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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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Aivars Lembergs leaves his post in Latvian Olympic Committee

On Friday, 13 December, individual member of Latvian Olympic Committee and member of its Executive Committee Aivars Lembergs announced to LOK board his decision to leave the organization, BNN was told by LOK press-secretary Mārtiņš Mālmeisters.

Ralfs Kļaviņš and Edvīns Bērziņš leave the board of Latvian Transit Business Association

Chairman of Riga Commercial Port Ralfs Kļaviņš and ex-chairman of Latvian Railway Edvīns Bērziņš have left the board of Latvian Transit Business Association, according to information from Firmas.lv.

US sanctions will not affect companies in which Lembergs no longer has any influence

The sanctions introduced by USA against Lembergs will not affect the companies over which he no longer has control thanks to a ruling of the court.

Liquidation of discount fares on multiple RMS routes would help save money for Rīgas satiksme

By liquidating multiple discounts for passenger fares on multiple LLC Rīgas mikroautobusu satiksme routes, LLC Rīgas satiksme public transport company hopes to save approximately EUR 1.75 million a year.

Tallinn region GDP portion decreases in Estonian economy

In 2018, 65% of the Estonian gross value added was created in Harju county, while the rest of the country is inching closed with Harju county, the official statistics of the Baltic country showed.

EU prolongs targeted sanctions against Russia over Ukraine

The European Union has extended for another six months its sanctions against Russia’s energy, finance and military sectors. The continued restrictive measures are said to remain in full until Minsk peace deal is implemented.

Local government representatives will no longer work at Riga and Ventspils freeport

Following the coming into force of amendments to the Law on Ports, representatives of Riga City Council and Ventspils City Council will lose their respective posts in the board of Riga Freeport and Ventspils Freeport, the law states.

Total tax debts in Latvia at December’s beginning – EUR 869.4 million

At the beginning of December, total tax debts in Latvia, including outstanding, halted and extended debts, were equal to EUR 869.367 million, which is 1.9% less than a month prior, according to data from the State Revenue Service.

In UK’s Brexit election, Conservatives win comfortable majority

In the British snap parliamentary election aimed at breaking the Brexit impasse, the ruling Conservative Party has won gaining a comfortable majority, according to close to complete results.

Riga City Council’s interim administration may be entrusted to VARAM state secretary Balševics

If the Saeima votes in favour of dismissing Riga City Council, the interim municipal administration may be entrusted to Environment Protection and Regional Ministry’s state secretary Edvīns Balševics, according to the ministry’s Riga City Council dismissal legislative draft to be decided on by the government on 17 December.

EU member states commit to 2050 carbon neutrality, Poland opts out

European Union’s 26 members, including the Baltic states, have supported the planned political course to considerably reduce the greenhouse gas emissions to net-zero by 2050. Coal-powered Poland said it could not reach the goal and opted out.

Latvia’s prime minister forms a work group to ensure Ventspils Freeport’s operations

On Thursday, 12 December, Latvia’s Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš has issued an order on formation of a work group under Transport Minister Tālis Linkaits in order to ensure undisrupted operations at Ventspils Freeport, as reported by the prime minister’s press-secretary Sandris Sabajevs.

Ministry: to prevent damaging Latvian sports sector’s reputation, Lembergs should leave LOK

To avoid letting US sanctions negatively affect Latvian Olympic Committee and spread to the reputation of the country’s sports sector, the ministry can only ask Aivars Lembergs step down as member of LOK Executive Committee, BNN was told by Education and Science Ministry.

Budget Committee declines residents’ request to postpone increasing funding for parties

Saeima’s Budget and Finance Committee has rejected a public initiative signed by more than 11 000 residents. This initiative requested postponing the planned increase of funding for political parties.

Lower election threshold in Lithuania – more democracy or chaos?

The Lithuanian legislature, Seimas, has lowered this week the parliamentary election threshold to 3 per cent for political parties and 5 per cent for coalitions.

Russia expels German diplomats, retaliating to German step over Berlin murder

Russia has asked two diplomats of the German Embassy to leave the country. This is a tit-for-tat measure after Germany declared two Russian diplomats personae non grata as Berlin investigates an international murder in the German capital, TASS reported.

Riga Freeport and Liepaja Special Economic Zone to leave LTAB

Riga Freeport and Liepaja Special Economic Zone will leave Latvian Transit Business Association managed by Aivars Lembergs, as both are subjected to US sanctions.

Lembergs’ influence over Ventspils Freeport needs to end, bank supervisors say

The goal of the US sanctions is reducing Aivars Lembergs’ economic and political influence over Ventspils Freeport and other companies under his control. Sanctions are not meant to paralyse companies, rather seeing how they are used to process deals influenced by the person under sanctions – Aivars Lembergs, said Finance and Capital Market Commission head Santa Purgaile during a press-conference on Thursday, 12 December.

USD 25 million offered in Weinstein sage to 30 alleged sexual abuse victims

In the U.S. movie industry scandal surrounding sexual abuse claims against film producer Harvey Weinstein his lawyers have offered a USD 25-million settlement to more than 30 women, The Guardian reports.

Legal Affairs Committee supports lifting judge immunity for administrative violation cases

Saeima’s Legal Affairs Committee supported prior to the second reading legislative drafts to the Law on Judicial Power and Law on Judges Disciplinary Liability intended to lift the immunity of judges in administrative violation cases, as confirmed by Justice Ministry.

Estonian-Finnish gas interconnection unveiled

Estonia and Finland have held ceremonies to unveil the gas pipeline Balticconnector, built to connect the gas transmission networks of both countries separated by the Baltic Sea.

Mārtiņš Kazāks officially becomes governor of the Bank of Latvia

On Thursday, 12 December, Latvia’s Saeima officially approved Mārtiņš Kazāks as the new governor of the Bank of Latvia, as BNN was told by Saeima’s press-service.

What is Ventspils Development Agency and what will its members do now?

Among the organizations against which US Department of Treasury Office for Foreign Asset Control has adopted sanctions is also Ventspils Development Agency. In accordance with OFAC issued Global Magnitsky General Licence Nr.1, global partners have 30 days to cease all cooperation with this organization.

Israel on way to third parliamentary election in year

Israeli legislators have been unable to overcome a prolonged political crisis. The Knesset has given its initial approval to the third parliamentary election in the Middle Eastern country in a year’s time after legislators proved unable to form a majority coalition.

Social Integration Fund torn over NGO support priorities

Although sides of the Social Integration Fund have argued over priorities of the Non-Government Organizations Fund, the contest to start using funding allocated to NGOs may yet be announced this year, allows Social Integration Fund council member and Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš’s representative Imants Parādnieks.


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