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Week in Lithuania. Lithuanian leaders embrace Donald Trump‘s victory, to use contacts with his entourage

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Lithuania’s Foreign Minister Linas Linkevičius

Lithuania has contacts with people in U.S. President-elect Donald Trump‘s entourage, Foreign Minister Linas Linkevičius said on Wednesday, November 9.

«We have to focus on what is important for us and what work we need to do, and we are ready to work with the new (US) administration in the same spirit that has been built up over decades…The long-standing traditional, strategic, strong bonds cannot fade away. We have reasons to say so, because we know the Republicans very well and we have a lot of friends among them. In fact, we have a number of contacts among those around Trump too,» he said.

Linkevičius underscored that it is too early to make predictions about Trump‘s foreign policy judging only from what he said during his presidential election campaign. In the minister‘s words, this will depend strongly on whom the new president selects for his team.

«We have no doubt that these will be people who are familiar to us and who will also shape, in a sense, the (foreign) policy. We will see who is appointed secretary of state, who becomes defense secretary and who becomes national security advisor. We will then be able to draw conclusions,» the ministersaid.

Meanwhile,President Dalia Grybauskaitė, following Trump‘s victory,emphasised that Lithuania respects the Americans‘ choice.

«We trust the United States, as it is our strongest and closest ally,»the head-of-state said  on Wednesday, November 9. «We will actively work with the new US administration on the bilateral level, under the US-Baltic Charter, in NATO and other international organizations. Strong trans-Atlantic ties between the United States and Europe is the best response to the geopolitical challenges,» she added.

Seimas speaker gives mark 7 to outgoing Seimas

Parliamentary speaker, Loreta Graužinienė, rates the outgoing Seimas at 7 out of 10 points for its performance.Graužinienė listed the introduction of direct mayoral elections, reintroduction of mandatory military conscription and the increasing of defense spending as key achievements of the outgoing parliament, which is holding its last sitting in the afternoon.

«I‘d single out the adoption of legislation on direct mayoral elections (…), as well as the entire national defense package, the reintroduction of conscription and other laws related to the security of our state and our people,» the speaker said.

Marriot hotel planned to replace Žalgiris stadium

A four-star hotel Courtyard by Marriot should be built in the territory of the former Žalgiris Stadium in central Vilnius in mid-2018. On Wednesday, November 9, real estate development company Hanner signed a franchise contract with Marriot International, the world’s largest hotel group.In case of successful project implementation of plans, this will be the first hotel of the chain in the Baltic States.

«After analyzing the market, we saw that four-star hotels were the most popular in Lithuania last year and, compared with hotels of higher class, welcomed 5-6 times more guests. Therefore, we decided that the trademark would best suit the local market,» Hanner board chairman Arvydas Avulis told a news conference.

Markus Lehnert, Marriott International‘s vice-president for the Europ ean region, said the deal with Hanner was finalized very fast.Construction of the 200-room hotel has already been started, with investment of 20 million euros planned in the project.

Border guards bust asylum seekers fleeing Latvia

Lithuanian border guards detained in early hours of Thursday, November 10, a group of Afghan citizens and a citizen of Pakistan who had applied for asylum in Latvia and later left the country.The group was captured aboard two automobiles driven by two Latvian citizens, the State Border Guard Service said. The group included six Afghan nationals and a citizen of Pakistan, including four minors.According to the press release, the asylum-seekers had fled the country without the right to do so, furthermore, the Afghan nationals had been busted in Lithuania before.Lithuanian border guards established that all seven foreigners had applied for asylum in Latvia, therefore, were not allowed to leave the country until their applications had been processed.It also turned out that the Afghans had been detained under similar circumstances in early September en route to Poland.

President sees judicial system as elite of law-enforcement

Lithuania‘s judicial system has to undergone major overhaul, and judges are the elite of the country‘s law-enforcement sector, President Dalia Grybauskaitė said, adding that judges were the most educated and the most dedicated to the state. «I want to celebrate you. You are the elite of our law-enforcement, the most educated and dedicated to the state, focused on the people and understanding people. This is the judicial system I see now,» said the president. Grybauskaitė recalled the «extensive resistance from the judicial system» during her first years of her term in office when she tried to prove that «drunk judges walking around corridors» was something very wrong.

