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Tuesday 19.03.2019 | Name days: Jāzeps
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BNN summary of the week: Saeima wakes up and UGF deputy drowns in scandals

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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; Conflict; Deal; Suspicion; Fight; Growth; Question.

CHANGE: Saeima «wakes up» – conceptually supports open election of State President

On Thursday, 6 September, Latvia’s Saeima conceptually supported amendments to the Constitution that provide for open election of the State President.

The legislative draft was supported by 82 deputies. Askolds Kļaviņš from the Union of Greens and Farmers voted against it. Valdis Kalnozols (UGF), Viktors Valainis (UGF) and Juris Vectirāns (UGF) did not participate in the vote.

Proposals for the legislative draft’s second reading are allowed to be submitted until 11 September.

Saeima will need to discuss these amendments in the second and third readings.

As previously reported, Saeima’s Legal Affairs Committee will try to push the Constitution amendment project, which provides for open election of the State President, before the upcoming parliamentary elections, said the committee’s chairman Gaidis Bērziņš (National Alliance ‘All for Latvia!’ – For Fatherland and Freedom/LNNK).

Full article here

CONFLICT: Green Farmers member steps down before the end of his career in Saeima

Latvian Saeima deputy Askolds Kļaviņš from the Union of Greens and Farmers has decided to put down his mandate.

When asked if he has written his resignation, Kļaviņš told journalists that he has.

BNN had previously reported that the Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau has commenced a criminal process against Kļaviņš for abuse of official status. After becoming a resident of Liepaja, Kļaviņš started receiving five-times larger transport cost compensation than other members of the parliament.

Full article here

DEAL: Latvian government reaches agreement on teachers’ pay financing from state budget

On Friday, 7 September, by slightly easing initially proposed criteria, Latvia’s Education Ministry and its social partners managed to reach an agreement in relation to financing teachers’ wages from the state budget starting with 1 September 2020.

As journalists were told by Education and Science Minister Kārlis Šadurskis after meeting with partners, the agreement was reached that provision of funding for teachers’ wages will take into account the average compulsory centralized exam index, not the lowest index, as it was originally until now.

The lowest exam index will be taken into account from 2023 onward, when secondary school students are expected to undergo exams formed from new education content.

It has also been decided that quality criteria for the minimal number of students will be applied for 10th class and secondary school student groups.

Šadurskis said that monitoring will be organized to see if there is any need to change criteria in the future.

Full article here

SUSPICION: Two Estonians suspected to have been spying for Russia for years

A court in Estonia has ordered the arrest of two men suspected of spying for Russia, the Estonian Office of the Prosecutor General has stated.

The suspects are Denis Metsavas, born in 1980, who has served in the Estonian Defence Forces for 10 years up to now and his father Pjotr Volin.

Both are Russian-speakers, who have acquired their Estonian citizenships in the 1990s.

Prosecutors believe that both suspects have forwarded state secrets and confidential outside information to the Main Intelligence Directorate of Russia, the Estonian neighbour’s military intelligence service.

Full article here

FIGHT: LDz requests EUR 57 million from Lithuania for dismantling Mazeikiai-Renge railway line

Latvian railway company VAS Latvijas dzelzceļš has requested Lithuanian railway company Lietuvos geležinkeliai to pay EUR 57 million as a compensation for the dismantling of Mazeikiai-Renge railway line in 2008.

Lietuvos geležinkeliai, which received the request on Monday, considers it unjustified.

Lithuanian Transport Minister Rokas Masiulis has called this request a part of political pre-election games.

‘We view this step made by Latvia as part of political games prior to October’s elections. I can only say that it is sad Riga did not decide to wait until the end of the case with European Commission. Lithuania has already commenced the restoration of Reņģe line. We are doing everything we can to resolve this old conflict,’ he said.

As noted in Lithuanian Transport Ministry’s released statement, LDz has requested information as to when it is planned to restore railway traffic. LDz has also requested a compensation for lost profits.

Director General of Lietuvos geležinkeliai Mants Bartuška said the company has coordinated the transport restoration plan on Mazeikiai-Renge route. Construction is planned to be completed by the end of next year.

«Estimates regarding allegedly lost profits lack justified arguments, because freight volumes headed in Latvia’s direction remain the same as they were prior to the dismantling of the railway line,» the official mentioned in the statement.

According to the company’s director general, even after the dismantling of Reņģe railway line railway connectivity with Latvia was still possible. However, existing railway lines are not used to their full potential, and some of them have not been used for 15 years.

