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Week in Lithuania. Interior Ministry: Staff of Lithuania's migration system assisted in illegal entry schemes

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Employees of the Lithuanian migration system were involved in schemes facilitating illegal entry in the country, Interior Minister Eimutis Misiūnas has confirmed on March 7.

The information was provided by special services at a meeting of the parliamentary National Security and Defence Committee. In the minister’s words, the services submitted a classified report specifying the names of officers of the migration system that helped the bogus migration schemes.

Asked whether the names were known, Misiūnas told journalists after the closed meeting: «Yes (…). Some of the names, as far as I know, have not been part of the system for a long time, I am not familiar with other names and I will have to check whether they are still employed in the system.»

He said the report did not specify the institutions that the people were working at, only stating that there was no evidence of remuneration for the assistance to bogus migration organizers.

Vytautas Bakas, chairman of the National Security and Defence Committee, said that the current migration system was highly beneficial for illegal migration organizers who «serve people so that they could not enter the country or faced major problems.»

Defence minister again slandered

Fake news about Lithuania’s Defence Minister Raimundas Karoblis allegedly recognising Crimea as part of Russia was published online in the Russian, Ukrainian and English languages on Monday, March 5. According to Karoblis, this was «another an attempt to set partners against each other and undermine the society’s trust in Lithuania’s support to Ukraine and discredit Lithuania on the international arena.» According to the report, Karoblis stated the position at the U.S.-Lithuania Defense Forum in late February and shocked the reporters, however, the minister was not even present at the event.

PMs emphasise importance of joint energy projects

The prime ministers of Lithuania and Poland on Friday, March 9, emphasised the importance of joint energy projects, first of all the synchronisation of the electricity networks of the three Baltic countries and the gas interconnection. Both countries also signed a memorandum on enhanced energy cooperation. After the Vilnius meeting with Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, the head of Lithuania’s government, Saulius Skvernelis, said the memorandum would step up the cooperation between the two neighbouring states.

President dismisses justice minister

President Dalia Grybauskaitė on Wednesday, March 7, signed a decree on dismissing Milda Vainiūtė from the position of justice minister. The head of state appointed Interior Minister Eimutis Misiūnas as caretaker justice minister from March 9. After over a year in office, Vainiūtė handed her resignation on Tuesday to Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis following public allegations that the ministry’s leadership had interfered with an audit of the prison system and criticism from the president.

PM: allegations against MP Majauskas are a «family matter»

Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis said last Thursday, March 8, that the scandal surrounding Conservative MP Mykolas Majauskas, who has been publicly accused of sexual misconduct, seems to be, at least for now, a family matter. In an interview with the Info TV station last Tuesday, a young female accused Majauskas of unwelcome sexual behaviour toward her in his apartment more than five years ago. The woman, who was an adult high school student at that time, said that she knew of several other women who had been allegedly subjected to sexual misconduct by Majauskas. The embattled MP said in a press release on Tuesday, March 6, that he was suspending his membership in the conservative Homeland Union–Lithuanian Christian Democrats.

Speaker proposes to consider changing time of Seimas sessions

Viktoras Pranckietis, the speaker of the Seimas, proposed Thursday, March 8, to consider amending the Constitution to change the time of the Lithuanian parliament’s regular sessions. According to Pranckietis, both spring and autumn sessions could open earlier than now and start on a Tuesday, the usual day of plenary sittings, rather than on specific dates. Under the Constitution, the parliament’s spring session currently starts on March 10 and ends on June 30 and its autumn session opens on September 10 and closes on December 23. The Seimas has started its spring session this Saturday.

PM: government to decide on further tax reform this month

Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis says that the government will decide on a further tax reform by the end of March and will then put forward its proposals to the ruling coalition partners and the public. According to him, the preparatory work is currently being finalized. The government will this month make final decisions and will then present them to the ruling political groups in the Seimas and will then put them up for a broad public discussion.

EC: Lithuania has to increase investment in human capital

The European Commission identifies increasing investment in human capital, and boosting productivity and labour supply as key challenges for Lithuania. The Commission also points out in its latest report that demographic trends in Lithuania «are negative due to strong emigration, and are aggravated by bad health outcomes».

Liberalised power supplies ahead

Energy Ministry plans to liberalise the electricity market for household consumers by 2020 to allow residents to choose a electricity supplier they prefer. Energy Minister Žygimantas Vaičiūnas says that the process will not be sudden and, therefore, should result in higher electricity prices, adding that decisions would be reviewed, should this happen. Meanwhile, MP Linas Balsys, a member of the parliamentary Environment Protection Committee, said that «elimination of regulation of retail prices is a direct path towards higher prices» under monopoly conditions.

Kaliningrad sends signal to Baltic states

As Russia launched two new heat and power plants in Kaliningrad launched last week, the Baltic states and Poland should accelerate the project of synchronisation with continental Europe, Lithuania’s government officials and energy experts say. Energy Minister Žygimantas Vaičiūnas says that the increased electricity production in the Kaliningrad region was part of Moscow’s preparations for the planned disconnection of the Baltic countries from the Russian BRELL system.

President criticises government’s pension plans

President Dalia Grybauskaitė criticised on Tuesday, March 5, the ruling bloc’s «vague» plans to overhaul the pension and tax systems and warned against raising expectations that cannot be delivered. The president added that the same held true for the planned pension system overhaul. She also noted that Lithuania had become «a laggard» in the absorption of EU funds, using a mere 19 per cent of EU money in 2017, and called on the Seimas to ensure that the process remains smooth during a change of government.

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