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Sunday 18.08.2019 | Name days: Liene, Helēna, Elena, Ellena, Liena

Week in Lithuania: CB denies Swedbank’s Syria links, PM Skvernelis to change some ministers

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Swedbank sign is seen on the building in Vilnius, Lithuania

Last week, PM Saulius Skvernelis revealed that the Government mulls taxing property and polluting cars, Lithuanian Railways said it will keep contract with Latvia’s Sigmen, Court disqualifies itself from Paleckis case.

PM: government mulls new taxes on property, polluting cars

Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis said on Thursday, July 18, that the government is considering broadening the property tax base and taxing polluting cars. The International Monetary Fund and the European Commission have called on Lithuania for years to broaden its property tax base. Last year, the government moved to tax second, third and further residential properties owned by one individual at a rate of 0.3 per cent, but the Seimas did not back the proposal.

PM: Several ministers to be replaced

Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis said this week that more than one ministers will be replaced in the Cabinet’s reshuffle, which follows the return of powers to the new president, Gitanas Nausėda. That means that the parliament will have to vote not only on Skvernelis’ reappointment as prime minister, but also on the government program. The additional vote will be needed because more than half of members of the Skvernelis government will have changed since it received the mandate in 2016.

Central Bank has no info on Swedbank’s Syria links

The central Bank of Lithuania (CB) said this week it has no information to confirm claims by Swedish media about the links of the country’s financial group Swedbank and its bank in Lithuania with Syria’s chemical weapons program. Sweden’s Dagens Industri daily reported on Monday, July 15, that based on the information it has, Sweden’s Swedbank is linked to a transaction used to fund Syria’s chemical weapons program. According to the vz.lt news website, the transaction involved Swedbank clients in Lithuania who entered into transactions with one or more clients of FBME, a bank with non-transparent reputation.

Lithuanian company plans big investment in Riga

M.M.M. Projektai, a real estate company owned by Lithuanian businessman Nerijus Numavičius, plans to invest 200 million euros in Riga over the next few years, vz.lt news website reported this week. The company has bought two land lots for investment, and a business centre of around 50,000 square meters might be built in one of them, and some 100,000 square meters of housing in another.

President nominates Skvernelis for reappointment as PM

President Gitanas Nausėda nominated on Thursday, July 18, Saulius Skvernelis for reappointment as prime minister. Skvernelis returned his Cabinet’s powers to Nausėda after he was sworn in as president on July 12. The procedure is envisaged in the Constitution. Nausėda said that the political experience Skvernelis has gained as prime minister and, previously, as interior minister will help him overcome challenges.

 LNG terminal charge to be cut in December

Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis said on Wednesday, July 17, that the Energy Ministry’s row with Achemos Grupė over plans to transfer Klaipėdos Nafta’s LNG business to a separate company will not prevent the government from taking decisions that are necessary for cutting the LNG terminal-related burden for consumers starting in December.

Mission Siberia departed for Kazakhstan

A team of 16 participants of the annual Mission Siberia departed for Kazakhstan after a ceremony at Vilnius Railway Station on Wednesday, July 17. The participants of the ten-day expedition will tend to graves of deportees and political prisoners buried in Kazakhstan. The team had intended to go to Russia, but just as in 2018, they had to change their plans after the country refused to issue visas for a second successive year.

UK startup Velocity Black setting up technology centre

UK-based startup Velocity Black announced this week it was setting up its first technology cenre in Vilnius, which will create new jobs and partner with local universities. The Vilnius team will be developing new, AI-based technologies for Velocity, which is currently one of the world’s fastest-growing venture-backed tech companies.

LG will not terminate contract with Latvia’s Sigmen

Lithuania’s state-run railway company Lietuvos Geležinkeliai (Lithuanian Railways, LG) said this week it will not terminate its contract with Latvia’s Sigmen, one of the region’s largest Russia gauge rails suppliers, despite Lithuanian media’s recent reports on its links to the circles of Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russian oligarchs subject to the US sanctions. LG says it will continue working with the company after receiving conclusions of the Lithuanian government commission assessing transactions of strategic companies.

