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Saturday 15.12.2018 | Name days: Jana, Johanna, Hanna
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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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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.

Employers become more open to 3rd level pension contributions

Employers in Latvia have begun making more active contributions to 3rd level pension plans. Residents’ interest towards crating pension savings continues growing, too. Compared to the period of last year, the size of contributions to private pension funds has increased 10% in the first nine months of 2018.