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Week in Lithuania: Seimas lowers election threshold, youngsters vandalise mosque, Vinted claims «unicorn» status

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Volodymyr Zelensky, Lithuania, Gitanas Nausėda, Vinted, warning strike

Last week, in Lithuania, the key news stories were Seimas lowering Lithuanian general election threshold, youngsters vandalising a mosque and online second-hand clothing marketplace Vinted claiming a «Unicorn» status for start-up value.

Prosecutor seeks suspended jail sentences for Paksas, Vainauskas

The public prosecutor is seeking suspended prison sentences for Lithuania’s impeached former president Rolandas Paksas and Gedvydas Vainauskas, the CEO of the media group Lietuvos Rytas, who are standing trial on influence peddling charges. Gedgaudas Norkūnas, the prosecutor, asked the court on Friday, November 29, to sentence Paksas to three years and two months’ imprisonment, to be suspended for two years and two months. The public prosecutor is seeking a three-year prison sentence, to be suspended for two years, and a fine of over 26,000 euros for Vainauskas.

Lithuania elected to chemical weapons prohibition body’s council

Lithuania has been for the first time elected to the executive council of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), the Foreign Ministry said on Friday, November 29. Lithuania’s candidacy for the OPCW executive council for the 2020-2022 period was unanimously approved in The Hague earlier this week, the ministry said in a press release.

Lithuanian opera sees huge success at Venice Biennale

Some 87,000 people have visited Lithuania’s pavilion at the 58th Venice Biennale and seen the Sun & Sea (Marina) opera performance performed on an artificial beach, its creators said this week. All in all, 159 people have worked on the project over the six months the Lithuanian pavilion was opened. And 51 performers from Lithuania, Italy, Brazil, the US, the UK, Spain, Germany, Greece and other countries impersonated the 13 opera characters.  Over the next couple of years, the Lithuanian artists plans to perform the opera in 2020 in Norway, Sweden, Spain, Switzerland, Iceland, the UK, the US, Russia, Australia and other countries.

Seimas backs proposal to reduce election threshold

The Seimas on Thursday, November 28, gave its initial backing to a proposal by the ruling parties to reduce the existing election thresholds to 3 per cent for political parties and to 5 percent for party coalitions after 62 MPs voted in favour, 44 were against and five abstained. The proposal was put forward by Ramūnas Karbauskis, leader of the Lithuanian Farmers and Greens Union, and Naglis Puteikis, leader of the Centre Party.

 CEC lifts Sinkevičius’ parlt mandate after EC confirmation

Lithuania’s Central Electoral Commission on Thursday, November 28, lifted the parliamentary mandate of Virginijus Sinkevičius, representing the ruling Lithuanian Farmers and Greens in the Lithuanian parliament after he was confirmed as a European commissioner. Sinkevičius was elected to the parliament in the Šeskinė single-member constituency in Vilnius but a new election will not be held there.

Youngsters suspected of vandalising mosque, synagogue

The same youngsters are suspected of having vandalized a mosque and synagogue in Lithuania’s second-largest city of Kaunas, Kaunas County Police said on Thursday, November 28. Windows of the mosque in the city centre were smashed on November 17, and a Heil Hitler inscription was discovered on the synagogue’s information board on November 13. Police officers believe the two offences were committed by the same youngsters. Three persons, including males aged 17 and 18 and a female aged 15, were identified. They are now being questioned and officers are taking other actions as part of the ongoing pre-trial investigation.

Transport minister in hot water

Lithuanian Transport and Communications Minister Jaroslav Narkevic said on Thursday, November 28, that he will decide on whether to remain in his post following consultations with his party and Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis. Narkevič has faced a barrage of criticism from the opposition lately for his decision to fire the management board of Lietuvos Paštas (Lithuanian Post), for his recent visit to the United Arab Emirates, for approving funding for certain road upgrades, and other issues.  President Gitanas Nausėda has called this week Narkevič to resign.

Lithuania disappointed with Apple

Lithuania is disappointed with Apple’s decision to show the annexed Crimean peninsula as part of Russian territory on its apps when viewed from Russia, Foreign Minister Linas Linkevičius said on Thursday, November 28. Ukraine on Wednesday condemned the US technology giant for agreeing to show Crimea as Russian territory on its products.

