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Friday 19.01.2018 | Name days: Alnis, Andulis
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Lithuania’s political and economic diary. Lithuanian officials’ position enhanced in Ukraine

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

Former European commissioner Algirdas Šemeta, who had previously worked as a Finance minister in two Conservative-led governments, has been appointed as Ukraine’s new anti-corruption ombudsman. It is said Ukrainian entrepreneurs had no tools to fight corruption until now.

The new ombudsman institution will provide more opportunities for businesses to defend their interests against corruption.

«The institution is very important because until now businesses had virtually nowhere to turn in case of dishonest treatment or corruption problems. The only way was going to court, but court proceedings take a long time and cost a lot of money, therefore, businesses were in a deadlock when they could not properly state their interests,» Šemeta told last Thursday, December 11.

In his words, the new institution, which will be called the Business Ombudsman’s Service, will be handling complaints and provide recommendations on improper cases of lobbying, also propose systematic changes to eliminate causes of corruption.

The new institution was envisaged in a memorandum signed by the Ukrainian government and international financial institutions.

Ukraine’s Lithuanian Economy minister wants transparency

Ukraine’s new Economy minister, Lithuanian businessman Aivaras Abromavičius has identified the reduction of regulatory burdens and improvement of operating transparency of state-owned companies as his chief goals.

«Everything is being done with the aim to turn investments, both domestic and foreign, back to the country. This can only be possible with the fulfilment of several key conditions, including the radical elimination of various administrative barriers for business development. We have set the goal of making Ukraine a better place in regulatory terms, better than it is now… The goal is to make the regulatory base the best across Eastern Europe,» Abromavičius told the Lithuanian state radio.

Ukraine’s business would be encouraged to make use of opportunities opened up by the free trade agreement with the European Union (EU), he said.

Abromavičius also mentioned the reduction of burdens for business development and the reform of state-owned companies among his key tasks.

According to him, first of all, comes deregulation as there is an enormous number of documents and an enormous number of various agencies, which should be abolished, closed down, merged…

Second, it’s the governance reform of state-owned companies.

Ukraine has 3,300 state-owned companies, which had a workforce of 1.1 million and suffered huge losses, new minister said.

Ukraine’s economic situation remains complicated, he said, adding that the economy would shrink by approximately 7 percent this year instead of projected 10 percent.

He also spoke about the weakened influence of oligarchs as a result of the crisis and geopolitical conflict.

«Thanks God, many of the oligarchs have got weaker, less influential in the course of this economic crisis and geopolitical conflict. We hope that competition will get ever stronger in all economic sectors and in several years’ time we will stop speaking about some huge oligarchic structures, which are strongly interfering with politics,» Abromavičius said.

Lithuanian MEP to chair pro-Ukraine group in Brussels

A Lithuanian member of the European Parliament, Petras Auštrevičius, has been appointed as the chairman of the Informal Group of Friends of European Ukraine which was founded in the European Parliament (EP).

According to liberal Auštrevičius, the idea to establish an informal group answers a need to unite as many members of the EP as possible for joint work.

Auštrevičius says that Ukraine has many friends in Europe and their ranks swelled in face of Russia’s aggressive policies. The objective is to help the people of Ukraine, and the informal group is a great platform to get a better perspective on problems, share ideas and contacts more freely, the Lithuanian MEP says. The group will maintain active ties with members of the Ukrainian Parliament and will seek to cooperate with non-governmental and other organisations operating in Ukraine.

The inaugural meeting of the group was attended by members of the Ukrainian Parliament, the Supreme Rada, and Refat Chubarov, Chairman of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People, who is banned from entering Russian-annexed Crimea.

The group will seek to hold regular hearings at the EP about crimes and human rights violations committed by Russia in the occupied Ukrainian territories. Auštrevičius hopes that information collected in hearings and its findings will sooner or later be transferred to the international court.

Already 48 members of the EP have joined the Informal Group of Friends of European Ukraine which was initiated by Auštrevičius. They represent 18 EU Member States and every main pro-European political group. Lithuanian MEPs also joined the group: Antanas Guoga, Zigmantas Balčytis, Gabrielius Landsbergis, Vytautas Mazuronis and Bronis Ropė.

Architecture celebrity designs sports and wellness centre for Vilnius

Construction of sports and wellness centre Vilnius Beacon, designed by Daniel Libeskind, should break ground next year at Liepkalnis skiing course, the highest point in Vilnius.

