BALTICSEAreport Newsletter Week 48

Newsletter  /   /  By Redaktion


Government forming in Latvia: Last week the conservative Janis Bordans was the first candidate for the post of head of government to fail in an attempt to form a coalition government of several parties to the right of the centre.Almost two months after the parliamentary elections in Latvia Aldis Gobzems of the right-wing populist party “Whom does the state belong to?(KPV LV) on Monday. President Raimonds Vejonis gave Gobzems two weeks to set up a cabinet capable of governing.

Sweden’s parliament doesn’t want a minority government: Sweden remains without a new government for the time being.In a vote the parliament voted against a minority government of the moderate party. The search for a government is thus increasingly becoming a hanging game.In Sweden the attempt of the second strongest party in parliament to form a minority government has failed.The prime minister candidate Ulf Kristersson, nominated by the Moderata Samlingspartiet (Moderata Samlingspartiet), lost the decisive election.195 of 349 deputies voted against him. The conservative politician wanted to form a minority government together with the Christian Democrats. Apart from Moderates and Christian Democrats, only the populist Swedish Democrats voted for Kristersson, and that is and remains the point of contention. The left-wing camp and the bourgeois parties Liberale and Zentrum do not want a minority government that is dependent on the right-wing populist Swedish Democrats with their central demand for an even stricter asylum law.

Finland: Last Wednesday the Nordic country took up its six-month presidency of the Council of Europe’s highest decision-making body.The weekly meetings of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe are chaired by Finnish Foreign Minister Timo Soini.Finland’s main topic will be Russia’s status in the organisation, which will end next May.Russia stopped paying its membership dues after the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly (Pace) imposed sanctions on the country in 2014 for its military aggression in eastern Ukraine and annexation of the Crimea.

Estonia withdraws from migration pact: Estonia will not join the global migration pact negotiated by the United Nations.The government announced this after a cabinet meeting in Tallinn.”When we formed a coalition we agreed to take decisions by consensus.Unfortunately, such a consensus has not been reached today,” said head of government Jüri Ratas.

Nordic Council: The Nordic Council calls on the governments to take active action against social dumping in the shipping sector. However, the Council does not want to initiate any coordination of Nordic aviation policies within the EU. These were the results of a heated debate in the Labour Market Committee during the Oslo meeting.

Baltic Sea cooperation: How young people bring a breath of fresh air to cooperation between the Baltic Sea regions.The BSSSC recognises the youth of the Baltic Sea region as important stakeholders when it comes to discussions about the Baltic Sea region today and tomorrow.Young people are more sensitive to many challenges – and through the way they live and communicate they have a special feeling for changes in our societies.

Estonia with a new Minister of the Interior: Katri Raik took the oath of office in Tallinn today, Monday, after being appointed by President Kersti Kaljulaid. The 51-year-old Social Democrat succeeds her party colleague Andres Anvelt, who resigned last week for health reasons and wants to retire from politics. Raik headed the Estonian Academy of Security Sciences before taking office as Minister.

Finland offers exchange to Romania: To give Romania more time to prepare for the EU presidency, Finland has proposed an exchange to Romania. Romania thankfully refused.

Poland: A spying scandal puts the Polish government under pressure. This is about corruption in the PiS party. Eleven months before the 2019 parliamentary elections, secret audio recordings show how PiS is exerting pressure on entrepreneurs to gain control of the economy, first and foremost through banks but also through media that oppose government propaganda.

Lithuania: Public broadcasting under pressure. Critics warn against orbanisation. ,
Latvia: 100 years of independence.
Poland and Denmark: Republic of Poland and Kingdom of Denmark Sign Agreement concerning Maritime Boundary in the Baltic Sea.

Security and safety:

Protection against terror: Wind turbines are turning in the Baltic Sea, gas and oil pipelines supply the Federal Republic of Germany with energy through the Baltic Sea. The sea is the artery of the German economy. And its infrastructure is considered a potential target for attacks. But even accidents can have far-reaching consequences.  The Institute for the Protection of Maritime Infrastructure is to work out plans to prevent this. Founded two years ago, the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) has now started operations in Bremerhaven. The tasks of the institute are unique in Europe. The sea routes are to be protected as well as possible against all conceivable dangers.