Teachers stage warning strike

Teachers in several hundred schools across Lithuania staged a two-hour warning strike on Thursday, November 28, to press their demand for more funding next year. The strike action was backed by all trade unions that signed in 2017 a collective agreement that provided for allocating 117 million euros in additional funding for education in the 2020 budget. The government’s 2020 budget bill currently earmarks just over 55 million euros in extra funding for that purpose.

Startup Vinted becomes Lithuania’s 1st «unicorn»

Online second-hand clothing marketplace Vinted has raised 128 million euros in a funding round, making it Lithuania’s first «unicorn», a start-up company valued at over 1 billion euros. The new round was led by Lightspeed Venture Partners, a new investor in Vinted, the company said on Thursday, November 28. Vinted will use the money to develop its technological platform and to accelerate its expansion and growth in Europe.

Nausėda gets Zelensky’s assurances over fertiliser exports

President Gitanas Nausėda says he has received assurances from his Ukrainian counterpart, Volodymyr Zelensky, that Ukraine will next spring complete its fertilizer market studies that are worrying Lithuanian fertilizer manufacturers. Speaking in a joint news conference after the two presidents’ meeting in Vilnius, Nausėda said he believed that Lithuanian companies would have free access to the Ukrainian fertilizer market. Lithuanian producers and government officials are concerned that Ukraine’s trade protection studies regarding ammonium nitrate and compound fertilizers may lead to the country imposing import duties or quotas.


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BNN summary of the week: Lay-offs at LDz. KNAB wrapped around ZZS’ finger. Ķuzis steps down

The last week demonstrated that not everything that glitters is gold. Although previously Latvian Railway proudly reported growing freights and revenue, the statement released in the middle of the week suggests the company is not in the best state – the company plans to lay off 1 500 workers by the end of the year.

FKTK lists exceptions in which banks are allowed to service Aivars Lembergs

Latvian Finance and Capital Market Commission has listed cases in which Latvia’s finance market participants will be allowed to service Aivars Lembergs, who is subjected to US OFAC sanctions and accused of serious crimes, and three organizations associated with him – Ventspils Development Agency, Business Development Association and Latvian Transit Business Association.

Appropriate jobs promised for laid-off LDz workers

Latvian State Employment Agency promises to find appropriate jobs for laid-off Latvian Railway workers. If need be, those people will be provided the opportunity for re-qualification, raise their qualification or train for a new profession, as confirmed by the agency’s representative Signe Bierande.

Bordāns selects potential candidates to lead the Supreme Court and Prosecutor General’s office

I can see people who could take the reins over the Office of the Prosecutor General and the Supreme Court and change their work standards, Latvian Justice Minister Jānis Bordāns told TV3 programme 900 seconds when asked about any potential candidates to lead those institutions.

Ukrainian Prime Minister ready quit after leaked voice recording

Ukrainian head of government Oleksiy Honcharuk has offered to resign following the circulation of an audio recording, where criticism of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and his knowledge in economy is voiced.

Inflation in Latvia reportedly higher than Europe’s and Eurozone’s in December

In December 2019 inflation in Latvia was higher than the average in the European Union and Eurozone, according to information published by Eurostat on Friday, 17 January.

Estonian population growth continues in 2019 due to immigration

Estonia has registered in 2019 population growth for the fifth consecutive year and it can be explained with immigration not with natural growth, according to preliminary data released by Statistics Estonia.

BNN investigation | Raunas street property: quiet assistant with a «secret wallet» for Lembergs

There are suspicions that Aivars Lembergs, subjected to international sanctions, has sold real estate located on Raunas Street 27 in Riga to his sister «on paper only». This may have been done to avoid confiscation of properties in the event of a guilty verdict or a possible arrest over the real estate property. However, it is possible Lembergs maintains full control over this real estate property and, most likely, the property is used to fatten his wallet on a regular basis.

Audit: majority of Latvian housing stock has degraded to a state of a slum

Since the denationalization effective access to housing security in Latvia does not exist and most of the housing stock has degraded up to a state of a slum, as concluded by the Latvian State Audit.

