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Tuesday 12.11.2019 | Name days: Kaija, Kornēlija

BNN summary of the week: new presidents; radio station rings alarm; bribery at LU

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

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.


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


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


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


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 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


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


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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Saeima’s budget committee supports Latvia’s 2020 budget outline in first reading

On Monday, 11 November, Saeima’s Budget and Finance Committee concluded work on the next year’s budget, supporting its submission to the parliament for the final reading.

Ankara begins sending Islamist extremists back to West

Turkey has on Monday, November 11, announced the start of deporting foreign radical Islamist fighters back to their countries of origin. Turkey has over a thousand foreign Islamic State fighters in custody.

Number of murders and murder attempts up in Latvia this year

When compared to 2018, there has been an increase in the number of murders and murder attempts in Latvia in the nine months of 2019. The majority of those crimes were committed during alcohol drinking, according to data from Latvia’s State Police.

Tallinn’s payments into EU’s budget to increase by some EUR 120 mln

The payments of Estonia into the multiannual financial framework of the European Union could grow by around 120 million euros annually from the year 2021, yet the Baltic country still expects to receive considerably more than it contributes.

Construction output in Latvia increases 5.9%

Compared to Q3 2018, construction output had increased by 5.9 % in Q3 2019. Construction output rise was observed in construction of buildings as 11.7 %, civil engineering as 2.1 % and specialised construction activities as 2.4 %.

Economist: high rent prices in Riga contribute to emigration

The high rent prices may be the reason why in spite of low unemployment levels and shortage of labour force people from Latvia’s regions depart to foreign countries, not Riga, says Citadele Bank’s economist Mārtiņš Āboliņš.

Russia starts selling train tickets to annexed Crimea

A Russian railway company has begun selling train tickets from St. Petersburg to Crimea, the peninsular illegally seized from Ukraine. The first trip from St. Petersburg for Sevastopol in December will take 43.5 hours.

Latvia celebrates 100th anniversary of Lāčplēsis Day

Today, 11 November, Latvia celebrates Lāčplēsis Day and the 100th anniversary of the Bermondt affair, honouring the troops who died in Freedom Fights and other defenders of the state.

October’s unemployment level in Latvia at 5.7%

The registered unemployment level in Latvia was 5.7% of economically active population in October, which is as much as a month prior, according to data from the State Employment Agency.

Doctors urge government to postpone budget approval; prepare for strike

Latvian Doctors Union, Latvian Young Doctors Association and Latvian Nurses Association urge the government to postpone budget approval and continue talks about allocation of additional funding for healthcare in 2020 and future years, associations report.

Estonian exports weaken as imports rise

In Estonia, the exports of goods this September as compared to the respective month of 2018, have weakened by three percent, while imports have risen at the same pace, according to Estonian official statistics.

Burkovskis may become new head of TV3 news service; conflict of interests denied

Management over combined TV3 news service has been offered to the current head of LNT analytical programme LNT TOP 10 News Haralds Burkovskis, as confirmed by Burkovskis.

Romanian presidential election will need run-off

In the Romanian presidential election, incumbent Klaus Iohannis has won, yet not securing a decisive majority. The result of the election will be decided in a run-off on November 24.

Latvian Green Party excluded from European Green Party

Latvian Green Party has been excluded from the European Green Party. However, such a decision did not come as a surprise to members of the party, because the idea of leaving had been discussed among members in the past, as reported by LZS chairman Edgars Tavars.

Spain’s snap election won by ruling Socialists

In Spain’s snap parliamentary election, the ruling Socialists came out as winners, yet their seats were reduced and with them their chances of forming a stable majority government. Will all votes counted, the Socialist party won 120 out of a total of 350 seats.

Week in Lithuania: Court sanctions fugitive judge’s arrest, President meets Pope, pollution tax proposed

Last week, in Lithuania, Court sanctioned the arrest of s fugitive judge, Lithuanian President met with the Pope, a pollution tax was proposed and the parliament passed «spy swap» bill.

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

November’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.

Media Council to assess effect of LNT-TV3 news service merge on media space

Latvia’s Culture Ministry has turned to the National Electronic Mass Media Council with a request to evaluate the possible effect from the merging of LNT and TV3 news services on the variety of opinions in the electronic media space.

Inflation in Latvia estimated at 2.3% in October

Compared to October 2018, the average level of consumer prices rose by 2.3 % in October 2019. Prices of goods had increased by 1.9 % and prices of services by 3.0 %.

Winner of procurements in Jurmala has ties to Construction Office’s chief

Latvia’s Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau has taken notice of information mentioned by the press about the company that won in several generous procurements of Jurmala City Council, specifically that its owner is the brother of the Construction Office.

Cyprus to annul passports «sold» to 26 investors, including 9 Russians

The Cypriot government has decided to annul passports the European Union member state has issued to 26 citizens of third countries in return for large investments.

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

Media 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.

Child vaccination: Lithuanian legislators back mandatory vaccines

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

Eastern Germans less positive about benefits from reunification 30 years on

As Germany is to mark the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, a poll has found that fewer eastern Germans feel reunification has been beneficial than was the case ten years ago.

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

The compensation paid to ex-chairman of Latvian Railway 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.