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Week in Lithuania. Swedish meatballs arrive on army dishes

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Lithuania’s Armed Forces have revised menus for troops starting May to include more options, the Defence Ministry said on Thursday, May 11.

The new menu will offer more fresh vegetables, salads and fruit. The stationary canteen will also serve cooked pasta with Bolognese sauce, curd spreads with herbs and vegetables, hot pepper stew, Swedish meatballs with sauce, even burgers and many other meals, which were not on the menu of Lithuanian troops, the press release says.

President will support non-Lithuanian names in passports with approval from watchdog

Lithuania’s President Dalia Grybauskaitė will support the proposals to allow non-Lithuanian characters of the Latin alphabet on the main page of personal documents, if a green light is received from the State Commission of the Lithuanian Language.

She spoke shortly after the bill on the spelling of first and last names in documents passed the first reading in the Seimas in a vote of 64 to 25 with 13 abstentions and will now be discussed at parliamentary committees. The bill is expected to return to the full parliament on Jun. 20.

The parliament also discussed an alternative version where the original names would be entered on an additional passport of the passport. The bill, which follows the Latvian example, was supported by 53 parliamentarians, 19 were against and 25 abstained.

Lithuanian Railways to scrap Vilnius-Moscow passenger service

Lietuvos Geležinkeliai (Lithuanian Railways, or LG) is scrapping its passenger service between Vilnius and Moscow in a move that is expected to save the state railway company 2 million euros annually, but passengers will continue to be able to take a Russian train to the Russian capital.

Starting next Monday, May 15 2017, LG’s cars will not be added to the Russian train traveling from Kaliningrad to Moscow via Vilnius LG last year saw the number of passengers on the Vilnius-Moscow service drop by 27 percent compared with 2015.

About 160 Lithuanian troops participate in military drills in Estonia

Around 160 Lithuanian troops will be taking part in the Spring Storm (Kevadtorm 2017) military exercise in Estonia for the next two weeks, the Lithuanian Defence Ministry said on Friday, May 12. Most of the troops are conscript soldiers from the Grand Duchess Birute Uhlan Battalion, it said. The Spring Storm drills have been held in Estonia annually since 2003.

President visits Southeast Asia

President Dalia Grybauskaitė left on Friday, May 12, for a visit to Thailand and Indonesia. Grybauskaitė will visit Thailand first, where she will meet with Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn for talks on boosting economic, science and education and culture ties between the two countries. The Thai princess last year paid an official visit to Lithuania.

Power outage cripples 9,000 Lithuanian households

Around 9,000 households in the regions of Vilnius and Kaunas were without electricity on Thursday, May 11, after a heavy snowfall in the eastern and central parts of the country overnight, the power distribution grid operator said. At 8 a.m., there were almost 5,500 customers without power in the region of Kaunas and another 3,000 in the region of Vilnius.

Commander of Lithuanian Riflemen’s Union proposed

Defence Minister Raimundas Karoblis proposes to appoint Lieutenant Colonel Gintaras Koryzna as commander of the Lithuanian Riflemen’s Union (LRU).Koryzna is currently a lecturer at the Estonia-based Baltic Defence College and has in the past served as commander of the Vytautas the Great Jaeger Battalion. Karoblis confirmed Thursday, May 11, that he will nominate Koryzna as commander to the LRU congress if the parliament’s Committee on National Security and Defence gives the go-ahead.

Prosecutors ask court to extradite fraud suspect to US

The Lithuanian Prosecutor General’s Office has asked a court to extradite Evaldas Rimašauskas, a Lithuanian national suspected of defrauding US-based Internet giants Facebook and Google of 100 million US dollars, to the United States. The Vilnius Regional Court has scheduled a hearing on the extradition request for Friday. The BBC has reported that Google and Facebook have confirmed that they fell victim to an alleged 100-million-dollar scam orchestrated by Rimašauskas.

The 48-year-old suspect was detained on March 16. A Vilnius court then issued a one-month arrest warrant, which was on Apr. 13 extended for another month.

US defence secretary can’t elaborate on Patriot systems

United States Secretary of Defence James Mattis said in Vilnius on Wednesday, May 10, that the US was ready to deploy defence systems in the Baltic states to deter Russia, however, has given no comment on the possibility to bring long-range defence systems Patriot.

He emphasized that NATO capabilities in Eastern Europe were exceptionally defensive, dismissing built-up of Russia’s military power in the region as a destabilizing factor.

Crowd gathers in cemetery to mark end of WWII

Hundreds of people gathered in Vilnius’ Antakalnis Cemetery on Tuesday, May 9, to mark the anniversary of the Soviet victory in World War Two.

