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Week in Lithuania. Constitutional Court rules against cap on income tax share for Vilnius

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Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RULimiting the Lithuanian capital Vilnius’ share of personal income tax revenues collected in the city is against the Constitution of Lithuania, the Constitutional Court ruled on Thursday, June 11, in a ruling that will take effect on January 2, 2016.

«I am glad that the Constitutional Court made the right decision. It was stated that allocating a lower share of personal income tax to Vilnius without any criteria was unlawful. This means that Vilnius is to be given a fair, higher share of the personal income tax,» Vilnius Mayor Remigijus Šimašius wrote on his Facebook page.

The capital city currently is allowed to keep 48 percent of the personal income tax collected in the city. A group of lawmakers turned to the Constitutional Court in 2012, saying that the limit, which was set at 40 percent at that time, not only undermined the interests of the city and its people, but also harmed the image of the country as a whole. Vilnius Regional Court has also turned to the Constitutional Court as part of its examination of Vilnius Council’s request to increase the share of the personal income tax left to the city to 60 percent.

Existing law allows leaving 94 percent of personal income tax revenues to Kaunas, 86 percent to Klaipėda, 99 percent to the district of Mažeikiai and 100 percent to all other municipalities.

Jerzy Giedroyc award presented

The Jerzy Giedroyc Forum for Dialogue and Cooperation has awarded former Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus and poet and translator Tomas Venclova for their contribution to Lithuanian-Polish cooperation. The ceremony took place in Warsaw last Thursday, June 11.

Professor Venclova was awarded for his literary work that’s been of benefit for communication between the two nations, and Adamkus will receive the award for his political activity that’s brought Lithuania and Poland together on the interstate level. Adamkus was Lithuania’s president in 1998-2003 and 2004-2009.

Lithuania urges Poland to resolve gas pipeline money issue

Lithuanian Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevičius has reiterated his call on Poland to resolve the issue of funding for the Gas Interconnection Poland-Lithuania (GIPL) project as quickly as possible.

Butkevičius said this to his Polish counterpart, Ewa Kopacz, during their meeting in Brussels.

The prime ministers of the three Baltic countries last April asked the leaders of the European Commission and Poland to find a solution for the GIPL financing. The EU Agency for the Cooperation of Energy Regulators (ACER) said last August that Poland, as a net cost bearer, would be compensated for the 558-million-euro project with 85.8 million euros, of which 54.9 million would be paid by Lithuania, 29.4 million euros by Latvia and 1.5 million euros by Estonia. Poland is said to be seeking higher compensation. The European Commission last October granted the 534-kilometre gas interconnection between Lithuania and Poland a top priority status.

Two thousand volunteers have enlisted in Lithuanian Armed Forces

Minister of National Defence Juozas Olekas says that 2,000 volunteers have already enlisted in the Lithuanian Armed Forces for 9-month military service.

«As of today, nearly 2,000 people have enlisted in the military on a voluntary basis,» Olekas told Parliament during the Government’s hour. The Minister urged youths, especially school graduates, to continue joining the Armed Forces.

Lithuanians feel more secure than Latvians, less secure than Estonians

Estonians continue to be the Baltic nation with the strongest sense of security, while Latvians continue to feel the least secure, according the latest Ergo Security Index.

The overall rating is six for Estonia, down by 2 points from eight in 2014, minus four for Lithuania, up by one point from minus five, and minus twelve for Latvia, up by one point from minus thirteen, the insurer said in a press release on Thursday.

The report shows that healthcare remains the greatest concern in all three countries. National stability and security is also an issue of concern. Only Estonians gave a positive rating to their material and financial situation.

The report shows that when it comes to satisfaction with one’s life, the results are very similar in all three Baltic countries and have not improved much in a year. The percentages of respondents who felt that they were in a good condition were 46 percent in Lithuania and Estonia each and 50 percent in Latvia. The survey was conducted by Ergo together with the SKDS public opinion research centre. Some 1,000 residents aged between 18 and 74 years were polled online in each country.

Defence minister will be entitled to extend service time

The Seimas of Lithuania has adopted amendments on the extension of the service time for professional troops. The amendments initiated by the Ministry of National Defence stipulate that the minister will be able to extend the time of service of professional troops after they reach the age of retirement. The time of service for troops and junior officers would be extended for not more than 10 years, not more than 4 years for warrant officers and colonels and not more than 6 years for lieutenant colonels. Likewise, the time of service would be extended for naval officers. Defence Minister Juozas Olekas says now in Lithuania army officers retire fairly young, 36.6 years on average, and their potential is not used to their fullest. 445 professional troops retire in Lithuania every year.

