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Friday 18.01.2019 | Name days: Antis, Antons
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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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New Unity’s candidate to continue talks with partners on government declaration over weekends

New Unity’s prime minister candidate Krišjānis Kariņš plans to continue working on the government declaration, cooperation agreement and fiscal discipline agreement over Saturday, 19 January, as confirmed by New Unity’s press-secretary Sandris Sabajevs.

Head of Riga City Council’s committee reports results of non-existent vote; dismissal follows

As the chairperson of Riga City Council’s Social Affairs Committee, Olga Veidiņa from Harmony, submitted a written report to the mayor, detailing how all members of her committee had allegedly voted in favour of paying a bonus to Orphan Court chairman Aivars Krasnogolovs even though such a topic was never discussed by this committee, BNN was told by opposition deputy Marija Balcere from New Conservative Party.

1991 Barricades commemoration events in Latvia

One of the most notable chapters in Latvia’s newest history was written in January 1991 – the barricades period, when Latvian residents commemorate the victims and feel pride for the bravery of the nation in defending their country’s freedom.

MEP: Britain’s non-exit from EU is no longer possible

It is no longer possible for Britain to stay in the European Union. Even British politicians who have spoken against Brexit admit as much, said Latvian MEP Roberts Zīle in an interview to Rīta panorama.

Dismissal of Nils Ušakovs alone would not change a thing in Riga

«No change will come without dismissal of Riga City Council and its subsequent re-election. Activities that point towards the possibility of corruption did not appear solely during the term of the current team at Riga City Council. Its roots date a long way to the past. This means cleaning and general disinfection efforts should be very thorough. Dismissing Nils Ušakovs alone would not help change a thing. Ušakovs both maintains and serves the system,» said opposition deputy Jānis Ozols in a conversation with BNN.

Proposal to make ports state capital association faces no major objections in Latvia

No major objections have been voiced so far against transport minister candidate Tālis Linkaits’ proposal on reforming ports as state capital associations.

Latvia’s forming coalition promises to be more open to opposition

The forming coalition in Latvia may consider proposals from the opposition and even support the more constructive of them, said prime minister candidate Krišjānis Kariņš in a conversation with journalists on Thursday, 17 January.

Air temperature in Latvia may drop as far as -21° C next week

After the windiest and snowiest week, as anticyclone activity increases, weather in Latvia will become more stable – it will become drier and considerably colder.

Lithuania’s ruling majority swings at media freedom, experts warn

All media, the so-called fourth authority of power, has been facing some international challenges, with the European Parliament set to vote next Monday on final text of Article 13, the proposed EU directive on copyright, which, if implemented, could censor internet users and internet platform hosts through artificial intelligence-employing filters.

Riga Active Seniors Alliance: seniors’ behaviour on the road should be discussed

Riga Active Seniors Alliance supports Latvian State Police informative safety campaign that addresses the behaviour of pedestrians on the road. This campaign invites seniors to pay attention to their own behaviour to ensure safe movement without putting at risk other traffic participants.

New healthcare service principle’s adoption in Latvia postponed until July

The rights to receive healthcare services as part of state compulsory healthcare regardless of their health insurance contributions will remain available for residents until 30 June 2019, Latvian Saeima has decided.

150 jobs lost in Estonia as polluting power stations reduce operations

Estonian state energy giant Eesti Energia, which mostly generates energy from fossile oil shale plants will reduce its operations at the Narva power plants, resulting in 150 job cuts.

Opinion: Russia will definitely interfere with European Parliament elections

According to Latvian member of the European Parliament Inese Vaidere, Russia will definitely attempt to interfere with upcoming European Parliament elections.

In no-deal Brexit, border control in Ireland would be obligatory

In an interview with the British news portal The Guardian, Michael Lux, a former head of customs legislation and procedures at the European commission, said the UK would have to impose customs checks and tariffs on the northern side of the border, despite claims to the contrary by Brexiters.

Opinion: Daugavpils City Council doesn’t want emergency elections; to agree on new mayor

Daugavpils City Council deputies Rihards Eigims and Andrejs Elksniņš are afraid of voters’ opinion in regards to emergency elections. Because of that, they will agree on the next mayoral candidate at the 17 January meeting, said Latgale party representative Jānis Lāčplēsis.

Scientists suggest sustainable diet to save the planet and prevent premature deaths

An international group of 37 scientists has developed a diet that promises to save lives, feed 10 billion people and all without causing catastrophic damage to the planet.

Latvian parties taking too long on compiling government cooperation documents

Although work on the new government’s cooperation documents has taken more time than initially expected, Latvian prime minister candidate Krišjānis Kariņš still hopes for the government to be approved next week.

Ministry: more children end up in families in Latvia not through foster families or guardians

More and more children in Latvia end up in families not through adoption, but through foster families or guardians, says Welfare Minister’s office manager Linda Baļčūne.

Estonian population continues to increase, mostly due to immigration

Estonia has registered population growth for the third consecutive year as 4,690 more persons lived in the Baltic country on January 1, 2019 than a year before, official statistics show.

Sweden to nominate head of government, who could finally be confirmed

In the Swedish parliament, three parties have stated they would not vote against caretaking Prime Minister Stefan Löfven to have another attempt to form a center-left government after a four-month political crisis.

In 2018 Latvia experienced more rapid growth of car registrations than EU

Last year the number of newly registered cars in Latvia was higher than the average in the European Union, according to the latest data from European Automobile Manufacturers' Association.

Latvian government prepares legislation to protect rights of Latvian in Britain after Brexit

Latvian government has started working on a document that provides for the protection of rights of Latvian citizens working in Britain and vice versa after Brexit, says Latvian Foreign Affairs Minister Edgars Rinkēvičs.

Karolis Sankovski appointed as chairman of RB Rail council

A new council chairman has been appointed in Baltic joint company RB Rail. Riia Sillave and Edvīns Bērziņš were picked as vice-chairmen, as the company reports.

airBaltic carried record number of passengers in 2018 – 4.1 million

Latvian airBaltic airline carried a total of 4,136,711 passengers to different destinations in 2018. This is 17% more when compared to 2017. The number of passengers carried in 2018 is airBaltic’s all-time highest, as BNN was told by the company.

KPV LV to decide on dismissing Kaimiņš as vice-chairman of party’s faction

KPV LV party’s Saeima faction plans to discuss the proposal of dismissing Artuss Kaimiņš from the post of the faction’s vice-chairman.