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Sunday 18.11.2018 | Name days: Doloresa, Aleksandrs
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BNN summary of the week: transparent president for Latvia; Danske Bank’s problems and Merkel’s hope for Brexit

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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: Election; Competition; Reputation; Change; Education; Government; Hope.

ELECTION: Latvian president announces amendments allowing for open election of state president

Latvian President Raimonds Vējonis has announced amendments to the country’s constitution that allow for open election of the state president, as noted in the official statement published in Latvian Herald.

Previously, commenting on his position on open election of the state president, Vējonis said that open voting would be an imitation of work that would not benefit transparency.

«I do not support any kind of open election – I believe it to be an imitation of work. Political parties always make mutual agreements before votes anyway. Individual deputies are unable to share opinions with one another, because they have to vote the way their party has decided in relation to a specific candidate,» said Vējonis.

Saeima approved amendments on 4 October. 85 members of the parliament supported changes to the Constitution, whereas three members were against.

Until now, Saeima always elected the state president in a closed vote.

Changes to the Constitution of the Republic of Latvia will come to force 1 January 2019. It is necessary to approve amendments to the State President Election Law. It is possible changes will be approved by the 12th Saeima.

Full article here

COMPETITION: Baltic States do slightly worse in Global Competitiveness Report

In the Global Competitiveness Report 2018 released by the World Economic Forum, Lithuania and Estonia have dropped by two positions, while all Baltic states remain among the top 45 most competitive economies in the world.

According to the report published by the World Economic Forum on Tuesday, October 16, Estonia has been ranked the highest in 32nd position (down from 30th).

Lithuania has been evaluated as the 40th most competitive (down from 38th); however, Latvia has improved its score by 1.4 points but stayed in its unchanged position of 42.

Full article here

REPUTATION: Danske Bank’s rating lowered over Estonia branch scandal

American ratings agency Moody’s has lowered its long-term ratings for Denmark’s largest lender, Danske Bank, embroiled in a scandal of possible money laundering in Estonia.

Danish news portal TheLocal.dk reports that Moody’s announced the decision last week, explaining that it «follows the announcement that the bank is the subject of criminal investigations by the US Department of Justice linked to money laundering through its Estonian branch between 2007-2015».

The Local.dk wrote that investors and clients have already reacted to the scandal as there is concern over a possible large U.S. fine for laundering money for 15,000 mainly Russian clients.

Full article here

CHANGE: Latvian corruption prevention bureau undergoes reorganization; several experienced officials retire

Reorganization has been performed at Latvia’s Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau. As a result of this reorganization, seven of the bureau’s officials have decided to resign. Six of them have decided to retire.

CPCB claims the reduction of the number of officials will not have an impact on the quality of work performed by the institution.

«We stress that the reorganization at CPCB is a result of months of planning and analysis. No posts were terminated during reorganization. Changes were added to CPCB’s structure only,» the bureau explains.

CPCB has confirmed that as of 12 October, seven of its officials have decided to leave. Six of them have decided to retire. According to information from LETA, among those seven are experienced specialists that have taken part in investigations of several major cases.

CPCB adds that all officials that have decided to leave the bureau were offered posts equal or higher than their previous ones. No wage cuts were applied to any of those officials.

The bureau adds that the contribution of those seven officials to the work done by CPCB is highly valued. Those officials were given special awards by the chief of CPCB for their accomplishments in the line of work.

Full article here

EDUCATION: Latvia’s smallest 10th grade class has only three pupils

Latvia’s smallest 10th grade class has only three pupils, says Education and Science Ministry’s Education Department director Līga Buceniece.

According to data from the ministry, Skrunda Secondary School has this class. Although the school has a sufficient number of pupils – 297 across 1st to 9th grade – only 29 youngsters study in the secondary school’s upper classes (three in 10th grade, 11 in 11th grade, and 15 in 12th grade). The school has a total of 326 pupils registered with it.

Three 10th graders are also found in Valmieras Gaujas Secondary School – development centre. This school has 162 pupils across 1st to 12th grade.

Four 10th-graders are found in Aloja Auseklis Secondary School, Dāvis Ozoliņš Apes Secondary School and Keguma Commercial Secondary School.

Five 10th-graders are found in Zasa Secondary School.

