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Tuesday 25.09.2018 | Name days: Rauls, Rodrigo
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BNN summary of the week: Vējoņis’ authority under fire and Loginovs ordered to repay illegal donations

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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: Fight; Truth; Business; Future; Growth and Opinion.

BUSINESS: CETA between EU and Canada comes into force

On Thursday, 21 September, the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement between the European Union and Canada came into force, as confirmed by European Commission’s r press service in Latvia.

Expressing his happiness over this important turn for Europe’s trade policy, European Commission’s chairman Jean-Claude Juncker said: «This agreement reflects what we want to see for our trade policy – a growth instrument that will benefit Europe’s businesses and residents and provide finances that will help project our values using opportunities provided by globalization, as well as define rules for international trade. This trade agreement has been reviewed in depth in parliaments of different countries – it reflects citizens’ great interest for trade policy.»

Juncker also notes that intensive exchange of opinions about CETA throughout the entire process demonstrates the democratic nature of Europe’s decision-making process.

European Commission’s office in Latvia reports that Juncker hopes that member states will perform comprehensive discussions about the agreement’s ratification process in member states. «Now is the time for our businesses and residents to benefit the most from this opportunity. Anyone can see that our trade policy can provide specific benefits for all.»

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FIGHT: Delna invites Saeima to support initiative to liquidate option to abstain from votes

Society for openness Delna invites Saeima deputies to support public initiative and liquidate the option for deputies to abstain from votes.

On Monday, 18 September, Saeima received an initiative that gathered more than 11,000 signatures, asking to liquidate the option to abstain from voting for members of the parliament. Delna asks Saeima to support the initiative and thereby increase both the openness and responsibility of deputies, as well as general trust towards the Saeima.

The organization’s announcement mentions that Delna expects their elected deputies to be active and responsible, and that they will be able to find their way in specific matters and explain their decisions clearly and publicly. «By abstaining from votes, deputies demonstrate their passiveness and having to make explanations. This kind of behaviour only increases the general distrust towards politicians.»

Delna representatives also note that the option to abstain misleads society into thinking that being present at a parliamentary meeting without a clear position on a specific matter is normal. «In practice, deputies use the option to abstain fairly regularly. One of the goals behind doing so is making sure the parliament votes against. The Saeima approves its decisions when 50% +1 of the parliament’s members vote in favour. With that said, there are also situations possible when there are more votes in favour than there are against, but the matter of the vote ends up declined because votes against and abstain together make up more than votes in favour. This means deputies who abstain from voting basically vote against.»

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DECLINE: KNAB commences criminal process in state institution’s service

Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau has commenced a criminal process for, possibly, illegal activities in a state institution service.

KNAB and State Border Guard had detained employees of the State Education Content Centre as part of a criminal process. Those employees are suspected of providing desired state language category to persons in exchange for material wealth an in circumvention of the order stated in regulations, as reported by the bureau.

Such behaviour provided third country nationals with an opportunity to receive legal rights to stay in Latvia and other EU member states.

Five persons are declared suspects and ten have been provided with status of a person under criminal process.

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TRUTH: Judins says parliamentary committee «is going nowhere»

The work performed by Saeima’s investigative committee in charge of oligarch case does not fit the established goal to investigate and analyse possible state capture, says member of the committee and Unity’s Saeima faction Andrejs Judins.

He admits that the committee is divided: one side has him and deputy Ritvars Jansons from the National Alliance and the rest of the committee is on the other side.

The majority of members do not understand their primary goal – investigating and analysing signs of state capture, because they think it is enough to listen to presentations and close meetings without discussions, says Judins. This is why the politician is positive that his public proposal for discussions has been heard by the committee’s chairperson Inguna Sudraba and that she has decided to hold a discussion on conclusions made so far at the next meeting.

The politician notes that some members are completely disinterested in committee’s work. Judins says he does not understand how it is possible to work if a member of the committee does not take the time to go to the Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau to go through materials of the case the committee has been tasked with analysing. Parliamentary committee’s member Igors Pimenovs was asked if he gone through materials of the criminal process. Pimenovs responded by saying that he first wishes to focus on documents from the operative case.

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GROWTH: Court orders Loginovs and Pečaks to pay back illegally spent finances

Riga Regional Court has ordered former Riga Freeport CEO Leonids Loginovs and his deputy Aigars Pečaks to repay illegally spent finances in the amount of EUR 856,951.

On Tuesday, 18 September, Riga Regional Court applied a fine of EUR 45,600 to Loginovs and EUR 34,200 to Pečaks for abuse of official power.

