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Ceturtdiena 20.09.2018 | Name days: Marianna, Ginters, Guntra
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BNN summary of the week: prosecutor’s weakness, education in Latvian, fintech centre opens in Latvia

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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: Announcement; Approval; Fight; Complaint; Opinion; Decline and Future.

ANNOUNCEMENT: Bank of Latvia governor prohibited from performing duties in ECB council

The governor of the Bank of Latvia Ilmārs Rimšēvičs is denied the right to perform duties associated with his post in the council of the European Central Bank, as confirmed by the Bank of Latvia.

The bank’s press secretary Jānis Silakalns reports that the institution has received information from Rimšēvičs’ lawyer that his client is not allowed to perform duties associated with his work in European Central Bank’s council.

«From this it can be concluded that Rimšēvičs will no longer come to work in the Bank of Latvia and will not delegate duties to the next representative of the Bank of Latvia to ECB meetings,» said Silakalns.

He also notes that while Rimšēvičs is unable to perform his duties as governor of the Bank of Latvia, he will not be paid his salary. He will also have no access to the bank’s information systems and documents.

Full article here

APPROVAL: Anti-money Laundering Service’s leader to compete for another term

The current head of Latvia’s Office for Prevention of Laundering of Proceeds Derived from Criminal Activity has decided to participate in the open selection process to stay in his post for a repeated term.

The 61-year-old Burkāns has confirmed that he would like to stay for another four-year term. He will likely submit his application next week.

«I have invested all of my effort in the service. I have not looked at other job opportunities. I needed time to assess the situation surrounding the service,» said Burkāns.

The chief of the service mentioned that the fight against crime will never be over. Still, he wants to keep working in the service to make sure the next officers would receive cases in the best possible condition. «I’m not saying cases do not fit international requirements. It is worth mentioning that requirements change all the time,» said Burkāns.

He mentioned that his service works in a very narrow range, which requires deep knowledge in law, financial affairs and money laundering prevention measures. «There is no institution in Latvia that trains officers in money laundering prevention – this is something we have to learn in time,» adds Burkāns.

Full article here

FIGHT: RB Rail CEO says someone is publicly defaming her; accusations of lobbying Latvia’s interests are baseless

While Lithuania actively expresses dissatisfaction with the work performed by the CEO of RB rail Baiba Rubesa, ‘the accused’ tells BNN that an active defamatory campaign is being realized against her. She says it all started with the news regarding the distrust Lithuanian and Estonian shareholders had voiced against her.

The sky is growing mighty dark over Rail Baltica project. Many are waiting for the sun to shine – the sun being the 21 March meeting, during which Baltic shareholders will decide the future of the railway project.

Meanwhile, there have been a lot of criticisms and baseless accusations voiced in the public space in recent weeks, adding unnecessary emotional outline to the project. This makes it hard to separate truth from lies. According to experts – if Rubesa loses her post, Latvia will lose the chance to put another one of its representatives in this post.

Latvia’s position as a shareholder in RB Rail does not offer much clarity on the matter regarding Rubesa’s possible dismissal. In the vote regarding Rubesa’s dismissal, Andris Linužs, who is the head of European Railway Lines, abstained in the vote. His was only one of three votes in RB Rail – the other two belong to Lietuvos geležinkeliai and Rail Baltic Estonia. The neutral vote from Linužs can hardly be called support for Rubesa – it is more of a cautious observer’s position. When asked about his decision, Rubesa mentioned that «Linužs has not worked long enough in this post».

Full article here

COMPLAINT: Riga City Council violated democratic principles – controversial rules should be cancelled

«Rules approved by Riga City Council violate democratic principles and do not comply with the Constitution of the Republic of Latvia. Because of that, changes are unsupportable. Restrictions do not allow deputies to fully participate in decision-making processes and represent the interests of their voters. Latvia is an independent and democratic country – deputies in a democratic country have the right to ask as many questions as necessary. Only under such conditions it is possible to ensure all decisions are made in accordance with the law,» says Latvia’s Environment Protection and Regional Development Minister Kaspars Gerhards.

On 2 March, 2018, the ministry received amendments from Riga City Council that provide for limiting the total number of questions city council members are allowed to ask during meetings to three. Another noteworthy change is the limitation of the length within which city council members are allowed to express their opinions to one minute.

The ministry sent Riga City Council a letter on 6 March, requesting the administration to reconsider the questionable amendments.

Full article here

OPINION: NCP leader views prosecutor general’s weakness as threat to Latvia’s state security

Leader of the New Conservative Party and prime minister candidate Jānis Bordāns views the weakness of prosecutor general Ēriks Kalnmeiers as a threat to Latvia’s state security.

