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Week in Lithuania. Liberal Movement to turn to court over VSD statements

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The board of Lithuania’s Liberal Movement has decided to turn to court over information published by the State Security Department (VSD), allegedly damaging the party’s reputation.

«We have decided that we, as a party, have to turn to court over damage to our reputation and demand refutation of claims made in the SSD report,» the party’s leader Eugenijus Gentvilas said on Friday, May 18.

In his words, the lawsuit will demand refutation of the claims that the party was founded by MG Baltic, that the party was in reality controlled by MG Baltic, and also that the election of our chairman, Petras Auštrevičius, in 2006 was also fully controlled. In its report to the parliamentary Committee on National Security and Defence, the State Security Department states that the Liberal Movement, founded in 2006, was a long-term political project of MG Baltic, fully controlled by the business group’s executives and aimed at eliminating MG Baltic’s competitors in the construction business in Vilnius.

Lithuania rejects Gorsky’s asylum plea

Lithuania’s Migration Department this week rejected a political asylum application submitted by nationalist Yuri Gorsky who fled Russia last year. He plans to appeal. Evelina Gudzinskaitė, director of the Migration Department, says Gorsky has also been put on the list of people declared persona non grata due to threats to national security. The decision was made upon receipt of information from the State Security Department, she said.

Fine proposed for wearing St. George’s ribbons

A fine of up to 300 euros is proposed for wearing Russian St. George’s ribbons with black and orange stripes in Lithuania. The Seimas of Lithuania on Thursday, May 17, gave its initial backing to the amendments of the Code of Administrative Offences, with 41 votes in favour, ten against and 25 abstentions. The amendment had been proposed by a group of members of the opposition Homeland Union – Lithuanian Christian Democrats.

Uspaskich to run for Vilnius mayor

Viktor Uspaskich, the founder and chairman of Lithuania’s Labour Party, says he plans to run for Vilnius mayor. The Labour Party’s council has nominated him for the capital’s mayor. Uspaskich founded the Labour Party in 2003. It failed to cross the 5 percent threshold to get into parliament in 2016.

Kaunas hosts European Capital of Culture Forum

A two-day European Capital of Culture Forum was held in Lithuania’s second-largest city of Kaunas is through Friday and Saturday, May 18-19, with over 400 guests and more than 30 speakers expected. The forum’s speakers talked and examined the effect culture has on a city’s social and economic prosperity. Major attention was given to projects involving local communities. Representatives of Liverpool, Stavanger, Wroclaw, Essen, Valetta, Plovdiv and other former European Capitals of Culture attended the forum. will be the European Capital of Culture in 2022. Vilnius was awarded the title in 2009.

Teachers stage warning strike

Teachers from around 50 schools in Lithuania took part in a two-hour warning strike on Friday, May 18. Representatives of the Lithuanian Education Employees Trade Union, held the strike. Around 1,000 teachers were taking part, including teachers from secondary schools, kindergarten and art schools. All in all, there are around 53,000 teachers in Lithuania. The trade union demands raising pay for educational employees, making children’s groups at kindergartens and schools smaller and also postponing changes in the pay system for teachers.

Proposal to increase minimum wage

A proposal to increase the minimum wage by 20 euros to 420 euros next year has reached Lithuania’s Tripartite Council which is set to make the decision later. The proposal was on Tuesday, May 15, submitted by Gediminas Šimkus, head of the Bank of Lithuania’s Economics and Financial Stability Service. Artūras Černiauskas, chairman of the Council, representing employees, said that discussions on the matter had been postponed until the next meeting. The Tripartite Council decided last year that the minimum monthly wage should stand at 45-50 percent of the average salary, and the specific ratio should be equal to the average ratio of four EU member states with the largest ratios, but should not exceed the 45-50 limit.

