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Week in Lithuania: PM Skvernelis undergoes surgery, Nausėda meets Merkel, rebukes Latvia

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German Chancellor Angela Merkel (R) and Lithuania’s President Gitanas Nauseda (L)

Last week, President Gitanas Nausėda rejected the government’s candidate for EU judge, hints of big changes at Šiaulių Bankas ahead

PM underwent surgery on 1st day of leave

Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis said he underwent a surgery on Monday, August 12, the first day of his vacation, but gave no details apart from noting that the procedure was successful. Tomas Beržinskas, the prime minister’s spokesman, gave no further information to media, citing the privacy of Skvernelis and his family. The prime minister underwent a vision correction procedure in late October 2018. Finance Minister Vilius Šapoka is standing in for the prime minister while he is on vacation.

President rejects government’s nominee for EU judge

President Gitanas Nausėda has rejected the government’s proposal to re-appoint Virgilijus Valančius for another term as judge at the EU General Court. The government nominated Valančius for the position on July 31, but the candidature was not endorsed by the president. It is rumoured judge Danutė Jocienė of the Lithuanian Constitutional Court was Valančius’ most serious challenger for the nomination.

President calls Latvia’s decision to buy Astravyets electricity ‘regrettable’

President Gitanas Nausėda says Latvia’s decision to buy electricity generated by Belarus’ Astravyets Nuclear Power Plant (NPP), under construction close to the Lithuanian border, is «regrettable» but «not very surprising». According to Nausėda, the Latvian government decided to purchase Belarusian electricity without completing consultations with the Lithuanian Energy Ministry. The Latvian government said earlier on Wednesday, August 14, that it will purchase electricity directly from Belarus after Lithuania starts blocking power energy imports from the neighbouring country.

MP Rozova denied access to classified info 2 years ago

MP Irina Rozova has confirmed that she was denied access to classified information two years ago. Ro Earlier on Wednesday, August 14, the Seimas’ Committee on National Security and Defence (NSGK) discussed Rozova’s participation in an event of the Interparliamentary Assembly on Orthodoxy (IAO) that sparked protests in Georgia in June. Vaidotas Mažeika, deputy director of Lithuania’s State Security Department (VSD), said that the participation in the assembly was «a risk factor».

Lithuania-based Spanish jet was unsafely approached by Russian fighter

NATO said on Tuesday, August 13, a Spanish fighter jet scrambled from Lithuania’s Siauliai air base was approached  «in an unsafe manner» by a Russian fighter-jet escorting Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu’s plane.  Russian media reported that Russian fighter-jets forced Spain’s F-18 jets away when the NATO aircraft approached the Russian military passenger plane carrying Shoigu. The Alliance confirmed that the incident occurred when a TU-214 aircraft and two fighter-jets were tracked over the Baltic Sea on Tuesday, August 15.

President Nausėda and German chancellor Merkel meet in Berlin

President Gitanas Nausėda met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin on Wednesday, August 14, and discussed the European agenda and security issues. Nausėda conversed with Merkel in German during their first get-to-know meeting. Nausėda met German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier on Thursday, August 15. This is the Lithuanian president’s third foreign visit after he assumed his position a month ago. Earlier, Nausėda paid visits to neighbouring Poland and Latvia.

Outgoing minister sees no chance for Vaitkus

Outgoing Transport Minister Rokas Masiulis sees no possibility for Arvydas Vaitkus, the former chief executive officer of the Klaipeda State Seaport Authority, to return to head any strategic state enterprise.  Vaitkus, who managed the port of Klaipeda since 2013, was dismissed from the port of Klaipeda in March after Masiulis raised doubts whether Vaitkus could be impartial towards companies which backed him during the municipal and mayoral elections.

Companies have not breached EU’s Russia sanctions

Lithuanian’s Prosecutor General’s Office said on Tuesday, August 13, that Hanner, one of the largest real estate development companies in Lithuania, Panevėžys-based company Pluošto Linija, as well as Raimondas Tumėnas’ BTInvest have not violated the European Unions’ anti-Russian sanctions, thence the investigation has to be dropped. According to the Prosecutor General’s Office, none of the companies has imported into the EU goods of Crimea or Sevastopol origin.

