NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg opened on Thursday, September 3, NATO Force Integration Units (NFIU) in Lithuanian capital Vilnius. Vilnius units and five other NFIUs in Central and Eastern European countries have been set up in response to Russia’s actions in Ukraine.
NATO command centres in Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Poland, Bulgaria and Romania were officially activated on Tuesday, September 1, and are expected to reach full operational capability by the NATO Summit in Warsaw in 2016. Around 40 officers will serve at each of the NFIU set up by NATO to facilitate rapid deployment of the NATO Very High Readiness Joint Task Force and also coordinate international exercises.
Attending the opening of the NFIU in Vilnius, the NATO secretary general said the opening of the command centres is a symbol of NATO solidarity. During the solemn ceremony, Lithuania‘s national flag, flags of NATO, Vilnius City and the NATO Force Integration Unit were hoisted to the tunes of the anthems of Lithuania and NATO. The NFIU in Lithuania will be led by Danish Colonel Jakob Sogard Larsen. Its staff will also include representatives of more than ten NATO countries, including Germany, Canada and Poland. All officers are scheduled to arrive by the end of this year.
Lithuanian welfare minister counts in municipalities’ voluntarism in sharing refugees
Lithuania’s Welfare and Labour Minister Algimanta Pabedinskienė expects that the country’s municipalities will voluntarily share the refugees after their integration period at the Refugees Reception Centre. At a meeting at the ministry on Thursday, September 3, municipal officials agree that hosting foreigners may benefit the regions but first wanted guarantees of assistance in settling the refugees in municipalities. Most of the municipality mayors and officials in attendance wanted to know what the support basket the refugees will bring along. In an effort to ease the burden on Southern European countries, Lithuania has committed to host 255 refugees, mostly Syrian, who are currently in Italy and Greece, in addition to 70 more from Turkey. Furthermore, Lithuanian municipalities are asked to provide accommodation to persons of Lithuanian origin and their families willing to return from eastern Ukraine and Crimea.
Lithuania to present innovative products
Among the innovative products presented by Lithuanians at Vilnius Innovation Forum are mobile Parkinson‘s diagnostics application, virtual tutor platform, space shuttle electronics module, mobile apps that can be used instead of the usual conference equipment and many others. The free exhibition took place on September 3 and 4 at Vilnius conference hall Litexpo. Thereafter the exhibition visitors will have to pay a fee for a chance to have a gimpse at Lithuanian science and technology parks that offer various services to beginning entrepreneurs. The event is organized by the Ministry of Economy of Lithuania and Agency of Science, Innovation and Technology (MITA). Among the speakers are the first LinkedIn employee outside the United States and former head of the company‘s European department Kevin Eyres, Head of Marketing for the Baltic States at Google Regimantas Urbanas, Co-Founder and CEO of Mars One Bas Lansdorp and more than 40 other speakers.
Lithuanian PM: GDP share for defence will depend on economy
Lithuanian Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevičius says if defence funding continues to be raised at the current rate, Lithuania’s spending on defence will reach the set goal of two percent of GDP earlier than planned. Still, the prime minister notes that actual funding will depend on Lithuania’s economic situation. President Dalia Grybauskaitė stated at the opening ceremony of the NATO Force Integration Unit that Lithuania could allocate two percent of GDP for defence as soon as in 2018 rather than in 2020 as previously agreed.
President: Lithuania must respond to call to help tackle refugee crisis
Lithuania will join in solidarity with other European countries in dealing with the migrant crisis, says President Dalia Grybauskaitė. According to the president, the situation has changed dramatically since this spring and early summer, migration flows have reached critical proportions. This, President Grybauskaitė notes, represents the most intense migration of people in recent times, surpassing even the one seen during World War Two. She says that concerns voiced by Germany and some other countries are understandable and should be viewed in a different light than before. Lithuania has agreed to take in 325 people from the Middle East and North Africa over the course two years. However, Foreign Minister Linas Linkevičius has noted that the number is not set in stone, adding that Vilnius is part of the discussion on EU immigration policy. Nor has Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevičius ruled out the possibility that Lithuania might accept more refugees. The UN estimates that over 300,000 migrants have reached Europe by sea this year alone.
Lithuania appoints ambassador to China
Diplomat Ina Marčiulionytė has been appointed Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Lithuania to China. President Dalia Grybauskaitė signed the decree on Wednesday, September 2. The new ambassador will commence her duties in Beijing on September 21. The Cabinet of Ministers approved Marčiulionytė’s candidacy in late August. In 1999-2003, Marčiulionytė was deputy minister of culture. Later, until 2010, she was Lithuania’s permanent representative to UNESCO. Before being appointed ambassador to China, she was director of the Latin America, Africa, Asia and Pacific Department at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Vilnius mayor not to abide by Lithuanian Language Commission ruling
Vilnius Mayor Remigijus Šimašius says English signs will be installed on buses crossing central Vilnius and servicing Vilnius International Airport, despite objections from the State Commission of the Lithuanian Language. The mayor called Commission’s conclusion, saying such signs are unnecessary, «a joke». The commission believes transport information useful for foreign tourists should be made available at bus stops, on information stands, etc, but not on the buses. Municipal company Vilniaus Viešasis Transportas (Vilnius Public Transport) had inquired with the language commission and the State Language Inspectorate on the possibility to install bilingual information signs in public transport to facilitate the use of public transport for foreigners.
AirBaltic adds five new routes from Vilnius
Latvian airline airBaltic has opened five new routes from Vilnius International Airport. Starting on September 1, airBaltic has added Brussels (three flights per week), Stockholm (five flights per week), Helsinki (five flights per week), Paris (three flights per week) and Berlin (three flights per week) to the network of cities served from Vilnius. As reported, Latvian national airline airBaltic turned over 254,179,669 euro and earned 10,668,043 euro in profit last year, according to Firmas.lv.
Lithuanian Consulate General in Chicago moved to new premises
Lithuanian Consulate General in Chicago has moved to new and larger premises in a prestigious Chicago downtown location. Employing a staff of eight people, the consulate is said to be a larger operation than many embassies that Lithuania operates abroad. The Consulate General in Chicago was established in 1924, the same year the Lithuania Embassy was established in the present building in Washington, DC. Just as in Washington, the Chicago Consulate remained open throughout the Soviet occupation between 1941 and 1990.