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Week in Lithuania. Hot debate in Seimas over definition of family

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The parliamentary deliberations of the amendment to the Lithuanian Constitution that envision tying the legal definition of a family to marriage and parenthood were bogged down in Seimas procedures on Thursday, June 2.

The Lithuanian lawmakers rejected the position of the main committee on the matter – the Committee on Legal Affairs – to vote down the amendment. The stance was supported by merely 29 of Lithuania‘s 141 parliamentarians, 54 were against and nine abstained.

Social Democratic MP Algirdas Sysas who presided over the meeting that the issue would now go back to the committee, a move that triggered a wave of indignation of some of the parliamentarians who demanded that Sysas should be removed from chairmanship. In their words, no other decision can be expected from the current line-up of the committee.

The parliamentary Commission for Ethics and Procedures has been authorized to look into the dispute.

Some 107 member of the Seimas propose to amend the Constitution by including provisions that «a family is created through marriage» and that «family also arises from motherhood and fatherhood» and that «marriage, family, motherhood, fatherhood and childhood are under the protection and care of the state.»

The initiators of the amendment say that the state must support and protect the family as an institution amid the worsening demographic situation in the country.

The government does not back the amendment, saying that it could be discriminatory against people who live together as cohabitants and run counter to the European Court of Human Rights‘ practice.

Provisions are adopted by votes of at least two thirds of 141 parliamentarians in support.

Lithuania‘s Avia Solutions Group teams up with Russians for cargo airline

Avia Solutions Group (ASG), the largest Lithuanian-owed aviation business group, is setting up a cargo airline in Russia together with local partners.

According to Ato.ru, the airline, named Sky Airlines Gates, was founded in Moscow in April and is owned by Sky Gates Rus. The latter company is 80 percent owned by Alexander Khmelnitsky and 20 percent owned by Russia‘S Globus Distribution Management, which, according to the website, is registered at the same address in Moscow as ASG.

Based on information from Russia‘s register of legal entities, ZIA Valda, a company controlled by ASG Chairman Gediminas Žiemelis, is the founder and sole shareholder of Globus Distribution Management.

Reportedly, the cargo airline plans to launch operations in September with one Boeing 747-400F aircraft. It expects to add two more aircraft of the same type to its fleet in 2017.

Plans to establish a new company were unveiled during the opening of Zhukovsky, the fourth international airport in the Moscow region, earlier this week. A cargo terminal at the airport, built and operated by ASG together with partners, is planned to be opened in the autumn of 2017.

The ASG Group consists of the business-class charter carrier KlasJet, the ground handling and aircraft fuelling services provider Baltic Ground Services, the aircraft maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) services company FL Technics, the helicopter MRO services provider Helisota and the tour operator Kidy Tour. Žiemelis also was a key shareholder of the bankrupt airline flyLAL.

President congratulated Italy on national day

President Dalia Grybauskaitė extended congratulations, both personally and on behalf of the Lithuanian people, to President Sergio Mattarella of the Italian Republic on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of Italy’s national holiday, Festa della Repubblica.

This year will mark the 25th anniversary of the reestablishment of diplomatic relations between Lithuania and Italy. According to the President, over this period, Lithuania and Italy have become close members of the community of nations sharing common values.

«We have developed a strong relationship, based on full cooperation, both at the bilateral level and within the European Union and NATO. We appreciate that our long-term goals of strengthening defence, creating the energy union and boosting economy, as well as our collaboration and concern for urgent European matters contribute to the security and prosperity of our citizens and all Europeans,» the President wrote in her message of congratulations.

Dalia Grybauskaitė wished the Italian President and the people of his country a happy celebration, unity and prosperity.

PM discussed dairy farmers‘ problems, Belarus‘ N-plant

Lithuanian Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevičius met on Friday with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and discussed the critical situation in the country‘s milk sector and raise the issue of safety of Belarus‘ Astravyets nuclear power plant, the government‘s press office said.
According to calculations, the global dairy crisis and low purchase prices caused Lithuanian dairy producers to lose about 75 million euros in revenue. In PM‘s words, Lithuania will also ask for the Commission‘s backing for the planned synchronization of the Baltic power grids with the Continental European network. The meeting between Butkevičius and Juncker should also address the safety of the Astravyets nuclear power under construction some 50 km from the Lithuanian capital in Belarus. Before the meeting, Lithuania‘s agriculture attaché in Brussels Karolis Anužis said it was hard to say whether the support will be at the level of last fall when the whole European Union received 420 million euros.

