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Week in Lithuania. Ten refugees arrive, to be given more Lithuanian classes

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Ten refugees who arrived in Lithuania from Syria and Iraq on Friday, July 29, under the European Union‘s resettlement programme will get more Lithuanian classes to speed up the integration.

Press Interior Vice-Minister Justas Pankauskas says that the two refugee families have been resettled from Greece.  For the first several months, the migrants will be placed at the Rukla Refugee Reception Centre for initial phase of integration, until the Migration Department makes the decision on their asylum status.

With the EU‘s resettlement program having reached its midway point, Lithuania faces the challenge of taking in more than a thousand refugees from Middle East within slightly more than a year and successfully integrating people from a culture that is unfamiliar to most Lithuanians. Lithuania has until now been slow in implementing the program, under which it pledged to accept 1,105 migrants over two years.

A mere 39 people have been relocated to the country since the launch of the program almost a year ago. That means that Lithuania still has to take in more than a thousand people from Middle East to fully implement the program by September 2017. The authorities are set to devote more attention and resources to teaching refugees the Lithuanian language, a key challenge in their integration process.

Special services charge chief veterinary officer

Lithuania‘s Special Investigation Service has brought suspicions of abuse of powers against the country‘s chief veterinary officer Jonas Milius. The service said it suspected that the top executives of an unidentified food product company sought to bribe various individuals who could help it to avoid penalties that are normally imposed for violating the rules of occupational safety, packaging, labelling, hygiene or other. On Thursday, July 28, security agents searched offices of Milius and MP Petras Gražulis. Procedural actions were also conducted in offices of Judex food production company, which also employs Gražulis‘ relatives. Milius said that minor exports violations had been established at the company in an investigation a year ago.

Lidl mulls selling more Lithuanian products

German-owned retailer Lidl Lietuva could sell more Lithuanian production in Lithuania and other European countries, says CEO Radostin Roussev-Peine, adding that surveys would be needed.

«We were talking about that we have already started our work in Lithuania and we will start to form our assortment for our customers. We would like to increase the amount of products from Lithuanian suppliers – we are talking about dairy, fruit and vegetable and meat sectors. These are the main points,» Roussev-Paine said after meeting with Lithuania’s Agriculture Minister Virginija Baltraitienė.

In his words, Lidl would want to sell Lithuanian products elsewhere in Europe but surveys would be needed about the types and amounts of products that can be sold. After opening in Lithuania in early June, Lidl Lietuva already operates 16 stores across the country and is set to expand the network, which mainly sells Polish production but also features German goods and a very small amount of Lithuanian products.

Land plot found for Russian ambassador‘s residence

A land site is envisaged for the Russian Embassy in the prestigious Valakupių neighborhood in Vilnius for construction of an ambassadorial residence.

«We expect to complete the talks before the end of this year,» the ministry said in a statement on Wednesday, July 27.The state is first expected to take over two farm buildings on Melynių Street from the Vilnius municipality. Later on, the land site, which is located further from the guarded territory of residences of Lithuania’s state leaders, could be allocated for the construction of the Russian ambassador‘s residence. Signing of the international agreement on the terms and conditions of the settlement of embassies would invalidate the earlier treaty, which regulates the use of premises close to the residences of Lithuanian leaders in Turniškės by Russian diplomats.

Lithuania hands note to Belarus over new nuclear plant incident

Lithuania‘s government on Thursday, July 28, handed a note to the Belarusian Embassy over the latest incident at the Astravyets Nuclear Power Plant under construction in Belarus close to the Lithuanian border. Vilnius has also asked Brussels for involvement of the European Union (EU) in the matter. Ludo Segers Belarus‘ chargé d‘affaires Lyudmila Tatarinovich was summoned to the Lithuanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Hoops star accredited to Olympics despite ads controversy

Lidl‘s advertising campaign in Lithuania has not barred Arvydas Sabonis, president of the Lithuanian Basketball Federation, from getting accreditation for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. There was some doubt about the Lithuanian basketball legend’s accreditation because of a ban on using the name and image of athletes, coaches or officials participating in the Olympic Games for advertising purposes during the Olympic Games. The so-called Rule 40 blackout period began nine days before the opening ceremony. Lidl, which is not an Olympic sponsor and is a competitor to the retail chain Maxima, a sponsor of the Lithuanian National Olympic Committee (LNOC), did not suspend its advertising campaign which features Sabonis.

