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Saturday 17.11.2018 | Name days: Uga, Hugo, Uģis
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BNN summary of the week: oligarch talks’ ownership; scandals in Lithuania; Estonia wants direct democracy

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Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RUBNN offers a summary of this week’s topical news in a variety of categories: Progress; Scandals; Invitation; Fight; Opinion; Decline.

PROGRESS: Saeima voices support for Rail Baltica project’s progression

On Thursday, 15 March, the Saeima made a decision to support Rail Baltica project’s progression. In its decision, the parliament invited Latvia’s Cabinet of Ministers to provide all the necessary support for the project’s successful realization to ensure the project is realized in accordance with established terms and does not lose funding or support from the European Union, as reported by Saeima’s press-service.

The parliament also invites all sides involved in the project to find solutions to existing disagreements and encouraged Lithuanian and Estonian parliaments to support Rail Baltica project.

«Political support for the project is vital to be secured from the entire parliament. This is why European Affairs Committee has prepared a decision draft. In it, we invite Lithuania’s and Estonia’s parliaments to make a step forward and secure support for Rail Baltica project,» said the chairperson of the committee Lolita Čigāne.

Mentioning that Latvia’s full integration in EU transport network is a commercial, social and security matter for Baltic States, it is mentioned in the decision that Rail Baltica is a priority project in the EU intended to create a single transport space. To realize this project, EU has allocated 85% of the necessary funding, which is estimated around EUR 5.8 billion.

Full article here

SCANDALS: Lithuania’s ruling LFGU party remains unscathed by scandals

It seems that, for now, Lithuania‘s ruling Farmers and Green Union (LFGU) has been nearly damage-proof despite the lambasting.

Yet not the LFGU, but the opposition conservative Homeland Union- Lithuanian Christian Democrats (HU -LCD) enjoys the biggest support of the Lithuanian voters now.

If parliamentary elections were held next weekend, the conservatives would secure 17.3 per cent of the vote and the LFGU would be supported by 15.4 per cent, according to the poll conducted by Spinter Tyrimai (Spinter Surveys) pollster.

The Social Democratic Party would come in third with 8.2 per cent of the vote, just ahead of the Order and Justice party with 7.7 per cent.

In multi-mandate voting, the Liberal Movement would be the last party to cross the required 5-per cent margin with 5.1 per cent of the vote.

The parties‘ sequence in other polls is similar. That the Conservatives top polls is not surprising as being in opposition means being less prone to vulnerabilities of the political life.

Full article here

INVITATION: Protesters in Tallinn call for renewal of direct democracy in Estonia

In Tallinn, a protest in favour of direct democracy in Estonia has been held on Monday, March 12, with participants asking for the reintroduction of the direct-democratic initiative set forth by Estonia’s current constitution.

Estonian public broadcaster ERR reports that March 12 had been selected for the event as on the same date in 1934, Estonia’s period of authoritarian rule begun that took away from the Estonian people the right to introduce new draft legislation using the instrument of a direct-democratic initiative or to ask for a referendum to be held on existing laws.

Head of the Terve Rahvas (Estonian for Whole Nation) foundation, historian Jaak Valge, has explained that the reintroduction of the initiative is extremely important for the proper functioning of the Estonian people as the highest power in the state in line with the Constitution: «Direct democracy as we understand it doesn’t replace our representative democracy, but rather completes it».

Full article here

FIGHT: Slovak Interior Minister steps down amid backlash over journalist murder and politics

Slovakian Minister of the Interior has stepped down as the interior authorities in the country are under pressure to solve the murder of journalist Ján Kuciak and his fiancée.

British public broadcaster BBC reports that that the junior coalition partner, the Most-Hid group, in the Slovak government demanded the resignation of Kalinak in exchange for continued support of ruling Smer-SD as critics had claimed Kalinak could not ensure an impartial investigation into the murders, in his role as overseer of the police.

Slovakia’s President Andrej Kiska called for a «radical reconstruction» of the government or fresh elections last week to restore public faith, after all seven suspects arrested in connection with the murders were released without charge.

Full article here

FUTURE: No more than two consecutive terms for governor of Bank of Latvia

Saeima’s Budget and Finance Committee has agreed to propose an alternative legislative draft that provides for adding restrictions for the governor of the Bank of Latvia, making it impossible to take this post more for more than two consecutive terms.

The idea to expand the rights for dismissal of the governor of the central bank did not receive support from the committee.

At the same time, the committee declined amendments to the Law on the Bank of Latvia from Unity’s Saeima faction. Unity’s proposal provided to expanding the law with an option to suspend the authority of the governor of the country’s central bank if he, his deputy or council member is a suspect in a criminal process.

