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Wednesday 23.08.2017 | Name days: Valgudis, Ralfs, Vitālijs
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Week in Lithuania. Lithuania mulls higher retirement age

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A Vilnius cityscape

The Seimas has commenced to deliberate legislative amendments that would peg retirement to average life expectancy. It has been proposed that two years after the average projected life expectancy of people aged 65 years grows by six months, the retirement age would be raised by six months as well.

Based on preliminary calculations, the retirement age would be raised by six months for the first time in 2032. The proposal was included in the amendments to the Law on the State Social Insurance Pensions and accompanying legislation. It has also been proposed to gradually increase the required length of service from 30 to 35 years before a person is authorised to receive the old-age pension.

Starting from 2017, the required length of service would grow by six months every year and should reach 35 years in 2026. Social Security and Labour Minister Algimanta Pabedinskienė said that the average length of service for which the old-age pension is granted currently stands at 37 years. Therefore, the required length of service will be raised together with the retirement age as people have to remain in the labour market for a longer period.

Moreover, it was proposed to newly regulate funding sources of the state social insurance pensions. Pensions would consist of general and individual parts. The general part would be the main redistributable part of a pension. Meanwhile, the individual part would directly reflect a person’s contributions to the state social insurance system. The general part would act as protection against poverty and would be funded from the state budget.

Whereas the State Social Insurance Fund (Sodra) would finance the individual part of a pension tightly related to a person’s contributions. Parliament will consider the matter again on 24 November.

Lithuanian parliament wants to strip President of right to appoint prosecutor general

Lithuanian MPs of the Committee on Legal Affairs of the Lithuanian parliament (Seimas) have suggested changing the procedure of appointing prosecutor general. Under current regulation, the prosecutor general is appointed by the president, with parliament’s approval; a new bill suggests letting the government pick the candidate.

Under the new procedure, proposed by five of the eight members of the Legal Affairs Committee, including its chair Julius Sabatauskas, and leaders of the social democratic and Order and Justice parliamentary groups, a candidate would be nominated by the government, approved by parliament and then appointed by the President.

The justice minister and the chair of the Supreme Court would be involved in selecting the nominee. Since the term of the last Prosecutor General, Darius Valys, expired last June, President Dalia Grybauskaitė has nominated two candidates to succeed him, but both were rejected by the Seimas. The situation, the authors of the bill claim, represents a constitutional crisis which would be solved by handing the right to nominate prosecutor general to the government.

EU should lift Belarus sanctions by the end of October

The European Union should make the decision to lift sanctions on Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko by the end of the month, according to Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevičius. Lukashenko was re-elected for the fifth term as president on Sunday. Speaking after a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Luxembourg, Linkevičius said that asset freezes and travel bans for some 150 Belarusian officials might be temporarily lifted for four months. The Eu’s show of good will follows relatively peaceful election campaign and the release of six political prisoners.

Meanwhile, Lithuanian PM says Lithuania is ready to continue its political dialogue with the neighbouring Belarus, whose president Alexander Lukashenko has been re-elected for his fifth consecutive term of office. He also stressed the importance of bilateral economic relations.

«Lithuania constantly follows how Belarus is fostering values and what course it is taking. We cannot ignore the beginning of changes there. Belarus did not join Russia’s sanctions against us and the European Union, which was a positive step. We also should take into account that the country has released its political prisoners. However, we expect other moves towards democracy from Belarus because the current developments are just the very beginning,» the PM said on the national radio LRT.

Huge merger prompts talks on fair competition

IT and telecommunications company Teo has purchased 100 percent of the shares of the Lithuanian mobile service provider Omnitel from its current shareholder TeliaSonera. The move has provoked a lot of discussion in the Lithuania public sphere and that shouldn’t surprise anyone as the purchase is one of the biggest in Lithuania’s business history. Both companies are owned by Swedish Company TeliaSonera. Teo will acquire Omnitel for 220 million euros on a cash and debt free basis and the combination is estimated to generate annual synergies of around 10 million euros when implemented. Audit company KPMG gave a report to the Teo board, saying that the stock price was reasonable. According to Kęstutis Šliužas, Teo CEO, the merged company is going to offer unique service portfolio, which will consist of existing and new integrated broadband and mobile communications, Internet, television and IT services. Another motivation for the move is Teo’s plans to attract external funding after the Omnitel shares acquisition. The result could be even bigger development of the company. Another motivation was to optimize the two companies’ management costs, as both already belonged to the same owner.

Former ambassador to US to run for Seimas with conservatives

A Vilnius branch of the Homeland Union-Lithuanian Christian Democrats (TS-LKD) has nominated diplomat Žygimantas Pavilionis to run for a parliament seat in the upcoming general elections next year in the Naujamiestis constituency of Vilnius.

