Lithuania wants more information about a reported incident on Belarus’ Astravyets nuclear power plant (NPP) site that confirms its worries that the construction fails to comply with the international rules, Energy Minister Rokas Masiulis said on Thursday, May 5.
The site is only 45 kilometers from Lithuanian capital Vilnius.
«Information from Belarus is scarce. As far as we know from the media, some concrete structure collapsed. We will look into the situation and will seek more information,» Lithuanian Energy minister Rokas Masiulis said.
He emphasized that Lithuania might restrict market access for electricity from Belarus if it fails to comply with the international rules.
Lithuania has summoned this week Belarus’ ambassador to Lithuania and handed him a diplomatic note over a reported incident on the Belarus NPP construction site, just 50 kilometers from Vilnius, Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius said on Thursday, May 5.
According to the minister, Lithuania has not yet received any explanations from the Belarusian side.
Linkevičius confirmed that Lithuania had no information as to what had really happened on the Astravyets site.
Lithuanian President in Jordan
President Dalia Grybauskaitė met last Wednesday with King Abdullah II of Jordan to discuss global security issues facing the European Union and the Middle East region, the situation in Syria, measures to tackle the massive migration crisis, as well as bilateral relations between Lithuania and Jordan.
Jordan is a reliable partner of the EU and NATO in the Middle East, but suffers from the severe consequences of the conflict in Syria, is faced with a huge migration flow and takes an active role in the anti-ISIS coalition.
«Lithuania understands Jordan very well. We live in a difficult neighborhood and see aggression and people dying close to our borders. Jordan, just like the whole EU, faces increasing radicalism and the threat of terrorism. Therefore, the security of our states and our people is the highest priority of Lithuania and Jordan,» the President said.
Baltics’ biggest gas guzzler Achema eyes long-term supply contract
Lithuania’s fertilizer manufacturer Achema, the country’s single largest natural gas consumer, is looking to sign a long-term gas supply contract that would provide more stability and make it easier to plan operations, according to the company’s CEO Ramūnas Miliauskas.
Achema now purchases gas from two suppliers, Gazprom and Statoil. The CEO says the company is negotiating with seven liquefied natural gas (LNG) suppliers on purchases starting in 2017 and is also holding talks with Gazprom. Achema does not have any long-term gas supply contract after its 10-year contract with Gazprom expired in late 2015.
Lithuania’s jobless rate edges down to 8.3 percent
Lithuania’s joblessness rate stood at 8.3 percent in early May, down by 0.6 percentage points from a month ago, figures from the country’s Labor Exchange showed on Thursday, May 5.
There were 150,400 registered unemployed persons in the country on May 1, down by 10,400 compared with early April. Unemployment among young people, aged up to 29 years, edged down by 0.5 percentage points over the month to 5.1 percent.
New route between Kaunas and Białystok
Trains on a new railway route will start transporting passengers from Kaunas in Lithuania to Białystok in Poland this June. After lengthy negotiations and technical arrangements, Lietuvos Geležinkeliai (Lithuanian Railways PLLC) and Polish company Przewozy Regionalne sent a train on the first pilot trip from Białystok to Kaunas on Thursday, May 5.
The negotiations on opening the route were started in March 2015. Regular service will begin on June 17 and modern Polish trains will carry passengers from Kaunas to Białystok.
Lithuanian PM proposes VAT cuts on meat
Lithuanian Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevičius has agreed with the finance minister and his party to propose value added tax (VAT) cuts for chilled and fresh meat. The proposal would have VAT rates cut from 21 percent to either 9 percent or 5 percent. According to Butkevičius’ spokeswoman, the proposal will be submitted to the government and the Seimas shortly and a reduced VAT rate, if approved, would be introduced in October.
If Lithuania reduces the VAT rate on chilled and fresh meat, as proposed by the ruling Social Democrats, it will be important to monitor meat and meat product prices to ensure that they become cheaper for shoppers, Gitanas Nausėda, a well-known Lithuanian economist said on Friday, May 6. According to him, «a good will memorandum» signed by retailers could help ensure such control.
Lithuanian president in Vatican
Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaitė attended last Friday, May 6, the International Charlemagne Prize award ceremony for Pope Francis in the Vatican. This year’s Charlemagne Prize, also known as «Oscar in Politics», has been awarded to the Holy Father for his moral authority in defending the fundamental values of the EU, which are peace, freedom, human rights, and democracy.
According to the communiqué on the International Charlemagne Prize award, the Pope sends a message of mercy and tolerance and underlines the need for European unity and solidarity. In 2013, the award was presented to Grybauskaitė for her contribution to the unity and economic stability of the whole of Europe and her strong leadership in tackling the difficult financial crisis.
Julian Assange to speak at LOGIN 2016 in Vilnius
Controversial WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange will speak at the largest technology and innovation festival in the Baltic countries, Login 2016 in Vilnius, through a video call this weekend. Julian Assange. The festival features more than 140 speakers and 5,000 participants from Lithuania and abroad. The event includes a vast variety of subjects – from changes on the internet, social media, mobile, media, politics and science to the discussion on games, startups or digital work topics.
