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Week in Lithuania. Lithuanian parties agree on Belarusian electricity embargo

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Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RULithuania‘s political parties have drawn up agreement  on boycotting electricity from the Astravyets nuclear power plant under construction in Belarus close to the Lithuanian border. The initiative was presented to representatives of political parties by Social Democratic Foreign Minister Linas Linkevičius on Thursday, January 26. Opposition politicians have pledged to join, at the same time emphasizing that the agreement will not be of much benefit without support of neighbouring states.

Another Social Democrat, MP Gediminas Kirkilas, says the initiative had not yet been discussed in the party but said with certainty it would be approved. The ruling Lithuanian Peasant and Green Union also supported the initiative, which, it said was in line with the party’s program.

Before the October 2016 elections, the opposition conservative Homeland Union – Lithuanian Christian Democrats collected signatures of 65,000 citizens in support of a bill that would ban sales of Astravyets electricity in Lithuania and bar the nuclear facility from using the Lithuanian energy system. The bill is currently discussed in parliamentary committees.

The conservatives’ leader Gabrielius Landsbergis says the party would back the agreement of political parties. In his words, the government is acting late.

Lithuanian politicians representing both ruling and opposition political groups say that the Astravyets utility under construction some 50 km from Lithuania‘s capital Vilnius falls short of security standards. Former energy minister, incumbent Transport and Communications Minister Rokas Masiulis also proposed that a position on Astravyets should be approved by all political parties.

Lithuania has expressed unease over Belarus‘ rhetoric after experts from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said last week that the neighbouring country had taken proper account of hazards to the Astravyets nuclear power plant construction site, Foreign Minister Linas Linkevičius said on Thursday, January 26,

Extraordinary session on children‘s rights protection slated

The Seimas will next month hold an extraordinary session to pass a framework law on children‘s rights protection, Rima Baškienė, the deputy speaker of the Lithuanian parliament, said, The decision comes after a four-year-old boy was severely beaten and died in hospital on Friday, January 27, morning. Lawmakers have already started to collect signatures for an extraordinary session, but a simpler way would be for the Seimas Board to convene it, the deputy speaker said. According to the deputy speaker, the parliament would debate a whole package of amendments drafted by the Social Security and Labour Ministry during the extraordinary session, which is tentatively planned for February 14..

FCIS busts National Paying Agency

Lithuania‘s Financial Crime Investigation Service (FCIS) has conducted searches at the National Paying Agency (NPA), which is in charge of allocating EU funds. FCIS spokeswoman Ruta Andriuškaitė confirmed that searches had been carried out, but declined to give any more details. The Lrytas.lt news website reported that the NPA offices had been searched on Wednesday, January 25, and that Erikas Berontas, the agency‘s head, had been assigned the status of a special witness.

Lithuania to raise salaries for soldiers

Lithuania’s Defence Ministry has suggested to raise salaries for troops by 5 per cent in October and by further 10 per cent in mid-2018, according to figures envisaged in the draft governmental resolution. Some 17 million euros are envisaged for the purpose in the Defence Ministry‘s budget.

If the government approves, monthly salary of private soldier would grow from the current 526 euros to 605 euros after taxes within 18 months, while that of a sergeant would rise from 684 euros to 784 euros and captain from 972 euros to 1,111 euros. Defence Minister Raimundas Karoblis said that coefficients of salaries of professional troops were last raised back in 2006, adding that the increase of salaries is crucial.

Culture minister backs idea of Vilnius Museum

Culture Minister Liana Ruokytė-Jonsson has expressed support to the idea of establishing a Vilnius Museum in the country‘s capital. In her words, the museum should be founded by the Vilnius municipality, and the Culture Ministry is ready to contribute in the shape of expert assistance and consultations, the ministry said.

The idea has also been presented to Vilnius Mayor Remigijus Šimašius.

EC big-shot: doctors should start in regions first

European Commissioner Vytenis Povilas Andriukaitis of Lithuania in charge of health care and food safety agrees that doctors who receive degrees for money provided by the state should be put under the obligation of working it off in regions.

«I am convinced that the contracts should be provided to all applicants from the first year in university that if you study (…) for the money of all tax-payers, the tax-payers have the right to know that doctors are also needed in Rokiškis, Radviliškis and Vištytis,» the EC member told Vilnius journalists on Thursday, January 26.

The proposal to solve the problem of lack of specialists in regions by way of designations after graduation was proposed by the Association of Municipalities. The idea of contracts for medical student was earlier proposed by Andriukaitis during his service as Lithuania’s health minister in 2012-2014.

Lithuanian to treat rare diseases in EU

Lithuanians who have mandatory health insurance will be able to undergo treatment of extremely rare diseases in other countries of the European Union (EU) that have the necessary specialists, visiting members of the European Commission said in Vilnius on Thursday, January 26. In their words, the European Commission has established a European network of reference centres for the purpose, aimed at treatment of especially rare diseases and complicated conditions. Under the model, hospitals across the EU will receive patients in 937 areas. Lithuania will have 12 of the areas, with eight of them coordinated by the Vilnius University‘s Santariškės Clinic and the remaining four by the Kaunas Clinic. The new model will step into force on March 9, European Commissioner Vytenis Povilas Andriukaitis in charge of health and food safety said.

Truck with goods stolen busted

Officers of the organized crime investigation agency of Klaipėda, Lithuania, have detained expensive items stolen in Denmark. The Klaipėda county central police commissariat said that a truck owned by Telšiai-registered company was busted in early hours of Thursday, January 26. A check revealed 397 boxes with electric circular saws and boxes with various clothing. The items were detained on a tip-off that the expensive goods were stolen or acquired illegally abroad. The approximate value of the shipment is 200,000 euros.

