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Monday 05.12.2016 | Name days: Sabīne, Sarma, Klaudijs
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Week in Lithuania. Vilnius western bypass to be launched in 2016

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Construction on the third phase of Vilnius western bypass may be completed as early as this year and the road is expected be opened to traffic immediately thereafter, Vilnius Major Remigijus Šimašius has said.

«Works are progressing in line with schedule and even ahead of schedule. If everything goes smoothly, the whole phase of the bypass should be opened this year. As regards financing, everything is going smoothly, too. We’ve received money from the European Union,» he told the reporters on Thursday, June 23.

Disbursement of EU money might be launched «in a couple of weeks», he said. Transport Minister Rimantas Sinkevičius on Wednesday, June 22, signed an order allocating 84.06 million euros from EU funds. Aldas Rusevičius, CEO of Kauno Tiltai (Kaunas Bridges), the largest transport infrastructure construction company in the Baltic countries and the general contractor of the third phase of the bypass, said that more than 50 percent of construction works had already been carried out.

«Overall, approximately 55 percent of bypass construction works have been carried out by combined efforts of all builders. We hope that our commitment to open the road to traffic as early as this year will be implemented,» he told the reporters. The third phase of the western bypass was supposed to be completed in the first quarter of 2017.

Youths protest in unsanctioned gathering against new Lithuania Labour Code

More than 50 youths gathered in front of the Lithuania government’s office in Vilnius on Wednesday, June 22, to protest against the new Lithuania’s Labour Code.

«Politicians completely ignored the interests and wellbeing of workers, trade unions and Lithuania’s people in general, and all proposals favourable for workers were turned down without discussion. They don’t represent us hence we are fighting for our rights ourselves. We won’t go anywhere,» protesters said in a statement.

The youths vow to continue their protest near the government’s office until the legislative acts adopted by the Seimas (parliament) are revoked. The protesters were not dispersed as long as their protest action remained peaceful, even if unauthorized. The Labour Code simplifies dismissal procedures, reduces severance payments, increases the maximum overtime hours allowed per year, shortens vacation time and introduces a wider range of labor contracts. Weighing in on the new Labour Code, Lithuania’s President Dalia Grybauskaitė said she saw room for its improvement.

«Most probably I’ll have to act as a conciliator between employers and employees. In fact, it looks like it will be necessary to strike that balance because it can be seen now that the balance between employers and social security and interests of employees has not been found,» she told the LRT radio on Thursday, June 23. «It’s true that we needed a reform of the Labor Code. It’s true that we’ve been talking for a long time about the necessity of increased flexibility in labor relations and the goal was formulated by all of us. However, we have to talk as we’ve reached the stage of development where everything should be done in a democratic way, by talking to all social partners,» she said.

The new Labor Code clearly contained certain solutions that only benefited businesses, she said, adding that she would seek a compromise that would be acceptable to all stakeholders involved.

Litvaks will obtain Lithuanian citizenship with new amendment

The Lithuanian parliament (Seimas) has adopted amendments to the Law on Citizenship, which will enable Litvaks, i.e. Jews of Lithuanian origin, and their descendants who left the country in the interwar period, to restore their citizenship rights. The amendments will come into effect once signed into law by President Dalia Grybauskaitė. The amendments were submitted to the parliament earlier this week and were debated and passed quickly. Andrius Kubilius, the leader of the Conservative opposition and one of the authors of the amendments, said that the existing legislation had to be adjusted due to the practice adopted by migration officials and courts, which started asking Litvaks to submit evidence that they, or their ancestors, had been persecuted in interwar Lithuania. Now the scope of the law includes both fleeing and emigration.

Lithuanian PM blames EU institutions for Brexit vote

Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevičius said some of the blame for the vote to exit the EU by the British electorate should go for EU institutions who had not listened to member states concerns enough.

«In my opinion, a situation has started forming lately when the European Commission in certain case even ordered which laws and which decision on the national level parliaments and governments should adopt. That, I think, was one of the biggest governance mistakes,» Butkevičius said. «Both the European Commission and the European Council should be much more open to national-level parliaments and there should closer cooperation with EU governments,» the Lithuanian prime minister said on Friday, June 24.

Prosecutor general asks Seimas to strip MP of legal immunity

Lithuania’s Prosecutor General Evaldas Pašilis on Thursday, June 23, addressed the Seimas (parliament) with a request to strip Vytautas Gapšys, a Labour Party MP, of legal immunity. According to the prosecutor general, Gapšys, «acting for his own benefit and the benefit of others, promised, agreed to take and took a bribe of 25,000 euro» which had been given for … the adoption of two political decisions favourable and beneficial for MG Baltic concern. Pašilis did not specify the legislative acts involved in his address to the Seimas. However, a letter, which he sent to the parliament earlier this week, said that those were amendments to the Law on Profit Tax and a resolution on Vilnius-Utena highway project.

