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Monday 20.01.2020 | Name days: Aļģirds, Orests, Oļģerts, Alģis

BNN summary of week: Mayor Burovs. Ogre’s Helmanis in handcuffs. Fee for Riga guests

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Last week in Latvia, Oļegs Burovs was elected as the mayor of Riga, while the mayor of Ogre was detained by investigators. Estonian politics were dominated by a minister’s attempt to sack police chief, but Lithuania picked the Economy Minister for Brussels.

After long talks, Burovs (Honour to Serve Riga) secured the support for his election by allowing its coalition partner Harmony to have the post of the vice mayor and a seat in the board of the Freeport of Riga Administration, which went to a politician with no evident knowledge into the operation of the port.

A headache to the new Riga mayor would prove to be the situation with Riga’s own transport company, Rīgas satiksme. Its massive losses are now expected to affect the Latvian national budget.

BNN gives you an insight into the top developments of the past week on the topics of Head of Riga, Seat in the Freeport, Mayor in Handcuffs, Belt Tightening, No Obstacles, Fee, Young Mind, Crisis in Estonia and Process.

Head of Riga:

Riga city elects new mayor – Oļegs Burovs – and restores decade-old coalition

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New Riga Mayor Oļegs Burovs

The Riga City Council has elected Oļegs Burovs (Honour to Serve Riga) as the new mayor, ending two months of political discussions and restoring the coalition that has ruled in the Latvian capital for ten years.

The candidacy of Burovs has supported by 35 members, including politicians from his own Honour to Serve Riga party, its long-time coalition partner Harmony, as well as two new factions of the Riga City Council – bloc For Riga! and the Faction of Independent Members of Council.

Read the full story here.

Seat in the Freeport:

New members to Freeport of Riga Authority elected, despite criticism

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Sandris Bergmanis (left) and Oļegs Burovs

The Riga City Council elected to the Board of the Freeport of Riga Authority, mayor Oļegs Burovs (Honour to Serve Riga) and councilman Sandris Bergmanis (Harmony), despite heavy criticism of the latter for incompetence and lack of vision.

In a snap sitting of the Riga City Council held on Tuesday, August 20, a majority of 35 council members voted in favour of the candidates.

Opposition council member Vilnis Ķirsis (Unity) posed questions to candidate Bergmanis about his vision for the work at the Freeport – what he would like to do and to accomplish.

Read the full story here.

Mayor in Handcuffs:

Corruption watchdog detains Ogre city mayor Helmanis

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Ogre mayor Egils Helmanis

The Latvian Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau (KNAB) has on Wednesday detained the mayor of central Latvian city of Ogre, Egils Helmanis (National Alliance), according to LETA news agency.

In the morning of Wednesday, August 21, KNAB wrote in a press release that the corruption watchdog was also performing other immediate procedural actions, including a sanctioned search.

Read the full story here.

Belt Tightening:

EU: Rīgas satiksme cuts Latvian budget fiscal room in 2020 by 72 mln EUR

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The Riga city company Rīgas satiksme should, according to European Union (EU) criteria, be in included in the general government sector, thus it would cut the fiscal space of the 2020 Latvian state budget by 72 million euros, Finance Ministry stated.

The ministry’s officials explained to LETA news agency that the EU statistics bureau Eurostat has paid attention to the sectoral classification of several public transport companies. This was in relation to a notification by the Central Statistical Bureau of Latvia on the government budget deficit and debt.

No Obstacles:

Riga allowed to sign waste contract on 20 years, says ministry, despite probe

Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RU

Latvian Ministry of Environmental Protection and Regional Development has stated that the plan by the Riga City Council to award a waste management contract on 20 years is not against the law, despite competition regulator investigating alleged violations.

The representatives of the Latvian ministry has also denied it would interfere in the issue if the probe by the Latvia’s Competition Council will ban Riga residents from entering into waste management contracts with the private joint stock company Tīrīga.

Read the full story here.


Riga planning to introduce tourist fee – one euro per day

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The Riga City Council is discussing a plan to introduce a tourist fee charging all places of tourist accommodation a fee of one euro per day.

The draft regulations prepared by Riga officials and discussed at a City Council sitting on Wednesday, August 22, set forth that the maximum fee per guest would be limited to 10 euros if the guest is staying for longer than 10 nights in a row.

