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Tuesday 26.03.2019 | Name days: Eiženija, Ženija
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BNN summary of the week: What is in KGB bags? Promising government formation and Riga City Council fighting over seats

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BNN offers a summary of this week’s topical news in a variety of categories: Government; Announcement; Defence; Fight; Agreement.

GOVERNMENT: Latvia will most likely have to wait for government’s approval until next year

Although a large number of potential minister candidates for Krišjāņis Kariņš’s proposed government, it is unlikely for the new government to be approved this year, according to politicians participating in government formation talks.

Prime minister candidate Krišjānis Kariņš from New Unity had previously said he would wait for a response from New Conservative Party, KPV LV, Attīstībai/Par and National Alliance if they agree to his proposed government composition and specific minister candidates until Wednesday.

If Kariņš receives support from parties, he will turn to President Raimonds Vējonis with a request to nominate him as prime minister candidate officially.

The aforementioned parties have expressed conceptual support for Kariņš’s offer. He may meet with the president on either Wednesday or Thursday.

When asked if Vējonis plans to meet with parties or Krišjānis Kariņš, the State President’s Chancellery responded by saying the it is in the works. More detailed information is promised to be reported on Wednesday, 19 December.

Because Kariņš is a member of the European Parliament, he was in Brussels on Tuesday, 18 December. He returned to Latvia on Wednesday.

Even if he is nominated for the post of prime minister this week, the government is unlikely to be approved this year, considering it is also necessary to approve the government declaration. Saeima’s last meeting for this year is planned to take place this week.

Full article here

ANNOUNCEMENT: KGB bags unveil more information about Latvian politicians

The published KGB files mention Latvian politicians whose names had not been associated with this secret service in the past, even though the law requires publication of such information.

Some of those politicians explain their cooperation with KGB was not voluntary, and that they have proven as much in court, which is the only institution with the authority to prove residents’ association with KGB. Appearance of other politicians among the contacts detailed in the files, however, came as a surprise.

Saeima Election Law states candidates have to submit information regarding their possible cooperation with USSR, Latvian SSR or foreign state security institutions, intelligence or counter-intelligence services as freelance agents, registered agents, residents or owners of apartments used for meetings of said agents.

Those candidates are not prohibited from taking part in elections. However, information regarding their possible cooperation has to be reported to authorities.

For example, in August, prior to 13th Saeima elections, information was published that four candidates – Romualds Maculevičs (NSL), Artūrs Malta (Alternative party), Juris Strušels (LSDSP/KDS/GKL) and Arvīds Ulme – may have been KGB agents in Latvian SSR. This information was reported to the Central Election Commission by the Centre of the Documentation of the Consequences of Totalitarianism.

Full article here

DEFENCE: If Saeima dissolves Riga City Council, Ušakovs promises to turn to Constitutional Court

If Latvia’s parliament decides to dissolve the Riga City Council, Riga Mayor Nils Ušakovs will appeal this decision in the Constitutional Court, the politician told journalists.

Ušakovs criticized the legislative proposal submitted by the National Alliance’s led Environment Protection and Regional Development Ministry to dissolve the capital’s city council.

Riga Mayor said the legislative draft mentions that in the event of the city council’s dissolution the temporary municipal administration would be led by EPRDM state secretary’s deputy for municipal affairs Aivars Draudiņš. The mayor stressed that Draudiņš’s name was mentioned multiple times in the past in relation to corruption scandals. «I don’t think putting someone like him in charge would be the right thing to do. I invite the minister [Gerhards] to fall back to what he said during National Alliance’s congress – that there is no legal reason for the city council’s dissolution,» said the mayor.

While Ušakovs was talking to journalists, 10-15 opposition deputies with supporters were protesting in the background. They held in their hands posters saying ‘Riga is no cow for milking!’; ‘Nil, stop lying!’; ‘Step down!’, etc.

As it is known, Environment Protection and Regional Development Minister Kaspars Gerhards has submitted a legislative draft to the government to initiate the dissolution of Riga City Council.

Full article here

FIGHT: Danske money laundering scandal in Estonia continues with eight arrests

As the Estonian Office of the Prosecutor General is investigating money laundering in the billions of euros at the Estonian branch of Danske Bank between 2007 and 2015, eight people have been arrested, ERR and Postimees daily report.

