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Wednesday 20.11.2019 | Name days: Anda, Andīna

Week in Lithuania: MP Rozova in trouble, Swedes express concern over forests law, court frees Russian suspect

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Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RU

Last week in Lithuania, a parliamentary investigation was opened over possible Russia ties of a lawmaker, while Swedish diplomats sounded alarm over a restrictive forest law. Lithuanian singing revolution figure Landsbergis appealed to Amazon to remove Soviet-themed goods.

MP Rozova in hot water over Russian ties

Valdemar Tomaševski, leader of the Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania – Christian Families Alliance, says he had no knowledge of MP Irina Rozova’s communication with Russian diplomats regarding funding for the Russian Alliance she represents. Earlier this week, the Lithuanian Seimas’ Committee on National Security and Defence decided to launch a parliamentary investigation into the matter after getting acquainted with the State Security Department’s (SSD) information about the MP. Meanwhile, leader of the ruling Farmers and Greens Union, Ramūnas Karbauskis, has called MPs to impeach Seimas speaker Viktoras Pranckietis who allowed Rozova to access certain classified information.

Swedish Embassy voices investors’ forest concern

The Swedish Embassy in Vilnius said it handed over investors’ concern over amendments placing restrictions on forest land acquisitions to Lithuanian President Gitanas Nausėda’s team but did not ask the president to veto the bill. According to the embassy, several small and medium investors turned to the embassy after the Seimas of Lithuania adopted the amendments on restricting forest land acquisitions, and they expressed concern over ownership restrictions and the bill’s impact on Swedish business in Lithuania.

President: Europe can no longer blindly rely on US for its security

Europe can no longer blindly rely on the United States for its security and must take on more responsibility, President Gitanas Nausėda said Thursday, August 22, addressing an international conference hosted by ex-Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus.

Vilnius court frees Russian oil contamination suspect

Vilnius Regional Court on Thursday, August 22, released Roman Ruzhechko, a suspect in a Russian oil pipeline contamination probe, from detention. Ruzhechko was arrested in the middle of July. Russian law-enforcement officials are seeking the extradition of Ruzhechko whom they suspect of involvement in the contamination of Transneft’s Druzhba oil pipeline. The oil pipeline was temporarily shut down on April 19 after it was found to contain oil with a high content of dichloroethane, a toxic substance with strong corrosive properties

Lithuania’s EMSI fails to halt Via Baltica reconstruction project

The Lithuanian-capital filling station chain EMSI has failed in its bid to temporarily halt the reconstruction of the Via Baltica’s section from Marijampole in southern Lithuania to the Polish border. On August 21, the Lithuanian Supreme Administrative Court issued a final and binding ruling, rejecting EMSI’s complaint over the Via Baltica reconstruction. The dispute between the Transport Ministry and filling stations operating near the Via Baltica section broke out after it was announced that, under the project, drivers would access filling stations only by leaving the highway and taking connecting roads and viaducts. The Road Administration says the Via Baltica section will be turned into a highway with the maximum speed of 130 km per hour, therefore, direct access to filling stations is impossible.

Opposition collects signatures to turn to top court over cabinet reshuffle

The Opposition Homeland Union–Lithuanian Christian Democrats announced on Thursday, August 22, they have collected the necessary signatures to turn to the Constitutional Court over the procedure for giving powers to the government. On Tuesday, August 20, the Seimas gave a renewed mandate to Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis’ reshuffled Cabinet without holding a separate vote on the government’s program. The opposition maintain, however, that the Cabinet needed a renewed mandate from the parliament because half of its ministers have been replaced since its was appointed in 2016.

Landsbergis asks Amazon to stop sale of Soviet-themed goods

Lithuania’s first post-independence leader Vytautas Landsbergis on Thursday, August 22, called on the US e-commerce giant Amazon to stop selling Soviet-themed products. Landsbergis posted his open letter to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos on Facebook on the eve of the 80th anniversary of a Nazi-Soviet pact that paved the way for the Soviet occupation of the three Baltic countries. Baltic politicians have repeatedly called in the past on global companies not to sell Soviet-themes products, saying that such goods offend the victims of the Soviet terror.