U.S. ambassador ends term in Vilnius

Deborah McCarthy has completed her tenure as United States ambassador to Lithuania. She served as US ambassador to Lithuania since 2013 and will be replaced by Anne Hall who will come to Lithuania in late September or early October. In the meantime, the U.S. embassy in Vilnius is headed by Chargé D‘affaires Ad Interim Howard Solomon. Hall, a career diplomat, has been acting principal deputy assistant secretary in the Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs at the US Department of State since 2014.

Over one fifth of Lithuanians face misery

Some 640,000 of Lithuania‘s population, or 22.2 per cent, were below the poverty risk line in 2015, up by 3.1 points year-on-year, according to a survey of incomes and living conditions carried out by the country‘s statistics office. The at-risk-of-poverty threshold last year was defined as living on a 259 euro monthly income for a single person and 574 euro for a family of two adults and two children under 14 years of age, Statistics Lithuania said on Wednesday, July 27. Neither minimum wage legislation, nor retirement pensions did much to alleviate poverty of some people, according to the press release.

Lithuania wants to buy out FSRU vessel

If Lithuania secured EU funding for the Klaipeda liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal, it could begin talks with Norway‘s Hoegh LNG to purchase the terminal’s vessel before the 10-year lease contract expires in 2024, Energy Minister Rokas Masiulis said. The minister says that talks with the European Commission on EU support for the LNG terminal has been ongoing for a year and a half now, noting that the discussion is very difficult because the EU‘s executive body normally does not provide aid for implemented projects. According to unofficial information, Lithuania seeks around 100 million euros in support from the Commission.

Lithuania‘s wind power output surges

Wind power generation in Lithuania soared by 53.5 percent in the first half of this year compared with the same period in 2015, according to figures from the electricity transmission system operator Litgrid. Experts attribute the strong growth to new wind turbines going online. Wind turbines generated a total of 456.7 gigawatt-hours (GWh) of electricity in Lithuania in January through June, up from 297.5 GWh in the same period last year and 268.8 GWh in the first half of 2014.Wind power accounted for 49.5 percent of all electricity generated in Lithuania in the first half of 2016.According to Litgrid, the country‘s annual wind power output last year totalled 806.3 GWh, making up 19 per cent of the country‘s total electricity production.

Kaunas mayor discharged after heart surgery

Kaunas Mayor Visvaldas Matijošaitis has been discharged from hospital after undergoing a heart surgery, the local authority of Lithuania‘s second-biggest city announced on Thursday, July 28. Matijošaitis, 59, will now start a 20-day rehabilitation program in the seaside resort of Palanga.

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Week in Lithuania. Lithuania set to step up defence ties with the United States

Lithuania is set to step up defence ties with the United States by signing the first bilateral cooperation agreement.

Economic Diary of Latvia. To tempt Brexit defectors

Latvia had the slowest growth of GDP among Baltic States in Q3 2016, according to the latest data from the Central Statistical Bureau of Latvia. Nevertheless, this does not seem to prevent Prime Minister Maris Kucinskis from hoping for GDP growth of 4-5% a year in the future.

Following an investment of 3.3 million, K-rauta becomes K Senukai

On Friday, 2 December, Baltics’ largest construction, repair and household goods store network Kesko Senukai opened its first new concept shopping centre K Senukai in Riga, Lucavsalas Street. This venture cost the company EUR 3.3 million.

Saeima deputies allocated record-large amount of money for «friend projects»

The money of Latvia’s budget for next year allocated not with the intention to solve problems in priority industries but rather to satisfy desires of certain politicians and their lobby groups has reached an astonishing new peak – EUR 27.9 million, according to estimates, as reported by Ir.

Income from foreign travellers in Latvia declines

In Q3 2016, Latvia’s current account had a surplus of EUR 93.4 million or 1.5% of GDP, notes Bank of Latvia economist Linda Vecgaile.

airBaltic to sell Boeing 737 after replacing them with Bombardier CS300

Latvian national airBaltic airline intends to gradually update its fleet with Bombardier CS300 aircraft. The airline plans to sell its owned Boeing 737, says Martin Gauss, Chief Executive Officer of airBaltic.

Numbers of active voters in Latvia continue to decline before next year’s elections

47% of Latvian vote-ready citizens plan to take part in next year’s municipal elections, according to results of a survey carried out by SKDS following a request from the Central Election Commission in November.

BATL: transit industry’s potential is enormous, but not used to its fullest

Baltic Association – Transport and Logistics is satisfied that real and constructive work has commenced in cooperation with LDz Logistics and Transport and Communications Institute on Latvia’s transport and logistics, including the development of a strategy for the transit industry.

