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Friday 22.09.2017 | Name days: Maigurs, Mārica, Māris
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Week in Lithuania. Five per cent of hacker attacks threaten national security

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Lithuania’s state institutions are subjected to thousands of attempted cyber attacks on a daily basis, including hundreds constituting a medium threat and at least 5 percent constituting a serious threat, says Rimtautas Černiauskas, director of the National Cyber Security Center.

In the framework of Lithuania’s first national cyber exercise Cyber Shield 2016, over 100 specialists from more than 40 of the country’s institutions learned to respond to emerging cyber threats and coordinate their work in the face of cyber attacks. The week-long exercise involved over 30 scenarios, for instance, simulation of a power blackout, blocking of websites during elections, etc.

The United States’ new ambassador arrives in Lithuania

The United States’ new Ambassador to Lithuania Anne Hall has arrived in Vilnius, the US Embassy said on Thursday, September 29.

«The United States has long enjoyed a close relationship with Lithuania. It is a relationship built on the bedrock of America’s steadfast refusal to recognize the incorporation of Lithuania into the Soviet Union and the partnership of the United States with an independent Lithuania in addressing today’s global challenges to democracy and security. I look forward to building on this partnership,» the ambassador said in the press release. Hall has already worked in Lithuania, serving as deputy chief of mission from 2010 to 2013 and as charge d’affaires for an extended period. She is expected to present her credentials to the president of Lithuania within her first two weeks in Vilnius. Hall was confirmed by the United States Senate in mid-July 2016 and was sworn into office on Sept. 16, 2016. Most recently, she served as the acting principal deputy assistant secretary of state for Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs.

President awards 46 Lithuanians who saved Jews

President Dalia Grybauskaitė has awarded the Life Saving Cross to 46 Lithuanian citizens who risked danger to save Jews from probable death in Nazi-occupied Lithuania during World War II. «All rescue stories touch our hearts and souls. They tell of great courage and compassion, readiness for sacrifice to save another human being, to save someone else’s child as your own, and willingness to risk everything that you hold very dear,» the president said.

Lithuania pays last respects to late Israeli President

President Dalia Grybauskaitė and Foreign Minister Linas Linkevičius attended funeral of late Israeli president Shimon Peres in Jerusalem as Vilnius residents and guests could express their condolences at the Israeli Embassy in the Lithuanian capital. «We bid farewell to a great man of the world, a man of peace, an example of tolerance, a man important to all, including Lithuania, because he considered Lithuania, this region, his birthplace and called himself a Litvak,» Grybauskaitė said.

Peres was born only 100 kilometers from Vilnius, in a small town in what then was Poland, in 1923. He was granted honorary citizenship of Vilnius during his visit to Lithuania in 2013.

PM’s expectations on new Labour Code

PM Algirdas Butkevičius expects that Lithuania’s new Labour Code will significantly improve the country’s competitiveness after it comes into effect next January.  He expressed the opinion commenting on the latest global competitiveness rankings published by the World Economic Forum (WEF) in which Lithuania moved up one position in this year’s index to number 35, from 36th place last year. However, Lithuania ranks as low as 116th in the world for hiring and firing practices, 111th for its capacity to attract talent and 106th for its capacity to retain talent, and 105th for redundancy costs.

International observers in Lithuania’s elections

A group of observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and members of non-governmental organizations from Russia, Poland and Ukraine will observe parliamentary elections in Lithuania on October 9. In addition to the OSCE mission, the VRK approved on Wednesday, September 28, another 50 or so observers from different organizations. The International Elections Study Center is bringing around 30 international observers to Lithuania, including seven activists from Russia’s Golos, 20 members of Poland’s Forum of Young Diplomats and three delegates of the Swedish International Liberal Centre.

Rosatom becomes tool of geopolitical pressure

Rosatom, Russia’s state corporation that is building nuclear power plants in Europe, Asia and Middle East, is turning into an instrument of geopolitical pressure, Lithuanian Energy Minister Rokas Masiulis said during his visit to the United States. Masiulis met with Amos Hochstein, special envoy and coordinator for international energy affairs at the US Department of State, and Samantha Carl-Yoder, chief of staff for the Bureau of Energy Resources at the Department of State, in Washington on Thursday, September 29.

Rosatom is building nuclear power plants in Russia and Belarus and has signed agreements to build facilities in Finland, Bangladesh, Saudi Arabia and other countries.