The declined legislative draft also provided requirements for the management of the central bank and the option for the parliament to initiate a vote for the governor’s dismissal.

Full article here

OPINION: oligarch talks do not belong to CPCB or prosecutor; society has the right to go through them

Documents from the oligarch talks do not belong to the Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau, the prosecutor’s office or any other institution – society has the right to go through this information, said member of Unity’s Saeima faction Andrejs Judins.

Materials of oligarch talks do not contain any sensitive information about people’s private lives, said Judins, adding that he learned that much from working in the parliament’s investigative committee.

During a meeting of Saeima’s Legal Affairs Committee on Wednesday, 14 March, a discussion took place between deputies and representative of the prosecutor’s office. The topic revolved around oligarch talks and whether or not they should be considered containing private information. Representative of the prosecutor general’s office mentioned that the talks in question mentioned many details of participating parties’ private life.

Full article here

DECLINE: Riga’s mayor spent at least eight million euros of residents’ money to promote himself

Over the course of the past three years, at least EUR 8 million of residents’ money has been used to promote the image of the Mayor of Riga Nils Ušakovs. This money was used to buy media, employ young members of Harmony, and finance ‘in-house protestors’ and using social networks, as estimated by Re:Baltica research journalism center.

EUR 4 million of this amount was paid to riga.lv portal, EUR 1,5 million was spent financing Riga City Council Public Relations Office, EUR 1 million ended up in SIA Mediaservice, and EUR 1.4 million was spent on publication of information in mass media and organization of Ghetto Games.

Ušakovs’ publicity mechanism consists of three large blocks: advertisement contracts with commercial media for distribution of ‘Riga news’, a network of loyal NGOs who are ready to take it to the streets and voice support, and an impressive network of social media that are used to form public opinions and criticize the opposition. The strategic goal is creating an image for Ušakovs as a successful manager. In reality, however, this is one-sided communication, because the mayor is free to choose which questions to answer and how to skilfully avoid counter-questions.

Large amounts of money are put into riga.lv portal, the office of which is located close to Riga City Council. It was founded five years ago. Its team consists of sixteen people. Another eighteen people work there part-time. Its funding has grown nine times from EUR 322,000 in its first year to at least EUR 3 million in 2017. Prior to elections, EUR 1.12 million from riga.lv budget was spent on website maintenance, excluding wages and royalties, as well as screen time for advertisements on a number of media. Some of the media outlets had been paid at least EUR 3.3 million in the last three years.

Full article here

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PUC commences dispute between AS Gaso and natural gas consumer

On Friday, 16 November, Public Utilities Commission decided to commence a dispute procedure between a natural gas consumer and AS Gaso in regards to natural gas supplies, as confirmed by the commission.

Latvian parties continue informal talks while next prime minister is being picked

While President Raimonds Vējonis is busy picking the next prime minister candidate, politicians of different parties are performing informal consultations. No official consultations are currently planned.

UN's global migration compact stirs up Estonia's calm politics

The Estonian government has taken a long time to reach a unanimous position on the United Nation's Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration. This has been criticised by Estonian President Kersti Kaljulaid, who has to attend a conference in favour of the document in Morocco in December.

Latvian authorities detain CityCommerce Bank co-owner accused of embezzlement

Reinis Tumovs, co-owner of Ukrainian CityCommerce Bank, has been detained in Latvia. He is suspected of embezzling nearly UAH 300 million (EUR 9.5 million), as confirmed by Ukrainian National Police Economy Protection Department on Thursday, 15 November.

Russia ordered to pay damages for Navalny's political arrests by human rights court

Russia has been ordered by the European Court of Human Rights to repay 64 000 euros in damages and costs for politically-motivated arrests of Russian anti-corruption activist Alexei Navalny.

Latvian president to consider Gobzems and Pabriks as perspective prime minister candidates

As parties’ efforts to form a new government continue, Latvia’s President Raimonds Vējonis plans to consider two new prime minister candidates – KPV LV leader Aldis Gobzems and Attīstībai/Par! candidate Artis Pabriks.

EC wants to reduce funding for supplies of fruits, vegetables and milk to schools

European Commission’s proposed regulation on organization of agriculture products market provides for reducing EU funding for the support programme on provision of fruits, vegetables and milk for schools by EUR 29.2 million or the same as United Kingdom’s share.

Genocide verdicts handed to Khmer Rouge leaders in Cambodia

In Cambodia, the two most senior living leaders of the Khmer Rouge Communist regime have been found guilty of their role in the atrocities that resulted in the deaths of at least 1.7 million in Cambodia between 1977 and 1979.