Bordāns claims that Kalnmeiers’ announcements sound more like attempts to compromise the people who have been making it hard for criminals to rob the country, and have been combating corruption all this time. It is possible that someone is working on new provocations and defamatory campaigns against members of NCP that will likely surface prior to 13th Saeima elections, he adds. «I think the less honest workers of state institutions are scared of members of NCP taking over the justice sector in the country after elections,» says the leader of NCP.

The plummeting international reputation Latvia has experienced as a result of possible corruptive management of the country’s financial sector proves that a malignant tumour, created by dirty money, has exploded, says Bordāns. Considering developments of recent days, NCP has come forth with a request to perform immediate measures to replace not only the management of the Bank of Latvia, but Finance and Capital Market Commission as well. The party also proposes performing reforms in relation of internal organization of monitoring of those institutions.

The party believes Latvia has ended up in a situation when the country is represented in the European Central Bank by a person with questionable reputation. There is a person in the management board of the Bank of Latvia who is held suspect of corruptive activities. FCMC, on the other hand, is managed by the same person who represented Aivars Lembergs, who remains accused of serious crimes, in council of Latvian Shipping Company and Ventbunkers.

Full article here

DECLINE: Skycop reports airline worker strikes are becoming a serious problem

Last year, airline workers’ strikes had put at least 400,000 travellers in an inconvenient situation. Experts predict that because of the unstable financial situation of different European airlines, strikes will become an even bigger problem in the future.

Union strikes are already considered an emergency when they happen. Because of that, flight disruptions cannot be compensated. Nevertheless, Skycop is committed to changing existing EU legislation to make sure strikes of airline employees are no longer classified as emergency circumstances.

After the strike of British Airlines employees last year, when tens of thousands of flights were cancelled, it became clear that European airlines were stuck in crisis. This has created a sense of concern for the aviation sector. As a result, more and more airline employees turn to their respective trade unions for compensation, as reported by Skycop.

Full article here

FUTURE: First Baltic fin-tech accelerator opens up

Swedbank headquarters in Riga has become the home for B2B [business to business] accelerator Startup Wise Guys start-up support programme. Nine start-ups from nine corners of the world were picked from 80 contenders, as reported by Swedbank representatives.

As part of Wise Guys Fintech programme, the nine international start-ups will spend the next three months in a dynamic and educational environment, developing their businesses, founding contacts with banking experts from Baltic States and Sweden, as well as other world-class mentors. In addition, participants of the accelerator programme will receive EUR 20,000 to further develop their business.

The bank explains that the programme gathers young businessmen from Latvia, Sweden, Czech Republic, Poland, France, Ukraine, Armenia, India and USA. Ideas from participants of the accelerator programme are aimed at financial solutions, such as payment services using Facebook Messenger, contribute to the development of money saving culture, make currency exchange more efficient for businesses, video identification for clients, etc.

Aside from the accelerator programme, Swedbank has also created additional space to accommodate participants of the programme. In the future, it will be home from all kinds of innovative projects.

Full article here

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20 complaints received in first 10 days of data protection regulation

In the first 100 days since adoption of European General Data Protection Regulation, Latvia’s Data State Inspectorate has received 20 data protection violation reports, said the centre’s director Daiga Avdejanova during a meeting of Saeima’s European Affairs Committee.

Ministry: non-banking lenders should assess clients’ solvency more carefully

Although certain improvements have been noticed in the industry, Latvia’s Economy Ministry invites amendments to make non-banking lenders perform more careful evaluation of clients’ solvency and allow creditors exchange information with one another.

Saeima argues over request to assess attempts to cancel «morality amendments»

During a meeting of Saeima’s Inquiry Committee, certain members and NGO representatives exchanged harsh words on Saeima opposition deputies’ request to Prime Minister Māris Kučinskis on association Papardes zieds’ protection of interests for the cancellation of so-called morality amendments.

EU residents believe European authorities should be more involved in certain areas

According to results of European Parliament’s Eurobarometer study, published eight weeks prior to elections in EU, residents believe European authorities should be more involved in certain matters. Priorities include terrorism threats, unemployment and environmental protection.

Estonian internet user growth strongest among elderly

The share of internet users in Estonia has continued to grow in 2018 and has over the past three months increased the most among 65–74-year-olds, official statistics show.

Regulator invited to assess calculation of electricity transmission tariff

Conclusions made by State Audit in relation to tariffs employed by Sadales tīkls show that recommendations received from OECD a couple of years ago in relation to public service tariff calculation should be carefully considered and adopted to ensure balance the interests of consumers and service providers.

