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Saturday 03.12.2016 | Name days: Raita, Jogita, Evija
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Week in Lithuania. North Atlantic Council to visit Lithuania

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The principal political decision-making body within NATO – the North Atlantic Council (NAC) – will visit Lithuania on March 23-24.

The NAC meeting in Vilnius on March 23 will feature a discussion on NATO’s adaptation to the changed security environment.

Minister of Foreign Affairs of Lithuania Linas Linkevičius and Minister of National Defence Juozas Olekas will attend the meeting. The NAC session on March 24 will focus on the security situation in the region. A meeting with the President of Lithuania Dalia Grybauskaitė will also be held.NAC meetings in Lithuania will be chaired by the NATO Deputy Secretary General Alexander Vershbow.

IMF tells Lithuania to freeze minimum wage hikes

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) says Lithuania should put a pause on raising the minimum wage in order to sustain its economic growth.IMF has come with the recommendation after examining a range of marcoeconomic conditions.

Lithuanian Railways to be fined up to 50 million euro

The European Commission is set to fine Lithuanian Railways up to 50 million euro for disassembling almost 20 kilometres of the Rengė section of railway track, reported Energetyka24.com, citing European Commission sources.

Lithuania happiest country in Baltics

Lithuanians are happier than either Latvians or Estonians, but not as happy as people in Russia or Poland, according to the World Happiness Index. The report, published by the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network, ranks the world’s nations according to poll results and six objective factors: levels of GDP, life expectancy, generosity, social support, freedom, and corruption. Lithuania ranks 60th in the 2016 index, down four positions from 2015, but still ahead of its Baltic neighbours. Lithuania is ahead of Latvia (68th position), Estonia (72) and neighbouring Belarus (61) but behind Russia (56) and Poland (57).

Lithuania’s Foreign Minister visits Ukrainian soldiers near frontline

Lithuanian Foreign minister Linas Linkevičius visited Mariupol, where he met with Ukrainian soldiers who stood on guard near the frontline, the Governor of Donetsk Oblast Pavlo Zhebrivsky, and the Mayor of Mariupol Vadim Boychenko to discuss security situation in the city and its surroundings, ways to further develop dialogue between the region of Donbas and Europe. The minister visited the Ukrainian Marine Corps stationed near the village of Shyrokyne. During the visit, separatists breached the truce and fired a grenade launcher towards contact line. Lithuania’s Foreign Minister noted that he visited troops out of respect for these servicemen and women who stood on guard near the frontline, defending their freedom and European values.

OECD presents Lithuania’s economic assessment – to do list

On Tuesday, March 15, PM Algirdas Butkevičius and OECD Secretary-General, Angel Gurría, participated in the presentation of OECD’s economic assessment of Lithuania, preceded by the bilateral meeting, where the Head of Government emphasized Lithuania’s progress and further accession arrangements.

The Economic Assessment states that Lithuania’s economy has managed to recover from the crisis relatively quickly. As noted by OECD Secretary-General Gurría, in recent years our countries’ economy has been growing faster as compared to the other EU countries, and the accession to the euro zone is a result of Lithuania’s work.The Assessment recognises the fact that Lithuania has managed to re-orientate its exports to other markets quite successfully (the exports of the Lithuanian goods to the Middle East and Central Asian countries have increased significantly). It is also estimated that the unemployment rate will continue to decrease.

The Assessment notes that Lithuania has undertaken effective measures against tax avoidance, and progress has been made in implementing infrastructure projects in the energy sector. The Head of the OECD said that Lithuania should focus on increasing effectiveness of state-owned enterprises and continue to fight corruption by acceding to the OECD Convention, as well as draw attention to the issue of skills mismatches. The OECD recommends that Lithuania review the presence of temporary contracts in the labour market. The proposal has been included into the package of amendments to the Labour Code.

The European Commission calls on Lithuania to make more progress

President Dalia Grybauskaitė  attended last Thursday, March 17, a European Council meeting which focused on the EU’s Annual Growth Survey and the progress of member states in implementing the European Commission’s economic and social recommendations for 2015.

According to the European Commission, Lithuania made virtually no progress in 2015, it is called limited. Some little progress was achieved only in easing tax burden, reforming pension and health care systems and seeking to ensure that education meets the needs of the labour market. However, there are still many economic and social problems which need to be addressed immediately.

The pension reform, fiscal discipline and stability, improvement in tax collection, and the liberalization of the labor market – these are the areas that need immediate action from the Government. EC noted that Lithuania must also reduce poverty and social exclusion, which are still among the highest in the EU. Although innovation is a key priority for the state, the higher education system is not sufficiently innovation-oriented, emphasized EC.

Baltics among EU countries to sign letter to Juncker

Leaders of eight European Union countries, including the Baltic States, have sent a letter to European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker criticizing plans for Nord Stream 2, a second underwater gas pipeline between Russia and Germany.

