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Week in Lithuania. Putin in fury over blacklisting Russian Constitutional Court judges

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Lithuania has ban entry to judges of the Russian Constitutional Court over decisions that legalized the annexation of Crimea. The Lithuanian decision drew an indignant reaction from Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The Russian judges intended to the World Congress of Constitutional Law in Vilnius in March of 2017, however, the Migration Department in November decided to list the Russian Constitutional Court judges as persona non grata, as proposed by the Foreign Ministry. The information about the Lithuanian move was announced during Russian Constitutional Court chairman Valery Zorkin‘s meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

According to Interfax news agency, Zorkin notified Putin of the diplomatic update about the refused entry. In his words, Lithuania had let him know that «judges of the Constitutional Court constitute a threat to the security of the Republic of Lithuania.»

The Russian President’s response was: «What is the reason behind the stupid decision?» The court chairman said that the reason was the Constitutional Court‘s ruling in support of the Crimea annexation, which the Western world views as violation of Ukraine‘s territorial integrity.

Hosting German-led battalion to cost 5.8 million euros

It will cost Lithuania around 5.8 million euros to put in place the infrastructure to host NATO‘s German-led multinational battalion, with work on infrastructure renovation and expansion in Rukla and Linkaičiai planned to be completed early next year, said Lithuania‘s Chief of Defence Lieutenant General Jonas Vytautas Žukas.

The chief of defence on Thursday, December 8, visited Rukla to inspect how preparations for hosting allied troops are going. The deployment of the battalion is expected to begin next year. The Benelux countries, Norway and France are also expected to contribute troops to the German-led unit.

Lithuanian Peasants & Greens in debt

The Lithuanian Peasant and Green Union (LPGU) has a campaign debt of almost a million euros after the October parliamentary elections, in which the party scored a resounding victory, the daily Lietuvos Rytas reported on Friday, December 9, based on data from the Central Electoral Commission.

According to the paper, the Peasants and Greens spent 1.24 million euros on advertising and other election expenses, more four times the amount, at a mere 270,000 euros, they had raised from their supporters and other sources.

The Social Democrats spent as much as almost 1.5 million in their battle to stay in power, but the party declared a debt of less than 15,000 euros.The election campaign cost the conservative Homeland Union–Lithuanian Christian Democrats 1.241 million euros, slightly more than it had raised (1.1 million euros).

The Liberal Movement spent nearly 927,000 euros on the election, but it did not run into debt. Meanwhile, the Labor Party, which spent a similar amount of money, has a debt of 182,000 euros. The Order and Justice Party spent 513,000 euros, compared with almost 400,000 euros raised for the elections. The Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania – Christian Families Alliance (EAPL-CFA) says that it spent 371,000 euros and is not in debt.

Police searching for suspected spy

Vilnius police is searching for a suspected spy, the Vilnius County Central Police Commissariat said. Vladimir Sokolov, 50, is suspected of seizing, buying and otherwise collecting information that constitutes a Lithuanian state secret or any other information that may be interesting to foreign intelligence.

Under Lithuanian laws, the punishment for the crime is between three and 15 years in prison. According to information available to the police, the man is suspected of spying in an organized group.

Lithuanian army‘s new patrol ship arrives

The P15 patrol vessel purchased by Lithuania‘s Navy from the Danish Armed Forces arrived in the Lithuanian port city of Klaipėda on Wednesday, December 7. The new vessel will be part of the Patrol Ship Division of the Lithuanian Navy, conducting patrol tasks in Lithuania’s territorial seas and exclusive economic zone, the Defence Ministry said.

Its tasks will also include detention and convoy of violator ships, search-and-rescue operations, as well as other tasks. After service in the Danish Navy, the P15 vessel will replace the outdated Norwegian-built Storm-class ship P32 Selis in Lithuania.

President: Government programme based on good intentions

The new Lithuanian government’s program is based on good intentions, and the implementation will depend on more than just cooperation among politicians but also on economics and external factors, President Dalia Grybauskaitė says. In her words, any document – a state strategy or the government’s program – is first of all built on good intentions.

