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Sunday 16.06.2019 | Name days: Justīne, Juta
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BNN summary of the week: open presidential election in Latvia and no more plastic bags for shoppers

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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: Future; Change; Fight; Decline; Business; Progress.

FUTURE: Will Latvians know who elects their president? Draft on open vote «on the move»

On Tuesday, 17 July, Saeima’s Legal Affairs Commission decided to submit for the first reading amendments to the Constitution of the Republic of Latvia that provide for holding election of the country’s president in the Saeima through an open vote, as reported by the parliament’s press-service.

Currently the Constitution states that the president is elected through a closed vote with no less than 51 members of the Saeima voting in the chosen candidate’s favour. To secure more trust in the Saeima, it is necessary to ensure transparency of this process. The vote for the president is the only closed vote in the Saeima, authors of the legislative draft mention in the annotation.

Previously a work group was formed by the Legal Affairs Committee. This group continued in-depth discussions regarding the pros and cons of an open presidential vote, as well as other proposals. In the end, the group proposed expanding the president’s authority and election evaluation.

Full article here

CHANGE: Ministry declares no more free plastic bags for shoppers

From 1 January 2019 onward supermarkets will no longer provide plastic bags to customers free of charge. This will not apply to very light plastic bags, as confirmed by Latvia’s Environment Protection and Regional Development Ministry.

Amendments to the law were developed to limit the use of single-time use plastic bags in supermarkets and to reach the goals detailed in European Parliament’s and Council’s directive, the ministry explains.

The legislative initiative applies to all plastic shopping bags regardless of the thickness of the material. One exception is for very light plastic bags used for hygienic packaging.

‘Some traders already do not provide plastic bags free of charge. Instead they offer paper, carton or woven bags. This motivates consumers to pick environment-friendly solutions. Traders who have yet to adopt this approach will have to do it soon,’ comments minister Kaspars Gerhards.

Full article here

FIGHT: Lithuania’s election watchdog slams ruling LFGU over popular TV series

Political messages can be channeled in various ways and the ruling now Lithuanian party, LFGU (Lithuania’s Farmers and Greens Union) has chosen a very delicate way of the communications – through a TV series featuring the beauty and the ambiance of Naisiai, a picturesque settlement in Siauliai district.

A village where there are no drunkards, scumbags and crooks –just a picture of a perfect Lithuania, an example of how things have to be run in the country. In some of the episodes of the series, which, by the way, were funded by Agrokoncernas, Lithuania’s largest agro-holding, note, owned by Ramūnas Karbauskis, the leader of the LFGU, the party-chairman-turned-actor exhorts all to visit Naisiai. Some of the episodes feature the LFGU’s party newspaper and a calendar with the party logo.

The debates in the commission whether the series was part of the party’s political advertising were as much heated as the scorching weather in Vilnius this week. However, Lithuania’s election watchdog, the Central Election Commission (CEC), ruled that certain episodes of the popular TV series, as those afore-mentioned above, breached law and have to be deemed as political advertising.

Notably, three CEC members issued their separate opinion, demanding that the entire series be deemed hidden political advertising of the LFGU and view the film a gross violation of the legislation on funding political campaigns.

In the voting, three members of the commission voted for the latter, other three voted against the formulation, claiming that the series did not violate law and two abstained from the voting.

According to Laura Matijošaityte, chairman of the Central Election Commission, the CEC will vote for the entirety of the conclusions in the next sitting, due next week.

«Since a few of the commission members proposed an alternative formulation (i.e. rule that the entire series, not the separate episodes breached law), we have now to draw up concrete proposals considering their opinions…There have to be clear arguments to decide about the TV series,» the CEC chairwoman argued.

Full article here

DECLINE: around 3,3000 people know of their HIV infection but receive no treatment

HIV remains a serious problem in Latvia – around 3,300 people are aware of their status but receive no treatment and continue spreading the infection. Because of that, it is necessary to act quickly for Latvia to lose its status as HIV kingdom and limit the spread of the infection, says Baltic HIV Association, informing decision-makers and responsible officials in institutions and hospitals about the HIV/AIDS situation.

The association says three measures are of immediate importance. This includes cancelling existing restrictions on commencement of treatment (500 CD4) to make medicine accessible to all HIV patients. It is also necessary to improve accessibility of infectologists at Latvia’s Infectology Centre and create a system for individual patient interviews to raise treatment accessibility and queuing.

