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Sunday 16.12.2018 | Name days: Alvīne
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BNN summary of the week: prime minister without solutions; birth rates down; organic food rules

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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: Change; Growth; Business; Assessment; Fight; Future.

CHANGE: Latvia’s reputation worsens in investors’ eyes

In the evaluation of the business environment, Latvia was given 14 points among in a competition with twenty one countries. Latvia received the highest score for the quality of domestic deliveries, labour costs, payment discipline and higher education system.

Latvia’s weak points, on the other hand, include insufficient corruption combating measures, according to results of a study performed by German-Baltic Chamber of Commerce.

Latvia’s score in thirteen criteria out of twenty has become worse than it was a year ago. Investors are especially sceptical about Latvia’s tax system and corruption-combating system. Productivity and state procurements are also given low scores.

Interviewed businessmen are optimistic the most about three factors – state support, vocational education system and availability of specialists. Similar to a year prior, academic higher education and payment discipline remain good.

Such results are from interviews of 78 businesses present in Latvia. A total of 1,698 businessmen took part in the study. Business location-wise, Latvia is put on 6th place among 21 countries. This is one spot higher than the score given to Latvia by local businessmen.

Full article here

GROWTH: Organic food: MEPs support stricter regulations

On Thursday, 19 April, European Parliament approved new requirements and rules for production of high-quality organic food products, as BNN was told by EP Information Office in Latvia.

With 466 votes in favour, 124 votes against, and 50 MEPs abstaining, the European Parliament supported regulations for production and labelling of organic products. Members of the parliament and EU Council had reached an agreement in regards to said regulations last July.

The most notable improvements include strict and risk-based inspections along the entire supply chain. Thanks to the parliament’s pressure, it has been decided that inspections of all stages of food production will be performed at least once a year or once every two years if no violations were discovered in the last three years. In addition, imported products will have to comply with new EU standards. Current rules make non-EU producers to comply with similar standards. The new requirements will replace old ones in the next five years, EP notes.

The European Parliament wants to enhance production of organic food in Europe. This includes a wider offer of organic seeds and organically bred animals. Exceptions for the use of non-organic seeds and animals will be cancelled in 2035. Mixed-type farming: farms that perform traditional and organic farming will be allowed to continue doing that, as long as organic farming is separate from traditional farming. Certification of small farms will be simplified, as noted by EP.

Full article here

BUSINESS: East Capital’s fund buys Galleria Riga shopping centre

Asset-management company East Capital’s real estate fund East Capital Baltic Property Fund III has completed the deal for the purchase of Galleria Riga shopping centre.

Fritrade SE and AS Titan Invest sold the property. All participating sides agreed to keep the price of the deal undisclosed.

Galleria Riga shopping centre was opened in October 2010. The shopping centre has a total area of 24,300 m2 with stable tenants – Rime, fashion brands COS, H&M, SuitSupply, Mango, Reserved, Lloyd and Ecco, as well as a sports club and a restaurant floor.

«Galleria Riga has a unique location in the city centre with excellent operational results and a great potential for future development. We plan to continue developing and increasing property value for our investors,» says East Capital Baltics AS CEO Madis Raidma.

The deal was financed by Swedbank. It was consulted by Vilgerts law firm and Ernst&Young.

East Capital Baltic Property Fund III is a real estate fund formed by East Capital in 2015. It invests in high-quality real estate commercial properties in Tallinn, Riga and Vilnius.

Full article here

ASSESSMENT: Latvian Prime Minister offers no solution for finding additional money for teachers’ wages

Latvia’s Prime Minister Māris Kučinskis is not yet ready to provide any proposals to help resolve the matter regarding the deficit of finances for the planned increase of teachers’ wages in the country. He says there aren’t enough numbers and analysis results to formulate an opinion.

According to Education and Science Minister Kārlis Šadurskis, there might not be enough money to afford the planned increase of wages for teachers next year. He says it is because some municipalities have only formally reorganized their local school networks. Because of that, the expected budget-saving plan will not come through.

Kučinskis told LNT that he has yet to go through Šadurskis’ words and arguments. He says he does not have the numbers and arguments that would help formulate an opinion about wage rise for teachers. The promise given by the government to allocate the same amount gained from municipalities’ school network reorganization to help increase teachers’ wages remains in effect.

