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Friday 06.12.2019 | Name days: Niklāvs, Niks, Nikolajs

BNN summary of the week: when is Brexit? Estonia’s government worries; more problems with Rīgas satiksme

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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: Attempt; Decision; Investigation; Scandal; Legislation; Expectation.

ATTEMPT: Take two in Estonia coalition-building as Centre rejects Reform’s offer

Estonia grand coalition attempt fails after two largest parliamentary parties fail to agree on tax policies. Election winners, Reform Party, are now focusing on their other option with social democrats and national-conservatives.

Estonian public broadcaster ERR reports that late last week, after preliminary talks with the Reform Party, the Centre Party chairman and outgoing Prime Minister Jüri Ratas explained that it was differences of opinion when it came to tax matters that ended up being the red line.

Centre’s Jaanus Karilaid added that Reform’s planned tax reform would not allow for Centre’s planned extraordinary pension hike.

Full article here

DECISION: Russia commemorates annexation of Crimea with coin worth EUR 0.07

The Bank of Russia has issued a commemorative coin to mark five years since Russia staged a disputed referendum in Ukraine’s Crimea, which led to the illegal annexation of the territory and the partial international isolation of Russia.

The Russian central bank wrote in a press release on Tuesday, March 12: «The Bank of Russia issues a base metal coin in denomination of 5 rubles dedicated to the fifth anniversary of the referendum on the status of the Crimea and Sevastopol and the Crimea reunification with Russia.»

The face value of the coin, which also features an illegally-built bridge to connect the peninsular to mainland Russia, is 5 Russian rubles, which equals 0.07 euros.

Full article here

INVESTIGATION: Rīgas satiksme’s fuel supplier’s beneficiary may have ties to criminal world

In the past several years, Rīgas satiksme has been receiving fuel supplies from a company whose true beneficiaries, two Italians living in Monaco, were mentioned in a study carried out by international investigative journalists about the criminal world, as reported by TV3 programme Nekā Personīga.

In the past, there had been information reported by the media that Rīgas satiksme overpays for fuel. On top of that, results of a recent audit prove that fuel procurement at the company is not economically efficient. Nevertheless, RS continues procuring fuel from the same supplier.

Additionally, the research performed by international investigative journalists reveals that businessmen hiding behind offshore companies could have ties to the criminal world in Italy and Russia. Representatives of the company in Latvia deny this, Nekā Personīga reports.

Some years ago there was a petrol station located on the side of a highway in Ieriķi. Ten years ago it was bought out by businessman Māris Āriņš. His business then boomed rapidly. The company then got its hand on an opportunity to supply fuel to RS and sometime after that – to Latvian Railway, journalists explains.

This businessman also got his hands on an oil base. The territory in Sloka was previously owned by RS subsidiary Degvielas apgāds. When Nils Ušakovs was first appointed Mayor of Riga for the first two years, RS decided that oil base that was previously modernized using municipality’s money is no longer needed and sold it to Āriņš. The oil base is managed by RDZ Energy. RS continues procuring fuel from this company.

Full article here

SCANDAL: Unity faction leader asks prosecutor to launch criminal case against Riga’s mayor

The leader of Unity’s faction in Riga City Council Vilnis Ķirsis has turned to the Prosecutor General’s Office, requesting a detailed investigation of the employment of people close to Harmony and Honour to Serve Riga political parties in Rīgas satiksme.

Additionally, he has requested a separate investigation of the level of responsibility Nils Ušakovs, as shareholder in Rīgas satiksme, for the catastrophic financial situation of this company, as confirmed by Unity faction’s consultant Edmunds Jurēvics.

Jurēvics explains that he sent a letter to the Prosecutor General’s Office on 11 March. In it, the head of Unity’s faction in Riga City Council asked authorities to investigate decisions made by the management of Rīgas satiksme and Ušakovs as the company’s shareholder and whether his actions bear signs of abuse of power for personal gain, as well as negligence that cause serious financial damages to the company. On top of that, Ķirsis has asked the Prosecutor General’s Office to investigate if there are signs of violations of the law in regards to illegal financing of political parties in the situation with possible fictive employment of several dozen people.