The association believes it is necessary to increase the role of HIV preventive measures office in HIV diagnosis and increased treatment accessibility, sending people with positive HIV tests to a healthcare institution and ensuring free confirmation of diagnosis and queuing at an infectologist.

Full article here

BUSINESS: Citadele Bank decides to reform Lithuanian subsidiary as a branch office

Citadele Bank has decided to reform its Lithuanian subsidiary as a branch office, as confirmed in the statement the bank submitted to Nasdaq Riga.

The bank’s representatives say the final decision in regards to reorganization of Lithuanian subsidiary and merging it with Latvia’s Citadele Bank to form a branch office in Lithuania was made on 5 July.

In accordance with the Law on Commerce, Citadele Bank’s customers have the right to receive creditor claim if it is proved reorganization puts at risk satisfaction of their claim. Customers can submit applications until 20 August 2018.

It is planned that the organization will be finished in the first half of 2019. Once it is done, Citadele Bank will have its main headquarters in Latvia with branch offices in Lithuania and Estonia, as well as a subsidiary in Switzerland.

A new Citadele office will be opened in Lithuania as part of the reorganization process. With that, this office will take over Citadele Bank’s assets and provide all functions and customer services.

Reorganization is not expected to affect customer services in Lithuania.

Full article here

PROGRESS: Countries sign third Rail Baltica co-financing agreement

Connecting Europe Facility co-financing agreement for the construction of Rail Baltica railway infrastructure was signed by participating member states on 13 July. The value of the agreement is EUR 130 million. CEF’s contribution will reach EUR 110 million, which is equal to 85% of all applicable costs, as confirmed by RB Rail communication consultant Ligita Brodiņa.

The main goal behind CEF co-financing is ensuring progress in the construction process in Lithuania (Kaunas-Lithuanian/Latvian border), which includes finishing construction of a bridge over Neris River, establishment of access roads along the length of the railway and commencement of construction work in Estonia, Brodiņa adds.

She continues: «Among the main goals is also the construction project from Upeslejas to Vangaži rolling stock maintenance depot in Latvia, as well as consolidation of initial technical solutions for the entire railway line in order to continue the construction design process for all elements of the global project. One other goal includes evaluation of suppliers to determine the optimal procurement and supply strategy and effective project management».

Funding is intended for activities like evaluation and studies, technical design, initial technical solutions, territorial planning, constriction work, provision of monitoring of infrastructure, different support and publicity activities, says Brodiņa.

Full article here


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BNN summary of the week: Waiting for new Culture Minister; Misleading by Supreme Court chair; bank watchdog overhaul

In the past week in Latvia, changes were announced in the Financial and Capital Market Commission, which will have new a management and duties. A substitute has been proposed for Dace Melbārde as the Latvian Culture Minister after her election to the European Parliament. The conservatives have picked Nauris Puntulis, an opera singer and current Riga City councillor, for the post. The candidate gave an interview to BNN on his priorities in the post.

IN PICTURES: Victims of Communist genocide remembered in Latvia

At the Freedom Monument in Latvia on Friday, June 14, there was held a ceremony to honour the victims of the Communist genocide against the people of Latvia. The mass arrests of innocent people were committed on the night from June 13 to 14.

Moscow sees U.S. decision of another thousand troops to Poland as sensitive

The Russian government stated the Russian army was closely tracking U.S. plans to send an additional thousand of its troops Poland as a deputy minister criticised the move as probably «aggressive».

Europol: Risks of Russian money laundering still exist in Baltics

In the Baltic states, there still exist risks for the laundering of money from Russia, said official from European police agency Europol, Pedro Felicio, who works on anti-money laundering measures in the body. He added that the problem is amplified by «zero cooperation from the side of Russia».

Data: 47.3% Latvian restaurants had tax debt over last six months

47.3% of Latvian restaurants and cafes had a tax debt exceeding 150 euros in the past six months, yet the total taxes paid by the sector have surged by 19.87% on year, data by business database Lursoft showed.

Latvian parliament in no rush to discuss Jewish restitution payment of EUR 40 mln

The Latvian Saeima has postponed the discussion of a draft law to compensate the Latvian Jewish community in the amount of 40 million euros for property confiscated by totalitarian powers in the mid-20th century in the then occupied Latvia.

Latvian Supreme Court chairman blamed for misleading PM over new court

Latvian Supreme Court chairman Ivars Bičkovičs has misrepresented to the Prime Minister the opinion of the Justice Council on the plan of a new economic cases’ court, says Latvian Justice Minister Jānis Bordāns. Two members of the council voted in favour of the establishment of the new court, while nine members were against it.

