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Wednesday 17.07.2019 | Name days: Aleksejs, Aleksis

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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Latvian government approves funding for procurement of new electrical trains

Latvia’s government has approved state budget long-term commitment of EUR 255 888 753 to finance railway passenger transport company AS Pasažieru vilciens. This means PV might sign a contract with Škoda Vagonka soon, as confirmed by Transport Ministry.

Latvian Railway receives EC’s report on railway electrification

European Commission has submitted a positive report on Latvian Railway commenced railway network’s electrification in the initially planned volume, as reported by company’s representative Ella Pētermane.

Nausėda, visiting Poland, urged to get more personal than Grybauskaitė

Gitanas Nausėda, the new Lithuanian President, is in Poland on his first official visit abroad. Lithuanian political experts have commented to LRT, what should be the aim of the visit.

Latvian State Police request criminal prosecution of fake news portal owner

July 2019 marked the end of State Police investigation of a criminal process launched last year in relation to distribution of fake news. One Niks Endziņš was arrested as a result of the criminal process in 2018.

Moscow considering exchange of Ukrainian sailors before Ukraine election

Moscow has unveiled it’s taking part in discussion over a potential prisoner swap involving Ukrainian sailors that it arrested in 2019 last year. The development comes on the week of Ukrainian parliamentary elections.

Latvia to host EUROfusion General Assembly for the first time

The 26th EUROfusion General Assembly will be taking place in Riga this week 17th – 18th July. The heads of EUROfusion science project and participants from 24 countries will be taking part in this event.

Bribery accused LU vice-rector applied with major restrictions

Latvian Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau has applied restrictions for bribery accused University of Latvia vice-rector Baiba Broka. She is prohibited from working in the university’s procurement commission, as well as making decisions associated with control and supervision.

EU: Violations of Iran nuclear deal can still be reversed

European Union’s foreign ministers have concluded in a meeting on relations with Iran that the uranium enrichment carried out by Tehran breaching the Iran nuclear deal this summer is not significant.

Welfare Ministry requests EUR 54 million for welfare priorities in Latvia

Next year’s welfare priorities in Latvia will require additional funding of EUR 54 million, says Welfare Minister Ramona Petraviča.

Von der Leyen resigns as German minister before EP vote on her heading EC

Shortly before the Tuesday’s vote in the European Parliament on the candidacy of Ursula von der Leyen, the German Defence Minister has announced her resignation from the German federal government.

Pork prices in Latvia increase 10.5% over the course of a month

In May 2019, pork prices in Latvia increased 10.5% when compared to April and were 33.1% higher when compared to May 2018, according to data compiled by Latvian Agriculture Ministry’s Market and Direct Support Department.

Latvia’s finance market supervisor applies one million euro fine to Rigensis Bank

Latvia’s Finance and Capital Market Commission has decided to apply a fine of one million euros to Rigensis Bank AS for violating money laundering and terrorism financing prevention regulations, as confirmed by the commission.

Latvia’s Competition Council issues six warnings for possible cartel activity

In the first half-year of 2019, Latvia’s Competition Council organized six warnings to ten businesses and five private persons for possible involvement in cartels.

Estonian expedition Antarctica 200 leaves for six-month journey

Marking 200 years since the discovery of the Antarctic, a group of Estonian-lead explorers have left for the six-month sea journey to the world’s southern-most continent.

Balticovo: eggs of caged hens will gradually disappear from shelves

Eggs from caged hens will likely disappear from Europe’s shelves in time, predicts egg and egg product manufacturing company Balticovo council chairman Valdis Grimze.

Latvia’s Taxi Drivers Register has around 6 000 drivers; 114 have been excluded from it

Since June 2018, when the Taxi Drivers Register was adopted, nearly 6 000 drivers have registered with it, whereas more than 100 drivers have been excluded from it, as reported by the Road Transport Directorate.

President: Latvianness is intended for everyone

Latvianness is intended for everyone, said Latvia’s President Egils Levits in an interview to public broadcaster LNT programme 900 seconds in regards to ways of reducing societal split.

Deadly plane crash in Sweden could take year to be solved

After Sweden’s leisure plane crash that took the lives of nine people over the weekend, authorities could take a year to determine the cause of the tragedy.

Fifth break announced in trial of Jelgava Hospital bribery case

The trial in the bribery case involving Jelgava Hospital manager Andris Ķipurs has been put on hold for the fifth time, the court reported.

Von de Leyen seeks to secure MEP support to head European Commission

Member state nominee for the top job of the European Union, Ursula von der Leyen, has spent two weeks seeking to ensure support from members of the European Parliament to her candidacy to the post the president of the European Commission.

Warmth to gradually return to Latvia this week: upwards of +25 C expected

This week, rain will be observed in at least one of Latvia’s regions. Nevertheless, warmer masses of air will also flow into the country, making air temperature reach +25° C.

NATO’s right to deploy in Latvia in crisis situations to be outlined in legislation

In the event of crisis situations NATO forces will be able to deploy in Latvia from beyond its border, as provided by amendments to the Latvian State Border Law the government will discuss on 16 July.

Trump’s war powers on Iran limited by U.S. Congress

U.S. President Donald Trump’s powers to potentially take his country to war with Iran have been blocked by American legislators setting forth congressional authorization to such a move. Tensions between the to countries have escalated since early June.

Week in Lithuania: Nausėda, a new President, inaugurated, Skvernelis stays as PM, mayor handcuffed

Last week, Kaunas marked 75th anniversary of ghetto liquidation, Nausėda presented his team, MPs initiated simpler MP mandate revocation procedures.

BNN summary of the week: new presidents; radio station rings alarm; bribery at LU

Last week, Egils Levits officially became President of the Republic of Latvia. For his first foreign visit, he picked Estonia, where he met with the country’s president Kersti Kaljulaid. The week also marked the end for Lithuania President Dalia Grybauskaitė’s era in the country, as economist Gitanas Nausėda successfully took her place.