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Week in Lithuania. Liberal Movement chair resigns over bribery allegations

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The Lithuanian Liberal Movement chairman Eligijus Masiulis announced of stepping down from the party leader‘s position and giving up his parliamentary mandate.

The anouncement came after Lithuania‘s anti-fraud police raided his home and launched a probe last Thursday, May 12, into allegations he had received a 100,000 euro bribe from MG Baltics Group to favour its interests in the Parliament.

However, Masiulis said he was innocent and insisted he was not going to hide behind parliamentary immunity and vowed to clear his name.

«I am sorry you had to wait for so long to hear my position today. I did not have a chance to do that. This is the darkest day of my life. I am well aware that because of the circumstances I cannot continue to lead the Liberal Movement. I do not want to throw the shadow on my colleagues, with whom we have worked together for many years,» said Masiulis, adding, «I will also discontinue the parliamentary mandate, because I am not going to hide behind parliamentary immunity. I think that this is how every contemporary politician should react. I will cooperate with law enforcement – I am concerned that an investigation would end as soon as possible. I am ready to prove that I am not guilty,» he told Lithuanian media.

Lithuania‘s President Dalia Grybauskaite has refused to comment on the probe into suspicions of a 100,000 euro bribe paid by MG Baltic Group to the Liberal Movement‘s leader Eligijus Masiulis, noting that the impact of the investigation upon election results would depend on the reaction of voters.

MG Baltic is one of Lithuania‘s biggest manufacturing, trade, real estate and media groups. It employed a workforce of over 3,000 in 2014.

Conservative leader Landsbergis gives up EP seat

Lithuanian MEP Gabrielius Landsbergis, who is the leader of the conservative Homeland Union – Lithuanian Christian Democrats, said he is giving up his seat in the European Parliament earlier than planned in order to concentrate on campaigning ahead of October‘s general elections.

«We had made a decision in the party that I would give up my European Parliament seat once we finalized the candidate list for the Seimas elections. However, in light of yesterday‘s events, I have decided to return to Lithuania immediately and do everything I can to rebuild voters’ trust in new-generation politics and politicians,» Landsbergis said in a statement.

President Dalia Grybauskaitė extended congratulations to the State of Israel

President Dalia Grybauskaitė extended congratulations to the State of Israel on the Day of Israel‘s Independence.According to Grybauskaitė, collaborative relationship based on trust and respect, people-to-people contacts, strong historical bonds, and the vibrant Litvak community make the citizens of Lithuania and Israel increasingly active in exploring and launching new initiatives that connect our people and build up two  nations.

Foreign Minister urges supportcontinuation for Belarusian university in exile

Linas Linkevičius, the Lithuanian foreign minister, has urged the Nordic Council of Ministers to continue funding the European Humanities University (EHU), a Belarusian school in exile based in Vilnius. Linkevičius spoke to Dagfinn Hoybraten, secretary general of the Council, on the phone on Thursday, May 12.

Lithuania wants EBRD to discontinue supporting Belarus NPP-linked projects

Lithuania has called on the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) to be particularly rigorous in examining projects linked, even indirectly, to the Astravyets nuclear power plant when considering investments in Belarus‘ economy or infrastructure.

Lithuanian Finance Minister Rimantas Šadžius made the statement at the 2016 Annual Meeting of the Board of Governors of the EBRD in London, the Finance Ministry said on Wednesday, May 11. He also called on the bank to be more active in financing Lithuania‘s energy efficiency projects and in cooperation with the state-owned credit institution Invega in providing lending and other supports to small and medium-sized businesses in Lithuania.

NATO general discussed Baltic defence plans

Salvatore Farina, a high-ranking NATO general paid a visit to Vilnius on Thursday, May 12, and discussed the Alliance‘s defence plans for the Baltics with Lithuania‘s military and Ministry of National Defence officials. Joint Force Command in Brunssum, the Netherlands, Defence Minister Juozas Olekas and Chief of Defence Lieutenant General Jonas Vytautas Žukas spoke about the activities of the Vilnius-based NATO Force Integration Unit and measures to increase the Alliance‘s presence in the region.

Lithuania‘s Donny Montell makes it into Eurovision finals

Lithuanian Eurovision 2016 singer/songwriter Donatas Montvydas, known by the moniker Donny Montell, has made it into the Eurovision finals with his song “I’ve Been Waiting for this Night. Lithuania will be joined in the final by Belgium, Bulgaria, Israel, Serbia, Latvia, Poland, Georgia, Australia and Ukraine. Commenters on social media seemed transfixed by Montell‘s good looks as well as the daring front-flip he incorporates into his performance, which has become a crowd favourite, especially with BBC viewers.

