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Monday 25.03.2019 | Name days: Māra, Marita, Mārīte
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BNN summary of the week: Saeima’s «abstention specialists»; MPC payments; Latvia’s retirement pension system

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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; Opinion; Promise; Court; Fight; Proposal.

CHANGE: Fixed MPC portion to drop 27.8% for electricity users in July

From 1 July onward, the fixed portion of mandatory procurement component will decline by 27.8% for all electricity users, as reported by Public Utilities Commission.

On Wednesday, the council approved AS Enerģijas publiskais tirgotājs’ submitted power components that compensate public traders’ costs for CHP plants’ power output – fixed portion of MPC. Compared to existing output components, the newly approved ones are 27.8% lower in all power output and consumption level. It is expected that the new MPC will come to force 1 July. Power component is one part of the total MPC payment.

The average value of the approved MPC and power component has been reduced from 25.79 EUR/MWh to 22.68 EUR/MWh. Following the decision by the regulator, MPC will reduce for all consumer groups.

On 24 April, the Cabinet of Ministers supported reducing the average value of MPC and power component. The regulator approved changes to MPC and power component calculation methodic on 14 May. Changes include reducing the general fixed portion of MPC payment for all end users.

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OPINION: Deputy names ‘abstention specialists’ in Latvian Saeima’s votes

«I was elected to make decisions, not abstain from them. Abstention in votes automatically counts as ‘against’ in the Saeima. I believe this practice needs to be changed. You’re either in favour or against. Businessmen, for example, have no way to abstain from making decisions. The Saeima, on the other hand, has a lot of ‘abstention specialists’,» said Saeima deputy Artuss Kaimiņš in an interview to RīgaTV 24, commenting on the initiative on manabalss.lv to liquidate the abstention right for parliament members in votes.

Kaimiņš named the main «abstention specialists»: »: Romāns Naudiņš, Aleksandrs Kiršteins, Kārlis Krēsliņš, Valters Dambe, Einārs Cilinskis, Inese Laizāne, Andris Siliņš, Kārlis Seržants, and Silvija Šimfa.

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PROMISE: Minister promises to fill gap caused by cancellation of extended normal work time for doctors

A clear strategy is in the works to fit the ruling of the Constitutional Court and organize human resources to fill the formed gap, said Latvian Healthcare Minister Anda Čakša after meeting with hospital representatives.

The Constitutional Court declared rules that dictate remuneration for working extended normal work time as non-compliant with the country’s Constitution. The court concluded that remuneration for working extended hours is still below the amount stated in the Labour Law. The regulation of the law will be declared void starting with 1 January 2019.

Jevgēņijs Kalējs, chairman of Latvian Hospitals Association, said after meeting with the minister that the country’s commitment to paying overtime to medical personnel will not resolve the problem of human resource availability, because the Labour Law states that the amount of overtime is not allowed to exceed 40 hours a week. «This basically limits the patient flow and [service] accessibility,» explains Kalējs.

According to him, after constitutional court’s ruling hospitals will have to limit the volume of offered services or have doctors migrate from one job to another to compensate the lack of medical personnel. «We cannot possibly prepare more specialists in Latvia. We can only move the ones we have from one office to another,» said Kalējs.

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COURT: parent companies could be held accountable for subsidiaries’ competition violations

The Supreme Court of Latvia has made a ruling, in accordance with which Latvia’s competition rights are established in a way that permits authorities to punish parent companies for violations of competition rights committed by their subsidiaries.

This means Competition Council will be authorized to apply penalties to parent companies in situations when competition violations are committed by their subsidiaries, as BNN was told by the council.

In 2014, the Competition Council found that multiple Moller Group companies had been systematically coordinating their procurements over a course of at least five years. CC concluded that those subsidiaries did not perform their activities independently of their parent companies. Because of that, CC applied accountability for several parent companies – Moller Auto Baltic AS, Harald A.Moller AS and Heinz Wilke Autohandel Gmbh. CC applied accountability for parent companies after finding their 100% participation in their subsidiaries.

After reviewing an application from parent companies regarding unjustified application of responsibility, the administrative regional court satisfied it, and CC had the measure cancelled partially. It is mentioned in the ruling that the Competition Law does not permit application of responsibility to a company that is not responsible for violating the law, CC explains.

