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Lithuania’s political and economic events diary. Lithuanian foreign minister disagrees with U.S. and EU on Moscow

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Lithuanian Minister of Foreign Affairs Linas Linkevičius

Lithuanian Minister of Foreign Affairs Linas Linkevičius has said firmly on Thursday, December 18, he sees no positive steps by Russia in resolving the Ukrainian crisis, adding that there are no grounds for lifting the existing sanctions.

His comments come in response to the recent cautiously-worded comments by U.S. Secretary of State and EU foreign policy chief Federica on progress made by Moscow.

«Despite certain comments, I don’t really see, we don’t have that information, to be able to conclude that the situation is improving», Linkevičius told journalists in Vilnius.

In his words, some changes can be seen Russia’s rhetoric but they cannot be given a lot of prominence, taking into consideration Moscow’s previous failures to keep promises.

«I wouldn’t really draw conclusions from the rhetoric that the situation is improving or political will is appearing. We want to clearly see that happening. At the end of the day, we want to see that Russia acknowledges that it is taking part in the conflict, has forces in the Ukrainian territory and is providing logistics support to those forces,» the Lithuanian foreign minister said.

Mogherini, the EU foreign policy chief said on Wednesday she had the impression that there might be some elements that could make us think that there might be some more willingness to solve the conflict on the Russian side, on President Vladimir Putin’s side.

Meanwhile, the U.S. secretary of state said on Tuesday that «Russia has made constructive moves in recent days» and that the existing sanctions could be lifted «in a matter of weeks or days», depending on Russia’s actions.

The existing EU sanctions against Russia are set to remain in place until the end of the next year. To lift or extend them, the approval of all EU member states is needed.

The plunge of the ruble shows that the Western sanctions on Russia are starting to work, Lithuania’s President Dalia Grybauskaitė said on Thursday, December 18, upon arrival at the European Union’s (EU) summit in Brussels.

«We see that the sanctions are staring to work, let’s give them time to show what they can do,» the president told journalists.

On Thursday, the EU took additional sanctions against Crimea, which has been annexed by Russia, banning all investments and restricting trade in Crimea.

In Grybauskaitė’s words, the future of the economic sanctions on Russia will depend on Moscow’s behavior in eastern Ukraine. The Lithuanian president said Russian President Vladimir Putin’s annual press conference proves once again that the situation in Eastern Ukraine is not changing.

Good relations with Poland are crucial

The Lithuanian Minister of Foreign Affairs Linas Linkevičius says that even though relations with Poland have cooled off, strategic cooperation with Warsaw should be regarded as Lithuania’s strategic interest.

The minister says there are many reasons and opportunities for the relations to improve because Lithuania and Poland are countries of the same region and share many interests in areas like security, defence and energy independence.

«We must cooperate, otherwise we will be hindering Lithuania’s national interests,» said Linkevičius.

According to the minister, a number of topics in bilateral relations between Vilnius and Warsaw are being artificially escalated. Meanwhile, political will is needed to deal with the existing obstacles, such as the adoption of the law on ethnic minorities by the Lithuanian parliament.

«Together with the Polish foreign minister we are discussing new initiatives and communicating rather constructively,» said the minister.

Lithuania joins Arms Trade Treaty that enters into force next week

Lithuania has joined the Arms Trade Treaty that will enter into force on December 24 and bans arms trade with parties that could use the arms to commit genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.

Lithuania’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations Ambassador Raimonda Murmokaitė deposited the instrument of ratification for the treaty on Thursday, the Foreign Ministry said.

When authorizing exports, the states-parties will also have to consider whether the export could undermine international peace and security, be used to commit or facilitate a serious violation of international humanitarian law or human rights, or acts relating to terrorism and transnational organized crime.

«Lithuania is very happy to join a constantly increasing number of countries that ratified the Arms Trade Treaty. We are particularly glad to join before it enters into force», said Lithuania’s permanent representative.

The treaty will come into force on December 24. Lithuania was the 59th country to ratify the treaty.

Lithuanian foreign minister rejects Putin’s comparisons

Lithuania’s Foreign Minister Linas Linkevičius has rejected Russian President Vladimir Putin’s statements comparing NATO enlargement to the construction of a new Berlin Wall.

Linkevičius has emphasized that NATO is open but has strict criteria for new members.

