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Friday 15.11.2019 | Name days: Undīne, Leopolds, Unda
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Week in Lithuania: Grybauskaitė invited to think tank, push for 2nd vote on Speaker

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Lithuanian Seaimas Speaker Viktoras Pranckietis

Last week in Lithuania ex-President invited to join think tank, LFGU sought 2nd vote on Speaker’s removal, court reduced pro-Russian Councillor’s fine,  and Order and Justice leader was urged to step down.

Army helicopter saves injured Russian citizen from tanker

A Lithuanian army helicopter saved an injured Russian citizen from a tanker, Lithuania’s Ministry of National Defense said on Friday, October 18. The Maritime Rescue Coordination Center received a call at around 2 a.m. that a crew member of the Moskovsky Prospect tanker needed medical assistance. A rescue operation was launched and a Dauphin helicopter of Lithuania’s Air Force was dispatched. The injured Russian citizen, 32, was taken to a hospital in Lithuania’s port of Klaipeda.

President Nausėda disappointed at EU decision

President Gitanas Nausėda has expressed his disappointment after EU leaders failed this week to invite North Macedonia and Albania to start membership negotiations. His comments came early Friday morning in response to the end of Brussels talks on possible expansion to Western Balkans without any agreement. Diplomats say France was against the invitation of both countries, and Denmark and The Netherlands would have agreed only to the invitation of North Macedonia, but not Albania.

Ex-Lithuanian President invited to join Friends of Europe

Former President Dalia Grybauskaitė agreed on Thursday, October 17, to join the Board of Trustees of the Friends of Europe think tank. Its Board of Trustees involves incumbent and former heads of state and government, EC leaders and European commissioners, former EC Vice President Joaquin Almunia, the EU’s Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier, ex-Swedish Prime Minister Carl Bild, ex-Estonia President Toomas Hendrik Ilves, ex-NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer etc.

Court cuts Titov’s fine in partisan leader’s defamation case

The Regional Court of Lithuania’s western city of Klaipeda on Thursday, October 17, reduced the 12,000 euro fine issued to Viačeslav Titov, a local councilor, by a court of lower instance for the defamation of the memory of Adolfas Ramanauskas-Vanagas, one of the leaders of Lithuania’s anti-Soviet partisan resistance. The fine was reduced to 10,000 euros. In May, the Klaipėda District Court found Titov guilty of the defamation of the memory of a deceased person, incitement to hatred, and public approval or denial of Soviet crimes.

Conservatives’ leader: defense spending deal breached

An agreement that Lithuania’s parliamentary parties signed a year ago to set out the country’s defense policy for the next decade is not being implemented, Gabrielius Landsbergis, the leader of the conservative Homeland Union–Lithuanian Christian Democrats, said on Thursday, October 17. All parliamentary parties, except for the Lithuanian Social Democratic Party (LSDP), agreed a year ago to increase defense spending to 2.5 percent of GDP by 2030 at the latest.

Ruling LFGU to seek second vote on Speaker’s removal

The ruling Lithuanian Farmers and Greens Union will seek to hold a second vote in the parliament on Tuesday, October 22, to repeat the removal procedure for Speaker of the Seimas Viktoras Pranckietis. In total, 60 members of the Seimas voted in favor of expressing no-confidence in the vote calculation group on Thursday, eight were against and two abstained.

Seimas starts debating spy swap amendment

 Lithuanian legislature, Seimas, has started debating a draft amendment to the Criminal Code that would give country’s President right to pardon persons convicted of espionage. The amendment passed the first reading in the Seimas with 100 votes in favor and five abstentions on Thursday, October 17, and is to return to the parliament for a plenary debate on October 22. It needs to be voted on three times to be adopted.

LFGU leader urges Order and Justice leader to step down

Ramunas Karbauskis, the leader of the ruling Lithuanian Farmers and Greens Union (LFGU), says Remigijus Žemaitaitis, the Order and Justice Party’s leader, betrayed the ruling bloc when he backed on Tuesday, October 15, an initiative to call an emergency plenary sitting to vote on Viktoras Pranckietis’ removal as the speaker of the Seimas. Therefore, the coalition is urging Žemaitaitis to step down as vice-speaker of the Seimas immediately, or will remove him by secret ballot, Karbauskis said on Wednesday, October 16.

