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Lithuania’s political and economic diary. Lithuanian President delivers State of the Nation address

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Lithuania’s President Dalia Grybauskaitė

Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaitė made her annual State of the Nation address at the Lithuanian Seimas on Thursday, June 4. In her speech, the head-of-state mostly focused on national defence, security challenges arising from Russia’s aggressive policies, as well as emigration of working-age population. She also stressed the need to work more on addressing social issues, particularly in childcare institutions.

Some Lithuanian observers, meanwhile, called President’s annual address too vague on foreign policy.

Political observers say there were not surprised by Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaitė’s statements on foreign policy she made in her State of the National Address. The president’s observations were realistic, but at times too abstract, they say.

«There were no surprises as we were ready for what she said,» Dovilė Jakniūnaitė of the Institute of International Relations and Political Science at Vilnius University told BNS, a Lithuanian news agency.

«Those who listen to the President’s speeches or her statements on Lithuania’s foreign policy probably knew what to expect. Just as last year, this year she opened her speech with national security and foreign policy issues, and not economic and law enforcement problems. You start with what you want to stress as very important,» she said.

Jakniūnaitė noted that the President chose to speak about foreign policy principles in general «without going into details, just defining her principled values and then she moved on to domestic policy problems».

Political observer Rimvydas Valatka says the President did not mention specific allies and was therefore «avoiding the key issue».

In his words, the past year «has probably been the most difficult one in terms of foreign policy, and I had wished the key person in charge of foreign policy to say something about our union with Poland becoming stronger, or our union with America, or that nothing has changed».

«A lot of attention was given to foreign policy this year but I was surprised by the list of mentioned countries, which was Russia, Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, the Islamic State. Georgia, Ukraine and Moldova were mentioned accidentally because we are helping them. Russia was mentioned as a threat, naturally. But she said absolutely nothing about our key allies, like Poland, with whom we would be the first to withstand Russia’s assault, if that happened. Or America upon which our entire defence power depends. Or Germany,» Valatka told BNS.

Meanwhile, the Lithuanian Opposition told after the President’s address that she «does not expect problems to be solved by this government».

«There was a peculiar fact that the president did not mention the government itself, and we got an impression that she no longer expects anything from the government,» opposition leader Andrius Kubilius, a conservative, told journalists.

Kubilius, Lithuania’s former prime minister, also added that the president «did not set any tasks specifically for this government and enumerated problems Lithuania should address and they require long-term solutions and intellectual effort».

His opinion was also shared by Eligijus Masiulis, leader of the opposition Liberal Movement.

Lithuania’s ex-president Valdas Adamkus battles cancer

Former Lithuanian president Valdas Adamkus has undergone endoscopic examination of the bladder and a removal of the right kidney and ureter. The surgery was carried out on Thursday, June 4, at Vilnius University Hospital Santariškės Clinics.

The surgery was performed by Professor Feliksas Jankevičius, director of the Centre of Urology. According to him, the operation lasted from 9 AM to 12.30 PM and was a success.

«There were no complications, blood loss was nil, but, what is most important, the patient’s condition is satisfactory,» said Jankevičius.

Currently Adamkus is under observation in the reanimation-intensive care unit.

Lithuania opens OECD membership talks

Last Thursday, June 4, officially opened its membership talks with the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), which currently includes 34 developed countries around the globe.

Lithuania opens OECD membership talks, expects to join in 2-3 years

The start of the negotiations with Lithuania and Costa Rica was announced at a meeting of the organization’s Ministerial Council in Paris.

«We welcome the progress made by Colombia and Latvia in their ongoing accession processes, and the opening of accession discussions with Costa Rica and Lithuania,» reads the ministerial statement.

Lithuania’s Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevičius told he believes that Lithuania could achieve fully-fledged membership within two or three years. In his words, the membership will enhance investor confidence in the state and will give access to professional analytical information.

Poland was accepted to the organization in 1996, Estonia joined in 2010, while Latvia started its talks in 2013 and expects full membership next year.

Ireland’s Lithuanian émigrés collect charity with basketball

Lithuanians from across Ireland came together in Dublin last weekend to play some ball and raise funds for children with cancer in the Basketball Day.

The event, organized by non-profit organization «Ireland’s Lithuanians Care», invited teams and individual lovers of basketball to have a go in the nation’s favourite game and donate for a noble cause.

