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Saeima says state of emergency in Riga’s waste management sector is justified

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Latvia’s Saeima has approved the decision made by the Cabinet of Ministers on declaring a state of emergency in Riga’s waste management sector.

This means that last week’s declared state of emergency remains in force.

59 deputies voted in favour of the state of emergency and 24 voted against. One Saeima deputy abstained in the vote.

In his speech addressed to the Saeima, Environment Protection and Regional Development Minister Juris Pūce recounted the reasons why the state of emergency was declared. According to him, the state of emergency should be maintained; otherwise emergency measures lose their power.

Saeima deputy Artūrs Toms Plešs comments: «If Riga City Council failed to take care of residents, then we have to do it in the Saeima.»

Deputy Sandis Riekstiņš stresses that the situation in Riga is not an emergency, because problems have been known for years and no action was taken, allowing the situation to escalate. His party member Krišjānis Feldmans bashed the situation in the capital, which emerged as a result of monopoly. He also bashed the management of Riga City Council.

Non-party Saeima deputy Didzis Šmits also referenced the alleged desire of certain politicians to take revenge against Riga City Council management. «As a result, they take revenge against Riga’s residents,» said Šmits. He stressed that Riga and Naples should not compete waste-wise, saying that he will support the state of emergency.

Artuss Kaimiņš, on the other hand, says decision-making power has the authority to decide differently than executive power. «As for concerns that it will not be possible to transport waste from Lidiņš – we will come up with something in three months. Society finally knows how the waste management business works,» said Kaimiņš, inviting the Saeima to not support the state of emergency.

During the meeting deputies also exchanged mutual insults. For example, Saeima deputy Juta Strīķe, referencing Šmits’ words, said: «I didn’t think political garbage would discuss garbage. But they did. Everything is fine!»

Strīķe also bashed Riga’s Mayor Oļegs Burovs, stressing that «Burovs is the name of the garbage situation».

Deputy Jānis Dombrava said it is negative to see Latvian parties argue with one another while the guilty parties sit quietly and celebrate. «How often do we resolve the problems Riga creates? The problem is not with the size of the municipality, but the size of its managers. Ušakovs, Turlajs, and Burovs are completely useless managers. They cannot properly manage their municipality,» said Dombrava, adding that dismissing the city council would be the right thing to do.

National Committee leader Jānis Vitenbergs reminded that the Competition Council had warned about the potential situation in the waste management sector well in advance. This is why CC should be supported. «We are solving Riga’s problems here. Perhaps we will have to take Riga City Council’s cats in our care, too?» asked the deputy.

Saeima deputy Sergejs Dolgopolovs concluded the parliament discusses everything except what should be discussed. According to him, the situation outlines a number of problems that should be resolved by the Saeima by different means, including changing the law. «Today we do not discuss how well or how poorly Riga City Council works. We discuss ways to avoiding future problems,» he said, adding that a state of emergency is needed.

«I am happy to see the coalition members argue with one another over a decision made by the government. Why do we even have opposition with this coalition?» asked deputy Viktors Valainis, stressing that a state of emergency is needed.

Non-party deputy Aldis Gobzems compared the process to a theatre, saying that the entire process had started several years ago. According to him, the critical situation was created by deputies of coalition parties in the current and the previous Saeima. Gobzems also blasted Riga City Council, whose procurement for waste management services was poor.

Saeima deputy Daniels Pavļuts said the process in the parliament today creates the impression that deputies are deciding on whether or not Competition Council is right. Pavļuts stressed that the government, when making the decision, considered all arguments and opinions. «No one in this hall has a monopoly for legal truth. […] We can insult one another and talk things out, but the Cabinet of Ministers had already considered all pros and cons when making the decision,» said Pavļuts, stressing that discussions in the Saeima urge the question if the parliament even trusts the judgement of the government it had previously approved.

«Colleagues from the opposition attempted to rile up deputies by saying we have split and that we are not united in regards to the government’s decision,» said deputy Linda Ozola, stressing that New Conservative Party’s decision does not mean a split in the government. She reminded that the government did not make the decision unanimously, adding that it is also necessary to respect Competition Council’s opinion.

After listening to opinions of Saeima deputies, Pūce concluded that the parliament will likely discuss other steps on Friday, 20 September.

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