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Week in Lithuania. UK Foreign Secretary expresses will to visit Lithuania

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Britain’s Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has told his Lithuanian counterpart Linas Linkevičius, in London on Wednesday, November 23, that he wants to visit Lithuania, Lithuania’s Foreign Ministry said.

The Lithuanian minister presented Johnson, whose great-grandfather came from Lithuania, a book by Kristina Sabaliauskaitė titled «Vilnius. Wilno. Vilna. Three Short Stories.»

The British foreign secretary said that he had warm memories of his visit to Vilnius in the past and expressed his wish to visit Lithuania again.

The two officials discussed bilateral cooperation and the security situation in Europe and its neighbors.Other issues discussed during the meeting included the ongoing external aggression against Ukraine, the importance of a united and principled EU policy toward Russia, the Eastern Partnership, and the military conflicts in Syria and in the Middle East.The two also discussed cooperation between the two countries in law enforcement matters.In London, the Lithuanian minister also took part in a discussion about the situation in Europe hosted by the think-tank Center for European Reform.

PM-designate names his ministerial candidates

Lithuania‘s Prime Minister-designate Saulius Skvernelis on Thursday, November 24, unveiled the line-up of his Cabinet.The candidatures were earlier presented to the President Dalia Grybauskaite, who started meetingwith the candidates the same day and will end the meetings next week.

The candidates include Žygimantas Vaičiūnas, now Lithuania‘s energy attaché in Brussels, for energy minister, and Vilius Šapoka, a former director of the Financial Services and Markets Supervision Department at the central Bank of Lithuania, for finance minister.

Raimundas Karoblis, a diplomat who holds the post of deputy foreign minister in the outgoing government of Social Democratic Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevičius, is proposed as the next defense minister.

Outgoing Energy Minister Rokas Masiulis, an economist by profession, is likely to get the job of transport minister in the new coalition government and Linas Linkevičius will probably stay on as foreign minister.

Kęstutis Navickas, chairman of the Coalition of Lithuanian Environmental Organizations, is the candidate to become the next environment minister, and Liana Ruokytė-Jonsson, an actor, translator and culture diplomat, is the candidate for culture minister.

Linas Kukuraitis, a social science expert who now heads the charity organization Caritas of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Vilnius, is proposed for the post of social security and labor minister, and Aurelijus Veryga, a professor of biomedical sciences and a member of the new Seimas, for health minister.

Jurgita Petrauskienė, director of the research and higher education monitoring and analysis centre MOSTA, is the candidate for education and science minister, and Darius Petrošius, a Social Democrat and former lawmaker, for justice minister.

Other ministerial candidates include Mindaugas Sinkevičius, a Social Democrat who has held the post of mayor in the central Lithuanian district of Jonava since April 2011, for economy minister, Eimutis Misiūnas, a judge, for interior minister, and Bronius Markauskas, a farmer and former chairman of the Lithuanian Chamber of Agriculture, for agriculture minister.

Skvernelis was proposed as prime minister by the Lithuanian Peasant and Green Union (LPGU), which won last month’s parliamentary elections and agreed to form a coalition government with the Social Democrats.

National Defense, Security Industries Association gets new chief

Ricardas Sartatavičius has been appointed as the new director of the Lithuanian Defense and Security Industries Association.Before the appointment, Sartatavičius headed a public establishment Atviros Visuomenės Forumas (Open Society Forum), the publisher of magazines IQ and IQ Life. In the past he has worked as CEO of high-tech group of companies BOD Group.

Lithuanian man sentenced for President extortation

A 23-year-old man on Monday, November 21, was found guilty of trying to extort 5 million euros from Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaitė and was handed a suspended prison sentence.The Panevėžys Regional Court sentenced Justinas Survila to four years’ imprisonment, but since the man pleaded guilty to all charges, it reduced the sentence to two years and eight months and suspended it for a year and six months.Survila last February sent two identical emails from his mobile phone to the president’s office, threatening to blow up two bombs in five schools each unless he received 5 million euros.The man gave Grybauskaitė five days to raise the money, saying that he would inform her later where and when the money was to be handed to him.

German troops slightly injured during exercise

Three German soldiers were slightly injured on Thursday, November 24, when several shells landed near them during mortar fire drills as part of the Iron Sword 2016 multinational exercise.The troops experienced some ringing in their ears after the incident at the Pabradė shooting range and were taken to hospital, but they returned to the training area shortly. Around 4,000 NATO troops are taking part in the Iron Sword exercise.

Seimas opens debates on 2017 budget

The Lithuanian parliament on Thursday, November 24, opened debates on the country‘s draft 2017 budget and will send the document back to the government for improvement after discussing it.The bill is to return to the Seimas for a second deliberation by December 18. The parliament will then set a date for when the bill will be put to a vote, which is normally done at one of the nearest sittings.The new government of Prime Minister-designate Saulius Skvernelis is likely to somewhat adjust the draft budget to reflect a possible delay in the implementation of the so-called social model, a package of legislation on structural labour market and social reforms.The current bill projects a general government deficit of 0.8 per cent of GDP in 2017.

