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Saturday 18.08.2018 | Name days: Liene, Helēna, Elena, Ellena, Liena
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BNN summary of the week: Ušakovs’ suspicious attempts and ‘Lembergs factor’ effect

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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: Decline; Change; Growth; Truth; Future and Opinion.

CHANGE: Administrative violation procedure launched against Latvijas dzelzceļš

For the first time since its foundations, the State Railway Administration commenced an administrative violation procedure against Latvijas dzelzceļš on 6 November 2017 for hiding information from state supervisory authorities.

Representatives of the State Railway Administration say that a supervisory institution is needed to perform an inspection of the reasons behind the decision to raise fees for infrastructure use, as well as possible discrimination of carriers by means of artificially making the country’s transit corridor more expensive.

The possible penalty, according to Administrative Violations Code, may reach EUR 14,000.

Latvijas Dzelzceļš had repeatedly ignored State Railway Administration’s request to provide a detailed deciphering of costs included in calculation of infrastructure use fees LDz plans to introduce on 1 January 2018, as noted by representatives of the administration.

It is the duty of the State Railway Administration to check if the fee for infrastructure use is established in accordance with the law. Because of the attempt to hide information from authorities, it is not possible for the administration to perform its duties.

State Railway Administration Director Juris Iesalnieks: «This is the first time in the history of the country’s railway industry when a state-owned company refused to provide requested information to a supervisory institution. Upon facing such an unprecedented case, the State Railway Administration is forced to apply sanctions against Latvijas Dzelzceļš.»

Full article here

DECLINE: Documents detailing Godmanis’ possible cooperation with KGB disappear from archives

Researchers of Latvia’s history were shocked to find that documents associated with activities of KGB branch of Latvian Soviet Socialist Republic were gone from court archives, says chairman of the research committee in charge of analysing KGB documents Kārlis Kangeris.

On Wednesday, 8 November, Riga District Court refused to provide information to the committee, saying that papers detailing possible cooperation of LSSR Supreme Council Chairman Ivars Godmanis with KGB are no longer found in the archive.

Latvian National Archive representative Māra Sprūdža has informed the committee that the request to check if the case is stored in the archive was sent to LNA Sigulda’s branch office, which stores documents from Riga District Court. However, the possibility of the case being in the archive is insignificant.

Kangeris notes that the loss of the case is rather distressing, because Valmiera Court had previously got rid of KGB cooperation documents, making it impossible to research testimonies. «We wrote about that to the National Archive and different institutions. Things like that should never happen – cases have to be stored and protected,» says Kangeris.

Full article here

TRUTH: Riga City Council is planning suspicious allocation of funds for Rīgas satiksme

Latvian Association of Regions and For Latvia’s Development ask Mayor of Riga Nils Ušakovs to explain the new and unjustified desire to provide funding to Rīgas satiksme, BNN was told by party members.

Considering the information that was reported during a meeting of Riga City Council’s Finance and Administrative Affairs Committee about adding amendments to Riga municipality’s 2017 budget in order to perform an investment of EUR 9.6 million for Rīgas satiksme, LRA/LA faction leader Juris Pūce has decided to ask Ušakovs to provide the necessary information and explain reasons for this decision.

Pūce explains that no answers were provided to the questions asked during the meeting.

«We asked many questions as to why taxpayers’ money is to be provided to a company experiencing serious financial problems. The desire to invest EUR 9.6 million in Rīgas satiksme seems rather suspicious. This is why we have decided to ask Nils Ušakovs to provide all necessary information about the reasons for this decision,» explains the faction’s leader.

Full article here

FUTURE: Ašeradens will remain as economy minister, but Āboltiņa will be expelled from Unity

Unity’s board chairman Arvils Ašeradens will remain as Latvia’s Economy Minister, as decided by the party’s board.

Ašeradens will not lead Unity’s Saeima faction, however. This task will be entrusted to Hosams Abu Meri. This was the recommendation given to Saeima’s faction. A final decision on this will be made soon.

On Monday, 6 November, the board decided to expel once the party’s leader and current head of Unity’s Saeima faction Solvita Āboltiņa for discrediting the search process for the new economy minister.

Unity chairman Arvils Ašeradens told journalists after the meeting that the party had discussed events in relation to the replacement of the country’s economy minister. Āboltiņa had acted opposite to the decision made by the party’s board about the search for a minister candidate and commenting on the situation.

Ašeradens emphasized that it was the prerogative of the party’s board to propose and coordinate candidates. This decision was breached by Āboltiņa. She is not the only person to blame. However, she did criticize candidates and comment on the process.