Ķirsis comments: «As a shareholder in SIA Rīgas satiksme, Mayor of Riga Nils Ušakovs , had no way of being in the dark about the situation in the company, because he is the one who created this uneconomical and corrupt system in the first place. Additionally, he covered for it, and is thereby personally responsible for what happened. Nils Ušakovs should answer not only politically but also before the law for using Rīgas satiksme as ‘feeding ground’ for Harmony and Honour to Serve Riga officials for years. On top of that, similarly to Rīgas namu pārvaldnieks, it seems dozens of people there are employed fictively and receive thousands of euros in wages for doing no work at all. I think Ušakovs’ place is in prison, not the European Parliament.»

Full article here

LEGISLATION: Latvian Saeima committee supports changes to overtime pay

Saeima’s Social and Employment Matters Committee supported in the final reading amendments to the Labour Law, providing for paying 50% for overtime work if a general agreement on wages is signed in the industry.

This regulation applies to signing of general agreement regarding the size of bonus pay for overtime work, setting it no lower than 50% of employees’ set hourly rate.

At the same time, amendments clarify that the general agreement document should provide a section on an increase of minimal wage or hourly rate in an industry – at least 50% of the country’s set minimal wage or hourly rate.

A representative of Saeima’s Legal Affairs Office pointed to the risk of new regulations not complying with the Constitution during the meeting, saying the office would not be able to represent the Saeima in this matter at the Constitutional Court if need be.

During the meeting of the committee, State President Raimonda Vējonis’ constitutional rights advisor Jānis Pleps said that, considering constitutional risks in regards to the legislative process, review of the proposal could be started anew. He referenced the conclusions published by the Constitutional Court regarding the importance of compliance with appropriate law approval process.

Authors of the approved proposal provided their arguments why their proposal complies with the Constitution and not the other way around.

Full article here

EXPECTATION: UK refuses to leave EU without agreement, in non-binding vote

The British Parliament has made Brexit process even more confusing as the majority of the country’s legislators have both rejected the only withdrawal deal the European Union can offer and refused to leave the bloc without a deal.

British public broadcaster BBC reports that on Thursday, March 14, members of the country’s Parliament will vote on whether to ask the EU for permission to delay the date for departure.

The British government has stated that there could be a short extension – or a much longer one – depending on whether MPs backed the government’s existing withdrawal deal that has been agreed with the EU by 20 March.

In the evening of Wednesday, March 13, the House of Commons rejected a no-deal withdrawal in a series of votes. Their decision is non-binding, therefore the UK can still leave the EU without a deal on March 29, if the bloc refuses to grant the country an extension.

Full article here

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Baltic States and Poland agree to push Rail Baltica as the main transport policy priority

On Friday, 6 December, Baltic and Polish transport ministers agreed during a meeting to continue pushing Rail Baltica as the main transport policy priority in the region, as confirmed by Latvia’s Transport Ministry.

Bank: Latvian residents have become more active with making savings

Following increased economic growth, there has been an improvement with Latvian residents’ financial reserves, according to data compiled by Swedbank. Nearly 17% of them have managed to save up money worth three or more wage amounts (2% more than last year), according to data from Swedbank.

Brexit – one of most spectacular mistakes in EU history, Tusk says

Donald Tusk, the former President of the European Council, has stated that the decision of the United Kingdom to leave the European Union has been a spectacular mistake after a campaign of misinformation.

Environment Protection Minister to request Riga City Council’s dismissal

Latvia’s Environment Protection and Regional Development Ministry has decided to request dismissal of Riga City Council because according to the ministry the municipal administration has failed to perform one of its autonomous functions – provide carrying of household waste.

Estonia’s prime minister: Rail Baltica project unlikely to be finished on time

It is unlikely European standard railway width project Rail Baltica will be finished on time – by 2026, admits Estonia’s Prime Minister Jüri Ratas.

Estonia points to human rights violations in occupied parts of Georgia, Ukraine

Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Reinsalu has noted in a meeting of the OSCE that violations of international rights and fundamental rights along with the continued crises in Georgia and Ukraine endanger security in the wider region of OSCE countries.

For the first time since 2003, woman possibly infected with rabies dies in Latvia

A woman that was possibly infected with rabies has died in Daugavpils, as reported by Disease Prevention and Control. This may be the first death caused by rabies in Latvia since 2003.

French pension strike engages 800 000 people

In France, the first day of mass demonstrations and public sector strike has involved over 800 000 in marches in many cities of the country, as protesters seek to force President Emmanuel Macron not to push forward with pension reform.

Interior Affairs Minister wants to use modern technologies to combat contraband

To ensure a more effective way to combat against contraband, Latvia’s Interior Affairs Minister Sandis Ģirģens wants to use modern technologies that would work in parallel to customs officers. He said as much in an interview to LTV programme Rīta Panorāma on Friday, 6 December.