Russian aggression condemned: On 26 November, the Latvian Foreign Ministry, together with several other countries, condemned Russia’s so-called “aggressive actions” in the Sea of Azov, which led to clashes with Ukraine. “Latvia condemns Russia’s aggressive actions in the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov and calls on Russia to comply with international law by stopping aggressive actions immediately,” a statement said. Latvia supports the territorial integrity of Ukraine and the integrity of its borders and calls on the international community “to respond rigorously and consistently to Russia’s aggressive actions”. In its actions against Ukrainian naval vessels, the Russian Federation has violated international law and freedom of navigation, the Ministry said. Similar criticism came from Estonian Prime Minister Yuri Ratas and Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite.

Betrayal of secrets? A federal army officer arrested in Austria and suspected of espionage could also have passed on information relevant to the national security of the Baltic state to Moscow. The Ministry of Defence in Riga is now trying to dispel any possible concerns in connection with a tank deal.

Border controls: Because of climate conference in Poland.

Interpol: Ukraine and Lithuania have threatened to leave the international police organization Interpol if a Russian becomes new president. A South Korean was then elected, but the cooperation of the 194 states remains undisputed.

Cities and regions:

Stockholm fights for Olympic Winter Games: Even though the city council, with a centre-right coalition and the Greens, has opposed the major project and pointed out that no tax money should be spent on the event, the supporters of the Games now want to go on the offensive with 22 ambassadors in the fight against a threatening no to the Olympic bid. Famous sportsmen like the three times cross-country ski Olympic champion Charlotte Kalla are to recruit before the possibly crucial discussions with the city council in the coming days again with emphasis for the large event in eight years.

Underground Helsinki: There are 400 underground buildings in the Finnish capital, including the world’s largest underground bus station, a computer centre, the largest shopping mile in northern Europe with shops and saunas, a church, an athletics and ice rink and an ice rink where the first division ice hockey teams train. Building other cities up, Helsinki developing dow.

Ferry on the Flensburger Förde: For about 20 years, ideas for a connection between Germany and the Danish town of Brunsnæs have been coming up. But the project never made any headway, either because the strict safety regulations for such ferries were pointed out to the north or south of the Fjord, or because nature conservation made it impossible to moor at certain points. A trial run could now begin in the summer. The ferry is important because Danes and Germans meet less and less at the Flensburg Fjord.

46 municipalities in Finland have decided to increase the municipal tax for 2019. This affects 480,000 residents.  Next year Haapajärvi, Honkajoki, Jämijärvi, Reisjärvi and Teuvo will each have the highest municipal tax rate on the Finnish mainland with 22.5 percent. Kauniainen has the lowest tax rate with 17 percent. 260 Finnish municipalities including Helsinki, Espoo, Vantaa, Tampere, Turku and Oulu leave the municipal tax rate unchanged. In Finström, Kitee, Kumlinge, Kustavi and Mariehamn the municipal tax rate will be reduced. A wage earner with an income of 3,600 euros per month pays an average of 7,500 euros per year in municipal taxes.

Gothenburg wins: The latest Global Destination Sustainability (GDS) Index has shown that Scandinavia is leading, with the six most important destinations all coming from the countries of the region. Gothenburg was the overall winner with a score of 94 percent in the GDS Index, a rating system that recognises responsible practices in the business tourism and events industry.

Riga: Latvia’s government wants to invest around 20 million euros in the Wagnersaal in the capital Riga. The aim is to renovate the building for the purposes of the Latvijas Koncerti state concert agency. This is what Finance Minister Dana Reizniece-Ozola said after the cabinet meeting on Monday on Latvian radio. Funds from the Latvian state budget and from EU subsidies will be used for this purpose.

River Oder make it more navigable: Polish documents irritate.