The statement mentions that LDz has had the opportunity to carry oil products from Lithuania using other directions, but the company has never tried using this opportunity.

Full article here

GROWTH: 90% of businesses may support proposal to stop using plastic straws

90% of businesses selling plastic straws may participate in a special campaign Bez salmiņa [No straw] organized by Latvian Traders Association and waste management company Zaļā josta, sats KTA president Henriks Danusēvičs.

According to him, the initiative was launched 5 September and is expected to gather 90% of traders that sell products that use plastic straws.

He reminds that 1,000 catering companies, restaurants, school cafeterias and small cafes are part of LTA, and it is planned to involve them in this initiative. «We cannot force anyone [to take part], but we do unite socially responsible companies, and we hope they will join us in this initiative,» said Danusēvičs.

LTA president reminds that the European Union has commenced a fight against single-use plastic accessories to help protect the ocean and its inhabitants from plastic items. Although this directive will come to force in 2020, society and businesses may start realizing changes sooner.

The first step towards cleaning up the environment would be stopping the use of cocktail straws. During the event, businesses will be given stickers urging to stop using plastic straws at cafes, bars, restaurants and stores.

According to Danusēvičs, exclusion of plastic straws from trade in the future may be a step towards exacting ecological changes, which could be followed up by refusal to use unnecessary plastic bags, large packages, plastic cups, etc.

Full article here

QUESTION: Why did corruption watchdog chief lie about the information leak? Will he change his strategy now?

Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau chief Jēkabs Straume explains that when journalists had initially asked him about the possible information leak in relation to the criminal case involving Saeima deputy Askolds Kļaviņš he said he knew nothing because he had no idea information from the report to the prosecutor general had ended up in the hands of the press.

Straume also said that no head of a state institution would ever disclose information from restricted access documents. When Straume found out about the information leak, he admitted it and provided an explanation.

CPCB chief also said he is ready to publish the institution’s report addressed to Prosecutor General Ēriks Kalnmeiers regarding the possible information leak in relation to the Saeima deputy’s case if all permits have been received.

Straume mentioned after a meeting of the National Security Committee that he would sign approval for publication of this document. However, this requires permission from the investigator and supervisory prosecutor. He said the appropriate time for the publication of the document is after commencement of criminal prosecution.

When asked if there was an information leak in Kļaviņš’s case, Straume said he is «moderately convinced that it is not as though [Indulis] Emsis had information that CPCB has launched a criminal process for him to tell about it to Kļaviņš». At the same time, Straume said CPCB had requested Saeima to provide copies of receipts in March. «Do you think other ways for information distribution are not possible in this situation?» said the chief of the bureau, responding to the question regarding information in Emsis’ hands. He says the matter regarding information in Emsis’ hands has been checked by the prosecutor’s office.

Straume also told journalists that Prime Minister Māris Kučinskis did not disclose any information about Kļaviņš too early.

Full article here


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Dutch authorities arrest Utrecht tram shooter

According to Dutch authorities, the man who opened fire in a tram in Utrecht, killing three and injuring five, has been arrested.

Parliament: Latvian universities should be among 500 best in the world

Latvia’s leading universities have a clear vision for the future. It is topical for continued development of the country’s education and science sector.

Latvian minister to request police investigation in public transport company

Latvia’s Environment Protection and Regional Development Ministry has finished its analysis of the audit performed in municipal public transport company SIA Rīgas satiksme. Soon the ministry plans to ask law enforcement institutions to provide their opinion on whether or not there had been fictive employment or other violations committed by the company, as reported by TV3 news.

Latvian prime minister urges sorting the system, not raising taxes

A number of sectors require reforms to avoid raising taxes to increase revenue, said Latvian Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš during a meeting of Saeima’s Budget and Finance Committee on Monday, 18 March.

Stoltenberg calls NATO the most successful alliance in world history

NATO is the strongest, most successful alliance in history, wrote NATO’s Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in an article dedicated to the expansion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

Heavy rainfall in Indonesia causes floods and landslides; death toll reaches 77

Approximately 77 people have been killed in mountain villages hit by floods and landslides caused by intense rainfall in Indonesia’s Papua Province, according to the latest information reported by Indonesian authorities.

Number of job vacancies in Latvia up 33.4% in 2018

In 2018, there were 22.7 thousand job vacancies in Latvia, which is 5.7 thousand vacancies or 33.4 % more than in 2017.

Swedbank: more than 1,400 Latvian families purchased property in regions last year

In 2018, Swedbank had issued more than 1,400 loans for property purchases within 50 km radius around Riga. This is an average of six loans issued every work day, as reported by Swedbank representative Jānis Krops.