In total, the number of 10th-graders in 22 secondary schools in Latvia does not exceed ten.

Full article here

GOVERNMENT: Political parties in Latvia reject New Conservative Party’s proposed government model

None of the political parties currently engaged in government-formation talks in Latvia have agreed to the government model offered by the New Conservative Party.

When asked about his position in relation to NCP’s offer, KPV LV co-chairman Artuss Kaimiņš said his political party will not comment announcements made by other parties. At the same time, he said NCP’s decision to present offered division of ministries was rushed, because he believes it is more important to first discuss tasks for the future government.

Kaimiņš and KPV LV prime minister candidate Aldis Gobzems had previously criticized NCP’s offer and received support from more active members of their party, saying that ‘the government should not be formed over e-mail’, referencing the fact that NCP had sent its offer electronically.

Raivis Dzintars, co-chairman of the National Alliance ‘All for Latvia!’ – ‘For Fatherland and Freedom/LNNK’, believes that following the rejection from Attīstībai/Par!, it is no longer possible to form a government that would meet the model proposed by NCP.

Full article here

HOPE: Merkel finds Brexit agreement still doable, but time running out

German Chancellor Angela Merkel evaluated after this week’s summit of the European Union, that there is not much time left for an agreement on the UK leaving the bloc, but it a deal should still be realistically attainable.

Canadian-British news agency Reuters reports on Thursday, October 18, that during a post-summit press conference, Merkel added that the 27 leaders had agreed to reassemble to assess progress as soon as sufficient progress had been made in talks.

This also concerned the key blocking issues, notably the status of the border in Ireland.

Full article here


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Week in Lithuania. Lithuanian government approves rules for paying whistleblowers

The Lithuanian government approved on Wednesday, November 14, rules for financially rewarding people who provide the authorities with valuable information on illegal activities.

BNN summary of the week: government formation in Latvia, Brexit plans, and Latvia’s 100th birthday

If someone hoped to see Latvia compile a government before the national holiday, they are going to be disappointed – three parties have decided to exit government formation talks headed by New Conservative Party. NCP’s prime minister candidate Jānis Bordāns receive criticism for having too ambitious and expensive goals. NCP, on the other hand, says parties did not try to study the party’s offers.

PUC commences dispute between AS Gaso and natural gas consumer

On Friday, 16 November, Public Utilities Commission decided to commence a dispute procedure between a natural gas consumer and AS Gaso in regards to natural gas supplies, as confirmed by the commission.

Latvian parties continue informal talks while next prime minister is being picked

While President Raimonds Vējonis is busy picking the next prime minister candidate, politicians of different parties are performing informal consultations. No official consultations are currently planned.

UN's global migration compact stirs up Estonia's calm politics

The Estonian government has taken a long time to reach a unanimous position on the United Nation's Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration. This has been criticised by Estonian President Kersti Kaljulaid, who has to attend a conference in favour of the document in Morocco in December.

Latvian authorities detain CityCommerce Bank co-owner accused of embezzlement

Reinis Tumovs, co-owner of Ukrainian CityCommerce Bank, has been detained in Latvia. He is suspected of embezzling nearly UAH 300 million (EUR 9.5 million), as confirmed by Ukrainian National Police Economy Protection Department on Thursday, 15 November.

Russia ordered to pay damages for Navalny's political arrests by human rights court

Russia has been ordered by the European Court of Human Rights to repay 64 000 euros in damages and costs for politically-motivated arrests of Russian anti-corruption activist Alexei Navalny.

Latvian president to consider Gobzems and Pabriks as perspective prime minister candidates

As parties’ efforts to form a new government continue, Latvia’s President Raimonds Vējonis plans to consider two new prime minister candidates – KPV LV leader Aldis Gobzems and Attīstībai/Par! candidate Artis Pabriks.

EC wants to reduce funding for supplies of fruits, vegetables and milk to schools

European Commission’s proposed regulation on organization of agriculture products market provides for reducing EU funding for the support programme on provision of fruits, vegetables and milk for schools by EUR 29.2 million or the same as United Kingdom’s share.

Genocide verdicts handed to Khmer Rouge leaders in Cambodia

In Cambodia, the two most senior living leaders of the Khmer Rouge Communist regime have been found guilty of their role in the atrocities that resulted in the deaths of at least 1.7 million in Cambodia between 1977 and 1979.

