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Friday 13.12.2019 | Name days: Veldze, Lūcija

Week in Lithuania: All-male cabinet, eight NATO ships, dual citizenship campaign launched

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President Dalia Grybauskaitė has appointed MP Kęstutis Mažeika of the ruling Lithuanian Farmers and Greens Union (LFGU) as the country’s environment minister last week making the government a male-only cabinet. BNN offers a summary of past week’s topical news.

Mažeika, 36, has a PhD in agricultural sciences from the Lithuanian Veterinary Academy. He ran for mayor in Lithuania’s southern town of Marijampolė last month, but was defeated in the runoff vote.

BNN offers a summary of past week’s topical news in a variety of categories: Defence; Education; Justice; Business; Banking; Politics; Crimes; Medicine

DEFENCE: US commits to continue deploying troops to Lithuania

The United States committed to continue deploying troops to Lithuania under a document signed by the two countries on Tuesday, April 2. Company-sized units of US troops had been stationed in the Baltic states on a permanent basis since 2014 in response to Russia’s aggression in Ukraine, but were withdrawn in the fall of 2017 following the deployment of NATO’s multinational battalions to Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia.

 NATO ships arrive in Lithuania’s Klaipėda

Eight ships from NATO countries moored in Lithuania’s western port of Klaipėda on Friday, March 5. Mine hunters Weilheim and Bad Rappenau from Germany, Talivaldis from Latvia, Rauma from Norway, Bukowo from Poland and also command and logistics supply ships Rhein and Donau from Germany and Latvia’s Virsaitis will spend three days in Klaipėda.

Army inspectors observed exercise in Belarus

The Lithuanian army’s arms control inspectors observed a military exercise in Belarus on Thursday, April 4. Together with colleagues from Latvia, Estonia, Poland and Germany, the Lithuanian inspectors observed the 120th Guards Mechanized Brigade’s tactical exercise part in Borisov, Lithuania’s Ministry of National Defence said. Belarus voluntarily invited members of the Organization for Security and Co-Operation in Europe under the 2011 Vienna Document.

EDUCATION: President urges government to address issues in education system

President Dalia Grybauskaite called on the government on Thursday, April 4, to immediately take steps to improve the situation in the education system after an audit revealed irregularities. The audit of the Education, Science and Sport Ministry and 17 agencies subordinate to it has revealed numerous cases of public procurement contracts awarded to own employees, inefficiency in some procedures and a high level of nepotism in some agencies.

JUSTICE: Court upholds prosecutor’s refusal

A Vilnius court has upheld this week a prosecutor’s refusal to open a pre-trial investigation regarding Žali (The Green), a novel by Marius Ivaškevičius about the partisan war in Lithuania and partisan leader Jonas Žemaitis. The three-judge panel stated that the novel has no elements of a crime and that the writer cannot be persecuted for his post-modern novel in a democratic state. The ruling is final.

Court sentences a Russian spy

The Klaipėda Regional Court handed down on Wednesday, April 3, a seven-year jail sentence to Roman Sesel, a Lithuanian citizen accused of collecting information for Russia on NATO military ships, the oil product and LNG terminal operator Klaipėdos Nafta and other infrastructure. The Prosecutor General’s Office sought a prison sentence of eight years for the Klaipeda resident.

Vilnius University awarded memory diplomas to 85 people

Vilnius University (VU) on Tuesday, April 2, awarded symbolic Memory Diplomas to 85 former students and staff members who were expelled from the university due to actions by the Soviet and Nazi regimes in the 20th century.  Thirty-one of the 85 persons were deported. Only two of them are alive today and were presented with the special diplomas at home.

BUSINESS: Telia Lithuania set to lay off almost 300 employees

Lithuania’s integrated telecommunications company Telia Lietuva is set to lay off 285 employees this year, but plans to hire around 200 new staff at Telia Global Services Lithuania (TGSL). Some employees of Telia Lietuva will be offered jobs at TGSL in Vilnius, whose staff is planned to be increased from 300 to 500 this year.

BANKING: Seimas committee wants Revolut’s reliability reassessed

The Lithuanian parliament’s Committee on Budget and Finance (CBF) decided on Wednesday, April 3, to propose that the Seimas ask a special government commission to look, for the third time, at whether the UK-based fintech startup Revolut meets national security interests.