Latvian parties pick candidates to work in Saeima committees

Parties elected to the 13th Saeima have picked representatives to work in the parliament’s standing committees. Final decision will be made 20 November. Harmony may be represented by deputies Nikolajs Kabanovs and Jānis Tutins in Saeima’s Foreign Affairs Committee. Attīstībai/Par! has picked Artis Pabriks, and Union of Greens and Farmers has picked Uldis Augulis.

EU leaders: No appetite for renegotiating Brexit deal

EU leaders have dismissed talk of renegotiating the draft Brexit deal and warned the UK's political situation could make a «no-deal» more likely.

Some rain expected for Latvia’s centenary; cold snap expected next week

The sky will become clear every now and then. Still, some rain is expected for the country’s centenary. Wet snow is expected in the country’s eastern regions. It will be dry in the country for the most part next week, as reported by Latvian State Environment, Geology and Meteorology Centre.

Latvian ministry plans to form Media Ethics Council and develop Latvian Media Ethics Code

Culture Ministry has proposed forming Media Ethics Council. The majority of institutions of the media industry have started working on a self-regulatory council and development of a Single Latvian Media Ethics Code, as reported by the ministry’s public relations office manager Lita Kokale.

Harmony picks representatives in Saeima’s committees

Nikolajs Kabanovs and Jānis Tutins may become Harmony’s representatives in Saeima’s Foreign Affairs Committee, whereas Valērijs Agešins may become the party’s representative in the National Security Committee.

Lithuania’s corruption buster: firms donating to hospitals stand better chance in tenders

The majority of the winners of the tenders organised by major Lithuanian hospitals have expressed their gratitude to the health providers by making donations to them in the form of financial support.

Employment level in Latvia reached 65.3% in Q3 2018

920.1 thousand people or 65.3 % of Latvia population aged 15–74 were employed in Q3 2018. Over the year, employment rate grew by 1.7 percentage points and number of employed persons by 17.2 thousand.

Unemployment level in Latvia was 7% in Q3 2018

In Q3 2018 Latvian unemployment rate constituted 7.0 %. Compared to the previous quarter, unemployment rate fell by 0.7 percentage points, while over the year by 1.5 percentage points.

AS PKL Flote enforces EUR 1.35 million from Riga Freeport authority in court

The Department of Civil Cases of the Supreme Court has ruled that the verdict of Riga Regional Court – one that penalized Riga Freeport authority for breach of Competition Law against PKL Flote – was correct. Now Riga Freeport has ten days, starting with 13 November, to pay the company EUR 1.35 million to cover damages caused by this violation, BNN was told by PKL Flote board chairman Sergejs Odincovs.

British government loses two more members; EU sets date for Brexit summit

In the UK government, Brexit minister Dominic Raab and Northern Ireland's junior minister have resigned in disagreement with the country's draft withdrawal agreement with the EU, already passed by the government.

Saeima deputy: data protection regulation will not protect «KGB associates»

Documents detailing KGB workers’ names, nationality, work place, participation in the Communist party are not covered by the Personal Data Protection Regulation, stresses Saeima deputy Ritvars Jansons from the National Alliance ‘All for Latvia’ – ‘For Fatherland and Freedom/LNNK’.

EP: Moldova and Georgia should continue initiated reforms

Members of the European Parliament welcome the reforms Georgia has commenced. At the same time, Moldova was criticized for its worsened state of democracy and rule of law, as reported by EP press-secretary in Latvia Signe Znotiņa-Znota.

Germany economy shrinks for first time in three years

Germany economy has contracted by 0.2% in the third quarter of 2018, a first such result in the largest economy of the European Union in over three years.

Latvian president gives parties holiday break to continue talks

Latvian President Raimonds Vējonis calls off nomination of NCP candidate Jānis Bordāns to for government. Talks regarding the next prime minister candidate will continue after the state holiday.

Ireland satisfied with Brexit draft deal in every priority

The government of Ireland has stated that draft withdrawal agreement between Irish neighbour, the UK, and the European Union, Dublin had achieved a satisfying result in all its priorities, also regarding the border on the island of Ireland.

Bordāns: NCP will not support Pabriks’ government because KPV LV will not support it either

If the President of Latvia decides to nominate Attīstībai/Par! member Artis Pabriks, KPV LV will not work in this government. New Conservative Party would take the same position, according to what politicians told Tieša runa programme of LTV.

British government supports draft Brexit deal

British Prime Minister Theresa May received the support of her government on the draft Brexit agreement the UK has reached with the European Union, which would see the UK remain in the EU customs union until the end of 2020.

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