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Week in Lithuania. Lithuania's unexpected vote on Jerusalem: against U.S. in solidarity with EU

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Lithuania on Thursday, December 21, unexpectedly voted in favour of a UN resolution rejecting Washington’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, thus defying American warnings and showing solidarity with the EU’s major powers.

The 193-member UN General Assembly adopted the resolution in a vote of 128 to nine with 35 abstentions.

President Dalia Grybauskaitė’s chief foreign policy adviser, Nerijus Aleksiejūnas, said in a comment forwarded by the president’s spokeswoman that «Lithuania has consistently held that the issue of Jerusalem can only be resolved through negotiations».

Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevičius has decided not to comment on the reasons for the vote.

Lithuania voted in solidarity with most EU member states, including Germany, France and Britain. Five EU countries – Latvia, Poland, the Czech Republic, Croatia and Romania – abstained.

Lithuania’s vote is not in line with its earlier practice of being one of Israel’s strongest diplomatic supporters in the EU, mostly due to the history of Lithuanian Jews and Vilnius’ efforts to win favour with the United States.

MPs back decision to initiate EU-level discussions on time

The parliamentarians on Thursday, December 21, endorsed the decision taken by the government earlier this week, suggesting that Lithuania should be free to decide on the twice-yearly clock shift. The parliament’s resolution on application of the so-called daylight -saving time (DST) was supported by 76 of Lithuania’s 141 parliamentarians, while seven were against and seven abstained.

With the resolution, the MPs advised the government to open consultations with the European Commission on the possibility to revise the provisions of the directive 2000/84/EB to allow every member-state of the European Union to decide on the application of the daylight-saving time in its territory based on analyses of the impact of the time shift.

On Wednesday, December 20, the Lithuanian Cabinet announced that it was initiating EU-level discussions on the summer time directive.

Russian Kaspersky Lab software poses threat to Lithuania’s security

Russia-based Kaspersky Lab’s software products pose a potential threat to Lithuania’s national security, the country’s government has stated. The Cabinet formulated this position during its meeting on Wednesday, December 20.

Specialists of the National Cyber Security Centre will provide consultations and other assistance to institutions in replacement of the software, said Rytis Rainys, deputy director of the Cyber Security and Telecommunications Service. In light of the government’s decision, Lithuania will replace the legal acts regulating public procurement in the field of defence and security.

Banks need to raise 50-60 mn euro to meet buffer requirement

Lithuanian commercial banks will need to raise an estimated 50 million to 60 million euros to meet a 0.5-percent capital buffer requirement imposed by the central bank as the property market is heating up, the president of the Lithuanian Banks Association (LBA) said on Thursday, December 21. According to Mantas Zalatorius, the LBA head, the counter-cyclical capital buffer of around 50-60 million euros is not a stressful amount for a bank.

Lithuania receives another 16 Syrian refugees

Lithuania on Tuesday, December 19, relocated another 16 Syrian refugees under the European Union (EU) program, the Migration Department said. Three migrant families arrived in Lithuania from refugee camps in Turkey. Over two years ago, Lithuania committed itself to receiving 1,105 refugees from countries, such as Syria, Iraq and Eritrea. Although the country has received 447 persons by now, many of them already left for wealthier western European states.

Lithuania to try to recover record anti-trust fine from Gazprom abroad

Lithuania will turn to some foreign countries in an effort to recover the amount of a record-high anti-trust fine of around 42 million euros, including interest, from Russia’s gas giant Gazprom. The Lithuanian government decided on Wednesday, December 20, turn to some foreign countries and evaluate the assets Gazprom holds there, Energy Minister Žygimantas Vaičiūnas said.

The Competition Council slapped Gazprom with a 35.651-million-euro fine, the largest anti-trust fine ever in the country, in October 2014. The competition authority stated in June 2014 that Gazprom’s refusal to negotiate with Lietuvos Energijos Gamyba (Lithuanian Energy Production), formerly known as Lietuvos Energija (Lithuanian Energy), on a natural gas exchange deal in 2013-2015 prevented the Lithuanian company from purchasing cheaper gas from another supplier.

Paksas, Vainauskas, Zabulis deny influence peddling charges

MEP Rolandas Paksas, Lietuvos Rytas media group CEO Gedvydas Vainauskas and businessman Antanas Zabulis plead not guilty on charges of influence peddling but will provide testimony to court. Vainauskas told journalists he had been doing investigative journalism and does not agree with the charges, adding he wanted to know Paksas’ response about the situation. In his words, an article would have appeared, had the law-enforcement not interfered.

Prosecutors suspect that Paksas, as the-then leader of the Order and Justice party, agreed to accept a 15,000-euro bribe from Vainauskas in late August of 2015 and pledged to use his public status, circle of acquaintances and other supposed influence upon state institutions and officials to influence them.

According to information from the Special Investigation Service (STT), there has been no evidence of the money reaching Paksas. However, a deal and a pledge are enough to qualify the criminal deed under the Penal Code, STT said.

Fence on Lithuania-Kaliningrad border completed

A security fence along the Lithuanian border with the Russian Kaliningrad region was completed on Wednesday, December 20, after over six months of construction. The fence was built in stretches of the Lithuania-Russia state border that runs on dry land, with the exception of a few stretches next to small rivers.

The total length of the fence is over 40 km. Border guards have already installed technical surveillance systems along the 109-kilometer-long river section of the border with Russia.The aim of the fence is to curb smuggling and keep illegal migrants out of the country.

LG to electrify Vilnius–Klaipeda route

Lietuvos Geležinkeliai (Lithuanian Railways, LG), the state-run railway company, intends to electrify the route from Vilnius to Klaipeda within four years. The company’s CEO Mantas Bartuška said the work could cost 250-300 million euros, which is considerably less than planned before.

In his words, a contractor competition should be called shortly, with the work to be completed in 2021 -2022. Electrification of other stretches will be considered in the future, said Bartuška. The company currently owns about 10 electric passenger locomotives, planning to purchase electric freight locomotives it currently doesn’t have.

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