Lithuania supports Poland for UN Security Council

Lithuania has expressed support to Poland running for the United Nations Security Council, Foreign Ministry said on Thursday after consultations between UN departments of both countries. the United Nations Security Council. During the meeting, Oskaras Jusys, director of the Lithuanian Foreign Ministry‘s Department for United Nations, International Organizations and Human Rights, voiced support to Poland‘s non-permanent membership in the United Nations Security Council for the 2018–2019 period, reads the press release.

Outgoing PM reiterates support for reform of labour relations

Reform of the social model is vital, Lithuania‘s Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevičius restated a few times at the final meeting of the 2012-2016 parliament on Thursday, November 10.

«The social model that has been prepared is an in-depth structural reform, which is an investment in the perspective of Lithuania’s economic and social well-being. I stick to my opinion – the reform is vital to attract investors and pave way for new jobs, which are not created by the administration but by successful businesses, to ensure faster rise of wages, to facilitate stronger social guarantees and eliminate social exclusion, to ensure better equality of income,» said the outgoing PM.

Income tax relief for those making under 1,000 euros

Saulius Skvernelis, candidate for Lithuania‘s new prime minister, says that no major tax reforms are planned for the nearest future, however, does not rule out revision of taxes linked with employment income, including the residents‘ income tax and social insurance fees.

«At the beginning, there is potential to balance and restructure the employee taxation system. Today we have the (state-run social insurer) Sodra fee, which includes the share of the employer and the employee, the residents‘ income tax and various additional taxes – I mean the mandatory health insurance, which is a total mess. We could introduce two taxes here, namely, the residents‘ income tax generated from other smaller taxes, and have a pension insurance tax instead of the Sodra tax – there would be different tariffs and some progression,» Skvernelis said.

EU auditor calls on Lithuania to live on own

With no major EU aid likely to be provided to Lithuania after 2020, the country should take efforts to ensure that the available European funds yield a return for the state, Rimantas Šadžius, a former finance minister and now a member of the European Court of Auditors (ECA), said.

In his words, EU aid money needs to be invested and generate a return. «We won‘t be receiving much EU money in Lithuania after 2020. The task is to accumulate the money that is coming now in financial instruments funds so as to use it many times,» the ECA member said.

Lithuania has secured 8.39 billion euros in support from the European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF) for the 2014-2020 period, including 4.6 billion euros in aid for less-developed regions.

EC cuts Lithuania‘s2016 GDP growth forecast

The European Commission has revised down its forecast of Lithuania‘s GDP growth this year to 2 percent, from 3.1 percent projected in May.Lithuania‘s economic growth should accelerate to 2.7 percent in 2017, down from an earlier forecast of 3.1 percent, and quicken further to 2.8 percent in 2018, the Commission said in its autumn forecast released on Wednesday, November 9.

Peasants hold responsibility for state governance

The Lithuanian Peasant and Green Union takes responsibility for state governance after forming the ruling coalition, President Dalia Grybauskaitė said on Wednesday, November 9, before proposing candidate for prime minister to the parliament next week.

«By choosing cooperation with the Social Democrats, the Lithuanian Peasant and Green Union takes the bulk of the burden of state governance,» Grybauskaitė said in a statement.«I will submit the candidate for prime minister to the parliament next week. I hope that we, in accordance with requirements of transparency and competences, will together and smoothly form a government, which will be capable of new quality of state governance,» she added.

Lithuanian Energy group to issue bonds

Lietuvos Energija (Lithuanian Energy), Lithuania‘s state-run energy holding company, intends a bond issue of nominal value of 50-100 million euros in mid-2017 linked with renewable energy projects it is working on. The group’s CEO Dalius Misiūnas says the new financial instrument will allow completing the projects without grants and furthermore employ people‘s savings.

«We are now putting together a plan for the bond issue. It is a new thing, we have not issued bonds until now and mainly lived on bank loans, however, now is a good time for the bond issue, given the company‘s rather fair history, the issue should be linked with investments in renewable energy, also possibly with our cogeneration power plant projects,» Misiūnas said.

In his words, the value of the first bond issue could be 50-100 million euros, with the money first of all spent on existing and projected windmill parks.The CEO  says the yields of the bonds could be similar to the interest of six-year green bonds issued by Latvia‘s Latvenergo earlier this year, which stood at about 2 percent.

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