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Week in Lithuania: Armed Forces to offer diets for vegetarians

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Following criticism over diet for vegetarians serving in Lithuania’s Armed Forces, alternative menus have been worked out.

A total of three different menus will be offered to troops, the Defence Ministry said.

The main menu will remain unchanged, with additional new diets being free of meat and fish or any animal products, namely, dairy, eggs, meat, fish and honey. In the fall of 2016, army specialists conducted a survey of troops about their dietary habits. After the survey revealed a substantial number of troops who do not eat meat, fish and dairy, Lithuania’s Logistics Board developed balanced alternative menus than will be offered on demand.

Lithuanian PM in Brussels: national interests should not be sacrificed for backstage pacts

On his first visit as the Lithuanian PM to Brussels, Saulius Skvernelis emphasised that interests of countries should not be sacrificed for backstage agreements and expressed Lithuania‘s confidence in the United States as the key ally.

Skvernelis spoke after the new U.S. President Donald Trump has spoken out for improvement of the U.S.-Russia relations that have been sour over the past few years.

«Every dialogue is necessary, it indeed contributes to cooperation and promotes cooperation,» Skvernelis said at a joint news conference with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.

«But again – (what are) the forms of dialogue, the starting positions, what is the dialogue about and under what conditions? If this is in compliance to international standards, fundamental rights and freedoms, the dialogue is a must. Speaking about the lexis, I believe this should be a discussion among equal partners and I hope that we will never see interests of one state or another sacrificed for some backstage agreements,» he added.

«Lithuania trusts the United States of America, it has always trusted the country and we genuinely see no reasons to doubt the long-term cooperation and confidence,» said the prime minister, when asked about the U.S. president’s plans to improve the relations with Moscow.

Lithuania and other countries in the region have expressed concern over Trump’s statements friendly towards Russian President Vladimir Putin and his remarks about the U.S. commitments and the outdated NATO.

MPs ratify pact on status of U.S troops

Lithuania’s parliament on Tuesday, February 14, unanimously ratified the Lithuania-U.S. agreement on the status of U.S. troops in the Baltic States. Adoption of the relevant law was voted by 111 parliamentarians. The document was ratified on the fast track, as proposed by President Dalia Grybauskaitė.

The deal was signed by Lithuanian Defence Minister Raimundas Karoblis and Anne Hall, the U.S. ambassador to Lithuania, on Jan. 17 and will take effect after it is ratified by the Seimas.

The agreement gives the U.S. jurisdiction over crimes committed by its military personnel, but allows Lithuania as the host nation to take over jurisdiction in cases of particular importance to it. The document also gives the U.S. the right to use certain military facilities, although these facilities remain in the ownership of Lithuania.Latvia and Estonia also signed similar agreements with the U.S. this year.Such bilateral agreements on defence cooperation, which define the status of U.S. troops and their families, are signed at the U.S. initiative.

U.S. state secretary congratulates Lithuania on Restoration of State Day

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has congratulated Lithuania on the Day of Restoration of State, emphasizing the security cooperation between the two countries.

«Lithuania is a stalwart champion of democracy, free markets and human rights. Our friendship with the Lithuanian people is based on our shared embrace of these values as demonstrated by Lithuania’s strong contributions to the International efforts to counter-ISIL and promoting stability in Afghanistan,» Tillerson said in his congratulatory message on behalf of U.S. President Donald Trump and the American people.

In his words, the cooperation between Lithuania and the U.S. as NATO Allies will deepen.

Lithuania marked the Day of Restoration of the State of Lithuania on February 16.

Baltic countries agree to ease movement of NATO troops

Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia agreed on Wednesday, February 15, to facilitate the movement of allied forces in the region as NATO’s multinational battalions are being deployed to the Baltic countries, the Lithuanian Defence Ministry said. Poland signed a similar agreement on Thursday, February 16. In response to Russia’s intervention in Ukraine, the Alliance decided last year to station around 1,000 troops in Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Poland each.

