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Saturday 18.01.2020 | Name days: Antis, Antons

Week in Lithuania: Conscription age lowered, Klaipėda port’s development plan approved, retail tax delayed

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Last week, in Lithuania, the key news stories were the lowering of the national conscription age, the approval of the development plan of the Klaipėda port and the delay of the retail tax.

Lithuania lowers military conscription age

The Lithuanian parliament has lowered this week the age range at which men are called up for mandatory military service to 18-23 years, from 19-26 years currently, and banned volunteer soldiers from holding seats in the parliament and municipal councils. Defence Minister Raimundas Karoblis has said that the aim of lowering the conscription age is to ensure that conscripts’ military service causes the minimum possible disruption to their civilian lives.

Nausėda unhappy with a new EU funding

President Gitanas Nausėda presented Lithuania’s position on the bloc’s proposed next multiannual financial framework to European Commissioner for Budget and Administration Johannes Hahn in Brussels on Thursday, December 12. Lithuania criticises the proposal to slash cohesion policy funding by around 27 per cent. Nausėda also criticised the European Commission’s proposal to increase direct payments to Lithuanian farmers from the current 181 euros per hectare of arable land to 204 euros by 2027, compared with the current EU average of 266 euros.

EU proposal not in Lithuania’s interest

The European Union’s plans to require that haulers return their trucks home at least every eight weeks is not in Lithuania’s interest, government representatives say. Vice Minister of Transport Gytis Mažeika said that the preliminary agreement on mandatory return every eight weeks is not in the interest of Lithuania. The agreement is not final and still needs approval of member states.

LFGU leader trusts PM Skvernelis

Ramūnas Karbauskis, the leader of the ruling Lithuanian Farmers and Greens Union, said this week he convinced that Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis will not establish a new party and that it won’t be easy for him to change the existing team for the upcoming general election. LFGU leader said he was convinced that the prime minister’s decision to register his presidential election campaign slogan «For the Homeland» does not mean he plans to establish a new political force.

Cabinet approves Klaipėda port’s general development plan

The Lithuanian Cabinet approved on Wednesday, December 11, a general development plan for the seaport of Klaipėda. The plan sets out strategic directions for the port’s development in the next 25 years, and specific solutions for the next 15 years that will help it remain competitive, respond promptly to changing market conditions and build the necessary infrastructure, the government said in a press release. Transport Minister Jaroslav Narkevič told the Cabinet that the plan was necessary for the port to expand and compete with neighbouring ports.

Lithuania needs to spend 14 bn euro on climate change

Lithuania will need to spend 14 billion euros over ten years to meet its climate change commitments, President Gitanas Nausėda said on Wednesday, December 11. The EU aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions at least by 40 per cent by 2030. The individual target set for Lithuania is to cut these emissions by 9 per cent. The main challenges Lithuania faces in meeting these commitments come from an increase in areas of arable land in the country and its old vehicle fleet.

MG Baltic wins court case against MP Bakas

Vilnius Regional Court on Tuesday, December 10, ruled that a court of lower instance justly ruled early this year that MP Vytautas Bakas did damage to the MG Baltic business group’s reputation when he likened the company to an organized criminal group and said it had caused damage to the state. According to the court of higher instance, although Bakas’ statements made last year are viewed as an opinion, the politician had to base them. However, the court did not award MG Baltic 20,000 euros as compensation for non-pecuniary damage, only ordering Bakas to cover legal costs of around 1,500 euros.

Seimas backs President’s proposals on blocking Astravyets power

The Seimas of Lithuania on Tuesday, December 10, gave its initial backing to President Gitanas Nausėda’s proposal on how to block electricity produced at the Astravyets nuclear power plant under construction in Belarus from entering Lithuania. The proposed amendments were backed by 88 lawmakers and two abstained.  In 2017, the Seimas recognized the Astravyets NPP as unsafe and posing threat to Lithuania’s national security, environment and public health.

