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Saturday 19.08.2017 | Name days: Melānija, Imanta
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Lithuania’s political and economic diary. Lithuanian parliament thumbs up 2015 budget

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

The Lithuanian parliament Thursday passed the law on national budget for 2015, the first year of the country’s eurozone membership, by a vote of 79 to 33, with 23 abstentions.

The budget was adopted by the votes of the ruling majority, with opposition lawmakers voting against the bill.

The Seimas instructed the government to cut state administration expenses and debt servicing expenses by almost LTL 90 million (EUR32.3 million) in 2015 and allocate these funds to cultural workers, school students and farmers.

Next year’s budget provides for increasing national defence spending by a third, continuing to compensate for pension cuts during the crisis, raising salaries for the lowest-paid government employees by 5 percent from March, and increasing the minimum monthly wage to EUR 325 from July. Unemployment benefits are to be raised to the pre-crises level of LTL 1,040 (EUR372.7).

The VAT rate for district heating is to be increased to the standard rate of 21%, from the current 9%, from July. However, the VAT rate for hotels is to be reduced to 9%, from 21%.

The non-taxable real estate threshold is to be lowered to LTL 750,000 (EUR268,878), from LTL 1 million (EUR358,838), and the tax rate is to be cut to 0.5%, from 1%.

EU court: Lithuania should recognize Stockholm court ruling on Gazprom gas price

Lithuanian court should recognize the Stockholm arbitration tribunal’s decision regarding Gazprom’s gas price for Lithuania, according to the advocate general at the European Court of Justice (ECJ).

However, the ECJ’s final ruling may differ from the advocate general’s opinion, which is unfavourable to Lithuania, both the Lithuanian Energy Ministry and a spokesman for the EU court said.

«In the advocate general’s opinion, such judgments should be enforced, but his opinion is not binding on the court. We expect the ECJ to issue its ruling in early 2015,» the ministry told.

In his opinion, which was issued on Thursday, December 4, Melchior Wathelet says that Lithuania cannot refuse to recognize and enforce an anti-suit injunction issued by an arbitration tribunal based on the so-called Brussels I Regulation and that the fact that an arbitral award contains an anti-suit injunction is not a sufficient ground for refusing to recognize and enforce it on the basis of the 1958 New York Convention.

ECJ spokeswoman Ana-Maria Krestel also told that the court’s final ruling will not necessarily be the same as the advocate general’s opinion.

The Lithuanian Supreme Court in October 2013 asked the ECJ for a preliminary ruling on whether a Lithuanian court has the right to refuse to recognize the Stockholm arbitration tribunal’s decision regarding Gazprom’s gas price.

The dispute centres on an action brought by the Energy Ministry in a Lithuanian court, seeking initiation of an investigation of the activities of Lietuvos Dujos (Lithuanian Gas) and its top executives – Valery Golubev and Kiril Seleznev of Gazprom and Viktoras Valentukevičius.

The Arbitration Institute of the Stockholm Chamber of Commerce ruled in July 2012 that the Energy Ministry-initiated court probe breached in part the arbitration agreement contained in Lietuvos Dujos shareholders’ agreement of March 24, 2004 and ordered that the ministry withdraw some of its requests, including the one that the court should order Lietuvos Dujos to start negotiations with Gazprom on a fair gas price.

The Lithuanian Court of Appeals in 2012 refused to recognize and enforce the arbitral award.

All of the three executives have since left the company. Gazprom earlier this year reduced the price of gas supplied to Lietuvos Dujos by 21% and sold its stake in the Lithuanian company.

Lithuanian teachers call off strike

Following the adoption of state budget for 2015, Lithuanian Teachers’ Unions have called of strike, saying it became pointless once parliament adopted national budget for next year.

Andrius Navickas, the chairman of the Trade Union of Lithuanian Education Workers, said the strike no longer makes sense.

In his words, the trade unions intend to resume the strike in February or March amid the government’s refusal to restore the pre-crisis funding level of the education sector.

