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Friday 28.10.2016 | Name days: Ninona, Ņina, Antoņina, Oksana

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

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Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RU

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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KNAB selection process concludes with no results

Members of the committee responsible for selecting the new head of the Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau decided not to pick any of the available candidates, Martins Krievins, director of the state Chancellery and chairman of the selection committee, announced on Friday, 28 October.

Retail trade turnover up 0.5% in Latvia

Compared to September 2015, total retail trade turnover rose by 0.5% in September 2016. Turnover of retail trade in food products decreased by 1.8%, whereas the turnover of retail trade in non-food products increased by 1.6%.

16+1 business forum in Riga to gather around 300 businessmen from China

As part of the upcoming summit of leaders of state of countries participating in the 16+1 cooperation format between China and countries of Central and Eastern Europe in Riga there will also be a business forum. Participation in this forum has been confirmed by 150 high-rank state and business representatives from seventeen countries.

Moldova up for polarising presidential election

Voters in Moldova will on October 30 go to ballot boxes in order to express their support to the country’s foreign policy direction towards the European Union or to closer links with the Kremlin, by electing a president.

Latvia’s banking sector earned 374 million this year

In the first nine months of 2016, Latvia’s banking sector functioned with profits worth EUR 374 million. All sixteen Latvian banks and three out of seven foreign bank branches in Latvia worked with profits in this nine-month period.

Sakharov Prize awarded to Yazidi women activists

The European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize has been awarded to Yazidi activists Nadia Murad and Lamiya Aji Bashar, victims of sexual slavery under the rule of terrorist group «Islamic State».

Russian opposition: Putin has few supporters and just as many opponents

Russia’s weak spot is President Vladimir Putin’s built system, in which everything depends on a single person, said coordinator of Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s Open Russia foundation Vladimir Kara-Murza at a discussion organized by Konrad Adenauer.

Countries agree to establish world’s widest marine protected area in Antarctica

The European Union and 24 more countries have reached an agreement to declare Ross Sea in Antarctica a marine protected area – largest in the world.

Belgian regions agree on CETA changes to support EU-Canada free trade agreement

The political leaders of Belgian regions and communities have on October 27 agreed on a consensus to support the free trade agreement between the EU and Canada, Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel stated.

Post-election flare-ups emerge in Lithuania, as winners build new government

Nearly a week after the second round of Lithuania‘s general election, the Lithuanian Peasant and Green Union, the holder of 54 mandates in the141-member Lithuanian Parliament, has not gotten a step closer to agreeing with other political parties on a new Cabinet.

Antane: we still need Russia in order to work with China

«There is nothing good I can say about the current state of Latvia’s transit industry – cargo volumes handled by the country’s ports continue to decline. The volume of coal cargoes transshipped by Ventspils port, for example, has dropped to 40%. The overall decline last year, when compared to 2014, reaches 20.5%. This decline has been continuing since 2012,» – Inga Antane, president of the Baltic Association –Transport and Logistics, said in an interview to

Construction costs in Latvia up 0.1%

Compared to August, the level of construction costs in Latvia increased by 0.1% in September 2016. Prices of building materials, as well as maintenance and operational costs of machinery and equipment did not change significantly, whereas labour remuneration of workers grew by 0.5%.

Think tank forum to assess the state and development of 16+1 format

Latvia’s Foreign Policy Institute will organize a forum for international think tanks for countries taking part in the 16+1 format in the Foreign Ministry in Riga on 4 November.

EP: 2017 budget should allocate more money to jobs and youth

The European Parliament has carried out a plenary vote to request more money to help young people find jobs, enhance economic growth and help third countries deal with the migration crisis. According to MEPs, the opinion of the EU Council in regards to budget cuts should be changed in the opposite direction.

EP approves million-euro assistance to Estonian laid-off industry workers

The European Parliament has backed the allocation of 1.1 million euros to assist people in north-eastern Estonia, who lost their jobs in mass lay-offs in shale oil production and chemical industry.

NATO confirms entry of two Russian warships into Baltic Sea waters

On Wednesday, 26 October, NATO confirmed the entry of two Russian warships into the waters of the Baltic Sea.

Italy hit by earthquakes again

A pair of powerful earthquakes have shaken central Italy on October 26, causing damage to buildings.

Changes to Handling of Alcoholic Beverages Law and other matters viewed by Saeima

On Thursday, 27 October, the Saeima will gather for a meeting to decide on the new legal draft On Public Procurements. New regulations for procurements provide a number of changes and additions to the current regulations.

Study: Wildlife populations have globally decreased by 58% since 1970s

The numbers of wildlife in the world have since 1970 decreased by 58%, it has been found in a study.

Fine applied to two Knauf Group plasterboard suppliers

On 30 September, Latvia’s Competition Council made the decision to punish Knauf and Knauf Group’s Norgips sp.z.o.o. from Poland for using a loyalty system that considerably restricted competition, thereby breaching the prohibition on abuse of market dominance.

Pharmacies in Sweden restrict sale of paracetamol

Restrictions should be put in place in the sale of paracetamol setting forth a ban to sell more than one pack of the drug to minors, decided Swedish pharmacies on October 26.

Ambassador: we are beneficial to the Chinese, but we can be even better

On 5 November, Latvia will not only be the host for the 16+1 format, but also the destination for the first official visit by the Chinese prime minister, said Latvia’s ambassador in China Maris Selga.

UK pledges to send drones and tanks to Estonia

British defence minister has this week outlined the country’s plans of its involvement in NATO’s push to increase the defence capabilities of Estonia.

Not all Roma happy about Lithuanian firm making tours to largest Roma village in Baltics

Lithuanian Roma representatives have been critical about a tour agency organising sightseeing tours to the village of Kirtimai promoted as «an extreme challenge» having a former drug addict as a guide.

Fifteen Syrian refuges arrive in Latvia from Greece

On Tuesday, 25 October, fifteen people, including nine children, arrived in Latvia from Greece as part of the European Union resettlement programme.

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