Āboltiņa had planned to step down before the end of the year. The decision remains in her hands, says Ašeradens. The process progressed opposite to the agreement, which came especially painful because Ābotliņa’s positions were defended at the last congress, said the party’s leader. He says he has seen the same opposition and intrigue process as before.

Full article here

OPINION: «Lembergs factor» impedes finance minister’s chances of becoming Eurogroup’s president

Because of «Lembergs factor», Latvian Finance Minister Dana Reizniece-Ozola’s chances of becoming president of European Union’s Council of Finance Ministers or Eurogroup are very low, says President of European Movement – Latvia Andris Gobiņš.

He explains that becoming a candidate is commendable in of itself. However, there are serious doubts if Reizniece-Ozola would be an appropriate leader for Eurogroup. According to Gobiņš, there are several arguments in favour of the minister: she is a woman, she has a love for chess, she comes from a small Eastern European country, and Latvia is one of the few countries that fit all Maastricht criteria. However, one very significant factor against her as a candidate is the «Lembergs factor».

«No one in the EU wants to rely on Russian President Vladimir Putin’s friends, which include UGF and Aivars Lembergs directly and indirectly. Ties are very strong there, and this is exactly what impedes Reizenice-Ozola’s chances of getting the post. Any doubts about the candidate’s independence and ability to thing independently only serve to reduce a candidate’s chances,» said the organization’s president.

Gobiņš also says that because UGF has no agreement signed with any of the European Parliament parties also reduces Reizniece-Ozola’s chances. «UGF have yet to decide which side to take. They still haven’t signed an agreement with any of the European parties. This does not bode well for any kind of defence of Latvia’s interests, because, while prime ministers are preparing for major meetings at the European Council, meet with leaders of political parties, Kučinskis is likely drinking coffee in some embassy,» said the president of European Movement – Latvia.

Full article here

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Eurostat: Latvia had inflation rate higher than average in EU and Eurozone

In July, Latvia’s inflation rate was higher than the average in Europe and Eurozone, according to data published by Eurostat.

Presence of Latvian milk reduces, whereas presence of imported milk increases in Latvia

The proportion of milk produced in Latvia is starting to lose to imported milk, as concluded by Central Union of Latvian Dairy Farmers chairman Jānis Šolks.

Seven previously convicted candidates crossed from Saeima election lists

On Friday, 17 August, the Central Election Commission decided to cross out seven previously convicted deputy candidates. The decision regarding one more candidate has been postponed until the next meeting, as confirmed by the commission.

Aspiring prosecutors «drop out» in tests – half of contenders fail second stage of tests

Approximately half of aspiring prosecutor candidates has failed the second portion of tests for general and judicial knowledge.

Riga International Airport concludes first half-year with turnover increase of 13%

Riga International Airport concluded the first half-year of 2018 with turnover increase of 13% when compared to the same period of 2017, according to the airport’s unaudited and shortened account for the six-month period before 30 June 2018.

New tender announced for post of SRS director; first requirement – spotless reputation

Latvia’s State Chancellery has announced an open personnel selection process for the post of director of State Revenue Service. Application submission process will last until 14 September.

CEC to decide on four candidates’ possible relation to KGB

Latvia’s Central Election Commission has received results of investigations of all 13th Saeima election candidates from Interior Affairs Ministry’s Information Centre and Latvian Centre for the Documentation of the Consequences of Totalitarianism.

Concord will have to include bread distribution costs in kebab café in its pre-election expenditures

Political party Concord will have to include in its 13th Saeima pre-election campaign expenditures the money spent by one of its candidates on distributing bread to pensioners free of charge in a kebab café in Bolderāja, as reported by TV3 news.

Weekends expected to be warm and at times hot in Latvia

On Friday, 17 August, the sky will partially cloudy again in Latvia, but no major precipitation is expected. Fog may form is certain regions at night thanks to slow wind speed. Maximum air temperature is expected to be around +22° C… +26° C. Night-time air temperature will stay at +11° C… +16° C, as reported by State Environment, Geology and Meteorology Centre.

Latvia’s State Audit requests additional funding to invest in workers

State Audit has requested additional funds in next year’s budget to invest in employees, as head of the institution Elita Krūmiņa mentioned in an interview to Latvijas Radio.

Nearly half of children born in Latvia in 2017 were delivered by mothers with higher education

20,828 children were born in Latvia in 2017. Almost half of them were born to mothers having higher education. Out of the total number of newborn children mothers, 7,229 or 34.7 % had acquired upper secondary general or vocational education and 2,775 or 13.3 % had basic education or lower.

