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Saturday 19.10.2019 | Name days: Drosma, Drosmis, Elīna

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

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Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RU

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.

Meanwhile, Latvia’s representative Valdis Dombrovskis has been picked to become European Commission’s Vice-President for Matters of Financial Services and Economy. One of his tasks in this post will be managing the work on ‘an economy that works for the benefit of the people’. Representatives of Estonia and Lithuania, on the other hand, may be appointed to supervise energy and environmental affairs.

In the first week of September news came crashing down that Latvian politicians may be involved in the construction cartel case. Ir magazine even mentioned specific names: Finance Minister Jānis Reirs, politician Edgars Jaunups, ex-finance and economy minister Dana Reizniece-Ozola, former head of Unity Solvita Āboltiņa and Saeima deputy Jānis Urbanovičs from Harmony.

Changes have happened in the criminal case involving suspended mayor of Ventspils Aivars Lembergs. The presiding judge, Boriss Geimans, is no longer able to attend court sessions due to health problems. Additionally, after warnings from the court that if the accused do not start reading their debate speech the court would conclude they have nothing to say, Anrijs Lembergs’ lawyer commenced with the reading of his client’s speech.

BNN provides a news summary about the key events of the week, including such topics as: State of Emergency; Portfolio; Political Cream; Major Strides; Funding Found; Neighbours’ Pensions; Decision; Health Problems and End of Summer.


Latvian government declares state of emergency in Riga’s waste management sector

Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RU

In spite of Competition Council head Skaidrīte Ābrama’s statement and Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš’s confidence that the government has no need to become involved in Riga’s waste management problem, because it is in the hands of Riga City Council, ministers have nonetheless decided to support Environment Protection and Regional Development Ministry’s proposal to declare a state of emergency in Riga.

Both the State Chancellery’s and Justice Ministry’s experts recommended declaring a state of emergency, saying that it is the only right decision in this situation.

Deciding on the project, the prime minister invited ministers to voice their opinion on this matter. The project was not supported by Justice Minister Jānis Bordāns, Transport Minister Tālis Linkaits, and Education and Science Minister Ilga Šuplinska. Other ministers supported it.

At the same time, the meeting was not attended by Foreign Affairs Minister Edgars Rinkēvičs, Defence Minister Artis Pabriks, Economy Minister and Healthcare Minister Ilze Viņķele.

Ministers spent more than two hours, discussing this topic. Pūce informed colleagues that the city council has turned to all four existing waste management companies with an offer for them to continue providing their services. Two of the companies, which already handle 88% of all waste in Riga said they are prepared to continue working as before. One company refused and another one said they will consider options but with certain guarantees from the city council.

Full article here


Dombrovskis chosen as EC Executive Vice President for Financial Services and the Economy

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EC Vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis

European Commission’s Vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis has been elected as vice-president for Financial Services and the Economy in the new team.

Dombrovskis will coordinate work «on economy that works in favour of people», as well as take seat as Commissar for Financial Services.

EC President Ursula von der Leyen mentioned in her speech that the EU has a unique social market economy, which, according to her, is the source of welfare and social justice. She stresses that this is even more important when facing double transition – climate and digital.

«Valdis Dombrovskis will lead our work so that our economy combines social matters and the market,» said Leyen.

Dombrovskis said he is happy with Leyen’s offer to take on duties as vice-president and coordinate work on the economy and monitor financial services.

«This means we will have an option to finish already ongoing work on strengthening Europe’s economy against possible shocks, which is especially important, considering international trade conflicts and slowing of economic growth,» explained the politician, adding that this work will include supervision of EU member states’ economic and macroeconomic policy, ensure close ties between economic and social matters, as well as continuation of work on enhancing social dialogue in Europe.

Full article here


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

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From left: Solvita Āboltiņa, Edgars Jaunups, Dana Reizniece-Ozola

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.

