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Sunday 15.09.2019 | Name days: Sandra, Gunvaldis, Gunvaris, Sondra

BNN summary of the week: scandal at Rīgas satiksme; Lembergs’ possible prison sentence; and Latvia’s 2019 budget

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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: Court; Conclusion; Funding; Decline; Change?; Worry; Detained.

COURT: Prosecutor for Lembergs’ case: criminal proceedings should be made more efficient

Criminal proceedings should be made more efficient, says prosecutor Juris Juriss, who is responsible for the criminal case involving suspended Ventspils Mayor Aivars Lembergs.

According to him, Lembergs’ criminal case is one of the longest processes the prosecutor has ever experienced. Because of that, he believes it is important to discuss the possibility of making criminal proceedings more efficient.

Juriss says over the course of the past ten years, while Lembergs’ case was being processed, the legislator has added several changes to regulations to make proceedings more efficient. However, Lembergs’ case and similar processes the legislator can influence, speeding proceedings at the trial stage.

According to Juriss, currently the pre-trial period for criminal cases is much shorter than the trial process itself.

Incidentally, the next court hearing for Lembergs’ criminal case is scheduled for 10:00 a.m. 11 March.

During court debates on Thursday, 7 March, the prosecutor’s office asked the court to sentence infamous Ventspils City Council chairman Aivars Lembergs to eight years in prison with confiscation of property, as well as a fine of EUR 64,500, as confirmed by prosecutor Juris Juriss.

Full article here

CONCLUSION: Latvian Saeima to take more time discussing state president candidates

On Thursday, 7 March, Latvia’s Saeima approved amendments to the State President Election Law in the final reading. These amendments provide for extending the period between proposal of presidential candidates and Saeima’s vote for them, as BNN was told by the parliament’s press-service.

Information on candidates for the post of state president is to be submitted to the Saeima Praesidium in writing no earlier than 60 and no later than 55 days before the end of the ruling president’s term. Until now information was usually submitted no earlier than 50 and no later than 45 days before the end of the ruling president’s term.

Full article here

FUNDING: Latvian government approves 2019 budget draft

On Tuesday, 5 March, Latvia’s Cabinet of Ministers approved a legislative draft for the state budget of 2019, as confirmed by Finance Ministry’s representatives.

2019 state consolidated budget’s revenue is planned at EUR 9.2 billion, whereas expenditures are planned at EUR 9.4 billion. Base budget’s planned revenue is EUR 6.4 billion, whereas expenditures are planned at EUR 6.8 billion. Revenue of the state special budget is planned at EUR 3 billion, whereas expenditures are planned at EUR 2.8 billion. The deficit of the 2019 general government budget is planned at 0.5% of GDP. GDP growth for 2019 is planned to be 3%.

Last year, members of the government continued reviewing state budget expenditures during talks with ministries. As a result, ministries prepared proposals to increase funding for their respectable industries. Focus is put on efficiency in use of state real estate properties and ICT industry’s optimization, as well as review of allocated funding. The result of total review of expenditures in 2019 is EUR 51.3 million. Of this amount, EUR 7.6 million will be diverted to the improvement of the general fiscal space, whereas EUR 43.7 million will be allocated for different priorities of the country’s priorities.

This year’s budget includes an additional amount of EUR 87.5 million, which will be allocated to increase teachers’ wages. EUR 8.9 million will be used to increase wages of judges and prosecutors, as well as EUR 4.8 million will be allocated to increase of wages of social care workers. EUR 41.3 million is planned to be allocated as support for retirement pensions for interior affairs and justice sector officers with special ranks.

EUR 7.2 million is planned to be allocated to finance implementation of recommendations from Moneyval.

Full article here

DECLINE: women are paid 10% smaller wages than men in the same jobs

Men in Latvia earn 10% than women in the same jobs, according to data from Paylab, which works in Latvia together with CV-Online database, studying long-term wage trends.

Comparison of wages is based on identical factors – the same jobs, workload, worker experience, education and skills.

The situation across the Baltic States is relatively similar – women are paid 11% less in Lithuania, 10% less in Latvia and 9% less than men in Estonia.

Analysis of wage discrepancy shows that one major factor is a person’s choice of profession and industry.

«Women still prefer jobs that allow balancing family and private life, which also affects wages and career options. However, we have to admit that employers often try promoting diversity at work by creating appropriate working conditions for women to provide them with equal career options and motivation to return to work after childcare leave,» says CV-Online Latvia marketing and communication manager Krista Roziņa.