Estonian public broadcaster ERR reports on Wednesday, December 19, citing the daily Postimees that the bank’s former top managers, Aivar Rehe and Tõnu Vanajuur, are not among the suspects, while a representative of the Estonian Office of the Prosecutor General refused to comment and pledged more information about the matter on Wednesday.

Between 2007 and 2015 some €201 billion worth of potentially questionable transactions linked to non-residents took place at Danske’s Estonian branch. As Postimees wrote, out of more than 15,000 accounts investigated, some 6,200 are problematic.

Full article here

AGREEMENT: UGF and Harmony once again vote to keep Truksnis the Mayor of Jurmala

With votes from the Union of Greens and Farmers and Harmony, Jurmala Mayor Gatis Truksnis has once again managed to keep his post.

The opposition initiated a vote in the city council to decide on Truksnis’ remainder in this post.

Commenting on the vote, Truksnis categorically denied his involvement in all crimes he is accused of committing. He adds that he anxiously expects to appeal those accusations in court. «I have not committed any illegalities. I have never financed anyone, nor have I ever forged documents. All of those accusations are politically motivated,» said the mayor.

He said ‘accusations are reported as though cow bells every time materials of the case are carried from one office to another’ and the main reason is the desire to change the power in Jurmala. Truksnis stresses that society has known about these accusations since 2016. In spite of that, residents decided to entrust management over Jurmala to him and his team in 2017.

«Clearly voters trust me and my words when I say I am innocent. I have no intention of stepping down and abandoning voters, because responsibility includes continued work and fulfilment of promises,» said the mayor.

Truksnis also stressed charges have been raised against him personally, not the city council or any of its companies.

Deputy Guntis Grūba, however, said that listening to Truksnis pulls at his heart strings. Unfortunately, he said the mayor’s words do not coincide with actions. «You do not cooperate with members of the opposition, you ignore us, you organized an extraordinary meeting with an agenda that includes regular matters, you approve the budget in haste and give us no time to study all proposals. These are not good management principles,» said Grūba.

Full article here


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Latvian State Revenue Service director says new cash register reform may be needed

The possibility of a new cash register reform cannot be excluded if it turns out new requirements have become outdated and no longer applicable to the actual market situation, says the head of Latvia’s State Revenue Service Ieva Jaunzeme.

Latvia’s Finance Minister says state budget cannot afford more funding requests

Latvia’s 2019 budget does not have sufficient money to afford allocating financing for additional requests submitted by Saeima deputies, said Finance Minister Jānis Reirs after an extraordinary meeting of the government.

Association: deposit system should receive support from the Latvia or EU funds

Beverage packaging deposit system’s introduction in Latvia should be supported financially by either the state or European Union funds, says chairperson of Latvian Federation of Food Companies Ināra Šure.

Poland to launch Vilnius TV channel for Lithuania Poles

Poland's state television TVP plans to introduce a new television channel aimed specifically at the Polish minority population in Lithuania.

Council of Sworn Bailiffs of Latvia appoints new chairperson

A new council has been elected during a meeting of the Council of Sworn Bailiffs of Latvia. The new chairperson of the council is Zemgale Regional Court’s sworn bailiff Iveta Kruka. Until now she was deputy chairperson of the council, BNN was told by the council’s public relations consultant Jānis Basevičs.

Latvian Cabinet of Ministers refuses to allocate additional funds in 2019 budget

During an open meeting on Monday, 25 March, Latvia’s Cabinet of Ministers refused to allocate additional finances in the 2019 budget. At the same time, members of the government accepted several proposals that clarify the order in which finances are allocated.

Ideas to reform second pension pillar criticised in Estonia

As Estonian politicians involved in coalition-building are discussing the possibility of making the country's second pillar pension funds voluntary or dismantling them altogether, public figures have published an open letter against the ideas.

Latvian state auditor: benefit from cash register reform was dubious

The country’s benefits from the cash register reform are unclear, said Latvian State Auditor Elita Krūmiņa in an interview to LNT programme 900 seconds on Monday, 25 March.

Minister: MPC abolishment in Latvia may help reduce electricity bills by 20% in 2020

Once the mandatory procurement component system has been abolished, Latvian residents’ electricity bills in 2020 may reduce by 20%, says Latvia’s Economy Minister Ralfs Nemiro.

