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Wednesday 13.11.2019 | Name days: Jevgēņija, Jevgēņijs, Eižens

Week in Lithuania. N-plant invites bids for repository construction contract

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

Lithuania’s Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant (INPP), which was shut down a decade ago and is now being decommissioned, on Thursday, March 14, invited bids for the construction of a 100-million-euro near surface repository for low and intermediate level short-lived radioactive waste, known as the B25-2 project.

The winning bidder will have to build two groups of reinforced concrete vaults for a final disposal of up to 70,000 cubic meters of processed, packed in concrete containers and cemented radioactive waste.

Key decision made to rebuild railway to Latvia

Lithuania government approved on Wednesday, March 13, the Transport Ministry’s proposal to change the status of the 19-kilometer railway section between Mažeikiai and Renge, in Latvia, for it not to be considered a project important to national security, thus paving the way for Lithuanian state-run railway company Lietuvos Geležinkeliai (Lithuanian Railways) to sign a contract with the rebuilding tender’s winner, bypassing the Lithuanian government commission checking deals of strategic companies.

The government updated the list of specific installations and assets important to national security, leaving only railway lines on the border with Russia and Belarus. Thus, the list does no longer contains railway lines on borders with EU member states, Latvia in this case, but includes railway mains, three fuel stations and the Rail Baltic railway.

Bakas to head PM’s presidential election headquarters

Vytautas Bakas, chairman of the parliamentary Committee on National Security and Defense, will lead Lithuanian Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis’ presidential election headquarters, the prime minister told a press conference on Wednesday, March 13. His election headquarters will be advised by Zenonas Vaigauskas, former chairman of Lithuania’s Central Electoral Commission, as well as by lawyer Dominykas Vanhara.

The prime minister’s team will also include well-known photographer Marius Jovaiša. Skvernelis also said he had collected the necessary 20,000 signatures to stand for election. If elected president, Skvernelis would pay his first foreign visit to Poland.

Lithuania would back a delay of Brexit

Lithuania would back a delay of Britain’s exit date from the European Union if the UK requested one, President Dalia Grybauskaite said on Wednesday, March 13. The House of Commons on Tuesday, March 12, rejected the withdrawal deal agreed between Prime Minister Theresa May and Brussels and, on March 14, rejected a no-deal Brexit.

Removals from UK to Lithuania on the rise

With the Brexit deadline approaching, Lithuanian international removal service providers say their customer numbers have risen to a level last seen immediately after the referendum on Britain’s EU membership, the business daily Verslo Žinios reported on Friday, March 15. Henrikas Povilaitis, the founder of the Broliai Veža brand, says this is not a one-way migration as some people rush to move to the UK before Brexit, although the flow is not as intensive as that from Britain to Lithuania.

Vilnius University warns of malicious emails

Vilnius University on Thursday, March 14, warned that potentially malicious emails have been illegally sent from a Russian domain in its name.

The university said in a statement that the emails have attachments and have been sent from recommended blocking the sender and not to open the attachments.

Vilna Gaon State Jewish Museum gets new director

Kamilė Rupeikaitė-Mariniuk has won the competition for director of the Vilna Gaon State Jewish Museum in Vilnius, having so far served as a deputy director, the Ministry of Culture announced on Thursday, March 14.  Rupeikaitė-Mariniuk will replace Markas Zingeris, who has led the museum since 2005, for a term of five years. The Vilna Gaon Jewish State Museum is a Lithuanian museum dedicated to the historical and cultural heritage of Lithuanian Jews and it has five branches.

MPs move to legalise hemp products

The Seimas of Lithuania on Thursday, March 14, took the first step towards legalising hemp products after giving its initial backing to proposed amendments with 62 votes in favour, four against and 33 abstentions.

The bill will now go to parliamentary committees for further consideration. Under the bill, the law will contain definitions of hemp products and also include a demand for hemp products to get certificates from a responsible institution, stating that the concentration of THC in them does not exceed 0.2 percent.

ECHR ruling expected to change international opinion on Soviet crimes

Lithuanian Justice Minister Elvinas Jankevičius expects that the European Court of Human Rights’ ruling that recognised repressive acts against Lithuanian partisans as genocide will change international opinion about Soviet crimes. The ECHR ruled on Tuesday, March 12, that Lithuanian courts were right to qualify Soviet repressive acts against Lithuanian partisans as genocide. The Strasbourg-based court dismissed a complaint filed by Stanislovas Drelingas, an 88-year-old former KGB agent, against his conviction of genocide for his participation in an operation in 1956 to detain Adolfas Ramanauskas-Vanagas, one of Lithuanian partisan commanders.

