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Week in Lithuania. Rio Olympics’ hope takes gold at European Championships

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Rūta Meilutytė

Lithuanian swimming talent 19-year-old Rūta Meilutytė has won gold in the women’s 100 metre breaststroke final at the European Championships in London.

Lithuania’s Rio Olympic hope took gold in 1.06.17 seconds in the event last Wednesday, May 18. Finland’s European Short Course champion Jenna Laukkanen was second fastest through on 1:07.67 while Italy’s Martina Carraro stopped the clock on 1:07.73 to progress in third.

Lithuania and Romania seek NATO’s enhanced presence in the region

President Dalia Grybauskaitė met with President Klaus Werner Iohannis of Romania. The Romanian President was on a state visit to Lithuania as the two countries are celebrating the 25th anniversary of the reestablishment of diplomatic relations. The Presidents discussed bilateral relations, measures to tackle the migration crisis that has hit Europe, as well as the strengthening of the EU’s energy security and the energy union. The meeting placed special emphasis on stepping up defence and preparations for the upcoming NATO summit in Warsaw.

In Warsaw, Lithuania and Romania will seek NATO’s enhanced presence along the whole Eastern border of the Alliance and the deployment of NATO’s forward forces in the region – a multinational battalion of allied troops in Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia and a brigade-sized military equipment unit in the Baltic countries and Poland.

Slump in construction scopes

Lithuania in the first quarter registered some of the biggest declines in construction output in the European Union, figures from the EU statistical office Eurostat showed on Thursday, May 19.

Production in the construction sector in Lithuania fell by 17.4 per cent in the first quarter from a year ago, the fourth-highest rate of decline after Slovenia’s 31.5 per cent, Hungary’s 27.6 per cent and Latvia’s 19 per cent.

Based on the available data, production in construction in the whole of the EU rose by 1.2 per cent. Data for ten member states, including Estonia, are not available in the report.

Lithuania-Sweden power link back in operation

A glitch in the NordBalt power interconnection between Lithuania and Sweden has been fixed and the cable is back in operation after going offline on Wednesday evening, Litgrid said on Thursday, May 19.

The power transmission system operator said in a message to the Nord Pool power exchange earlier in the day that the link had gone offline due to a failure in the Klaipeda HVDC station and might be out of service until Saturday. Planned maintenance work on the interconnection is scheduled to begin on May 23 and last for two weeks. With the power link out of service, two emergency reserve units at the Kruonis Pumped Storage Plant were put into operation.

Wages of Lithuanian doctors, nurses to go up

Public wages of Lithuanian doctors and nursing staff will be raised by 100 and 50 euro, respectively, on July 1, Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevičius said on Thursday, May 19. According to the PM, around 30 million euro will be allocated from the Compulsory Health Insurance Fund (PSD) for this purpose this year. The prime minister said that the decision would not cause any problems with fiscal discipline.

President met with the vice-chairman of the party led by Angela Merkel

President Dalia Grybauskaitė met with Armin Laschet, deputy chairman of the Christian Democratic Union of Germany (CDU), and a delegation of parliamentarians from the Landtag of North Rhine-Westphalia. The Christian Democratic Union, whose chairwoman is Chancellor Angela Merkel, is the main partner of the ruling coalition in Germany. The meeting focused on bilateral relations and economic ties between Lithuania and Germany, the management of the migration crisis, urgent issues on the EU agenda, cooperation in the field of defence, and preparations for the upcoming NATO summit in Warsaw.

NATO Military Committee nods to multinational troops in Baltics and Poland

NATO’s Military Committee has approved the formation of multinational battalion groups in each of the Baltic countries and Poland, Lithuania’s representative at the committee said. The chiefs of defence agreed to submit military advice to the ministers that there should be battalion group-sized units in the Baltic States and Poland, Brigadier General Gintautas Zenkevičius said. According to him, a battalion group is larger than a battalion and consists of around 1,000 troops.

Following President Dalia Grybauskaitė’s state visit to Berlin, Germany voiced its intention to contribute and take a leading role in forming and deploying a multinational battalion in Lithuania. The final decision will be taken at the NATO summit in Warsaw.

Afghan interpreter granted refugee status in Lithuania

Basir Yoususi, an Afghan national who once worked as interpreter for Lithuanian troops in Afghanistan’s Ghor Province and was relocated to the Baltic state a month ago, has been granted refugee status.  Along with refugee status, the individual is also granted a permanent permit to reside in Lithuania. Yoususi applauded the Migration Department’s decision to provide him with international protection.

Lithuania to ban alcohol special price ads

Lithuania’s parliament has adopted amendments to the Law on Alcohol Control which will prohibit advertising alcoholic beverage price reductions. The new law will also ban the organising of competitions, games, promotions or sweepstakes that will encourage the purchase and/or consumption of alcoholic beverages. The amendments will also prohibit to allow the buyer immediately and (or) within a certain period of time or under certain conditions after the purchase and sale contract to win a prize, get a gift or a supplement to alcoholic beverages. The amendments will take effect on November 1.

Lithuania cuts Russian gas imports significantly

Lithuania has cut its dependence on Russian natural gas by 63.2 per cent in the first quarter of 2016 as new supply contracts with Norway’s Statoil came into effect. Most of Lithuania’s major gas importers purchased gas supplies from Statoil for this year, although Lithuania’s national gas supply company continues to buy gas from the Russian company. Baltic neighbour Estonia cut its imports by 73.6 per cent in the first quarter of 2016 but Latvia saw its imports of Russian gas rise 68.3 per cent in 2016.