Economy and Technology:

Danish health care: Instead of individual clinics, the Danish health system will in future be operated by so-called “superhospitals”. Seven superhospitals are to form the core of health care in the future. The aim is to improve quality. Four of these care giants will be located in large cities, two more in the south of the country and one in the less densely populated northwest. The superhospitals will be flanked by smaller accident hospitals. The rest of the clinics were converted into MVZs. This is a radical step, but it also works in Denmark because there is only one health insurance company. The health service is financed to nearly 100 per cent publicly by tax money.,

Stockholm: A drone entrepreneur based in Stockholm was asked to leave Sweden within a month after the migration authorities confirmed their decision to refuse him an extension of his work visa because he remained without pay for several months. Ahmed Alnomany came to Sweden in 2015 and has since founded a drone company Inkonova based at the THINGS Startup Hub at the KTH Royal Institute of Technology. Last month Inkonova received 3.1 million crowns from the Japanese Terra drone in exchange for “a significant stake”. This happened just months after the Swedish mining giant LKAB and the world’s largest gold miner Barrick Gold had both commissioned mines to be scanned with the Batonomous system, the first commercial scanning orders for their drones.

Experts needed: The Federation of Finnish Industries (EK) believes that Finland should supplement its annual net migration gain of around 15,000 with an additional 20,000-35,000 skilled workers from abroad by 2023. “The shortage of skilled labour is an obstacle to growth. We need talent for all positions, in all industries and in companies of all sizes”, says Jyri Häkämies, Managing Director of EK.

The summer house in Denmark: It is extremely difficult for foreigners to buy a holiday home in Denmark. Even EU citizens can only do this if they have a permanent residence in the country or have had one for at least five years in the past. Otherwise you will need a special permit from the Danish Ministry of Justice. But prospective buyers of a house can use their holiday in Denmark or another special connection to the country as an argument.  The Danish People’s Party wants to change that. Hans Kristian Skibby of the right-wing populists: “We should not get away with jeopardising our guarantee that there will be no price explosion for Danish summer cottages and that we can no longer afford it”. However, the financial crisis had also hit Denmark and there was a fall in prices in the property market, many who wanted to sell their summer houses could not find a buyer due to the strict regulations.  In 2016, the liberal governing party Venstre had tried to completely overturn the regulation. By the way, many Danes have nothing against German house buyers. According to a survey, 66 percent of respondents were in favour of foreign EU citizens buying a summer house in Denmark. 23 percent against.

Artic Railway: The ice is receding and is therefore making better rail connections to the ice-free port of Kirkenes in Norway interesting for the Finns: The sea route from Helsinki to Tokyo could be halved from 22,000 to 11,000 kilometers – Sweden and the indigenous peoples are sceptical about this.
Google: New data center in Denmark.
Finland: In some areas, half of foreigners are unemployed, although demographic forecasts show that Finland needs more immigrants to support a declining labour force.

Environment and sustainability:

BONUS and HELCOM are organising a joint conference on “Research and Innovation for Sustainability: The 120 participants of this conference could not be more different: Scientists, politicians, representatives of intergovernmental organisations and NGOs meet at the 7th BONUS Forum. The Helsinki Commission (HELCOM), which works for the protection of the Baltic Sea, used the event to bring together the Baltic Sea Action Plan stakeholders and policy makers and scientists. They all share the same motivation: to create a scientific basis for environmental policy decisions that enable effective protection and sustainable use of the Baltic Sea. In addition to Baltic Sea stakeholders, the hosts have invited representatives from OSPAR, ICES and JPI Oceans to play key roles in the sustainable exploration of the oceans at the European and global levels, thus significantly broadening the perspective of the Baltic Sea countries.

Finnish companies creative in recycling: New investments in municipal enterprises are therefore more likely to flow into more efficient sorting plants with a high degree of automation and into new IT systems. “Most IT systems in waste logistics and invoicing are up to date with the 1990s and therefore need to be modernized,” says Timo Hämäläinen, head of development at KIVO. “German companies have good sales opportunities because such software solutions are not developed on a large scale in Finland. At KIVO, almost all public waste management companies have joined forces with 33 municipal waste management companies to increase economies of scale.

Swedes are ashamed of flying: An average Swede flies seven times more than an average inhabitant of this earth. Greenhouse gas emissions from flying have risen by 61 percent, while other emissions have fallen by 24 percent since 1990. They no longer want to cultivate the “idiotic lifestyle of frequent flying,” as the newspaper Expressen has already disparagingly written. The word “flygskam” (flying shame) has emerged for this purpose. Now it should even become the word of the year 2018 in the Nordic country. This means that more and more people are embarrassed to travel by plane. In the meantime, Swedes are increasingly switching to rail. There is even a hashtag #flyingless, or #jagstannarpåmarken (“I stay on the ground”).