Up to now Liepkalnis skiing centre was open only in winter, but the new sports and wellness centre will offer activities both in winter and summer. The project includes cultural and recreation spaces as well.

The new centre was designed by world-renowned Polish-American architect Daniel Libeskind whose prominent designs include the Jewish Museum in Berlin and One World Trade Centre in New York.

Libeskind said it was his first project of such a minor scale, but he was inspired by the beautiful scenery, nice city and its people. His goal was to give the centre an inspiring architectural form which would fit well into the natural surroundings of the hill. According to the architect, Vilnius Beacon should become a new entertainment, leisure and cultural centre of the whole region.

Vilnius City Municipality and partners UAB Trade State and UAB Start Vilnius plan to complete the project in 2016.

Wallet sellers enjoy rampant sales

The upcoming introduction of the euro has seen wallet sellers’ business blossoming.

As the euro notes are bigger in size than the litas notes they are replacing on 1 January, around 10-20 percent more wallets were bought in the first week of December 2014 compared with the same period of 2013.

Christmas sales have only started and traders are expecting the biggest interest in the last days before the season holidays.

According to Viktoras Kučevskis, director of JSC Victors Leather which manages online shop piniginuke.lt, trading picked up last week and sales have doubled compared to last year.

Former security chief defends his innocence

Former head of Lithuania’s State Security Department Mečys Laurinkus, who stood at the wheel of it during 1998-2004, said that the institution assisted the United States in its counter-terrorism efforts during the period, but did not ask for a reward and did not violate laws or international commitments.

In his words, cooperation with the US was based on information exchange after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

«After the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the United States, the Lithuanian State Security Department, which I headed between 1998 and 1 April 2004, helped the US in the efforts against terrorism – we exchanged information. In the course of providing help, we did not violate Lithuanian laws or Lithuania’s international commitments. Neither I as the head of the institution nor other staff members of the department asked for any reward for the help, and nobody offered anything,» Laurinkus said in a written reply to the questions by BNS, a Lithuanian news agency.

Earlier this week, the US Senate published a report on the CIA using torture to interrogate suspected members of the Jihad movement al Qaeda in secret detention centres. The report refers to a site, which might have operated in Antaviliai near the Lithuanian capital Vilnius in 2005-2006.

A description of establishment of the centre says that the country also had a detention room, which was not in use, and the CIA wanted to build a new and larger detention facility in the country, furthermore, offered an undisclosed sum of money to show appreciation for the support of the programme.

According to the document, the centre was closed after the state refused to provide medical assistance to the centre’s inmate, Saudi Arabian citizen Mustafa Ahman al-Hawsawi.

A parliamentary probe into the secret prison allegations in Lithuania identified two sites as having possibly been used by the CIA, one in the State Security Department’s premises in central Vilnius and the department’s training facility in Antaviliai near Vilnius.

Laurinkus says that the CIA did not have any detention centres in Lithuania during his term in office.

His successor Pocius, who served in the post in 2004-2007, refused to comment on the US Senate report.

Following the publication of the new report about secret CIA prisons, the Lithuanian Prosecutor General’s Office said on Wednesday, December 10, it would additionally turn to the US for information about secret detention and interrogation of suspected terrorists abroad.

Lithuania to broadcast Ukraine Today

The Lithuanian Cable Television Association (LKTA) has signed an agreement with Ukrainian television channel Ukraine Today, which has its headquarters in Kyiv, has a considerable number of journalists who report on the most important events in Ukraine, conduct interviews and prepare history programmes.

Ukraine Today is the first international Ukrainian television channel offering informative programming dedicated to compensate the lack of information about Ukraine and other countries of the former USSR. Established as response Russian television propaganda, Ukraine Today is seeking to inform about Ukrainian events from the European standpoint, according to a press release.

Ukraine Today currently broadcasts in the English language, next year programmes in the German and Russian languages are expected to be launched.

The Lithuanian Cable Television Association currently unites 38 broadcasters with 341,000 subscribers.

Lithuanian and US officials discuss bilateral cooperation in Vilnius

Lithuania’s Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Andrius Krivas has met in Vilnius with Eric Rubin, US Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs.

The officials discussed bilateral relations, cooperation with Eastern European countries and international security, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs informs.

The officials highlighted the active development of the Lithuania-US relations, the importance of cooperation between the United States and the European Union in shaping the EU’s Eastern Neighbourhood policy. They also discussed practical support for the Eastern Partnership countries.


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