Another 12 Syrian, Iraqi refugees relocated to Lithuania

Another 12 Syrian and Iraqi refugees arrived in Lithuania on Monday, November 21.The refugees, including two Iraqi and one Syrian families, have been relocated from Greece under the EU resettlement program and will be accommodated in a refugee reception center in Rukla, in central Lithuania.Including the latest arrivals, Lithuania has so far taken in 184 refugees under the EU program. The country has less than a year to meet its commitment to the EU to receive nearly 1,000 more refugees.

Conservatives, liberals fail to agree on opposition leader

Lithuania‘s new-term Seimas will have to do without an opposition leader, at least for now, as the conservative Homeland Union –Lithuanian Christian Democrats and the Liberal Movement, the biggest opposition parties, have failed to reach a deal on the post.Gabrielius Landsbergis, the Homeland Union‘s leader, told media on Thursday, November 24, that the conservatives had «put an end» to the opposition leader talks.The two parties began consultations on the opposition leader when the new Seimas convened earlier this month, but the talks broke down after  Eugenijus Gentvilas, the Liberal faction‘s leader, confirmed to reporters that his party would not sign a deal with the conservatives. The Liberals later changed their mind, but now it is the conservatives who have ended the negotiations.

Vilnius decides to take heating supplier to court

The city of Vilnius is set to take Vilniaus Energija to court and demand that the district heating supplier pay back 190,000 euros, a part of the money it charged for heating between 2011 and 2013, when it bought biofuel at a price far above the market price.The City Council of Vilnius on Wednesday, November 23, decided, by consensus, to go to court. According to the city’s administration, the lawsuit will be filed by 20 institutions, with the amount of the claim estimated to total 190,000 euros. Privately-owned companies are also invited to join the court action.Arvydas Darulis, deputy director of the city‘s administration, said during the council’s meeting that the amount of the claim may still change as the Competition Council has not yet provided all information about biofuel purchases by Vilniaus Energija and Bionovus.

Lithuania celebratedArmed Forces Day

As Lithuania marked the Day of Armed Forces on Wednesday, November 23, the country‘s leaders and top military officers noted the enhanced national and NATO defence capacities amid the continuing dismay over Russia.In her address to a line-up of Lithuanian and Allied forces in the Cathedral Square in Vilnius at noon, President Dalia Grybauskaitė said Lithuania currently had «bigger security guarantees than ever before.»During the event in the Cathedral Square, troops of the Guard of Honour fired salvos and held a parade along the central Gedimino Avenue.

Labour Party not in merger talks with SD

The Lithuanian Labour Party does not consider merger with the ruling Social Democrats (SD) or other parties, said the party‘s acting leader Vytautas Gapšys. The comment followed the party‘s member Vydas Gedvilas‘acknowledgement to the media about rallying of right-wing political forces and the possibility to merge with the Social Democratic Party. The Labour Party dismissed Gedvilas‘ position in the Lietuvos Rytas daily as «a single person’s thoughts and opinion, which the Labour Party has nothing to do with.»

Ministry to look into helicopter repairs contracts

The Lithuanian Defence Ministry‘s Inspectorate General will look into the circumstances of concluding of repairs contracts of two helicopters.Colonel Audronis Navickas, the commander of Lithuania‘s Air Force, has been suspended from office for the course of the check, the Defense Ministry said on Tuesday, November 22. According to the press release, the two contracts on the overhaul of two Air Force helicopters Mi-8T were signed with Lithuanian company Helisota in October, stipulating that it would subcontract a Russian company for the work. After the circumstances were established, the contracts with Helisota were suspended.

New Orthodox church opens in Klaipeda

A new church of Orthodox Old Believers was opened in the Lithuanian port city of Klaipėda on Monday, November 21.Construction of the new church on Statybininkų Avenue was started in 2010 next to the old church, which was smaller. The new church features two domes, with a large number of icons inside the facility.The Old Believers church is one of Lithuania‘s nine traditional religious communities.According to the last general census, the community includes over 23,000 members, with one of the largest groups based in Klaipėda.

Ruling LPGU considers two name versions in passports

The leader of Lithuania‘s ruling Peasant and Green Union (LPGU), Ramūnas Karbauskis, has said that the party is considering a new idea on spelling non-Lithuanian names in passports. The party suggests entering both versions – in Lithuanian characters and in Latin characters – on the main page of the passport, with only the Lithuanian version entered in registers.Authors behind the idea expect the scheme would answer the expectations of the majority of the Polish community in Lithuania to have their names in passports spelled by Polish rules, i.e., with the letter w that does not exist in the Lithuanian alphabet. The rule would only apply to Latin characters, not Cyrillic alphabet.

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