Lithuanian e-commerce growing slower than neighbours‘

From January to May, the number of mail or internet orders in Lithuania increased by 34.9 per cent compared to the same period in 2015. E-commerce is opening more and more local and international opportunities for the country’s small- and medium-sized businesses.
«Geographical location or formal business registration in one region or another is no longer an obstacle for entering larger markets for any company – whether it operates in Vilnius or other regions,» said Swedbank business client service chief Antanas Sagatauskas.

Shuffle in Lithuanian military command

Commanders of the Lithuanian Army‘s Land Forces, Joint Staff and the Second Investigation Department will be replaced later this summer, Defense Minister Juozas Olekas and Chief of Defense Lieutenant General Jonas Vytautas Žukas confirmed to BNS Lithuania on Thursday, June 2.

Up until now, the Joint Staff was headed by Brigadier General Vilmantas Tamošaitis, the Land Forces were headed by Major General Almantas Leika and military reconnaissance was headed by Colonel Alvydas Šiuparis.In Olekas‘ words, Tamošaitis will be replaced by the head of the Baltic Defence College, Major General Vitalijus Vaikšnoras. The defence minister refused to reveal the personalities to be appointed to the other two positions.
Later this summer, Leika will be designated as Lithuania‘s defence attaché to Germany, while Šiuparis would take the post as defence attaché to the United States, said Olekas, adding that Leika would join NATO’s Joint Force Command (JFC) Brunssum, the Netherlands.

Spying convict wants to serve sentence in Lithuania

Lithuanian citizen Aristidas Tamošaitis, who has been sentenced in Russia for spying, wants to serve the 12-year sentence in Lithuania. After receiving the convict‘s plea, Lithuania‘s Justice Ministry turned to Moscow for the man‘s «handover for serving the remainder of the sentence in Lithuania,» the ministry‘s spokesman Audris Kutrevičius said on Friday, June 3.
Detained in Russia last year, Tamošaitis was sentenced in March. Moscow then said the Lithuanian citizen had admitted to working for Lithuania‘s military intelligence. In April, another Lithuanian citizen, Yevgeniy Mataitis, was sentenced to 13 years in prison on the charges of spying. Mataitis has dual Lithuanian and Russian citizenship.

Lithuania to crack down on illegal tour guides

This summer, the Tourism Department will be accompanied by police officers to identify whether Lithuania‘s tour guides are working legally. Raids will be conducted in cities throughout Lithuania during which guides‘ qualifications and licenses will be checked. Foreign guides will have to provide documents authorising them to provide tours in Lithuania.
According to the Tourism Department, these raids are being held to ensure that companies are competing fairly and that they have a responsible outlook on the tour guide profession. Last year, almost 70 guides were checked during similar raids, and 6 cases were opened. Illegal tour guide activities can lead to fines.

Retail market dominated by few big retailers

The retail sector in the Baltic States is highly concentrated with a small number of chains controlling large market shares, particularly in Lithuania and Latvia, according to a new survey.
«The Baltic retail sector is very concentrated, especially in Lithuania and Latvia. In Lithuania Maxima and IKI control 40 per cent and 16 per cent of the market respectively, but in Latvia Rimi and Maxima each control 30-40 per cent of the market. Whereas in Estonia the largest retail chains compete fiercely against each other, where Coop (previously ETK), Maxima, Rimi and Selver control 20 per cent, 18 per cent, 17 per cent and 16 per cent of the market respectively,» the report by Prudentia said.

Bulk Cargo Terminal’s bullish performance

Biriu Kroviniu Terminalas (Bulk Cargo Terminal, or BKT), a company that has observed rapid growth over the past few years, is readying for a 40-million-euro expansion and subsequent double increase in its loading capacity, Verslo Zinios daily said.

«We have decided to move all administrative buildings out of the port territory and expand the loading operations instead. We are about to complete the construction of a new office building, and we will move into it in August. The current building will then be torn down to make room for a fertilizer warehouse,» BKT CEO Vidmantas Dambrauskas said, adding that the company had already invested about 5 million euros in territorial expansion and removal of old buildings.

