What kind of a year the elapsing year of 2015 was to Lithuania? Well, the answer depends on who you are talking to, but the majority of respondents agree the year has been turmoil and shake ups-free.
Get on Rail Baltica train and enjoy Riga
«One of the most vivid moments in the country’s life in 2015 was the further strengthening of Lithuania’s energy infrastructure, which, energy security-wise, has made us a whole lot more independent. I mean the LNG facilities in Klaipėda and the grid interconnectors with Sweden and Poland,» Lauras Bielinis, a political analyst and scholar, told BNN.
The inauguration of a leg of the Rail Baltica project, which saw a European-gauge rail track laid to Kaunas, the country’s second-largest city, also deserves salutes, believes Bielinis.
«Next year, hopefully, we will be able to reach Riga from Kaunas via Rail Baltica. And Warsaw will be reachable through it already in the beginning of 2016. That’s big,» the analyst says. «With the projects, Lithuania has ramped up its positions internationally and, importantly, it has become less vulnerable to any adverse affects.»
Internally, the analyst asserts, the year of 2015 for Lithuania has been enviably stable and shake ups-free.
«We’ve had, as always, a share of all kind of ruckus this year, but, overall, the scandals have neither scathed the state nor hurt the parties and state structures,» Bielinis says. «Institutional stability was very characteristic to Lithuania in 2015. The relative solace allowed us tackle other important issues.»
The analyst predicts that in 2016 Lithuania not only will step up its collaboration with the European Union, but will manage to bend the fences with the closest neighbours- Latvia and Poland.
«It’s my strong intuition, note it, but I do believe we will see it happening,» Bielinis emphasized.
Lithuania was tedious in 2015?
«I really do not think there has been anything in Lithuania’s life that would catch the world’s attention,» says Rimvydas Valatka, a well-known Lithuanian analyst and editor-in-chief of Veidas, a weekly magazine.
He adds: «As the website you write for (BNN) caters to Latvian readership, I am puzzled to come up anything worth mentioning to it. I doubt whether Latvians would be much interested, for example, in the news that the Lithuanian President, speaking figuratively, has gotten twice slapped in her face with the appointment of Prosecutor General? Or that the finally (this week-L.J) appointed one is a black sheep in the herd?»
Similarly, foreigners, the analyst insists, would not be much keen on the news about the soaring lately support for Lithuania’s Interior Minister Saulius Skvernelis, who rose to a record approval in the polls in a sequence of twisted circumstances.
Skvernelis first resigned amid criticism after a convict broke out from a police car in Vilnius with an officer’s rifle in the handcuffed hands. After the massive 3,000 officers-involving manhunt the escapee was nabbed and, although the police were mocked, Skvernelis has come out the winner of the brouhaha.
«At least for now, he has cosily snuggled behind the President and Prime Minister in the polls. So, who knows, maybe Saulius Skvernelis will be Lithuania’s new premier or president in the future?» Valatka pondered. «But, again, I do doubt whether it is big news to the world and Latvia, too,» he quipped.
Wackoes will continue to thrive in 2016?
Asked what Lithuania could expect from the upcoming year of 2016, he insisted it spells «anything good» neither to Lithuania nor the world.
«The geopolitics will remain severely roughed up. Thanks to the technologies, madmen have gained a huge destructive power today. Three decades ago, a bunch of wackoes had to assemble somewhere, I mean physically, to plot insanity. Today, they do not need even to talk much when planning an attack and can carry out it remotely. The dangers to the world – and Lithuania, too – won’t go anywhere away in 2016,» Valatka summed up for BNN.
As the neext year marks a year of parliamentary elections in Lithuania, the event, again, raises interest only to some Lithuanians, not the world, he reiterates.
«Whatever party will win the coveted prize –majority of the votes, I doubt whether we will see a lot of change in the country’s life following the election. In Lithuania, we do not have a Syriza – like party like in Greece, so whoever comes to power is way more predictable than unpredictable. By the way, Syriza Party had to show a lot of flexibility, too, when entrusted with the reigns of authority,» the analyst told.
Lithuania will need to take on Paris Climate Summit commitments
For Kęstutis Trečiokas, the Lithuanian minister of Environment, the year’s main event was the world climate summit in Paris.
«It has set out pretty ambitious goals and Lithuania will need to redraw its policies when it comes to greenhouse gas emissions and waste management,» the minister told BNN.
In 2016, Lithuania, as all the other countries that signed the Paris meeting agreements, will have to draw up a plan of action and set out targets aimed to reduce a carbon footprint on the environment.
«It will not be easy, however, as it requires a political will and has a long-term impact on the country’s industrial activities,» Trečiokas emphasized.
«Some of the commitments, like reducing greenhouse gases’ effect on environment by 40 percent until 2030 is a really tough task for Lithuania, because a significant part of our energy resources, those excavated, to be precise, pollution-wise, are hazardous. Our public transport network is also prone to emit a lot of pollution. The same could be said of our entire agricultural sector. So the sectors will need to rethink their activities and come up with a plan addressing the situation will have to be drawn up, » Trečiokas said.
Hydrocarbons mining idea died in 2015
The year of 2015, the minister says, marked the further languishing of the idea of hydrocarbons exploration and mining in Lithuania.
«If the bid has not yet vanished from the Lithuanian agenda, it, however, has been put off for years. From today’s perspective, considering the fall in oil and gas prices, as well as the availability of our liquefied natural gas terminal in the seaport of Klaipėda and, especially, heeding the Paris climate summit targets, the idea of shale gas exploration in Lithuania is not viable anymore,» the minister pointed out.
He does hope that, next year, Lithuania will focus a whole lot more on waste management.
«We have completed some major projects as far as waste management is concerned this year. I mean we have opened several major waste recycling plants in the country, but we have to step up the efforts in 2016 and see more waste recycling facilities installed,» the minister shared his concern. «In addition, there needs much to be done improving what I call waste legislation. There are too many loopholes in it.»
Athletes eye Rio Olympics in 2016
Nijolė Medvedeva, vice-president of Lithuania’s track-and-field federation, says the elapsing year has played out very well for Lithuanian youth’ track-and-field squad.
«In the world youth championship in Cali, Colombia, Lithuania has won one gold medal and three bronze medals. Quite an impressive result,» the once long-jump world holder told BNN.
But the adult athletes’ starts in the sport’s world championship in China were «satisfactory», the vice-president says.
«But we’ve seen some great results there, too. For the first time, in a world championship, a Lithuanian athlete scrambled to a very high 7th place in race walking. This is a great achievement,» Medvedeva told.
Speaking about the next year, she hopes Lithuania will be able to send a «good team» to the Olympics Games in Rio, Brazil.
«We believe around 20 athletes in the Lithuanian Olympic team will be representing track and field. By the way, that is how many participated in the last Olympic Games in London. The main thing now is to avoid any traumas and get prepared for the event as good as possible,» she told.