PM sacks Matīss, changes mind on acting Transport Minister

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Latvian Prime Minister Laimdota Straujuma has signed an order to sack Transport Minister Anrijs Matīss and appointed Interior Minister Rihards Kozlovskis acting transport minister, the PM's spokeswoman Aiva Rozenberga told BNS Tuesday.

In order to avoid speculations about a possible conflict of interest, Straujuma decided to replace Finance Minister Jānis Reirs with Kozlovskis as acting transport minister.

Reirs had served as head of Prudentia consulting firm from 1999 to 2002. Prudentia was responsible for finding the investor for airBaltic, and Straujuma demanded Matīss' resignation just hours after the government agreed to the controversial investor pushed through by the company.

The conflict of interest was pointed out to Straujuma on LTV Wednesday night and seemed to come as a surprise, prompting her U-turn.

Kozlovskis will start performing his new office duties on Saturday, Nov. 7, despite also having the deal with the pressing issue of taking in refugees as part of an EU plan. 

Aleksis Jarockis, a representative of the Latvian Finance Ministry, said that Reirs cannot undertake the job of transport minister because he is too busy working on Latvia's 2016 budget.

Straujuma said after a meeting of the ruling Unity party Thursday that she does not intend to propose a candidate for the new transport minister before the adoption of the 2016 budget in Saeima.

Asked about the Unity faction's reaction to her explanations about the decision to sack Transport Minister Anrijs Matiss, the premier said that the "faction neither backed nor objected. We just discussed the situation, and that's it".

Straujuma agreed with Unity leader Solvita Aboltina's projections that a candidate for the vacant post of transport minister might not be nominated before the final reading of the 2016 budget in parliament, set to happen on November 30.

"Yes, I am not going to take swift action," the prime minister said.

While Aboltina declined comments after the faction meeting.

Straujuma demanded Matīss' resignation on Wednesday, accusing the transport minister of keeping the government in the dark about the strategy of Latvia's airBaltic national carrier and a failure to ensure a proper supervision of the state-owned company.

"The minister has lost my confidence. I believe that the supervision of airBalic has been unsatisfactory," Straujuma said.

Matīss said at a news conference Wednesday that he would not stand down on his own accord and will wait for the premier's order. Matīss, a member of the ruling center-right Unity party, intends to resume his work as an MP next week.

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