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Ceturtdiena 02.04.2020 | Name days: Imgarde, Irmgarde

Week in Lithuania: 3700-euro pension to Grybauskaite okayed, neopagans denied recognition

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People participate in a traditional Lithuanian summer solstice in Verkiai Park in Vilnius

Last week, PM Saulius Skvernelis said that coalition expansion talks were drawing to an end, 2008-2010 crisis investigators concluded on the downturn reasons, Russia notified Vilnius it is set to issue free e-visas to Lithuanians to visit Kaliningrad.

President meets with families of border guards killed by Soviets

Lithuania’s outgoing President Dalia Grybauskaitė met on Friday, June 28, with family members of border guards and police officers killed by the Soviets at the Medininkai checkpoint in 1991. The meeting was held in the run-up to the 28th anniversary of the Medininkai massacre on July 31. Members of the Soviet special police unit OMON killed seven Lithuanian border guards and police officers who were on duty at the Medininkai border checkpoint. Customs officer Tomas Šernas, the only survivor, was severely wounded and became disabled.

PM says coalition talks «drawing to a logical close»

Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis said this week that talks on a mew government coalition are drawing to a «logical close» when it will be clear whether or not an agreement will be signed. Ramūnas Karbauskis, the leader of the Lithuanian Farmers and Greens Union (LFGU), said earlier on Thursday, June 27, that the LFGU and three other political parties might sign a coalition agreement by the end of the week.

Government approves 3,700 euro monthly pay to Grybauskaitė

The Lithuanian government approved on Wednesday, June 26, a lifetime presidential retirement pay to outgoing President Dalia Grybauskaitė.  She will start receiving a monthly pay of almost 3,700 euros after President-elect Gitanas Nausėda is sworn in on July 12.  The pay will not be the only source of income for the 63-year-old outgoing president. When she turns 66, Grybauskaitė will start getting a European pension, unofficially estimated at over 3,600 euros before taxes, for her work in the European Commission.  Also, Grybauskaite was allocated a state social insurance pension of 685 euros in July 2018. The presidential office says she did not participate in any private pension plan.

Crisis investigators approve final conclusions

The Lithuanian Seimas’ Committee on Budget and Finance, investigating the circumstances of the decade-old economic crisis, have in principle approved its conclusions on Wednesday, June 26. They state that the crisis was sparked by banks, and the central Bank of Lithuania failed to ensure proper supervision. The committee will endorse the final conclusions later, and they will be put before parliament by the end of October. Besides, the committee states, the government had the possibility to receive cheaper loans from international institutions than in 2009-2012 but failed to use the opportunity.

Seimas extends session until Jul 18

The Seimas (Lithuanian parliament) on Thursday, June 27, extended its spring session until July 18 over the inauguration of President-elect Gitanas Nausėda. Deputy Speaker Rima Baškienė confirmed that candidates for prime minister and chief of defence would be considered on July 16-18, and also new ministers will be sworn in. Nausėda will be inaugurated on July 12. Under the Constitution, the government returns powers to a new president.

Minister sees little chance of staying in government

Transport Minister Rokas Masiulis sees little chance of staying in his place once the government returns its powers. The minister met with President-elect Gitanas Nausėda on Thursday, June 27, and said he did not discuss his fate in the government as ministerial candidates depend on coalition agreements and the prime minister. The minister said he heard no reproach from Nausėda and he introduced the president-elect to the ongoing changes, anticorruption achievements in every sector, as well as the progress of the Rail Baltica, Vica Baltica projects, the seaport, airport and road building situation.

Russia to issue free e-visas to Lithuanians to visit Kaliningrad

Moscow has formally notified Vilnius that Lithuanians will be able to travel to Russia’s Baltic Sea exclave of Kaliningrad with a free e-visa starting July 1.Tatyana Novozhilova, head of the Consular Section at Russia’s embassy to Lithuania, confirmed to journalists on Wednesday, June 26, that the new e-visa system for foreigners visiting Kaliningrad will be introduced on July 1, adding that citizens of 53 countries, including all EU member states, will be eligible.