The magazine writes that there are at least five bribery episodes in the criminal case. Investigators suspect construction companies may have paid bribes to officials and the money was later registered service and consultation contracts, as well as donations to different organizations.

Ir magazine also reminds the conversations recorded in Taureņi bath house several years ago. This conversation served as the main reason why Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau (KNAB) launched three other criminal processes – the bribery case involving Bank of Latvia governor Ilmārs Rimšēvičs, Rīgas Satiksme’s criminal case and Rīgas Karte corruption scandal case.

The conversation recorded in the bath house suggests bribes to people close to the government, and in this case there are suggestions of a prohibited agreement in the construction sector, Ir magazine reports.

Ir magazine found out that Urbanovičs has testified in KNAB’s construction cartel case.

Full article here


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

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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.

He says that budget formation had been discussed in detail many times in the past, with discussions running in circles.

The government’s agreement to support the previously discussed offer to increase maximum annual differentiated non-taxable minimum in 2020 to EUR 3 600 a year or EUR 300 a month, said the politician.

The government also supported increasing minimal wages to EUR 500 in 2021.

KPV LV Saeima faction deputy chairman Ēriks Pucens notes that the coalition has conceptually agreed on the budget, numbers detailed therein and terms in relation to raising non-taxable minimum in 2020 and raising minimal wages in 2021.

Pucens said he hopes this agreement remains in force and the situation will not change at tomorrow’s meeting.

New Unity politician Arvils Ašeradens admits the main bulk of work in this matter has been done.

The politician stresses that the coalition has managed to find solutions to nearly all objections and requests to find a balanced compromise.

The agreement provides for support of the previously made decision in regards to postponing construction of Liepaja Prison until 2022 so that it is possible to divert money to more immediate priorities.

Full article here


Government finds money to compensate pension delivery tariff rise

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Latvian Welfare Minister Ramona Petraviča

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

«Welfare Ministry has done everything it could to find an option to compensate the growing cost of this service for all people who have chosen to use postal services for delivery of their pension,» says Petraviča.

The minister explains that by reviewing expenditures an option was found to compensate increased costs of the aforementioned service.

The total estimated size of increased costs is EUR 2 million. The proposal to compensate the increased costs has been included on the list of next year’s budget priorities.

Full article here


Estonian average pension to exceed 500 euros after indexation

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Illustrative picture

The average Estonian pension will after the spring 2020 indexation surpass 500, the country’s Finance Ministry has stated.

Estonian public broadcaster ERR reports that on Monday, September 9, the Estonian government’s summer economic forecast presentation has been held.

Pensions increase annually in April as a result of indexing, with the change coming into effect on the first day of the month.

In the second quarter of 2019 the average Estonian old-age pension was nearly EUR 485.

Full article here


Latvian court declares PNB Bank insolvent

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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.

«FCMC will carefully follow the insolvency process. At the same time, Latvia’s Deposit Guarantee Fund, which guarantees remuneration for the bank’s clients, will serve as creditor in the insolvency process,» FCMC notes.

Once a credit institution is declared insolvent, the administrator receives all duties and authority detailed in the law and statutes of the credit institution. With the status of being insolvent, the bank loses the right to use its property, which is delegated to the insolvency administrator. The bank’s governance is halted and all managing functions are performed by the administrator.

Krastiņš is a lawyer in Skrastiņš & Dzenis law firm. Publicly available information shows that he received an insolvency administrator’s certificate in 2005. Krastiņš was in charge of the insolvency processes of VEF Radiotehnika RRR and SIA Avio Baltica. His name was also mentioned among the potential insolvency administrators for ABLV Bank.

Full article here


Leading judge in Lembergs’ criminal case leaves due to health problems

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Judge Boriss Geimans

Because of health problems, court chairman and leading judge in the criminal case against Aivars Lembergs Boriss Geimans will no longer take part in court sessions involving this case. Instead he will be replaced by reserve judge Ārija Ždanova. Judge Irīna Jansone has been elected as the new chairperson, as announced at the court session on Monday, 9 September.