Sweden: Tests the world’s first road with conductor rail for trucks.
Diesel ban in Finland: Finland’s Transport Minister Berner explained that in the near future there will also be a ban on the sale of diesel cars in Finland for climate protection reasons

A Vision for Inland Waterway Transport (IWT) in the Baltic Sea Region: A Vision for Inland Waterway Transport (IWT) in the Baltic Sea Region and means to strengthen inland waterway transport were presented this week in Brussels and inland waterway transport in the Baltic Sea Region was discussed. The three-year project has put inland navigation and inland navigation such as the Elbe, Oder and Vistula on the political agenda. A strategy paper calls for a clear strategy to increase the IWT potential in the Baltic Sea region.

A tunnel between Helsinki and Tallinn: For some time now we have been discussing connecting Finland with Estonia through a 103-kilometre tunnel in which high-speed trains can travel to Tallinn from Helsinki in just 20 minutes. This is a significant reduction in journey time from the fastest current time of the Gulf crossing, which is 90 minutes (weather permitting), to the typical two and a half hours. The initiators plan to build on an artificial island called, well, The Island, thousands of residential and commercial buildings and much more. The island alone is expected to accommodate an estimated 50,000 inhabitants, a large convention centre and all the living space a mini-town needs to function. The interest of investors from China, Russia and North America is great.

Amendment of the Danish Shipping Register: aims at the inclusion of offshore shipping.
Russians send ships: A Russian shipping company has sent ships to an ice-free Danish port to spend the winter.
Kiel Canal: Schedule for the lock construction has started to waver.

Culture and Society

Lighthouse to move: One of the most famous lighthouses of Denmark shall move. The Rubjerg Knude Fyr near Lønstrup threatens to fall into the sea. Politicians in the municipality of Hjørring decided on Wednesday to move the listed tower 60 to 80 metres away from the edge of the shore. According to the plans of the Danish government, 5 million crowns (670,000 euros) are to be made available for the project. “We hope to find a company that will do this for this prize,” Søren Smalbro from the municipality’s committee told Danish Radio.

Equality in Sweden? The country is considered to be a leader in the field of equality. Nevertheless, many Swedish women take a far more critical view. Why, they ask, do men still hold 94% of all board positions in companies? And even in politics and society there is still room for improvement. At least when it comes to a group of women who meet that evening in the building of the Swedish Riksdag.

St. Petersburg: European University in Russia under pressure The European University of St. Petersburg is allowed to teach again after a temporary closure. But it is still not really welcome in Russia. 

Denmark and the elderly: Necessary services are allocated free of charge in Denmark if needed, so that old people can live at home for as long as possible. If it is no longer possible, the state simply adds the rest to the rent in the old people’s home – if the pension is not enough. And the municipality would like the old people to live at home for as long as possible. “This was introduced at the end of the 80s. We found that it was expensive with so many in the old people’s home, so we expanded the mobile geriatric care so that more people could get help at home. At that time we also introduced the principle that the elderly should cope with as much as possible themselves.” Since 2015, the principle of self-help has been legally established in Denmark. The municipality must offer a so-called rehabilitation process to older people who it considers fit enough. For about 10 to 12 weeks, a physiotherapist or occupational therapist then helps the elderly to cope better with their everyday lives: for example, getting out of bed themselves or cooking their own food. In Copenhagen, it is assumed that 80 percent of all those applying for care would be better served with a rehabilitation course.

Trump, California and the Finns: US President Donald Trump has caused guesswork with statements about Finns who allegedly prevent fires by raking their forests. On a weekend visit to forest fire areas in California, he quoted Finnish President Sauli Niinisto as saying that Finns “spend a lot of time raking and cleaning and doing things” in the forest. “And they have no problems,” Trump added. Niinisto told the Sunday edition of the newspaper “Ilta-Sanomat” that he couldn’t remember any such remarks at his meeting with Trump a week earlier in Paris. “I told him that there are many forests in Finland, but we have a good warning system,” he said.

On our own behalf: We at BalticSea Report are always on the lookout for news and current events from the Baltic Sea region.
Please feel free to write to us and inform us about news and interesting topics in the fields of politics, technology, science, tourism, maritime economy, mobility, regional issues etc. around the Baltic Sea.



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