The police say that up to 1,000 people, most of them wearing the orange-and-black St. George ribbons, attended the ceremony. To the sound of military marches, people laid red carnations and wreaths at the memorial to the victims of the war.

Among those present were Russia’s ambassador Alexander Udaltsov and Belarus’ ambassador Alexander Korol, as well as members of political parties representing ethnic minorities in Lithuania.

Baltics agree on grid synchronization via Poland

The prime ministers of the three Baltic countries and Poland on Monday, May 8, reached a preliminary agreement on synchronizing the power grids of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia with the continental European network via the existing interconnection between Lithuania and Poland, known as LitPol Link, Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis said.

Lithuanian Energy Minister Zygimantas Vaičiūnas said, however, that a second power link remained an open issue.

Lithuania wins in British court against Alstom

France’s Alstom has paid 13 million euros in compensation to Lithuania as ordered by London’s Southwark Crown Court in a case in which the French group’s Swedish energy unit Alstom Power was accused of corruption in Lithuania.

The money was transferred in July 2016 and will be given to Lietuvos Energijos Gamyba (Lithuanian Energy Production, or LEG), which is part of the state energy group Lietuvos Energija (Lithuanian Energy).Alstom Power between 2004 and 2009 upgraded LEG, which was then named Lietuvos Elektrine (Lithuanian Power Plant), for 208 million euros, installing flue gas desulphurization equipment at the plant. Neither Lietuvos Energija nor the Finance Ministry, the company’s shareholder, would comment on the information about the funds received and the use of the money.

LFGU remains most popular

The Lithuanian Farmers and Greens Union, LFGU, remains the country’s most popular political force, however, its ratings declined by a third since the beginning of the year, while the ruling Social Democrats and the opposition conservatives climbed on the popularity ladder, shows a poll published on Monday, May 8.Should the general elections be held on the nearest Sunday, LFGU would be supported by 19.9 percent of those polled, down by 2.5 percentage points over the past month. The decline is within the margin error, however, the party’s popularity dropped by a third since early 2017, from 30.7 percent to 19.9 percent.

Latvian agency Travel RSP banned from operations in Lithuania

Latvia’s travel agency Travel RSP has no right to operate in Lithuania, as it is not listed as a provider of travel services, the Lithuanian State Tourism Department concluded. According to the statement, Travel RSP trips are offered by Lithuania’s travel agency Kodel Gi Ne LT, which is aware that the Latvian firm is not certified to operate in Lithuania.

 Lithuania removes roadblocks to OECD membership

Lithuania has made significant progress over the past two years in its efforts to become a member of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and if it keeps the pace, it could join the club of economically strong, transparent and innovative nations in 2018, OECD Deputy Secretary General Douglas Frantz says. According to him, Lithuania has done a good job improving its legal system and the transparency standards and management of state-owned enterprises, but it still has to carry through its forestry and road maintenance enterprise reforms to complete the OECD accession process.

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Citadele Index: businessmen are more optimistic about economic growth

After a four-year gap, optimism has been noticed in all of Latvia’s business sectors. For the third consecutive quarter Citadele Index value exceeds 50 points. Businessmen are also positive about the country’s economy and their own finances, according to the final Citadele Index study for 2017.

Bank of Latvia increases GDP growth outlook to 4.7% for 2017

Bank of Latvia has decided in increase gross domestic product growth outlook from 4.2% to 4.7% for 2017, as reported by the bank’s governor Ilmārs Rimšēvičs.

Latvian residents’ opinion of government’s work remains negative

Latvian residents voiced the biggest degree of dissatisfaction about the development of the situation in Latvia and the work performed by the government. Although the previous evaluation of government’s work had increased by four points, it has since declined by two points, according to data from Baltic International Bank’s Latvian Barometer.

Eel fishing to be restricted in Baltic Sea for three months

European Union Fisheries Council has decided to restrict eel fishing for three months in 2018 in all waters, including the Baltic Sea. Although the World Wide Fund for Nature and environmental organization in Europe view it as a notable first step, these efforts are unlikely to have a major impact on the most important problem – eel population continues declining rapidly, as noted by WWF.

LCCI: increase of electricity bills for thousands of companies in unacceptable

Latvian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) categorically opposes increasing electricity bills for the majority of small and medium-sized companies due to mandatory procurement component’s differentiation. The organization believes that this would basically introduce a new additional tax, making them even less competitive.

Head of Latvian Association of Regions to spend Christmas thinking on remaining in the party

Dissatisfied with multiple decisions made by Latvian Association of Regions (LAR), Riga City Council member Mārtiņš Bondars will spend the holiday thinking about his place in this political party, as he mentioned in his interview to Rīta panorama or LTV.

Estonian fund permitted to purchase several Latvia energy production companies

Latvian Competition Council has permitted Estonian fund to purchase several energy production and agricultural companies.