 MPs’ initiative on corruption-suspected judges

MP Vytautas Bakas has registered this week a parliamentary initiative to launch impeachment proceedings against judges of the Supreme Court and Court of Appeal, suspected of corruption. In total 37 lawmakers suggest launching the impeachment process against Egidijus Laužikas of the Supreme Court, and also Vladimaras Bavejanas, Viktoras Kazys and Konstantinas Gurinas of the Court of Appeal.

Lithuania rejects Belarus’ reproach

Lithuania’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has officially informed Belarus that a Belarusian company was removed from a Gas Interconnector Poland-Lithuania (GIPL) construction tender because it did not meet the national security requirements. Foreign Minister Linas Linkevičius confirmed on Tuesday, August 13, the fact that Lithuania handed in a diplomatic note to Belarus, rejecting its reproaches.

Court halts ESO’s EUR 150 mn smart meter tender

A court in Lithuania has temporarily halted a tender valued at around 150 million euros and called by power and gas distribution operator Energijos Skirstymo Operatorius (Energy Distribution Operator, or ESO) for the purchase of smart electricity meters and the system’s IT solutions.

Šiaulių Bankas gears up for major changes

Lithuania’s Šiaulių Bankas’ recent announcement about possible strategic changes shows that the bank’s board is serious about changes, market participants believe. Šiaulių Bankas had announced its plans to look for a strategic activity direction, including the bank’s possible sale or merger. A review of alternatives for the bank will be produced by Wood & Co and Superia Corporate Finance. Some analysts said earlier Polish banks might be interested in acquiring Šiaulių Bankas. EBRD invested into Šiaulių Bankas in 2005 when it bought a 16.1 per cent stake for 5.8 million euros.

Ex-Lithuanian basketball player on trial

Former Lithuanian basketball player Rolandas Alijevas stood in the court stand this week for illegally accessing his ex-wife’s social media and email accounts. In early August, 2018, Alijevas used his former wife’s passwords to access her Facebook account and, later on, her email, without her knowledge or consent. Alijevas and Goda Alijeva divorced in July, 2018.


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Development of areas along Rail Baltica line will require investments worth EUR 300 million

In order to implement infrastructure development projects along Rail Baltica line in Riga, it will be necessary to secure investments up to EUR 350 million in the next ten-year period, as reported by Riga City Council chairman Oļegs Burovs.

Olainfarm shareholders fail to convene due to lack of quorum

Because of the lack of quorum, the extraordinary meeting of Olainfarm shareholders originally scheduled for Friday, 24 January, did not take place. It was planned to discuss changes to the company council during this meeting, as reported by the company’s representative Ieva Lapiņa-Ennīte.

EY: investors more optimistic about Latvia’s economic competitiveness

Last year, investors’ opinion of the competitiveness of Latvia’s economy improved for nearly all indexes, as reported by EY Latvija representatives.

Bulgaria accuses three Russian citizens for poisoning of arms producer

Three Russian citizens have been charged by Bulgaria over the attempted murder of an arms producer and another two Bulgarians using a poison. One survivor believes there is a link with the poisoning of the Skripals in the United Kingdom.

Ignoring sanctions, Ventspils City Council approves budget created under Lembergs’ watchful eye

In spite of sanctions imposed by USA, Ventspils City Council approved the city’s budget for 2020, which came to be under absolute influence from Aivars Lembergs, on Thursday, 23 January, BNN was told by opposition deputy Aivis Landmanis.

Estonia eyes one-year prison sentence for first-time drunk drivers

Estonian government ministers have proposed harsher sanctions for drunk driving. Their initiative comes after three people got killed in a crash, where a heavily intoxicated driver was involved.

Latvian residents trust National Armed Forces the most and the Saeima the least

Latvia’s residents trust the country’s National Armed Forces and the president the most and the Saeima the least, according to the survey performed by Latvian National Security Academy’s Security and Strategic Research Centre.

In China, coronavirus claims more lives as transport limitations put in place

The Chinese outbreak of a new strain of coronavirus has reached the death toll of 26 people, meanwhile, authorities are trying to keep it from spreading introducing transport movement limitations in at least 10 cities.

Information about VDD new office building’s construction costs is a state secret

Although some media have mentioned different amounts of money the construction of a new office for the State Security Service at the location of former Marss cycling track may cost, the service reports that this information is considered a state secret.