Lembergs’ lawyer Aivo Leimanis submitted an application, announcing his client’s decision to withdraw the agreement with him on provision of defence.

The court had previously picked Genādijs Ivankins as Lembergs’ state-provided lawyer.

He had initially requested seven months to go through materials of the case. However, so far the court has only decided to reduce the frequency of court sessions dealing with Lembergs’ criminal case. This means meeting twice a week instead of four times a week as before.

The court also asked lawyers of the accused Ansis Sormulis and Anrijs Lembergs if they are prepared to commence their debates, but lawyers said not, explaining that they had expected Aivars Lembergs’ lawyer’s speech to last until the end of the year, stressing that that his speech is not over. Nevertheless, the court decided that either lawyer Jānis Rozenbergs or lawyer Oskars Rode will have to commence their speech on Thursday, 12 September.

Full article here


Lithuania warns about end in rapid wage growth

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Hot-air balloons fly over Kaunas, Lithuania

«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.

Lithuanian public broadcaster LRT reported on Wednesday, September 11, Lithuania’s economy is expected to grow 3.7 percent this year, but the rate will slow down to 2.4 percent next year and 2.3 percent in 2021, the Ministry of Finance forecasts.

«Economy has been growing pretty fast, but the summer will not last forever. […] International outlook is getting worse. Expectations of our businesses are also getting worse. This uncertainty will doubtlessly impact the economic outlook for Lithuania,» Finance Minister Vilius Šapoka summarised the situation on Wednesday.

Vice-Minister of Finance Miglė Tuskienė says wage growth went through significant spurs in recent years, especially in the public sector.

«If wages overall grew 8.7 percent, public sector pay grew 13 percent over the last year,» Tuskienė noted.

Full article here

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Ventspils rushes to extend Lembergs’ mandate in freeport

The Ventspils City Council has summoned an emergency sitting to decide on the extension of the mandate in the board of the Ventspils Freeport Administration to suspended Mayor Aivars Lembergs, as well as Jānis Vītolņš, Didzis Ošenieks and Guntis Blumbergs, according to information seen by the BNN.

Estonian pension reform expected later in 2019

The pension reform of Estonia should be adopted later this year to start it in 2021, believes Estonian Social Affairs Minister, who has pointed out that the country’s ruling coalition has reached an agreement on the core issues of the reform.

Latvian minister: Less than half of Latvian nationals in UK have applied for residence

Latvian nationals in the UK should take into consideration different scenarios possible after Brexit and to protect themselves they should register their place of permanent residence with the British Home Office, said the Latvian Foreign Minister to Latvijas Radio.

Verdict in Latvenergo bribery case enters into force with prison sentences

A Latvian court ruling in one of the bribe-taking cases of state energy producer Latvenergo has entered into force. According to the verdict, prison sentences have been given to Latvenergo’s former vice-president, its former director of production and the head of the firm Energy Consulting.

Latvian football loses its head as Gorkšs ousted from federation chair

The turbulent Latvian Football Federation (LFF) has voted in an emergency meeting to remove its president Kaspars Gorkšs from office.

Latvian top companies by value – Latvenergo and Latvijas valsts meži

Energy producer Latvenergo, forestry company Latvijas valsts meži and computer network equipment maker Mikrotīkls had topped the list of the Top 101 Latvian companies, compiled annually by Nasdaq Riga and Prudentia.

Turkey agrees to pause its intervention in Syria for five days

Turkey, Kurdish SDF forces and the U.S. have reached an agreement to introduce a five-day ceasefire to allow Kurdish forces to retreat from the Turkish-Syrian border.

High-ranking Latvian policeman detained over bribery

The Latvian Internal Security Bureau (IDB) has detained on suspicion of bribery three persons: the deputy chief of the Public Order Police Bureau of the Latgale Regional Administration of the State police and two private individuals, including one former policeman.

