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Friday 23.03.2018 | Name days: Mirdza, Žanete, Žanna

Week in Lithuania. Defence Minister praises NATO defence ministers’ agreement

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A milestone decision to enhance Alliance presence in the eastern part of NATO has been taken at the NATO defence ministers meeting in Brussels, believes Lithuania’s Defence Minister Juozas Olekas.

«Forward presence is the key element for implementing the adaptation and credible deterrence of the Alliance. Therefore I welcome the decision to enhance Alliance’s forward presence in the eastern part of NATO. In our turn, we seek to have an allied battalion unit in Lithuania,» Juozas Olekas said.

He also pointed out that NATO presence is expected to be defined in terms of concept and detail by summer. The Lithuanian Minister underscored that it should be a combat-ready forward presence integrated with national forces and capable of responding immediately in case of aggression. Ministers also discussed the development of cyber defences, cooperation with other international organisations, primarily the European Union, and take stock of the progress achieved on the ballistic missile defence project.

President attends Munich Security Conference

President Dalia Grybauskaitė attended the Munich Security Conference – the most important independent forum in the region which discusses key international security policy challenges. The 52th conference aimed to use the world’s best minds in addressing global challenges, to search for peaceful solutions to conflicts and enhance the Euro-Atlantic system. Before leaving, the President pointed out that, due to the tense geopolitical situation and existing threats, strengthening security and defence remains a key priority for Lithuania and the entire Euro-Atlantic community. The Lithuanian President met Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and Georgia’s new Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili in the margins of the conference.

Prime Minister congratulates new Latvian Government

Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevičius extended his congratulations to the new Latvian Prime Minister Māri Kučinski on the formation of a new Government.«I am very glad that Lithuania and Latvia shares a close and warm relationship. Mutual understanding, support and common efforts allow us to develop mutual relations and reach common objectives. Taking into account the current challenges to the international peace and security, the unity between our countries and close dialogue becomes even more important. Let me assure you that we are determined to cooperate closely with your Government both on the mutual level, and in all international formats», reads the letter of the Lithuanian Prime Minister wishing success to the new Latvian Government in its tasks and objectives.

EC Commissioner accuses President of fuelling political crises

President Dalia Grybauskaitė is fuelling political crises in the country instead of seeking stability and balance, says European Commissioner Vytenis Povilas Andriukaitis, the honorary chairman of the Social Democratic Party.He has called Lithuania’s foreign policy «pathetic», i.e. full of fears towards some EU member states’ attempts to mend fences with Russia.

Baby saved from drowning in well

A 19-year-old, apparently mentally disturbed mother in Sakiai district, south-west Lithuania, almost killed her baby by throwing it in a well. A neighbour came in time to rescue the baby from drowning. The single mother allegedly threw her 7-month-old baby into a well intentionally, but immediately had a change of heart and alerted a neighbour who rushed to the well and pulled out the boy. The baby was taken to hospital and is feeling well.

Labour Code amendment suggests more flexible employment contracts

Lithuania’s big-earners should have more flexibility in negotiating employment terms with their employers, a Lithuanian parliamentary committee has decided. Lithuanian Parliament is set to adopt new Labour Code in the spring session which opening is slated for early March.

PM questioned at Special Investigation Service

Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevičius was questioned by Special Investigation Service (STT) officers investigating construction fraud in the resort town of Druskininkai. The mayor of the town, Ričardas Malinauskas, is the Social Democrat Party’s deputy chairman and is considered to be one of its heavyweights. Meanwhile, deputy agriculture minister stepped down amidst suspected corruption in food-for-poor programme. Agriculture Minister Virginija Baltraitienė has accepted resignation of her deputy Vilius Martusevičius over alleged corruption in the ministry’s food for poor programme.

President signs decree to sack healthcare minister

Lithuania’s President Dalia Grybauskaitė has signed a decree to dismiss Rimantė Šalaševičiūtė, a social democrat, from the post of healthcare minister. She has acknowledged to have given a bribe to a doctor in the past. Not a single conviction for bribing a member of the medical profession in Lithuania has been recorded in the seven years from 2006 to 2013, according to Transparency International Lithuania.

Flu claims first victim in Lithuania

Flu continues to spread in Lithuania with 16 municipalities out of 60 having declared epidemics. One death from flu-related complications was reported on Monday.

President Grybauskaitė among Ukraine’s most-liked foreign leaders

Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaitė is named among Ukraine’s most-liked foreign leaders, according to a new survey. She has been a vocal supporter of Ukraine’s EU integration efforts. As many Lithuanian politicians, the head-of-state believes that, supporting Ukraine, Lithuania defends itself against aggression from East.

Vilnius public transport on Google Transit

Google has included Vilnius into the coverage of its world-wide Google Transit service, a trip planner on public transport. The service, a cooperation between Google and Vilnius municipal public transport administrator Susisiekimo Paslaugos, launched on Thursday, February 11, allowing people in Vilnius to use Google Maps to plan their trips not just by car and on foot, but on public transport as well. . Google’s Baltics marketing head Regimantas Urbanas adds that the new service will make the Lithuanian capital’s public transport more accessible to foreign visitors.