«The word «enlargement» is expansive and creates an image of NATO expanding its territory by force and engaging in some sort of expansion, which is in principle wrong. You know how difficult it is to get into NATO. Some countries, such as Macedonia, have been knocking on the open door for a decade and it is still unclear how long it will take for it to achieve the goal. Other candidates also have problems,» said the minister.

He stressed that, under international agreements that Russia also supported, countries are free to choose alliances, and Europe respects that, unlike Russia.

«Let’s say, Armenia changed its mind and decided to go to the Customs Union rather than the European Union. We would not send in our troops, there would be little green men there. We would communicate with Armenia in a very respectful way,» said the minister.

On Thursday, Putin said that Russia’s strict position on Ukraine «should make our partners understand that the most correct path is to stop building walls and start building a common humanitarian space, a security space, and economic freedom».

Lithuanian fines for disobeying soldiers

The Seimas of Lithuania has adopted amendments to the Code of Administrative Offences, introducing fines for failure to obey a soldier’s orders.

Deliberate refusal to obey a uniformed soldier’s orders will be punishable with a fine of EUR 57 to 144.

An official’s failure to obey a soldier’s order will incur a fine of EUR 144 to 289.

The amendments will come into force in January. They are part of a wider package of amendments aimed at regulating the army’s abilities to act in peacetime in response to incidents

Lithuania’s parliament on Tuesday, December 16, adopted a package of legal amendments drafted by the Ministry of National Defence on the use of military force in peacetime, providing for a more specific regulation of the use of weapons, explosives and military equipment.

Under the law, military tasks in peacetime can only involve individual weapons and special gear for self-defence purposes, while military force on a larger scale is only allowed in exceptional circumstances, namely, to protect the country’s territory, defend the air-space, and control Lithuania’s territorial seas and operations to manage consequences of terrorist attacks.

The amendments are due to take effect in January.

The Ministry of National Defence says the amendments will provide legal grounds for the use of military force in response to land-based armed incidents and violations of Lithuania’s air-space and territorial seas, which threaten national security, as well as the use of military equipment and explosives rather than just weapons and special gear, and legitimize the principles of the use of military force in international operations.

12,000 cash handlers get ready for euro

The Bank of Lithuania has organised seminars for 1,200 cash handlers from postal, financial services and trade enterprises related to the upcoming euro adoption. The participants went on to transfer their knowledge about the single currency of the European Union to their colleagues all across Lithuania.

Based on preliminary data of the companies that participated in the training, up to now as much as 12,000 cash handlers have attended in-house training related to the euro.

According to the Bank of Lithuania, the target group was constituted of small businesses covering rural areas, retail companies and post offices that cover the major part of Lithuania, and cash handlers of financial institutions who will have the greatest workload in the first days after the euro adoption. Companies delegated their representatives who were trained and afterwards transferred their knowledge to colleagues.

In spring and autumn the Bank of Lithuania organised a total of 77 seminars informing about security measures of the euro banknotes and how to distinguish real and counterfeit banknotes. The participants were introduced to banknotes and coins of every nominal value.

In relation to the news, conflicting poll results on Lithuanians’ enthusiasm for euro has emerged.

With less than a dozen days to go before Lithuania adopts the euro, different opinion polls show different results for how people feel about the new currency.

The Bank of Lithuania has released the results of a poll conducted by Berent Research Baltic showing that 53% of the Lithuanian population support euro adoption.

However, a poll carried out by Baltijos Tyrimai (Baltic Surveys) for the eurosceptic Europeans United for Democracy (EUD) group has found that 49% of Lithuanians disagree with the government’s decision to introduce the EU’s currency.

According to the survey commissioned by the central bank, 53% of the population is in favour of the upcoming euro adoption, 39% are sceptical about the currency and the remaining 8% have no opinion.

Monument to mark centenary of Lithuania’s independence

A special monument, named The Crown of Unity of World Lithuanians is set to be erected at the open-air Park of Europe in Lithuania to mark the 100th anniversary of the country’s restoration of independence in 1917.

«With its symbols, the monument expresses the idea of unity of world Lithuanians for preserving and strengthening the State of Lithuania,» the author of the idea, sculptor Gediminas Radzevičius told a press conference at the Lithuanian Seimas on Thursday, December 18.

The initial project cost stands at LTL 3 million (around EUR 870,00).

Ref: 020/111.111.111.2030


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