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Sunday 25.06.2017 | Name days: Maiga, Milija
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Week in Lithuania. Lithuania celebrates first medals in Rio

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Lithuania’s Donata Vištaraitė (L) and Lithuania’s Milda Valčiukaitė celebrate with their medals on the podium of Women’s Double Sculls final rowing competition at the Lagoa stadium during the Rio 2016 Olympic Games

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.


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BNN summary of the week: Latvia’s tax reform progress and gas pipeline project fights

BNN offers a summary of this week’s topical news in a variety of categories: Change; Decline; Future; Truth and Growth.

Real estate purchase «pain threshold» in Latvia – EUR 100,000

In relation to the possibility of purchasing a new home, Latvian residents view EUR 100,000 as the «pain threshold». The critical border for new project apartments is 1,300 EUR/m2. For standard apartments it is 1,000 EUR/m2. For private homes it is 1,600 EUR/m2, according to results of a study by PrivatBank.

Lembergs & Co. gathered to discuss «problems» of the high and mighty

Political businessman Ainars Slesers held a friendly discussion with his associates – Aivars Lembergs, Andris Ameriks, Janis Urbanovics, Janis Duklavs and Valerijs Kargins – at Ridzene Hotel. The group discussed toppling Valdis Dombrovskis’ government, replacement of multiple high-ranking officials and the possible sale of pieces of land within Riga Freeport’s territory, according to transcripts from the conversation published by Ir magazine and provided by anonymous sources.

Lithuania set to limit cash payments to 3,000 euros

The Farmers and Peasants-led Lithuanian Cabinet has approved a draft bill envisioning restrictions on use of cash, limiting the kind of settlements up to 3,000 euro.

Saeima establishes indexation increase for pensioners with high seniority

On Thursday, 22 June, Latvia’s Saeima approved Social and Employment Matters Committee’s prepared amendments to the Pension Law in two readings, ensuring greater pension indexation for multiple pensioner groups next year.

Romanian Parliament ousts Grindeanu government

The Romanian government of Prime Minister Sorin Grindeanu has not survived a no-confidence vote and has fallen after less than six months in power.

Rail Baltica agreement will allow trains to travel at 240 km/h

Saeima of the Republic of Latvia will soon ratify Rail Baltica agreement, which is expected to allow passenger trains to travel at a speed of 240 km/h instead of 120 km/h. Higher travel speed will also ensure cargoes from Tallinn reach Poland within two days.

Mamikins: Latvia is becoming a landfill for rich European countries

A very large fire took place at an illegal landfill in Jurmala this week. According to information from the State Environmental Protection service, the fire had engulfed 23 tonnes of waste, mainly plastic waste, says Latvian MEP Andrejs Mamikins.

Latvian businessmen use e-commerce opportunities for business development

With e-commerce volumes growing around the world, Latvian businessmen use it more and more often for business development, including exports of goods and services. As noted by DPD, the number of packages sent to foreign countries grew 22% last year.

Latvia wishes to change its state president’s election process

Reviewing proposals to change the state president’s election process, Saeima’s Legal Affairs Committee decided to submit proposals developed by the work group to different Saeima factions for review, as BNN was informed by Saeima’s press-service.

Coalition parties close to making final decision with tax reform; no more obstacles

Coalition parties no longer have any more differences of opinions in regards to tax reform principles. Parties are close to making the final decision, said Economy Minister Arvils Aseradens after the meeting with Finance Minister Dana Reizniece-Ozola.

Saeima plans to introduce personalized voter cards

For next year’s Saeima elections, voters who only have an ID card and no valid passport are planned to be provided with personalized voter cards.

Producer price level in industry up 0.4% in Latvia

Compared to April, the level of producer prices in Latvian industry grew by 0.4 % in May 2017. The prices of products sold on the domestic market increased by 0.3 %, whereas the prices of exported products grew by 0.5 %. The prices of products exported to euro area countries grew by 0.8 % and of products exported to non-euro area countries – by 0.4 %.

Opinion: local media in Daugavpils are corrupt

«Now that we constantly face new and more elaborate security risks, concerns tend to increase about the fight for people’s minds in the information space. This is why the bar for professional journalists should be held high. Baltic Centre for Media Excellence plays an important role in all this,» said chairman of Saeima’s Foreign Affairs Committee Ojars Eriks Kalnins after the meeting.

Life in Riga remains more expensive than life in Vilnius and Tallinn

Riga is recognized as 126th most expensive city in the world. Life in the Latvian capital is considerably more expensive than it is in Vilnius or Tallinn, according to a study published by *Mercer Human Resource Consulting.

Most universities in Estonia to cut number of new students this year

Three of the four universities working in Estonia have expressed plans to bring down the number of admissions in the coming academic year.

Foreign investors do not support amendments proposed for Financial Instruments Market

The Foreign Investors Council in Latvia does not support proposals for protection of rights of minority shareholders, which are include and proposed in amendments to the Law on the Financial Instruments Market.

Ligo celebration causes condom sales to go up in Latvia

Nearly 39% Latvian residents plan to spend around 21 to 40 euros on Ligo, according to results of a survey performed by Maxima. 22% of respondents plan to spend around 20 euros on the celebration. 22% of residents plan to spend 41 to 60 euros, and 17% - more than 61 euros.

Latvian government asked to compensate profits lost from rejecting Nord Stream 2

Considering the stance of the Latvian Republic in relation to Nord Stream 2 project, in which the Cabinet of Ministers decided not to permit the participation of Ventspils Freeport, Noord Natie Ventspils Terminal and Baltic Express have decided to ask the government to compensate lost profits. An official request has been submitted to the prime ministers.

Hospital: countryside residents with no easy access to a urologist are at risk

For the third consecutive year urologists from Riga Eastern Clinical University Hospital’s travel to Latvia’s far-away regions to provide men there with free health check-ups and consultations. This year urologists decided to visit Dobele, Cesis, Rezekne and Jekabpils.

Stoltenberg visits Iron Wolf exercises in Lithuania

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has visited Lithuania on Tuesday, June 20, to see international military drill Iron Wolf 2017 and has noted that the involved countries are protecting each other.

German Chancellor could support introducing eurozone budget for sensible purposes

Angela Merkel, the Chancellor of Germany, has stated that she could support the introduction of a separate eurozone budget and a position of an eurozone finance minister, in case of right circumstances and sensible aims.

Prosecutor decides to end criminal case against former KNAB officer Juris Jurass

In spite of the decision by Security Police to present charges, the prosecutor responsible for the case has decided to end the criminal process commenced against the now former official of Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau Juris Jurass for intentional disclosure of official secrets.

Latvia wants to introduce electronic working time tracking in construction

Saeima’s Budget and Finance Commission has expressed unanimous conceptual support for amendments to the Law on Taxes and Duties. These amendments provide for the introduction of electronic working time tracking system in construction, as BNN was informed by Saeima’s press-service.

Alleged bomber shot in Brussels central station

In the central station of Brussels, Belgium, soldiers have shot a man suspected he was to detonate explosives, local authorities have stated. The man was shot and later died after reportedly setting off a small explosion on Tuesday, June 20, and no-one else is believed to have been injured.

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