Minister: Latvia may require radical image change because of finance sector’s problems

Considering the problems in the country’s finance sector, it will be necessary to work on radically changing the country’s image, says Latvian Foreign Affairs Minister Edgars Rinkēvičs.

Riga Mayor’s wife suspected of dubious employed in public water supply company

For eight years Riga Mayor Nils Ušakovs’ office manager Iveta Strautiņa-Ušakova worked as a consultant for municipal water supply company Rīgas Ūdens, as reported by LTV investigative journalism programme De Facto.

Latvian Centre Party to take part in European Parliament elections

A list of candidates compiled by Centre Party from Latvia has been submitted for European Parliament elections. The list is composed of fifteen candidates. This makes it the fifth list of candidates to be submitted for EP elections in Latvia so far, as reported by Central Election Commission.

Air temperature in Latvia to stay positive this week; more precipitation expected

Weather will be dominated by cyclone activity this week. Wind speed will also increase in the country’s western parts in the first half of the week. At the end of the week, air temperature to become chilly at night, as reported by Latvian State Environment, Geology and Meteorology Centre.

Week in Lithuania. N-plant invites bids for repository construction contract

Lithuania's Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant, which was shut down a decade ago and is now being decommissioned, invited bids for the construction of a 100-million-euro near surface repository for low and intermediate level short-lived radioactive waste.

BNN summary of the week: when is Brexit? Estonia’s government worries; more problems with Rīgas satiksme

BNN offers a summary of this week’s topical news in a variety of categories: Attempt; Decision; Investigation; Scandal; Legislation; Expectation.

Suspect in criminal case leaves post in Alkom-Trans

SIA Alkom-Trans chairman Aleksandrs Krjačeks, who is a suspect in a criminal case regarding SIA Rīgas satiksme’s procurements, has decided to step down, according to information from Lursoft.

Eurostat: Latvia had higher annual inflation than average in EU and Eurozone

In February 2019, Latvia’s inflation was higher than the average in European Union and Eurozone, according to data published by Eurostat on Friday, 15 March.

Harmony and New Harmony to compete for seats in European Parliament

Association of parties Alternative Party, which received only 0.34% support from voters in the recent Saeima elections, has decided to start in upcoming European Parliament elections with a new name – New Harmony, as reported by Latvijas Radio.

ABLV Bank’s liquidators recover assets worth EUR 37.938 million in February

In February 2019, liquidators of ABLV Bank had successfully recovered assets worth EUR 37.938 million, which is 21% less than a month prior, according to the annual account published in Latvian Herald.

Polish Catholic church reveals mass child sex abuse by clergy

The administration of the Polish Catholic Church has stated it has since 1990 registered child sex abuse affecting 625 underage victims by 382 clergymen. Poland's Catholic Church authorities revealed the data on Thursday, March 14.

Insurer: children receive 11% more injuries during school breaks

During school breaks the frequency at which children receive injuries is 11% higher when compared to the year’s average, according to data from BTA Baltic Insurance Company.

Survey: one-fifth of Latvian residents do not protect their data on mobile phones

Although modern smartphones have several security options that help protect user data, results of a survey by Samsung Electronics Baltics show that 19% of Latvian residents do not use any of those data protection options.

Estonia's Ratas rejects Verhofstadt's opinion on coalition with anti-migrant party

Belgian member of the European Parliament, Guy Verhofstadt, who heads the parliament's Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe group, has urged acting Estonian Prime Minister Jüri Ratas not to build a government coalition with the anti-migrant Conservative People's Party of Estonia.

Opinion: Baltic residents have cooled down towards Russian-Ukrainian conflict

Ever since the annexation of the Crimean Peninsula five years ago it seems a ‘cooling process’ has begun among residents of Baltic States in relation to the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, said University of Latvia researcher Mārtiņš Kaprāns in an interview to LNT programme Rīta Panorāma on Friday, 15 March.

New Zealand shaken by tragic terror attacks in mosques

40 people have lost their lives in New Zealand, where terror attacks have been committed in two mosques in the city Christchurch today, according to the country's government. The tragic events have taken place on Friday, March 15.

Minister: EC should not be allowed to cut financing to countries with low court independence

From the perspective of the European Union’s legislation and democracy, European Commission should not be given rights to halt funding only because EC thinks the rule of law is insufficient in some country, says Latvian Foreign Affairs Minister Edgars Rinkēvičs.