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Wednesday 29.01.2020 | Name days: Valērijs, Aivars
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Bye-bye bombshell-free 2019 in Lithuania!

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Lithuania, summary of the year, Vilnius, 2019

The National Christmas tree stands in Cathedral Square in Vilnius

Linas Jegelevičius for the BNN

As the lengthy holiday season is slowly embracing everybody, Lithuanians glance backwards towards the expiring year. 2019 has brought three major elections, saw in mid-December a series of changes in taxation that will affect every citizen. Yet were they what most will remember about 2019? BNN spoke to all walks of life, asking of their most vivid memories this year.

Simplest questions are hardest

Lauras Bielinis, associate professor of Kaunas Magnus University, quipped that simple questions are always hardest to answer. «This one – what was most important for Lithuania and the world this year – is of the kind,» he said. «Obviously, the presidential election Lithuania held in May was the biggest attention catcher. On the global scale, I can hardly discern any event, perhaps with the exception of the dragged-out Brexit drama, which unfolded in a landslide, quite surprising victory for Boris Johnson-led Tories in December,» Bielinis told BNN.

Synergy of globalism and nationalism

Marius Venskus, a popular Catholic priest in the Tauragė parish, wishes that people could grasp the true meaning of Christmas. «As nice are the holiday festoons glittering and glimmering on the Christmas trees and on the window sills, I suspect however that the gist of the coming celebration is often missed – secularisation is taking its toll,» regretted the preacher.

Yet Venskus praised the Tauragė community for engaging substantially in the celebratory 800th anniversary of the first mentioning of Samogitia, an ethnic group in northwestern Lithuania. «I was truly amazed to see the rise of huge respect to our roots, our ancestral heritage, also to the legacy of our freedom fighters, partisans. There was this unique synergy of our full support for the European Union and the active cherishing of what makes us a single nation,» Venskus told BNN.

Town got visibly greener

The minister also discerned the efforts of the Tauragė municipality, situated in southwestern Lithuania, to make the city more sustainable. «Although the town is industrial, most of the local public institutions are powered by sustainable energy sources, be it wind or solar,» Venskus noted.

Political career started in 2019

For Svetlana Grigorian, a councillor of the Palanga municipality in western Lithuania, the elapsing year will be memorised as a year of a new political career in the municipal council. «In the councillor election, we, Social Democrats, grabbed two seats, eclipsing many other parties. For me, a young politician and leader of the local branch of Social Democrats, it was huge,» Grigorian told BNN. No other political event could however compete with the presidential election in Lithuania in the past spring, she believes.

Astonishing rise of Finnish premier

«Globally, it was very interesting to see how Brexit unfolds. Brexit will definitely generate a lot of talking in the new year. However, personally to me, the dearest political event internationally was the rise of 34-year-old Social Democrat Sanna Marin to post of Finland’s prime minister. She is the world’s youngest prime minister at the helm of a government led by women.

This is great news to all Lithuanian women, (it is) very empowering and encouraging,» Grigorian emphasised. «This is what Lithuania needs».

A «shake-up» free year

Arvydas Sekmokas, former Energy minister, called the year «shake-up free». «There were no major incidents and bloodsheds in the world and things went quite smoothly in the Baltic region and Lithuania, too. In terms of our security, the London NATO summit was a big event and, despite sceptic predictions to its outcome, unity of the bloc was reaffirmed by all the members,» Sekmokas told BNN. In the field of energy, Sekmokas, who is an independent energy analyst now, singled out sanctions by US Senate and Congress against Russia’s Nord Stream 2 gas project, which is thought to undermine the interests of Ukraine as a major gas transit country.

Year of far travels

«Locally, the biggest political event undoubtedly was the presidential election. The kick-start of the presidency is promising – president Gitanas Nausėda has already proved himself as a tough leader,» Sekmokas said.

He admitted that, for him personally, the year of 2019 has been a year of long trips to far-flung countries. «Because of my busy schedule, before I’d travel in the European Union most of the time. But this year I made it all the way to Peru and Bolivia, where I spent one month. It was very interesting to see how people live there. Seeing the poverty, I was overwhelmed with the conclusion that we live very well here in Lithuania,» he said.

Bubbling real estate market

For Raimondas Reginis, top manager at Ober Haus, one of the largest real estate companies in the Baltics, 2019 was extremely busy. «The construction sector was booming, the new residential and commercial estate sales were record big, however only in Vilnius and Kaunas, Lithuania’s two largest cities. In terms of the construction intensity and the price growth the two are far upfront than other cities,» Reginis told BNN.

MP: a «chaotic» year

Jurgis Razma, a Conservative parliamentarian, called the year «very chaotic». «Legislatively, I really missed cohesion, logics and non-partisanship,» Razma told BNN.

In Lithuania, the presidential election was the most significant event, believes Razma. However, he says he has not yet formed a «clear opinion» about the new head-of-state, Gitanas Nausėda. «His predecessor, Dalia Grybauskaite, seems to me to have been more straight-forward and determined. Nausėda is a lot more careful with his rhetoric and actions. It seems he avoids any tensions with anyone so far. It remains to be seen how his presidency will evolve,» Razma said.

Internationally, Brexit has been No1, the legislator believes. «Exit of Great Britain from the European Union is imminent now and it saddens me a little. Britain has been our ally on all our security matters until now. I can just hope that it will remain such after it leaves the bloc,» Razma told BNN.


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