Britain’s five warships to defend Baltics

Lithuanian media reports that Britain is sending five warships to Lithuania and the Baltics as part of a NATO build-up in the region to act as a deterrent against Russia. A recent announcement from Washington that the United States is giving a four-fold boost to its military spending in Europe received a wide welcome in Lithuania, but it appeared that most of the US military presence will be concentrated in Western Europe, which has the necessary infrastructure already in place to support American forces.

Shrovetide celebrations in Vilnius

The annual Shrovetide celebrations on Tuesday, February 9, turned the courtyard of the Teachers’ House in Vilnius into a strange world full of masked people, a burning doll, and a vast amount of pancakes. The celebration is similar to other Roman Catholic holiday traditions all over the world, such as Mardi Gras. On Tuesday evening, the courtyard at the Teachers’ House in Vilnius was crowded with people and scents of wood fire, sweets and, of course, pancakes. People gathered outdoors, anticipating the burning of Morė, a giant straw doll with a female head that symbolises the darkness of winter and the problems people endure.

New bill on dual citizenship being drafted

Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevičius has appointed a task group to draft a bill on dual citizenship so that the issue could be put to a vote in a planned referendum this year. The referendum is expected to be held along with the parliamentary elections in late October.

Minister met with foreign defence attachés

Minister of National Defence Juozas Olekas discussed major security challenges and development of Lithuania’s defence plans at a meeting with Defence Attachés of foreign countries based in Lithuania. In the meeting on Tuesday, February 9, the minister underscored the importance of agreeing on long-term NATO measures of deterrence that should be standing and persistent in character at the upcoming Summit in Warsaw. At the meeting Olekas presented the growth of Lithuania’s defence budget, service of draftee-volunteers, development of Lithuania’s defence capabilities, contributions of Lithuanian troops to multinational operations and prospects of regional cooperation.

Electricity prices higher than in Swedish trading zone

New electricity interconnections with Poland saw Lithuanian wholesale electricity prices in December fall by 9%, but the opening of the NordBalt interconnector with Sweden will not see a harmonisation with Swedish electricity prices for some time, said Litgrid, Lithuania’s transmission system operator.

Winners of Lithuania’s science prizes announced

Recipients of the annual Lithuanian Science Prizes, acknowledging research achievements in the fields of natural and social sciences and humanities, were announced on Monday, February 8.

Lithuanian Embassy in Kyiv hosts a meeting of EU diplomats

On February 9-10 in Ukraine, the Embassy of Lithuania in Kyiv organised a visit of the European Union’s Ambassadors responsible for the implementation of the Eastern Partnership policy.

In Kyiv, representatives of the EU’s eleven member states – Lithuania, Latvia, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, the United Kingdom, Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, Germany and the Netherlands – held meetings with representatives of the Ukrainian Government and non-governmental organizations, during which they underlined the importance of this period for Ukraine and the need to continue its reform agenda, and called for taking effective measures in the fight against corruption.

«This visit showed solidarity of the member states of the European Union with Ukraine and their support for Ukraine’s path towards a European future, which is important not only to the capital city, but also to the country’s regions,» said Žygimantas Pavilionis, Ambassador-at-Large for Eastern Partnership of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Lithuania, in a meeting with students at the University of Kharkiv.

Lithuanian police officers help bust international truck theft ring

Kaunas City police have helped their French counterparts crack an international network of truck thieves – the people are suspected of stealing the vehicles in France and bringing them to Lithuania.

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Baltic shareholders agree to keep Baiba Rubesa in charge of RB Rail

RB Rail CEO and board chairperson Baiba Rubesa will keep her post. This was decided by shareholders during the 22 March meeting. «The supervisory council had previously mentioned the CEO’s contribution to the company’s development. Still, we intend to find solutions and continue realizing Rail Baltica project,» said RB Rail Supervisory Council chairperson Riia Sillave.

Syrian rebel groups in eastern Ghouta announce ceasefire

In the besieged eastern Ghouta territory in Syria, which has been under heavy air strikes and artillery fire for about a month, several opposition rebel groups have agreed to ceasefire.

EU member states on Skripal attack: «Highly likely» Russia was responsible

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Weather to remain cold in Latvia until Easter; more snowfall expected

Weather in Latvia is expected to become cold again after a brief period of warmth. Air temperature will drop again at the beginning and the middle of next week; some areas may experience frost again, as reported by Latvian State, Environment, Geology and Meteorology Centre.

Farmers in Latvia dissatisfied with resolution of electricity-related problems

Two months have passed since farmers in Latvia had received unjustifiably large electricity bills. Countless meetings and discussions have taken place in those two months. Unfortunately, no decisive measures have been undertaken to resolve the problem. Farmers are confused with decision-makers’ incisiveness in a matter important to the national economy, as noted by the Farmers’ Saeima.

Life after 25 May: is this the end for free publication of photo galleries from events?

Many of us like to check out photos from concerts, conferences or sport events on gallery portals and social networks to have a look at guests of those events. However, after 25 May, when General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) comes into force, the situation will no longer be the same.