Latvian Health Ministry pushing for fairer competition in medicines’ market

Seeking lower prices of medicines for patients on the Latvian market, the country’s Health Ministry, is working on measures to improve access to medicines.

Approved: Latvian financial watchdog to have new management, more duties

The Latvian parliament has passed amendments to the Law of the Financial and Capital Market Commission aimed at strengthening the prevention of money laundering and terrorism funding in the financial and capital market.

Latvia cancels healthcare funding system of «two baskets»

People in Latvia will maintain access to healthcare services in the framework of mandatory health insurance by 2021 just as now, regardless of insurance payments made.

Estonia confirms alcohol U-turn to recover booze tourists from Latvia

As Estonia tries to recover its alcohol customers lost to neighbouring Latvia due to high excise duty, the parliament in Tallinn has passed a 25% cut in excise duty rate.

All Souls’ Day two? Lithuania eyes new national holiday

Members of the Lithuanian Seimas propose making the All Souls’ Day a national holiday in the majority Catholic Baltic country adding one holiday to the calendar in early November.

Lithuania's next President set to take bull by horns in tackling poverty

Lithuania’s president-elect Gitanas Nausėda has touched one issue – social exclusion and high level of income inequality in Lithuanian society – a lot more than all the others.

Latvian aviation can reach level of Sweden in ten years, says Transport Minister

The aviation sector of Latvia could by 2030 reach with increased efforts the level of Sweden in terms of passenger numbers, flights and cargo handling per capita, stated Latvian Transport Minister Tālis Linkaits.

New Riga concert hall, pay rise to cultural workers – priorities of nominee for Latvian Culture Minister

Candidate for the Latvian Minister of Culture, Nauris Puntulis, listed to the construction of a new national concert hall in Riga and a pay rise to public cultural workers as his top priorities in an interview with BNN news portal.

Latvian ex-children’s home closed after violations, alleged crimes by ex-director

The operations of Latvian Family support centre Saulstari have been stopped by the Latvian Welfare Ministry over violations of law, while a criminal case against the former head of the children’s home continues.

Poll: Latvian government work receives historically highest rating: -25

The evaluation of the work of the Latvian government, despite still being negative, has this May reached its historically highest level, according to the results of the Latvian Barometer study prepared by SKDS pollster.

Damage recovery rights planned for Latvian State Audit

A Latvian Saeima committee approved on Wednesday, June 12, amendments to the State Audit Law to grant the institutional watchdog rights to recover damages from responsible persons over violations of law found during inspections.

For Latvia Jewish property restitution, 40-million- euro compensation proposed

To compensate to the Latvian Jewish community for the property that was illegally confiscated during the Holocaust and the Communist totalitarian regime, a 40-million- euro compensation has been proposed by the Development/For! party alliance.

Air quality in port city of Ventspils meets all requirements, municipality confirms

In the Latvian port city of Ventspils, the data of air quality monitoring meet all requirements, BNN learnt from the City Council’s chief expert of Environmental Monitoring, Tatjana Valdmane.

KNAB reprimands Lembergs’ deputy over accepting donation from mobile operator

Latvian Corruption Combatting and Prevention Bureau has reprimanded Guntis Blumbergs, the deputy of Ventspils City Council Chairman Aivars Lembergs, over accepting a donation from mobile operator LMT, according to information on KNAB’s website.

Amid fears of Latvian real estate tax hike, Kariņš pledges no dramatic increase

As the Latvian Justice Ministry has drafted new rules of the cadastre evaluation of real estate, Latvian Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš promised in an interview with the LNT channel not to permit a dramatic hike in real estate tax.

Russia frees, drops charges against journalist Golunov in «triumph of law»

Russian authorities have freed journalist Ivan Golunov from Latvian-based news outlet Meduza. The authorities also dropped all charges against the man, which, Golunov’s lawyer says, amounts to the triumph of law.

Turnover of Latvia’s State Forests up 20,1%, profits – up 22,8% in Q1

Latvian state forest management company Latvia’s State Forests has in the first quarter of 2019 reached a turnover of 89,751 million euros, which is an increase of 20.1% as compared to the respective period in 2018, data published by the company showed.

New defence lessons in Latvian schools could cost 8 million euros in 2026

As Latvia considers introducing a mandatory national defence lessons in school curriculum, the costs of this novelty could reach 8.16 million euros by 2026, estimates by the Latvian Defence Ministry showed.

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