Lenders might have manipulated interest rates during crisis

Lithuanian commercial banks might have manipulated Vilnius interbank offered rates (Vilibor), which were used as the benchmark for lending in the litas, during the 2009-2010 economic crisis, Stasys Jakeliūnas, chairman of the Seimas Committee on Budget and Finance (CBF), said on Tuesday, April 2. PM Saulius Skvernelis does not rule out turning to prosecutors over the allegations.

POLITICS: Nausėda offers army’s chief to become his advisor

Economist Gitanas Nausėda has on Tuesday, April 2, offered Lieutenant General Jonas Vytautas Žukas, Lithuania’s chief of defence, to become his adviser, if he were elected Lithuania’s president.

Dual citizenship referendum awareness campaign kick-started

A public awareness campaign on May’s dual citizenship referendum was kicked off in Lithuania on Tuesday, April 2. the campaign will be run on national and regional media channels, including news websites, TV, press and social networks, also through diplomatic missions.

MEDICINE: Seimas receives proposal regarding vaccination

MP Radvilė Morkūnaitė-Mikulėnienė has proposed demanding a proof of vaccination from foreigners arriving in Lithuania from areas with outbreaks of an infectious disease. The lawmaker also proposed accepting only immunized children to kindergartens and pre-school establishments.

CRIMES: A murder suspect from Latvia detained in Lithuania

An armed murder suspect from Latvia has been detained by Lithuanian police near Aukštadvaris, some 60 km west from Vilnius last Saturday, March 30. The Lithuanian police officers had received information from the INTERPOL National Central Bureau for Latvia that the suspect might had entered Lithuania’s territory.

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EU member states commit to 2050 carbon neutrality, Poland opts out

European Union’s 26 members, including the Baltic states, have supported the planned political course to considerably reduce the greenhouse gas emissions to net-zero by 2050. Coal-powered Poland said it could not reach the goal and opted out.

Latvia’s prime minister forms a work group to ensure Ventspils Freeport’s operations

On Thursday, 12 December, Latvia’s Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš has issued an order on formation of a work group under Transport Minister Tālis Linkaits in order to ensure undisrupted operations at Ventspils Freeport, as reported by the prime minister’s press-secretary Sandris Sabajevs.

Ministry: to prevent damaging Latvian sports sector’s reputation, Lembergs should leave LOK

To avoid letting US sanctions negatively affect Latvian Olympic Committee and spread to the reputation of the country’s sports sector, the ministry can only ask Aivars Lembergs step down as member of LOK Executive Committee, BNN was told by Education and Science Ministry.

Budget Committee declines residents’ request to postpone increasing funding for parties

Saeima’s Budget and Finance Committee has rejected a public initiative signed by more than 11 000 residents. This initiative requested postponing the planned increase of funding for political parties.

Lower election threshold in Lithuania – more democracy or chaos?

The Lithuanian legislature, Seimas, has lowered this week the parliamentary election threshold to 3 per cent for political parties and 5 per cent for coalitions.

Russia expels German diplomats, retaliating to German step over Berlin murder

Russia has asked two diplomats of the German Embassy to leave the country. This is a tit-for-tat measure after Germany declared two Russian diplomats personae non grata as Berlin investigates an international murder in the German capital, TASS reported.

Riga Freeport and Liepaja Special Economic Zone to leave LTAB

Riga Freeport and Liepaja Special Economic Zone will leave Latvian Transit Business Association managed by Aivars Lembergs, as both are subjected to US sanctions.

Lembergs’ influence over Ventspils Freeport needs to end, bank supervisors say

The goal of the US sanctions is reducing Aivars Lembergs’ economic and political influence over Ventspils Freeport and other companies under his control. Sanctions are not meant to paralyse companies, rather seeing how they are used to process deals influenced by the person under sanctions – Aivars Lembergs, said Finance and Capital Market Commission head Santa Purgaile during a press-conference on Thursday, 12 December.

