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Lithuania‘s political and economic diary. Euro adoption is not culprit for upping Lithuanian services prices

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Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RULinas Jegelevičius for the BNN

A hike in services prices in Lithuania last year was owing to growing wages rather than to euro adoption, insists Lithuanian Finance Minister Rimantas Šadžius.

The minister admitted last Thursday, January 22, that prices for services continued rising at the start of this year, but noted that prices for goods, particularly for fuel, are going down.

«Statistics show that prices for goods declined slightly over 2014, while prices for services rose by more than 2 percent. And this is not due to the introduction of the euro, but due to economic trends, particularly rising wages in the economy,» Šadžius said on LRT Radio.

«We continue to observe the same trend. Prices for practically all services are rising, but very slowly. Meanwhile, prices for a large part of goods are falling,» he said.

The minister said prices of almost half of the 100 goods monitored by Statistics Lithuania have declined.

Šadžius noted that fuel prices at the pump have been falling «at a fast rate.»

Lithuania replaced its national currency, the litas, with the European single currency on January 1, 2015.

Hitachi still sees business in Lithuania

Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaitė has met the Hitachi executive in Davos and says the Japanese energy company is still interested in the Visaginas nuclear power plant project in Lithuania and investments into Lithuania‘s other economic sectors.

«Hitachi is open to further cooperation with Lithuania in various sectors. With no doubt, they are still interested, if Lithuania wants to build a nuclear power plant in the future, and are ready to help us do so. They are ready to review funding and the funding mechanism,» Grybauskaitė told Lithuanian news service BNS by phone from Davos on Thursday, January 22.

According to the Lithuanian president, the country must preserve ties with Hitachi as the government will have to make decisions sooner or later on the production of competitive power in the country. Currently, Lithuania imports a major part of power, mainly from Russia.

«Lithuania has to make decisions on ways to resolve the long-term power production problem. We have become independent in terms of gas supply but we still import around 80 percent of power from Russia, and it’s one of the most expensive,» the president said.

Japanese investments are also important for Lithuania because they come «with a very transparent corporate culture.»

Lithuanian President: Russia is engaging in «territorial aggression» in Ukraine

There‘s evidence confirming that Russia is taking direct part in the ongoing military operation in eastern Ukraine, Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaitė said on Thursday, January 22.

Attending the World Economic Forum in Davos, the Lithuanian leader on Wednesday, January 21, briefly discussed the existing situation with her Ukrainian counterpart Petro Poroshenko, who brought to Davos a piece of the bus that was hit by a shell in eastern Ukraine.

«It‘s open territorial aggression being carried out not by some terrorists-separatists, but by Russia itself because neither separatists, nor any other people can have such weaponry. You cannot buy it at a town market or on the street. It‘s very specific and can be supplied by a major country. And there‘s direct evidence that not only Russian weapons are being used, but also the Russian army, its units are taking part,» Grybauskaitė told BNS by phone from Davos.

She insisted that Russian representatives are openly lying about the situation in Ukraine.

«We hear a lot of lies when they say one thing and do the opposite. When one side is being blamed and in fact the other one is not meeting its commitments,» Grybauskaitė said.

She also said she discussed with Poroshenko the existing situation in the country, as well as preparations for the upcoming Eastern Partnership summit in Latvia in May.

Google eys Lithuanian, reportedly is looking for staff

US Internet giant Google is interested in Lithuania, but it would not disclose yet any specific plans in the Baltic country.

«We have nothing to comment on at the moment. We are interested, we are speaking, but today we have nothing to announce,» Vytautas Kubilius, business development manager for the Baltic countries at Google, told.

However, Kubilius revealed that Google is looking for new employees for its future expansion in Lithuania.

«We are always on the lookout for employees. We are just a little differently organized than usual. (…) We are looking for people for Lithuania, among others,» he said.

However, he could not say how many people might be hired in Lithuania.

Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaitė said on Wednesday, January 21, that Google wanted to open its office in Vilnius. She said it would be the Internet giant’s first Baltic office.

Google back in 2008 showed interest in setting up a data center in Lithuania.

The company shut down its engineering office in Russia at the end of last year.

Brzezinski: Putin could seize Baltics in «literally» one day

Former US presidential national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski says the United States and its allies should deploy troops to Baltic States to deter Russia from staging a possible incursion in those countries.

The foreign policy expert, who served under President Jimmy Carter, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that he feared Russian President Vladimir Putin might try to take control over Baltic countries in a lightning move that could take NATO by surprise.

A nightmare scenario could be that «day – and I literally mean one day – he just seizes Riga and Tallinn… That would literally take him one day. There’s no way they could resist,» Brzezinski said.

«I think deterrence has to have meaning. It has to have teeth in it. And it has to create a situation in which someone planning an action like that has no choice but to anticipate what kind of resistance will lie in counter,» he said.