Read the full story here.

Young Mind:

Lithuania backs Sinkevičius as European Commission nominee

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Virginijus Sinkevičius, the Lithuanian Minister of the Economy and Innovation

The Lithuanian parliament on Thursday, August 22, voted to support Virginijus Sinkevičius, the Lithuanian Minister of the Economy and Innovation, as the country’s pick for the next European Commission.

The candidate proposed by Lithuania’s ruling Union of Farmers and Greens has been supported by 89 members of the Seimas with six voting against him.

Read the full story here.

Crisis in Estonia:

Kaljulaid opposed to Estonian minister after police chief scandal

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Estonian President Kersti Kaljulaid

Alleging that Estonian Interior Minister Mart Helme (Conservative People’s Party of Estonia) has violated the law by trying to sack top police chief, Estonian President Kersti Kaljulaid has stated that the minister has no place in the government.

Estonian public broadcaster ERR reports on Tuesday, August 20, that Kaljulaid had met with Estonian Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Centre Party) to discuss the situation.

Read the full story here.


Turn in high-profile court saga: Ventspils mayor receives state lawyer

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Aivars Lembergs

The mayor of the Latvian port city Ventspils, Aivars Lembergs (For Latvia and Ventspils), who is charged with serious crimes and has been suspended from office, has been appointed a state lawyer in the long court process that has had many delays.

In the Riga Regional Court, judge Irīna Jansone stated the development via the spokespersons of the court, where, according to the accused, court hearings in the case are scheduled for four days a week.

Read the full story here.

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Week in Lithuania: police on hunt of a child’s kidnapper, 2020 conscription list announced, Belarus seeks Lithuania’s help

In Lithuania, the top news stories last week were the police hunt of a child’s kidnapper, the announcement of the 2020 conscription list and Belarus seeking Lithuania’s help court.

BNN summary of the week: Lay-offs at LDz. KNAB wrapped around ZZS’ finger. Ķuzis steps down

The last week demonstrated that not everything that glitters is gold. Although previously Latvian Railway proudly reported growing freights and revenue, the statement released in the middle of the week suggests the company is not in the best state – the company plans to lay off 1 500 workers by the end of the year.

FKTK lists exceptions in which banks are allowed to service Aivars Lembergs

Latvian Finance and Capital Market Commission has listed cases in which Latvia’s finance market participants will be allowed to service Aivars Lembergs, who is subjected to US OFAC sanctions and accused of serious crimes, and three organizations associated with him – Ventspils Development Agency, Business Development Association and Latvian Transit Business Association.

Appropriate jobs promised for laid-off LDz workers

Latvian State Employment Agency promises to find appropriate jobs for laid-off Latvian Railway workers. If need be, those people will be provided the opportunity for re-qualification, raise their qualification or train for a new profession, as confirmed by the agency’s representative Signe Bierande.

Bordāns selects potential candidates to lead the Supreme Court and Prosecutor General’s office

I can see people who could take the reins over the Office of the Prosecutor General and the Supreme Court and change their work standards, Latvian Justice Minister Jānis Bordāns told TV3 programme 900 seconds when asked about any potential candidates to lead those institutions.

Ukrainian Prime Minister ready quit after leaked voice recording

Ukrainian head of government Oleksiy Honcharuk has offered to resign following the circulation of an audio recording, where criticism of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and his knowledge in economy is voiced.

Inflation in Latvia reportedly higher than Europe’s and Eurozone’s in December

In December 2019 inflation in Latvia was higher than the average in the European Union and Eurozone, according to information published by Eurostat on Friday, 17 January.

Estonian population growth continues in 2019 due to immigration

Estonia has registered in 2019 population growth for the fifth consecutive year and it can be explained with immigration not with natural growth, according to preliminary data released by Statistics Estonia.

BNN investigation | Raunas street property: quiet assistant with a «secret wallet» for Lembergs

There are suspicions that Aivars Lembergs, subjected to international sanctions, has sold real estate located on Raunas Street 27 in Riga to his sister «on paper only». This may have been done to avoid confiscation of properties in the event of a guilty verdict or a possible arrest over the real estate property. However, it is possible Lembergs maintains full control over this real estate property and, most likely, the property is used to fatten his wallet on a regular basis.

