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Ceturtdiena 25.04.2019 | Name days: Līksma, Bārbala

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.

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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».

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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.

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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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CC: Riga’s public transport company directed the nano-water procurement

Riga municipality’s public transport company SIA Rīgas satiksme was the director of the nano-water procurement, said head of the Competition Council Skaidrīte Ābrama during a press-conference.

Saeima paves way for full opening of «KGB bag»

On Wednesday, 24 April, Saeima’s Human Rights and Public Affairs Committee deputies supported in the first reading amendments to the KBG Law. This will provide the full publication of all KGB documents stored in Latvia’s National Archive, as reported by Saeima’s press-service.

Normunds Staņēvičs becomes head of Food Union in Europe

As of mid-April of this year, Normunds Staņēvičs, the European CFO of international dairy product and ice-cream group Food Union and CEO of JSC Rīgas piena kombināts, becomes head of Food Union’s European division.

Oil prices increase affected by U.S. sanctions on Iran's oil exports

Oil prices are increasing internationally as affected by U.S. sanctions on Iranian oil exports. They have reached a six-month high and, analysts say, the prices could exceed USD 80.

Riga’s public transport company fined EUR 2.4 million in nano-water criminal case

Latvia’s Competition Council has applied a fine of EUR 2.4 million to Riga’s public transport company Rīgas satiksme for participating in a prohibited agreement in the so-called nano-water case, as reported by the council on Wednesday, 24 April.

CPB: Russia’s propaganda media not trying to affect 13th Saeima election results

After monitoring nineteen Russian propaganda media websites, Latvia’s Constitution Protection Bureau has concluded that Russia did not use them to affect Saeima election results.

Diena reporting false information is nothing new – a bad habit of sorts

Recently Finance and Economic Crimes Enforcement Prosecutor’s Office has decided to commence a criminal process against Diena newspaper for possibly intentional defamation of Dr. Rudolf Meroni. This, however, is not the first time when Diena is accused of breaching journalistic principles – publishing information without confirming it.

«Pocket money» even for failures – State Audit studies scholarship system in colleges

Basically it seems anyone can get their hands on scholarship in vocational colleges, even if their academic success leaves something to be desired, as concluded in an audit report compiled by Latvia’s State Audit, answering the question what affects the size of scholarships paid to students in vocational colleges.

Lithuania: Russian warplane intercepted near Baltic borders

In international airspace, near Baltic States' borders a Russian military aircraft has been notices, prompting NATO fighter aircraft to escort it away, according to the Lithuanian Ministry of National Defence.

North Korean leader in Russia to meet with Putin over nuclear issues

The head of North Korea Kim Jong Un has arrived in Russia on Wednesday for his first meeting with President Vladimir Putin aimed at securing Moscow's support to Pyongyang's push to have its sanctions eased.

NATO helicopters involved in Estonia music concert

British battle helicopters deployed in Estonia as part of NATO multinational battle group have been involved in Veteranirock concert in Tallinn.

Saeima: National Mass Media Council is experiencing reputation crisis

The topic of reputation is always important, but considering the most recent activities of the National Electronic Mass Media Council, we have to conclude that the council is experiencing a reputation crisis, said deputies of Saeima’s Human Rights and Public Affairs Committee on Tuesday, 23 April.

Responsibility for Sri Lanka attacks claimed by Islamic State group

Terrorist group Islamic State has said it was responsible for the Easter bomb attacks in Sri Lanka the death toll of which has now risen to 321 people.

Prime Minister: situation with Deglava Bridge in Riga is result of past policy

The situation with Deglava Bridge in Riga is the result of past policy, said Latvia’s Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš in an interview to LNT programme 900 seconds on Wednesday, 24 April.

Latvia’s State Revenue Service to promote voluntary payments of taxes

The new strategy of Latvia’s State Revenue Service for the next three years should be based on promotion of voluntary payment of taxes, not the increase of penalties, SRS director general Ieva Jaunzeme told journalists after a think tank organized for the creation of a new strategy.

Medicines for people with mental disorders to become more accessible in Latvia

To improve accessibility of medicines for people suffering from psychological and behavioural disorders, Latvia’s government decided to expand the list of diagnoses eligible for state-compensated medicines on Tuesday, 23 April.

Belarus halts exports of low quality oil products to Baltics, other neighbours

Belarusian Oil Company has announced the temporary suspension of light oil products to the Baltic states, Poland and Ukraine explaining that low-quality oil products have been supplied by Russia to Belarusian refineries.

Producer prices in Latvia: increase of 4.1% in March

Compared to March 2018, average level of producer prices in Latvian industry increased by 4.1 % in March 2019. The level of prices of products sold on the domestic market rose by 6.5 % and that of exported products – by 1.9 %.

Saeima deputy confident on the need to dismiss National Mass Media Council

Considering recent development, the National Electronic Mass Media Council should be dismissed, says head of Saeima’s Human Rights and Public Affairs Committee Artuss Kaimiņš.

Estonian President continues to meet with ministerial candidates

As outgoing Estonian Prime Minister Jüri Ratas' is likely to form his second government with the controversial Conservative People's Party of Estonia and the national-conservative Pro Patria, Estonian President is meeting with his ministerial candidates.

Teachers demand from Latvia’s ministry specific amendments to regulations

Latvian Trade Union of Education and Science Employees sent a letter to Latvia’s Education and Science Ministry on Tuesday, 23 April. In it, representatives demand strict guarantees and specific amendments to regulations to ensure increase of wages for teachers in accordance with the schedule.

Catalonia – key issue in Spanish pre-election debate

As Spain nears its early general election on Sunday, April 28, its outgoing Prime Minister faced criticism from his opponents over Catalonia's secession crisis.

Latvian minister orders closure of Deglava Bridge in Riga

Latvia’s Interior Affairs Minister Sandis Ģirģens has ordered State Police to close down Deglava Bridge starting with Thursday, 25 April.

Sri Lanka death toll rises. Authorities had been warned about possible attacks

In Sri Lanka, the number of people killed in attacks on churches and hotels has reached 290 people, while it has been revealed that national authorities had been warned about possible attacks.

Road construction company Binders to attract workers from Ukraine and Belarus

Latvian road construction company SIA Binders experiences a shortage of workers. Because of that, the company plans to attract guest workers from Ukraine and Belarys, says Bindars board chairman Aigars Sēja.

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