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Sunday 15.09.2019 | Name days: Sandra, Gunvaldis, Gunvaris, Sondra

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

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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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BNN summary of the week: state of emergency in Riga; seat for Dombrovskis; politics in construction cartel

At a speedy pace – this is how the emerging crisis in waste management was being prevented in Riga this week. Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš gave Riga City Council a bashing, saying that Riga is attempting to pass on its problems on the shoulders of the entire country. The prime minister asked the capital to settle its own problems. Nevertheless, the government declared a state of emergency in Riga.

Cooperation partners blast government for breach of law in budget development

On Friday, 13 September, multiple cooperation partners of the Latvian government blasted the Cabinet of Ministers for breaching the law in the development of the 2020 state budget.

Hourly labour costs in Latvia up 8.9%

Compared to Q2 2018, hourly labour costs rose by 8.9 % or 79 cents, reaching EUR 9.60 in Q2 2019. Seasonally adjusted data show increase of 7.0 %.

Latvian Justice Ministry insists on improving prison infrastructure

In regards to the topic of the state budget’s fiscal space in 2020 and expenditures for priorities, Latvia’s Justice Ministry insists on maintaining its position in regards to Liepaja Prison’s construction project’s necessity.

UK’s parliament speaker ready to prevent October 31 no-deal Brexit – a violation of law

In the Brexit saga, speaker of a parliamentary chamber has pledged to permit changing the rules of procedure to keep UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson from forcing a no-deal Brexit on October 31, seen as a potential violation of law.

Latvian government allocates more than EUR 192 million for priority tasks

On Friday, 13 September, Latvia’s Cabinet of Ministers decided at an extraordinary meeting on division of EUR 192.4 million for priority tasks of ministries and independent institutions.

Lithuanian shops using increase in wages to raise prices, analyst asserts

In Lithuania, inflation has been two times faster in 2019 compared to other markets in the euro area. Economist Žygimantas Mauricas believes retailers have used a surge in wages to increase prices, especially in grocery stores.

Beneficial owner status in a company does not always involve receiving material benefits

If a person is declared as a company’s beneficial owner, it does not always mean it is a person who is at the end of the chain and receives material benefits from companies.

Prague to move Soviet army Marshal, despite death threats to Mayor

In the Czech capital of Prague, a local government has decided to take down a monument devoted to a Marshal of the Soviet Union. It is planned to replace it with a memorial of a more general meaning.

Estonia to establish cyber diplomacy body to make its voice heard globally

In Estonia, where the authorities may much attention to computed technology solutions and the e-environment, the Foreign Ministry plans to open a Cyber Diplomacy Department.

Latvian court declares PNB Bank insolvent

Riga City Vidzeme Suburb Court has declared PNB Bank insolvent, as confirmed by Finance and Capital Market Commission. Vigo Krastiņš has been approved as the bank’s insolvency administrator.

Latvian government conceptually supports ban for municipalities to run mass media

Municipalities are planned to be applied with a ban to found and publish mass media, as provided by Saeima’s Human Rights and Public Affairs Committee’s supported amendments to the Law on Press and Other Mass Media, as confirmed by Saeima’s press-service.

Spain’s flash floods claim lives

Several parts of Spain have been hit by heavy rain, floods and a tornado. The natural calamities have claimed not less than two victims.

UN representative criticizes Latvia for unwillingness to sign Istanbul Convention

Latvia still has not ratified European Council Convention on Prevention of Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence, otherwise known as the Istanbul Convention, even though it is a major tool for combating domestic violence, said UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women representative Ana Peláez Narváez.

Round dance over? Latvian government agrees on 2020 budget in spite of difficulties

Judging from the last talks held by parties it can be concluded the coalition has reached an agreement on the state budget, said Attīstībai/Par! co-chairman Daniels Pavļuts.

Anrijs Lembergs’ lawyers start reading his client’s court debate speech

Riga Regional Court, which continues viewing the criminal case involving suspended Ventspils Mayor Aivars Lembergs, has started listening to the debate speech of Lembergs’ son Anrijs Lembergs.

Seimas elections in three districts deal a blow to ruling LFGU, Social Democrats’ leader

As two prominent TV faces are set to win the runoff elections to take vacant seats left in Lithuanian parliament after two MPs swapped their parliamentary jobs for mayoral stints and an independent MP, Aušra Maldeikienė, left for Brussels as europarliamentarian, the Lithuanian Social Democrats’ leader, Gintautas Paluckas, who is former vice-mayor of capital city Vilnius, is restless.

Three and a half months left for compulsory installation of smoke detectors in Latvia

Latvian residents are expected to install smoke detectors in their homes – private houses and apartments – by 1 January. For private homes, however, there is an additional requirement – owners are expected to have fire extinguishers on hand as well, reminds State Fire and Rescue Service.

Times ranking: Tartu University – by far best in Baltics

The latest Times Higher Education ranking of the leading large higher education institutions in the world, the University of Tartu has been placed in the group of 301-350 best. Other Baltic universities followed in the group of 801-1000.

Latvia’s high-rank politicians may be involved in scandalous construction cartel

Names of a dozen current and former well-known Latvian politicians are mentioned in the so-called construction cartel criminal case, including Finance Minister Jānis Reirs, politician Edgars Jaunups, former finance and economy minister Dana Reizniece-Ozola, ex-chairperson of Unity political party Solvita Āboltiņa and Saeima deputy Jānis Urbanovičs, Ir magazine reports.

Citadele Bank finances Virši-A petrol station network’s expansion

With financing from Citadele Bank, petrol station network Virši-A plans to expand by opening four more petrol stations. Two of them will provide condensed natural gas.

Catalan independence march in Spain attended by 600 000 people

In Barcelona, around 600 000 people have taken part in an annual march to demand the independence of Catalonia, the autonomous region of Spain.

Government finds money to compensate pension delivery tariff rise

Money to compensate tariff increase for home delivery of pensions has been found, said Welfare Minister Ramona Petraviča during a Saeima meeting.

Lithuania warns about end in rapid wage growth

«The summer will not last forever,» said Lithuanian Finance Minister Vilius Šapoka about a summary of official economic forecasts, which warn that after a fairly rapid growth, national economy and wages would grow at a somewhat slower pace.

Latvian government declares state of emergency in Riga’s waste management sector

In spite of Competition Council head Skaidrīte Ābrama’s statement and Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš’s confidence that the government has no need to become involved in Riga’s waste management problem, because it is in the hands of Riga City Council, ministers have nonetheless decided to support Environment Protection and Regional Development Ministry’s proposal to declare a state of emergency in Riga.