«I am very glad that Žygimantas Pavilionis, one of the best Lithuanian diplomats, has decided to go into Lithuania’s politics and that the Naujamiestis unit has nominated him as a candidate to the Seimas. His cherished personal values, humanity, vast experience, and expertise in integrating Lithuania into the European Union and strengthening Lithuania’s strategic cooperation with the US, as well as his efforts to expand freedom and democracy eastwards, are very necessary to today’s politics of Lithuania,» said TS-LKD chairman Gabrielius Landsbergis. Pavilionis has served as ambassador to the United States and Mexico.

Official launch of Rail Baltica leg between Kaunas and Polish border

A segment of Rail Baltica between Kaunas and the Polish border was opened on Friday, October 16. Lithuanian PM Algirdas Butkevičius says it is now up to Poland to upgrade its network so that transportation of cargo and passengers on the railway can begin. The Rail Baltica project, worth some 300 million euro, will link Poland and the Baltic States with a European-gauge railway network running from Warsaw to Helsinki in Finland. The opening ceremony at Kaunas Railway Station is featuring Lithuanian Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevičius and the European Commissioner for Transport Violeta Bulc as well as Lithuania’s Transport Minister Rimantas Sinkevičius and CEO of Lithuanian Railways Stasys Dailydka. The railway networks of the Baltic states have been built using the Russian standard gauge which is wider than the one used in Western Europe. Rail Baltica will enable better travelling times and easier interconnections with Poland and the rest of the European Union.
Latvian and Estonian PMs welcome GIPL gas pipeline agreement

Representatives of Poland, Lithuania and the European Commission signed a funding agreement for the Gas Interconnection Poland-Lithuania (GIPL) on Thursday, securing the Eu’s funding for the project that will enable free gas flow between Poland and the Baltic states. According to Estonian Prime Minister Taavi Roivas, the joint declaration of the Poland-Lithuania gas pipeline that was signed on Thursday, October 15, increases the energy security and independence of the region and Europe, government communication unit reports.

Prime Minister Roivas said that this was one of the most important energy projects in the region.

«Gas pipelines between Poland and Lithuania, as well as between Estonia and Finland, create a single gas market stretching from Poland to Finland, enabling us to use different energy sources and to achieve independence from the Russian gas market,» Roivas said.

Latvian Prime Minister Laimdota Straujuma has expressed confidence that the Lithuania-Poland interconnection project will make a significant contribution to the development and integration of the regional gas market. She confirmed Latvia’s support to the agreement that will provide a stable financial framework for the implementation of the project.

«The agreement demonstrates that Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia and Poland have taken another step towards reducing the EU’s energy dependence, which is one of the key objectives of the Energy Union,» said Straujuma.
Film about Japanese diplomat premiered in Lithuanian capital

Lithuanian Minister of Foreign Affairs Linas Linkevičius attended the première of the film Persona Non Grata about a Japanese ambassador in Lithuania who issued visas to Jews during World War Two, saving thousands of people from death. Persona Non Grata Persona Non Grata At the event at Vilnius University, Linkevičius underlined the importance of Chiune Sugihara’s deed and ideas cherished by him in today’s world. The foreign minister is also glad that the world première of the film was organised in Lithuania. Directed by Cellin Gluck, the film tells the story of the Japanese diplomat Chiune Sugihara (1901-1986), who was a Japanese Vice-Consul in Kaunas from November 1939 to September 1940. During this period, the diplomat issued Japanese transit visas to about 6,000 Jews. Right before his death, Sugihara was awarded the title of Righteous Among the Nations by Israel’s Holocaust Memorial, Yad Vashem, in 1985. On October 13, the film was screened at Vytautas Magnus University in Kaunas. In Japan, the film’s premiere is scheduled for December.

Lithuanian president rails against economic migrants

Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaitė, who is attending a European Council meeting to discuss the refugee crisis, says that economic migrants should be separated from genuine war-fleeing refugees and the latter are not supposed to be picky which safe country to go to. According to her, the issue of migration will remain relevant in Europe for a long time, because wars are not going to end soon and the flow of refugees may increase due to escalations of conflicts. Grybauskaitė told Lithuanian journalists in Brussels that genuine refugees were not choosing which country to escape to.

According to the Geneva Convention, such people are entitled to asylum and it is being granted, the Lithuanian president said, contrasting them with economic migrants who were picking «better, nicer and warmer countries» and were unlikely to be allowed to stay in the EU.

President Grybauskaitė also highlighted the necessity to strengthen the protection of the EU’s external borders, create joint border forces that would ensure functioning border control, create the so called «hotspots» in which refugees would settle for identification before crossing into Europe. Grybauskaitė said Europe was finally approaching the issue systematically, i.e., focusing on external borders, aid to third countries from which people migrate, support for various food funds.

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