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Monday 19.11.2018 | Name days: Liza, Līze, Elizabete, Betija
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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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Week in Lithuania. Lithuanian government approves rules for paying whistleblowers

The Lithuanian government approved on Wednesday, November 14, rules for financially rewarding people who provide the authorities with valuable information on illegal activities.

BNN summary of the week: government formation in Latvia, Brexit plans, and Latvia’s 100th birthday

If someone hoped to see Latvia compile a government before the national holiday, they are going to be disappointed – three parties have decided to exit government formation talks headed by New Conservative Party. NCP’s prime minister candidate Jānis Bordāns receive criticism for having too ambitious and expensive goals. NCP, on the other hand, says parties did not try to study the party’s offers.

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.

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