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Week in Lithuania. Islamic State includes Lithuania into its «coalition of devils»

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Kaunas mosque

A new propaganda video purportedly to be released by Islamic State (ISIS) names a «global coalition» of the terrorist organization’s enemies that includes Lithuania.

The video, released in English and several other languages, is thought to have been released by Islamic State’s Al Hayat Media Centre, and is believed to have been taken from an ISIS channel on Telegram. About halfway into the video, which highlights the superiority of Islamic State and disparages the failures of the US military in Iraq and Afghanistan, the narrator mentions a «coalition of devils» consisting of Iran, Turkey, the US, Russia and other countries, about 60 in total. The video does not name them, but displays a graphic of their flags. The flags of Lithuania, Estonia, Finland and Poland are there.

Vytautas Makauskas, spokesman for the State Security Department, told Thursday, November 26, that the threats in the video were just attempts to intimidate and that there was not basis raise the terrorism alert level in Lithuania. Meanwhile Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevičius says that the propaganda video does not present any new information or implications for national security.

Seimas passes law on refugee resettlement

The Lithuanian parliament passed legislation on Thursday, November 26, that clears up regulations of refugee resettlement in the country. The amendments to the Law on the Legal Status of Foreign Nationals, which more clearly defines the rights of asylum seekers and resettlement procedures, were adopted by a vote of 66 against eight, with 22 abstentions.

As part of the EU effort to solve the refugee crisis unleashed by the conflict in Syria, Lithuania has agreed to accept 1,105 refugees from the Middle East and Africa over the course of two years. The new legislation transposes the EU directives on refugees into national law. Previously, Lithuanian laws did not provide for the possibility to resettle refugees from other countries.

Lithuanian MP proposes to limit mayoral terms

Conservative MP Rasa Juknevičienė has proposed amendments to the Law on Local Self-Government which would limit the number of consecutive mayoral terms of office so that the same person, a member of a local council, could not be elected mayor more than two or three times in a row. In Lithuania, members of local councils are elected for a fixed term of four years.

Lithuanians low in ranking on perceptions of shadow economy

Fewer businesspeople in Lithuania think underground economy is a problem than a year ago. However, Lithuania has a far bigger black market than the Central and Eastern European average, research shows. The research was done by the international audit, tax and consulting company KPMG which has surveyed the heads of some biggest companies of Central and Eastern Europe.

A year ago, nine out of ten businesspeople in Lithuania said shadow economy was a problem. Lithuania is particularly far behind Estonia: 83 percent of businesspeople in Lithuania identify shadow economy as an important problem, while in Estonia, only 34 percent. Seventy-three percent of businesspeople in Central and Eastern Europe see black markets as a problem. The worst situation is in Romania and Bosnia and Herzegovina, where almost everyone surveyed acknowledges the problem.

Amendments on corruption harnessing submitted to Seimas

Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaitė submitted a bill aimed at curbing the shady donations from state and municipality controlled companies, preventing waste of money and ensuring more transparency. According to the State Tax Inspectorate, five municipalities received 400,000 euro support from their own companies in the last two years.

The amendments also stipulate that politicians and political parties cannot receive free services from private companies. According to the new law, it will only be possible to set up a new company by getting an authorization from the Competition Council and proving that the intended service is not already provided in the market and it does not distort competition.

Rail Baltica project receives EU funding

Negotiation groups of the Baltic States and the European Commission signed three agreements in Tallinn securing 734 million euro funding from the EU for new Rail Baltica development stages in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland.

Funding was allocated from the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) for three projects: the development of Rail Baltica railway in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania (442.23 million euros); Rail Baltica railway construction from the Polish-Lithuanian border to Kaunas and for the preparation to lay European-gauge railway line from Kaunas to the Lithuanian-Latvian border (105.9 million euros); and for the reconstruction of Rail Baltica lines in Poland. A total of 131.26 million euros will be allocated for the Rail Baltica railway line in the territory of Lithuania.

Seimas abandons progressive tax idea

The Parliament of Lithuania has rejected the initiative to introduce progressive taxation. On Tuesday November 24, the Seimas considered amendments to the Law on Personal Income Tax that would have established progressive taxation rates.

The Seimas Committee on Budget and Finance proposed that the bill be dropped. Fifty-six MPs voted to embrace the Committee’s proposal, six voted against and six abstained. When proposing to dismiss the initiative, the Committee on Budget and Finance quoted the conclusion of the Government and the Legal Department of the Office of the Seimas.

