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Ceturtdiena 02.04.2020 | Name days: Imgarde, Irmgarde
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BNN summary of the week: scheme bubble of Rīgas satiksme; Estonia raises wages; government formation 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: Scandal; Plans; Growth; Protests; Amendments; Fight; Opinion.

SCANDAL: 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.

The lawyer admitted that the case ‘is associated with RS’ but refused to comment on it further, saying he signed a non-disclosure agreement. He also told journalists that he plans to appeal the court’s decision once the full text has been published.

SIA Alkom-Trans co-owner Krjačeks is a member of Honour to Serve Riga political party. He has also donated money to Harmony and New Era political party in the past.

It is mentioned on the website of SIA Alkom-Trans that a new turn in cooperation with Czech Škoda Transportation took place in 2009. This means active introduction of low-floor Škoda 15T trams in Latvia. Trams are maintained by Alkom-Trans specialists, according to information from the website.

Krjačeks owns 60% of shares in Alkom-Trans. The other 40% are owned by Sergejs Ecins.

Full article here

PLANS: 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.

Aside from the prime minister and finance minister seat, NU also wants the seat of the foreign affairs minister, Kalniņš said in an interview to LTV programme Rīta panorama.

According to him, one of the most important principles in government formation talks will be the state budget’s fiscal discipline. Security and finance sector’s stability remain important priorities.

Full article here

GROWTH: 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.

Estonian public broadcaster ERR reports that the Estonian government made the decision on Thursday, December 13, to raise the minimum wage from January 1, 2019, which will also mean the gross minimum hourly wage to be raised from 2.97 to 3.21 euros.

Supported by the Estonian Trade Union Confederation and the Estonian Employers’ Confederation since September, the increase is expected be felt the most in the wallets of 25 500 full-time employees, who currently earn the minimum wage of 500 euros per month. According to data by the Estonian Tax and Customs Board, they account by 5.3% of all paid employees.

Full article here

PROTESTS: 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.

Their names have been brought up several times this week. First, Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis called up the State Security Department (VSD) over potential Kremlin influence on the Homeland Union – Lithuanian Christian Democrats, known colloquially as Conservatives, who ostensibly are behind the massive teacher strikes in the country.

More strikes were thought to be underway in the weeks to come in Lithuania. In defence of his PM, Ramūnas Karbauskis, the leader of the ruling Peasants and Farmers (LVŽS), said that Skvernelis, who is thought to be the LVŽS’ candidate in the presidential race next June, had «reasonable ground» to say so about the Conservatives and hinted that behind the strikes might stand people who may be of interest to the country’s intelligence.

«This is ridiculous: when politicians deplete all traditional combative measures, they resort to the card of the VSD, asking it to step forward and support one or the other side. It is preposterous to think that Kremlin orchestrated the teacher strikes,» Vytautas Dumbliauskas, associate professor at Mykolas Romeris university and a political commentator, told BNN.

Skvernelis confirmed on Tuesday, December 11, what has been talked about since last Friday in the Government and the Seimas (Lithuanian Parliament) chambers – the PM had turned last Friday to the special services over «the processes taking place in the country».

Full article here

AMENDMENTS: Latvian president announces amendments to divert EUR 8.3 million for EMS

Latvian President Raimonds Vējonis has announced amendments for the Saeima’s Law on Budget and Financial Management to include diversion of EUR 8.3 million to the Emergency Medical Service, as mentioned in the official publication in Latvian Herald.

As previously explained by the State President’s Chancellery, according to Section 76 of the Constitution of the Republic of Latvia, if the Saeima approves urgency of the law with no less than two-thirds of votes, the president is not able to request repeated viewing of the law and hand it for a referendum.

Vējonis has also announced three other laws approved by the Saeima on 6 December. The Saeima approved in the final reading amendments to the Law on Budget and Financial Management. These amendments propose resolving problems caused by delays with 2019 budget approval.

Unexpectedly, members of the Saeima also supported deputy Vjačeslavs Dombrovskis’ (Harmony) proposal to expand the law with an additional statement that the Finance Minister is to divert EUR 8.3 million in the 2019 budget to increase wages of ambulance brigades. Previously, Saeima’s Budget and Finance Committee had rejected this proposal.

Vējonis was asked to announce amendments by members of Riga region’s EMS trade union.

Full article here

FIGHT: Minister says Brexit cannot be a reason to reduce cohesion volume for next EU multi-year budget

«Brexit cannot serve as a reason to reduce the volume of direct payments in cohesion and common agriculture policy in the next European Union’s multi-year budget,» says Latvian Foreign Affairs Minister EdgarsRinkēvičs.