Lithuanian PM supports VAT drop proposal

The currently existing value-added tax (VAT) of 21 percent might be reduced, believes PM Algirdas Butkevičius. But the lowering will come not this year, he told.

Candidate for finance minister named

PM Algirdas Butkevičius has named Rasa Budbergytė as the candidate to replace Finance Minister Rimantas Šadžius, who lands nomination for the European Court of Auditors, ECA.

President turns to Constitutional Court

President Dalia Grybauskaitė has asked the Constitutional Court to look into a government decree that she believes could have been adopted in breach of the Constitution. The decree on lifting zoning requirements in resorts has raised suspicions about clashing interests and almost cost the environment minister his post.

Tax revenues ahead of projections so far

Lithuania’s central government and municipalities collected 1.132 billion euro in taxes over January-February 2016, exceeding the target by 25.1 million euro, or 2.3%, the Finance Ministry said.

Klaipėda company to tap geothermal waters

Geoterma, a Lithuanian company, has received permission to use geothermal water from a underground well in Klaipėda for the first time for health purposes.

Lithuania braced itself for winter return

Lithuanians were bracing themselves for the arrival of sharp winter cold snap over the next week with temperatures expected to plummet to -10 degrees Celsius and blizzards predicted for some areas.

New research centres will make Lithuania innovative

Two new research centres – the Joint Centre for Life Sciences and National Centre of Physical and Technological Sciences – just opened in the Sunrise Valley in Vilnius will allow Lithuania to become an innovative country, President Dalia Grybauskaitė and Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevičius told Ángel Gurría, Secretary-General of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), all of whom opened the most advanced research centres in the Baltic Sea region and a science exhibition of the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN).

The Joint Life Sciences Centre has 800 students. The tests and inventions made here can provide a breakthrough in treating cancer and creating new-generation plants. Scientists are already carrying out non-invasive cancer diagnostic tests, meaning that in the future medical professionals will not have to take samples by surgery – saliva sample tests will suffice.

Environment minister cleared

The Chief Official Ethics Commission (VTEK) decided on Wednesday, March 16, not to open a probe into the actions of Environment Minister Kęstutis Trečiokas, saying there was no clash of interest in his conduct. The prime minister said he would not ask Trečiokas to step down. VTEK was looking into evidence, handed to it by prosecutors, to see whether Trečiokas deserve to be sanctioned by ethics watchdogs for his part in helping mayor of Druskininkai to lift zoning requirements for the resort.

Lithuanian company lands fat contract with NATO

JSC Mitnija, a leading construction company and part of Lithuania’s MG Baltic group, has bagged an order from NATO worth more than 2 million euro.

Independence act signatory passes away

Politician and signatory to Lithuania’s 1990 declaration of independence Vladimiras Beriozovas passed away on Wednesday, March 16.

Lithuanian parliament will back permanent military conscription

The reintroduction of military conscription for good in Lithuania is likely to be approved by the Lithuanian parliament unanimously, said Parliament Speaker Loreta Graužinienė of the Labour Party. Almost half the positions of this year’s military draft have already been filled by volunteers, according to Lithuania’s Ministry of National Defence.

If volunteers continue signing up at the present rate, there might not be any need to draft young men who have not come forward for the military service themselves, the ministry says.

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Following an investment of 3.3 million, K-rauta becomes K Senukai

On Friday, 2 December, Baltics’ largest construction, repair and household goods store network Kesko Senukai opened its first new concept shopping centre K Senukai in Riga, Lucavsalas Street. This venture cost the company EUR 3.3 million.

Saeima deputies allocated record-large amount of money for «friend projects»

The money of Latvia’s budget for next year allocated not with the intention to solve problems in priority industries but rather to satisfy desires of certain politicians and their lobby groups has reached an astonishing new peak – EUR 27.9 million, according to estimates, as reported by Ir.

Income from foreign travellers in Latvia declines

In Q3 2016, Latvia’s current account had a surplus of EUR 93.4 million or 1.5% of GDP, notes Bank of Latvia economist Linda Vecgaile.

airBaltic to sell Boeing 737 after replacing them with Bombardier CS300

Latvian national airBaltic airline intends to gradually update its fleet with Bombardier CS300 aircraft. The airline plans to sell its owned Boeing 737, says Martin Gauss, Chief Executive Officer of airBaltic.

Numbers of active voters in Latvia continue to decline before next year’s elections

47% of Latvian vote-ready citizens plan to take part in next year’s municipal elections, according to results of a survey carried out by SKDS following a request from the Central Election Commission in November.

BATL: transit industry’s potential is enormous, but not used to its fullest

Baltic Association – Transport and Logistics is satisfied that real and constructive work has commenced in cooperation with LDz Logistics and Transport and Communications Institute on Latvia’s transport and logistics, including the development of a strategy for the transit industry.