«I do recommend pre-positioning of some forces,» in those countries, he said, but in a way that was not provocative.

Brzezinski served as the national security adviser under Jimmy Carter from 1977 to 1981 and is a professor at Johns Hopkins University‘s School of Advanced International Studies.

Lithuania expects OECD accession talks in 2015

Lithuania expects to receive an invitation to open accession negotiations with the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) this year, the Lithuanian president‘spress office said on Thursday, January 22.

«(OECD membership) will not only boost Lithuania‘s international standing, but will also bring substantial benefits to our economy and people. Lithuania will become more attractive for foreign investors, improve its credit ratings and borrowing costs,» President Dalia Grybauskaitė said in a press release after meeting with Angel Gurria, secretary-general of the organization, in Davos.

A decision on opening talks with Lithuania is likely to be taken in June after assessing the country‘s homework and implementation of its membership action plan, according to the press release.

Lithuania is already an active participant of OECD committees and work groups. The country also contributes to the organization‘s support to Ukraine.

Nasdaq creates a new center in Vilnius

Nasdaq (NDAQ) has announced that the world leading operator of exchanges and provider of capital markets technology will create a new technology and business support competence center in Vilnius.

Currently, Nasdaq’s trading, clearing, surveillance and risk management technology powers more than 70 marketplaces, clearing houses, central securities depositories and regulators from over 50 countries around the globe. Nasdaq operates 24 securities markets, 5 central securities depositories and 1 clearing house in the US and Europe, including the Baltic Market – Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. The world’s fastest and most scalable trading systems INET and Genium INET are implemented in the Nasdaq Baltic.

«This is a great step forward for Nasdaq and for Lithuania,» said Arminta Saladžienė, Head of Nasdaq Baltic. «In addition to providing new jobs to the region, it will provide an opportunity for our skilled specialists to gain new experiences by working with global financial markets and cutting-edge technologies. The Nasdaq brand has strong global recognition, and this will certainly further increase international visibility and awareness of Lithuania and its strong talent pool.»

«The capital market sector is one of the fastest developing on a global scale, and continuous development of innovative technology solutions is vital to the growth of our business…We are one of the world’s leading providers of technology to exchanges, brokers and CSDs around the world, including the Baltic markets. We always want to ensure we leverage our global presence and utilize the best talents in every corner of the world. The technology competence center in Vilnius will be supporting global development projects and create new projects, so we need to hire the very best specialists,» said Conny Andersson, Senior Vice President, Global Technology Solutions at Nasdaq

To help with this initiative, Nasdaq has received support and counsel from Invest Lithuania.

According to Justinas Pagirys, Director of the Investment Promotion Department at Invest Lithuania, Nasdaq‘s further investment in the region constitutes a new level for Lithuanian competence centers as it will combine high-level IT expertize with in depth financial analysis. «The presence of a global market leader will create new career possibilities for Lithuanians not only in Lithuania, but also abroad.»

Nasdaq plans to hire about 50 specialists during the first half of 2015, who will be located at a new office in Vilnius.

Lithuanian UN ambassador blasts Russia

Lithuania‘s Permanent Representative to the UN Security Council Raimonda Murmokaitė on Wednesday, January 21, accused Russia of seeking to legitimize its territorial gains in Ukraine, achieved by separatists after an official truce.

«Russia’s intentions to rewrite the Minsk agreements in a way that would legitimize and accept the territorial gains achieved by the militants speaks to Kremlin’s wholehearted support for those criminals,» the ambassador told a meeting in New York.

According to the diplomat, receiving Russia‘s constant support, separatists benefited from the truce to strengthen their positions and captured additional 550 square kilometres of the Ukrainian territory between Donetsk and Mariupol.

During the meeting that was held on Lithuania‘s initiative, the ambassador also underlined that the existing crisis is not a civil war but “a foreign-sponsored war».

Murmokaitė also cited the information provided by Ukraine that separatists have more than 500 tanks, almost 700 artillery systems and a lot of other items of military equipment.

«How on earth – but for Russia’s continued supply – can a rag tag bunch of illegal militants obtain such an impressive arsenal of sophisticated heavy weaponry and arms which by now could well rival the arsenals of the smaller European states?» the Lithuanian ambassador said.

She reminded about attacks against Ukrainian troops during the truce when not only soldiers but also civilians were killed, as well as the Volnovakha attack when a rocket hit a bus, killing over a dozen civilians. According to the Lithuanian diplomat, Russia has never even once condemned or disowned the illegal and lawless separatist militants…If Russia is genuinely interested in putting an end to the devastating violence and deaths in eastern Ukraine, including the deaths of its own nameless soldiers sent to wage a war against a brotherly nation, it must stop destabilizing Ukraine, stop military supplies to its proxies, the illegal separatist groups, and withdraw all military equipment,» she said.

Ref: 020/111.111.111.4633


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