On Tuesday, 11 December, Rinkēvičs participated in a meeting of EU General Affairs Council in Brussels. Members of the council discussed the progress in talks on the EU multi-year budget for2021-2027, as confirmed by the Foreign Affairs Ministry.

Rinkēvičs told his colleagues that the currently proposed EU multi-year budget proposal for the next period is unacceptable, because it does not fit the commitment promised in 2013 to equalize direct payments among all EU member states. The proposal in relation to the common agricultural and cohesion policy is unacceptable for Latvia. «Brexit cannot be a reason to reduce the volume of direct payments in cohesion and common agricultural policy in the next EU multi-year budget,» says Latvian Foreign Affairs Minister.

Full article here

OPINION: Pharmacy owners say compensated medicines should be supplied with reserves

Medicine manufacturers should supply state compensated medicines with a small reserve, says chairman of Pharmacy Owners Association Jānis Lībķens.

According to him, if manufacturers start in procurements to supply compensated medicines on list of compensated medicines, they should supply them with a small reserve in order to secure some planning room in case the situation changes.

When asked what impedes formation of reserves now, Lībķens said concerns are associated with the fact if too much medicines are supplied, wholesale traders usually consider exporting them to markets where it is possible to sell for higher prices. «If the manufacturer delivers medicines to Latvia at a lower price and the wholesale trader decides to re-sell the goods in Germany, manufacturers suffer losses,» says Lībķens.

At the same time, he explains that there is also parallel import – when medicines are carried to the country for cheaper prices. Manufacturers have begun searching for different solutions, including reducing prices.

Lībķens informs that the State Agency of Medicines has commenced talks with wholesale traders to make sure all information regarding accessibility of medicines is clear and accessible. «We believe it will become clear that everything is fine for the most part, but there are certain positions in which products are not supplied on time. This is where the problem surfaces – when people are unable to receive medicines when they need,» says the association’s head.

As for accessibility of medicines, Lībķens outlined another problem – medicines are divided among pharmacies that have always had demand for them. «For example, specific medicines in Latvia are used by two patients – one in Riga and one in Daugavpils. Respectively, one package is sent to Riga and one to Daugavpils. But people are mobile, and the patient in Daugavpils decides to move to Liepaja. Once there, he goes to a pharmacy with his prescription. But he can’t get his prescribed medicine because shipments have already been distributed to other pharmacies. So the question then is – what should we do? Tell the person that everything is fine and that the medicine is on its way to Daugavpils? This is not normal, and no one is offering any solutions,» says Lībķens.

Full article here


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Saeima committee supports writing off debts left from 2008 crisis

On Wednesday, 1 April, Latvian Saeima’s Budget and Finance Committee conceptually supported during a remote meeting the proposal to allow credit institutions to one-sidedly write off debts for mortgage loans taken prior to the 2008 economic crisis, as reported by Saeima press-service.

Belarus introduces ban on buckwheat exports

Belarusian government has prohibited temporarily the export of buckwheat and other staple foods, state news agency BelTA reported.

Moscow tests app for tracking infected people required to self-isolate

In Moscow, where a lockdown has been in place since the beginning of the week, a new smartphone app is being developed and tested aimed at ensuring that patients with mild symptoms adhere to their contract of self-isolation, Russian state news agency TASS reports.

Multiple of Nature Protection Office’s duties delegated to the State Environment Service

Latvia’s Environment Protection and Regional Development Ministry issued an order on 30 March to delegate multiple duties of the Nature Protection Office to the State Environment Service, according to information from LETA.

Latvian State Employment Agency received notifications for numerous planned lay-offs

Latvia’s State Employment Agency has received notification about planned lay-offs of 3 258 employees of 19 companies.

1 April onward entry to Jurmala by car will not be allowed without paying 2 euro fee

Wednesday, 1 April, marks the beginning of the the season when entry to Jurmala by car will require a 2 euro fee, as reported by Jurmala City Council.

Estonia looking at mass tests’ option to determine latency of COVID-19

The Estonian government has set itself the goal of mass tests of COVID-19 in the society, its Foreign Minister has revealed as the worst-hit Baltic country is looking at ways to overcome the outbreak, Estonian public broadcaster reports.

COVID-19 update in Baltic. 446 in Latvia, 581 in Lithuania, 779 in Estonia

The number of confirmed COVID-19 infection cases in Latvia has reached 446. Meanwhile, Lithuanian media report 581 cases.