«Steel Magnolia» named Lithuania's most influential politician for fourth consecutive year

Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaitė, dubbed as «Steel Magnolia» by foreign press, remains the most influential politician in the country for the fourth consecutive year. In two separate polls, one by the popular ratings magazine Reitingai and the other by pollster Spinter Tyrimai, she appeared on top, being followed by Saulius Skvernelis, Prime Minister, Ramūnas Karbauskis, the leader of the ruling Lithuanian Farmers and Greens Union (LFGU), Valdas Adamkus, ex-president, and Vytautas Landsbergis, Lithuania's first post-independence leader.

Ex-director: Rundale Castle Museum should be managed with the same ideals as before

In the years to come Rundale Castle Museum should be managed with the same ideals as before, says the soon ex-director of the museum Imants Lancmanis, who intends to retire at the end of this year.

Star Rating determines the best schools in Latvia

According to the 2018 Star Rating, Riga State Gymnasium No.1 remains in the lead among Latvia’s schools. Daugavpils Russian Secondary School – Lyceum is second, and Riga State Gymnasium No.2 is third.

ABLV Bank assets worth EUR 21.052 million were recovered in July

Liquidators of ABLV Bank have recovered assets worth EUR 21.052 million in July. This includes EUR 11.602 million recovered from issued loans, EUR 7.644 million from recovered/sold securities, EUR 1,792 million from loans provided to credit institutions, and EUR 14,000 from sales of real estate and other types of property, according to the account published in Latvian Herald.

Concerns over Turkish crisis cause world stock market decline

Stock prices around the world took a massive dive on Wednesday, 15 August, as concerns over Turkish crisis’ possible influence and investors’ attempts to get rid of risky assets surfaced again.

Election commission receives word some candidates’ possible non-compliance with the law

Latvia’s Central Election Commission has received information regarding possible non-compliance of multiple deputy candidates with requirements of the Saeima Election Law, says CEC chairman Arnis Cimdars.

African swine fever found in domestic pigs in Saldus; inspectors investigate illness in Unguri

African swine fever has been found in domestic pigs in Saldus Country’s Zaņa Parish. The infection was found in four domestic pigs. It cannot be excluded that ASF may have entered SIA Druvas Unguri farm’s pig enclosure along with sawdust or cars, as reported by Food and Veterinary Service Public Relations Office manager Ilze Meistere.

Lithuania lays symbolic rail on restored Mažeiķi–Reņģe railway line

Lithuania’s Lietuvos geležinkeliai railway company’s director general Mantas Bartuška and Polish oil concern Orlen manager Daniel Obatjek laid a symbolic rail on the restored railway route connecting Orlen Lithuania owned Mažeiķi oil processing plant in Lithuania and Reņģi in Latvia this Tuesday, 14 August.

Unemployment level in Latvia down to 7.7% in Q2 2018

In Q2 2018 Latvian unemployment rate constituted 7.7 %. Compared to the previous quarter, unemployment rate fell by 0.5 percentage points, while over the year it dropped by 1.2 percentage points.

Saeima approves stricter requirements for fast loans

On Tuesday, 14 August, Saeima’s Economic Committee supported in the second reading amendments to the Consumer Rights Protection Law. The legislative draft states that total loan costs that exceed 0.07% a day from the loan amount are unacceptable and non-compliant with good practice, as reported by Saeima press-service.

Noord Natie develops a new business niche – attracts cruise ships for Ventspils

The first of the cruise ships attracted from SIA Noord Natie Ventspils Terminals will arrive at Ventspils port this week. NNVT stresses that development of cruise business as a new product will help develop tourism in the city and region, as well as provide a contribution to economic development and raise recognition of NNVT terminal and the city.

Culture Ministry announces open contest for post of director of Rundale Castle Museum

Latvia’s Culture Ministry invites contenders to apply for participation in an open contest for the post of director of Rundale Castle Museum. Contenders can submit their applications before 14 September.

Lithuania’s Central Bank to assess information about Latvian VIA SMS Group

Lithuania’s Central Bank has promised to assess information regarding Latvian VIA SMS Group working in the country. This decision is a reaction to the statement made by Seimas National Security and Defence Committee member Arvydas Anušauskas that people associated with former Parex Banka owners work in that company.

Small wineries in Latvia will be allowed to use only local products

Members of Saeima’s Economic, Agricultural, Environmental and Regional Policy Committee supported amendments to the Handling of Alcoholic Beverages Law, stating that small breweries will be allowed to use products grown only in Latvia.

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