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FIGHT: Latvian Saeima’s committee does not support Kušners’ re-approval in Bank of Latvia council

On Thursday, 17 May, Saeima’s Budget and Finance Committee decided not to recommend Edvards Kušners for a repeated term in the council of the Bank of Latvia.

Three deputies voiced support for Kušners – Imants Parādnieks, Inguna Sudraba and Juris Viļums. Three deputies – Jānis Vucāns, Aleksandrs Kiršteins and Edgars Putra – voted against. Deputy Renārs Putniņš abstained in the vote, and Igors Pimenovs was absent.

After interviewing Kušners last week, deputies decided to take a pause in this matter. Most of the questions Kušners was asked were associated with events of 2005. At the time, he was deputy chief of the Legal Affairs Office of the Bank of Land. He was later appointed as an authorized person to Delaware-registered company Carew Estates LLC.

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PROPOSAL: Latvian State Audit says it is necessary to sort out retirement pension system

Latvia should finally sort its sensitive retirement pension system, said State Auditor Elita Krūmiņa in an interview to Rīta Panorāma programme of LTV.

She says that the State Audit performs inspections in ministries and central institutions every year. Unfortunately, problematic matters continue surfacing time and time again. One such problem mentioned by Krūmiņa was the retirement pension – this matter has been stuck in legislative limbo for more than ten years.

The State Auditor notes that the age threshold for retirement pension has remained the same for a very long time, unlike the regular age pension. Retirement pension is also significantly larger, which is unfair.

Krūmiņa also says that more than 70% of retirement pension recipients continue working, thereby circumventing the law that prohibits employed people from receiving retirement pension.

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Week in Lithuania. MPs vote to give hope of release to life prisoners

The Lithuanian parliament adopted on Thursday, March 21, a package of amendments offering a hope of release to prisoners serving life sentences. The Seimas passed the package with 87 votes in favour and none against.

BNN summary of the week: Britain in tight spot; citizenship for all and Latvia's poor progress

BNN offers a summary of this week’s topical news in a variety of categories: Change; Progress; Rejection; Conflict; Idea; Opinion; Delay.

Crumbling buildings and the future of Riga’s slums

There are many empty buildings in Riga at the moment. However, Riga’s slums have a way to be reborn. One option is Rail Baltica, which could potentially change the situation with jobs in the city centre. Developers might have many complicated objectives ahead of them, considering that more and more people may decide to relocate to Riga’s central districts, said Riga city’s chief architect Gvido Princis in a conversation with BNN about Riga’s slums.

EC Vice-President: like other countries, Latvia has limited progress with EC recommendations

Latvia has limited progress when it comes to implementation of recommendations from the European Commission. Nevertheless, Latvia does not fall from the general EU context, when most member states have a small or limited progress with recommendations, said EC Vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis during a joint meeting with Latvian Saeima’s committees.

Comparing abortions to killing affects Estonian government talks

After figures of the Estonian Conservative People's Party compared abortion to killing of people, the party's partners in coalition talks have voiced criticism.

Latvian Olainfarm minority shareholders urged to attend shareholder meeting

Co-owners of Valerijs Maligins inheritance Nika Saveļjeva and Signe Baldere-Sildedze, as well as Annas Emīlija Maligina’s mother invite Latvian pharmaceutical company Olainfarm minority shareholders to attend an extraordinary shareholders meeting and actively propose their candidates for the council.

Social workers’ wages in Latvia to grow by average of EUR 145 a month

Latvian government has decided to allocate an additional amount of EUR 4.8 million to increase wages for state social care centres starting from 1 April 2019. This will allow increasing their wages by an average of EUR 145 a month. This is provided by the 2019 state budget that has been approved by the Latvian parliament in the first reading, as confirmed by Welfare Ministry.

Germany pushes for funding cuts to EU members violating core values

Germany's federal Foreign Minister believes the European Union should start reducing its solidary funding and introduce sanctions on member states that adopt legislation contrary to European values, for example, free press, rule of law and independent courts.

Association reports Latvia suffers the most from emerging HIV cases

In 2018, 326 new HIV infection cases were registered in Latvia, according to information from Disease Prevention and Control Centre. Inga Upmace, chairperson of Baltic HIV Association, says that even though this is less when compared to 2017, Latvia remains an unfortunate leader among Baltic States for emerging HIV infection cases.