Lithuanian MPs put off vote on life prisoners

The Lithuanian parliament has removed this week a bill offering a hope of release to prisoners serving life sentences from Thursday’s agenda. The proposed amendments to the Criminal Code and the Code of Criminal Procedure would allow a life prisoner to ask a court to review his or her life sentence after serving at least 20 years.

The court would review the person’s behaviour in prison and would be able, but not obliged, to replace life imprisonment with a specific term ranging from five to ten years. The bill comes in response to the European Court of Human Rights’ ruling that Lithuania violates the rights of life prisoners by depriving them of any hope of release.

Over 100 inmates are currently serving life sentences in Lithuania.

North Macedonia’s parliament speaker visits Lithuania

The speaker of North Macedonia’s parliament visited Lithuania on Thursday, March 14, as the Seimas is set to vote on the Balkan country’s NATO membership. Talat Xhaferi, president of the Assembly of North Macedonia, took part in the Seimas’ sitting during the vote on the ratification of the country’s NATO accession protocol and will deliver a speech. The Lithuanian parliament launched the ratification procedure earlier this week. North Macedonia will become the 30th member of the Alliance once the protocol, which was signed in Brussels on February 6, is ratified by all NATO member states.

MPs move to introduce lay judges in courts

A total of 50 Lithuanian lawmakers, mostly from the ruling bloc, have drafted a constitutional amendment to introduce lay judges in courts starting in 2021. Juozas Bernatonis of the Lithuanian Social Democratic Labour Party (LSDLP) said in a press release that in other European countries, such as Germany, France and Sweden, the participation of lay judges in the administration of justice enhances confidence in courts.

Under the draft amendment, slated to come into effect on January 1, 2021, citizens sworn in as lay judges would hear certain cases alongside professional judges.

PM calls on minister to mediate in rows

Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis on Wednesday, March 13, called on Interior Minister Eimutis Misiūnas to mediate in disputes between law-enforcement officers’ trade unions and top police officials. The comment came after law-enforcement officers’ trade unions accused the interior minister of failing to cope with his duties and control the situation in bodies subordinate to his ministry.

Trade union officials criticised the heads of the Police Department for a lack of social dialog and problems regarding the existing system for remuneration, evaluation and motivation of officers, as well as expensive foreign trips by Police Commissioner General Linas Pernavas.

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Harmony wants Honour to Serve Riga to cease working with independent deputies

Harmony political party may agree to continue working in the coalition of Riga City Council under the condition Honour to Serve Riga terminates cooperation with the Independent Deputies Faction, said vice-chairperson of Riga City Council Anna Vladova after meeting with Harmony’s faction on Wednesday, 13 November.

No legalisation. Estonia rejects calls for taking cannabis market in state’s hands

Over 1 000 activists in Estonia have signed a proposal for the state to tax and enforce its control over the illegal market of cannabis, by legalising it. Yet, legislators have not welcomed the idea citing health damage from the substance.

Elenger starts supplying Latvia with natural gas from Klaipeda terminal

Estonian Eesti Gaas subsidiary SIA EG Energija, which operates under Elenger brand, has commenced supplying Latvia with gas from Klaipeda floating gas terminal, as reported by Elenger Latvija board member Dāvis Skulte.

Harmony’s head promises constant control over party’s Riga City Council faction

The chairman of Harmony political party, Saeima deputy Jānis Urbanovičs promises to constantly control the party’s faction in Riga City Council. He wants certainty over the party’s ability to work.

Estonian minister’s actions to be investigated, says PM Ratas

Estonian ruling coalition has agreed that its Minister of Rural Affairs has to be investigated, Prime Minister Jüri Ratas has stated. The current situation is over alleged links to a conflict of interest involving farming subsidies,

Criminal process launched against Russian citizen for possible laundering of EUR 2.3 million

Latvia’s State Revenue Service has commenced a criminal process for possible laundering of EUR 2.3 million of illegally obtained funds by some Russian citizen, as confirmed by VID.

Tesla to build its Europe electric car factory in Germany

American electric carmaker Tesla will build a factory for the production of «batteries, powertrains and vehicles», its chief executive office Elon Musk has stated.