USD 25 million offered in Weinstein sage to 30 alleged sexual abuse victims

In the U.S. movie industry scandal surrounding sexual abuse claims against film producer Harvey Weinstein his lawyers have offered a USD 25-million settlement to more than 30 women, The Guardian reports.

Legal Affairs Committee supports lifting judge immunity for administrative violation cases

Saeima’s Legal Affairs Committee supported prior to the second reading legislative drafts to the Law on Judicial Power and Law on Judges Disciplinary Liability intended to lift the immunity of judges in administrative violation cases, as confirmed by Justice Ministry.

Estonian-Finnish gas interconnection unveiled

Estonia and Finland have held ceremonies to unveil the gas pipeline Balticconnector, built to connect the gas transmission networks of both countries separated by the Baltic Sea.

Mārtiņš Kazāks officially becomes governor of the Bank of Latvia

On Thursday, 12 December, Latvia’s Saeima officially approved Mārtiņš Kazāks as the new governor of the Bank of Latvia, as BNN was told by Saeima’s press-service.

What is Ventspils Development Agency and what will its members do now?

Among the organizations against which US Department of Treasury Office for Foreign Asset Control has adopted sanctions is also Ventspils Development Agency. In accordance with OFAC issued Global Magnitsky General Licence Nr.1, global partners have 30 days to cease all cooperation with this organization.

Israel on way to third parliamentary election in year

Israeli legislators have been unable to overcome a prolonged political crisis. The Knesset has given its initial approval to the third parliamentary election in the Middle Eastern country in a year’s time after legislators proved unable to form a majority coalition.

Social Integration Fund torn over NGO support priorities

Although sides of the Social Integration Fund have argued over priorities of the Non-Government Organizations Fund, the contest to start using funding allocated to NGOs may yet be announced this year, allows Social Integration Fund council member and Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš’s representative Imants Parādnieks.

EC signs von der Leyen’s European Green Deal toward 2050 climate neutrality

The European Commission has signed off new leader’s plan to make Europe the world's first climate neutral continent. The European Green Deal envisages net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Committee supports amendments that allow electing city council for longer

Saeima’s Public Administration and Local Government Committee has decided to support law amendments to allow electing Riga City Council for a term longer than five years.

Finland ends EU presidency with call to take free AI course

Finland is opening up a wildly popular Elements of Artificial Intelligence online course to all EU citizens. The announcement was made in Brussels on Tuesday to mark the approaching end of Finland’s presidency of the Council of the EU.

Latvian ministers agree on general sea port management reform

On Wednesday, 11 December, during an extraordinary meeting of the government dedicated to allowing the state to take over management of Riga and Ventspils freeport, ministers agreed on the necessity to implement a general reformation of management at Latvia’s various ports.

FKTK proposes isolating Lembergs and companies under US sanctions

Finance and Capital Market Commission invites financial market participants to refrain from providing financial services to suspended Mayor of Ventspils Aivars Lembergs, as well as companies and institutions applied with US sanctions, FKTK reports.

To take over Riga and Ventspils port government to form a separate company

On Wednesday, 11 December, the Cabinet of Ministers decided at an extraordinary meeting to invite the Saeima to add amendments to the Law on Ports to accommodate the plan for the government to take control over Riga and Ventspils freeports.

Estonia health body calls for measles vaccination of Ukrainian guest workers

Estonia’s health authority has issued a recommendation to employers working with Ukrainian guest workers to ensure the vaccination of their personnel against measles, pointing to critical situation in Ukraine.

In UN Court: Myanmar leader calls Rohingya genocide claims incorrect

In the International Court of Justice, Myanmar's leader Aung San Suu Kyi has been rejecting claims that her country’s military has been involved in allegations of genocide.

Family doctor visits may become more expensive for some residents in Latvia next year

Patient fees might increase or reduce next year. The latter may include more expensive family doctors visits: some residents may have to pay EUR 2 instead of EUR 1.42. The patient fee for specialist consultations will reduce.

20% of Riga Central Station design work for Rail Baltica is complete

Nearly 20% of Rail Baltica project’s design work on Riga Central Station has been completed. Construction company Bererix has closed off territory, railway, underground areas and other infrastructure for topographical and measuring work, as reported by Rail Baltica project’s representative Linda Vītola.

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