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Saturday 18.01.2020 | Name days: Antis, Antons

Week in Lithuania: Grybauskaitė invited to think tank, push for 2nd vote on Speaker

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Lithuanian Seaimas Speaker Viktoras Pranckietis

Last week in Lithuania ex-President invited to join think tank, LFGU sought 2nd vote on Speaker’s removal, court reduced pro-Russian Councillor’s fine,  and Order and Justice leader was urged to step down.

Army helicopter saves injured Russian citizen from tanker

A Lithuanian army helicopter saved an injured Russian citizen from a tanker, Lithuania’s Ministry of National Defense said on Friday, October 18. The Maritime Rescue Coordination Center received a call at around 2 a.m. that a crew member of the Moskovsky Prospect tanker needed medical assistance. A rescue operation was launched and a Dauphin helicopter of Lithuania’s Air Force was dispatched. The injured Russian citizen, 32, was taken to a hospital in Lithuania’s port of Klaipeda.

President Nausėda disappointed at EU decision

President Gitanas Nausėda has expressed his disappointment after EU leaders failed this week to invite North Macedonia and Albania to start membership negotiations. His comments came early Friday morning in response to the end of Brussels talks on possible expansion to Western Balkans without any agreement. Diplomats say France was against the invitation of both countries, and Denmark and The Netherlands would have agreed only to the invitation of North Macedonia, but not Albania.

Ex-Lithuanian President invited to join Friends of Europe

Former President Dalia Grybauskaitė agreed on Thursday, October 17, to join the Board of Trustees of the Friends of Europe think tank. Its Board of Trustees involves incumbent and former heads of state and government, EC leaders and European commissioners, former EC Vice President Joaquin Almunia, the EU’s Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier, ex-Swedish Prime Minister Carl Bild, ex-Estonia President Toomas Hendrik Ilves, ex-NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer etc.

Court cuts Titov’s fine in partisan leader’s defamation case

The Regional Court of Lithuania’s western city of Klaipeda on Thursday, October 17, reduced the 12,000 euro fine issued to Viačeslav Titov, a local councilor, by a court of lower instance for the defamation of the memory of Adolfas Ramanauskas-Vanagas, one of the leaders of Lithuania’s anti-Soviet partisan resistance. The fine was reduced to 10,000 euros. In May, the Klaipėda District Court found Titov guilty of the defamation of the memory of a deceased person, incitement to hatred, and public approval or denial of Soviet crimes.

Conservatives’ leader: defense spending deal breached

An agreement that Lithuania’s parliamentary parties signed a year ago to set out the country’s defense policy for the next decade is not being implemented, Gabrielius Landsbergis, the leader of the conservative Homeland Union–Lithuanian Christian Democrats, said on Thursday, October 17. All parliamentary parties, except for the Lithuanian Social Democratic Party (LSDP), agreed a year ago to increase defense spending to 2.5 percent of GDP by 2030 at the latest.

Ruling LFGU to seek second vote on Speaker’s removal

The ruling Lithuanian Farmers and Greens Union will seek to hold a second vote in the parliament on Tuesday, October 22, to repeat the removal procedure for Speaker of the Seimas Viktoras Pranckietis. In total, 60 members of the Seimas voted in favor of expressing no-confidence in the vote calculation group on Thursday, eight were against and two abstained.

Seimas starts debating spy swap amendment

 Lithuanian legislature, Seimas, has started debating a draft amendment to the Criminal Code that would give country’s President right to pardon persons convicted of espionage. The amendment passed the first reading in the Seimas with 100 votes in favor and five abstentions on Thursday, October 17, and is to return to the parliament for a plenary debate on October 22. It needs to be voted on three times to be adopted.

LFGU leader urges Order and Justice leader to step down

Ramunas Karbauskis, the leader of the ruling Lithuanian Farmers and Greens Union (LFGU), says Remigijus Žemaitaitis, the Order and Justice Party’s leader, betrayed the ruling bloc when he backed on Tuesday, October 15, an initiative to call an emergency plenary sitting to vote on Viktoras Pranckietis’ removal as the speaker of the Seimas. Therefore, the coalition is urging Žemaitaitis to step down as vice-speaker of the Seimas immediately, or will remove him by secret ballot, Karbauskis said on Wednesday, October 16.

Cabinet approves new car pollution tax

The Lithuanian Cabinet approved on Wednesday, October 16, a new tax aimed at encouraging people to buy less polluting cars and facilitating the renewal of the country’s ageing vehicle fleet, Environment Minister Kęstutis Mažeika said. The absence of such a tax on cars is a key reason why that fleet is old and polluting now, according to the minister. If endorsed by the parliament, the new tax will be introduced next year. A levy ranging from several tens of euros to 1,400 euros per car will be charged every time a car is registered or reregistered.

Cabinet approves excise tax hikes

The Lithuanian Cabinet decided on Wednesday, October 16, to raise the excise duties on strong alcohol, diesel fuel and heated tobacco in March 2020. Finance Minister Vilius Šapoka says the excise duty hikes aim to expand the base of taxes less detrimental to economic growth, and to promote a healthy lifestyle. The excise tax rates are set to increase by 68 per cent for heated tobacco (from the current 58.6 euros to 113.2 euros per kilogram), by 10.5 per cent for ethyl alcohol, by 7.3 per cent for gasoline, by 7.2 per cent for diesel fuel, and by 44.6 per cent for diesel fuel used for agricultural purposes.

New measures to block Astravyets electricity proposed

President Gitanas Nausėda on Wednesday, October 16, proposed new measures to block imports of electricity produced at the Astravyets nuclear power plant under construction in Belarus. The proposed amendments would allow canceling electricity import permits immediately and not issuing new ones for power imports from third countries with nuclear power plants deemed unsafe from the very beginning of their operation, the statement reads.

 LFGU decide to delegate its leader to Seimas leadership

The ruling Lithuanian Farmers and Greens Union (LFGU) has decided to delegate Ramunas Karbauskis, its chairman, to the Seimas leadership, but is not clear yet if he will seek the speaker’s chair or that of vice-speaker, Rima Baškienė and Arvydas Nekrošius, LFGU MPs, said on Tuesday, October 15.

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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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