Full article here

CHANGE?: Latvia’s environment minister may dismiss Riga’s mayor in three weeks

After looking at the work performed by Riga City Council and the answers provided to previously asked questions, Environment Protection and Regional Development Minister Juris Pūce uncovered several violations of the law. With that, he does not discount the possibility of dismissing Mayor of Riga Nils Ušakovs in approximately three weeks, the minister said in an interview to LNT programme 900 seconds.

Environment Protection and Regional Development Ministry is in the process of checking the work done by Riga City Council in accordance with legal procedures. Answers signed by Ušakovs show that the city council has committed violations of the law in the municipality, explains the minister.

The ministry has yet to receive more answers from Riga City Council. After receiving and going through answers provided so far, the ministry submitted more questions in regards to uncovered violations. Pūce says the evaluation process may conclude in three weeks.

Once the process is complete the minister will decide on whether or not Ušakovs should be dismissed.

Full article here

WORRY: Swedish authorities look into Swedbank complaint by anti-money laundering activist

Swedish law enforcement has been asked to investigate suspicion filed by British anti-corruption investor Bill Browder over alleged transactions to Swedbank from Danske Bank’s Estonian branch and Lithuanian UKIO Bank.

Reuters news agency reports that Browder’s complaint alleges that about USD 176 million (EUR 157) from Danske Bank’s Estonian branch and Lithuania’s UKIO Bank had been wired to Swedbank accounts.

The complaint expresses allegations that this links the Swedish bank to money laundering relating to a tax fraud exposed by Browder’s former lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who died in a Russian prison in 2009.

Browder filed the complaint against Swedbank with authorities including Swedish prosecutors and police, the finance ministry and the economic crime authority.

Full article here

DETAINED: Corruption watchdog detains another Rīgas satiksme official for bribery

Latvia’s Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau has detained Honour to Serve Riga member, Rīgas karte boardmember and Rīgas satiksme official Aleksandrs Brandavs over suspicions of bribery.

On Tuesday, 6 March, the bureau commenced a criminal process against SIA Rīgas karte official for possible criminal acts – bribery and mediation in bribery.

Materials of the criminal case contain information regarding the handing of a bribe to a mediator to be passed to another official in order to secure decisions favourable to the person who gave the bribe.

One person has been detained in the criminal process. According to information from LETA, this person is Brandavs. He was detained on Wednesday, 6 March.

The investigation is currently in early stages. More detailed information will be provided by KNAB once it is clear it won’t impede the investigation.

The law permits detaining a person for up to 48 hours. Once this term is over, authorities can decide on extending it or applying a security measure. The most severe security measure is an arrest, which is decided on by the court.

Brandavs is a board member in SIA Rīgas karte, manager of Rīgas satiksme’s Electronic Transactions and Projects Office, as well as the true beneficiary in Rīgas mikroautobusu satiksme.

Full article here

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Week in Lithuania: High-ranking judges dismissed, Achema loses EU court case, Lithuania’s EC Commissioner proposed

Last week in and about Lithuania, the top developments were the dismissal of two high-ranking judges, the formation of a new political group in Seimas and the Human Rights Court agreeing to Soviet repressions against Lithuanian partisans as genocide.

BNN summary of the week: state of emergency in Riga; seat for Dombrovskis; politics in construction cartel

At a speedy pace – this is how the emerging crisis in waste management was being prevented in Riga this week. Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš gave Riga City Council a bashing, saying that Riga is attempting to pass on its problems on the shoulders of the entire country. The prime minister asked the capital to settle its own problems. Nevertheless, the government declared a state of emergency in Riga.

Cooperation partners blast government for breach of law in budget development

On Friday, 13 September, multiple cooperation partners of the Latvian government blasted the Cabinet of Ministers for breaching the law in the development of the 2020 state budget.

Hourly labour costs in Latvia up 8.9%

Compared to Q2 2018, hourly labour costs rose by 8.9 % or 79 cents, reaching EUR 9.60 in Q2 2019. Seasonally adjusted data show increase of 7.0 %.

Latvian Justice Ministry insists on improving prison infrastructure

In regards to the topic of the state budget’s fiscal space in 2020 and expenditures for priorities, Latvia’s Justice Ministry insists on maintaining its position in regards to Liepaja Prison’s construction project’s necessity.

UK’s parliament speaker ready to prevent October 31 no-deal Brexit – a violation of law

In the Brexit saga, speaker of a parliamentary chamber has pledged to permit changing the rules of procedure to keep UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson from forcing a no-deal Brexit on October 31, seen as a potential violation of law.

Latvian government allocates more than EUR 192 million for priority tasks

On Friday, 13 September, Latvia’s Cabinet of Ministers decided at an extraordinary meeting on division of EUR 192.4 million for priority tasks of ministries and independent institutions.