Budbergytė’s term of office at European Court of Auditors ends
Rasa Budbergytė, named by Lithuanian Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevičius as a candidate for the post of finance minister, ends her term of office last Friday, May 6, as a member of the European Court of Auditors (ECA).
Budbergytė, a member of the Lithuanian Social Democratic Party (LSDP), will stay at the ECA until the European Parliament approves Rimantas Šadžius, the current finance minister, as Lithuania’s member of the ECA. Butkevičius said in March that Budbergytė would take over as finance minister from Šadžius if he was approved for the ECA post.
Klaipėdos Nafta sees Jan-Apr revenue go up 10 percent
Lithuania’s oil product and liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals operator Klaipedos Nafta (Klaipeda Oil) said on Friday, May 6, that its total revenue for January through April rose by 9.9 percent year-on-year to reach 39.82 million euros. The oil product terminal’s revenue for the four months increased by 6.5 percent year-on-year to 14.8 million euro and the LNG terminal’s revenue went up by 11.6 percent to 24.1 million euros.
Oil product loadings at the terminal grew by 42.5 percent in January through April year-on-year to 2.839 million tons and the LNG terminal’s regasification volumes surged by 250 percent to 6.478 million megawatt-hours (MWh) of gas.
Belarusian drones penetrate Lithuanian territory
Lithuanian border guards have spotted an increasing number of drones flying from Belarus into Lithuania’s airspace. «We can see that the number of drones is increasing, especially from the Belarusian side. There have been cases of drones flying deeper inland,» Gen. Renatas Požėla, commander of the Lithuanian State Border Guard Service, told 15min.lt.
According to Požela, the largest number of cases has been registered in the eastern part of Lithuania that borders on Belarus’ Astravyets district, where a nuclear power plant is being built.
Lithuania won’t attend May 9 military parade
No diplomatic representative from Lithuania will attend this year’s May 9 Victory Day military parade in Moscow, Foreign Minister Linas Linkevičius told last Wednesday, May 4.
«I can say that our representatives will definitely not take part in military parades held by the Russian Federation,» the minister told. «At a time when Russia’s military aggression against Ukraine continues, we do not think that participation in military parades is the appropriate way to show respect, even if it is to war veterans,» he added.
Doubts over Libeskind’s building on Vilnius riverbank
After the US architect Daniel Libeskind won the contract to design a business centre on the Neris riverbank in central Vilnius, in addition to heated criticism the design drew from local architects, it could turn out to be too expensive to build. The project, named K18B, on Konstitucijos Avenue is developed by Lords LB Asset Management which says the budget for the endeavour is 40 million euro, Marius Žemaitis, the fund manager at Lords LB Asset Management, told vz.lt.
Big fall in support for leading parties
Lithuania’s Social Democrats continue to fall in opinion polls, but the biggest loser over the last month is the conservative Homeland Union. The Social Democrats remain the most popular party, although it is on a continuing downward trend, according to a poll conducted by Spinter Tyrimai on April 19-25. In April’s poll, 17.2 percent of respondents said they would vote for the party, 1.6 points fewer than the month before.
The conservative Homeland Union – Lithuanian Christian Democrats have suffered the biggest slump in popularity dropping 3 percentage points. Only 7.5 percent of those polled supported the Conservatives in April, down from 10.6 percent in March.
New Roma integration project in Vilnius
Vilnius municipality is to launch a new 1 million euro Roma integration project that it said would challenge the negative perceptions of the ethnic group in Lithuania and would help Roma to integrate with Lithuanian society in a way that was tailored to their needs.
Lithuania’s Deputy Mayor Gintautas Paluckas said he believed Vilnius municipality’s previous administration was responsible for the Roma’s current lack of integration. He feels they were excluded from the development of the previous administration’s integration project, and that it stuck to outdated perceptions concerning the traditional Roma way of living.
New rotation of US troops commences service in Lithuania
The 260-strong 10th shift has been deployed to a Lithuanian military battalion in Rukla, in the central part of the country, for training until late June. The United States has been maintaining a rotating presence of its ground forces in Lithuania and other Baltic countries since the spring of 2014 in response to Russia’s actions in Ukraine.
Lithuanian MPs fail to outlaw gender-based harassment
Members of the Lithuanian parliament have rejected a bill outlawing gender-based harassment, as required by the European Union. The Seimas on Tuesday, May 3, rejected the proposed amendments to the Law on Equal Opportunities for Women and Men by a vote of 34 to five with 34 abstentions and sent the draft back for improvement.
The government has been trying to put a provision that prohibits not only sexual harassment, but also harassment based on gender in the workplace back into the law. Such a ban was in place until 2014. According to the government, Lithuania has until May 21, 2016, to transpose the EU’s standards into national legislation.