Countries rush to support production of lung ventilators, essential amid pandemic

Governments and medical institutions in the world seek to acquire many lung ventilators that can save lives in severe cases of the COVID-19 disease. France and Israel have made recent announcements in this respect, German public broadcaster DW reports.

Public catering companies to adopt new hygiene requirements as of 1 April

Latvia’s Agriculture Ministry has expanded requirements for public catering and retail trade companies, BNN was told by the ministry.

At least 26 healthcare workers in Latvia confirmed infected with COVID-19

At least 26 healthcare workers in Latvia have been infected with COVID-19, according to information reported by the Disease Prevention and Monitoring Centre expert Jurijs Perevoščikovs.

UN Secretary General calls for solidarity seeing pandemic as a global test

UN Secretary General António Guterres has evaluated that the social and economic effect of the COVID-19 pandemic is the greatest test to mankind since World War Two, British public broadcaster BBC reports.

Agricultural product price level up 1.5% in Latvia last year

Compared to 2018, price index of agricultural output increased by 1.5 % in 2019, which was mainly due to the 5 % rise in prices of livestock products. Price index of crop products grew by 0.9 %.

Start of inability to cover debts seen in Estonian economy

In Estonian economy hit by the outbreak of COVID-19 and emergency restrictions, initial indications of payment defaults have been noticed by the risk management firm Creditinfo Eesti, according to Estonian public broadcaster ERR.

Labour costs in Latvia considerably below EU and Eurozone average in 2019

Average hourly labour costs in Latvia were EUR 9.9 last year, which is considerably below the average of European Union (EU) and Eurozone, according to data published by Eurostat on Tuesday, 31 March.

Youth Song and Dance Celebration in Latvia pushed back to 2021

The XII Latvian School Song and Dance Celebration Committee and Song and Dance Council decided on Tuesday, 31 March, to push back this summer’s youth song and dance celebration to 2021, as Education and Science Minister Ilga Šuplinska confirmed in a press-conference.

Russia sees COVID-19 infection rate jump by 500 in one day

In Russia, the infection rate with COVID-19 has accelerated as authorities registered 500 new cases in one day. Meanwhile, people are getting discharged after recovery in hospitals, Russian state news agency TASS reports.

Latvian minister allows face-to-face teaching at schools will not return this year

It is clear remote teaching at Latvia’s schools and vocational education facilities will remain for longer. It is also possible face-to-face teaching will not return at all this season. This means most school children will also likely miss centralized exams, said Latvian Education and Science Minister Ilga Šuplinska in an interview to LTV programme Rīta panorama.

Electricity price drops to the lowest level of the past seven years

This year there has been a rapid decline of electricity wholesale price in Latvia. Nord Pool price in Latvia’s area reached its historically lowest point in March, according to market data of the Public Utilities Commission.

Riga city executive director Juris Radzevičs temporarily suspended from his post

The head of Riga city municipality’s interim administration Edvīns Balševics has suspended the city’s executive director Juris Radzevičs from his post.

Fuel sales in Estonia down by 30% to 50%

Petrol stations in Estonia have during the outbreak of COVID-19 and emergency restrictions observed a significant fall in the sales of fuel, Estonian public broadcaster ERR reports.

BNN INTERVIEW | How is COVID-19 used to prolong Lembergs’ trial?

Attempts to prolong Aivars Lembergs’ trial still continue. The accused are trying to use the state of emergency in the country as an excuse to cancel hearings. But when asked about the option to organize trials via video conference, the accused say – let the state pay for a computer and internet connection, as they would not use theirs for such a task, BNN was told by prosecutor Juris Juriss.

UK urged to extend Brexit transition period; London says: «No»

The European Parliament’s most influential faction has suggested the United Kingdom to prolong its the transition period of its withdrawal from the European Union over the effects of the pandemic of COVID-19, The Guardian reports.

COVID-19 update in Baltics. 398 in Latvia, 533 in Lithuania, 745 in Estonia

The number of confirmed COVID-19 infection cases in Latvia has reached 398. Lithuanian media, meanwhile, reports 533 confirmed cases. The latest data for Estonia points to 715 confirmed coronavirus infection cases.

31 March marks coming into force of new social distance requirements in cafes

Latvia’s Economy Ministry has developed social distancing requirements in public catering places. The new requirements will come to force Tuesday, 31 March, the ministry reports.


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