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Week in Lithuania. Lithuanian Foreign Minister: Baltic countries fulfil their obligations to NATO

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Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RUFollowing the controversial US’s Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s remarks on the defence of the Baltics, Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevičius issued a statement that the Baltic countries are meeting their obligations to NATO and views Donald Trump’s remarks that he would not automatically defend the NATO allies if Russia attacked them as election rhetoric.

The Republican presidential candidate has told The New York Times that he would decide whether to protect the Baltic countries against Russian aggression based on whether the nations «have fulfilled their obligations to us.»

«The Baltic countries give no grounds to doubt the fulfillment of their obligations to the Alliance. Likewise, we have no reason to doubt that our allies will meet their obligations to the Alliance, » Linkevičius told Žinių Radijas Thursday, July 21.

He noted that Lithuania has been increasing its defense spending at a rapid rate.

«The election campaign is a period based on which it is difficult to judge and draw conclusions, or even to comment on something. And when it is a country with a long tradition (like the US is), its policy is predictable and, therefore, I would definitely not expect any radical turns, any radical changes, » the minister said.

Firm to do study for 2nd interconnection of LitPol Link searched

In preparation for synchronization of the electricity networks of the Baltic States and continental Europe, Lithuania’s electricity transmission system operator Litgrid has announced a tender for a study of the second interconnection with Poland, LitPol Link. The link is projected to stretch from a new substation in Marijampolė to the Lithuanian-Polish border. A separate study in Poland will be conducted by the Polish transmission system operator, PSE. The feasibility study carried out by Sweden’s consultancy Gothia Power in 2013 had identified the second link between Lithuania and Poland as one of the preconditions for synchronization. The first 500-megawatt LitPol Link interconnection was launched in early 2016. The second interconnection is reported to be of the same capacity.

Lithuania bans entry to 30 per cent more foreigners

The number of foreigners who were refused entry in Lithuania grew considerably in the first half of 2016, as compared with the same period last year, the Migration Department said in an overview of the main migration figures of the January-June period. According to the press release, 2,091 foreigners were banned from entering the country in the first six months of this year, which indicates an increase by 36 percent year-on-year.

«Increasingly many people aim to enter Lithuania from Russia and Belarus – the main flows (of those who have been banned) come from these countries. They are simply persons who do not have visas to enter Lithuania or permits, as well as those who cannot validate their presence in Lithuania or clearly specify reasons why they want to come. Some of them are people who are not allowed to enter for security reasons,» Interior Minister Tomas Žilinskas said.

The Migration Department said there had been no impact from the record-high number of asylum seekers entering the European Union (EU) last year – the number of asylum applications in Lithuania remains virtually unchanged (113 applications in the first half of 2016, up by merely 0.9 percent from the same period last year).

Ukraine’s ex-minister joins Lithuanian Conservatives

Aivaras Abromavičius, a former Ukrainian economics minister, has agreed to join the government team of the Homeland Union–Lithuanian Christian Democrats (TS-LKD) if the conservative party wins enough seats in the Seimas in next October’s general elections to form the Cabinet.

«Aivaras Abromavičius’ successful and globally-appreciated experience in reforming the Ukrainian economy under conditions of crisis and war is especially valuable. Therefore, we are glad that Abromavičius has agreed to use it not only in Ukraine, but also in Lithuania as a member of TS-LKD’s future-to-be government team,» Gabrielius Landsbergis, the party’s leader, said in a press release.

Landsbergis said that they have not yet discussed what post Abromavičius could be given.

Lithuania to send military instructors to Iraq

Lithuania is planning to contribute the first group of six military instructors to the US-led international operation Inherent Resolve in Iraq in early 2017, the National Defense Ministry said. The Lithuanian troops will train Iraqi security forces to fight the Islamic State group as part of the Danish contingent. National Defense Minister Juozas Olekas and his Danish counterpart, Peter Christensen, have agreed on the planned joint participation in the US-led operation in Iraq, the ministry said Olekas presented Lithuania’s plans at a meeting of defense and foreign ministers of the Global Coalition to Counter-ISIL in Washington. Latvia and Estonia have already sent their military instructors to Iraq.

Prosecutor has questions to other MPs

The prosecutor is charge of a political corruption case involving Labor Party MP Vytautas Gapšys plans to ask other members of the Lithuanian parliament to answer certain questions «in the near future”.

«The Prosecutor General’s Office does have questions that members of the current Seimas could provide answers to and I think we will try to ask them to answer these questions in the near future,» Justas Laucius told reporters after Wednesday’s meeting of a special commission set up by the Seimas to look into the prosecutor’s request to strip Gapšys of his parliamentary immunity. He declined to name the MPs or their political parties.

Gapšys said that the prosecutor did not provide any evidence to prove that he had promised to secure votes in favor of certain decisions in exchange for money and that the Seimas commission would ask both the prosecutors and the Labor Party to provide additional information. The commission has until Sept. 15 to make its recommendation to the Seimas as to whether or not to strip Gapšys of his immunity. The prosecutors say that they suspect that Gapšys accepted a 25,000-euro bribe for himself and other persons in exchange for adopting two political decisions that were favorable and financially beneficial to MG Baltic.

