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Monday 20.05.2019 | Name days: Venta, Salvis, Selva
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BNN summary of the week: Rimšēvičs comes back; Lithuania elects mayors; Rīgas satiksme keeps going

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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: Justice; Fight; Status; Question; Accomplishment.

JUSTICE: EU Court overturns Bank of Latvia governor’s suspension

Court of Justice of the European Union has overturned the ruling in accordance with which Bank of Latvia governor Ilmārs Rimšēvičs was suspended from his post.

In its verdict the EU Court explained that even a temporary prohibition to perform duties can be considered a suspension.

As it is known, Latvian Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau send materials of the criminal case involving Rimšēvičs and businessman Māris Martinsons to the prosecutor’s office for commencement of criminal prosecution in June 2018. Shortly after that the prosecutor’s office raised charges against Rimšēvičs for bribery. Martinsons was accused of supporting bribery.

Rimšēvičs had previously claimed at a press-conference that he is innocent and that he has no intention of stepping down from his post in the Bank of Latvia. He called the crimes incriminated to him as politically motivated defamation campaign. His duties are currently performed by vice-governor Zoja Razmusa.

KNAB detained Rimšēvičs a year ago.

Full article here

FIGHT: Lithuania holds mayoral and municipal council elections this Sunday

Ahead of mayoral and municipal Council elections this Sunday, political parties and election committees are making their last strides in luring yet undetermined voters on their side.

Always upbeat Ramūnas Karbauskis, the leader of the ruling Lithuanian Farmers and Greens Union, LFGU, has said this week that his party will sweep not only the municipal Council elections, but also the forthcoming presidential and European Parliament elections, both to be held in May.

Over 13,000 local politicians are vying for 1,502 council seats in Lithuania’s 60 municipalities, and over 400 politicians want to be elected mayors. Due to shrinking population, Lithuanian voters will have to elect 22 fewer councillors this year, compared to the last election four years ago.

«I think we’ll have around 300 council seats. I think we’ll win in terms of votes as well. It’s more difficult to calculate when peaking about the number of mayors as it will depend on who will get into the runoff,» Karbauskis told journalists after casting his early vote in Kaunas on Wednesday, February 27.

Some 34,900 people, or 1.42 percent of all eligible voters, cast their ballots on Wednesday, February 27, the first day of early voting in Lithuania’s municipal elections, the Central Electoral Commission said on Thursday, February 27. The voter turnout was slightly up from 1.22 percent (30,900 voters) in 2015.

Thursday was the second and last day of early voting in the municipal and direct mayoral elections.

Full article here

STATUS: Rīgas satiksme’s temporary chief receives Riga mayor’s support and remains in office

Temporary chief of Rīgas satiksme Anrijs Matīss will remain at the help of this company even though earlier this week he allowed for the possibility of leaving the company if no clarity in regards to his proposed changes is achieved. He said as much after more than an hour-long meeting with Mayor of Riga and RS shareholder Nils Ušakovs.

Riga’s mayor claimed Matīss has his full support to continue his work in the company. The main subject of worries today is the company’s budget, which is exactly what shareholders plan to discuss tomorrow. According to him, there is no reason to believe Rīgas satiksme has stability problems.

Matīss was appointed the temporary chief of Rīgas satiksme on 13 December 2018, replacing the dismissed Leons Bemhens, who is a suspect in a criminal case investigated by Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau.

After his approval, Matīss commenced an audit in the company.

The audit revealed that, for example, EUR 6 million was overpaid in a fuel procurement project with a firm whose owners hide behind offshore companies; the loan issued for procurement of trams was spent on wages; maintenance of the expensive e-talon system cost the company 40% of the money charged for tickets, Ir magazine reports.

Full article here

QUESTION: Ombudsman asks what ex-finance minister Reizniece-Ozola failed to understand

After the publication of a study about the influence of tax reform on Latvian residents, ombudsman Juris Jansons received many questions from certain members of society about the flaws with the tax reform uncovered by the study. The ombudsman was especially confused by the statement from ex-finance minister Dana Reizniece-Ozola, who said criticisms of the tax reforms sounded unjustified even though she has yet to go through the study, the ombudsman’s office reports.