Sparser population will affect Lithuania’s rural areas

President of the Lithuanian Confederation of Industrialists (LPK) Robertas Dargis claims that the shortage of specialists and growing migration to foreign countries and Lithuania’s major cities will first pose problems for rural areas.

The latest study carried out by the Lithuanian Real Estate Development Association (LNTPA) has shown that, within ten years, the available workforce will shrink by 35 percent. According to Dargis, employers will be forced to raise wages and create better working conditions in an attempt to retain employees. According to the president of LPK, Lithuania is losing 25,000-30,000 inhabitants to emigration every year.

Lithuania to appeal to EC about daylight saving time

The Lithuanian Parliament has asked the Government to address the European Commission with the proposal that the European Union member states be allowed to decide themselves whether to follow the daylight saving time. The Government must forward the proposal to the European Commission by April 30 2016 at the latest. Sixty-seven MPs voted for the decree On the Application of the Daylight Saving Time in Lithuania, five voted against with 28 abstentions. The Parliament has also suggested that the Government charge state institutions with analysing the impact of the time switching on health, energy, transport, environment, tourism and agriculture.

Minister accuses Vilniaus heat provider of manipulations

Vilnius’ heating company Vilniaus Energija has claimed that heating prices in Vilnius will soar due to obligations to purchase liquefied natural gas (LNG) from Klaipėda’s terminal. The Ministry of Energy has responded to such claims by saying that in October the company itself decided to purchase from the LNG terminal significantly more gas than planned previously. Energy Minister Rokas Masiulis has stated that Vilniaus Energija is manipulating prices of acquired fuel. According to the Ministry of Energy, in October energy company Vilniaus Energija planned to acquire 4.775 million cubic metres of LNG from company Litgas.

However, on its own initiative the company bought a total of 13.96 million cubic metres of LNG. Purchase plan for November was revised, accordingly, the amount was reduced from 25.629 to 16.444 million cubic metres. Thus the total amount of LNG to be consumed in two months has not changed. Vilniaus Energija announced this week that the cost of heating and hot water in Vilnius will grow by 26.3 percent in December compared to November due to the obligation to purchase a portion of gas from Klaipėda’s LNG terminal. The company claimed that higher prices would remain in January as well, but should decrease in February.

Agreements between China’s CMG and Lithuanian companies signed

On his visits to China, Lithuanian Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevičius met with the management of the country’s industrial corporation China Merchants Group (CMG) to sign agreements between the Klaipėda Free Economic Zone and CMG, as well as the Klaipėda State Seaport Authority and CMG, the press service of the Lithuania Government said. Founded in 1872, the CMG is engaged in the transportation and related infrastructure, investment and management, real estate development and corporate governance in China and internationally

Companies invest more in environment protection

Statistics Lithuania has released its annual publication Natural Resources and Environmental Protection for 2014. Last year, records of pollutants emitted into the atmosphere, in accordance with the procedure established by Lithuania’s Ministry of Environment, were kept by 562 enterprises. According to their reports, in 2014, air pollutant emissions from stationary sources amounted to 56,500 tons: carbon monoxide – 16,800 tons, sulphur dioxides – 11,000 tons, volatile organic compounds – 10,500 tons).

Lithuanian LNG business seeks Dutch LNG expertise

The first Lithuanian-Dutch liquefied natural gas (LNG) forum was held on Monday, November 23. In the opening address, Lithuanian Energy Minister Rokas Masiulis emphasised the possibility to take advantage of the Dutch experience in developing LNG business in the Baltic region. The development of Klaipėda’s regional LNG hub was one of the most important topics covered during the seminar. A lot of attention was paid to LNG use as a fuel in road transport and off-grid gas supply to isolated settlements. The importance of knowledge transfer on preparing proposals for European Commission regarding investments into small-scale LNG sectors was emphasised. The participants discussed the benefits of establishing such an LNG platform in Lithuania. The representatives from the Netherlands set out initial steps to create a demand for LNG use in public transport and maritime sectors in Lithuania, which would reduce greenhouse gas emissions to the atmosphere.

Lithuania choose among three IFV purchase options

Lithuania’s National Defence Minister Juozas Olekas says that the army’s decision which infantry fighting vehicles (IFVs) to purchase will depend on several factors, such as safety, power, prices, and delivery time. On Wednesday, November 25, the minister updated the Seimas Committee on National Security and Defence on the planned IFV purchase. According to him, the final decision on the purchase will be made by the State Defence Council. From all 12 proposals that we have been given we have narrowed down to 2 or 3.

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