U.S. investigators: Trump campaign in no collusion with Russia in 2016 election

Following an exonerating result of the U.S. federal investigation into alleged collusion by his pre-election campaign with Russia, U.S. President Donald Trump has expressed satisfaction with the end of the two-year investigation.

Monitoring of problematic banks: Europe has zero tolerance for money laundering

Europe has a zero tolerance level towards money laundering. Because of that, banks have to be very careful with their reputation, says chairperson of European Single Resolution Board, which is responsible for supervising problematic banks, Elke König.

One million Britons demand second Brexit referendum in protest

A mass march supporting a second Brexit referendum has been held in London, where, according to its organisers, over one million people have taken part.

Air temperature to reach +15° C in Latvia this week

Cyclone activity will bring precipitation to Latvia at the beginning of the week. In the second half of the week air temperature will stay firmly above 0° C, reaching a maximum of +15° C, as reported by Latvian State Environment, Geology and Meteorology Centre.

Week in Lithuania. MPs vote to give hope of release to life prisoners

The Lithuanian parliament adopted on Thursday, March 21, a package of amendments offering a hope of release to prisoners serving life sentences. The Seimas passed the package with 87 votes in favour and none against.

BNN summary of the week: Britain in tight spot; citizenship for all and Latvia's poor progress

BNN offers a summary of this week’s topical news in a variety of categories: Change; Progress; Rejection; Conflict; Idea; Opinion; Delay.

Crumbling buildings and the future of Riga’s slums

There are many empty buildings in Riga at the moment. However, Riga’s slums have a way to be reborn. One option is Rail Baltica, which could potentially change the situation with jobs in the city centre. Developers might have many complicated objectives ahead of them, considering that more and more people may decide to relocate to Riga’s central districts, said Riga city’s chief architect Gvido Princis in a conversation with BNN about Riga’s slums.

EC Vice-President: like other countries, Latvia has limited progress with EC recommendations

Latvia has limited progress when it comes to implementation of recommendations from the European Commission. Nevertheless, Latvia does not fall from the general EU context, when most member states have a small or limited progress with recommendations, said EC Vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis during a joint meeting with Latvian Saeima’s committees.

Comparing abortions to killing affects Estonian government talks

After figures of the Estonian Conservative People's Party compared abortion to killing of people, the party's partners in coalition talks have voiced criticism.

Latvian Olainfarm minority shareholders urged to attend shareholder meeting

Co-owners of Valerijs Maligins inheritance Nika Saveļjeva and Signe Baldere-Sildedze, as well as Annas Emīlija Maligina’s mother invite Latvian pharmaceutical company Olainfarm minority shareholders to attend an extraordinary shareholders meeting and actively propose their candidates for the council.

Social workers’ wages in Latvia to grow by average of EUR 145 a month

Latvian government has decided to allocate an additional amount of EUR 4.8 million to increase wages for state social care centres starting from 1 April 2019. This will allow increasing their wages by an average of EUR 145 a month. This is provided by the 2019 state budget that has been approved by the Latvian parliament in the first reading, as confirmed by Welfare Ministry.

Germany pushes for funding cuts to EU members violating core values

Germany's federal Foreign Minister believes the European Union should start reducing its solidary funding and introduce sanctions on member states that adopt legislation contrary to European values, for example, free press, rule of law and independent courts.

Association reports Latvia suffers the most from emerging HIV cases

In 2018, 326 new HIV infection cases were registered in Latvia, according to information from Disease Prevention and Control Centre. Inga Upmace, chairperson of Baltic HIV Association, says that even though this is less when compared to 2017, Latvia remains an unfortunate leader among Baltic States for emerging HIV infection cases.

Poll: 40% Britons have felt powerless or angry over Brexit

About 40 percent of the adult population of the United Kingdom have been feeling powerless, angry or worried by Brexit in the past 12 months, a mental health poll showed.

Riga City Council wants a large loan from Latvia’s State Treasury for bridge project

To finance the reconstruction of Krasta Street and Brasas Bridge, Riga City Council plans to take a EUR 14.23 million loan from Latvia’s State Treasury, according to documents added to the working agenda of Riga City Councils Finance and Administrative Affairs Committee.

EU postpones British withdrawal to April 12 or May 22

The United Kingdom has been given two extra weeks by the European Union to decide for the third time on its withdrawal agreement and to leave on April 12 if it is not passed or to leave on May 22 if it is passed.

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