Ominous milestone: one-millionth Lithuanian to leave soon

The statisticians claim that, every day, 120 Lithuanians hop onto Scandinavia and Western Europe-bound planes in search of a better life. This month, Lithuania is likely to reach an ominous and heart-wrenching milestone with the country‘s émigré number expected to go over one million. To calm down the naysayers, the estimate is unofficial.

Snowy weekends expected in Latvia

The first days of December will go by under influence from a cyclone. Because of that, many regions of the country are expected to experience snowfall. Rain is only expected along the coast. Ice is expected to form as a result and visibility will likely reduce because of snowfall.

Three European cities plan to ban diesel cars

Looking for ways to improve their quality of air, the mayors of Madrid, Paris and Athens have on December 1 expressed readiness to introduce bans on cars and trucks with diesel engines by 2025.

French President Hollande refuses to run for re-election

France’s President François Hollande has unexpectedly announced that he would not run for re-election to the post.

Several hundred Estonian reserve soldiers summoned to unexpected drills

The cabinet of ministers of Estonia ordered on December 1 to hold snap military drills to test the ability of reserve troops to reach combat readiness in 24 hours.

Freight turnover and freight traffic declines at ports

Compared to Q3 2015, the volume of freights carried by land and pipeline transport has decreased by 1.8 million tonnes or 5.5 % in Q3 2016. The most notable drop in the volume of freights carried was recorded in rail transport – of 2.3 million tonnes or 18.9 %.

EU 2017 budget to provide the most support to youth and growth initiatives

In the next year’s budget, members of the European Parliament have secured larger support to unemployed youngsters and Erasmus+, as well as initiatives for support of small and medium-sized businesses, transport infrastructure projects and research. Commitment appropriations for 2017 total EUR 157.8578 billion, and payment appropriations EUR 134.49 billion.

Vejonis picks Kalnins as candidate for NAF commander

President of Latvia Raimonds Vejonis has decided to propose National Armed Forces Joint Staff Chief Leonids Kalnins for the post of commander of Latvia’s National Armed Forces. Kalnins was previously proposed by Defence Minister Raimonds Bergmanis, according to information from LETA.

Europol releases its Christmas calendar of EU’s most wanted criminals

European Union’s police body Europol has engaged in the often commercial pre-festive period by releasing Christmas advent calendar that will reveal one of bloc’s most wanted criminals every day up until Christmas.

Expert: Latvia’s real estate market is sick

In medical terms, Latvia’s real estate market is currently sick. It will only recover once all transactions are carried out using actual market price and those whose expectations are overestimated – drop out, said real estate specialist, member of Latvian Real Estate Association and board member of Real State Jurmala Igors Danilevics.

Prime Minister: Latvia’s economic growth is not as fast as it was expected in 2015

«Looking at national economy’s growth dynamics in 2016, we have noticed drastically different ratings. On the one hand, there are positive statistics that prove Latvia’s economic growth continues. It is not as fast as it was expected in 2015. It is expected that growth will continue in the future. A few days ago opinions of multiple banking experts appeared in the public space, saying that wage growth in Latvia will speed up next year. I would associate that with the government’s decisions and the Saeima’s approved budget for 2017,» – said Prime Minister Maris Kucinskis.

Estonia’s coalition distances itself from charges against ruling party

The coalition partners of Estonia’s Centre Party, which is headed by the Estonian Prime Minister, have this week distanced themselves from charges brought against the ruling party for allegedly receiving illegal political donations.

Finland’s Prime Minister blamed for attempts to limit press freedom

The Prime Minister of Finland Juha Sipilä has denied allegations that he has attempted to affect, how press covers allegations against him and his relatives.

Restrictions for alimony avoiders and other decisions viewed by the Saeima

On Thursday, 1 December, the Saeima will decide on the new Subsistence Guarantee Fund Law. This law states that driving rights can be revoked for alimony avoiders.

OPEC oil exporters agree to reduce oil output to increase price

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries agreed on November 30 for the first time since 2008 to reduce oil supply in an attempt to make global oil prices grow. The organisatrion’s head Mohammed Bin Saleh Al-Sada stated that a cut of 1.2 million barrels a day would start from January

Tragic dormitory fire in Turkey

Police in southern Turkey has detained six people after 11 pupils and a teacher died in a dorm fire.

Tick encephalitis infection cases increased by one-third in Latvia this year

Cold November forced ticks to enter hibernation. There is reason to believe tick activity in Latvia has ended for this year, admits entomologist Voldemars Spungis.

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