The prime minister admits that if the school network in Latvia is made smaller on paper by merging certain schools, it does not help save money. Latvia is ahead of Europe when it comes to education infrastructure costs – there are a lot of schools, but not many students. He expects from Šadurskis a plan to resolve this situation.

Full article here

FIGHT: Unity: there are municipalities, in which heads of administration think they are kings

During their meeting with Latvia’s Environment Protection and Regional Development Minister Kaspars Gerhards, members of Unity’s Saeima faction concluded that there is still a lot of work left on the road towards enhancing democratic principles in municipal administrations.

Unity members urged the minister to immediately cancel the new rules adopted by Riga City Council that limit deputies’ rights to ask questions during meetings, as reported by the party.

«Democracy is a value that cannot be approached on a surface level or selectively. Environment Protection and Regional Development Ministry, regardless of opposition deputies’ political beliefs or sympathy, has to ensure compliance with democratic principles in the work performed by municipal administrations and put an end to rules that limit deputies’ rights,» says chairman of Unity’s Saeima faction Hosams Abu Meri.

He says opposition deputies represent a considerable portion of residents. However, after listening to opinions of several municipal deputies, it was concluded that there are municipalities the leaders of which consider themselves kings, ignoring basic principles of democracy and denying deputies the right to represent their voters in an equal manner, says Abu Meri.

«The ministry’s actions in certain cases we consider correct. We should continue active work in order to make sure all municipalities are treated equally,» says the deputy.

Full article here

FUTURE: Birth rates in Latvia down – estimated population around 1 million 925 thousand

Since 2016 birth number in Latvia is reducing – in 2017 number of live births may be approximately one thousand smaller than in 2016. Number of newborn registered during the first three months of 2018 (4,612 children) also was smaller than that recorded in the same period of 2017 – by 336 children.

Death number registered over the last four years is fairly stable – 28.5 thousand. Over the first three months of this year, 8,004 deaths were registered, which is 27 deaths fewer than in Q1 2017.

Latvian natural increase is still negative. During the first three months of 2018, as the number of deaths exceeded the number of births, Latvia population declined by 3 083 persons (in the corresponding period of 2017 – by 3,083).

Full article here


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BNN summary of the week: scheme bubble of Rīgas satiksme; Estonia raises wages; government formation in Latvia

BNN offers a summary of this week’s topical news in a variety of categories: Scandal; Plans; Growth; Protests; Amendments; Fight; Opinion.

Experts: fiscal consolidation is unavoidable next year

The new government will have to perform fiscal consolidation when compiling the state budget for 2019. This opinion was sent to the Saeima and Cabinet of Ministers by the Fiscal Discipline Council in relation to the 13th Saeima’s approval of amendments for the Healthcare Law that provide for a 20% wage increase for doctors starting next.

Ventspils opposition: the Constitution stands above municipality’s opinions on city governance

«For us to work to our full capacity, we require information and stay in the loop. If the work of the city council was organized during meetings of the city council and committees, we would have this opportunity. But because the work of the city council is put under other institutions – committees, in this case – and we [majority of opposition deputies] are not allowed to participate in those meetings and receive documents, this means our rights as deputies and voters are being limited. This, we believe, is the most important aspect to be breached,» said Ventspils City Council opposition deputy Aivis Landmanis said during a hearing of the Administrative Court in Liepaja in regards to Ventspils City Council’s refusal to adopt proportionality principles in committees and other structures.

EU offers Britons clarification, but no renegotiation of Brexit deal

European Union member state leaders and the blocs top officials have stated at a summit with British Prime Minister Theresa May, that the Brexit withdrawal agreement that lacks clear support in UK parliament was not open for renegotiation.

Estonia raises minimum wage

The minimum monthly wage in Estonia has been approved at the level of 540 euros, which is an increase from 500 euros.

This year e-signature was used to sign more than 5.7 million documents in Latvia

This year, e-signature was used more than half a million times a month in Latvia. A total of 5.7 million documents have been signed using this function in Latvia so far. More than 25,000 now use e-signature function on their smart-phones.

Trump distances himself from crimes committed by his lawyer

Reacting to the conviction of American lawyer Michael Cohen over campaign funding violations, U.S. President Donald Trump has distanced himself from the lawyer and accused him of attempts to embarrass Trump.