Cabinet approves new car pollution tax

The Lithuanian Cabinet approved on Wednesday, October 16, a new tax aimed at encouraging people to buy less polluting cars and facilitating the renewal of the country’s ageing vehicle fleet, Environment Minister Kęstutis Mažeika said. The absence of such a tax on cars is a key reason why that fleet is old and polluting now, according to the minister. If endorsed by the parliament, the new tax will be introduced next year. A levy ranging from several tens of euros to 1,400 euros per car will be charged every time a car is registered or reregistered.

Cabinet approves excise tax hikes

The Lithuanian Cabinet decided on Wednesday, October 16, to raise the excise duties on strong alcohol, diesel fuel and heated tobacco in March 2020. Finance Minister Vilius Šapoka says the excise duty hikes aim to expand the base of taxes less detrimental to economic growth, and to promote a healthy lifestyle. The excise tax rates are set to increase by 68 per cent for heated tobacco (from the current 58.6 euros to 113.2 euros per kilogram), by 10.5 per cent for ethyl alcohol, by 7.3 per cent for gasoline, by 7.2 per cent for diesel fuel, and by 44.6 per cent for diesel fuel used for agricultural purposes.

New measures to block Astravyets electricity proposed

President Gitanas Nausėda on Wednesday, October 16, proposed new measures to block imports of electricity produced at the Astravyets nuclear power plant under construction in Belarus. The proposed amendments would allow canceling electricity import permits immediately and not issuing new ones for power imports from third countries with nuclear power plants deemed unsafe from the very beginning of their operation, the statement reads.

 LFGU decide to delegate its leader to Seimas leadership

The ruling Lithuanian Farmers and Greens Union (LFGU) has decided to delegate Ramunas Karbauskis, its chairman, to the Seimas leadership, but is not clear yet if he will seek the speaker’s chair or that of vice-speaker, Rima Baškienė and Arvydas Nekrošius, LFGU MPs, said on Tuesday, October 15.


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Lithuania set to expand residential real estate tax payers’ base

With the economy prospects for the new year looking bleaker, the Lithuanian government is scrambling to find new ways to prevent a looming drought of state coffers. The Lithuanian legislature, Seimas, has revisited this week the idea of taxing polluting cars, real estate and bank assets.

Estonian skiing ex-coach convicted of doping facilitation

A court in Estonia has found Mati Alaver, a former national skiing coach, guilty of doping facilitation and convicted him to probation.

Tourist upturn in Latvian accommodations reaches 2.27 million in 2019

1.03 million foreign and Latvian visitors stayed at Latvian tourist accommodation establishments Q3 2019, which is 0.5 % more than Q3 2018. Compared to corresponding period of the previous year, the number of nights spent by visitors increased by 1.5 %.

Central Election Commission permits signature collection for Seaima’s dismissal

On Thursday, 14 November, Latvia’s Central Election Commission registered a signature collection process initiated by Varu Latijas Tautai and Centre Party for the dismissal of the 13th Saeima.

Corruption watchdog once again punishes VID officials for illegal information acquisition

Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau has once again punished officials of the State Revenue Service who were caught illegally acquiring information from systems.

Saeima decides: unemployment benefit to be paid for eight, not nine months

From 2020 onward unemployment status will be provided and benefits paid for eight months instead of nine, BNN was told by Saeima’s press-service.

Lithuania pushes for NATO ally involvement in EU defence projects

Lithuanian National Defence Minister Raimundas Karoblis has emphasised that European Union’s defence projects should be open to NATO allies from outside the EU to join in.

Healthcare trade unions to decide on future protests in Latvia

Latvian Trade Union of Health and Social Care Workers council plans to decide on future protests on Tuesday, 19 November, as confirmed by the trade union.

Estonia registers lowest unemployment in century

The unemployment rate in the century-long history of Estonia has dropped in third quarter of the year to a record low of 3.9%, the country’s official statistics show.