Lithuanian president weighs in on VAT cut idea

Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaitė has criticized the government‘s suggestions to cut VAT rates on some foodstuffs in order to rein in prices. The measures will benefit retailers, not consumers, the president believes.

«We are talking about rising prices and part of the society not being able to afford basic food products. There are many studies, including by the European Commission, suggesting that VAT cuts usually benefit producers and supermarkets,» Grybauskaitė said on Thursday, May 12. PM Algirdas Butkevičius, Finance Minister Rimantas Šadžius and the ruling Social Democratic Party have proposed cutting VAT on meat from 21 per cent to 5 per cent or 9 per cent. They say the measure is aimed at bringing prices down for low-earning consumers.

Support of the Holy See is important for Europe and Lithuania

President Dalia Grybauskaitė met with Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican’s Secretary of State, last Saturday and presented him with a state decoration, The Grand Cross of the Order of Vytautas the Great. The Cardinal was acknowledged for his personal efforts to the development of relations between Lithuania and the Holy See and the promotion of bilateral cooperation in political and cultural areas.

According to the President, the support of the Holy See has always been important for Lithuania. Throughout the most difficult years of occupation and oppression, the Vatican supported the Lithuanian people’s aspiration for freedom, strengthened courage and determination to be united in building an independent state.

Grybauskaitė reiterated the Lithuanian people’s invitation to Pope Francis to visit our country. The President also invited the Holy Father to visit Lithuania during her official visit to the Vatican in October 2015.

Lithuanian MPs to amend citizenship law amid Litvak complaints

As the Migration Department and courts have been rejecting citizenship applications from Jews of Lithuanian origin, lawmakers are determined to amend the Law on Citizenship. The Seimas‘ European Affairs Committee decided on Wednesday, May 11, to set up a task force to draft amendments to the law. The Law on Citizenship allows individuals who left Lithuania before March 11, 1990, to hold dual citizenship.

However, the Migration Department and Lithuanian courts have been lately rejecting applications for restoration of citizenship rights from people who left Lithuania between 1918 and 1940. In rejecting their citizenship applications, migration specialists refer to case law that says that citizenship can be restored only to individuals who left Lithuania before restoration of independence in 1990 for political reasons, resistance to occupation regimes or persecution by the regime. They say that Jews were not persecuted in the independent Lithuanian republic of the interwar years.

Energy Forum focuses on tectonic shifts in energy market

The fifth Energy Forum in Vilnius has addressed some of the challenges facing the Baltic States in their endeavour for energy security. In his speech, Robert Juodka of the Estonian Chamber said that the three states were living through an energy revolution with tectonic shifts. Juodka also pointed to the fact that Lithuania had been transformed in a few years from a 100 per cent energy dependent country to one which is almost independent and even exporting energy to neighbouring countries. During the same time, the country has gone from paying one of the highest gas and energy price in the region to almost the opposite.

Ukraine International Airlines to launch Palanga-Kiev flights

Ukraine International Airlines will launch a route between Ukraine‘s capital Kiev and the Lithuanian seaside resort of Palanga this summer. Between June 19 and Sept. 21, the airline will fly between the cities two times a week. In Kiev, the airplanes will land in the Boryspil International Airport. Furthermore, Ukraine International Airlines will fly between Vilnius and Odessa, just as it did last year, with flights to open on June 24. Summer flights between Palanga and Minsk will also be launched by Belarusian airline Belavia on June 19.

This summer, the Palanga airport will offer direct flights to Copenhagen, Oslo, Riga, London Luton and Stansted airports, Warsaw, Minsk and Kiev.

NIB CEO: Lithuania has to step up fight against corruption

The chief executive officer of the Nordic Investment Bank (NIB) says that in order to attract more foreign investment, Lithuania has to step up its fight against corruption, improve its education system and improve its laws to make it easier for companies to go bankrupt and for pension funds to invest in small companies.

According to NIB President and CEO Henrik Normann, if Lithuania wants to increase wealth in the longer term, it has to ensure that fight against corruption continues.

Lithuania ranks 36th among 49 European countries on LGBTI rights

Lithuania ranks 36th among 49 rated countries in terms of LGBTI rights, shows a new survey published by ILGA-Europe organization. According to the survey, Lithuania is doing somewhat better in ensuring LGBTI rights than the majority of post-Soviet countries, however, discrimination in the country remains by far bigger than in Western Europe.In the survey, Lithuania ranks above the neighbouring Russia (48th) and Belarus (43rd) and just above Poland (37th) and Latvia (38th), however, below Estonia in 22nd.

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