Poll: 40% Britons have felt powerless or angry over Brexit

About 40 percent of the adult population of the United Kingdom have been feeling powerless, angry or worried by Brexit in the past 12 months, a mental health poll showed.

Riga City Council wants a large loan from Latvia’s State Treasury for bridge project

To finance the reconstruction of Krasta Street and Brasas Bridge, Riga City Council plans to take a EUR 14.23 million loan from Latvia’s State Treasury, according to documents added to the working agenda of Riga City Councils Finance and Administrative Affairs Committee.

EU postpones British withdrawal to April 12 or May 22

The United Kingdom has been given two extra weeks by the European Union to decide for the third time on its withdrawal agreement and to leave on April 12 if it is not passed or to leave on May 22 if it is passed.

Less precipitation expected in Latvia this week and more sunlight expected next week

On weekends the sky will be equally cloudy and sunny. Some rain is expected only on Saturday and the night to Sunday. On the night to Saturday, there will be clear sky and air temperature will drop to 0° C… -4° C, according to Latvian State Environment, Geology and Meteorology Centre.

Producer price level in industry in Latvia up 0.6% in February

Compared to January, the level of producer prices in Latvian industry rose by 0.6 % in February 2019. Prices of products sold on the domestic market grew by 1.2 %, but prices of exported products remained the same.

Latvian president proposes giving citizenship to all children born in Latvia

Latvia’s President Raimonds Vējonis has submitted to the Saeima a legislative draft On Ceasing Provision of Non-Citizen Status to Children. This draft suggests giving children born to non-citizen parents Latvian citizenship upon birth starting from 1 January 2020 unless parents have decided on giving their child citizenship of another country, as reported by State President’s Chancellery.

Expert: Latvia has not accomplished with reduction of inequality

In the past seven years Latvia’s government has not properly implemented the recommendations provided by the European Commission on reduction of inequality, European Anti-Poverty Network’s EAPN-Latvia board chairperson Laila Balga told LNT programme 900 seconds on Thursday, 21 March.

Ruling LFGU’s presidential hopeful Skvernelis unveils key foreign policy points

Lagging in the presidential polls behind the frontrunner Gitanas Nausėda and MP Ingrida Šimonytė, Lithuania’s prime minister Saulius Skvernelis, the presidential hopeful of the ruling Farmers and Greens Union, LFGU, is ready to move heaven and earth in attracting voters on his side.

Banks in Estonia adopt increased anti-money laundering regulations

The Estonian Banking Association has decided to task its member lenders to fullfil anti-money laundering due diligence measures in an attempt to further heal Estonian banking reputation scarred by the Danske Bank money-laundering scandal.

Penalty to be applied to people for causing trouble for whistle-blowers in Latvia

Additions to the Latvian Code of Administrative Violations provide the application of a fine of up to EUR 14,000 to a legal person for causing trouble for whistle-blowers or their family members, as reported by Latvian State Chancellery.

New Zealand bans sales of semi-automatic weapons after Christchurch shootings

Assault rifles and military-style semi-automatics have been banned in New Zealand in a government reaction to the Christchurch mosque shootings.

Latvian parties submit 15 candidate lists for European Parliament elections

Five more Latvian political parties and party associations have submitted candidate lists to the Central Election Commission for upcoming European Parliament elections. So far participating parties include the National Alliance, Latvian Association of Regions, Latvian Social Democratic Workers Party, New Conservative Party and KPV LV.

Study: 55.6% of businessmen complain about high taxes in Latvia

Looking at the amount of taxes companies pay, 55.6% of businessmen and CEOs said there are too high, 36.5% said taxes are a bit too high, whereas 7.2% said taxes are as high as they need to be, according to data from Turība University’s Business Index.

Brussels: EU to support short Brexit postponement, if London passes deal

In the Brexit saga, a no-deal withdrawal is possible again as Donald Tusk has warned EU leaders will only agree to a short delay if MPs back Theresa May’s deal in March.

Allowance for people suffering from serious disability to be increased by EUR 100 in Latvia

From 1 July the Latvian government plans to increase the allowance for children and adults who require special care and who suffer from serious health problems from childhood.

Latvian minister: we should work with convicts, not isolate them

People who are currently isolated from society in prisons should not be kept isolated – they should be allowed to re-socialize, said Latvian Justice Minister Jānis Bordāns at a press-conference about the study on former inmates’ abilities to re-socialize.

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