Minister: suspicious interest for Latvia’s military objects considered medium-high

The level of suspicious interest of foreign people for Latvia’s military objects using different research methods, including drones, is considered medium-high, says Latvia’s Defence Minister Artis Pabriks.

Tusk encourages pro-EU Britons not to give up

The United Kingdom is in a month’s time holding its early parliamentary election. The outgoing chairman of the EU’s European Council, Donald Tusk has said indirectly that the country’s divorce from the bloc can still be reversed.

Contraband cigarettes found stashed in cars with forged diplomatic registration plates

State Revenue Service Tax and Customs Police found a large number of contraband cigarettes in vehicles bearing forged diplomatic registration plates, VID reports.

Supreme Court keeps ban on new construction contracts for JRT in force

On Wednesday, 13 November, Latvia’s Supreme Court of Justice decided to reject the protest submitted by the Office of the Prosecutor General in regards to the ruling on approving construction company ReRe Būve 1 plea against State Real Estate, in which the company managed to secure a prohibition for VNI to sign new construction contracts with third party companies on work associated with New Riga Theatre.

Israel and Gaza start truce after two days of deadly violence

In the Middle East, after two days of military attacks between Israel and Palestinian militants that has left 32 people dead, a ceasefire has come into force, according to Egyptian, UN and militant representatives.

Saeima spends 14 hours debating on legislative drafts for next year’s budget

On the first day of Saeima’s debates about the state budget for 2020 and accompanying legislative drafts deputies spent 14 hours discussing a small number of drafts. In the end, the decision was made to take a break and return to decision-making on Thursday, 14 November.

Municipalities to receive 5% instead of 25% from gambling tax revenue

On Wednesday, 13 November, Latvia’s Saeima approved amendments in the final reading to the Law on Lotteries and Gambling Fee and Tax. Amendments include a new proportion for the division of the aforementioned tax between the state and municipal budgets.

Video: Venice affected by highest flood waters since 1966

In Italy’s picturesque Venice, the water level has risen by 1.87 metres. Two people have died during the floods.

OECD: Lithuanians, among rich nations, having highest alcohol consumption

Alcohol consumption in Lithuania is the highest compared to other 43 countries in the world, found the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, also referred to as the «rich-nations club».

Minimal pensions to increase in Latvia next year

On Wednesday, 13 November, Latvia’s Saeima approved in the final reading amendments to the State Pensions Law. These amendments provide for increasing minimal retirement pension amounts in 2020.

Environment Ministry refuses to approve new waste management regulations in Riga

Latvia’s Environment Protection and Regional Development Ministry has decided not to approve Riga City Council’s binding rules on waste management in the capital city, as confirmed by Riga City Council Housing and Environment Department’s Office for Environment head Evija Piņķe.

Harmony wants Honour to Serve Riga to cease working with independent deputies

Harmony political party may agree to continue working in the coalition of Riga City Council under the condition Honour to Serve Riga terminates cooperation with the Independent Deputies Faction, said vice-chairperson of Riga City Council Anna Vladova after meeting with Harmony’s faction on Wednesday, 13 November.

No legalisation. Estonia rejects calls for taking cannabis market in state’s hands

Over 1 000 activists in Estonia have signed a proposal for the state to tax and enforce its control over the illegal market of cannabis, by legalising it. Yet, legislators have not welcomed the idea citing health damage from the substance.

Elenger starts supplying Latvia with natural gas from Klaipeda terminal

Estonian Eesti Gaas subsidiary SIA EG Energija, which operates under Elenger brand, has commenced supplying Latvia with gas from Klaipeda floating gas terminal, as reported by Elenger Latvija board member Dāvis Skulte.

Harmony’s head promises constant control over party’s Riga City Council faction

The chairman of Harmony political party, Saeima deputy Jānis Urbanovičs promises to constantly control the party’s faction in Riga City Council. He wants certainty over the party’s ability to work.

Estonian minister’s actions to be investigated, says PM Ratas

Estonian ruling coalition has agreed that its Minister of Rural Affairs has to be investigated, Prime Minister Jüri Ratas has stated. The current situation is over alleged links to a conflict of interest involving farming subsidies,