Seimas approves Sinkevičius’ nomination for European commissioner

Seimas, the Lithuanian parliament, approved on Thursday, August 22, the nomination of Economy and Innovation Minister Virginijus Sinkevičius for European commissioner. The motion was passed in a vote of 90 to ten with six abstentions. The nomination of the 28-year-old member of the ruling Lithuanian Farmers and Greens Union has already been approved by the government and President Gitanas Nausėda and is yet to be endorsed by the European Parliament. His career includes positions at the state-run airport operator Lietuvos Oro Uostai (Lithuanian Airports), Lietuvos Paštas (Lithuanian Post) and the government’s foreign investment promotion agency Invest Lithuania.

PM: Lithuania does not need to stimulate economy yet

Lithuania does not yet need to take measures to stimulate the economy, but the government is ready to do so if faced with unfavourable external circumstances, Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis said on Wednesday, August 21. According to Skvernelis, one of the measures to manage risks is to build up a reserve.  Finance Minister Vilius Šapoka said last October that the state’s reserve was likely to grow to 1.5 billion euros in 2019. In late March, the Finance Ministry revised its GDP growth forecast for this year downward to 2.6 per cent, from 2.8 per cent previously, and cut its projection for 2020 to 2.4 per cent, from 2.5 per cent.

Lithuanians living abroad to have single-member constituency

The Seimas of Lithuania on Tuesday, August 20, created conditions for the establishment of a special single-member constituency for Lithuanian citizens voting abroad during general elections. The motion was backed by 88 MPs, four were against and 14 abstained. For the new provisions to be adopted, the president needs to sign the bill into law. Under the proposed amendments, drafted by Ramūnas Karbauskis, leader of the ruling Lithuanian Farmers and Greens Union, and his fellow party member Agnė Širinskienė, a single-member constituency for world Lithuanians would be established if during the latest election at Lithuanian embassies and consular establishments, the number of voters exceeds 0.9 per cent of the average number of voters in all single-member constituencies.

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Terrorist attack victim numbers decline, but many countries remain at risk of terrorism

The number of people who died in terrorist attacks around the world had dropped 15.2% in 2018. Nevertheless, the number of countries that are under risk of terrorist attacks has only increased since then, as reported by the Institute for Economics and Peace on Tuesday, 20 November.

Swedish TV: U.S. investigates Swedbank over violations of Russia sanctions

With U.S. and European Union’s sanctions banned from cooperating with Russian weapon maker Kalashnikov, Swedbank has been involved in sending large sums between the shareholders of the Russian firm and the owner of Kalashnikov USA, Swedish television SVT reports.

Saeima’s committee views residents’ request on postponing increase of party funding

On Wednesday, 20 November, Saeima’s Mandates, Ethics and Submissions Committee conceptually supported the legislative draft on the initiative signed by more than 11 000 residents in regards to the significant increase of funding for political parties and its submission to the parliament’s Budget Committee for review.

Estonia sees no alternative to NATO and says it’s strong

Estonia’s top diplomate Urmas Reinsalu has announced prior to a meeting with counterparts from other NATO nations that he considers the alliance strong and sees no alternatives to it.

Supplying all Latvian residents with food would cost nearly EUR 12 million per day

In the event of a threat to the state, supplying Latvian residents with food would cost the state budget approximately EUR 12 million per day, according to estimates from Agriculture Ministry, which were performed in line with adoption of a comprehensive state security system.

State Revenue Service employees’ «glances» at sensitive files and symbolic penalties

Employees of Latvia’s State Revenue Service have been punished multiple times for leaking sensitive data in the past. People received insignificant disciplinary penalties while the leaked information may have ended up in the hands of less than honest people. Why is it that state security matters protected as well as empty hockey gates and who should be held responsible?

Malta arrests businessman in journalist murder case

Maltese authorities have arrested in the murder case of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia on Wednesday a well-known entrepreneur Yorgen Fenech. Police and Fenech himself have not yet commented publicly on the operation

Latvia’s finance minister bets on tax reform to find money for healthcare

To find necessary funding for healthcare, Latvia’s Finance Minister Jānis Reirs proposes creating «a fair system» in the context of the expected tax reform in which all employed taxpayers will be able to participate.

Levits: Principle of irresponsibility is entrenched in Latvia

Latvian President Egils Levits, discussing the issue of doctor wages in the country, has said: «We have developed for a long time a mechanism of irresponsibility». The head of state gave an interview to Latvijas Televīzija’s programme Rīta Panorāma on Wednesday, November 20.