Vilnius discusses airport area development project

Vilnius is considering providing 150,000 euros for Vilnius Airport City, a project to develop around 150 hectares of land next to Vilnius Airport in an effort to attract international services, science and research centers, hotels and production and logistics companies to the area. The City Council agreed on Wednesday, July 20, to discuss a cooperation agreement with Vilnius Airport, with a final decision to be made later. «The aim of the project is to create the conditions for international services and business centers, logistic and production companies, hotels, science and research centers to open on the land adjacent to the airport,» Vilnius Deputy Mayor Linas Kvederavičius said.

Government nods to Vilnius CHP plant construction

The Lithuanian government decided on Wednesday, July 20, to ignore Vilnius’ local authority and start drawing up a detailed territorial plan that is necessary for the state energy group Lietuvos Energija (Lithuanian Energy) to launch the construction of a new biomass and waste-fired cogeneration plant in the capital city. According to the government, Lietuvos Energija back in December 2015 asked Vilnius’ local authority to adjust the city’s general plan or grant an exception to allow the implementation of the project, which has the status of a project of national importance. However, the City Council of Vilnius did not take the decision as it wanted Lietuvos Energija to purchase Vilnius’ closed Combined Heat and Power Plant No. 3 from Vilniaus Energija (Vilnius Energy), a local subsidiary of France’s Veolia.

Lietuvos Energija is developing the 345-million-euro Vilnius CHP plant project on its own, but it does not rule out bringing in a partner at a later stage. Around 50 percent of the project cost will be financed through a loan from the European Investment Bank (EIB).

A consortium led by Germany’s Steinmueller Babcock Environment, which also includes Poland’s construction group Budimex and Lithuania’s Kauno Dujotieko Statyba, will construct the plant’s waste-fired unit under a 178.29-million-euro contract and Poland’s Rafako will build its biomass unit a 149.65-million-euro contract.

President: Lithuanians couldn’t get hold of diplomats

Lithuanian citizens could hardly get a hold of the country’s consuls working in the embassy during the disturbances in Turkey last week, President Dalia Grybauskaitė says. «Consular actions should be adequate to a specific situation, this involves more efficient response to calls and questions from our citizens. One of the examples is the attempted coup in Turkey – getting a hold of our diplomatic mission was a difficult to do», Grybauskaitė told journalists after the annual meeting with the country’s ambassadors in Vilnius on Wednesday, July 20. More than 2,000 Lithuanian citizens were in Turkey during the attempted coup. During the developments, Lithuania’s Ambassador to Turkey Audrius Bruzga was in Lithuania. He had returned to Vilnius to attend the annual ambassadorial meeting.

Kaunas mayor undergoes heart surgery

Kaunas Mayor Visvaldas Matijošaitis underwent a successful cardiovascular surgery at a clinic of Lithuania’s second-largest city Kaunas on Tuesday, July 19. The 4.5-hour surgery was conducted by a team headed by Rimantas Benetis, the chief of the Cardiology Clinic, the clinic said. Matijošaitis, 59, was in and out of hospital for the past month after being admitted to hospital with high pressure in early June.

Furniture maker freezes investment after Brexit vote

A Lithuanian furniture maker has been forced to freeze plans of investment after the United Kingdom, its biggest export market, voted to leave the European Union. Ukmergės Baldai, based in Ukmergė, north Lithuania, sends over 80 per cent of its production to the UK, where it is sold at Next stores, vz.lt reports.

Initiative to ban electricity from Belarus to go to Seimas

The Lithuanian parliament will discuss a citizens’ legislative initiative to bar market access for electricity from a nuclear power plant under construction in Belarus, just 50 kilometres from Vilnius. The campaign, headed by the conservative Homeland Union-Lithuanian Christian Democrats, has collected enough signatures (the required number is 50,000), forcing the Seimas, Lithuanian parliament, consider the bill. Laura Matjošaitytė, deputy chairwoman of the Central Electoral Commission, has confirmed that the petition has enough signatures.

Croatia to contribute troops to multinational battalion

Croatia will send soldiers to a German-led multinational battalion that will be deployed to Lithuania next year, the country’s president said in Vilnius on Thursday, July 21. «We have decided to send a group of soldiers who would cooperate with the Germans and could be deployed here in Lithuania,» Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic said in a joint conference with her Lithuanian counterpart, Dalia Grybauskaitė. The Benelux countries, Norway and France are also expected to contribute troops to the 1,000-strong battalion in Lithuania, which will be headed by Germany.

Government draws up a plan for curbing emigration

Lithuania’s cabinet of ministers has endorsed a plan to address massive emigration which has been a drain on the country’s population and labour force. The plan, discussed by cabinet ministers on Wednesday, July 20, encompasses the period until 2023 and aims at removing social, economic and other push factors encouraging Lithuanians to leave, mostly for richer European Union countries where they can live and work without restriction. Among other things, the plan envisages raising people’s income to the level where it can ensure a decent standard of living for employees and their families. The government’s plan also proposes raising the minimum wage and making sure that only unskilled workers are paid the minimum. Government institutions would have to present quarterly reports about their progress implementing the plan. Last year, Lithuania experienced the biggest population contraction among EU member states. Lithuania’s population continues to decline, and it reached 2,921,920 at the end of last year, according to Statistics Lithuania. Emigration has increased, with 36,600 leaving in 2014 and 44,500 leaving in 2015. Reimigration has fallen from 19,500 in 2014 to 18,400 in 2015. Immigration fell from 4,800 in 2014 to 3,700 in 2015.


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