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Friday 15.11.2019 | Name days: Undīne, Leopolds, Unda

Week in Lithuania: Probe in Kaunas’ police underway, teachers hold protest, TezTour in deep trouble

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

Kaunas Police chief Darius Žukauskas

Last week in Lithuania, the key news stories were a probe in Kaunas’ police, a teachers’ protest, the trouble of tour operator TezTour and the increase of the Lithuanian defence budget.

Police detain ex-executive of Ukraine’s state company

Lithuania’s police detained in Vilnius the former board chairman of Ukraine’s State Food and Grains Corporation, suspected of large-scale corruption in his country, law enforcement reported on Thursday, October 31. The National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine (NABU) did not name the person detained. But Ukraine’s law enforcement launched a search for Petro Vovchuk, the former board chairman of Ukraine’s State Food and Grains Corporation, in December, 2017.

Teachers stage creative protest

 The Lithuanian Education, Science and Sport Minister Algirdas Monkevičius has called a meeting with five trade unions over a collective agreement on Thursday, October 31, while some teachers were staging a protest outside the ministry in Vilnius. Dozens of pumpkins were lit up in front of the ministry building during the symbolic protest action organised by the Lithuanian Education and Science Trade Union (LSMPS), which has earlier announced plans to go on strike this year. According to LSMPS, the Education Ministry pledged to allocate an additional 118 million euros for teachers’ salaries next year under the collective agreement signed earlier this year, but the government’s 2020 budget bills earmarks only 55.5 million euros in extra funding.

Russian opposition leader Navalny spotted in Vilnius

Russian opposition politician Alexey Navalny was spotted in Vilnius on Wednesday, October 30, online news site reported, publishing a photo of the man in a restaurant in the Lithuanian capital. The 43-year-old opposition leader and his associates last summer organized protests in Moscow that brought thousands of people into the streets to demand fair elections.

Suspended Kaunas police chief dismayed

Lithuania’s police are carrying out an international investigation into police corruption in the country’s second-largest city of Kaunas, prosecutor Vytautas Kukaitis told a press conference at the Police Department on Wednesday, October 30. Police Commissioner General Linas Pernavas also said during the press conference that Kaunas Police chief Darius Žukauskas would be removed from his position on the grounds of a possible threat to the security of classified information entrusted to him. Žukauskas has rejected the accusations against him as inadequate.

Vilnius school will work under English education program

Lithuania’s government on Wednesday, October 30, allowed a Vilnius-based private British school to work under the English national education program. Up until now, The British School of Vilnius has operated as an establishment of informal education. According to Erika Vikniūtė, the head of the reception department at the school, classes will take place in English, except for the Lithuanian and Spanish language classes, and all teachers have acquired their qualifications at UK higher schools.

Analysts: Lithuania’s economy is slowing

Lithuania’s economy has maintained a stable growth pace, analysts say after the country’s statistics office, Statistics Lithuania, said on Thursday, October 31, that the country’s GDP grew 3.6 per cent over a quarter. But analysts stress that growth is losing its momentum and one could hardly expect such growth in the last quarter of this year or next year. Indre Genytė-Pikčienė, a senior expert from the Lithuanian Free Market Institute, said that, contrary to mature euro zone states, consumers in Lithuania still have high expectations, with optimism supported by low inflation and still fast-rising wages.

Lithuania’s Maxima expands business in Bulgaria

Maxima Bulgaria, owned by Maxima Grupė, the largest retailer in the Baltic states, has received an approval by the Bulgarian Commission for Protection of Competition (CPC) regarding rental of the stores from the local retail chain Triumph in the city of Plovdiv, the country’s second-biggest city. Maxima Bulgaria shortly is going to proceed with the integration of the supermarkets into the T MARKET network. A part of the completely refurbished stores will be opened within a few months.

Tez Tour, partners suspected of document forgery, tax evasion

Aleksandras Sukovas, the head of Tez Tour, one of the largest tour operators in Lithuania, as well as VIP Viesosios Informacijos Partneriai, Aza Tours and several other companies are suspected of document forgery and tax evasion. Investigators from the Financial Crime Investigation Service’s Vilnius regional division have disclosed a group of 13 persons who used over a dozen companies providing tourism services to avoid the taxation of revenue worth at least 2 million euros. The FCIS said earlier that members of the group were suspected of fraud, property misappropriation, the submission of false data on revenue, profit or assets, fraudulent bookkeeping and forgery of accounting documents.

Lithuanian leaders congratulate Turkish president on Republic Day

 Lithuania’s leaders on Tuesday, October 29, congratulated Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Republic Day. Lithuanian President Gitanas Nausėda wished Turkey and its people peace, wellbeing and success, and expressed his hope for closer bilateral cooperation between the two nations, his office said in a press release.

Lithuanian Red Cross, government agree to cooperate in crises

The Lithuanian Red Cross Society and the government signed on Monday, October 28, an agreement on cooperation in emergencies, nuclear disasters and crises. This is the first such document detailing the areas of cooperation. Interior Minister Rita Tamašiūnienė said she appreciated the Red Cross’ support for refugees living in Lithuania. Founded in 1919, the Lithuanian Red Cross Society is a member of the Geneva-based IFRC.

