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Friday 28.10.2016 | Name days: Ninona, Ņina, Antoņina, Oksana

Week in Lithuania. Five per cent of hacker attacks threaten national security

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Аuthor: PantherMedia/SCANPIX

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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KNAB selection process concludes with no results

Members of the committee responsible for selecting the new head of the Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau decided not to pick any of the available candidates, Martins Krievins, director of the state Chancellery and chairman of the selection committee, announced on Friday, 28 October.

Retail trade turnover up 0.5% in Latvia

Compared to September 2015, total retail trade turnover rose by 0.5% in September 2016. Turnover of retail trade in food products decreased by 1.8%, whereas the turnover of retail trade in non-food products increased by 1.6%.

16+1 business forum in Riga to gather around 300 businessmen from China

As part of the upcoming summit of leaders of state of countries participating in the 16+1 cooperation format between China and countries of Central and Eastern Europe in Riga there will also be a business forum. Participation in this forum has been confirmed by 150 high-rank state and business representatives from seventeen countries.

Moldova up for polarising presidential election

Voters in Moldova will on October 30 go to ballot boxes in order to express their support to the country’s foreign policy direction towards the European Union or to closer links with the Kremlin, by electing a president.

Latvia’s banking sector earned 374 million this year

In the first nine months of 2016, Latvia’s banking sector functioned with profits worth EUR 374 million. All sixteen Latvian banks and three out of seven foreign bank branches in Latvia worked with profits in this nine-month period.

Sakharov Prize awarded to Yazidi women activists

The European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize has been awarded to Yazidi activists Nadia Murad and Lamiya Aji Bashar, victims of sexual slavery under the rule of terrorist group «Islamic State».

Russian opposition: Putin has few supporters and just as many opponents

Russia’s weak spot is President Vladimir Putin’s built system, in which everything depends on a single person, said coordinator of Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s Open Russia foundation Vladimir Kara-Murza at a discussion organized by Konrad Adenauer.

Countries agree to establish world’s widest marine protected area in Antarctica

The European Union and 24 more countries have reached an agreement to declare Ross Sea in Antarctica a marine protected area – largest in the world.

Belgian regions agree on CETA changes to support EU-Canada free trade agreement

The political leaders of Belgian regions and communities have on October 27 agreed on a consensus to support the free trade agreement between the EU and Canada, Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel stated.

Post-election flare-ups emerge in Lithuania, as winners build new government

Nearly a week after the second round of Lithuania‘s general election, the Lithuanian Peasant and Green Union, the holder of 54 mandates in the141-member Lithuanian Parliament, has not gotten a step closer to agreeing with other political parties on a new Cabinet.

Antane: we still need Russia in order to work with China

«There is nothing good I can say about the current state of Latvia’s transit industry – cargo volumes handled by the country’s ports continue to decline. The volume of coal cargoes transshipped by Ventspils port, for example, has dropped to 40%. The overall decline last year, when compared to 2014, reaches 20.5%. This decline has been continuing since 2012,» – Inga Antane, president of the Baltic Association –Transport and Logistics, said in an interview to

Construction costs in Latvia up 0.1%

Compared to August, the level of construction costs in Latvia increased by 0.1% in September 2016. Prices of building materials, as well as maintenance and operational costs of machinery and equipment did not change significantly, whereas labour remuneration of workers grew by 0.5%.

Think tank forum to assess the state and development of 16+1 format

Latvia’s Foreign Policy Institute will organize a forum for international think tanks for countries taking part in the 16+1 format in the Foreign Ministry in Riga on 4 November.

EP: 2017 budget should allocate more money to jobs and youth

The European Parliament has carried out a plenary vote to request more money to help young people find jobs, enhance economic growth and help third countries deal with the migration crisis. According to MEPs, the opinion of the EU Council in regards to budget cuts should be changed in the opposite direction.

EP approves million-euro assistance to Estonian laid-off industry workers

The European Parliament has backed the allocation of 1.1 million euros to assist people in north-eastern Estonia, who lost their jobs in mass lay-offs in shale oil production and chemical industry.

NATO confirms entry of two Russian warships into Baltic Sea waters

On Wednesday, 26 October, NATO confirmed the entry of two Russian warships into the waters of the Baltic Sea.

Italy hit by earthquakes again

A pair of powerful earthquakes have shaken central Italy on October 26, causing damage to buildings.

Changes to Handling of Alcoholic Beverages Law and other matters viewed by Saeima

On Thursday, 27 October, the Saeima will gather for a meeting to decide on the new legal draft On Public Procurements. New regulations for procurements provide a number of changes and additions to the current regulations.

Study: Wildlife populations have globally decreased by 58% since 1970s

The numbers of wildlife in the world have since 1970 decreased by 58%, it has been found in a study.

Fine applied to two Knauf Group plasterboard suppliers

On 30 September, Latvia’s Competition Council made the decision to punish Knauf and Knauf Group’s Norgips sp.z.o.o. from Poland for using a loyalty system that considerably restricted competition, thereby breaching the prohibition on abuse of market dominance.

Pharmacies in Sweden restrict sale of paracetamol

Restrictions should be put in place in the sale of paracetamol setting forth a ban to sell more than one pack of the drug to minors, decided Swedish pharmacies on October 26.

Ambassador: we are beneficial to the Chinese, but we can be even better

On 5 November, Latvia will not only be the host for the 16+1 format, but also the destination for the first official visit by the Chinese prime minister, said Latvia’s ambassador in China Maris Selga.

UK pledges to send drones and tanks to Estonia

British defence minister has this week outlined the country’s plans of its involvement in NATO’s push to increase the defence capabilities of Estonia.

Not all Roma happy about Lithuanian firm making tours to largest Roma village in Baltics

Lithuanian Roma representatives have been critical about a tour agency organising sightseeing tours to the village of Kirtimai promoted as «an extreme challenge» having a former drug addict as a guide.

Fifteen Syrian refuges arrive in Latvia from Greece

On Tuesday, 25 October, fifteen people, including nine children, arrived in Latvia from Greece as part of the European Union resettlement programme.

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