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Monday 18.12.2017 | Name days: Klinta, Kristaps, Kristofers, Krists
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Week in Lithuania. Parliament discusses 2018 budget drafts, sends it back to government

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Lithuania’s parliament has completed the first hearing of the 2018 budget draft and sent it back to the government, which will now have to take consideration of the proposals made by MPs and parliamentary committees.

The specified budget draft will return to the parliament in a few weeks – the second hearing is planned for December 7 ahead of adoption on December 12. Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis says that changes of the budget draft are inevitable but minimum.

The Budget and Finance Committee, which discussed the budget draft in extensive detail, has proposed that the government’s projected revenue from sales of farmland should be directed towards maintenance and reconstruction of melioration equipment and maintenance of the polder system in the Šilutė district. The committee also highlighted the need for additional funding of the Prosecutor General’s Office.

The 2018 budget revenue is projected at 16.082 billion euros, accounting for 37 per cent of the gross domestic product (GDP), as compared with 35.8 per cent this year, while spending should total at 15.839 billion euros or 36.4 per cent of the GDP (35.7 per cent in 2017).

Pope Francis to visit Lithuania next year

Pope Francis plans to visit Lithuania in the autumn of 2018, the president’s office announced. Lithuania will  next year celebrate the centenary of its restored statehood. The Estonian media reported earlier this week that Pope Francis will likely visit Tallinn in 2018. Pope John Paul II paid the first, and so far only, papal visit to Lithuania in 1993.

Lithuanian Railways signs long-term contract with Belarus’ BNK

Lietuvos Geležinkeliai (Lithuanian Railways) has signed a three-year oil and oil product transportation contract with Belarus’ oil company BNK. The state railway company expects the contract to ensure a long-term partnership with Belarus’ largest oil product exporter and give it a further competitive advantage in the market.

The railway operator would not reveal the amount of products to be transported, saying that it is a commercial secret. The company posted 359.2 million euros in revenue for January through October 2017, a rise of 7.5 per cent from a year ago. Freight traffic increased by 8.3 per cent year-on-year to 43 million tons.

Booking.com plans to create 900 jobs in Vilnius

Online travel giant Booking.com plans to open a customer service centre in Vilnius next April and to create up to 900 new jobs within five years. Holly Kenyon, senior global communications manager at Booking.com, said that the Vilnius centre will hire 200 people by the end of 2018, with the number planned to be increased to 900 within four to five years.

Lithuania’s FinBee to expand into Czech market

FinBee, a Lithuania-based peer-to-peer lending and investment platform, is kicking off its international expansion by launching in the Czech Republic, with plans to begin operations in another two European countries in the next two years.

FinBee Lithuania CEO Laimonas Noreika says that the company chose to expand to the Czech Republic due to a favourable business environment in the country. The company expects 50 million Czech crowns (EUR 1.94 mln) to be distributed via the platform during the first year of operation.

Parliament proposes 44 names for ‘Magnitsky list’

The Lithuanian parliament adopted on Thursday, November 23, a resolution suggesting 44 names for inclusion in the so-called Sergei Magnitsky list of people to be barred from entering the country. The resolution passed with 83 votes in favor, none against and one abstention.

Most of the people on the proposed list are Russian citizens, including Alexander Bastrykin, the head of Russia’s Investigative Committee, Oleg Logunov, deputy head of the Interior Ministry’s Investigative Committee who oversaw the Magnitsky case, and judges Yelena Stashina, Aleksey Krivoruchko, Svetlana Ukhnalyova and Sergei Podoprigorov, as well as the heads of the Moscow tax authority, various civil servants and other persons.

Opposition collects signatures for minister interpellation

Lithuania’s opposition has collected signatures under the text of interpellation against Health Minister Aurelijus Veryga. The document was signed by members of the political groups of the Homeland Union – Lithuanian Christian Democrats, the Liberal Movement, the Order and Justice party, the Social Democratic Party and the mixed group.

The minister is asked about the situation surrounding prescription medication, as well as about the decision not to raise doctor wages from Jan. 1, hiring of persons of political confidence and pressure upon top executives of institutions subordinate to the Health Ministry to resign. In case of disapproval of the answers, a no-confidence vote is initiated and is required at least 71 votes in Lithuania’s 141-seat parliament in support.

Poland’s tour operator Rainbow Tours entering Lithuania

Rainbow Tours, Poland’s second-largest tour operator, is entering the Lithuanian market in early December and should offer more directions for clients. Earlier this week, the Tourism Department listed Rainbow Tours as a temporary travel organizer, enabling the company to offer trips from Lithuania starting December. The company would be able to join the list of permanent travel organizers, if it founds a subsidiary in Lithuania.

Lithuania celebrates Armed Forces Day

A series of events took place on Thursday, November 23, to celebrate the Armed Forces Day and the 99-year anniversary of the army. The main event took place at the Cathedral Square in Vilnius at noon – a line-up of Lithuanian and Allied troops, followed by a parade along the central Gedimino Avenue to the Independence Square.

The line-up included troops of Lithuania’s Armed Forces and its units, NATO Allies, and the joint Lithuanian, Polish and Ukrainian brigade. US fighter-jets F-15 serving in the NATO air-policing mission in the Baltic States performed a fly-by above the Lithuanian capital for the occasion.

Government okays university network reorganisation plan

The Lithuanian government approved on Wednesday, November 22, a university network reorganisation plan worked out by the Education and Science Ministry and will now send it to the parliament.

Under the plan, Vilnius University, Vilnius Gediminas Technical University (VGTU), the Lithuanian Academy of Music and Theatre, the Academy of Arts and the General Jonas Žemaitis Military Academy of Lithuania, will continue to operate in the capital Vilnius. Vilnius-based Mykolas Romeris University (MRU) would be merged into VGTU.

The second-biggest city of Kaunas would have three universities: Vytautas Magnus University (VDU), the Kaunas University of Technology (KTU) and the Lithuanian University of Health Sciences (LMSU).

The Lithuanian University of Educational Sciences (LEU), which is currently based in the capital, would formally become part of VDU, but a teacher training centre would also be established at VU. Aleksandras Stulginskis University (LDU) would also become part of VDU and Lithuanian Sports University (LSU) would be merged into LMSU.

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