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Week in Lithuania. PM welcomes Latvia’s new head of government

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Lithuanian Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevičius met on March 3 with the new Prime Minister of Latvia, Māris Kučinskis, on his first visit to Vilnius.

The two PMs discussed the bilateral political and economic relations, joint strategic projects in transport and energy, the security situation in the region, as well as the Eastern Neighbourhood and European Union issues.

Considering the importance of the completed Lithuania’s electricity interconnection projects, the need to continue joint regional integration projects that enhance energy independence of the Baltic countries was pointed out.

According to PM Algirdas Butkevičius, synchronization of the Baltic power systems with the continental European networks remains the key priority. The Lithuanian Prime Minister welcomed amendments to the Latvian Law on Energy, ensuring the timely implementation of the European Union’s Third Energy Package in Latvia.

The Lithuanian Head of Government has asked for more active support from Latvia as well as closer coordination of actions to ensure that the nuclear plant that is currently under construction in Belarus meets the international environmental and nuclear safety standards. At the same time, deep concern has been expressed regarding Russia’s initiative to build gas pipeline Nord Stream 2.

The Heads of Government have agreed to regularly hold bilateral meetings and to coordinate positions..

President Dalia Grybauskaitė has also met with Māris Kučinskis and discussed bilateral relations, the positions of Lithuania and Latvia on strategic regional issues and a common response to challenges facing the whole of Europe – measures to overcome the migration crisis and the strengthening of security and defence.

New Ambassador of Ukraine starts his term

Volodymyr Yatsenkivsky, the new ambassador of Ukraine has started his term in Lithuania.

«Lithuania continues to strongly support Ukraine’s independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity. We want to strengthen cooperation and to assist Ukraine in implementing the required structural reforms on its path towards the EU integration,» said PM Algirdas Butkevičius upon meeting the new ambassador.

It has been emphasized in the meeting that it is highly important to implement all the points of the Minsk Agreements, and that full control over the state border by Ukrainian government has to be restored.

Yatsenkivskyi has thanked the Government of Lithuania, and has conveyed appreciation on behalf of the Ukrainian nation to Lithuania and its people for the support, especially while providing medical treatment to the Ukrainian soldiers.

Lithuania seeks associate membership in CERN

Lithuanian Foreign minister Linas Linkevičius has delivered to President of the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) Professor Sijbrand de Jong a letter by Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevičius and an application of Lithuania for its associate membership in CERN, one of the top research institutions worldwide. In his letter, the Prime Minister maintains that Lithuania seeks to become a leading country in the field of scientific research and innovations.

Teachers‘ trade unions call off strike

Four of five Lithuanian teachers’ trade unions have called off their two-week strike by Friday, March 4. The trade unionists urge the Government to raise teachers’ wages. However, in a meeting of Lithuanian PM Algirdas Butkevičius and Minister of Education Audronė Pitrėnienė, no deal has been hammered out. The trade unions urge the Government to allot 7 million euro for teachers’ salaries. Instead, the government has pledged to come up with 2 million euro to meet the demands.

Total ban on alcohol ads in Lithuania pursued

A group of Lithuanian anti-alcohol activists have introduced an initiative to completely ban alcohol advertising in Lithuania. It has been lodged with the country’s Central Electoral Commission, as the group is kicking off a campaign to collect enough signatures to seek amendments to the Law on Alcohol Control.

Swedbank to create jobs at new service centre

Swedbank has announced of setting up a services centre in Lithuania which will create 400 new jobs, according to lrytas.lt

Lithuania’s new science centres target first Nobel Prize

Lithuania’s new Joint Life (JGMC) and National Physical Sciences and Technology (NFTMC) centre will open on March 15 and Lithuanian scientists hope that modern technology and the knowledge acquired by the centre staff will lay the foundation for the first Lithuanian Nobel Prize.

Health Minister nominee awaits President‘s approval

With less than a year left until the new Seimas elections, Lithuanian PM Algirdas Butkevičius has announced Juras Požela, a Social Democrat, as the Cabinet’s candidate to take over Lithuania‘s Health Ministry. Former minister Rimantė Šalaševičiūtė was forced to step down after the revelation of giving a bribe to doctor long time ago. Požela‘s candidacy has yet to be approved by President Dalia Grybauskaitė.