Ministry lifts minimum area requirement for pharmacies

Lithuanian Health Minister Aurelijus Veryga has lifted the requirement for pharmacies operating in cities and towns to have an overall floor area of at least 60 square meters. The minister believes that this move will improve access to medicines for patients in smaller towns as the requirement, in place since January 2016, posed a significant financial burden. The Health Ministry had set the minimum floor area requirement at 60 sq. meters for a pharmacy and 30 sq. meters for a charitable pharmacy. The Competition Council in late August 2016 launched a probe regarding this requirement. Šarūnas Keserauskas, chairman of the competition authority, has said that the minimum area requirement has forced some pharmacies out of the market.

Nearly 1,400 pharmacies currently operate in Lithuania. The country has 45 pharmacies per 100,000 inhabitants, which is above the EU average of 31 pharmacies.

Archbishop Matulionis to be beatified in June

Pope Francis has set the date for beatification of Lithuanian Archbishop Teofilius Matulionis – he will be announced blessed in Vilnius on June 25.Secretariat of the Lithuanian Conference of Bishops said this would be the first beatification ceremony in Lithuania. Beatification is not just recognition of an individual’s virtue but especially the recognition of God’s work via the person, archbishops said.

Matulionis was born in 1873 in the current Molėtai district, studied at the Daugavpils Gymnasium and the Petrapilis Seminary before being ordained to the priesthood in 1900. He was a priest in Latvia and Russia before being arrested in 1923 and being repeatedly sent to prison or labour camps. Pope John XXII granted him the title of archbishop in 1962 for his outstanding loyalty to the Catholic Church. During a search of his apartment in Šeduva, northern Lithuania, that August, he was injected with an unknown substance and died three days later.

Swimming star to continue career in Kaunas

Rūta Meilutytė, gold medalist of the 2012 Summer Olympics, has announced plans of continuing her sporting career in Kaunas, Lithuania, coached by Paulius Andrijauskas. Meilutytė was away from swimming since the performance in the Rio de Janeiro Olympics where she finished 100 m breaststroke in 7th position. After travelling in South America, Europe and Lithuania with her brothers, she only returned to compete in December.Andrijauskas, 32, said he was ready to bring changes to the training system of the London Olympic champion.

Court overrules demand to remove foreign-language street signs

A Vilnius court has overruled the plea from the government’s representative to list street signs in foreign language in Vilnius as illegal.Vilda Vaičiūnienė, the government’s representative in the Vilnius county who filed the suit, said that the nine non-Lithuanian street signs put up in various places of the Lithuanian capital at the initiative of Mayor Remigijus Šimašius since mid-2015 ran counter to the law and could instigate hatred.

Commenting ruling, Petkevičienė, the judge, told journalists that the court found the signs as not official signs, as they did not overlap with the Lithuanian-language street names. All of them are unique, different and cannot be equalled to mass signs in another language. In her words, one of the main arguments was that the signs did not aim at disseminating information in a foreign language or put the foreign languages above the official Lithuanian language.

MG Baltic offers 1mn euro for Independence Act

MG Baltic, a concern controlled by businessman Darius Mockus, has offered one million euros for the original of the Independence Act of February16 1918.Presided by Jonas Basanavičius, the Council of Lithuania signed the Independence Act in Vilnius on February 16 of 1918.The original document was handed over to Basanavičius but was never published. Whereabouts of the copy have not been known since Lithuania was occupied by the Soviets in 1940. Before that, it was stored in archives of the President’s Office in Kaunas.

Seimas speaker: Astravyets NPP construction cannot be stopped

Lithuania no longer has the potential of halting the construction of the Astravyets Nuclear Power Plant in Belarus close to its border, therefore, should focus on the safety of the utility, Parliamentary Speaker Viktoras Pranckietis says. In his words, neighbouring countries understand the Lithuanian concerns about the Astravyets N-plant under construction in Belarus.

Lithuania’s Ambassador-At-Large Darius Degutis, the coordinator of the country’s position and actions in connection to the Astravyets utility, said early February that Lithuania’s ultimate goal was to seek halting of the Astravyets construction. Leaders of Lithuania’s political parties represented in the parliament last week agreed to closer coordinate the blocking of electricity from the Belarusian Astravyets utility. Signed by leaders of eight parties, the agreement pledges support to the law that would find the Astravyets plant unsafe and ban sale of its electricity on the Lithuania energy market.