Netherlands planning lower speed limits to tackle pollution

In the Netherlands, the government seeks to considerably reduce the emissions of nitrogen oxide by reducing daytime speed limit on roads from 130 to 100 km/h, leaked government plans to the press say.

State Real Estate board member steps down over construction worker’s death

Following the fatal fall of a construction worker off the roof of Finance Ministry’s building, State Real Estate board member Kitija Gruškevica has stepped down.

Doctors: Healthcare Ministry’s offered wage increase model is unfair

Healthcare Ministry’s proposed model for wage increase for doctors is unfair is goes against the previously voiced desire to raise wages for all healthcare workers equally, said chairman of Latvian Young Doctors Association Kārlis Rācenis and Latvia Health and Social Care Workers Trade Union chairman Valdis Keris.

NATO planes intercept one Russian war plane

In the Baltics, NATO fighter jets from the air policing mission, were last week scrambled once to respond to an alert of a Russian military aircraft.

Proposal to merge FKTK and Bank of Latvia makes it to third reading in Saeima

On Tuesday, 12 November, Saeima’s Budget and Finance Committee decided to submit to the Saeima amendments to the Law on the Bank of Latvia for the third reading. These amendments, among other things, provide for the merging of the Bank of Latvia and the Finance and Capital Market Commission.

Estonian village for autism care under construction

In Estonia’s north-west, a village, where different forms of the care of persons with autism spectrum disorder is under construction.

Value of September’s exported goods in Latvia up 2.5% when compared to 2018

In September 2019 the foreign trade turnover of Latvia amounted to EUR 2.44 billion, which at current prices was 1.6 % less than a year ago, of which the exports value of goods was 2.5 % higher, but imports value of goods was 4.6 % lower.

Court declares Latvian cosmetics manufacturer Dzintars insolvent

On Tuesday, 12 November, Riga City Pardaugava Court declared Latvian cosmetics manufacturer AS Dzintars insolvent. Jānis Ozoliņš was appointed as the company’s insolvency administrator, as confirmed by the court’s representative Viktorija Mežance.

EU’s hand extended to Belarus as Lukashenko visits Austria

The President of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko is on Tuesday, November 12, on a visit to Austria. It is his first foreign visit to an European Union member state in three years.

Latvia’s Healthcare Ministry proposes increasing wages for residents by 20%

Healthcare Ministry has come forth with a proposal to increase wages of local residents by 20% and wages of all other healthcare workers by 10%.

«The children arrive truly traumatised». Lithuania hosts 500 Ukrainian pupils

In Lithuanian schools, there currently learn more than 500 students from Ukraine, including the war-torn east of the country.

Internal Security Bureau’s investigations fail to improve situation in interior affairs services

Results of pre-trial investigations of the Internal Security Bureau (IDB) do not inspire improvement for the situation to improve within interior affairs services, which remain riddled with crimes of various categories, the bureau admits.

Ukrainian central bank ex-governor links attacks to oligarch over PrivatBank

Valeria Gontareva, whose family has been targeted in car and arson attacks, has linked the unclear events to an Ukrainian oligarch and the nationalisation of Ukraine’s largest bank PrivatBank.

Saeima Budget Committee’s head says it is hard to vote against popular things

«It is very hard to vote against popular things. In politics there will always be a situation when initiatives exceed abilities,» said chairman of Saeima’s Budget and Finance Committee Mārtiņš Bondars in an interview to Latvijas Radio, commenting on the approval of the country’s budget for 2020.

Ex-finance supervisory office’s head applies for Bank of Latvia governor’s post

Ex-chairman of Latvia’s Finance and Capital Market Commission Uldis Cērps has officially submitted his candidacy for the post of governor of the Bank of Latvia.

Australia fighting over 50 bushfires amid strong winds

In Australia’s south-east, communities have been warned of «catastrophic» conditions as the state of New South Wales is fighting more than 50 bushfires. About six million people live in the region.

Tender for public transport service rights under fire over questionable rules

Latvia’s Procurement Monitoring Bureau has prohibited Road Transport Directorate from continuing the procurement procedure without amendments and signing the contract for regional public transport services for 2021-2030, according to the decision made by IUB Submissions Review Committee.

Saeima’s budget committee supports Latvia’s 2020 budget outline in first reading

On Monday, 11 November, Saeima’s Budget and Finance Committee concluded work on the next year’s budget, supporting its submission to the parliament for the final reading.