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Wednesday 20.11.2019 | Name days: Anda, Andīna

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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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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