Court disqualifies itself from Paleckis case

Vilnius Regional Court announced this week its decision to disqualify itself from the case of Algirdas Paleckis, former leader of the Socialist People’s Front who is suspected of spying for Russia, as he is suspected of crimes against the court’s judges. Neither the court, nor prosecutors provide any details on the judge-related circumstances Paleckis is suspected of. The State Security Department has found that the suspect allegedly had contact with other persons who also cooperated with Russian intelligence organizations and provided them with sensitive information.

President wants to improve relations with Belarus

President Gitanas Nausėda said this week he’s ready to improve relations with Belarus but vows to preserve the strict position on blocking imports of power produced by the Astravyets nuclear power plant. He said he has not decided yet if dialogue with Belarus could take place at the highest-level. In the president’s words, Lithuania is still considering who to invite from the Belarusian government to the reburial of the remains of participants of the 1863-1864 uprising, planned in Vilnius in the fall.

President invites Polish counterpart to uprising participants’ reburial

President Gitanas Nausėda on Tuesday, July 16, invited his Polish counterpart Andrzej Duda to the reburial of the remains of participants of the XIX uprising against the Russian Empire, scheduled in Vilnius in the fall. Nausėda paid his first state visit to Poland that day.

Seimas will not consider LRT ad ban bill

Lithuanian lawmakers decided on Tuesday, July 16, not to consider a proposal to ban all advertising on the national radio and television (LRT) and its news website. In total 32 lawmakers voted for the inclusion of the amendment to the Law on the National Radio and Television, drafted by three members of the Lithuanian Farmers and Greens Union, to the parliament agenda, 16 were against and 26 abstained.


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Week in Lithuania: PM Skvernelis undergoes surgery, Nausėda meets Merkel, rebukes Latvia

Last week, President Gitanas Nausėda rejected the government’s candidate for EU judge, hints of big changes at Šiaulių Bankas ahead

Independent Deputies Faction joins forces with Honour to Serve Riga

Riga City Council’s Independent Deputies Faction has signed a cooperation agreement with Honour to Serve Riga political party, pledging support for the party’s mayoral candidate Oļegs Burovs, as LETA was told by the faction’s leader Valērijs Petrovs on Monday, 18 August.

Saeima’s MPC investigation committee requests information on every issued license

The parliamentary committee formed to investigate the mandatory procurement component has requested access to information regarding every issued MPC license and decision made by officials in regards to this field, says the committee’s representative Ilze Vanaga.

Latvian athlete receives two-year disqualification

Former Latvian long jumper Ineta Radeviča has received a two-year disqualification, as confirmed by International Association of Athletics Federation’s Athletics Integrity Unit.

Minister: state budget funds will not be used to compensate PNB Bank’s clients

The Deposit Guarantee Fund is sufficient to pay compensations to affected PNB Bank clients. This means not a cent from Latvia’s state budget will be used, said Latvia’s Finance Minister Jānis Reirs in a telephone conversation with public broadcaster LTV programme Rīta Panorāma on Friday, 16 August.

Estonia to invest 22 million in construction of a new TV house

Estonian government has set aside EUR 22 million for the construction of a new public television building, as reported by Estonian public media ERR.

Another one falls – Latvian FCMC halts PNB Bank’s operations

Operations of PNB Bank [formerly Norvik Banka] have been halted in Latvia, as confirmed by Finance and Capital Market Commission.

Unemployment index in Latvia drops – rate down to 6.4% in Q2

In Q2 2019 Latvian unemployment rate constituted 6.4 %. Compared to the previous quarter, unemployment rate fell by 0.5 percentage points, and compared to the rate recorded a year ago, it dropped by 1.3 percentage points.

64.7% of Latvia’s population reportedly employed in Q2 2019

905.6 thousand people or 64.7 % of Latvia’s population aged 15–74 were employed in Q2 2019.

Lithuanian Conservatives’ tensions: can the party split?

The Conservative Homeland Union - Lithuanian Christian Democrats (TS-LKD) have risen to unseen heights lately – although in the opposition now, in 2016 parliamentary election the party racked up a record support in its 30 years’ history.