Audit: majority of Latvian housing stock has degraded to a state of a slum

Since the denationalization effective access to housing security in Latvia does not exist and most of the housing stock has degraded up to a state of a slum, as concluded by the Latvian State Audit.

Prime minister affirms possibility of carrying oil supplies for Belarus through Latvia

During his meeting with Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko on Thursday, 16 January, Latvian Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš affirmed that oil supplies for Belarus may be possible using Latvia’s ports.

Rain in Australia provides relief to continuing fight against bushfires

In eastern Australia, which has been suffering in prolonged and disastrous bushfires, heavy rain has been falling for the past 24 hours.

Weather to remain warm in Latvia at week’s end

At the end of the week the sky in Latvia will become clear and the sun will shine. No precipitation is expected. However, a low atmospheric pressure area will approach the country from the west during weekends, as reported by Latvian Environment, Geology and Meteorology Centre.

GKR helps overthrow Riga’s vice-mayors and put an end to ruling coalition

Riga City Council vice-chairperson Anna Vladova and deputy Druvis Kleins lost their respective posts at an extraordinary meeting on Thursday, 16 January. This happened because multiple deputies from Honour to Serve Riga voted together with the opposition in favour of dismissing them.

Latvian Railway plans to lay off 1 500 employees

Latvian Railway plans to terminate labour relations with approximately 1 500 employees before the end of 2020, as reported by the company’s representative Ella Pētermane.

Russian State Duma approves Putin’s new Prime Minister

The Russian State Duma has approved on Thursday, January 16, the candidacy of the country’s next Prime Minister appointed by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Ventspils opposition invites Pūce to act to prevent US sanctions from spreading to city council

Environment Protection and Regional Development Ministry and especially Juris Pūce have to act to resolve the current state of Ventsils City Council. It should be dismissed, as the municipal government does not have moral, ethical or legal foundation to continue managing and implementing the criminal management’s policy, according to Ventspils City Council opposition deputies.

Trade unions urge Latvian government to resolve transit businesses’ blocked bank accounts problem

Multiple trade unions associated with the transit industry have turned to Latvia’s highest ranking officials with a request to resolve the situation with bank accounts of multiple transit companies having been blocked because of US sanctions against Aivars Lembergs. If the government does not act, trade unions promise to organize massive protests.

Anris Leimanis picked as RB Rail council chairman

Anris Leimanis, independent council member from Latvian shareholder, has been picked as Rail Baltica joint Baltic company AS RB Rail council chairman. Ahti Kuningas and Karolis Sankovskis will serve as vice-chairmen, as confirmed by the company.

CSP: number of residents at risk of poverty declines in Latvia

In 2018 a total of 434 thousand persons or 22.9 % of the population of Latvia were at risk of poverty – 0.4 percentage points less than in 2017.

Latvian Saeima to ask Denmark to not extradite Kristīne Misāne to South African Republic

On Thursday, 16 January, Latvian Saeima made the decision to protect the rights of Latvian citizen Kristīnes Misāne, asking the Danish parliament and Danish law enforcers to support their Latvian colleagues and find a solution to avoid extraditing her to the South African Republic, as reported by Saeima’s press-service.

Smiltēns: Riga City Council’s situation can be described – divide, redistribute and plunder

«The situation in at Riga City Council can be described with three words – divide, redistribute, plunder,» said leader of Latvian Association of Regions Edvards Smiltēns in an interview to LTV programme Rīta panorama on Thursday, 16 January.

One single vote left the Lithuanian election system intact

The understanding that Lithuania’s election system needs changes is nearly overwhelming, but the ruling Farmers and Greens’ attempt to lower the Parliament election threshold in parties’ multi-member constituency from current 5 per cent to 3 per cent suffered a setback this week.

Estonian power grid executive detained over bribery suspicion

The Estonian Internal Security Service has detained a board member of the Elektrilevi power grid operator over suspicion of taking a bribe.

Demographer: Latvia has the lowest birth rate level observed the past decade

Birth rates continued to decline in Latvia in 2019. The lowest level of the past decade was reached in the country last year, says demographer Ilmārs Mežs.

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