Riga Mayor ready to resign, if no new majority in City Council

Riga Mayor Oļegs Burovs is looking for a new majority after cooperation with his party has been stopped by Harmony party. If no new majority is established, Burovs would resign, he said in an interview with Latvijas Radio.

Lithuanian firefighters protest over low pay and outdated equipment

Lithuanian firefighters have reminded of government commitments in the field in a protest in Vilnius over the average wage of 430 euros and outdated equipment.

Sweden discontinues investigation into Wikileaks Assange over rape

Swedish investigators have decided to end investigation into Julian Assange, the whistle-blower organisation Wikileaks, over alleged rape that has been upheld since 2010.

Saeima committee: reorganization of small state institutions does not yield results

«Evaluation and reorganization of small and very small state institutions so far has not given us desired results. This is because there has not been a reduction of the number of state institution employees or funding,» said chairman of Saeima’s Public Expenditures and Audit Committee Kaspars Ģirģens.

Minister: pressure is needed, but the message of LVSADA’s protest is unclear

Pressure from doctors will be needed in the future, but the message of the protest organized by Latvian Trade Union of Health and Social Care Workers is unclear, Latvia’s Healthcare Minister Ilze Viņķele told journalists on Tuesday, 19 November.

While Kļaviņš penalized for fraud with compensations, Lembergs uses expensive cars for state funds

Two very similar cases in which state and municipal resources are used for private needs. However, Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau has two diametrically opposing judgements. While last year’s reported violation committed by Askolds Kļaviņš by misappropriating nearly EUR 10 000 of state budget funds was declared a crime, Aivars Lembergs’ use of expensive cars is not considered a crime in KNAB’s eyes.

EU bodies agree on bloc’s budget for 2020

The Council of the European Union and the European Parliament have reached an agreement on the bloc’s budget for 2020, which has a planned increase in spending and the United Kingdom as a fully contributing member state.

Latvian government decides to divert hospitals’ profits for infrastructure development

The government has decided to allow capital associations in which Healthcare Ministry is a shareholder to divert clean profits and dividends for 2018 towards improvement of infrastructure, as confirmed by Healthcare Ministry.

57 children receive intestinal infections at Smiltene’s secondary school

According to deputy principal of Secondary School in Smiltene Inese Raiskuma, 57 children have received virus-induced intestinal infections.

Anti-money laundering: SEB says most suspicious clients from Estonia operations

Swedish investigative journalists, who are looking into suspicions of money laundering, have submitted to the pan-Baltic banking group SEB a list with 194 people, the company has announced.

Demanding Saeima’s and Viņķele’s dismissal, doctors announce another strike

Latvian Trade Union of Health and Social Care Workers has plans to organize a new protest act outside the Saeima on 28 November. The protest will demand the parliament’s dismissal, as well as voice distrust towards Healthcare Minister Ilze Viņķele.

«Was never fit for vice-mayor’s post.» Baraņņiks loses post in Riga City Council

With votes from opposition deputies, Riga City Council’s Vice-Chairman Vadims Baraņņiks was removed from his post on Tuesday, 19 November. He was also removed from his post in Riga Freeport board.

Kundziņsala overpass construction splits Riga Freeport authority over cartel case

Last week, Riga Freeport authority decided to sign a contract worth nearly EUR 40 million on the construction of Kundziņsala transport overpass with companies that have ties with people involved in the so-called construction cartel case, as reported by LTV programme De Facto.

Tusk kept reminding EU of Russia being «strategic problem», not partner

European Council’s outgoing chairman Donald Tusk has in a speech devoted to his five years in office revealed that he had to remind member states that Russia was Europe’s «strategic problem», instead of being its strategic partner.

In Hong Kong protests, 400 people arrested

Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protests a standoff between activists and riot police continues at a university, where around 600 protesters have surrendered and 400 have been arrested, local authorities say.

Riga City Council opposition will likely refrain from Baraņņiks’ dismissal vote

On Tuesday, 19 November, the opposition of Riga City Council will likely abstain or not participate at all in the vote regarding the dismissal of the city council’s vice-chairman Vadims Baraņņiks, as told by For Latvia’s Development faction chairman Viesturs Zeps.

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