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Wednesday 22.05.2019 | Name days: Emīlija

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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Latvian railway company Pasažieru vilciens hopes to sign train supply contract this year

Latvian joint stock company Pasažieru vilciens might succeed in signing the contract for the supply of electric trains before the end of 2019 even if Procurement Monitoring Bureau expands procurement documents with new requirements, said PV board chairman Rodžers Jānis Grigulis.

«Last chance» to pass Brexit deal met with skepticism in British parliament

In the United Kingdom, the latest offer by British Prime Minister Theresa May to pass the country’s withdrawal deal with the European Union has been criticised by influential groups in the British parliament.

Latvia’s prime minister says government will not re-evaluate prosecutor general

Latvia’s government will not evaluate Prosecutor General Ēriks Kalnmeiers’ suitability for his post, said Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš in an interview to public broadcaster LNT programme 900 seconds on Wednesday, 22 May.

Early voting in European Parliament election opens for Latvian residents

The beginning of early voting in European Parliament elections for all 954 election sites is set for 17:00 on Wednesday, 22 May.

Minister says results of train procurement suggest possible liquidation of Pasažieru vilciens

Results of the electric train procurement of joins stock company Pasažieru vilciens make one consider possible liquidation of the company, Latvia’s Transport Minister Tālis Linkaits told journalists on 21 May.

OECD: Baltic region's most rapid growth predicted for Estonia

Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development has published its latest outlook. In it, the organization expects Latvia to experience the slowest economic growth among Baltic States.

Latvia re-reviews train procurement and declares Škoda Vagonka the winner

After reviewing the train procurement for a third time, Latvian railway company Pasažieru vilciens declared Czech Škoda Vagonka the winner, as confirmed by the company.

Austria’s right-wing ministers resign after early election expected

With the Austrian government hit by a political crisis that is expected to result in an early election, the government Freedom Party has announced all its ministers would step down from the Cabinet.

30% of companies have yet to successfully adopt GDPR guidelines

A year after the European Union adopted the General Data Protection Regulation only 25.1% of Latvian companies can confidently confirm having adopted the regulation without problems, according to a survey by Tildes Jumis.

Russia’s request on Ukraine’s language law rejected by UN council

At the UN Security Council, a request by Russia to hold a meeting over a law passed by Ukraine limiting the role of the Russian language in the war-torn country has been rejected over alleged attempts to overshadow the inauguration of Ukraine’s new President.

Latvian government to tackle teacher shortage problem

It is possible that a new approach for attracting teachers to schools may be implemented in Latvia next year. This approach provides that a person with higher education who wants to become a teacher will require a year to acquire pedagogical qualification.

Huawei: Users after Android ban to keep getting security updates

Chinese electronics and telecommunications heavyweight Huawei has given its first response to the suspension of its Android operating system by promising that its smartphone and tablet users would continue to receive security updates.

Administration of a school in Jurmala suspected of defrauding EUR 100 000

Latvian State Police has detained administration of some school in Jurmala over suspicions of fictive employment. Defrauded amount may reach approximately EUR 100 000, as confirmed by State Police.

Raising minimal income level in Latvia would require EUR 28 million

Latvia’s Welfare Ministry has developed a Plan to improve minimal income support system in 2020-2021. In it, the ministry details that the plan’s implementation requires approximately EUR 28 million, as informed by the ministry’s social inclusivity department’s director Elīna Celmiņa.

Estonia investigates electricity blackout in Russian border city

In Estonia, an investigation has been opened into a power blackout that took place in the north-eastern border city of Narva and other places in the region.

Latvia’s Saeima to pick a new state president after EP elections

Saeima’s Praesidium and Faction Council decided on 20 May to keep the State President’s Election Day unchanged – it will happen 29 May.

Study: packaging convenience still trumps environment friendliness

For Latvian residents convenience of packages remains the most important factor. However, environment friendliness is gradually becoming more and more important for people, according to results of a study by Immer Group.

Harmony reportedly used RTDB to hire foreign political communication specialists

Latvian investigators have acquired documents that reveal how prior to 13th Saeima elections Riga Tourism Development Bureau (RTDB), which receives funding from Riga’s budget, had performed at least ten money transfers to several political communication experts from Germany, Sweden and Spain, as reported by public broadcaster TV3 programme Nekā personīga.

Ukraine’s Zelensky starts presidency with dissolution of parliament

Ukraine’s new President Volodymyr Zelensky has been sworn in Kyiv on Monday and in his inaugural speech has announced the dissolution of the Ukrainian parliament.

Austria heading to snap election after right-wing coalition collapses

Austrian political leaders are favouring calling a snap election after the government coalition in Vienna collapsed over alleged influence peddling by Vice-Chancellor.

Egypt bomb attack hits tourist bus

17 tourists in Egypt have been wounded in a bomb explosion near the landmark Giza pyramids.

Latvian Railways reportedly wastes money with self-promotion in sports; UGF might be involved

Last year and at the beginning of this year, Latvian Railways spent at least two million euros on self-promotion. A considerable portion of this money was provided to sports organizations, of which multiple have ties with the Union of Greens and Farmers, as reported by public broadcaster Latvian Television programme De Facto.

In spite of heavy rains, air temperature in Latvia will reach +29° C this week

The sky will be cloudy at the beginning of this week in Latvia. Nevertheless, it will clear from time to time. As the sky clears, daytime air temperature will reach +24° C… +29° C, as reported by Latvia’s Environment, Geology and Meteorology Centre.

Week in Lithuania: PM clears no-confidence vote, top Court slaps LFGU, councillor fined for slander

Last week, Lithuania suffered upset in 2019 Eurovision Song Contest; PM Saulius Skvernelis survived a vote of no-confidence by the ruling LFGU; the Constitutional Court ruled that the Seimas breached law in dealing with public broadcaster LRT.

BNN summary of the week: shadow over Latvia's economy; Kalnmeiers receives bashing

The week passed in Latvia under certain unpleasant news. A study concluded that in spite of Union of Green and Farmers minister Dana Reizniece-Ozola’s praised tax reform the grey economy proportion in Latvia has increased.