Lithuania’s Alvora again wins GIPL construction tender

Lithuanian pipeline builder Alvora together with its partner Šiaulių Dujotiekiu Statyba has been once again announced the winner of the tender for the construction of the Lithuanian part of the Gas Interconnector Poland-Lithuania (GIPL), which is worth almost 100 million euros and is of strategic importance for Lithuania. Gas pipeline construction company MT Group and its Polish partner Rafako came in second again after proposing building the gas pipeline for 84.985 million euros.

President hails Ukraine peace talks as positive

A four-way summit on Monday in the so-called Normandy Format was the first step towards achieving peace in Eastern Ukraine, despite persistent disagreements between Moscow and Kiev, Lithuanian President Gitanas Nausėda said on Tuesday, December 10. Russian President Vladimir Putin and Volodymyr Zelensky, who became Ukraine’s leader in May, held their first face-to-face meeting on the sidelines of the four-way summit in Paris.

Lithuania won’t impose new retail tax in January

The leader of the ruling Lithuanian Farmers and Greens Union admits that the proposed new turnover-based tax on major retailers will not be introduced in January as he expected. Ramūnas Karbauskis, the leader of the party, said on Tuesday, December 10, that it will probably not be possible to pass that law as of January 1. Karbauskis said in late November that the new retail tax would take effect on January 1.

Vilnius airport’s Christmas tree catches global media attention

In an unusual way to remind travellers of what they are not allowed to bring on a plane, Vilnius Airport has erected a Christmas tree made of scissors, knives, toy guns and other confiscated items. The 1.5-meter Christmas tree put up in the airport’s departures area has caught attention from media outlets around the world, including the BBC, the France-based international news agency AFP, and the website of the US daily New York Post.

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FKTK lists exceptions in which banks are allowed to service Aivars Lembergs

Latvian Finance and Capital Market Commission has listed cases in which Latvia’s finance market participants will be allowed to service Aivars Lembergs, who is subjected to US OFAC sanctions and accused of serious crimes, and three organizations associated with him – Ventspils Development Agency, Business Development Association and Latvian Transit Business Association.

Appropriate jobs promised for laid-off LDz workers

Latvian State Employment Agency promises to find appropriate jobs for laid-off Latvian Railway workers. If need be, those people will be provided the opportunity for re-qualification, raise their qualification or train for a new profession, as confirmed by the agency’s representative Signe Bierande.

Bordāns selects potential candidates to lead the Supreme Court and Prosecutor General’s office

I can see people who could take the reins over the Office of the Prosecutor General and the Supreme Court and change their work standards, Latvian Justice Minister Jānis Bordāns told TV3 programme 900 seconds when asked about any potential candidates to lead those institutions.

Ukrainian Prime Minister ready quit after leaked voice recording

Ukrainian head of government Oleksiy Honcharuk has offered to resign following the circulation of an audio recording, where criticism of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and his knowledge in economy is voiced.

Inflation in Latvia reportedly higher than Europe’s and Eurozone’s in December

In December 2019 inflation in Latvia was higher than the average in the European Union and Eurozone, according to information published by Eurostat on Friday, 17 January.

Estonian population growth continues in 2019 due to immigration

Estonia has registered in 2019 population growth for the fifth consecutive year and it can be explained with immigration not with natural growth, according to preliminary data released by Statistics Estonia.

BNN investigation | Raunas street property: quiet assistant with a «secret wallet» for Lembergs

There are suspicions that Aivars Lembergs, subjected to international sanctions, has sold real estate located on Raunas Street 27 in Riga to his sister «on paper only». This may have been done to avoid confiscation of properties in the event of a guilty verdict or a possible arrest over the real estate property. However, it is possible Lembergs maintains full control over this real estate property and, most likely, the property is used to fatten his wallet on a regular basis.

Audit: majority of Latvian housing stock has degraded to a state of a slum

Since the denationalization effective access to housing security in Latvia does not exist and most of the housing stock has degraded up to a state of a slum, as concluded by the Latvian State Audit.

Prime minister affirms possibility of carrying oil supplies for Belarus through Latvia

During his meeting with Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko on Thursday, 16 January, Latvian Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš affirmed that oil supplies for Belarus may be possible using Latvia’s ports.