Minister: Latvia’s social budget surplus has reached one billion

The surplus of the state social budget has come close of the pre-crisis level – EUR 1 billion, said Latvian Welfare Minister Ramona Petraviča in an interview to LTV programme Rīta panorama on 15 August.

Riga City Council permitted to elect mayor after two-month deadline

In spite of the fact that 21 August will mark two months of Riga City Council working without a mayor, a condition that permits Latvia’s Saeima to dismiss the entire city council, deputies of the municipality will nonetheless have the right to elect a mayor after the deadline, says Environment Protection Minister Juris Pūce’s advisor for legal affairs Valdis Verners.

Lithuanian president unhappy with Latvia’s decision to purchase energy from Belarus

Lithuanian President Gitanas Nausėda has voiced sadness over Latvia’s decision to purchase electrical energy produced at Astravets nuclear power plant in Belarus not far from the Lithuanian border. He admits, however, that this decision was not unexpected for him.

State Real Estate claims ReRe Būve 1 may be trying to circumvent the law

Construction company Rere Būve 1 publicly voices desire to continue implementing the construction contract. However, the construction company’s submitted work schedule for reconstruction of New Riga Theatre has everything changed – volume of work, terms and budget, Latvian State Real Estate reports.

Lithuanian mountaineer dies climbing French Alps

Lithuanian 38-year-old mountaineer Vytautas Mažeika died in a 50 m fall in the French Alps, Lithuanian public media LRT reports with reference to 15min.lt.

Estonia decides to reform pension system; increase not promised

Helir-Valdor Seeder, leader of Estonian coalition party Isamaa, has confirmed that the government has agreed on his proposed pension reform, as reported by Estonian public media ERR.

Ruling party in Lithuania promises national agreement for education affairs

While more and more small town schools close down in Lithuania, the leader of the ruling party promises a «national agreement» for education affairs, as reported by Lithuanian public media LRT.

Viesturs Zeps’ has yet to convince NCP and Unity to support him as mayoral candidate

Mayoral candidate in Riga Viesturs Zeps still has not convinced New Conservative Party and Unity to support him, according to what he said in an interview to public broadcaster LTV programme Rīta panorama on Thursday, 15 August.

Audit: planning problems impede growth of Latvia’s defensive capabilities

Problems with planning are the main reason why Latvia’s defensive capabilities are developing slowly, as concluded by State Audit.

Minister: increase of doctors’ wages is a priority over all other promises

First it is necessary to increase doctors’ wages. Then it will be possible to tackle all other promises, said Latvian Healthcare Minister Ilze Viņķele during a meeting of the Saeima’s Social and Employment Matters Committee on Wednesday, 14 August.

Is Latvia becoming more hospitable? Tourist upturn observed

A total of 781.1 thousand visitors stayed at Latvian tourist accommodation establishments in Q2 2019, which is 1.1 % more than in Q2 2018.

Village in Russia to be evacuated following nuclear accident

Russian authorities have announced evacuation of Nenoksa village, as it is the closest to the military area where a nuclear accident recently happened. This may mean the situation there is far more dangerous than initially reported, as reported by New York Times.

Lithuania’s president says he sees no reason to meet with Putin

A meeting with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin is unlikely and would be pointless, said Lithuania’s President Gitanas Nausėda in an interview to public media LRT.

Shadow of political dealings over SRS. ZZS people – Knoks, Podiņš, Vaivars

Although the State Revenue Service has never had a truly spotless reputation, there is now a much bigger and darker shadow hovering over the service’s director general Ieva Jaunzeme. Serious concerns have been voiced in regards to possible employment of «chosen people» in important posts, which allows them to either halt or push criminal processes forward in order to make life difficult for their political opponents, pretending to fight the good fight while, in reality, realizing some «political hit».

Prime Minister: 2020 budget will be Latvia’s largest one yet

The next year’s budget will be the largest in the history of Latvia and will exceed EUR 10 billion, said Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš in an interview to public broadcaster LTV programme Rīta Panorāma on Wednesday, 14 August.

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