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Week in Lithuania. Lithuanian PM, Conservative leader hold unannounced meeting

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Chairman of the Lithuanian Homeland Union party Gabrielius Landsbergis

Lithuania’s PM Saulius Skvernelis and the leader of the opposition conservatives, Gabrielius Landsbergis, held an unannounced meeting at the government on Wednesday, February 22. The prime minister’s spokesman and Landsbergis both refused to elaborate on the meeting.

Furthermore, neither of them specified who had initiated the meeting. Spotted at the government, Landsbergis told media corps he could not remember who exactly had initiated the meeting, emphasizing it was a «private» conversation that was not harmonized with the rest of the party’s leadership. The conservatives’ leader said the meeting only addressed two issues, including Skvernelis’ upcoming participation in the conservative party’s congress. Landsbergis refused to comment whether the meeting addressed the planned reform of forestry companies, possible coalitions, relations with coalition partners, the Social Democrats. However, the meeting elicited rumours that the Farmers-and-Greens Party, Lithuania’s ruling party may consider the Conservatives as their new coalition partners with the Social Democrats lately expressing increasing dissatisfaction with their minor role in the government.

Former tax chief challenges decision to sack him

Dainoras Bradauskas has appealed against the Lithuanian finance minister’s decision to sack him as head of the State Tax Inspectorate (STI).Bradauskas was dismissed from the post on January 20 for gross official misconduct, as recommended by a commission set up by the Finance Ministry to probe into the tax chief’s activities. Finance Minister Vilius Šapoka then said that certain information leaked by Bradauskas had adversely affected tax investigations of MG Baltic and Vilniaus Prekyba (VP).The minister said that the-then tax chief had repeatedly met with MG Baltic Vice-president Raimondas Kurlianskis to inform him about the course of the tax investigations of the two business groups. According to unofficial information, Bradauskas and Kurlianskis spoke about passing on certain information about the tax investigation involving VP or about the group’s shareholders to Diana Dominienė, a representative of the VP Group.

Lithuania‘s Litgas sells part of Statoil’s LNG cargo

Litgas, the gas trade arm of the state energy group Lietuvos Energija (Lithuanian Energy), has sold a part of the liquefied natural gas (LNG) it is buying from Norway’s Statoil amid a recent rise in LNG prices. The company says that it will gain 1 million euros from the LNG cargo schedule optimization, which will accordingly reduce the natural gas infrastructure maintenance costs for businesses and households.

Meanwhile, a new shipment of Statoil’s LNG arrived in Klaipėda on Friday, February 24. LNG tankers normally deliver around 140,000 cubic meters of gas each, but this time Litgas imported only some 60,000 cubic meters. Lietuvos Dujų Tiekimas (Lithuanian Gas Supply, or LDT), another gas supplier, purchases LNG from the U.S. company Koch Supply & Trading.

Lithuanian railways to unify tariffs for port handling firms

The new leadership of the state-run Lietuvos Geležinkeliai (Lithuanian Railways, or LG) is set to shortly revise the pricing applied to the Klaipėda port handling companies and unify the tariffs. After taking office just over a month ago, Egidijus Lazauskas , director of the state railway company’s Freight Transportation Directorate, met with top executives of port cargo handling companies earlier this week and said that efforts would be made to facilitate equal and unified terms and conditions for all companies working in the port.Vaidotas Sileika, CEO of Klaipėdos Konteinerių Terminalas (Klaipėda Container Terminal) and the head of the Association of Lithuanian Stevedoring Companies, said port handling companies had been notified of the planned pricing changes earlier this week.

Finnish bank‘s loan to Vilnius

The Lithuanian branch of Finland’s OP Corporate Bank (formerly – Pohjola Bank) announced it will lend 19.69 million euros to the city of Vilnius, with the money to be directed towards refinancing of the municipality’s earlier loans.

The bank and the municipality signed a seven-year loan contract Wednesday, February 22. Alma Vaitkunskienė, the head of the Vilnius municipality’s administration, said the loan would be spent to refinance earlier loans from UniCredit bank and Šiaulių Bankas.

This is the second loan from OP Corporate Bank to Vilnius. Last July, the bank issued a loan of 27.6 million euros, which went towards three projects, namely, modernization of the Lithuanian capital’s educational institutions, the third phase of construction of the Vilnius Western bypass and purchase of the land and other real estate needed for the bypass.

Vilnius prosecutor in hot water over Labor Party’s case at Supreme Court

A pre-trial investigation in which Rita Aliukonienė, head of the First Division of Criminal Prosecution at the Vilnius Regional Prosecutor’s Office, is suspected of influence peddling is related to the hearing of the Lithuanian Labour Party’s case by the Supreme Court, officials at the Prosecutor General’s Office said on Thursday, February 23. The prosecutors would not disclose any more details.