Meat processing giant sees room for growth in ready-to-eat foods

Consumption in the meat market segment of ready-to-eat foods is growing quickly, evaluated Finnish meat processing group HKScan that is planning to invest eight million euros in its factory in Estonia.

To fight for national minority schools, Russian representatives promise to hold a referendum

Defenders of Russian schools in Latvia promise to organize a referendum for autonomy of national minority schools, said co-chairman of Latvian Russians Association Miroslavs Mitrofanovs in regards to the transition to education only in Latvian language.

Tax payment process from capital growth to change in Latvia

As part of the tax reform, changes will be added to the Personal Income Tax Law starting from 1 January 2018. One of the changes is associated with payment and declaration of income from capital growth. The tax rate and the term for submission of declarations on income from capital growth will change next year.

Tusk deems EU migrant quotas ineffective as some states oppose taking in migrants

Donald Tusk, the head of the Council of the European Union and chairman of this week's EU summit, has evaluated that mandatory EU-wide quotas are ineffective and that there is a split between east and west as regards asylum policy.

Riga City Council’s 2018 budget – poorly planned or well-developed?

As the vote for the 2018 budget of Riga City Council draws near, representatives of all opposition parties say they will not support it as long as politicians of the ruling coalition continue viewing the city’s most important financial document as good and aimed at development.

Euro area economy has grown quicker than expected, European Central Bank estimated

Growth has been at a faster pace in the eurozone prompting the European Central Bank to raise its economic growth forecasts.

Weekends in Latvia expected to be snowy

A layer of snow will form in Latvia’s central and western regions that will remain until the middle of next week, as reported by State Environment, Geology and Meteorology Centre.

Opinion: Latvia at risk of restricting healthcare to 300,000 people

Kustība Par! political party has sent a letter to Latvia’s President Raimonds Vējonis, asking him to return to the Saeima the recently approved law on healthcare funding legislative draft. According to the party, the law restricts healthcare for 300,000 people in Latvia.

Lithuania’s 2018 budget focuses on spending cuts, NATO commitment and social security

Lithuania's 2018 budget, approved this week by the Seimas, Lithuanian Parliament, makes history for being the first budget ever with fewer spending for the governmental sector, the commitment to NATO of earmarking 2 per cent of the gross domestic product to defence and bigger allotments for social security. The budget was adopted by 84 MPs, 29 voted against, with 15 abstentions.

EU member states have to strengthen measures against sexual abuse of children

Member states of the European Union have to take more serious measures and cooperate more intensely with Europol and information technology industry to better combat sexual abuse of children, as noted by members of the European Parliament.

Latvian parliament views initiative for changing VAT rate for food product

On Thursday, 14 December, Latvia’s Saeima made its decision on the collective application that proposes reducing VAT on everyday healthy food products and increasing VAT on unhealthy products.

Maxima: residents have become more conservative in their choice of products

In Q2 and Q3, a higher degree of conservatism was noticed in residents’ choice of products. The number of buyers who gladly purchase new products has declined, whereas the number of buyers who do not change anything in their purchasing habits has increased, according to results of a study performed by Maxima.

Civil processes to be sped up and simplified in Latvia

On Thursday, 14 December, Saeima supported amendments to the Civil Process Law in the final reading. Amendments propose several major changes to the process of review of civil processes to make court sessions quicker and more efficient.

State Auditor dissatisfied with parliament’s slow legislative process

Latvian State Auditor Elita Krūmiņa plans to inquire to the Saeima about the delay with the approval of the legislative draft on the expansion of authority of her institution, as she mentioned in an interview to Rīta panorama programme of LTV.

Aldaris commences exports to France, China and Netherlands

Aldaris concludes 2017 with three new export contracts, commencing exports of products to China, France and Netherlands. Until now Aldaris has exported products to eight markets, with the largest one being United Kingdom, taking up 78.71% from Aldaris export volume, as reported by the company.

Estonian budget passed with 0.25 billion-euro deficit

The Estonian Riigikogu with 55 votes against 41 has passed the country’s 2018 state budget bill planning to spend by 0.25 billion more than it is planned to earn.

AFSAL: loan requests in non-banking industry are declined in 69% of all cases

In the first six months of 2017 Alternative Financial Services Association of Latvia (AFSAL) issued a total amount of EUR 84.7 million in consumer loans. No increase is noted in this amount when compared with the same period of 2016. Increase did not exceed 0.2%, as reported by the association.

European Parliament supports changes for combating activities detailed in Panama Papers

Public registries with names of true owners of businesses, effective protection of whistle-blowers and stricter requirements for financial intermediaries are some of the proposals intended to assist with the fight against tax avoidance, as noted by members of the European Parliament.

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