Lithuanian shops using increase in wages to raise prices, analyst asserts

In Lithuania, inflation has been two times faster in 2019 compared to other markets in the euro area. Economist Žygimantas Mauricas believes retailers have used a surge in wages to increase prices, especially in grocery stores.

Beneficial owner status in a company does not always involve receiving material benefits

If a person is declared as a company’s beneficial owner, it does not always mean it is a person who is at the end of the chain and receives material benefits from companies.

Prague to move Soviet army Marshal, despite death threats to Mayor

In the Czech capital of Prague, a local government has decided to take down a monument devoted to a Marshal of the Soviet Union. It is planned to replace it with a memorial of a more general meaning.

Estonia to establish cyber diplomacy body to make its voice heard globally

In Estonia, where the authorities may much attention to computed technology solutions and the e-environment, the Foreign Ministry plans to open a Cyber Diplomacy Department.

Latvian court declares PNB Bank insolvent

Riga City Vidzeme Suburb Court has declared PNB Bank insolvent, as confirmed by Finance and Capital Market Commission. Vigo Krastiņš has been approved as the bank’s insolvency administrator.

Latvian government conceptually supports ban for municipalities to run mass media

Municipalities are planned to be applied with a ban to found and publish mass media, as provided by Saeima’s Human Rights and Public Affairs Committee’s supported amendments to the Law on Press and Other Mass Media, as confirmed by Saeima’s press-service.

Spain’s flash floods claim lives

Several parts of Spain have been hit by heavy rain, floods and a tornado. The natural calamities have claimed not less than two victims.

UN representative criticizes Latvia for unwillingness to sign Istanbul Convention

Latvia still has not ratified European Council Convention on Prevention of Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence, otherwise known as the Istanbul Convention, even though it is a major tool for combating domestic violence, said UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women representative Ana Peláez Narváez.

Round dance over? Latvian government agrees on 2020 budget in spite of difficulties

Judging from the last talks held by parties it can be concluded the coalition has reached an agreement on the state budget, said Attīstībai/Par! co-chairman Daniels Pavļuts.

Anrijs Lembergs’ lawyers start reading his client’s court debate speech

Riga Regional Court, which continues viewing the criminal case involving suspended Ventspils Mayor Aivars Lembergs, has started listening to the debate speech of Lembergs’ son Anrijs Lembergs.

Seimas elections in three districts deal a blow to ruling LFGU, Social Democrats’ leader

As two prominent TV faces are set to win the runoff elections to take vacant seats left in Lithuanian parliament after two MPs swapped their parliamentary jobs for mayoral stints and an independent MP, Aušra Maldeikienė, left for Brussels as europarliamentarian, the Lithuanian Social Democrats’ leader, Gintautas Paluckas, who is former vice-mayor of capital city Vilnius, is restless.

Three and a half months left for compulsory installation of smoke detectors in Latvia

Latvian residents are expected to install smoke detectors in their homes – private houses and apartments – by 1 January. For private homes, however, there is an additional requirement – owners are expected to have fire extinguishers on hand as well, reminds State Fire and Rescue Service.

Times ranking: Tartu University – by far best in Baltics

The latest Times Higher Education ranking of the leading large higher education institutions in the world, the University of Tartu has been placed in the group of 301-350 best. Other Baltic universities followed in the group of 801-1000.

Latvia’s high-rank politicians may be involved in scandalous construction cartel

Names of a dozen current and former well-known Latvian politicians are mentioned in the so-called construction cartel criminal case, including Finance Minister Jānis Reirs, politician Edgars Jaunups, former finance and economy minister Dana Reizniece-Ozola, ex-chairperson of Unity political party Solvita Āboltiņa and Saeima deputy Jānis Urbanovičs, Ir magazine reports.

Citadele Bank finances Virši-A petrol station network’s expansion

With financing from Citadele Bank, petrol station network Virši-A plans to expand by opening four more petrol stations. Two of them will provide condensed natural gas.

Catalan independence march in Spain attended by 600 000 people

In Barcelona, around 600 000 people have taken part in an annual march to demand the independence of Catalonia, the autonomous region of Spain.

Government finds money to compensate pension delivery tariff rise

Money to compensate tariff increase for home delivery of pensions has been found, said Welfare Minister Ramona Petraviča during a Saeima meeting.

Lithuania warns about end in rapid wage growth

«The summer will not last forever,» said Lithuanian Finance Minister Vilius Šapoka about a summary of official economic forecasts, which warn that after a fairly rapid growth, national economy and wages would grow at a somewhat slower pace.