MPs fail to grant state recognition to neopagans

The Seimas (Lithuanian parliament) on Thursday, June 27, lacked votes to grant state recognition to Romuva, an ancient Baltic religious community, after 40 lawmakers voted in favour, 31 were against and 15 abstained. All representatives of the ruling Lithuanian Farmers and Greens Union voted in favour of granting Romuva state recognition, and MPs representing the conservative opposition Homeland Union – Lithuanian Christian Democrats and the Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania – Christian Families Alliance voted against or abstained. Following the parliament’s decision, Romuva will be able to ask for state recognition only after ten years.

Several firms fined for cartel agreements

Several Lithuanian companies have been slapped with fines amounting to 978,000 euros in total for cartel agreements in bidding for municipal projects in three northern districts. The Lithuanian Competition Council (LCC) said on Thursday, June 27, it imposed fines of 209,800 euros on Panevėžio Melioracija, of 399,200 euros on Pasvalio Melioracija and Jadrana, which are a single economic entity, and of 368,000 euros on Biržų Ranga. According to LCC, the companies agreed on prices they would ask for road and street repair and reclamation works in 25 public procurement procedures that were organized by the local governments.

Revolut poses no security threat

A special Lithuanian governmental commission gave the same verdict that Revolut’s activities do not run counter to the country’s national interests after completing its third review of the UK-based fintech start-up. The commission that vets transactions by strategic enterprises took the decision on June 25, Valdas Kiveris. Revolut Bank plans to start operating as a specialised bank in Lithuania the second half of 2019.

Finance minister calls for cautiousness in making promises for 2020

Finance Minister Vilius Šapoka said this week that Lithuania must speed up education, health and innovation policy reforms to increase people’s incomes, adding that with economic growth slowing down, the government has to strictly adhere to fiscal discipline and keep public spending under control, but at the same time not to forget to carry out poverty reduction measures.

Finance minister does not intend to get into «excise wars»

Lithuania has no intention of following in the footsteps of Estonia and Latvia by cutting excise taxes on alcoholic drinks, Lithuanian Finance Minister Vilius Šapoka said on Wednesday, June 26. In excise policies, short-term plans must be outweighed by long-term objectives, especially when it comes to products that have an impact on public health, according to the minister. Increased availability and consumption of alcohol costs taxpayers much more in the long run, Šapoka emphasised.

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Saeima committee supports writing off debts left from 2008 crisis

On Wednesday, 1 April, Latvian Saeima’s Budget and Finance Committee conceptually supported during a remote meeting the proposal to allow credit institutions to one-sidedly write off debts for mortgage loans taken prior to the 2008 economic crisis, as reported by Saeima press-service.

Belarus introduces ban on buckwheat exports

Belarusian government has prohibited temporarily the export of buckwheat and other staple foods, state news agency BelTA reported.

Moscow tests app for tracking infected people required to self-isolate

In Moscow, where a lockdown has been in place since the beginning of the week, a new smartphone app is being developed and tested aimed at ensuring that patients with mild symptoms adhere to their contract of self-isolation, Russian state news agency TASS reports.

Multiple of Nature Protection Office’s duties delegated to the State Environment Service

Latvia’s Environment Protection and Regional Development Ministry issued an order on 30 March to delegate multiple duties of the Nature Protection Office to the State Environment Service, according to information from LETA.

Latvian State Employment Agency received notifications for numerous planned lay-offs

Latvia’s State Employment Agency has received notification about planned lay-offs of 3 258 employees of 19 companies.

1 April onward entry to Jurmala by car will not be allowed without paying 2 euro fee

Wednesday, 1 April, marks the beginning of the the season when entry to Jurmala by car will require a 2 euro fee, as reported by Jurmala City Council.

Estonia looking at mass tests’ option to determine latency of COVID-19

The Estonian government has set itself the goal of mass tests of COVID-19 in the society, its Foreign Minister has revealed as the worst-hit Baltic country is looking at ways to overcome the outbreak, Estonian public broadcaster reports.

COVID-19 update in Baltic. 446 in Latvia, 581 in Lithuania, 779 in Estonia

The number of confirmed COVID-19 infection cases in Latvia has reached 446. Meanwhile, Lithuanian media report 581 cases.

Countries rush to support production of lung ventilators, essential amid pandemic

Governments and medical institutions in the world seek to acquire many lung ventilators that can save lives in severe cases of the COVID-19 disease. France and Israel have made recent announcements in this respect, German public broadcaster DW reports.

