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Saturday 20.01.2018 | Name days: Aļģirds, Orests, Oļģerts, Alģis
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Week in Lithuania. PM: Coalition isn't the best

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Lithuanian Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis, whose government has been in office for half a year, says that the Lithuanian Farmers and Greens Union (LFGU) and the Lithuanian Social Democratic Party (LSDP) differ in their philosophies and approaches to many issues and admits that he never thought that the current coalition of the two parties was the best option.

The head of government says that he feels that the Social Democrats want to provoke the collapse of the government. He reiterated that the government often worked under minority conditions and that the coalition with the Social Democrats gave it only a formal majority in the parliament.

«I feel that the new Social Democratic leader (Gintautas Paluckas) has made the decision to leave the coalition. Of course, this is not yet the opinion of the (LSDP) political group in the Seimas, but if the coalition partners decide (to leave), then we will have no choice but accept their decision,» he added.

However, the prime minister has doubts if it would be possible to form a minority government or a new majority coalition. When asked if he would agree to head a minority government, Skvernelis said that he doubted whether this might happen.

Watchdog backs original name spelling

Lithuanian language watchdog proposes to allow using non-Lithuanian Latin-based characters for spelling names on the main page of personal identity documents.

The State Commission of the Lithuanian Language, or VLKK, gave its opinion on Monday, May 22, after discussing two alternative bills on the spelling of non-Lithuanian characters in identity documents.

According to the commission, exceptions should be precisely defined and based on a clear source, such as a foreign national’s identity document and other official documents.

One of the two bills tabled to the parliament propose to allow using the letters «x», «w» and «q», which do not exist in the Lithuanian alphabet, on the main page of an identity document, and the other calls for such names to be spelt in their original form on an additional page of one’s passport.

Judaica Research Centre opens

The Judaica Research Centre opened in the Martynas Mažvydas National Library in Vilnius on Monday, May 22.The main tasks of the centre are to ensure research of Jewish documentary heritage, organisation of educational and information projects and dissemination of comprehensive information about their results.

The centre’s reading room will be named after Khaykl Lunski, a librarian, the keeper of the Strashun Library collections and promoter of Jewish spiritual values.

Next to it, there will be a memorial plague to Antanas Ulpis, a Lithuanian bibliographer who preserved the Judaica documental treasure now stored in the national library.

Total number of students falls

The total number of students in Lithuania’s general edcuation and higher education schools has dropped by more than 20 percent over the past six years, Statistics Lithuania said. Their total number reached 504,000 at the start of the current school year, down by 11,000 students compared with the previous year and down by 148,000, or 23 percent, from the 2010-2011 school year, it said, citing data from the Centre of Information Technologies in Education.

The number of students in general education schools fell by 4,300, or 1.3 percent, in the current year compared with 2015-2016 to 331,000 and the number of students in universities was down by 5,500, or 6 percent.

The statistics office attributed the increase in primary school enrolments to a rise in the country’s birth rate between 2005 and 2009.

Lithuanian leaders congratulated Georgia

Lithuania’s leaders on Friday, May 26, congratulated Georgia on the 99th anniversary of its Independence Day.

In her message of congratulations, President Dalia Grybauskaitė «underscored that that shared values and aspirations for freedom brought closer Georgians and Europeans,» her press office said.

Intra-company transfers of non-EU workers eased

Lithuania has eased the conditions of transfer of highly skilled non-EU nationals for temporary assignments in local units of foreign companies.

The Seimas on Thursday, May 25, passed respective amendments, which were drafted by the Interior Ministry and will take effect next September. The changes were needed to bring national legislation into line with the European Intra Corporate Transfer Directive, which Lithuania is late to transpose.

The parliament set a two-month time limit for providing a response to a transferee applying for a temporary residence permit in Lithuania.

Lithuania pursues counter-terror cooperation

Lithuania will continue to cooperate with the United Kingdom and international community in counter-terrorism efforts, Foreign Minister Linas Linkevičius said as he offered his condolences to British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson over Monday’s deadly explosion in Manchester.

The ministry said that the Lithuanian embassy in the UK had no information on any Lithuanian citizens killed or injured in the attack.

Liberals want partnerships both for hetero and homo couples

Lithuania’s opposition Liberal Movement proposes to allow civil partnerships for both unmarried opposite-sex couples and same-sex couples.

Viktorija Čmilytė-Nielsen, another initiator of the amendment to the Civil Code, said that they propose to recognise in law cohabitation, a common form of relationship in Lithuania.

The Liberals propose two ways of recording the fact of partnership: by registering it with a notary public or by cohabiting for more than a year.

Several bills had been tabled to the Seimas to allow civil partnerships for both different-sex couples and same-sex couples, but none of them reached the second reading in the parliament.

Lithuania’s next election watchdog chief to be appointed

Laura Matjošaitytė, currently deputy chairwoman of the Lithuanian Central Electoral Commission, is likely to be nominated as the next head of the election watchdog. Gabrielius Landsbergis, head of the political group of the opposition Homeland Union–Lithuanian Christian Democrats in the Seimas, confirmed that the ruling Lithuanian Farmers and Greens Union (LFGU) was seeking backing for her candidature.

Zenonas Vaigauskas, who has headed the commission for more than 20 years since 1994, came under criticism and calls to resign after last autumn’s general elections. He has said that he will not seek reappointment after his term expires.

Police detain 12 men with airsoft guns in forest

Police detained 12 men with airsoft guns in a forest near Nemenčinė, in the district of Vilnius, the Lithuanian Police Department said.