International Holocaust Remembrance Day

Events marking the International Holocaust Remembrance Day on January 27 started in Lithuania on Thursday, January 26.The program includes a candle-lighting ceremony and the chanting of the El Malei Rachamim prayer at the Choral Synagogue of Vilnius, as well as a discussion about the history of Jews in Lithuania, Poland and Russia. The Vilna Gaon State Jewish Museum opened exhibition «Slawik and Antall. A Pole and a Hungarian — the Great Righteous. Heroes of Three Nations: Poles, Hungarians, Jews» and the documentary «Life on the Edge. Henryk Slawik – Jozsef Antall Senior», with Grzegorz Lubczyk, the director in attendance, was shown.

US President Trump‘s ally may come to Lithuania

Rudy Giuliani, a former New York City mayor and a political ally of US President Donald Trump, may come to Lithuania in the spring, Foreign Minister Linas Linkevičius said on Thursday, January 26. He revealed that Giuliani and he had discussed a possible visit in a telephone conversation, adding that the visit would focus on cyber and energy security. Trump announced earlier this month that Giuliani would advise his administration on cybersecurity issues. The 72-year-old former New York mayor had earlier been mentioned as a contender for secretary of state.

Lithuanian MEP picked to head EP Committee

Vilija Blinkevičiūtė of Lithuania‘s Social Democratic Party was on Wednesday elected as chairperson of the European Parliament’s (EP) Women‘s Rights and Gender Equality Committee. This is the first time a Lithuanian is elected to head an EP committee. The MEP was first elected to the European Parliament in 2009 and reelected in 2014. Since 2014, she was deputy chairperson of the Women’s Rights and Gender Equality Committee, the EP Information Bureau in Lithuania said.

Speaker car crash in Vilnius

Parliament Speaker Viktoras Pranckietis got into a minor accident in central Vilnius on Wednesday, January 25, but escaped uninjured.

«After appearing on Žinių Radijas, the Seimas speaker was being escorted on Pamėnkalnio Street from Vasario 16-osios Street when a taxi crashed into our car,» his adviser Dalia Vencevičienė , who was also aboard the parliamentary speaker‘s BMW at the time of the accident, explained. Nobody involved in the crash was injured. In the advisor‘s words, the officer driving the parliamentary speaker‘s vehicle spotted the speeding taxi in time and managed to slow down. The incident was reported at about 8:30 a.m. After the crash, Pranckietis boarded the car of the VIP Protection Department that accompanies the parliamentary speaker’s automobile at all times.

Leadership of NATO battalion under establishment arrives

Leadership of the international NATO battalion to be established in Lithuania has arrived in Vilnius from Germany this week. The German warship with the first group of soldiers landed at the Vilnius airport on Tuesday, January 24, evening, carrying about a dozen of officers including commanders of the battalion.

The German-led battalion will include a total of about 1,200 troops. In addition to Germans and Belgians, it will in the long run include troops from Norway, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Croatia and France. The battalion will be stationed in Rukla.

Election watchdog revokes MP’s mandate

Lithuania’s Central Electoral Commission has revoked the MP mandate of Greta Kildišienė of the ruling Peasant and Green Union. The decision was taken unanimously on Tuesday, January 24, with her powers to be terminated as of Thursday, January 26. Kildišienė gave up her mandate last week after it turned out she had concealed from her party fellows the investigation opened a decade ago about theft suspicions. The probe was then discontinued after compensation of damages. After the MP‘s resignation, election for the vacant mandate will take place in single-member district of Anykščiai-Panevėžys. The Central Electoral Commission has suggested holding them together with mayoral elections in Jonava and Šakiai on April 23.

Kildišienė came under public scrutiny last week over to a car leasing agreement between her mother and Agrokoncernas, a company owned by Karbauskis. The public unease was later fuelled by questions regarding her education and the decade-old investigation of stealing suspicions.

Flu epidemic declared in eight municipalities

With flu and acute upper respiratory tract infection (URTI) cases across Lithuania having reached an epidemic level, a flu epidemic has been declared in eight municipalities. According to data from the Center for Communicable Diseases and AIDS, the local authorities of the city of Kaunas and the districts of Jonava and Varėna declared a flu epidemic last week, followed by the districts of Prienai, Švenčionys and Zarasai on Monday and by the city of Panevėžys and the district of Kėdainiai on Tuesday, January 24. Lithuania‘s overall flu and URTI incidence rate last week reached 123.5 per 10,000 population, up from 79.2 in the same period last year.

President sees medicines prices reduction as test

President Dalia Grybauskaitė thinks that problems regarding government-subsidized medicines have been  ignored until now and that this issue will be a test of confidence for the country‘s new Health Minister Aurelijus Veryga. Daiva Ulbinaitė, the president’s spokeswoman, said this to reporters after Grybauskaitė met with the minister and representatives of supervisory authorities. According to the spokeswoman, the Health Ministry has until now «maliciously ignored» this problem and there has been «an unjustified inaction». Reducing medicines prices and increasing the transparency of the system will be a test of confidence for the new minister, she believes.

Seimas to draft separate law on MPs‘ duties and perks

The Seimas will work out a separate law to set out the duties, rights and guarantees of the activities of members of the Lithuanian parliament. A working group appointed by the Seimas board has until April 30 to draft the bill. The Constitutional Court ruled back in 2004 that the duties, rights and guarantees of the activities of a member of the Seimas were to be established by law. According to the ruling, the duration of lawmakers’ paid annual leave should be set by law and that periods between the sessions should not be treated as rest periods.


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