a malicious way, weakening the News Service, which plays one of the leading roles in keeping residents safe and informed’.

Authors also mention that since 2018, eight professional journalists have left the News Service. They also stress that an independent audit performed this year has shown that the workload of New Service journalists is 123%. Unfortunately, the board of Latvijas Radio has done nothing to resolve the problem with workload in different structure units of Latvijas Radio. The board also refused to increase wages for journalists.

Full article here

PROTESTS:

Baltic States protest against Moscow’s plans to celebrate Baltics’ «liberation» with fireworks

Lithuania and Estonian foreign ministries have summoned representatives of Russian embassies to issue protests against Moscow’s plans to celebrate with fireworks on 22 September Baltics’ «liberation» from German forces in 1944.

Estonia’s Foreign Ministry summoned Russia’s ambassador on 10 June to issue a complaint in regards to Russia’s planned festivities.

Estonia’s Foreign Minister Urmas Reinsalu believes the announcement on the planned festivities in the Russian Federation is «a provocative step».

«The reoccupation of Tallinn did not bring freedom to Estonia; instead it brought the Soviet occupation, which lasted half a century. The legal continuity of the Republic of Estonia is and continues to be the foundation of our statehood,» said Reinsalu.

Latvia and Lithuania followed Estonia’s example on 11 July.

«Latvia condemns in the strongest terms the efforts recently prevailing in Russia to exonerate the crimes jointly committed by Stalin and Hitler, including the signing of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. It is especially cynical to organise in Moscow, on the 80th anniversary of that pact, any fireworks for the ‘liberation; of the capital cities of the Baltic States,» as detailed in Latvian Foreign Ministry’s statement.

It was pointed out to the representative of the Russian Embassy Vadim Vasilyev that the festive firework displays planned in Moscow in honour of the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Riga by Soviet troops from German occupation were regarded by the Latvian side as an «unacceptable and unfriendly action».

Full article here

BRIBE:

Bribe in LU vice-rector’s criminal case may be tied to LU House of Letters project

The bribery in Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau’s (KNAB) criminal process in which vice-rector of University of Latvia (LU) Baiba Broka and businessmen Guntis Rāvis and Ivars Millers have been detained may be associated with LU Academic Centre’s House of Letters project, according to information from LETA.

The procurement for the construction of LU House of Letters was announced in spring 2018. The winner was sought in the tended through negotiations. The initial contract price was EUR 33 million.

The tender’s first stage was open, and seven companies had applied. Only some of them had made it to the second stage (the actual number is kept in secret). Initial price offers were too high, prompting the university to review projects with new offers following soon after. On Thursday, 11 July, it is planned to open up clarified offers. The university hopes a winner will be picked in a week’s time, said deputy rector for infrastructure development affairs Edīte Megne.

Megne noted that the university is not completely clear as to which of the procurements the criminal process is associated with – the situation is made unclear by KNAB’s public statements in regards to the people involved in the criminal process.

Full article here

MATHEMATICIANS:

Math exam score in Latvia reportedly last decade’s worst

The average score of Latvian school children in the centralized math exam continued declining this year, reaching the lowest point in the past ten years, according to information compiled by LETA.

In the 2018/2019 school year, Latvian school children showed an average 32.7% score, which is 1.9 percentage points below the previous school year’s result. This means the decline of the average score continues for the fifth consecutive year, as reported by State Education Content Centre.

The best score in math exams in Latvia was observed in 2015, when it reached a score of 43.6%. Continued decline of average exam score has been since 2013.

226 school children in Latvia failed their math exam this year.

Very poor score was reached in Latvia for physics exam this year, too, as the average score is 37.5%.

The average English language exam score is 62.7%, which is the highest score of the past ten years. The average score for Russian language exam has also reached its highest point – 74.4%, which is 4.1 percentage points higher than it was in 2018.

Full article here

GROWTH:

June’s inflation in Latvia remains at 3%

Compared to June 2018, the average level of consumer prices rose by 3.0 %. Prices of goods had increased by 3.1 % and prices of services by 2.9 %.

In June 2019, consumer prices were 9.7 % higher than in 2015. Prices of goods had increased by 8.6 % and prices of services by 12.7 %.

Compared to June 2018, the average level of consumer prices was mainly influenced by the rise in prices of food and non-alcoholic beverages, goods and services related to housing, alcoholic beverages and tobacco products, goods and services related to recreation and culture, restaurant and hotel services, as well as furnishings in June 2019, according to data compiled by Central Statistical Bureau of Latvia.

Within the group of food and non-alcoholic beverages, prices increased by 4.1 % over the year.

Prices of vegetables (rise of 17.6 %) had the strongest upward influence on the average price level within the group. During the year, rise was recorded in prices of bread (of 8.4 %), flours and other cereals (12.2 %), bakery products (2.6 %), and pasta products (8.9 %). Increase was also registered in prices of pork (of 12.0 %), meat preparations (7.9 %), sour cream (6.1 %), dried fruit and nuts (10.8 %), chocolate (4.0 %), and butter (6.1 %). Decline, in turn, was recorded in prices of coffee (of 7.2 %), fresh fruit (2.8 %), and poultry (1.1 %).

Full article here


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