According to data provided by the Education and Science Ministry, 30 education institutions were on strike on Tuesday but the number had dropped to 18 on Thursday.

Their demands included increasing funding for schools, reducing student numbers in classes and improving social guarantees for teachers.

The ministry said satisfying the demands of the strikers would require LTL 500 million (EUR 145million) next year, and finding the money is unrealistic. State financing of the education sector is projected to grow by about LTL 50 million (EUR 17.91million) in 2015.

Russian Union’s accusations against Lithuanian police

Following brouhaha over two Vilnius Russian schools’ schoolchildren’s participation in a Soviet-like paramilitary camp in Kyrgyzstan, Russian Union of Lithuania accuses police of attempts to discredit Russian-speaking community.

The searches conducted on Wednesday in several Russian-language schools in Vilnius were aimed at discrediting the local Russian community, the Russian Union of Lithuania said.

«The Russian Union of Lithuania strongly condemns the public relations campaigns carried out by law-enforcement institutions, i.e., the searches performed at the capital city’s Vasily Kachalov Gymnasium and Sofia Kovalevskaya Secondary School were in connection to something the State Security Department knew about several years ago. Leaders of the Russian Union of Lithuania believe that these actions are aimed at shaping a negative opinion and discrediting the Russian community in Lithuania,» reads the communiqué signed by the union’s leader MP Sergej Dmitrijev and the party’s executive secretary MP Larisa Dmitrijeva.

«Why did the services in charge of law-enforcement and security wait for this moment, although they were aware of the students’ trips to the paramilitary Soyuz camps? There was no reaction even when the students were back, this was not the first time they went there. Why was the timing of the searches so incorrect – during classes? I am convinced that such actions pursue the only goal of forming an image of Russian-speakers as enemies of Lithuania, » Dmitrijev said in the statement.

Last Wednesday, December 3, Vilnius prosecutors and police officers searched administrative premises of the two Russian-language schools in the framework of an investigation of student trips to paramilitary camps in Russia.

«We are talking about school principals and one teacher. Prosecutors have nothing against the school students, » Chief Vilnius Prosecutor Ramutis Jancevičius told a news conference, denying reports in the Russian media that the students were charged with treason.

The Prosecutor General’s Office in October reportedly started an investigation into attempts to help a foreign country to act against the Republic of Lithuania. The authorities then said that the investigation will seek to establish the circumstances under which students of national minority schools of Vilnius repeatedly participated in paramilitary Soyuz camps in Russia.

Former Chechen president’s son fined for document forgery

Former Chechen president Dzhokhar Dudayev’s son Degi Dudayev was Thursday fined LTL 3,250 (EUR 940) by a Lithuanian court on charges of forging documents.

Dudayev will have to pay the fine within a month, with his time of detention included into the penalty.

Dudayev and three more individuals were charged with purchasing authentic Lithuanian passports from unidentified persons and, as demanded by Dudayev, filling them with data.

The court overruled the defendants’ statements that they did not operate in an organized group. The Kaunas court said the defendants had assigned roles: Dudayev organized receipt and sending of photographs, while other persons forged the documents, as ordered by Dudayev.

Dudayev has said this was his way of helping his family move to Europe from the unsafe Caucasus.

He was also charged with drug possession but the statute of limitations was reached on that charge.

The verdict is not final and is subject to appeals to a Kaunas court of higher instance.

Dudayev’s father Dzhokhar Dudayev headed an independence movement and anti-Russian efforts in Chechnya in 1990s. He was killed in 1996 in an assassination organized by Russia’s secret service.

Lithuanian army official repeats President’s words: Russia is a terrorist state

Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaitė is not the only one to call Russia a terrorist state.

Captain Aurimas Navys, officer of the Lithuanian Army’s Strategic Communications Department, says that the Russian government does warrant comparisons to terrorist organizations.

Navys gave a presentation in a conference on information aspects of the Ukraine crisis. He said that what made Russia comparable to a terrorist organization was that it had military and civil flanks for its foreign operations as well as a specific extremist ideology. According to Navys, Moscow has deployed a full arsenal of terrorist measures in Ukraine, while Lithuania is currently experiencing «information terrorism».