Loginovs also has to pay back EUR 207,856 from illegally spend finances, and Pečaks has to pay back EUR 378,750. On top of that, the two have to pay back an additional amount of EUR 270,345 together.

Loginovs is also prohibited from taking post in state and municipal institutions and capital associations for a period of three years and six months. The same restriction has been applied to Pečaks for two years and eight months.

On 15 May, an appeal process was launched for this criminal case. Following a request from the prosecutor, court debates have been scheduled for September.

The prosecutor was the one who submitted an appeal in this case. Riga City Northern District Court acquitted Loginovs and Pečaks.

The court’s ruling can be appealed within ten days after publication of the full text, which is planned for 3 October.

The criminal case against Loginovs and Pečaks was launched for abuse of official power, performing illegal donations and paying bonuses. The accused deny their guilt in the incriminated crimes.

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FUTURE: Ozoliņš says transit and logistics industries should communicate more actively

Mutual communication and information exchange among businesses working in the industry is the pre-condition for improvement of Latvia’s transit industry, said Transport Ministry’s state secretary Kaspars Ozoliņš at a meeting of the Logistics Council.

The Logistics Council discussed the situation in the transit and logistics industry, as well as predictions and proposals for improving competitiveness.

Council members (Latvian Post, Riga International Airport, Ventspils Freeport, Transit Business Association, Liepaja Special Economic Zone, Latvian Auto, Baltic Association – Transport and Logistics, Riga Freeport and LDz Logistics) provided topical information about the situation in different businesses, work and plans for attraction of cargoes and different problematic matters and external influence.

It is emphasized that the situation in which Russian cargoes – mostly coal and oil products – have a tendency to decline has to be taken into account. This forces businesses to concentrate their efforts on alternative cargo segments and new markets.

It was noted at the meeting that there is a number of positive tendencies forming for the increase of container and Ro-Ro cargoes at ports, as well as development of cargo transports in aviation and e-commerce cargoes’ growth passing through Latvian Post in transit.

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OPINION: Politologist comments whether Vējoņis’ authority is at risk or not

Saeima’s vote in which Latvian President Raimonds Vējoņis’ proposal on the status of non-citizens’ children was not pushed forward was as though a strike against the president’s authority, comments Filips Rajevskis.

The politologist added that it is not worth to look for winners in this vote, because the coalition and opposition are in the roles of losers in this case. The president is the biggest loser in this case, however. As an experienced politician, he should have known better than to push this matter through the Saeima. The claim that Vējoņis only had an interest in merely raising this issue and then allowing it to disappear after one vote is questionable.

«Such a legislative draft would require a referendum, but it is unlikely Vējoņis will be brave enough to initiate it,» Rajevskis says.

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Latvian government to expand Money Laundering Prevention Service’s capacity

On Tuesday, 25 September, Latvian government reached an agreement on the need to reorganize the supervision Cabinet of Ministers has over Money Laundering Prevention Service. At the same time, members of the government also agreed to expand the service’s capacity, Finance Minister Dana Reizniece-Ozola told journalists.

New natural gas tariffs approved in Latvia; those who use more gas will pay less

The Public Utilities Commission has approved AS Gaso’s submitted natural gas transmission system’s tariff project, which provides for the introduction of a fixed fee for connection to permitted load regardless of the consumed gas volume.

OCMA: majority of Latvian immigrants live in Britain, Ireland and Germany

The Office for Citizenship and Migration Affairs has calculated the exact number of Latvian citizens living abroad. The majority of Latvians reside in Britain, followed by Ireland, Germany , and USA, according to the data compiled in July 2018.

Sweden's head of government Löfven loses no-confidence vote

The head of Swedish government, Stefan Löfven has not received the support of parliamentary majority despite his left-wing block narrowly winning the parliamentary election earlier in the month.

CC: number of business merges on a rise in Latvia

In the first eight months of 2018, Competition Council made twelve decisions regarding business merges, which is 50% more than the number of similar decisions made in the same period of last year. Consolidation of market participants takes place the most often in retail trade of household goods, BNN was informed by the council.

EU supervisor to investigate Estonian and Danish banking authorities on Danske Bank

The banking supervisory authority of the European Union has been asked to investigate the work of Denmark and Estonia’s national banking watchdogs over possible shortcomings in failing to prevent money laundering through the Estonia branch of Danske Bank.

airBaltic receives its 12th Airbus A220-300 aircraft

Latvian airBaltic airline has received its twelfth Airbus A220-300 aircraft with registration number YL-CSN. The airline plans to have a total of fourteen Airbus A220-300 aircraft by the end of 2018.