Lithuanian railway, Ministry at odds over Rail Baltica project

Although three Baltic States have reached agreement to hold contractor tenders for the European-gauge project Rail Baltica in every individual country rather than via a joint enterprise only, Lithuania’s Transport and Communications Ministry holds a different stance on the matter from that of the state-run Lietuvos Geležinkeliai (Lithuanian Railways, LG). The latter would like to hand over all project functions to the joint Baltic enterprise RB Rail. Nevertheless, the ministry sees the statement as merely an opinion of the railway firm’s executives, saying it will not be taken into consideration. The dispute between the ministry and the railway company emerged on the eve of the signing of the project management contract scheduled for Friday, September 30.

Lithuanian Energy signs contracts with Vilnius CHP plant contractors

Lithuania’s state energy group Lietuvos Energija (Lithuanian Energy) signed on Thursday, September 29, contracts with construction contractors for its 345-million-euro biomass and waste-fired cogeneration plant in Vilnius, which, it is said, will be one of the most modern power facilities in Europe. The government has granted the Vilnius combined heat and power plant the status of a project of national importance.

Germany’s Steinmueller Babcock Environment, together with Poland’s construction group Budimex and Lithuania’s Kauno Dujotieko Statyba (Kaunas Pipeline Construction), will build the plant’s engineering systems and its municipal waste-burning unit for 178.29 million euro, and Poland’s Rafako will install its biomass burning equipment and supplies infrastructure for 149.65 million euro.

New institution to help to use Juncker Plan funds

A national promotional financing institution would help Lithuania to more efficiently use the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI) set up for the so-called Juncker Plan, Finance Minister Rasa Budbergytė said on Thursday, September 29. In her words, the EFSI has a great potential to finance various projects in Lithuania, but it should not compete with other EU financial mechanisms.

Lithuania’s projects to be financed via the EFSI include Vilnius’ new biomass and waste-fired cogeneration plant and the Vilnius-Utena highway reconstruction, with loans of 190 million euro and 40 million euro, already approved for the projects, respectively.

Ministers hold their job after no-confidence vote

Lithuanian Defense minister Juozas Olekas and Agriculture minister Virginija Baltraitienė remained in their posts after the Seimas failed to garner required number of votes against their ouster on Wednesday, September 28.At least 71 votes were required to oust the Social Democratic Defence minister from his post. Not a single lawmaker from the ruling coalition parties took part in the no-confidence vote, which was held after a Seimas commission proposed not to approve the minister’s interpellation answers. Meanwhile, the Agriculture minister held her job after the Seimas, in a vote of 77 to 25 with 7 abstentions, passed a resolution to accept her interpellation answers.

Budget planned with little deficit

Lithuania’s budget for 2017 is being planned with a small deficit that the European Commission is expected to approve if the country’s new Labor Code and other social protection system changes are recognized as structural reforms, Finance Minister Rasa Budbergytė said on Wednesday, September 28.

«There will be a deficit of 0.6 percent (of GDP), which the European Commission will likely deem permissible if the Labor Code is regarded and counts as a structural reform,» she said. «We are projecting a small deficit, because there are two key priorities that we stick to. Our draft budget earmarks 150 million euro for national protection and defense as we move closer to the 2 percent (of GDP target) in line with our international commitments to NATO. Another very large portion, 254 million euro, is for the social model,» the minister said.

Government sacks veterinary chief

The Government sacked last Wednesday, September 28, Jonas Milius, the embattled head of the State Food and Veterinary Service, the prime minister’s spokesman Mindaugas Janulionis told journalists at the government. Milius’ suitability for the post came in question after the law-enforcement brought suspicions against him of abuse of office and document forgery. He has denied the suspicions and aimed to stay on, regardless of the calls from Lithuania’s top officials for him to step down. Lithuanian prosecutors suspect that Judex producer of frozen food products aimed to influence the State Food and Veterinary Service via MP Petras Gražulis of the Order and Justice Party to avoid penalties for violations.

PM complains of poor relations with President

«All of the information is visible on the international arena, as well. My colleagues, prime ministers of other countries, have the information and often ask me the question unofficially over coffee about the cases, whether it is true, etc.,» the prime minister told TV3 news broadcast on Tuesday, September 27. Earlier this month, Butkevičius confirmed that his direct communication with the president was terminated after a real estate scandal of Lithuania’s southern resort city of Druskininkai. The President’s Office has said that «work issues with the government were being coordinated on the level of advisers.»

Plans to cut number of forestry enterprises

Lithuania plans to reduce the number of state-owned forestry enterprises as it strives to become a member of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Environment Minister Kęstutis Trečiokas said on Tuesday, September 27, adding that the government will have to do so «sooner or later». The minister said that it is unreasonable for the country to maintain all of its current 42 forestry enterprises, noting that five of them will never operate profitably and that some others «are having problems» too. OECD Secretary General Angel Gurria criticized Lithuania for the large number of forestry enterprises during his visit to the country last spring.

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