Party members swarm Lithuanian prosecutor‘s home

Members of the Order and Justice party, part of the ruling coalition party in Lithuania and whose chief Rolandas Paksas leader has been accused of corruption, held a protest outside the house of Lithuanian state prosecutor, Irmantas Mikelionis, in Vilnius District.

The Order and Justice Party has been embroiled in several scandals lately.

The released transcripts of conversations between Environment Minister Kęstutis Trečiokas, a member of the party, and Druskininkai mayor cast doubts on the transparency of the minister‘s activities regarding homestead «Vėjūnėlė». Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaitė says she «doubts» Trečiokas’ suitability for the post. Amid the pressure to step down, the embattled minister says that he will not step down, while the opposition wants an interpellation for him.

The party leader, Paksas, has been meanwhile accused of accepting a 15,000 euro bribe from Gedvydas Vainauskas, the owner of daily Lietuvos Rytas, Lithuania‘s biggest newspaper, say investigators. Since Paksas is sheltered from prosecution as an elected official, prosecutors are planning to ask the European Parliament to strip the Lithuanian politician of legal immunity.

Major stake holder of Maxima Group sells shares

Businessman Žilvinas Marcinkevičius, one of the founders of the Vilniaus Prekyba group, which controls the largest retail chain in the Baltics, Maxima among other companies will be leaving the group. He told Lithuanian media he wants to focus on his family. Marcinkevičius is settling a Maxima business-related dispute with his brother in court.

Prosecutors start to probe cases of alleged Holocaust perpetrators

Lithuania‘s Prosecutor General‘s Office announced Thursday, March 3, it would investigate a list of about 2,000 Lithuanians who may have taken part in the killing of Jews in Lithuania during World War Two. The list was compiled by the Genocide and Resistance Research Centre in Lithuania.

President congratulates Swedish Royal Family

President Dalia Grybauskaitė extended congratulations to King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden on the birth of the son of Crown Princess Victoria.

«I send my best wishes for the happiness, health and success of Their Royal Highnesses Crown Princess Victoria and Prince Daniel and their family,» the President wrote in her message of congratulations.

Dalia Grybauskaitė also offered her congratulations to the people of Sweden on such a joyful occasion and wished the whole country lasting prosperity and well-being.

Vilnius buses to get free public WiFi

The Vilnius municipal government has promised to outfit new Vilnius buses with video cameras, air conditioners, WiFi and SOS buttons in the driver‘s compartment by 2016. The municipality is to announce a public tender that will allow a private provider to integrate into the public transportation system to provide these services.

Foreign Minister holds meetings in Geneva

The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Lithuania Linas Linkevičius held meetings in Geneva to discuss the situations in Ukraine and Syria. Linkevičius also attended an informal meeting, dedicated to civil society in the Eastern Partnership region. The minister also called attention to Ukraine, where the on-going conflict arising from aggression could turn into a «frozen conflict».

Lithuania liked by film makers

The shooting of a scene for the new US TV film «The Cobbler» has started in Vilnius. The film is based on a short story by Tolstoy and stars Hollywood legend John Rhys-Davies.

Meanwhile, Finnish war movie shot in Lithuania was premièred. A screening of «The Midwife» at the Embassy of Finland in Vilnius was shown tothe Finnish community and many Lithuanian film fans. The film, which for the most part was shot in Lithuania, portrays Finland during the Lapland war with the Nazi’s and the film was the first to receive a tax credit in Lithuania.

Lithuanian officers help with migration flow management

President Dalia Grybauskaitė and Slovenian President Borut Pahor visited a centre for the distribution of refugees and migrants on the Slovenia-Croatia border in Dobova and met with Lithuanian police officers serving there. Lithuanian officers help manage the flows of refugees crossing into Slovenia from Greece via the Western Balkan countries, ensure their registration, distribution and public order.

Lithuania was the first to respond to a request for assistance from Slovenia, faced with a huge influx of refugees. 380 thousand people crossed the Slovenian border last year and as many as 100 thousand people – during the first two months of this year alone. According to Dalia Grybauskaitė, it is necessary to strengthen the EU’s external borders without delay; otherwise, the future of the Schengen area and the security of European citizens may be at risk.

Lithuania’s economic growth revised down for last quarter

Lithuania’s economic growth was lower than initially estimated in the final quarter of 2015, the latest figures from Statistics Lithuania showed on Monday, February 29.

Excise duties on alcohol and tobacco increase

Lithuania has raised excise duty on tobacco and alcohol from March 1. The government expects the levy to bring in additional 15 million euro to state coffers.

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