Ominous milestone: one-millionth Lithuanian to leave soon

The statisticians claim that, every day, 120 Lithuanians hop onto Scandinavia and Western Europe-bound planes in search of a better life. This month, Lithuania is likely to reach an ominous and heart-wrenching milestone with the country‘s émigré number expected to go over one million. To calm down the naysayers, the estimate is unofficial.

Snowy weekends expected in Latvia

The first days of December will go by under influence from a cyclone. Because of that, many regions of the country are expected to experience snowfall. Rain is only expected along the coast. Ice is expected to form as a result and visibility will likely reduce because of snowfall.

Three European cities plan to ban diesel cars

Looking for ways to improve their quality of air, the mayors of Madrid, Paris and Athens have on December 1 expressed readiness to introduce bans on cars and trucks with diesel engines by 2025.

French President Hollande refuses to run for re-election

France’s President François Hollande has unexpectedly announced that he would not run for re-election to the post.

Several hundred Estonian reserve soldiers summoned to unexpected drills

The cabinet of ministers of Estonia ordered on December 1 to hold snap military drills to test the ability of reserve troops to reach combat readiness in 24 hours.

Freight turnover and freight traffic declines at ports

Compared to Q3 2015, the volume of freights carried by land and pipeline transport has decreased by 1.8 million tonnes or 5.5 % in Q3 2016. The most notable drop in the volume of freights carried was recorded in rail transport – of 2.3 million tonnes or 18.9 %.

EU 2017 budget to provide the most support to youth and growth initiatives

In the next year’s budget, members of the European Parliament have secured larger support to unemployed youngsters and Erasmus+, as well as initiatives for support of small and medium-sized businesses, transport infrastructure projects and research. Commitment appropriations for 2017 total EUR 157.8578 billion, and payment appropriations EUR 134.49 billion.

Vejonis picks Kalnins as candidate for NAF commander

President of Latvia Raimonds Vejonis has decided to propose National Armed Forces Joint Staff Chief Leonids Kalnins for the post of commander of Latvia’s National Armed Forces. Kalnins was previously proposed by Defence Minister Raimonds Bergmanis, according to information from LETA.

Europol releases its Christmas calendar of EU’s most wanted criminals

European Union’s police body Europol has engaged in the often commercial pre-festive period by releasing Christmas advent calendar that will reveal one of bloc’s most wanted criminals every day up until Christmas.

Expert: Latvia’s real estate market is sick

In medical terms, Latvia’s real estate market is currently sick. It will only recover once all transactions are carried out using actual market price and those whose expectations are overestimated – drop out, said real estate specialist, member of Latvian Real Estate Association and board member of Real State Jurmala Igors Danilevics.

Prime Minister: Latvia’s economic growth is not as fast as it was expected in 2015

«Looking at national economy’s growth dynamics in 2016, we have noticed drastically different ratings. On the one hand, there are positive statistics that prove Latvia’s economic growth continues. It is not as fast as it was expected in 2015. It is expected that growth will continue in the future. A few days ago opinions of multiple banking experts appeared in the public space, saying that wage growth in Latvia will speed up next year. I would associate that with the government’s decisions and the Saeima’s approved budget for 2017,» – said Prime Minister Maris Kucinskis.

Estonia’s coalition distances itself from charges against ruling party

The coalition partners of Estonia’s Centre Party, which is headed by the Estonian Prime Minister, have this week distanced themselves from charges brought against the ruling party for allegedly receiving illegal political donations.

Finland’s Prime Minister blamed for attempts to limit press freedom

The Prime Minister of Finland Juha Sipilä has denied allegations that he has attempted to affect, how press covers allegations against him and his relatives.

Restrictions for alimony avoiders and other decisions viewed by the Saeima

On Thursday, 1 December, the Saeima will decide on the new Subsistence Guarantee Fund Law. This law states that driving rights can be revoked for alimony avoiders.

OPEC oil exporters agree to reduce oil output to increase price

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries agreed on November 30 for the first time since 2008 to reduce oil supply in an attempt to make global oil prices grow. The organisatrion’s head Mohammed Bin Saleh Al-Sada stated that a cut of 1.2 million barrels a day would start from January

Tragic dormitory fire in Turkey

Police in southern Turkey has detained six people after 11 pupils and a teacher died in a dorm fire.

Tick encephalitis infection cases increased by one-third in Latvia this year

Cold November forced ticks to enter hibernation. There is reason to believe tick activity in Latvia has ended for this year, admits entomologist Voldemars Spungis.

PHOTO: world’s first Bombardier CS300 aircraft arrives in Riga

On Wednesday, 30 November, Latvian airBaltic airline welcomed the world’s first Bombardier CS300 aircraft in Riga.

Retail trade turnover in Latvia up 0.2%

Compared to October 2015, total retail trade turnover rose by 0.2 % in October 2016. Turnover of retail trade in food products decreased by 2.7 %, whereas the turnover of retail trade in non-food products increased by 2.0 %.

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