Prime minister affirms possibility of carrying oil supplies for Belarus through Latvia

During his meeting with Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko on Thursday, 16 January, Latvian Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš affirmed that oil supplies for Belarus may be possible using Latvia’s ports.

Rain in Australia provides relief to continuing fight against bushfires

In eastern Australia, which has been suffering in prolonged and disastrous bushfires, heavy rain has been falling for the past 24 hours.

Weather to remain warm in Latvia at week’s end

At the end of the week the sky in Latvia will become clear and the sun will shine. No precipitation is expected. However, a low atmospheric pressure area will approach the country from the west during weekends, as reported by Latvian Environment, Geology and Meteorology Centre.

GKR helps overthrow Riga’s vice-mayors and put an end to ruling coalition

Riga City Council vice-chairperson Anna Vladova and deputy Druvis Kleins lost their respective posts at an extraordinary meeting on Thursday, 16 January. This happened because multiple deputies from Honour to Serve Riga voted together with the opposition in favour of dismissing them.

Latvian Railway plans to lay off 1 500 employees

Latvian Railway plans to terminate labour relations with approximately 1 500 employees before the end of 2020, as reported by the company’s representative Ella Pētermane.

Russian State Duma approves Putin’s new Prime Minister

The Russian State Duma has approved on Thursday, January 16, the candidacy of the country’s next Prime Minister appointed by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Ventspils opposition invites Pūce to act to prevent US sanctions from spreading to city council

Environment Protection and Regional Development Ministry and especially Juris Pūce have to act to resolve the current state of Ventsils City Council. It should be dismissed, as the municipal government does not have moral, ethical or legal foundation to continue managing and implementing the criminal management’s policy, according to Ventspils City Council opposition deputies.

Trade unions urge Latvian government to resolve transit businesses’ blocked bank accounts problem

Multiple trade unions associated with the transit industry have turned to Latvia’s highest ranking officials with a request to resolve the situation with bank accounts of multiple transit companies having been blocked because of US sanctions against Aivars Lembergs. If the government does not act, trade unions promise to organize massive protests.

Anris Leimanis picked as RB Rail council chairman

Anris Leimanis, independent council member from Latvian shareholder, has been picked as Rail Baltica joint Baltic company AS RB Rail council chairman. Ahti Kuningas and Karolis Sankovskis will serve as vice-chairmen, as confirmed by the company.

CSP: number of residents at risk of poverty declines in Latvia

In 2018 a total of 434 thousand persons or 22.9 % of the population of Latvia were at risk of poverty – 0.4 percentage points less than in 2017.

Latvian Saeima to ask Denmark to not extradite Kristīne Misāne to South African Republic

On Thursday, 16 January, Latvian Saeima made the decision to protect the rights of Latvian citizen Kristīnes Misāne, asking the Danish parliament and Danish law enforcers to support their Latvian colleagues and find a solution to avoid extraditing her to the South African Republic, as reported by Saeima’s press-service.

Smiltēns: Riga City Council’s situation can be described – divide, redistribute and plunder

«The situation in at Riga City Council can be described with three words – divide, redistribute, plunder,» said leader of Latvian Association of Regions Edvards Smiltēns in an interview to LTV programme Rīta panorama on Thursday, 16 January.

One single vote left the Lithuanian election system intact

The understanding that Lithuania’s election system needs changes is nearly overwhelming, but the ruling Farmers and Greens’ attempt to lower the Parliament election threshold in parties’ multi-member constituency from current 5 per cent to 3 per cent suffered a setback this week.

Estonian power grid executive detained over bribery suspicion

The Estonian Internal Security Service has detained a board member of the Elektrilevi power grid operator over suspicion of taking a bribe.

Demographer: Latvia has the lowest birth rate level observed the past decade

Birth rates continued to decline in Latvia in 2019. The lowest level of the past decade was reached in the country last year, says demographer Ilmārs Mežs.

Healthcare Ministry proposes single social fees rate for specialized tax regimes

One percentage point social fee rate for healthcare will be applied not only to general tax regime participants but also those working in special tax regime, such as microenterprises, patent payers and royalty recipients, according to a proposal for Latvian Healthcare Ministry.


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