Saeima greenlights opening of regional gas market

The Latvian Saeima has on Thursday, October 17, adopted amendments aimed at removing obstacles to the creation of a regional gas market and ensuring the functioning of the joint Latvian, Finnish and Estonian tariff system from January 1, 2020.

Lithuanian President Nausėda‘s 100 days in office: nothing messed up, communication improved

Lithuanian President Gitanas Nausėda is marking this week the first hundred days of presidency. Both his supporters and ready-to-bite analysts agree than he has not messed up things, although some frown at his conformity with the Farmers and Greens Union-orchestrated Seimas and the Government.

Fragile, new Brexit deal reached between EU and UK

In the European Union’s negotiations on the withdrawal of the United Kingdom, a new agreement has been reached on the day a decisive EU summit commenced in Brussels.

Court proceedings of Lembergs could restart only in 2020

The Riga Regional Court ruled on Thursday, October 17, that the lawyer of criminally-accused Latvian politician Aivars Lembergs has been given until January 2020 to read the materials of the case.

Latvia decides: Non-citizen children to receive citizenship from 2020

The Latvian parliament passed in the final reading on Thursday, October 17, the draft law that sets forth granting citizenship to new-born children of the non-citizens of Latvia.

Drugstores should focus on health care over money-making, Estonian Minister says

As Estonia is working on a pharmacy regulation reform aimed at reducing the influence of drug wholesalers on pharmacies, Estonian Social Affairs Minister Tanel Kiik has said pharmacy services ought to be focused on healthcare instead of business.

Confiscated EUR 29 mln: Latvia waiting for evidence from Ukraine

As Ukraine seeks to recover from Latvia 29 million euros that have been confiscated by a Latvian court, Ukraine has to provide evidence as it has promised to do, according to Latvian President Egils Levits.

E-commerce for prison inmates considered in Estonia

Estonian prisoners could be allowed to buy products using rather than using current prison shops, such is the option considered at the country’s Centre of Registers and Information Systems.

Riga to keep cooperating with ticket servicing firm, allocating EUR 20.6 mln

Rīgas satiksme, the transport company of the Latvian capital, will not terminate cooperation with SIA Rīgas karte, meaning that the population would pay 20.6 million euros for it.

Video: Evacuation in Lithuania amid fire at tyre recycling plant

Alytus in southern Lithuania was hit by a cloud of black smoke from a fire at a large tyre recycling plant. A hospital nearby has been evacuated.

Von der Leyen’s commission postponed after three commissioner candidates rejected

The next European Commission is to begin its term in office later than expected as the November 1 coronation has been postponed so that three member states could offer new candidates to replace a trio rejected by the European Parliament.

Probing infections in Latvia, salmonella found in meat from Poland

As infection outbreaks in Latvia are under investigation, laboratory tests showed salmonella bacteria in Polish-origin poultry samples taken from SIA Gaļsaimnieks.

Germany to allow Huawei equipment on 5G networks

The Chinese tech giant Huawei will not be banned from the 5G mobile networks in Germany as Berlin stated it wants to create «a level playing field» for vendors.

OECD: Bribery prevention results in Latvia disproportionate to cross-border risks

Latvia’s results in fighting bribery are still disproportionate with the risks of cross-border bribery and money laundering the country is subjected to, says the Working Group on Bribery of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

In pictures: Ukrainian President Zelenskiy in Latvia

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and the Ukrainian first lady made an official visit to Latvia on Wednesday, October 16.

airBaltic not planning to cancel flights with Airbus A220

airBaltic does not plan to reduce its flights with the Airbus A220-300 plane, after Swiss International Air Lines decided to do this being concerned over the aircraft’s engine problems, according to a statement of the Latvian airline on social media.

PM Kariņš recommends spending confiscated EUR 29 mln as single investment

Latvian Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš has recommended the 29 million euros confiscated by the Riga Regional Court for being criminally-acquired to be spent on a one-off investment, according to an interview to LNT programme 900 sekundes.