Human Rights Watch criticizes minister’s take on same-sex partnership

The Lithuanian justice minister’s rejection of a gender-neutral bill to allow civil partnerships contradicts European standards, Human Rights Watch said in a letter to Justice Minister Juozas Bernatonis released on Thursday, June 11.

The Lithuanian Justice Ministry, headed by Bernatonis, recently drafted a partnership bill that states civil unions would only be available to opposite-sex couples.

«It is extremely disappointing that Justice Minister Bernatonis opposed including same-sex couples in the registered partnership legislation,» Boris Dittrich, LGBT rights advocacy director at Human Rights Watch, is quoted as saying in the organisation’s press release. «Justice Minister Bernatonis should understand from the ruling on Greece that his position is discriminatory and violates Lithuania’s international human rights obligations.»

The Greek government announced on June 10, 2015, that it will introduce a new law giving civil union rights to same-sex couples following a ruling by the European Court on Human Rights that civil partnership legislation that excluded same-sex couples was discriminatory.

Bernatonis commented during a live TV debate on June 3 that he would allow registered partnership only for opposite-sex couples. He contended that the there were simply too few same-sex couples living together in Lithuania to include them in partnership legislation. As a party to the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and as a member of the Council of Europe, Lithuania is bound by the rulings of the European Court of Human Rights and Council of Europe positions, Human Rights Watch said.

Lithuania can accept 250 refugees

Lithuania could take in 250 refugees as a voluntary contribution to the European Union’s efforts to alleviate the Mediterranean migrant crisis, Foreign Minister Linas Linkevičius says. According to him, the number of 250 refugees, which the Lithuanian president recently mentioned, matches the country’s capabilities.

According to Linkevičius, the figure is not subject to negotiations, has been chosen following an analysis of Lithuania’s capabilities and is aimed at showing solidarity with southern EU countries. That Lithuania could take in up to 250 refugees also believes Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaitė.

Foreign Minister: Fighting propaganda with bans is not the best way

Commenting on recent reports that the rebroadcasting of one more Russian TV channel could be suspended in Lithuania, Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevičius says that such bans are not the best way to fight propaganda. Instead, he says, Lithuania should create high-quality alternatives.

On Wednesday, June 10, the Radio and Television Commission of Lithuania announced that it had sufficient evidence on various irregularities committed by a Russian TV channel whose rebroadcasts in Lithuania could be banned in the near future. The channel remains unnamed. A decision is expected not earlier than June 20.

Lithuanian army’s website hacked

False information was on Wednesday, June 10, published on the website of the Joint Staff of the Lithuanian Armed Forces. An investigation has been launched into suspected hacking, the Ministry of National Defence said on Thursday, June 11.

The false statement said that one of the aims of the Exercise Saber Strike was to prepare for the annexation of Kaliningrad, a Russian region wedged between Lithuania and Poland. The false information was removed by specialists from the National Cyber Security Centre. The ministry said a server for the army website is provided by a private company which is responsible for its maintenance and security.

The recent hacking incident is aimed at discrediting Lithuania and NATO, Lithuania’s National Defence Minister Juozas Olekas says.

Security flaws will be identified during an investigation and measures will be taken to remove vulnerabilities, he said.

Emigration from Lithuania falling

Emigration from Lithuania has been on a decline, while more illegal immigrants have been crossing into Lithuania on their way to more prosperous destinations in Western Europe.

«The observed trends show that emigration is falling and fewer people are leaving Lithuania than in the previous year, compared to the last three years. The number of returning Lithuanian citizens, i.e., repatriation, has reached its peak in the last three years as well,» said Lithuanian Interior Minister Saulius Skvernelis after the Government’s sitting on Monday where he presented the results and implementation of guidelines of Lithuania’s migration policy.

According to the minister, a negative trend is that flows of illegal immigration across Lithuania’s borders have been obviously increasing. As a result, the Migrants’ Centre in Pabradė is completely overcrowded. The majority of migrants who enter Lithuania through the eastern border with Belarus are citizens of Georgia and Afghanistan.

Swedish royal family to visit Lithuania in October

Swedish King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia will pay a state visit to Lithuania in October, informed the Office of President of the Republic of Lithuania. The Swedish royal couple will be accompanied by a business delegation, and President Dalia Grybauskaitė and King Carl XVI Gustaf will open a bilateral business forum. Sweden is the largest investor in Lithuania, accounting for 26 percent of direct foreign investment in the country. Swedish investments in Lithuania are worth EUR 3.17 billion and over 11,000 people of Lithuania work for Swedish companies. The Swedish king visited the Baltic country in October 1992 and the couple visited Lithuania in 2009 when the Baltic country marked the millennium anniversary of the first mention of its name in historic annals.

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