Various business organizations and private donors helped raise 2,840 euros that will be donated to the Mothers’ Union (Mamų unija), a Lithuanian-based charity that works with children with cancer.

US-led military drill opens in Baltic Sea

International exercise BALTOPS involving about 49 ships, 61 aircrafts and more than 5,000 troops from 17 NATO countries and the Alliance’s partner-states is starting in the Baltic Sea on Friday, June 5.

In the US-organized manoeuvres, Lithuania will be represented by naval patrol ship Žemaitis and minesweepers Skalvis and Kuršis, the Ministry of National Defence said.

The exercise, which is scheduled for June 5-24, will improve warship manoeuvring, convoy, artillery firing, anti-aircraft and anti-terrorist defence, mine search and neutralization procedures.

The manoeuvres will take place in the Polish, Danish and German territorial waters of the Baltic Sea and exclusive economic zones.

Among participants of the exercise are forces of Canada, Estonia, Denmark, France, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Sweden, Turkey, United Kingdom and United States.

The exercise is organized by the US Navy.

Lithuanian naval vessels have been attending BALTOPS annually since 1993.

Jewish archives to be started digitalized

Digitalization of the unique archives about lives of Jews in Eastern Europe before the Holocaust accumulated by the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research in Vilnius before World War II should start in New York in the coming months.

The documents are currently being conserved by three archivists and two librarians in the institute based in the US city, with analogous tasks also underway in the Lithuanian capital, which still has about a third of the archives.

After the seven-year project is completed, the documents that have been scattered during the Holocaust should be brought together once again in a virtual library with descriptions provided in the English and the Lithuanian languages.

In Lithuania, the project is conducted by Lithuania’s Central State Archive and the Lithuanian National Library of Martynas Mažvydas. Staff of the archive says that in many cases some of the related documents are located in Vilnius, while the rest is in New York.

During World War II, Nazis and their Lithuanian collaborators killed over 90 percent of Lithuania’s pre-war Jewish population of more than 200,000. About 3,000 Jews currently live in Lithuania.

Lithuanian power distributor LESTO fined

Lithuania’s National Control Commission for Prices and Energy (VKEKK) adopted a decision to fine LESTO, state-owned electricity company, which will have to pay EUR 300,000 for the violations detected in the act of scheduled inspection. The company is also ordered to correct the regulated cost statements for the period 2011-2013, LESTO reports.

According to the Commission, during the period 2011-2013 LESTO assigned EUR 16.455 million cost more than it could be assigned for regulated electricity distribution activity and EUR 1.174 million cost more than it could be assigned for regulated public supply service.

LESTO does not agree with the decision of the Commission and has appealed to court for annulment of December 19, 2014 Commission’s act of scheduled inspection.

LESTO also does not agree with the 4 June 2015 decision of the Commission and is considering a possibility to challenge it in Vilnius Regional Administrative Court.

Seimas speaker backs referendum on dual citizenship

Lithuanian Seimas speaker Loreta Graužinienė has said she supports the initiative to hold a referendum on dual citizenship.

«Yes, I will support it. I have always said that the issue must be settled and that Lithuanian people must do this because this is a constitutional amendment and we at the Seimas cannot change these provisions. I do hope that a political agreement will be reached and we can do this with the next election to the Seimas,» Graužinienė told journalists on Thursday, June 4.

In her annual state of the nation address, President Dalia Grybauskaitė also expressed support for a referendum on dual citizenship. According to the president, Lithuania’s duty is to maintain or restore ties with its people.

Lithuanian MFA condemns bloodshed in Ukraine

The Lithuanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs condemns the bloody assault near Marinka village, close to the city of Donetsk, on June 3 by the Russia-backed separatists who used heavy weaponry, which had to be withdrawn according to the package of measures of the Minsk Agreements reached on February 12, 2015.

Lithuania consistently supports Ukraine’s sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity, Lithuania’s Foreign Ministry emphasized.

Lithuanian defence minister discusses cooperation with UK ambassador

On June 4, Minister of National Defence Juozas Olekas discussed NATO reassurance measures in the Baltic region, bilateral defence cooperation and other issues of security and defence at a meeting with Ambassador of the United Kingdom in Lithuania David Hunt.