A total of five new warehouses will be built in the territory, with each accommodating 40,000 tons of fertilizer. BKT aims to end the investments by 2018 to allow the terminal to handle about 15 million tons of cargo instead of the current 8 million tons.

Border guards bust Irish man wanted by UK

Lithuanian border guards have detained an Irish citizen who had arrived in the Kaunas Airport from Dublin and was wanted under a European Arrest Warrant.
The 29-year-old Irish citizen was arrested during document examination at the Kaunas Airport, the State Border Guard Service said.The Lithuanian border guards established that the European Arrest Warrant had been issued by Great Britain on March 2. After detention, the man was taken to custody at the airport and was later handed over to Kaunas police, according to the Lithuania Tribune.

Peasant and Greens Union shows big confidence

The Peasant and Greens Union have already decided on their two candidates for the prime minister’s position: former Interior Minister Saulius Skvernelis and MEP Bronis Ropė. With the election still many months away, the peasant and greens have already considered what they would do if they had both the prime minister‘s and parliament speaker‘s position, the latter would be taken by Skvernelis while Ropė would become the prime minister.
The leader of the party Ramūnas Karbauskis said that the parliament speaker‘s position would be a great way for Skvernelis to prepare for the presidential elections in 2019.«I think he could be a very strong candidate for 2019,» said Karbauskis. Skvernelis himself would prefer to get back to the Interior Minister‘s position.

Passengers of drunk drivers to face fines

The Lithuanian parliament is considering a law that would punish passengers of intoxicated drivers. A new package of laws to be discussed at the Seimas seeks the tightening of regulations for drivers and raising of the level of punishment for traffic violations. Healthcare Minister Juras Požela has suggested punishments not just for intoxicated drivers, but also for their passengers.
The latter, the passengers could also face fines of up to 140 eurosunder the new laws. Last year, 15 people were killed by drunk drivers; some 350 were injured, according to Lithuanian police statistics.

Lithuania likes fast food most of Baltic States

Lithuanians are the most frequent visitors to fast food restaurants in the Baltic States, with Hesburger sales in Lithuania reaching 14 million euros and McDonald‘s sales here hitting 18 million euros.
«The euro introduction helped a lot last year. I think it is a psychological aspect that encouraged customers to spend more,” said Vladimir Janevskis, the head of the McDonald‘s restaurant chain in the Baltics. «It is important that people would prefer to eat in the city, rather than stay at home. If they do, then there will be enough customers for all food chains,» said Hesburger Development Director Ieva Salmela. Salmela said that in 2016 Hesburger will invest 3.5 million euros in Lithuania in 2016, the most in the Baltic States, and will open three new restaurants.

Lidl launch sees long buyer lines

German budget supermarket chain Lidl had a big opening day in Lithuania on Thursday, June 2, with buyers lining up for what they hoped would be pocket-friendly grocery shopping. Lidl opened 15 stores in nine towns across Lithuania and buyers were eagerly checking them out.
Marketing specialist Linas Šimonis says Lidl has two aces up its sleeve that give the German retailer an edge over other players in the market: low prices and different brands from the usual offering at Lithuania‘s supermarkets.

President urges voters to vote

Amid an investigation into political corruption suspicions, Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaitė is calling on voters not to boycott next October’s general elections. «Elections are an opportunity for us to make our choice. Let us not allow anyone else to do it for us.
We must go to elections and vote and then demand that (members of the Seimas) not be corrupt and not steal and that they work for the people, not for themselves,» she told reporters in Vilnius on Wednesday, May 31. The president did not state her position on corruption allegations against Liberal and Labour politicians, saying that the pre-trial investigation is still ongoing, but welcomed efforts to«to clean ourselves of corruption.»

One million euro diamond heist in Ireland

A 1 million euro diamond heist in the Irish city of Galway was carried out with «military precision» by a team of four Lithuanian criminals who had flown into Ireland only two days before. The smash and grab-style robbery was carried out with military-style precision with the men spending only 90 seconds on the premises of the Galway City jewellery shop before calmly leaving with two rucksacks crammed with 16 trays of diamond rings and 32 Rolex watches, reports the Irish Independent.
The four man team was recruited to carry out the heist under a contract according to prosecutors. Irmantas Paulauskas, Saulius Repečka, Erikas Matusevčius and Vaidas Pinelis (28) were caught shortly after carrying out the robbery by Irish police, according to the Lithuania Tribune.

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