New Unity starts consultations with parties on forming government with Kariņš in charge

New Unity will insist on getting Finance Ministry in the new government, because it is only logical to have this ministry managed by the prime minister’s party, says NU representative and Saeima deputy Ojārs Ēriks Kalniņš.

Strasbourg terrorist «neutralised» after opening fire on police

The attacker suspected of killing two people and injuring 12 more people at a Strasbourg Christmas market has been shot dead by French police.

Next week in Latvia to start off with snowfall

The end of the week is not expected to have any major weather changes in Latvia, whereas next week will start off with snowfall and gradual decline of air temperature, promises Latvian Environment, Geology and Meteorology Centre.

Court arrests Harmony sponsor and Honour to Serve Riga party member

Riga City Vidzeme District Court issued an arrest to businessman Aleksandrs Krjačeks on Thurday, 13 December. He was previously detained by Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau in the criminal case regarding procurements organized by SIA Rīgas satiksme, as confirmed by the man’s lawyer Valdis Ulmanis.

Saeima: increase of doctors’ wages should be a government priority

When preparing the budget plan for the next three years, the government should allocate money for the 20% increase of doctors’ wages. This is provided by changes to Healthcare Financing Law, approved by the Saeima in two readings on Thursday, 13 December.

airBaltic to perform more flights between Riga and Liepaja

During a visit today in Liepaja CEO of Latvian airline airBaltic Martin Gauss announced that airBaltic will increase the number of domestic flights between Riga and Liepaja from three to five weekly as of summer season 2019.

Court arrests Škoda commercial director; CPCB request arrests for two more people

Latvian court has arrested Škoda commercial director Vladislav Kozak following a request from Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau in relation to the criminal case regarding procurements performed by Rīgas satiksme.

EY: investments in crypto currency offers have largely failed

86% of 141 initial crypto currency offers presented last year have lost value over the course of the first eight months of this year. Additionally 30% of them have lost nearly all of their value, according to Initial Coin Offerings study by EY.

Estonian criminal figure convicted in Ireland

A court in Ireland has convicted Estonian criminal figure Imre Arakas, finding him guilting of conspiracy to murder.

As income increase, housing becomes more accessible in all Baltic capitals

Housing Accessibility Index improved in all Baltic capitals in Q3 2018. The main factor for this was the growth of average net salaries. Additionally, beneficial economic development also improved households’ interest for housing acquisition, which was reflected both in increased activity on the apartment market and household loan portfolio growth.

Lithuanian PM suspects Kremlin-backed opposition behind teacher attacks

The nearer municipal council, presidential and EP elections, the more sparkles Lithuania’s political leadership spews out. With the linguistic weaponry exhausted in the Seimas, the party leaders seek help from intelligence services.

EP proposes stricter monitoring of militants returning to Europe to combat terrorism better

The European Parliament has presented proposals for better measures against radicalization, better data exchange and support of victims of terrorism, as well as several other proposals for European Union’s strategy for terrorism prevention.

Latvian media organizations found Media Ethics Council

On Wednesday, 12 December, Latvian Media Ethics Council was founded. It is a public organization meant to unite media organizations and legal persons associated with the media sector and supervise compliance with the council’s statutes and code of ethics, the council explains.

U.S. President's former lawyer sentenced to prison

The former personal attorney of U.S. President Donald Trump has been handed a prison sentence for violations of the rules of election campaign. A New York court has sentenced Michael Cohen to three years in federal prison.

Latvian parties hear New Unity leader’s offer; opinions on coalition still differ

Political parties in Latvia are prepared to listen to New Unity and its prime minister candidate Krišjāņis Kariņš’s initiative in the government formation process.

British PM stays after no-confidence vote, attends EU summit

British Prime Minister Theresa May has survived a no-confidence vote in her ruling Conservative Party and on Thursday attends a summit of the European Union.

European Parliament ratifies EU-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement

On Wednesday, 12 December, gave green light for EU-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement, which is EU’s all-time largest mutual trade agreement.

Businessman Māris Martinsons brought to court. What will the court decide?

Businessman Māris Martinsons has been brought to testify in court. As it is known, he was detained by Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau on 11 December.

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