Latvian police points towards stagnation in road traffic safety

So far this year 91 people have died in road traffic accidents in Latvia. According to State Police Road Traffic Safety Office Chief Normunds Krapsis, stagnation is present for road traffic safety.

Latvian government to attract EUR 29.5 million to restore Latgale’s degraded territories

On Tuesday, 18 September, Latvia’s Cabinet of Ministers supported the action plan for Latgale region’s economic growth 2018-2021, which provides for attracting of EUR 29.5 million to help restore the region’s degraded territories.

China announces retaliatory tariffs on U.S. goods, seeks free trade support

Beijing has stated it would impose a duty tariff increase on American imports worth 60 billion U.S. dollars in a reaction to Washington's announcement to add tariffs on imports from China worth 200 billion U.S. dollars.

Montenegro to join NATO battalion stationed in Latvia

According to NATO Deputy Supreme Allied Commander in Europe James Everard, Montenegro plans to join the multi-national battalion currently stationed in Latvia.

U.S. looking seriously at Poland's request for American base on its soil

U.S President Donald Trump has noted the country was looking seriously at a request from Poland for a permanent U.S. military base in the fellow NATO member state and agreed that Polish concerns about possible Russian aggression were shared.

Russian plane near Syria shot down by ally targeting Israeli planes

The Russian military plane, which went missing on Monday, has been shot down by its ally Syria targeting Israel's war planes and the number of servicemen lost in the event has been corrected from 14 to 15, the Russian government stated.

Latvian border guards find more than 140 kg of hashish in a car

On 16 September, Latvian State Border Guard detained a 1991-born man and his car at Grebnev border checkpoint. A secret compartment containing 145.3 kg of narcotic substances was found in his car during a routine inspection, as reported by State Border Guard.

EU suspects German car-makers of colluding against cleaner technology

EU competition watchdogs are probing if German automotive giants have colluded to restrict the development of clean emission technology.

Number of job vacancies in Latvia up 7.8 thousand in Q2 2018

In Q2 2018 there were 24.5 thousand job vacancies in Latvia, which is 7.8 thousand vacancies or 46.6 % more than in Q2 2017. In public sector there were 7.2 thousand and in private sector 17.3 thousand job vacancies.

Latvian government desperate to resolve the growing piles of used tires problem

Latvian government has supported Environment Protection and Regional Development Ministry’s prepared report ‘On maintenance of used tires’. This report includes proposals for measures to help resolve the matter regarding speeding up recycling and regeneration rates, as well as the no less important matter of maintenance of used tires.

Cargo volumes handled by Latvian ports remain stable in first half-year of 2018

Latvian ports transshipped 43.468 million tonnes of cargoes in the first eight months of 2018, which is 0.9% more than in the same period of last year. According to data from Transport Ministry, cargo turnover’s negative balance continues declining at Ventspils port, where 13.274 million tonnes of cargoes were transshipped in the first eight months, which is a drop of 11.9%.

airBaltic carried 18% more passengers in summer

Latvian airline airBaltic has carried 2,770,047 more passengers to destinations in Europe, Scandinavia, Russia, CIS and the Middle East in the first eight months of 2018, BNN was told by the company.

Ukrainian workers in Lithuania gradually fill gap left by Lithuanian exodus

Companies in Lithuania, in particular operating in construction, logistics and retail chains, are increasingly inviting workers from Ukraine and Belarus to fill the worker shortage of Lithuanians moving to richer countries.

ABLV Bank assets worth EUR 47.14 million recovered in August

Assets worth EUR 47.13 million were recovered from the liquidated ABLV Bank in August, which is 2.2 times more than a month prior, according to the account published in Latvian Herald.

Estonia bank watchdog points to Denmark's responsibility over Danske

As to the allegations of doubtful billions flowing via the Estonia branch of Danske Bank, the Estonian watchdog of financial institutions has noted that the Danish supervisory authority was responsible for the lender's risk control.

Liepaja City Council vice-chairman steps down

On Monday, 17 September, Liepaja City Council vice-chairman for tourism and investment affairs Ģirts Kronbergs announced his resignation.

Sixteen contenders apply for Rundale Castle Museum director’s post

A total of sixteen contenders have applied for participation in Latvian Culture Ministry’s announced open personnel selection process to find the next director of Rundale Castle Museum.

Russia: Military plane with 14 Russian soldiers has been lost near Syria

A Russian war plane with 14 servicemen on board has disappeared while over the Mediterranean Sea near the coast of Syria, Russia's Defence Ministry has stated.

Unity decides not to support UGF’s initiative for people’s elected president

Unity political party has no plans to support the amendments submitted by the Union of Greens and Farmers on people’s elected president, says Unity’s chairman Arvils Ašeradens.

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