Rain in Australia provides relief to continuing fight against bushfires

In eastern Australia, which has been suffering in prolonged and disastrous bushfires, heavy rain has been falling for the past 24 hours.

Weather to remain warm in Latvia at week’s end

At the end of the week the sky in Latvia will become clear and the sun will shine. No precipitation is expected. However, a low atmospheric pressure area will approach the country from the west during weekends, as reported by Latvian Environment, Geology and Meteorology Centre.

GKR helps overthrow Riga’s vice-mayors and put an end to ruling coalition

Riga City Council vice-chairperson Anna Vladova and deputy Druvis Kleins lost their respective posts at an extraordinary meeting on Thursday, 16 January. This happened because multiple deputies from Honour to Serve Riga voted together with the opposition in favour of dismissing them.

Latvian Railway plans to lay off 1 500 employees

Latvian Railway plans to terminate labour relations with approximately 1 500 employees before the end of 2020, as reported by the company’s representative Ella Pētermane.

Russian State Duma approves Putin’s new Prime Minister

The Russian State Duma has approved on Thursday, January 16, the candidacy of the country’s next Prime Minister appointed by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Ventspils opposition invites Pūce to act to prevent US sanctions from spreading to city council

Environment Protection and Regional Development Ministry and especially Juris Pūce have to act to resolve the current state of Ventsils City Council. It should be dismissed, as the municipal government does not have moral, ethical or legal foundation to continue managing and implementing the criminal management’s policy, according to Ventspils City Council opposition deputies.

Trade unions urge Latvian government to resolve transit businesses’ blocked bank accounts problem

Multiple trade unions associated with the transit industry have turned to Latvia’s highest ranking officials with a request to resolve the situation with bank accounts of multiple transit companies having been blocked because of US sanctions against Aivars Lembergs. If the government does not act, trade unions promise to organize massive protests.

Anris Leimanis picked as RB Rail council chairman

Anris Leimanis, independent council member from Latvian shareholder, has been picked as Rail Baltica joint Baltic company AS RB Rail council chairman. Ahti Kuningas and Karolis Sankovskis will serve as vice-chairmen, as confirmed by the company.

CSP: number of residents at risk of poverty declines in Latvia

In 2018 a total of 434 thousand persons or 22.9 % of the population of Latvia were at risk of poverty – 0.4 percentage points less than in 2017.

Latvian Saeima to ask Denmark to not extradite Kristīne Misāne to South African Republic

On Thursday, 16 January, Latvian Saeima made the decision to protect the rights of Latvian citizen Kristīnes Misāne, asking the Danish parliament and Danish law enforcers to support their Latvian colleagues and find a solution to avoid extraditing her to the South African Republic, as reported by Saeima’s press-service.

Smiltēns: Riga City Council’s situation can be described – divide, redistribute and plunder

«The situation in at Riga City Council can be described with three words – divide, redistribute, plunder,» said leader of Latvian Association of Regions Edvards Smiltēns in an interview to LTV programme Rīta panorama on Thursday, 16 January.

One single vote left the Lithuanian election system intact

The understanding that Lithuania’s election system needs changes is nearly overwhelming, but the ruling Farmers and Greens’ attempt to lower the Parliament election threshold in parties’ multi-member constituency from current 5 per cent to 3 per cent suffered a setback this week.

Estonian power grid executive detained over bribery suspicion

The Estonian Internal Security Service has detained a board member of the Elektrilevi power grid operator over suspicion of taking a bribe.

Demographer: Latvia has the lowest birth rate level observed the past decade

Birth rates continued to decline in Latvia in 2019. The lowest level of the past decade was reached in the country last year, says demographer Ilmārs Mežs.

Healthcare Ministry proposes single social fees rate for specialized tax regimes

One percentage point social fee rate for healthcare will be applied not only to general tax regime participants but also those working in special tax regime, such as microenterprises, patent payers and royalty recipients, according to a proposal for Latvian Healthcare Ministry.

U.S. and China reach preliminary trade agreement

Easing the U.S.-China trade conflict the governments of the two countries have agreed on the first step of mutual trade reconciliation. Their disagreements have affected the world economy for the past few years.

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