Latvian parties pick candidates to work in Saeima committees

Parties elected to the 13th Saeima have picked representatives to work in the parliament’s standing committees. Final decision will be made 20 November. Harmony may be represented by deputies Nikolajs Kabanovs and Jānis Tutins in Saeima’s Foreign Affairs Committee. Attīstībai/Par! has picked Artis Pabriks, and Union of Greens and Farmers has picked Uldis Augulis.

EU leaders: No appetite for renegotiating Brexit deal

EU leaders have dismissed talk of renegotiating the draft Brexit deal and warned the UK's political situation could make a «no-deal» more likely.

Some rain expected for Latvia’s centenary; cold snap expected next week

The sky will become clear every now and then. Still, some rain is expected for the country’s centenary. Wet snow is expected in the country’s eastern regions. It will be dry in the country for the most part next week, as reported by Latvian State Environment, Geology and Meteorology Centre.

Latvian ministry plans to form Media Ethics Council and develop Latvian Media Ethics Code

Culture Ministry has proposed forming Media Ethics Council. The majority of institutions of the media industry have started working on a self-regulatory council and development of a Single Latvian Media Ethics Code, as reported by the ministry’s public relations office manager Lita Kokale.

Harmony picks representatives in Saeima’s committees

Nikolajs Kabanovs and Jānis Tutins may become Harmony’s representatives in Saeima’s Foreign Affairs Committee, whereas Valērijs Agešins may become the party’s representative in the National Security Committee.

Lithuania’s corruption buster: firms donating to hospitals stand better chance in tenders

The majority of the winners of the tenders organised by major Lithuanian hospitals have expressed their gratitude to the health providers by making donations to them in the form of financial support.

Employment level in Latvia reached 65.3% in Q3 2018

920.1 thousand people or 65.3 % of Latvia population aged 15–74 were employed in Q3 2018. Over the year, employment rate grew by 1.7 percentage points and number of employed persons by 17.2 thousand.

Unemployment level in Latvia was 7% in Q3 2018

In Q3 2018 Latvian unemployment rate constituted 7.0 %. Compared to the previous quarter, unemployment rate fell by 0.7 percentage points, while over the year by 1.5 percentage points.

AS PKL Flote enforces EUR 1.35 million from Riga Freeport authority in court

The Department of Civil Cases of the Supreme Court has ruled that the verdict of Riga Regional Court – one that penalized Riga Freeport authority for breach of Competition Law against PKL Flote – was correct. Now Riga Freeport has ten days, starting with 13 November, to pay the company EUR 1.35 million to cover damages caused by this violation, BNN was told by PKL Flote board chairman Sergejs Odincovs.

British government loses two more members; EU sets date for Brexit summit

In the UK government, Brexit minister Dominic Raab and Northern Ireland's junior minister have resigned in disagreement with the country's draft withdrawal agreement with the EU, already passed by the government.

Saeima deputy: data protection regulation will not protect «KGB associates»

Documents detailing KGB workers’ names, nationality, work place, participation in the Communist party are not covered by the Personal Data Protection Regulation, stresses Saeima deputy Ritvars Jansons from the National Alliance ‘All for Latvia’ – ‘For Fatherland and Freedom/LNNK’.

EP: Moldova and Georgia should continue initiated reforms

Members of the European Parliament welcome the reforms Georgia has commenced. At the same time, Moldova was criticized for its worsened state of democracy and rule of law, as reported by EP press-secretary in Latvia Signe Znotiņa-Znota.

Germany economy shrinks for first time in three years

Germany economy has contracted by 0.2% in the third quarter of 2018, a first such result in the largest economy of the European Union in over three years.

Latvian president gives parties holiday break to continue talks

Latvian President Raimonds Vējonis calls off nomination of NCP candidate Jānis Bordāns to for government. Talks regarding the next prime minister candidate will continue after the state holiday.

Ireland satisfied with Brexit draft deal in every priority

The government of Ireland has stated that draft withdrawal agreement between Irish neighbour, the UK, and the European Union, Dublin had achieved a satisfying result in all its priorities, also regarding the border on the island of Ireland.

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