It is stressed that during the tax reform development process Saeima’s Legal Affairs Office had noted that «the submitted legislative draft, due to its complexity, could cause major problems for legislators to understand the content of regulations.»

Implementing the new tax reform, application of PIT and calculation of non-taxable minimum and its application order has become more complicated and less friendly for taxpayers. This situation potentially provides for the possibility of situations when taxpayers could end up debtors in spite of paying taxes, the ombudsman’s office explains.

Full article here

ACCOMPLISHMENT: Latvia has accomplished a lot in ensuring gender equality

Latvia is among six countries in the world with the highest index for gender equality on the labour market. This is shown as much in World Bank’s published study that analysed legislation on gender equality in 187 countries.

The study Women, Business and the Law 2019: A Decade of Reform includes an index on the most important developments for women’s careers, from the moment they start working to the point when they retire, as well as protection of rights in each of those phases. Data covers a decade-long period during which 187 countries were studied based on eight indexes, Latvian Finance Ministry explains.

A global look shows that reforms implemented in the past ten years have improved women’s economic inclusion. Nevertheless, a gap remains between men and women. Results of the study show that women, when compared to men, are generally provided with only three-quarters of all rights guaranteed by international law.

Latvia, together with Belgium, Denmark, France, Luxembourg and Sweden, received the highest possible number of points. This means state regulations in areas surveyed provide men and women with equal opportunities. Ten years ago there wasn’t a single country capable of reaching this index, the ministry notes.

Full article here


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Raising minimal income level in Latvia would require EUR 28 million

Latvia’s Welfare Ministry has developed a Plan to improve minimal income support system in 2020-2021. In it, the ministry details that the plan’s implementation requires approximately EUR 28 million, as informed by the ministry’s social inclusivity department’s director Elīna Celmiņa.

Estonia investigates electricity blackout in Russian border city

In Estonia, an investigation has been opened into a power blackout that took place in the north-eastern border city of Narva and other places in the region.

Latvia’s Saeima to pick a new state president after EP elections

Saeima’s Praesidium and Faction Council decided on 20 May to keep the State President’s Election Day unchanged – it will happen 29 May.

Study: packaging convenience still trumps environment friendliness

For Latvian residents convenience of packages remains the most important factor. However, environment friendliness is gradually becoming more and more important for people, according to results of a study by Immer Group.

Harmony reportedly used RTDB to hire foreign political communication specialists

Latvian investigators have acquired documents that reveal how prior to 13th Saeima elections Riga Tourism Development Bureau (RTDB), which receives funding from Riga’s budget, had performed at least ten money transfers to several political communication experts from Germany, Sweden and Spain, as reported by public broadcaster TV3 programme Nekā personīga.

Ukraine’s Zelensky starts presidency with dissolution of parliament

Ukraine’s new President Volodymyr Zelensky has been sworn in Kyiv on Monday and in his inaugural speech has announced the dissolution of the Ukrainian parliament.

Austria heading to snap election after right-wing coalition collapses

Austrian political leaders are favouring calling a snap election after the government coalition in Vienna collapsed over alleged influence peddling by Vice-Chancellor.

Egypt bomb attack hits tourist bus

17 tourists in Egypt have been wounded in a bomb explosion near the landmark Giza pyramids.

Latvian Railways reportedly wastes money with self-promotion in sports; UGF might be involved

Last year and at the beginning of this year, Latvian Railways spent at least two million euros on self-promotion. A considerable portion of this money was provided to sports organizations, of which multiple have ties with the Union of Greens and Farmers, as reported by public broadcaster Latvian Television programme De Facto.

In spite of heavy rains, air temperature in Latvia will reach +29° C this week

The sky will be cloudy at the beginning of this week in Latvia. Nevertheless, it will clear from time to time. As the sky clears, daytime air temperature will reach +24° C… +29° C, as reported by Latvia’s Environment, Geology and Meteorology Centre.

Week in Lithuania: PM clears no-confidence vote, top Court slaps LFGU, councillor fined for slander

Last week, Lithuania suffered upset in 2019 Eurovision Song Contest; PM Saulius Skvernelis survived a vote of no-confidence by the ruling LFGU; the Constitutional Court ruled that the Seimas breached law in dealing with public broadcaster LRT.