Public catering companies to adopt new hygiene requirements as of 1 April

Latvia’s Agriculture Ministry has expanded requirements for public catering and retail trade companies, BNN was told by the ministry.

At least 26 healthcare workers in Latvia confirmed infected with COVID-19

At least 26 healthcare workers in Latvia have been infected with COVID-19, according to information reported by the Disease Prevention and Monitoring Centre expert Jurijs Perevoščikovs.

UN Secretary General calls for solidarity seeing pandemic as a global test

UN Secretary General António Guterres has evaluated that the social and economic effect of the COVID-19 pandemic is the greatest test to mankind since World War Two, British public broadcaster BBC reports.

Agricultural product price level up 1.5% in Latvia last year

Compared to 2018, price index of agricultural output increased by 1.5 % in 2019, which was mainly due to the 5 % rise in prices of livestock products. Price index of crop products grew by 0.9 %.

Start of inability to cover debts seen in Estonian economy

In Estonian economy hit by the outbreak of COVID-19 and emergency restrictions, initial indications of payment defaults have been noticed by the risk management firm Creditinfo Eesti, according to Estonian public broadcaster ERR.

Labour costs in Latvia considerably below EU and Eurozone average in 2019

Average hourly labour costs in Latvia were EUR 9.9 last year, which is considerably below the average of European Union (EU) and Eurozone, according to data published by Eurostat on Tuesday, 31 March.

Youth Song and Dance Celebration in Latvia pushed back to 2021

The XII Latvian School Song and Dance Celebration Committee and Song and Dance Council decided on Tuesday, 31 March, to push back this summer’s youth song and dance celebration to 2021, as Education and Science Minister Ilga Šuplinska confirmed in a press-conference.

Russia sees COVID-19 infection rate jump by 500 in one day

In Russia, the infection rate with COVID-19 has accelerated as authorities registered 500 new cases in one day. Meanwhile, people are getting discharged after recovery in hospitals, Russian state news agency TASS reports.

Latvian minister allows face-to-face teaching at schools will not return this year

It is clear remote teaching at Latvia’s schools and vocational education facilities will remain for longer. It is also possible face-to-face teaching will not return at all this season. This means most school children will also likely miss centralized exams, said Latvian Education and Science Minister Ilga Šuplinska in an interview to LTV programme Rīta panorama.

Electricity price drops to the lowest level of the past seven years

This year there has been a rapid decline of electricity wholesale price in Latvia. Nord Pool price in Latvia’s area reached its historically lowest point in March, according to market data of the Public Utilities Commission.

Riga city executive director Juris Radzevičs temporarily suspended from his post

The head of Riga city municipality’s interim administration Edvīns Balševics has suspended the city’s executive director Juris Radzevičs from his post.

Fuel sales in Estonia down by 30% to 50%

Petrol stations in Estonia have during the outbreak of COVID-19 and emergency restrictions observed a significant fall in the sales of fuel, Estonian public broadcaster ERR reports.

BNN INTERVIEW | How is COVID-19 used to prolong Lembergs’ trial?

Attempts to prolong Aivars Lembergs’ trial still continue. The accused are trying to use the state of emergency in the country as an excuse to cancel hearings. But when asked about the option to organize trials via video conference, the accused say – let the state pay for a computer and internet connection, as they would not use theirs for such a task, BNN was told by prosecutor Juris Juriss.

UK urged to extend Brexit transition period; London says: «No»

The European Parliament’s most influential faction has suggested the United Kingdom to prolong its the transition period of its withdrawal from the European Union over the effects of the pandemic of COVID-19, The Guardian reports.

COVID-19 update in Baltics. 398 in Latvia, 533 in Lithuania, 745 in Estonia

The number of confirmed COVID-19 infection cases in Latvia has reached 398. Lithuanian media, meanwhile, reports 533 confirmed cases. The latest data for Estonia points to 715 confirmed coronavirus infection cases.

31 March marks coming into force of new social distance requirements in cafes

Latvia’s Economy Ministry has developed social distancing requirements in public catering places. The new requirements will come to force Tuesday, 31 March, the ministry reports.

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