January 13 coup victims to be offered free legal aid

Free legal assistance will be offered to victims of the January 13 1991 attempted coup in the case of compensation of damages, Lithuania’s Justice Ministry said.The Vilnius University (VU) and the Mykolas Romeris University (MRU) were the two schools that responded to the call by Justice Minister Milda Vainiūtė to help people affected by the defence of Lithuania’s independence in January of 1991.

The VU Law Clinic will appoint accompanying persons to help the victims follow the legal proceedings, provide advice on writing the necessary please and explain the course of the proceedings, while MRU Legal Assistance Centre has offered to provide legal advice and psychological assistance. The victims will also be provided state-guaranteed assistance of lawyers free of charge.

Some 14 people were killed during the Soviet attempts to take over the Press Palace, the TV Tower and the Lithuanian Radio and Television Building in early hours of Jan. 13 of 1991. Hundreds of people were injured.

Mayor accuses NLS of inactivity, calls for restructuring

Vilnius City Mayor Remigijus Šimašius has accused the Lithuanian National Land Service of stalling land return in the capital city and land parcel formation processes, suggesting that Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis should restructure the state agency.

He said that restitution of land in the city of Vilnius to former owners remained the main problem in the city, with about 2,500 individuals awaiting for their rights to be restored to various parcels.

Writer titled as Lithuania’s 2016 Person of Tolerance

Writer Vanda Juknaitė was on Saturday titled as the 2016 Person of Tolerance at the Vytautas Magnus University of Lithuania. The writer was among the first ones to take the brave step and reveal that her relative had been involved in the Holocaust.

Other nominees for the award established by public organizations included writer Marius Ivaškevičius and journalist Domas Burkauskas.

The annual nomination goes to the individual who stands up against xenophobia and anti-Semitism, persecution of people of different thinking, religion or nationality, speaking against violence and radicalism in Lithuania’s public life.

Justice Ministry imposes restrictions to Russian TV channel

Lithuania‘s Justice Ministry has banned the use of the Lithuanian name in titles of the Lietuvos Laikas and Litovskoye Vremia Lithuanian- and Russian-language broadcasts.The ministry said that Justice Minister Milda Vainiūtė made the decision in light of the finding by a commission that sanctions the use of Lithuania’s name, as well as the information provided by the Lithuanian Radio and Television Commission. According to the information, the Latvia-registered Pirmais Baltijas Kanāls failed to abide by Lithuania’s laws and refused to cooperate with the Lithuanian TV and radio watchdog, disseminated propaganda and misleading information about January 13 developments.

The permit to use Lithuania’s state symbols in trademarks and designs is granted, if the applicant proves he represents Lithuania’s state interests, representing the country, seeking to promote Lithuania’s image or conducting activities that is crucial for Lithuania’s economy, politics, science and culture. According to the press release, Pirmais Baltijas Kanāls failed to comply to any of the criteria.

Landsbergis re-elected to head Lithuanian conservatives

MP Gabrielius Landsbergis will continue heading the conservative Homeland Union – Lithuanian Christian Democrats, the country’s largest opposition force. During direct elections on Sunday, he secured votes of half of the conservatives who cast their ballots, i.e., 5,539 or 62 percent of the vote. He left behind MP Paulius Saudargas with 1,696 votes (19 per cent), ex-diplomat MP Žygimantas Pavilionis with 1,065 (12 per cent) and MP Mykolas Majauskas with 577 (7 per cent).The turnout at the elections was 8,987 or 57.83 percent of eligible voters of the conservative party. The Sunday’s elections were held early at the request of Landsbergis, 35, who said he wanted to check the mandate of confidence he has in the party after the recent parliamentary elections.During the parliamentary elections last October, the Homeland Union – Lithuanian Christian Democrats secured nearly 22 per cent of the vote, however, were left second in terms of mandates after run-off voting. They were defeated in many single-member districts they used to be victorious.

OSCE suggests Lithuania to be more open with elections

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) has suggested that Lithuania should open parliamentary elections to persons holding dual citizenship. The recommendation was stated in a report by the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, which assessed the October 2016 elections to parliament. Zenonas Vaigauskas, chairman of the Lithuanian Central Electoral Commission, says the recommendation is due to the 2010 ruling by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) against Moldova.

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