BNN summary of the week: shadow over Latvia's economy; Kalnmeiers receives bashing

The week passed in Latvia under certain unpleasant news. A study concluded that in spite of Union of Green and Farmers minister Dana Reizniece-Ozola’s praised tax reform the grey economy proportion in Latvia has increased.

Regional Ventas Balss newspaper’s editor punished for reporting false news

On 17 May, Riga City Vidzeme Suburb Court found Ventas Balss newspaper’s editor Gundega Mertena guilty of reporting false news in the article «Material 'Confession of Lembergs’ troll' is a 100% made-up story», which was published on pietiek.com portal on23 September 2018.

Court enforces 1 000 euros from Ušakovs for Riga City Council deputy

Riga City Vidzeme Suburb Court has declined suspended Mayor of Riga Nils Ušakovs plea against Riga City Council deputy Vilnis Ķirsis over supposedly offensive statements the latter made against the plaintiff.

Latvian minister proposes re-assessing prosecutor general’s professionalism

Latvia’s Justice Ministry has noticed signs that suggest Prosecutor General Ēriks Kalnmeiers is not fit to remain in his post, as there are suspicions regarding his reputation, Justice Minister Jānis Bordāns told journalists on 17 May.

Estonia’s Nordica ended 2018 with EUR 2 million in losses

Estonia’s national air carrier registered considerable losses in 2018, reaching EUR 2,3 million in unconsolidated losses.

U.S.-pardoned whistle-blower Manning sent back to prison

A United States grand jury has ordered back to confinement Chealsea Manning, the former American military intelligence analyst, who spent seven years in prison in a Wikileaks-related case before being released by the decision of former U.S.

Privatization Agency: Latvian Railways chairman is baselessly speculating about privatization

«A lot of speculations and incorrect statements containing the word ‘privatization’ are coming from Latvian Railways (LDz) board chairman Edvīns Bērziņš. He is trying to divert attention in his corporate conflict away from the company board’s relations with shareholders,» BNN was told by Privatization Agency (PA) board chairman Vladimirs Loginovs.

International police effort dismantles GozNym gang of cyber criminals

An international criminal network that used GozNym malware in an attempt to steal an estimated USD 100 million from more than 41 000 victims, mostly businesses and their financial institutions, has been dismantled in a joint police operation.

Prediction: Latvia’s new concert hall will recover investments in 15 years

In the first 15 years after construction of Latvia’s new National Acoustic Concert Hall it will earn Latvia’s national economy a total of EUR 107.6 million, fully compensating investments and creating additional profits of EUR 17.6 million.

Poland fights child abuse with prison sentences up to 30 years

Polish legislators have extended prison terms for convicted paedophiles to a maximum 30 years. The Catholic country’s child abuse scandals have been underscored by a new documentary on such crimes by Polish priests.

Money intended for child protection used instead to pay bonuses to officials in Latvia

Welfare Ministry’s allocated state budget funding of EUR 619 000 was used, among other things, to pay bonuses to officials for obvious everyday tasks even though initially it was implied that employees of the ministry and State Child Protection Inspectorate (SCPI) would perform some specific tasks to prevent child and family abuse.

Meteorologists promise air temperature will soon reach +26° C in Latvia

On Friday, 17 May, there will be plenty of sun and clouds. Western regions may experience some rainfall. Wind will draw in from the east, reaching 13 m/sec in Kurzeme, as reported by Latvia’s State Environment, Geology and Meteorology Centre.

Construction commences in Estonian-Latvian 3rd interconnection project

By raising the first supports of the new high-voltage Estonian-Latvian 3rd interconnection, Latvia’s Augstsprieguma tīkls (AST) has commenced the next step in the high-voltage power line project for a new 330 kV power line from Riga TEC-2 all the way to Kilingi-Nõmme substation in Estonia, as confirmed by AST.

Riga Tourism Development Bureau may have caused damages worth EUR 300 000

As a result of criminal activities Riga Tourism Development Bureau has caused damages worth no less than EUR 300 000, according to initial estimates.