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Friday 03.04.2020 | Name days: Daira, Dairis

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

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

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.

Both the State Chancellery’s and Justice Ministry’s experts recommended declaring a state of emergency, saying that it is the only right decision in this situation.

Deciding on the project, the prime minister invited ministers to voice their opinion on this matter. The project was not supported by Justice Minister Jānis Bordāns, Transport Minister Tālis Linkaits, and Education and Science Minister Ilga Šuplinska. Other ministers supported it.

At the same time, the meeting was not attended by Foreign Affairs Minister Edgars Rinkēvičs, Defence Minister Artis Pabriks, Economy Minister and Healthcare Minister Ilze Viņķele.

Ministers spent more than two hours, discussing this topic. Pūce informed colleagues that the city council has turned to all four existing waste management companies with an offer for them to continue providing their services. Two of the companies, which already handle 88% of all waste in Riga said they are prepared to continue working as before. One company refused and another one said they will consider options but with certain guarantees from the city council.

«These two businesses that not 100% ready to continue their work cover approximately 12% of Riga, which is roughly the size of Daugavpils,»

said Pūce, adding that the ministry performed considerable improvements in the decision for the declaration of a state of emergency in the past 24 hours.

According to the minister, the ministry’s decision provides that the 88% of residents whose waste management is provided by two of the largest waste management companies will not have their prices changed, and negotiations will be announced for the 12% of territories that will be left unmanaged after Sunday. Additionally, negotiations are to be held based on conditions previously available under old operators.

One of the big waste management companies – SIA Eko Baltia vide – has confirmed readiness to continue working under established rules. The other one – SIA Clean R – wants to have a look at conditions for waste management of 12% of the city’s waste before making its decision. Representatives of both companies confirmed that tariffs shouldn’t increase at least until the end the year unless there are any external factors, such as the possible increase of the Natural Resource Tax, which is expected in January.

During the meeting ministers had different opinions and questions for Pūce. For example, the prime minister wanted to know why the government has decided to declare a state of emergency at all if waste management companies are ready to work anyway.

Pūce explained that there are differences in the contracts signed between businesses and the city council and contracts signed between residents and businesses. The minister mentioned multiple times that Competition Council’s decisions restores only the contracts signed between the city council and businesses, but it does not restore several thousand contracts with residents.

‘These contracts will no longer be in force at midnight on Saturday, and they will have no time to sign new ones. Without a state of emergency the law will not allow operators transport waste. And these 12% account for a territory equal to that of Daugavpils, not one or two houses. Consequences will be immediate,’ said the minister. Government representatives spent hours discussing this topic among themselves, with legal experts and Competition Council representatives.

During the meeting Bordāns said he is not convinced declaration of a state of emergency is the only way out. According to him, there are multiple factors that cause doubt, such as the fact that the government’s decision will make it easy for Riga City Council and not allow them to take responsibility for this situation.

The prime minister added that the entire situation is Riga City Council’s fault, because in spite of multiple warnings from Competition Council, Riga did nothing to prepare for the state of emergency.

Kariņš noted that he would rather the situation with waste management in Riga was resolved quickly and with legislative amendments.

The government’s decision needs to be approved by the Saeima. This means the topic may be added to the Saeima’s 12 September plenary meeting.

The government’s decision puts a duty for Riga City Council to reach an agreement with the businesses that have affirmed their readiness to provide waste management services after 15 September.

It is also ordered to announce and conclude a negotiation procedure by 13 September to ensure provision of waste management services in parts of Riga in which businesses are prepared to continue providing waste management services after 14 September.

This means negotiating waste management services for the territory that covers 12% of Riga. Contenders participating in the negotiation procedure will be provided with requirements and results of the procedure will have to be coordinated with Environment Protection and Regional Development Ministry. Companies not prepared to continue working will be asked to hand the city council their contracts with residents so that it is possible to hold negotiations on conditions at which service providers have provided their services all until now.

Riga City Council is also expected to establish a waste management tariff by 13 September. The tariff will come to force 15 September.

The city council is also expected to ensure the fee for the business picked at the end of the negotiation procedure is applied in accordance with the services amount of waste and in accordance with the new approved fee standard.

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