Thursday, August 11, was a lucky day for Lithuanian Olympians who won two Rio Olympic medals in rowing events.
First, the pair Donata Vištaraitė (27) and Milda Valčiukaitė (22) secured bronze in women’s double sculls event, finishing the 2000m distance in 7:43.76 minutes, behind only Poland’s Magdalena Fularczyk-Kozlowska and Natalia Madaj and Britain’s Victoria Thornley and Katherine Grainger.
Then Saulius Ritteris (27) and Mindaugas Griškonis (30) repeated the feat in men’s double sculls, finishing second (6:51.39). The gold medal went to Croatian brothers Martin and Valent Sinkovič, while the bronze winners were Kjetil Borch and Olaf Tufte from Norway. Top leaders of Lithuania have congratulated the country’s male and female double sculls teams on winning silver and bronze medals.
Debates over new Labour Code continue
Discussions over Lithuania’s new Labour Code, passed by the parliament in June and vetoed by resident Dalia Grybauskaitė, continued on Thursday, August 11, when Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevičius met with the country’s labour union leaders.
The extensive changes to the Labour Code are aimed at liberalizing the labour market and attracting investment, the government says, while unions accuse its authors of reducing employment security and disproportionally privileging employers. President Dalia Grybauskaitė has backed the latter position when she vetoed the amendments in early July and proposed an extensive list of changes to the law.
After emerging from more than an hour-long meeting at the headquarters of the Lithuanian Confederation of Labour Unions, PM Butkevičius told reporters that all sides agreed that the new Labour Code should come into force in the beginning of 2017, as previously planned.
Alcoholic drink sales dip
Alcoholic beverage sales in Lithuania fell by 4 per cent in the first half of 2016 year-on-year, the Alliance of Baltic Beverage Industry (ABBI) said, citing figures from the State Tax Inspectorate and market participants. According to the press release, sales of merely two categories of alcoholic beverages grew in the January-June period year-on-year, namely, sparkling wines (28 per cent) and natural grape and fruit-berry wines (4 per cent). In the first half of 2016, demand for fortified wines dropped by 34 per cent, while sales of beer and strong beverages saw a slight decline of 1 per cent each from 2015.
Government nods to opposite-sex partnership
Lithuania’s government on Thursday, August 11, green-lit the changes proposed by the Justice Ministry to the Civil Code which would legalize civil partnership of opposite-sex couples. «Lithuania is one of the few members of the European Union (EU) that have not legalized partnership between a man and a woman. Today the government took a very significant step, which will allow protecting rights and interests of tens of thousands of couples and their children. I hope that the parliament will follow the government’s example by adopting the amendments needed for the people of Lithuania,» Justice Minister Juozas Bernatonis said in a statement.
Under the bill, partnership can be concluded by adult people of opposite sex who are not related, are not members of the same nuclear family and are not partnered with other people. At the parliament, several members of the Liberals and the Social Democrats have registered another bill which would legalize same-sex partnership as well. However, the bill has not reached plenary yet.
Wind farm connected to power transmission grid
Lithuanian TSO Litgrid has connected a 60-megawatt, 24-turbine wind farm of 4energia, a subsidiary of Estonia’s Nelja Energia, to the country’s power transmission grid. A new 330-kilovolt transformer sub-station had been built for this purpose in the western district of Šilutė where the wind farm is located. Wind farms with a total capacity of almost 120 MW were hooked up to the national grid in Western Lithuania during the first half of 2016 and an 8.5 MW, three-turbine farm is planned to be connected to the network in the eastern part of the country by the end of the year.
Chief veterinary officer refuses to resign
Jonas Milius, the director of the Lithuanian State Food and Veterinary Service who is under investigation for suspected corruption, is refusing to step down, says Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevičius. The PM said that the government would next Wednesday, August 17, decide on Milius’ removal from the office based on the materials provided by the Special Investigation Service on corruption risks at the veterinary service. Lithuanian law-enforcement suspect that frozen product company Judex tried to influence the State Food and Veterinary Service via MP Petras Gražulis in order to avoid fines for violations
Tax authority investigates RE acquisitions
Lithuanian tax authorities are investigating real estate assets owned by Lithuanians in Italy and Spain. After receiving data from these countries, Lithuanian inspectors say there are suspected cases of tax evasion. Under the new EU directive on administrative cooperation in taxation, Lithuania has received data from 21 countries about income and assets held by Lithuanian nationals.