President: Belarus’ N-plant is Russia’s geopolitical project

The Astravyets nuclear power plant under construction in Belarus close to the border with Lithuania is Russia’s geopolitical project directed against Lithuania, President Dalia Grybauskaitė reiterated on Thursday, February 23. According to the president, Lithuania must use all possible means to stop the project and demand safety and transparency.Russia’s state corporation Rosatom is building two nuclear reactors of 1,200 megawatts each in Astravyets, around 50 kilometres from Vilnius, with the first unit planned to be switched on in 2019 and the second one in 2020.

Competition regulator contests court decision

The Lithuanian Competition Council (LCC) has contested a Vilnius court’s ruling ordering it to look again at whether or not to give the green light for Estonia’s Eesti Meedia, the owner of the Lithuanian news portal 15min.lt and classified advertising websites, to implement a deal in the classifieds market that was closed back in 2014.The Lithuanian Supreme Administrative Court received the competition regulator’s appeal on February 20, said the court’s spokeswoman.

EU Commission criticises Lithuania

Lithuania has made some progress in addressing the European Commission’s recommendations issued last May: the country has made headway regarding fiscal issues and strengthening of human capital, but it has achieved only limited progress in taking measures to ramp up productivity.The EU’s executive body made the conclusion in its annual analysis of the economic and social situation in member states published on Wednesday, February 22.

Vilnius airport signs contract with Latvia’s A.C.B

Vilnius International Airport on Wednesday signed an 18.7-million-euro runway reconstruction contract with Latvia’s road construction company A.C.B.Lithuania’s building firm Autokausta will help the Latvians in the project.The runway reconstruction is scheduled to start on July 14 and be completed on August 18. The majority of flights will be temporarily moved to Kaunas, some 100 kilometres away from Vilnius.

Ikea buys 6,000 ha of forest in Lithuania

Sweden’s Ikea group currently owns 6,000 ha of forest in Lithuania, which it may have paid about 22 million euros for. Across the three Baltic States, the furniture giant has 38,000 ha, which is a rise by 52 percent from what the group announced last September, Lithuanian media reports. Ikea bought the 6,000 ha in Lithuania from a Stockholm-registered property management company GreenGold.

Brexit minister visited Vilnius

David Davis, Britain’s minister in charge of the country’s exit from the European Union (EU), has said in Vilnius he expected a generous agreement from the community in connection to post-Brexit rights of EU citizens.

«We want to see a generous arrangement in terms of their right to remain and their treatment, just as we want to see a generous arrangement for British citizens around the EU,» Davis said after meeting with Lithuania’s Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis on Tuesday, February 21.

In his words, efforts have been made in the past to discuss post-Brexit rights for migrants; however, representatives of some EU nations rejected the conversations, saying that the United Kingdom had not yet officially initiated the Brexit process. The launch is planned for late March.

Klaipėda lagged behind Riga in container traffic in January

Klaipėda lagged behind Riga in terms of container traffic in January, the Lithuanian seaport’s authority said.

Klaipėda last month handled 32,900 TEUs, down 4.1 percent from 31,600 TEUs a year earlier.TEU traffic through Riga soared by 38.6 percent year-on-year to 36,200 and Tallinn posted a 23.7 percent increase to 18,900 units. Liepaja saw TEU traffic decline by 24.4 percent to 129 units. Annual TEU traffic via Klaipėda increased by 12.9 percent in 2016 compared with 2015 to reach 443,300 units.

Kėdainiai thwarts caustic soda factory project

Authorities in Kėdainiai have not allowed investors from Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates, represented by Visolis, a local company, to develop a sodium hydroxide, or caustic soda, production facility project in the central Lithuanian town’s free economic zone, Lithuanian media reports. Visolis CEO Alina Adomaitytė says that the environmental concerns are overstated.

Lithuanians to buy less alcohol amid rising prices

With excise duty on alcoholic beverages due to increase in Lithuania from March 1, nearly 1 in 5 of the country’s residents intend to buy less alcohol and nearly half will not change their drinking habits, shows a poll by Spinter Tyrimai (Spinter Surveys). Asked to specify how the higher alcohol prices will affect their alcohol buying behaviour, 47.8 percent of respondents said higher prices will not have any impact upon their habits – they would buy just as much alcohol as they did before. Meanwhile, 17.7 percent of those polled said they would buy less alcohol and over 15 percent said they would search for cheaper alternatives or places to buy it cheaper illegally, according to the poll of 1,010 respondents.

 Lithuania to enter Iranian market

Iran has become the 35th export market for Lithuania’s Doleta, which in late 2016 sent a trial batch of wooden windows for an apartment block in Tehran and is now planning a second shipment. Following two years of work, Doleta managed to obtain a certificate that is issued in Japan for Lithuanian windows and doors. The manufacturer sells windows for residential buildings, hotels and kindergartens in Japan and supplies windows to a new hotel complex in Iceland. Also, the Lithuanian company has been recently hired to replace the windows of a popular hotel in Kyrgyzstan’s capital of Bishkek.

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