Ministry doubts benefit of lower VAT on meat

Lithuanian Finance Minister Rimantas Šadžius doubts if the proposed reduction of the value added tax (VAT) rate on fresh and chilled meat will bring much benefit, saying that the priority should be on lowering the income tax for low-income earners. «The main question is whether prices will go down when the rate is reduced. It seems to me, based on data from the Institute of Agrarian Economics, that this will either not occur at all or will occur temporarily and on a small-scale,» he said on Žinių Radijas on Thursday, May 19. According to the minister, raising the non-taxable personal income tax threshold would provide the most economic benefit at the moment. All food products in Lithuania are currently subject to the standard VAT rate of 21 per cent.

Lidl to open stores in Lithuania in early June

Lidl, which is about to open a raft of stores across Lithuania in the coming months, has signed up a number of major Lithuanian food companies to supply its outlets, indicating it may open as early as the beginning of June. Dairy company Vilkyškių Pieninė, Citma and fruit and vegetable wholesalers Kietaviškių Gausa, meat processor Klaipėdos Mėsinė have all signed contracts with the German retailer.

New HIV cases in Lithuania

Forty-four people, 32 men and 12 women, were diagnosed with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection in Lithuania in the first quarter of this year, the Centre for Communicable Diseases and AIDS said on Tuesday, May 17. The number of new HIV cases increased by ten compared with the same period in 2015. In almost half the cases (47 per cent) HIV was contracted through drug use. According to the centre, 205 HIV-positive people have died of AIDS-related illnesses in Lithuania since the start of HIV infection registration in 1988.

Lithuanian PM supports exception in citizenship referendum

The leader of the ruling Lithuanian Social Democratic Party, Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevičius, supports the idea of making an exception and lowering the threshold of the necessary number of votes in the planned referendum on dual citizenship. «I am in support of dual citizenship. (…) However, if we see that we cannot achieve the result by way of referendum, we should revise the law to allow a smaller number of people have their say for granting citizenship to people who have left Lithuania. I believe there would be no tragedy here,» the head of the government told journalists at the parliament on Thursday, May 19.

Three coastal cities seeks European Capital of Culture status for 2022

Klaipėda, Neringa and Palanga, three municipalities on the Lithuanian coast of the Baltic Sea, seek to become the European Capital of Culture in 2022 and have proposed a joint program called Rising to Wind that will emphasize the region’s multicultural features, the Klaipėda City Municipality said on Thursday, May 19. «It was not only Klaipeda, Neringa and Palanga that united for the common uniting aspiration of becoming the European Capital of Culture, but the entire Klaipeda region, which is undoubtedly one of the most ambitious and promising in Lithuania. Members of its community chose a new course of development based on cultural breakthrough, which will allow for the transformation of the Klaipėda region into a significant cultural centre of Lithuania within five or six years,» Klaipėda Mayor Vytautas Grubliauskas said in the press release.

Lithuanian MEP Guoga compared to Donald Trump

Lithuanian MEP Antanas Guoga is «the closest thing the (European) Parliament has to a Donald Trump», according to Politico, a description that resonates with recent controversy that has surrounded the liberal politician at home. The popular news websites picked its top 40 most influential members of the European Parliament, putting the Lithuanian businessman-politician at the 38th spot. «This Lithuanian MEP brings something often missing from Parliament: charisma.

The closest thing the Parliament has to a Donald Trump, the independently wealthy Guoga is unafraid to tackle the most sensitive issues in new ways. Whether that is rapping about Greek economic complacency, slamming Vladimir Putin on Twitter, or pointing out how the Schengen zone is helping to depopulate his home country,» Politico summarizes Guoga’s appeal.

Lithuanian conscripts injured during exercise back in service

Two troops of Lithuania’s initial mandatory military service injured during exercise have recovered and will be back in service on Monday, the Defence Ministry said.

The two troops of the mandatory initial military service of the Lithuanian Great Duke Kęstutis Mechanized Infantry Battalion were injured during a combat firing exercise with Carl Gustaf anti-tank projectors on May 10

During the incident, one of the men suffered an injury to his face and arm and underwent surgeries in a Vilnius hospital, while the other one had a fragment in his face that was removed at another hospital of the Lithuanian capital. After a medical examination, both of the troops were released from hospital and went home for rehabilitation. According to the press release, the men feel well and will remain under medical attention

Lithuanian PM off to Czech Republic next week

Lithuania’s Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevičius is going to the Czech Republic next Monday and Tuesday to meet with the country’s top officials and attend economic and research events. The PM’s agenda includes meeting with Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka, Parliamentary Speaker Jan Hamacek and President Milan Zeman. The meetings should focus on economic cooperation and security. The Lithuanian prime minister is also scheduled to attend opening of a business forum of Lietuvos Geležinkeliai (Lithuanian Railways, or LG) on Lithuanian transport solutions for Czech businesses.

France to build memorial for French POWs in Neringa

France is considering to build a monument on Lithuania’s Curonian Spit to commemorate French soldiers who perished here during nineteenth-century military conflicts. Neringa. A French delegation, led by Ambassador Philippe Jeantaud and defence attaché Alain Moulia, visited the site, dubbed the Valley of Death, last weekend, Lietuvos Žinios reports. The pristine sand dunes of Neringa could have hosted a camp of French prisoners of war between 1870 and 1872, during the Franco-German war. Neringa Mayor Darius Jasaitis says that France, in cooperation with Germany, is planning a research project and archaeological excavations on the site. The Death Valley might also have a wooden monument. Ambassador Jeantaud says the memorial could be built by 2018 at the latest.

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