Funds to meet 2 per cent defence spending target in 2019 allocated

The Lithuanian government approved on Wednesday, October 30, 19 million euros in additional funding for the Defence Ministry to meet the 2 per cent of GDP defence spending target this year. The government took the step after updated economic growth projections put Lithuania at risk of missing the 2 per cent target for the second year in a row. This will bring this year’s defence budget to around 967 million euros, or 2.03 per cent of GDP. Without the additional funding, the defence budget would have accounted for 1.98 per cent of GDP under the current projections.

 «Nova Lithuania» wins Riga International Film Festival’s award

Director Karolis Kaupinis’ film «Nova Lithuania» won the Riga International Film Festival’s award as the best feature film on Sunday, October 27. The director also received a EUR 2,000 cash prize courtesy of insurance company «Balta». Special mention award went to another Lithuanian film, Aistė Žegulytė’s «Animus Animalis».

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Lithuania set to expand residential real estate tax payers’ base

With the economy prospects for the new year looking bleaker, the Lithuanian government is scrambling to find new ways to prevent a looming drought of state coffers. The Lithuanian legislature, Seimas, has revisited this week the idea of taxing polluting cars, real estate and bank assets.

Estonian skiing ex-coach convicted of doping facilitation

A court in Estonia has found Mati Alaver, a former national skiing coach, guilty of doping facilitation and convicted him to probation.

Tourist upturn in Latvian accommodations reaches 2.27 million in 2019

1.03 million foreign and Latvian visitors stayed at Latvian tourist accommodation establishments Q3 2019, which is 0.5 % more than Q3 2018. Compared to corresponding period of the previous year, the number of nights spent by visitors increased by 1.5 %.

Central Election Commission permits signature collection for Seaima’s dismissal

On Thursday, 14 November, Latvia’s Central Election Commission registered a signature collection process initiated by Varu Latijas Tautai and Centre Party for the dismissal of the 13th Saeima.

Corruption watchdog once again punishes VID officials for illegal information acquisition

Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau has once again punished officials of the State Revenue Service who were caught illegally acquiring information from systems.

Saeima decides: unemployment benefit to be paid for eight, not nine months

From 2020 onward unemployment status will be provided and benefits paid for eight months instead of nine, BNN was told by Saeima’s press-service.

Lithuania pushes for NATO ally involvement in EU defence projects

Lithuanian National Defence Minister Raimundas Karoblis has emphasised that European Union’s defence projects should be open to NATO allies from outside the EU to join in.

Healthcare trade unions to decide on future protests in Latvia

Latvian Trade Union of Health and Social Care Workers council plans to decide on future protests on Tuesday, 19 November, as confirmed by the trade union.

Estonia registers lowest unemployment in century

The unemployment rate in the century-long history of Estonia has dropped in third quarter of the year to a record low of 3.9%, the country’s official statistics show.

Minister: suspicious interest for Latvia’s military objects considered medium-high

The level of suspicious interest of foreign people for Latvia’s military objects using different research methods, including drones, is considered medium-high, says Latvia’s Defence Minister Artis Pabriks.

Tusk encourages pro-EU Britons not to give up

The United Kingdom is in a month’s time holding its early parliamentary election. The outgoing chairman of the EU’s European Council, Donald Tusk has said indirectly that the country’s divorce from the bloc can still be reversed.

Contraband cigarettes found stashed in cars with forged diplomatic registration plates

State Revenue Service Tax and Customs Police found a large number of contraband cigarettes in vehicles bearing forged diplomatic registration plates, VID reports.

Supreme Court keeps ban on new construction contracts for JRT in force

On Wednesday, 13 November, Latvia’s Supreme Court of Justice decided to reject the protest submitted by the Office of the Prosecutor General in regards to the ruling on approving construction company ReRe Būve 1 plea against State Real Estate, in which the company managed to secure a prohibition for VNI to sign new construction contracts with third party companies on work associated with New Riga Theatre.

Israel and Gaza start truce after two days of deadly violence

In the Middle East, after two days of military attacks between Israel and Palestinian militants that has left 32 people dead, a ceasefire has come into force, according to Egyptian, UN and militant representatives.

Saeima spends 14 hours debating on legislative drafts for next year’s budget

On the first day of Saeima’s debates about the state budget for 2020 and accompanying legislative drafts deputies spent 14 hours discussing a small number of drafts. In the end, the decision was made to take a break and return to decision-making on Thursday, 14 November.

Municipalities to receive 5% instead of 25% from gambling tax revenue

On Wednesday, 13 November, Latvia’s Saeima approved amendments in the final reading to the Law on Lotteries and Gambling Fee and Tax. Amendments include a new proportion for the division of the aforementioned tax between the state and municipal budgets.

Video: Venice affected by highest flood waters since 1966

In Italy’s picturesque Venice, the water level has risen by 1.87 metres. Two people have died during the floods.

OECD: Lithuanians, among rich nations, having highest alcohol consumption

Alcohol consumption in Lithuania is the highest compared to other 43 countries in the world, found the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, also referred to as the «rich-nations club».

Minimal pensions to increase in Latvia next year

On Wednesday, 13 November, Latvia’s Saeima approved in the final reading amendments to the State Pensions Law. These amendments provide for increasing minimal retirement pension amounts in 2020.

Environment Ministry refuses to approve new waste management regulations in Riga

Latvia’s Environment Protection and Regional Development Ministry has decided not to approve Riga City Council’s binding rules on waste management in the capital city, as confirmed by Riga City Council Housing and Environment Department’s Office for Environment head Evija Piņķe.

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,