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Ceturtdiena 18.07.2019 | Name days: Rozālija, Roze
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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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Lithuanian Railway will not terminate contract with Sigmen

Lithuanian state railway company Lietuvos geležinkeliai will not terminate its contract with Latvian company Sigmen, which is one of the region’s largest Russian width standard rail suppliers even though Lithuanian media had reported last month that the company is controlled by an ex-KGB officer Yuri Simonenkov, who may or may not have ties with Russia’s political leaders.

Mediator to be attracted to resolve Latvijas Radio crisis

To resolve the ongoing crisis at Latvijas Radio, the board of the radio plans to attract a mediator, as confirmed by the representatives of the public media at a press-conference on Wednesday, 17 July.

June’s inflation in Latvia above that of EU and Eurozone

In June 2019 inflation in Latvia was higher than the average in the European Union and Eurozone, according to data published by Eurostat.

Latvian police investigate seven cases with possible illegalities with MPC

Latvia’s State Police have commenced investigations of seven criminal processes involving possible illegalities with electricity mandatory procurement component, as confirmed by State Police press-representative Ilze Jurēvica.

France to restore Notre Dame for 850 million euros

France's Parliament has passed a law to restore the damaged roof of Notre Dame Cathedral, after a fire brought down its spire in April. The works would cost 850 million euros and could end in a modernised design of the spire of the medieval building.

Prime Minister: non-taxable minimum is more important than minimal wages

Instead of raising minimal wages, it would be better to raise non-taxable minimum, said Latvia’s Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš in an interview to public broadcaster LNT programme 900 seconds on Wednesday, 17 July.

EU’s Cybersecurity Agency to be headed by Estonian

The body responsible for online security in the European Union, the Agency for Cybersecurity, has picked Estonian Juhan Lepassaar to become its executive director.

Vehicle registration rise observed in Latvia in first half-year of 2019

Compared to the same period of 2018, registration rate of new light-weight vehicles in Latvia has increased 4.6% in January-June period of 2019. Latvia is among 12 EU member states in which rise was registered in this period, according to data published by European Automobile Manufacturers' Association.

Energy production support in Latvia to be paid only from state budget

Latvia’s Cabinet of Ministers has decided to support Economy Ministry’s proposal to cover state support costs for energy production solely from the state budget starting with 2021. This measure means these costs will no longer appear on residents’ and other energy consumers’ receipts for electricity.

Christine Lagarde steps down from managing IMF to head ECB

Christine Lagarde, the candidate for the post of the President of the European Central Bank has voiced plans to resign as managing director of the International Monetary Fund.

Von der Leyen’s post in German government to go to Merkel’s protege

Kramp-Karrenbauer, Angela Merkel's likely successor, is to become defence minister after current defence minister, Ursula von der Leyen, was voted EU Commission President.

Latvian prime minister expects resolution for Latvijas Radio situation

Culture Minister Nauris Puntulis should offer a solution for the funding problem currently present at Latvijas Radio, said Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš.

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.

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