Minister Olekas thanked the ambassador for the attention to our region and invited the United Kingdom to deploy military personnel in Lithuania.

Ambassador Hunt notified Minister Olekas that the United Kingdom would deploy 400 soldiers to Exercise Arcade Fusion planned to take place in Lithuania and Latvia this fall and between 100-150 troops to international Exercise iron Sword in Lithuania.

Minister Olekas and the Ambassador also discussed the UK-led Joint Expeditionary Force (JEF) project.

Lithuania signed the Protocol of Intent on the establishment of a UK-led Joint Expeditionary Force together with six other countries (Denmark, Estonia, UK, Latvia, the Netherlands and Norway) at the NATO Summit in Wales in September 2014. According to the Protocol of Intent, a rapid response force will be formed.

Norwegians to build a factory in Lithuania

The Norwegian company Devold, which is engaged in making knitwear, is building a new plant in Panevėžys Free Economic Zone, Lithuania.

In June the Norwegians will have to test new equipment and for that they need natural gas. For this reason, Lietuvos Dujos laid a gas supply pipeline to the factory in three months rather than in six, Invest Lithuania, a state investment promotion agency, reports.

The investment is said to amount to 15 million euros. Two more companies purportedly intend to set up there after the Norwegians, and more than 400 jobs will be established.

Lithuanian minister: Same-sex couples are rather propaganda than reality

Lithuania’s Justice Ministry has drafted a bill that, if passed, would introduce the institution of partnership into the country’s Civil Code. However, the bill spells out that the possibility to form partnerships would only apply to opposite-sex couples.

According to Justice Minister Juozas Bernatonis, there is no need to legalize same-sex partnership because there are hardly any same-sex couples in Lithuania.

Currently, Lithuanian laws do not recognize registered partnership either between a man and a woman or between people of the same sex. Speaking on the national television LRT on Wednesday, June 3, Minister Bernatonis said he had proposed the partnership bill because he saw many problems that the law would help to solve.

«There are very many unmarried cohabiting men and women – thence arise problems. Same-sex couples, I think, are very few exceptional cases,» the justice minister said when pressed about why his bill would discriminate against same-sex couples.

Moreover, Bernatonis said he did not believe that same-sex couples could be seen as families.

According to Minister Bernatonis, same-sex partnership is not an issue in the country because there are very few same-sex couples.

«I think there is more propaganda than there reality of such couples,» he said.

Speaking on the same programme, liberal MP Dalia Kuodytė, who co-signed an alternative partnership bill that does not make distinction between same-sex and opposite-sex couples, said that the law proposed by the Justice Ministry would be discriminatory and could result in lawsuits against Lithuania in the European Court of Human Rights.

Meanwhile, Vilnius University Professor of Law Vytautas Mizaras says Lithuania might violate human rights convention by legalizing opposite-sex partnership only.

Lithuania: EC’s refugee quotas would undermine integration capabilities

The Lithuanian Seimas Committee on Foreign Affairs has stated that solidarity to distribute refugees among European Union (EU) member states should be understood as a voluntary contribution based on a country’s capabilities.

The committee has said it is concerned that refugee relocation quotas proposed to Lithuania by the European Commission (EC) would undermine the country’s capabilities to analyse asylum applications and integrate refugees.

The National Audit Office presented to the Seimas committee a report on a preliminary study Management of Immigration Processes. Auditors informed about deficiencies in these processes and submitted recommendations on how to deal with them.

Lithuania wants to get on UNESCO Executive Board

Lithuanian Minister of Foreign Affairs Linas Linkevičius informed Irina Bokova, director general of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, in Paris on Wednesday, June 3, of Lithuania’s wish to join the UNESCO Executive Board in 2015-2019.

During forthcoming elections to the UNESCO Executive Board in November, five countries – Lithuania, Serbia, Slovenia, Russia and Tajikistan – in the Eastern European electoral group will vie for four places on the board, Lithuania’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said.

Lithuania was on the UNESCO Executive Board in 1997-2001 and 2005-2009.

The Executive Board is elected by the General Conference and is one of the three constitutional organs of UNESCO. It consists of 58 Member States with a four-year term of office. The Executive Board examines the program of work for the Organization and corresponding budget estimates.

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