Saeima to establish legal framework for Baltic cooperation in disaster prevention

On Thursday, 22 March, Latvian Saeima supported a legislative draft, ratification of which will help create legal framework with other Baltic States in prevention of disasters, as reported by the parliament’s press-service.

Number of complaints with postal services on a rise in Latvia

Public Utilities Commission has compiled information about complaints submitted by residents in regards to postal services in 2017. The number of complaints has increased alongside opposing views about package terminals – the regulator has received 37 complaints in total.

Output of livestock products in Latvia increased in 2017

Compared to 2016, output of meat grew by 4.6 % and output of milk by 1.4 % in 2017. In 2017, in Latvia 91.2 thousand tonnes of meat were produced, which is 4.0 thousand tonnes or 4.6 % more than in 2016. The most significant increase was observed in the output of poultry (of 11.3 %) and pork (4.7 %).

Turkey's offensive in Syria condemned by NATO ally Germany

Angela Merkel, the head of the German federal government has stated that Turkey’s military offensive in the northern Syrian town of Afrin was unacceptable and she blamed Russia for simply watching, while attacks by Syrian government forces on besieged eastern Ghouta continue.

Finance minister still believes tax reform in Latvia has brought results

«The tax reform has given us the results we had expected, especially in regards to combating envelope wages,» said Latvia’s Finance Minister Dana Reizniece-Ozola in an interview to 900 seconds programme of LNT.

Planned hospital reorganisation in Lithuanian regions irks both mayors and patients

If the plan of the Lithuanian Ministry of Health to overhaul treatment services in the provinces does not hit a snag, the rural hospitals will be soon providing only essential care and nursing, the focus will be on out-patient care and treatment will be available only in larger county hospitals.

Ventspils beach high in popularity this week; Lembergs gets spotlight time as well

Ventspils ended up in the spotlight in an unusual way this week: seals washed up on the beach there. Animal Freedom emphasizes that human contact with baby seals would hurt them. Residents are asked to maintain at least 50 m distance from them. However, the suspended Mayor of Ventspils Aivars Lembergs decided to take photos with baby seals and publish them on his Facebook profile.

Ombudsman: problems in nursing homes and social care centres are associated with lack of funding

Problems in nursing homes and social care centres are largely associated with lack of funding, because it is not possible to perform high-quality work using currently available resources. This is the responsibility of ministries and the government, as ombudsman Juris Jansons mentioned in an interview to Latvijas Radio.

Estonian music authors receive record royalties for 2017

The organisation, which is tasked by collecting royalties for local and foreign music in Estonia, the Estonian Authors' Society, has received six million euros in royalties in 2017, which is its record level.

Facebook sorry for permitting exploitation of 50 million user data in politics

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has apologised for the social network failing to ensure enough privacy to its users that allowed for data on about 50 million of its users to abused by a political consultancy firm.

Zhdanok’s replacement to promote non-citizen matter in European Parliament

Miroslavs Mitrofanovs, who has taken Tatyana Zhdanok’s place in the European Parliament, plans to promote the matter of non-citizens in the institution.

Riga City Council committee supports increasing municipalities’ expenditures by 42.38 mln euro

Following an initiative from the Financial Department, the outlook for the municipality’s base budget revenue has been increased by EUR 1.66 million for 2018. The expenditures portion of the budget is planned to be increased by EUR 42.377 million, as reported by Riga City Council.

French ex-President named suspect in Libya funding case

In France, its ex-President Nicolas Sarkozy has been named as a suspect in the formal investigation for alleged illicit campaign financing, misappropriation of public funds of Libya and passive corruption.

Finance sector’s development council supports prohibition of shell companies

On Wednesday, 21 March, Latvian Prime Minister Māris Kučinskis’ managed Finance Sector’s Development Council supported initiative on prohibiting shell companies, as confirmed by the prime minister.

Level of producer prices in Latvia’s industry is up 3.4%

Compared to January, level of producer prices in the Latvian industry rose by 0.5 % in February 2018. Prices of products sold on the domestic market grew by 0.7 %, but prices of exported products went up by 0.3 %.

Minister: Latvia is far behind its neighbours in terms of digitization and e-skills

In terms of digitization and e-skills, Latvia is far behind its neighbouring countries and the rest of Europe, said Latvian Economy Minister Arvils Ašeradens in an interview to Latvijas Radio.

OECD: Latvian employees work longest hours in Baltics

In a comparison of Baltic countries per average annual hours worked, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development has found earlier this year that the average Latvian worker spends 1,910 hours at work, followed by the Lithuanian employee with 1,885 hours and the average Estonian worker with 1,855 hours.

12th Saeima failed to complete half of its pre-election promises in field of justice

In 2014, Delna – society for openness and Providus think tank received support from all parties represented in the 12th Saeima in regards to an action plan to help strengthen the rule of law in the country.

Russia carries out military drills in Gulf of Finland

Russian Defence Ministry has stated that in the Baltic Sea Gulf of Finland, which has Finland, Russia and Estonia in its coastline, the Russian military has performed drills for its tactical special operations units.