Ušakovs says he wants to run in Riga City Council snap elections

Member of the European Parliament and ex-Mayor of Riga Nils Ušakovs says he is prepared to start in snap elections in Riga if they are organized, as confirmed by Harmony chairman Jānis Urbanovičs.

Germany’s Merkel to visit Auschwitz Holocaust camp for first time

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has headed the German government since 2005, will on Friday, December 6, visit the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland.

VID officials will need to have spotless reputation, Saeima decides

From now on, officials of the State Revenue Service will need to have a spotless reputation. This is decided by Saeima’s amendments to the Law on State Revenue Service approved in the final reading on 5 December, as BNN was told by Saeima’s press-service.

Brazil at risk of losing vote in UN General Assembly because of high debts

There are risks that because of failure to pay its debts to the United Nations Organization, Brazil could lose its voting rights in the UN General Assembly, Reuters reports.

Strained Lithuanian budget is desperate for additional sources of revenues

With the adoption of the new year’s budget skidding, two major professional groups – teachers and doctors – have had this week their demand for higher salaries satisfied, thus deepening the holes in the shallowing budget. Where to scoop up money to patch all the gaps and satisfy all the demands? This week, Seimas, Lithuanian legislature, was in a frantic search for additional sources of revenues.

Estonian Police and Border Guard Board official detained on suspicion of embezzlement

Estonian Internal Security Service has detained a senior officer of Police and Border Guard Board at the South Prefecture on suspicion of document forgery and embezzlement of more than EUR 250 000, as reported by Estonian public media ERR.

Saeima supports government’s decision to extend state of emergency in Riga

On Thursday, 5 December, Saeima agreed with the government’s decision to extend the state of emergency with waste management in Riga’s administrative territory until 12 March 2020, as reported by the Saeima’s press-service.

Flu infection rates remain low in Latvia, but infection spread continues nonetheless

A total of 30 clinically confirmed flu infection cases were registered in Latvia’s healthcare institutions. Nevertheless, virus activity remains low in the country, according to the latest monitoring report on influenza and acute upper respiratory tract infections compiled by Disease Prevention and Control Centre.

France braces for intense protests over Macron’s intended pension reform

France shaken by this decade’s biggest protests in which trade unions urge other residents to oppose French President Emmanuel Macron’s intended pension reform, Reuters reports.

Marguerite Fund to sell Conexus shares to Japanese Marubeni fund

Shareholder in Latvian natural gas transmission and storage system operator Conexus Baltic Grid, Marguerite Fund plans to sell its owned 29.06% of Conexus shares to Japanese company Marubeni fund.

Saeima’s majority may move towards Riga City Council’s dismissal

The majority of Latvia’s Saeima may vote towards dismissing Riga City Council, according to unofficial information from LETA. There is also a more reserved position on this, but generally it is admitted that Riga City Council’s dismissal process will be initiated.

National Economy Committee invites reviewing Rail Baltica project’s management structure

«Considering the unstable situation and lasting stagnation with the project’s management, the National Economy Committee invites Transport Ministry to review the structure of RB Rail,» says Economic, Agricultural, Environmental and Regional Policy Committee chairman Jānis Vitenbergs.

«Riga’s residents overpay.» Kleins proposes terminating contract with Rīgas karte

Riga City Council vice-chairman and shareholder in municipal company LLC Rīgas satiksme Druvis Kleins, has ordered the company’s lawyers to assess the option of quickly terminating the contract with LLC Rīgas karte, as confirmed by Kleins, who represents For Riga! bloc in the city council.

Newspaper: Russia plans to deploy a motorized division in Kaliningrad next year

Russia has plans to deploy a motorized division in Kaliningrad Oblast, which shares borders with Poland and Lithuania, as reported by Russian government newspaper Rossiyskaya Gazeta.

Ex-president says conflicts with territorial reform surface where the rich refuse to share

The objective of the territorial reform remains unchanged – forming economically more efficient administrative territories. This means creating counties able to sustain themselves and develop economically. Conflicts with the reform usually surface in areas, where the rich refuse to share. There are also situations when the poor want to receive and do nothing on their own, BNN was told by ex-President of Latvia Valdis Zatlers.

October’s industrial production output in Latvia increases 3%

Compared to October 2018, industrial production output increased by 3 % in October 2019, according to calendar adjusted data at constant prices.

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