In pictures: Pope Francis arrives in Tallinn

The head of the Roman Catholic church has been welcomed in Tallinn as he begins the last leg of the papal visit to the Baltic states devoted to their centenary.

Meteorologists say first autumn storm in Latvia to take place this week

On Tuesday, 25 September, atmospheric pressure in Latvia will increase and clouds will tend to reduce in the afternoon, as reported by Latvia’s Environment, Geology and Meteorology Centre.

Germany's largest bank required to improve fight against money laundering

The financial watchdog of Germany has called on Deutsche Bank to improve its measures against legalisation of dirty money.

Nearly 20,000 Latvians were living in Ireland in spring 2016

19,933 Latvian citizens were living in Ireland in spring 2016, according to census data from Ireland’s Central Statistical Bureau on the number of foreigners living in the country.

Russian protest leader Navalny detained right after previous detention

Alexei Navalny, a supporter of current protests in Russia against pension reform, has been released from administrative arrest, but arrested again on the same day to be kept in administrative arrest for another 20 days on charges of holding an illegal protest.

CPB: Russian special services remain highly interested about Latvia

Russian special services remain highly interested about Latvia’s internal politics. This includes 13th Saeima elections and their possible results. However, there is currently no information to suggest the election process could be influenced from the outside, admits Constitution Protection Bureau.

PHOTO: Pope Francis visits Riga Cathedral and meets seniors at St Jacob’s Cathedral

Pope Francis visited both Riga Castle and Riga Cathedral, where a service was held under his supervision. There he met with different Latvian officials. After that, the pope met with senior citizens at St Jacob’s cathedral.

Pope Francis arrives in Latvia for an official visit

Pope Francis arrived in Latvia on Monday, 24 September. He was greeted at the airport by President Raimonds Vējonis, Archbishop Zbigņevs Stankevičs and other public figures.

Week in Lithuania. President proposes amendments to restrict bailiffs' remuneration

Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaitė is putting forward amendments aimed at restricting bailiffs' financial remuneration to up to 15 per cent of the amount recovered.

BNN summary of the week: pre-election heat, rule of law in Latvia, Baltics prepare for Pope’s visit

BNN offers a summary of this week’s topical news in a variety of categories: Elections; Change; Stagnation; Fight; Visit; Investigation.

Court reschedules viewing of criminal case due to Non-citizens Congress leader’s poor health

Riga City Vidzeme Suburb Court announced today that the viewing of the criminal case in which leader of Non-citizens Congress Aleksandrs Gapoņenko is accused of inciting national hate will be postponed to a later date.

Producer prices in industry up 1.0% in Latvia in August

Compared to July, level of producer prices in the Latvian industry rose by 1.0 % in August 2018. Level of prices of products sold on the domestic market grew by 1.9 %, but of exported products – went up by 0.1 %.

Bishop: priest suspected of sexual abuse to be operated on in hospital

Pāvels Zeiļa, who is a priest of Rezekne Aglona diocese and the suspect in the criminal case regarding sexual violence and human trafficking, will undergo a complicated surgery on Friday, 21 September, as reported by Bishop Jānis Bulis.

Study: residents withdraw money from ATMs less often but in larger amounts

Every now and then discussions about dropping cash money altogether become active in society, AS PrivatBank representatives say.

HND Grupa design company, involved in Zolitude tragery, declared insolvent

Building engineer Ivars Sergets company HND Grupa, which was involved in the case revolving around the Maxima supermarket that collapsed in Zolitude, killing 54, not five years ago, has been declared insolvent, as reported by Latvijas Avīze.

Deputy Chief of State Fire and Rescue Service suspected of misappropriation

Latvia’s Interior Affairs Ministry’s Internal Security Bureau has detained deputy chief of State Fire and Rescue Service Ints Sēlis and one other official – a senior inspector, as reported by Panorāma programme of LTV.

Washington sanctions China for buying Russian military equipment

U.S. government has introduces sanctions against the Chinese army over a purchase of fighter jets and missile systems from Russia, despite a U.S. sanctions law targeting Moscow for attempts to sway in the 2016 U.S. election.

Autumn expected to begin soon in Latvia

Friday, 21 September, is expected to be warm in Latvia. Sun and considerable amount of clouds are expected, but not precipitation. Wind will draw in from the south, reaching a speed of 15-17 m/sec in western and central regions, as reported by Latvia’s Environment, Geology and Meteorology Centre.