Navys thus responded to comments by professor Egdūnas Račius, who said that, in international law, terrorism is usually seen as something used by non-state actors fighting against states. Meanwhile states are seen as supporting terrorism or terrorizing their own citizens, but not as terrorist.

Navys has noted that Russia’smilitary strategy has gone through a significant transformation since the 2008 Georgian war. Back then, Moscow relied on the so-called hard power, arms, while in Ukraine it is equally focused on both conventional warfare and information operations.

According to Navys, Russia has already used hybrid war methods in foreign countries before.

Decamping Lithuania is not the solution

The capital city is not the only place where you can live well and emigration is not a salvation. These thoughts were expressed in the World Economic Forum’s Youth Network Global SHAPE discussion «What can we do in the regions of Lithuania?»

Adviser to the Lithuanian president Giedrė Kaminskaitė-Salters, who came back from Great Britain just month ago, said she envied those who had never left. According to her, the experience she gained abroad could be beneficial to Lithuania, but it is not a necessity.

The head of Civitta Donatas Voveris gave a simple answer to the question why he has never left the country. Voveris claimed that he feels very well in Lithuania. At 27, he is a manager at one of the biggest consulting companies.

«The conditions for leisure and life quality are incredibly good, » says Voveris. He says he can be an example of why it is worth staying in Lithuania. «I am the patriot and my heart is where I live. When a patriot leaves the country, what happens? Is the heart still here while you live elsewhere?» wondered the businessman.

Meanwhile, singer Jurgis Didžiulis has recently travelled around the regions of Lithuania with his project «Reanimation », during which he performs without pay and « reanimates » his work from dependence on money. The performer tries to refute the assumption that you need to earn a lot and spend a lot of money to lead a good life.

However, the performer has observed that people in the regions do not find any sense to create anything, because of low incomes. Even though there are some exceptions, a large part of people from small towns or villages do not think they can create a prosperous community without money. According to Didžiulis, they do not appreciate themselves, they do not nurture relations and they want to go to the centre Vilnius.

«City Alumni », another project, is aimed at attracting professionals to Lithuania’s regions. It seeks to bring together young professionals, who were born in various Lithuanian towns and villages, but left them, for joint activities for the good of the region and the community.

The project is also gathering a team of ambassadors. Heptathlon athlete Aušra Skujytė, EU ambassador to Russia Vygaudas Ušackas, president of the Free Market Institute of Lithuania Žilvinas Šilėnas and other public figures have joined the project.

Lithuanian President stresses pan-Baltic cooperation on defence and energy cooperation

Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaitė has met with her Latvian, Estonian and Polish counterparts in Tallinn on Tuesday, December 2, and discussed the importance of long-term collective defence instruments and energy projects.

«Our countries have a shared goal – secure and economically strong region. We will only achieve this goal by standing together in the implementation of long-term collective defence measures and strategic projects aimed at ensuring the region’s energy self-sufficiency,» the Lithuanian president said in a statement.

According to the press release, Grybauskaitė together with Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves, Latvian President Andris Berziņs and Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski reviewed the implementation of decisions adopted at the NATO Summit in Wales as well as energy, information and cyber security issues.

Among the other issues addressed at the meeting was the increasing of energy independence. Estonia’s Ilves thanked Lithuania for its contribution to enhancing energy security of the whole region. The Klaipėda liquefied natural gas terminal coming into operation in Lithuania this year will be able to cover even 90% of the three Baltic states’ gas supply needs, if necessary, said the President’s Office. President Grybauskaitė underlined that it was important to continue other strategic energy projects: complete power interconnections with Sweden and Poland, synchronize successfully the Baltic power system with European networks, improve the permeability of the existing internal gas links, and liberalize the gas market to enable Lithuania’s and Estonia’s access to the unique underground gas storage facility in Incukalns.

Ref: 020.020.109.1533


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