The men each had several airsoft guns, which look like real guns, and some of them wore camouflage clothing. The police anti-terrorist operations unit ARAS was called in to detain them. The police searched the homes of some of the detained men and found a real illegal gun, ammunition and suspected improvised explosive devices.

Jews in row over Vilnius community leader election

Lithuanian Jews are in a row over Wednesday’s election of the leader of the Vilnius Jewish Community (VJC). Simonas Gurevičius, a former long-time director of the Jewish Community of Lithuania (JCL), has announced that he was elected chairman of the Vilnius community, but Faina Kukliansky, the JCL chairwoman, says that the election was illegitimate. Gurevičius says in a statement that 262 people participated in Wednesday’s vote in Vilnius.

Kukliansky, the current chairwoman of both the JCL and the VLC, dismisses Wednesday’s election as illegitimate.

No thaw in ties with Belarus until it N-plant safety is proved

There will be no thaw in the energy dialog between the EU and Belarus until Minsk proves that the nuclear power plant it is building not far from Vilnius is safe, EU Energy Union Commissioner Maros Sefcovic said in the Lithuanian capital on Thursday, May 25. According to Sefcovic, the results will be assessed by European regulators, including Lithuanian representatives.

Russia’s state corporation Rosatom is building the nuclear power plant in Astravyets, some 50 kilometres from Vilnius. The Lithuanian government maintains that the project falls short of safety and environmental standards, but Minsk rejects the criticism as unfounded.

Vilnius institute warns students about Russian intelligence officer

Vilnius University’s Institute of International Relations and Political Science (VU TSPMI) has warned its students that a Russian intelligence officer mentioned in Lithuanian intelligence bodies’ report on national security threats has been seen attending the institute’s events.VU TSPMI also posted several photos of the man at the institute’s events, noting that he was the same man whose photo was in the 2017 intelligence report.

Lithuania set to raise legal alcohol drinking age to 20

The Lithuanian parliament is inclined to raise the minimum legal alcohol drinking age to 20 starting next year. In Thursday’s debates on amendments to the Law on Alcohol Control, the Seimas did not back a proposal to leave the legal drinking age at 18. A final vote on the legislation is scheduled for Jun. 1.The parliament also plans to confine alcohol sales during free public events to special zones where the sale of drinks with an alcohol content of up to 7.5 percent would be allowed. If approved, this measure will take effect in 2020.

Lithuania to increase its contribution to Middle East missions

Lithuania will increase its contribution in international missions and operations in the Middle East, President Dalia Grybauskaitė said in Brussels on Thursday, May 25. The president did not elaborate on how Lithuania would increase its contribution to these missions and operations.

In Mali, seven Lithuanian troops are serving in the EU’s training mission and the UN mission MINUSMA. Captain Tomas Pakalniškis, spokesman for the Lithuanian Armed Forces’ Joint Staff, told BNS that a 30-strong Lithuanian platoon would likely be sent to MINUSMA in the autumn.

Twenty-one Lithuanian troops are serving in NATO’s training mission Resolute Support in Afghanistan. As a member of the US-led coalition against the Islamic State group, Lithuanian has sent six military instructors to Iraq.

India considers opening embassy in Lithuania

India is considering opening an embassy in Lithuania, Mobashar Akbar, the country’s minister of state for external affairs, said in Vilnius on Thursday, May 25. Akbar would not say when the embassy might be opened.Currently, the Indian ambassador to Lithuania resides in Warsaw.

Nine Eritrean refugees arrive in Lithuania

Nine Eritrean refugees arrived in Lithuania this week under the EU’s resettlement program, the Migration Department said on Thursday, May 25. According to it, the migrants came from refugee camps in Italy .This brings to 309 the total number of refugees relocated to Lithuania from Italy, Greece and Turkey.Lithuania almost two years ago pledged to take in a total of 1,105 refugees from such countries as Syria, Iraq or Eritrea under the EU program.

President sends EU-Canada free trade deal to Seimas

Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaitė has submitted the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) signed between the European Union and Canada last October to the Seimas for ratification.

The Foreign Ministry says that CETA will significantly improve access to a high purchasing power market for Lithuanian goods and services and will allow Lithuanian companies to participate in public procurement procedures in Canada. Critics fear, however, that cheaper genetically modified products will flood into the Lithuanian market once the pact takes effect.

Vilnius police identify man

Vilnius police said on Thursday, May 25, that they have identified a man who they suspect threw a firecracker into the Belarusian embassy grounds in the Lithuanian capital a week ago.

Suspicions of violating public order were brought against the man, who was not known to the police before the incident, Paulius Radvilavičius, spokesman for the Vilnius County Police Headquarters, said, A packet of cigarettes containing a firecracker was thrown into the embassy grounds in central Vilnius and exploded. No one was injured during the incident, which occurred at around 8:30 p.m. on May 18.

Kaunas plans to erect statue to late philosopher

Lithuania’s second-biggest city of Kaunas is planning to put up a statue of Leonidas Donskis, a prominent Lithuanian philosopher who died of a heart attack last year.

Sculpture Alfonsas Vaura’s project is among 12 works selected in the Kaunas Highlights contest of ideas.The life-size statue will be made from bronze and stone and will be erected in Studentų Square near Vytautas Magnus University (VDU), where the professor worked.

Lithuania’s new air force commander appointed

Lithuanian Defence Minister Raimundas Karoblis has appointed Lieutenant Colonel Dainius Guzas as the new commander of the Lithuanian Air Force, the Defence Ministry said on Wednesday, May 24. Guzas served as the Air Force’s deputy chief of staff for operations before his new appointment.

Guzas began his service in the national defence system in 1992 and rose through the ranks of the Air Force to become the commander.

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