Lithuanian PM-designate nods to candidate

Lithuania‘s Prime Minister-Designate Saulius Skvernelis has proposed Milda Vainiūtė for the country‘s new justice minister. President Dalia Grybauskaitė is yet to approve the candidature. Vainiūtė is professor at the Mykolas Romeris University who has served as legal adviser to President Valdas Adamkus and as adviser at the President’s Office during the first term of President Dalia Grybauskaitė. Julius Pagojus, a Social Democrat, was appointed justice minister last week, but he stepped down amid criticism over last year’s incident in which he was caught by the police drunk-driving.

More volunteers come forward to defend Lithuania

Some 359 young people have expressed willingness to serve in mandatory initial military service in Lithuania, which is double from the same period last year. The most active regions include youth of the Kaunas, Klaipėda and Alytus regions, with applications to serve as volunteers also filed by 18 young females. This year, 93 females serve in military as volunteers.

The conscription for 2017 mandatory initial military service is scheduled to start on Jan. 4 with compilation of recruit lists. Lithuania‘s parliament reintroduced the conscription scheme in spring of 2015, recruiting 3,000 young people in 2015 and 2016.

Small shops in danger amid looming alcohol ban

Small-scale entrepreneurs say they would go bankrupt, if alcohol was moved out of food stores to specialized shops, as proposed by Lithuania‘s new ruling Peasant and Green Union. It is estimated 700 stores, including 500 that do not have technical capacities for a separate specialized store. Artūras Mackevičius, board member of the Association of Small- and Medium-Sized Businesses of the Kaunas Region, says that specialized alcohol stores were only possible in cities and only for the largest retail chains. In his words, small-scale businesses will not have enough money, as, according to their calculations, opening a specialized may cost between 30,000 and 100,000 euros.

Former head of Georgia‘s anti-terrorism center released

Zurab Maisuradze, a former head of Georgia‘s anti-terrorism center who was last week detained by Lithuania’s authorities, on Wednesday, December 7, was released on bail. Tomas Krušna, chief prosecutor of the Criminal Prosecution Department at the Lithuanian Prosecutor General‘s Office, said that the Georgian national had been questioned by the prosecutors. As a condition of his release on bail, the Georgian had to surrender his passport and must report to police at certain intervals.

Prosecutors want Real IRA defendant imprisoned

The Lithuanian Prosecutor General‘s Office has asked a Vilnius court so send Michael Campbell, an Irish citizen who has been cleared of charges of preparing to supply weapons from Lithuania to the Real Irish Republican Army. Criminal persecution in the case started nearly nine years ago. Campbell was detained in Lithuania in January of 2008.

A Vilnius court that initially heard the case sentenced him to 12 years in prison in 2011 for assistance to a terrorist group, unlawful arms possession and attempted smuggling. In 2013, the Lithuanian Court of Appeals cleared him of all charges, ruling that Campbell had been provoked by intelligence agents. The Lithuanian Supreme Court has ordered that the Court of Appeals should review the case. On Monday, December 5, the court heard argumentation from the prosecutor and lawyers.

Finance minister designate: 2017 budget is risky

The 2017 budget draft drafted by Lithuania’s earlier administration is risky, says Finance Minister-Designate Vilius Šapoka, adding that the situation was complicated by the new government‘s aim to raise old-age pensions by 40 euros per month next year.«The aim to raise (pensions) additionally and achieve 40 euros (starting next July) complicates the situation even further,» said the minister-designate. The Lithuanian parliament is due to hold the second hearing of the 2017 budget next week. The new ruling coalition has said it would not make major changes to the budget, however, intended to postpone the enforcement of the new Labour Code and the new social model. The pensions should be raised by a total of 40 euros – by 15 euros starting January and by another 25 euros starting July.

