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Friday 17.08.2018 | Name days: Oļegs, Vineta
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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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Latvia’s State Audit requests additional funding to invest in workers

State Audit has requested additional funds in next year’s budget to invest in employees, as head of the institution Elita Krūmiņa mentioned in an interview to Latvijas Radio.

Nearly half of children born in Latvia in 2017 were delivered by mothers with higher education

20,828 children were born in Latvia in 2017. Almost half of them were born to mothers having higher education. Out of the total number of newborn children mothers, 7,229 or 34.7 % had acquired upper secondary general or vocational education and 2,775 or 13.3 % had basic education or lower.

«Steel Magnolia» named Lithuania's most influential politician for fourth consecutive year

Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaitė, dubbed as «Steel Magnolia» by foreign press, remains the most influential politician in the country for the fourth consecutive year. In two separate polls, one by the popular ratings magazine Reitingai and the other by pollster Spinter Tyrimai, she appeared on top, being followed by Saulius Skvernelis, Prime Minister, Ramūnas Karbauskis, the leader of the ruling Lithuanian Farmers and Greens Union (LFGU), Valdas Adamkus, ex-president, and Vytautas Landsbergis, Lithuania's first post-independence leader.

Ex-director: Rundale Castle Museum should be managed with the same ideals as before

In the years to come Rundale Castle Museum should be managed with the same ideals as before, says the soon ex-director of the museum Imants Lancmanis, who intends to retire at the end of this year.

Star Rating determines the best schools in Latvia

According to the 2018 Star Rating, Riga State Gymnasium No.1 remains in the lead among Latvia’s schools. Daugavpils Russian Secondary School – Lyceum is second, and Riga State Gymnasium No.2 is third.

ABLV Bank assets worth EUR 21.052 million were recovered in July

Liquidators of ABLV Bank have recovered assets worth EUR 21.052 million in July. This includes EUR 11.602 million recovered from issued loans, EUR 7.644 million from recovered/sold securities, EUR 1,792 million from loans provided to credit institutions, and EUR 14,000 from sales of real estate and other types of property, according to the account published in Latvian Herald.

Concerns over Turkish crisis cause world stock market decline

Stock prices around the world took a massive dive on Wednesday, 15 August, as concerns over Turkish crisis’ possible influence and investors’ attempts to get rid of risky assets surfaced again.

Election commission receives word some candidates’ possible non-compliance with the law

Latvia’s Central Election Commission has received information regarding possible non-compliance of multiple deputy candidates with requirements of the Saeima Election Law, says CEC chairman Arnis Cimdars.

African swine fever found in domestic pigs in Saldus; inspectors investigate illness in Unguri

African swine fever has been found in domestic pigs in Saldus Country’s Zaņa Parish. The infection was found in four domestic pigs. It cannot be excluded that ASF may have entered SIA Druvas Unguri farm’s pig enclosure along with sawdust or cars, as reported by Food and Veterinary Service Public Relations Office manager Ilze Meistere.

Lithuania lays symbolic rail on restored Mažeiķi–Reņģe railway line

Lithuania’s Lietuvos geležinkeliai railway company’s director general Mantas Bartuška and Polish oil concern Orlen manager Daniel Obatjek laid a symbolic rail on the restored railway route connecting Orlen Lithuania owned Mažeiķi oil processing plant in Lithuania and Reņģi in Latvia this Tuesday, 14 August.

Unemployment level in Latvia down to 7.7% in Q2 2018

In Q2 2018 Latvian unemployment rate constituted 7.7 %. Compared to the previous quarter, unemployment rate fell by 0.5 percentage points, while over the year it dropped by 1.2 percentage points.

Saeima approves stricter requirements for fast loans

On Tuesday, 14 August, Saeima’s Economic Committee supported in the second reading amendments to the Consumer Rights Protection Law. The legislative draft states that total loan costs that exceed 0.07% a day from the loan amount are unacceptable and non-compliant with good practice, as reported by Saeima press-service.

Noord Natie develops a new business niche – attracts cruise ships for Ventspils

The first of the cruise ships attracted from SIA Noord Natie Ventspils Terminals will arrive at Ventspils port this week. NNVT stresses that development of cruise business as a new product will help develop tourism in the city and region, as well as provide a contribution to economic development and raise recognition of NNVT terminal and the city.

Culture Ministry announces open contest for post of director of Rundale Castle Museum

Latvia’s Culture Ministry invites contenders to apply for participation in an open contest for the post of director of Rundale Castle Museum. Contenders can submit their applications before 14 September.

Lithuania’s Central Bank to assess information about Latvian VIA SMS Group

Lithuania’s Central Bank has promised to assess information regarding Latvian VIA SMS Group working in the country. This decision is a reaction to the statement made by Seimas National Security and Defence Committee member Arvydas Anušauskas that people associated with former Parex Banka owners work in that company.

Small wineries in Latvia will be allowed to use only local products

Members of Saeima’s Economic, Agricultural, Environmental and Regional Policy Committee supported amendments to the Handling of Alcoholic Beverages Law, stating that small breweries will be allowed to use products grown only in Latvia.

How successful are businesses owned by Saeima deputies? UGF members at the top

Currently politicians in Latvia who own shares in businesses and are also true beneficiaries in capital associations are in the minority. Information compiled by Lursoft shows that 35 Saeima deputies and members of the Cabinet of Ministers own shares in businesses.

Investigation: police arrest man who rammed car into a crowd of people in London

Police in London have arrested a man suspected of ramming barriers outside the parliament building and injuring multiple people in the process.

Number of visitors serviced at Latvian accommodation establishments up 11.3%

A total 772.3 thousand visitors stayed at Latvian tourist accommodation establishments in Q2 2018, which is 11.3 % more than in Q2 2017.

Ministry drops plans to allow doctor assistants rights to write referrals

Latvia’s Healthcare Ministry has dropped the proposal supported by multiple doctor organizations to allow doctor assistants write referrals, according to the project of rules for the organization of healthcare services approved at the state secretaries meeting.

Latvia to test its National Armed Forces’ state defence capabilities

The largest military drills in Latvia’s history – Namejs 2018 – will be taking place in the country from 20 August to 2 September. The goal of this military exercise is to test and improve the country’s National Armed Forces’ readiness to defend the country on their own and as part of a collective defence system, Defence Ministry says.

Insolvency administrator recovered EUR 320,500 from Trasta komercbanka in July

The administrator of the liquidated Trasta komercbanka has recovered EUR 320,501 in July 2018, which is much more than the amount recovered a month prior, when EUR 5,054 was recovered, according to information published by Latvian Herald.

Latvian parties promise to shorten length of judicial proceedings

Political parties that plan to participate in upcoming Saeima elections promise significantly reducing the length of judicial proceedings. They also promise to cancel the opportunity to appeal court verdicts in certain criminal cases, as well as perform a general modernization of the judicial system, according to LETA’s compilation of parties’ programmes.

Wooden promenade collapsed in Spain during festival, injuring 313 people

313 people were injured when a boardwalk collapsed during a sports and music festival in the City of Vigo, in the north-west of Spain, as reported by officials.

Insolvent Tosmare Shipyard plans to lay off workers

Tosmare Shipyard, which has been declared insolvent recently, has plans to lay off workers, as reported by LTV.

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