New Finance minister: no new taxes in near future

The current government has no plans to introduce any new taxes, says Lithuania’s new finance minister Rasa Budbergytė, backtracking from her earlier statement that real estate and car taxes were only a matter of time. The 2017 budget, which is being drafted now, does not envisage any new taxes, Rasa Budbergytė now says. «I really don’t want to mislead the public, I want people to get me right – we don’t plan to introduce any new taxes. The (2017) budget being drafted now does not envisage any (new) taxes,»she told reporters on Thursday, June 23. Budbergytė had mentioned after the appointment that, sooner or later, Lithuania would have to introduce real estate and car taxes. In response, Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevičius stated that the government had no plans to introduce any new taxes and Parliamentary Speaker Loreta Graužinienė commented that Budbergytė was getting ahead of herself with such statements.

 Amber Grid hopes to obtain GILP construction permits in fall

With a special plan for the Lithuanian section of the so-called GILP, Gas Interconnection Poland-Lithuania, finally approved by the government, Amber Grid, the Lithuanian gas transmission company, expects to obtain the permits, required to build the interconnection, in fall.

The company could already start the procedures for obtaining the permits, Danas Janulionis, head of strategic planning at Amber Grid, said.

«This plan enables us to continue applying to institutions, to obtain building permits in all municipalities, which the gas pipeline is expected to cross… We hope that the construction stage will being in fall,» he said.

The pipeline in Lithuania will run through the territory of municipalities of nine towns and districts. Potential construction contractors are expected to submit their bids by the end of June. In Lithuania, the GILP should cost about 136 million euros including 55 million euros received in support from the European Union (EU). The 165-kilometer long 700-millimeter pipeline will enable to supply approximately 2.6 billion cubic meters of gas to Lithuania and approximately 1.8 billion cubic meters to Poland each year.

U.S. startup Cujo to open new development centre

Cujo, which was named as one of the hottest up-and-coming startups at this year’s TechCrunch Disrupt conference, is setting up operations in Lithuania. The U.S.-based startup will establish its Lithuanian unit in Kaunas by the end of the year, where work will focus on developing, testing and improving Cujo’s smart home internet security technology. Cujo is a smart firewall device that connects directly to a router, protecting the entire home wireless network against attacks by hackers.

Lithuania asks Belarus to put on hold NPP construction

Lithuania has asked Belarus to suspend construction work of its nuclear power plant in Astravyets until stress tests and other studies by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) can be performed. «We asked whether Belarus could provide additional information, as an appendix to the environmental impact assessment documents… We also asked to conduct the IAEA’s site evaluation mission as soon as possible, to carry out stress tests, based on comprehensible methodology, as soon as possible,» said Vitalijus Auglys, director of the Pollution Prevention Department at the Lithuanian Environment Ministry.

Lithuania produces most meat in Baltics

Lithuania produces more meat per capita than any of the other Baltic States according to new data from Statistics Lithuania. Lithuania’s per capita meat production rose by 6 kilogrammes last year on 2014 to 83 kilogrammes, including 29 kilograms of pork – pork production was unchanged. This compares with Estonia’s meat production of 64 kilograms per capita, and Latvia’s 43 kilogrammes. Per capita milk production in Lithuania last year fell by 14 kilograms to 598 kilograms and egg production decreased by 4 units to 271 units. In Latvia, per capita milk production was 495 kilograms and in Estonia, 596 kilograms. Egg production per head was 353 units in Latvia and 155 units in Estonia.

Stockholm arbitration ruling in Lithuania-Gazprom case

A four-year-long dispute between the Lithuanian government and Russia‘s gas company Gazprom over 1.4 billion  euro sought by Lithuania at Stockholm arbitration court over overcharging for gas supplies has ended in failure of both parties to prove the validity of their claims. Experts say that Lithuania was short of strong arguments that could prove Gazprom’s guilt over excessive prices of gas. They point out, however, that the acknowledgement by the arbitration court that Gazprom had a conflict of interests is an important breakthrough. Moreover, litigation served as leverage in negotiations when implementing reforms in the energy sector.

«I wouldn’t say that it (the decision by the arbitration court) is a definitive defeat, since the existence of a conflict of interests was not denied. Yet it looks like we were short of arguments to give a reasonable assessment of the damage referred by Lithuania in its lawsuit,» says Ramūnas Vilpišauskas, director of the Vilnius University’s International Relations and Political Science Institute.

President: EU will feel Brexit consequences

The European Union will feel the consequences of Brexit in the short term but will find a common model of coexistence, Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaitė says. «We respect the decision of the people of the United Kingdom. The United Kingdom is and will remain an important security and economic partner of Lithuania. In the short term, the European Union will feel the consequences of this decision but we will find a common model of EU-UK coexistence, » the president said in a recorded statement issued by her press service.

Meanwhile, Lithuanian Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevičius hopes trade between the European Union and the United Kingdom will remain free after the latter voted for leaving the Community. In his opinion, trade should remain free European and British businesses connected.
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