Analysts on Lithuanian government‘s program

Economists and analysts describe the new Lithuanian government’s program as cautious and vague and are concerned about the ruling coalition’s new proposals that may have a negative fiscal effect. Marius Dubnikovas, chairman of the Tax Commission at the Lithuanian Business Confederation, thinks that the tax section of the program is too general and lacks specificity. In his words, the state social insurance fund Sodra’s reform will likely be carried out, but plans to reform the pension fund system are described in very vague terms. Gitanas Nausėda, another prominent economist, thinks that the government will be cautious in its work, but notes that the program has shortcomings when it comes to Lithuania’s business environment.

Second death from Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease

Lithuania has registered this year‘s second death from sporadic Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD), the Center for Communicable Diseases and AIDS said. The latest fatality was a 65-year-old woman. Like in earlier cases, it is unclear how she got infected with this rate illness. Lithuania recorded two sporadic CJD cases last year and one case in 2005, 2007 and 2013 each.CJD is a rare and fatal neurodegenerative condition which is classified as a transmissible spongiform encephalopathy. It is caused by an infectious agent called a prion. Nearly 12,000 CJD cases were registered in 25 European countries, Australia, Canada and Israel between 1993 and 2013.

Lithuanian LG chief resigns, praises his decision

Stasys Dailydka who resigned from the post of CEO of state-controlled Lietuvos Geležinkeliai (Lithuanian Railways, or LG) says it was the best decision he had made in life. He said he was stepping down after many years in office, as he predicts he will not secure political support from the new transport and communication, as well as the government and the parliament.

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Lithuania: can alcolocks be a panacea to reckless booze-driven behaviour?

A horrible accident in which a 24-old girl sitting in a taxi was killed last weekend in Vilnius, when a rented City Bee car being driven by a DUI driver rammed into the cab, prompted a wave of new debates whether Lithuania, having waged war against alcohol-related maladies, ought to proceed with a law requiring to install ignition interlock devices in rental cars. And maybe not only in them.

Latvia’s Saeima supports starting school at the age of six

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Economist: Latvia’s future depends on people’s patience; politicians mostly focus on near future

«People in Latvia currently live better than they ever have. Still, income level in Western Europe and elsewhere in the world will remain higher for some time.» Which predictions about banking sector’s operations have come true, and what is going on with ‘pained child’ – Latvia’s judicial system? Luminor Bank’s economist Pēteris Strautiņš explains in an interview to BNN.

FCMC chief: ABLV Bank’s closure was not the goal of FinCEN report

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Study: wages in Latvia grew more rapidly in 2017 than they did in previous years

As a result of economic growth and increasing labour force demand, remuneration level in Latvia in 2017 has reached the most rapid rate in the past several years. Average net wage in Latvia has increased by 6%, reaching EUR 894, according to results of a study performed by CV-Online Latvia.

Number of foreign travellers in Latvia up 53.2% in past seven years

In 2017, foreign travellers crossed the border of Latvia 7.7 million times, which is 13.7 % more than a year before. Last year, foreign travellers in Latvia spent EUR 691.9 million – EUR 46.7 million or 7.2 % more than in 2016.

Experts shocked about HIV patients’ reluctance to undergo treatment

The number of HIV patients that underwent treatment in Q1 2018 did not change in Latvia even though a considerable amount of funding was allocated from the state budget for HIV/AIDS treatment in 2018. This creates concerns about HIV patients’ use of healthcare services, according to Association HIV.LV.

Danske Bank to gradually cease servicing Baltic clients

In Baltic States, Danske Bank plans to focus solely on providing support to subsidiaries of Nordic clients, as well as global corporations with a considerable business portion in Nordic countries. Leaving private persons and local businesses servicing sector will be performed in a gradual manner, as reported by acting manager of Danske Bank’s Communication Office in Latvia Zane Strade.

Latvian Saeima establishes ban for banks to service shell companies

Banks registered in Latvia will no longer be allowed to work with shell companies and service their accounts. This is provided by amendments to the Law on the Prevention of Money Laundering and Terrorism Financing approved by the Saeima on Thursday, 26 April, as confirmed by the parliament’s press-service.