Kariņš: Latvia is no longer the younger brother – our country’s voice is heard

Latvia is no longer the younger brother on the international arena – our country is heard and its opinion is taken seriously, said Latvian Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš at annual foreign policy debates on Thursday, 23 January.

Poland passes law on limiting public actions, statements of judges

The Polish Sejm has passed a draft law that sets forth limiting the say of judges over justice appointments, court reform and politics. The limitations have been widely criticised abroad.

Linkaits: banks once again service Ventspils Freeport terminals

The situation with Ventspils Freeport is gradually becoming more relaxed. On top of that, banks once again service port terminals there, as Latvian Transport Minister Tālis Linkaits affirmed in a conversation with journalists on Thursday, 23 January.

Aivars Lembergs picks ex-prime minister’s freelance advisor Grudulis as his lawyer for debates

The suspended Mayor of Ventspils Aivars Lembergs, who is also accused of committing serious crimes and is under US sanctions, has picked once the prime minister of Latvia Māris Kučinskis’ freelance advisor Māris Grudulis as his lawyer for debates in court, as was announced in court on Thursday, 23 January.

What is Lithuanian President’s main reason to skip Jerusalem Holocaust forum?

Lithuanian President Gitanas Nausėda has unexpectedly flip-flopped on where and how to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp in Poland. First, he said he will attend the commemoration in Jerusalem, but then changed his mind to pay homage to the Jewish victims in Auschwitz, in Poland. The reason? Well, there is no clear official reason for that – President’s Office did not provide one.

Audit: Rail Baltica slowed by poor risk management and slow progress with municipalities

Delays and cost increase of Rail Baltica project is heavily affected by no risk management and no strategy, as well as slow progress in cooperation with municipalities and passive alienation of properties, Latvian State Audit concluded in its latest report.

China stops public transport in two cities over coronavirus

In China, a new strain of coronavirus has claimed the lives of 17 people. To keep it form spreading, local authorities have stopped the public transport to and from the cities of Wuhan and Huanggang.

BNN investigation | Rebenoks and Krieķis may have plans to return to Olainfarm board despite ties to serious crimes

Ex-Olainfarm officials Mārtiņš Krieķis and Pāvels Rebenoks, the latter also serving as Latvian Economy Minister Ralfs Nemiro’s advisor, may return to the company’s board to, possibly, continue walking «well-travelled path» paved with non-transparent deals, according to information available to BNN.

In Estonia, forgetting to register child’s name can lead to municipality choosing it

Estonian law obliges parents to register the name of their child in a month’s time after giving birth. In the unlikely case of them being late, the law opens right to a local municipality to choose it.

Change of concept? Viesturs Kairišs becomes Dailes Theatre’s artistic director

Dailes Theatre’s board member Juris Žagars has picked Viesturs Kairišs as the theatre’s new artistic director, as journalists were told by Žagars on Thursday, 23 January.

Lukashenko: Belarus needs to diversify its oil imports, introducing Baltic supplies

As Minsk and Moscow are in talks to solve a dispute over the continuation of oil imports from Russia, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has said that Russian supplies could be cut to 30-40% of Belarus’ total imports.

Minister does not exclude possibility of number of municipalities in Latvia increasing

The Administrative Territorial Reform offers reducing the number of municipalities to 39 in Latvia. Still, it is possible there may be one or two more, said Latvian Environment Protection and Regional Development Minister Juris Pūce in an interview to LTV programme Rīta Panorāma on Thursday, 23 January.

Thirteen people die from influenza in Latvia

Three people died from influenza in Latvia last week, increasing the number of victims to 13 for this year’s flu season, according to monitoring data of acute upper respiratory tract infections published by Disease Prevention and Control Centre.

Lithuania tries to halt haulage firm exodus to Poland with new tax

Lithuania is introducing a new «exit tax» to keep road haulage firms from relocating to other European Union member states. The firms say that other ways of moving business abroad will be used.

Corruption fighters: corruption perception indexes decline in Latvia in 2019

Latvia’s positions had worsened slightly in 2019 in global anti-corruption coalition Transparency International composed Corruption Perception Index.

UK parliament passes draft Brexit law

In London, the draft law on the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union has been finally passed by the Houses of Parliament after years of inability of British legislators to decide on their preferred way out of the bloc.


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