«Preliminary results of our analysis suggest that there are cases when Lithuanians acquired assets in Italy and Spain using funds of unknown provenance,» says Darius Būta, head of communication at the State Tax Inspectorate. Italy and Spain are by far the most popular countries where Lithuanians own real estate. In Italy, 630 pieces of real estate are owned by private individuals from Lithuania, and 369 in Spain.
Swine fever may boost sheep farming
The director of a Lithuanian sheep rearing company says that sheep numbers have increased in the country and expects that the spreading of African swine fever will force more farmers to switch to sheep raising, the daily Lietuvos Žinios reported on Thursday, August 11. According to figures from the Agriculture Ministry, the Lithuanian districts with the largest numbers of sheep are Alytus and Anykščiai, at 12,716 and 10,007, restively, where small farms prevail.
Another liberal MP questioned
Another liberal member of parliament, former education minister Gintaras Steponavičius, is questioned in a high-profile political corruption case. Prosecutors previously brought suspicions of influence peddling against Eligijus Masiulis, former leader of the Liberal Movement. Masiulis is suspected to have accepted a bribe from MG Baltic, one of the biggest business groups in Lithuania, in exchange for political favours.
In June, investigators conducted searches in the home and office of Vytautas Toleikis who manages Steponavičius’ charity fund. Toleikis himself was questioned by the Special Investigation Service. Steponavičius then said he believed Toleikis’ innocence. He also said the searches were understandable, because MG Baltic had been a donor of Steponavičius charity fund, although the group’s contributions made up about 10 per cent of the fund’s worth or 34,000 euro.
Fuel-free ferry to sail on the Neris River
Green transportation in cities is the future that needs to begin today, believe four friends from Vilnius who have built a fuel-free ferry to be coursing on the Neris River in the Lithuanian capital.
The ferry, its authors say, does not use any fuel or even an electric engine and relies solely on the river stream. The idea was developed by four like-minded friends: Dūdėnas, who is an architect, Paulius Zaviša, Vilnius Academy of Art lecturer Šarūnas Šlektavičius and engineer Donatas Stasiulis.
Controversial sex-ed programme to go into effect
Lithuanian Education and Science Minister Audronė Pitrėnienė plans to approve a new sexuality education programme which has drawn criticism from NGOs for its conservatism and focus on abstinence. «We will be able to speak about a full picture in 12 years’ time,» the minister said. Pitrėnienė, however, plans to consult the Education Council before signing the programme, but says that she sees no reason not to sign the document, which was approved by the working group with 16 votes in favour and three abstentions.
The draft program, which was unveiled to the public last spring, has drawn criticism for superficial treatment of sexuality-related issues that are important to young people, paying too much attention to the Church’s doctrines and ignoring reality.
Drunk yachtsman nearly crashes into oil terminal
A recent incident near an oil terminal owned by the Polish company Orlen has drawn attention to security at the facility which is a vital part of Lithuania’s energy infrastructure. If the company cannot protect it, the Lithuanian state may have to step in, the interior minister has commented.
A German yacht crossed the Lithuanian border in early hours of last Saturday, August 7, after which it sailed unnoticed by border guard or military radars. The yacht later crashed into a tanker next to the Būtingė oil terminal. The yachtsman was later tested for blood alcohol, which was 1.5 per mille in his bloodstream.
Municipalities to obtain 35 new school buses
Thirty-five new school buses will be distributed among 25 Lithuanian municipalities before the start of the new academic year. The Ministry of Education and Science said the Volkswagen Crafter buses were purchased for over 1.2 million euro. The yellow-coloured buses have been given to Lithuanian municipalities for the past 16 years to transport children to and from school, as well as after-school activities, trips, competitions and other events.