Ex-minister: Latvia’s biggest problem is the older generation of politicians

Older generation of politicians is Latvia’s largest problem. Some of those people are due for retirement. This is why the main objective for ‘Kustība Par!’ is involving a new generation of young and perspective politicians, says the party’s leader Daniels Pavļuts.

Danske Bank may announce its exit from Baltic States

Danske Bank Group’s office in Lithuania may announce on Thursday, 27 April, its plans to leave Lithuania and, possibly, the Baltic States, as BNS news agency’s Lithuanian branch was told by two sources.

«Oligarch talks» publication law put on hold; will fabricated «risks» impact UGF?

On Tuesday, 25 April, Saeima’s Legal Affairs Committee decided against putting up for a vote the legislative draft for the digitization and publication of the declassified portion of materials from the so-called oligarch talks criminal case.

OECD to perform independent audit of decisions made by Latvian supervisory services

Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development plans to perform an independent audit of decisions made by the Finance Capital and Market Commission and Anti-money Laundering Service, as confirmed by Finance Minister Dana Reizniece-Ozola after a meeting of Finance Sector Development Council on 25 April.

Level of prices of agricultural products in Latvia grew 11.6% in 2017

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51% of residents would not purchase goods production of which would pollute the environment

Environment-friendly lifestyle in Latvia, like elsewhere in the world, is becoming more popular every day. So-called green thinking also affects Latvian residents’ habits. 53% of Latvian residents prefer goods and services that help protect the environment, according to results of a study performed by AS Latvijas Zaļais punkts.

World Press Freedom index ranks Estonia highest among Baltic states

The French-based organisation Reporters Without Borders has published its 2018 World Press Freedom index, where Estonia has been ranked 12th and Latvia has been moved up by four positions to the 24th place.

Abu Meri: parliamentary investigative committee could help combat corruption in Riga City Council

«Nils Ušakovs’ policy in Riga is not only non-democratic but also allows for systematic corruption, which has become a tradition. If a week goes by with no scandal, it seems too long. Because of that, I consider forming a parliamentary investigative committee to study corruption in Riga City Council,» said Unity’s Saeima faction leader Hosams Abu Meri in an interview to BNN.

200 thousand Estonian e-mail passwords found leaked online

The global database of the illegally leaked passwords of tons of e-mail addresses contains passwords used by some 215 000 Estonian internet users.

Latvian EC Commissioner invites businesses to prepare for all Brexit scenarios

Businesses and supervisors should prepare for all possible Brexit scenarios, said Deputy Chairman of the European Commission on Financial Stability, Financial Services and Capital Market Union Valdis Dombrovskis participating in the ongoing finance forum City Week in the UK.

Latvia prepared to pay 4.8 million euros for participation in Expo 2020 in Dubai

Latvian government is prepared for participation in the international Expo 2020 in Dubai. Prime Minister Māris Kučinskis said after a meeting of the Cabinet of Ministers this Tuesday that it is planned to allocate EUR 4.8 million for this venture.

Spanish resort city to prohibit renting apartments to tourists

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Supreme Court of Justice views Kristovskis’ claim against Ventspils City Council

On 25 April, the Administrative Cases Department of the Supreme Court of Justice will be viewing two claims submitted by Ventspils City Council deputy Ģirts Valdis Kristovskis against the city council. «The fact that the case will be viewed verbally and that the defendants include Ventspils City Council, EPRDM and Association of Local Governments is considered unique and unprecedented in Latvia’s court practice,» says Kristovskis.

Messaging app Whatsapp not to be available to under-16s in EU

The smartphone messaging app Whatsapp plans to raise the minimum age limit to its European Union users from 13 to 16 years, as it is adjusting its rules of use to the upcoming EU data privacy regulations.

Saeima speaker in Tallinn: EU and NATO cooperation in defence should be enhanced

Close cooperation between European Union and NATO in defence is now more important than ever. This is especially true for cyber security and hybrid-thread prevention, said Latvian Saeima’s speaker Ināra Mūrniece during a meeting of EU member states parliaments in Tallinn on Tuesday, 24 April.