As thousands of refugees fleeing wars flock to Europe, Lithuania is expected to accommodate 1105 asylum-seekers. Although the Lithuanian public is wary of the influx, but major Lithuanian employers affirm additions are «necessary» to ramp up the country’s workforce, weakened by emigration.
Robertas Dargis, president of the Lithuanian Confederation of Industrialists, one of the biggest employer associations, says that the country could integrate even more migrants. «We lose some 10,000 people each year only due to negative balance between births and deaths, not to mention emigration. By 2022, Lithuania’s population will decrease by 250,000 people,» Dargis says.
«Therefore we will need people like water to maintain our economy and our infrastructure. Let’s not forget that infrastructure in Lithuania is designed for four million people. When there are only 2.5 million of us left, it might prove too costly to maintain. «Integrating refugees is therefore an option. I agree with Foreign Minister Linas Linkevičius, who says that we need to think about how to do it. If we do not have our own policy and will do it only because European institutions force us to, it won’t be good,» Dargis insists.
Lithuanian national basketball squad makes to playoffs
The national basketball team of Lithuania has muscled its way through the qualification tournament in Riga and will play now in France, where the best 16 squads will square off for the title of a new European champion in the playoffs. Most of the Lithuanian team’s games in qualification were nail-biters –Lithuanian edged out Estonia and Ukraine and beat the Czechs in overtime, but suffered a loss against Belgium. Only the Latvians were beaten with a cosy margin.
WHO urges Lithuania to scale down alcohol consumption
The World Health Organization deems Lithuania as one of Europe’s most successful fighters against smoking, but believes the country needs to step up the battle in curbing alcohol consumption and vaccinating children against measles, says Zsuzsanna Jakab, director of the WHO’s Regional Office for Europe.
«There are areas that you still have to improve, one of them I would like to highlight is alcohol. There was progress but it’s going a bit up and down. But, unfortunately, it is something that you have to continue to invest because that is also linked to the big burning problem of cardiovascular diseases that you have in this country as a leading cause of death and mortality. It is also linked to many of the mental diseases and depression,» Jakab told a Vilnius news conference on Thursday, September 10. She also emphasized that the WHO regional certification commission has revised Lithuania’s vaccination program and advised to «step up the supervision of vaccination».
Lithuania frowns at permanent refugee resettlement scheme
Lithuania will likely be against the permanent mechanism that would empower the European Commission to decide on refugee resettlement in case of future crises, says the country’s Interior Minister Saulius Skvernelis.
«We will probably propose to object to the permanent mechanism, we have doubts about the need for such a mechanism, but if the legislative procedure is started via the European Parliament and Commission, the road will be rather long and it can be approved in a democratic manner, » the minister told journalists on Thursday, September 10.
Lithuania’s President Dalia Grybauskaitė said that although the country agrees with Brussels’ recommendation on distribution of refugees, there cannot be, in her words, any «coercive mechanisms».
«Without a doubt, none of us would want solidarity to be based on some coercive mechanisms. We are equal countries that are friendly towards each other, therefore, we would want to solve matters by consensus and in a friendly way,» the president told journalists on Thursday, September 10.
Lithuania and other Central and Eastern European nations have so far opposed the proposal of developing a permanent crisis refugee resettlement mechanism. In fears of even bigger flows of immigrants, they want the voluntary principle to continue. The strongest position on the matter has been stated by countries of the Visegrad Group, namely, Hungary, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Poland.
According to Interior Vice-Minister Elvinas Jankevičius, the country’s State Security Department, assisted by United Nations specialists, will help prepare questionnaires for refugees and the department will also run database checks on refugees. «We are working closely with the United Nations. Their representatives came several days ago and they have a lot of resettlement experience. We had a training session yesterday. Those people will undergo checks on our and international databases,» Jankevičius said.
Lithuanian parliament closer to satisfying European Court ruling
The Lithuanian Parliament gave on Thursday, September 10, its initial backing to a constitutional amendment that will allow Rolandas Paksas, the leader of the Order and Justice party and a MEP now, to run for parliament and president. Paksas was impeached and removed from president’s office in 2004. The Constitutional Court later ruled that a person who violated constitutional oath could not occupy an office which requires giving the oath.
Paksas appealed the ruling at the European Court of Human Rights which said that a life-long ban from public office violated Paksas’ rights. Ninety-six lawmakers voted in favour of the proposed amendment, one was against and 13 abstained. The bill needed at least 94 votes in favour to be further deliberated. In Lithuania, parliament must vote twice on proposed constitutional amendments with a break of at least three months.
Lithuanian parliament back for autumn session
The Seimas of Lithuania has opened its autumn session and President Dalia Grybauskaitė called on lawmakers to stick to fiscal discipline and look for measures to reduce social inequality. The Seimas opened its autumn session on Thursday, September 10, with the new social model, a package of laws aimed at liberalizing labour relations and introducing changes to the pension system, as well as the next year’s budget considered key items on the parliamentary agenda. Under the Lithuanian Constitution, the Seimas’ autumn session starts on September 10 and ends on December 23.
Synagogue memorial opened
On September 6, the European Day of Jewish Culture, the Litvak community of Rokiškis, a town in northern Lithuania, unveiled an information stand on Sinagogų Street, displaying records of three Jewish synagogues that used to stand here.
The event was attended by people of Rokiškis interested in the history of their town. Guests of the event included Algimantas Gurevičius, the director of the Jewish Culture and Information Centre, and Dovid Katz, professor of Vilnius Yiddish Institute. The latter addressed the crowd in Yiddish, the language used by many in Lithuania’s pre-Holocaust Jewish community.
Ukraine’s economy minister keeps Lithuanian citizenship
Ukrainian Economic Development and Trade Minister Aivaras Abromavičius will keep his Lithuanian citizenship, although the law says that citizenship is lost when a person works for a foreign country’s civil service without permission. «The interior minister has backed the Migration Department’s proposal not to strip Abromavičius of his Lithuanian citizenship. The existing legal regulation gives such a right,» Interior Vice-Minister Elvinas Jankevičius told.
Under the Law on Citizenship, a person loses Lithuanian citizenship if he/she «is employed in the state service of a non-EU member state without any authorization of the Government of the Republic of Lithuania». Abromavičius was appointed Ukraine’s economy minister last December. He was allowed to keep dual citizenship as his great-grandfather emigrated from Lithuania to Brazil in the 1920s still having Lithuanian citizenship.
Third Ukrainian-Lithuanian family arrives in Lithuania
A third Ukrainian family of Lithuanian descent has arrived in Lithuania on Wednesday, September 9. The Lithuanian government has offered to resettle Ukrainians with Lithuanian ancestry from war-hit Donbass region. A father with his daughter and another member of the family from Donetsk will be temporarily housed in Rukla.
The first Ukrainian family of Lithuanian descent – a woman who left Lithuania 30 years ago, her daughter, son-in-law and their three children – came to Lithuania from war-hit eastern Ukraine two weeks ago. According to the latest data provided by the Foreign Ministry, about 50 Ukrainians and their family members of Lithuanian origin have declared willingness to resettle to Lithuania.