Lithuania to set quotas for unskilled labour

Amid a rapid increase in immigration from Ukraine, the Lithuanian government decided on Wednesday, May 16, to introduce quotas on foreign workers in certain professions. This issue is now particularly relevant because of the growing number of Ukrainian drivers and builders. Around 34,500 foreigners, including some 20,000 Ukrainian citizens, were last year issued with working visas or work-based residence permits, the Migration Department told BNS. The quotas will not apply to highly qualified professionals.

Farmers offered 80 pc of EU average payments in 2027

Under the European Commission’s proposal, direct payments to Lithuanian farmers would reach only 80 percent of the EU’s average level within the next decade. Government officials warned during a discussion in Brussels on the EU’s new budget that this would mean a lost generation of farmers for Lithuania. Payments to Lithuanian farmers last year accounted for 60 percent of the EU average.

Journalist testifies to Seimas committee

Journalist Tomas Dapkus says he named Lithuanian State Security Department (VSD) officials, who he claims are taking revenge on him by reporting defamatory information, during his testimony before the Seimas Committee on National Security and Defence (NSGK) on Wednesday, May 16. The journalist has recently found himself in the spotlight after the release of certain declassified information provided by the intelligence agency to the committee as part of its investigation into businesses’’ influence on political processes.

LVŽS leader: president redirecting attention

President Dalia Grybauskaitė is trying to direct attention from the political corruption case by casting a shadow with its statements calling on members of the ruling parties, active in the business area, to «very seriously consider» whether to stay in the parliament, Ramūnas Karbauskis, leader of the ruling Lithuanian Farmers and Greens Union, says. The Lithuanian president said earlier some lawmakers are doing business, with some of them doing it secretly.


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Week in Lithuania: police on hunt of a child’s kidnapper, 2020 conscription list announced, Belarus seeks Lithuania’s help

In Lithuania, the top news stories last week were the police hunt of a child’s kidnapper, the announcement of the 2020 conscription list and Belarus seeking Lithuania’s help court.

BNN summary of the week: Lay-offs at LDz. KNAB wrapped around ZZS’ finger. Ķuzis steps down

The last week demonstrated that not everything that glitters is gold. Although previously Latvian Railway proudly reported growing freights and revenue, the statement released in the middle of the week suggests the company is not in the best state – the company plans to lay off 1 500 workers by the end of the year.

FKTK lists exceptions in which banks are allowed to service Aivars Lembergs

Latvian Finance and Capital Market Commission has listed cases in which Latvia’s finance market participants will be allowed to service Aivars Lembergs, who is subjected to US OFAC sanctions and accused of serious crimes, and three organizations associated with him – Ventspils Development Agency, Business Development Association and Latvian Transit Business Association.

Appropriate jobs promised for laid-off LDz workers

Latvian State Employment Agency promises to find appropriate jobs for laid-off Latvian Railway workers. If need be, those people will be provided the opportunity for re-qualification, raise their qualification or train for a new profession, as confirmed by the agency’s representative Signe Bierande.

Bordāns selects potential candidates to lead the Supreme Court and Prosecutor General’s office

I can see people who could take the reins over the Office of the Prosecutor General and the Supreme Court and change their work standards, Latvian Justice Minister Jānis Bordāns told TV3 programme 900 seconds when asked about any potential candidates to lead those institutions.

Ukrainian Prime Minister ready quit after leaked voice recording

Ukrainian head of government Oleksiy Honcharuk has offered to resign following the circulation of an audio recording, where criticism of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and his knowledge in economy is voiced.

Inflation in Latvia reportedly higher than Europe’s and Eurozone’s in December

In December 2019 inflation in Latvia was higher than the average in the European Union and Eurozone, according to information published by Eurostat on Friday, 17 January.

Estonian population growth continues in 2019 due to immigration

Estonia has registered in 2019 population growth for the fifth consecutive year and it can be explained with immigration not with natural growth, according to preliminary data released by Statistics Estonia.

BNN investigation | Raunas street property: quiet assistant with a «secret wallet» for Lembergs

There are suspicions that Aivars Lembergs, subjected to international sanctions, has sold real estate located on Raunas Street 27 in Riga to his sister «on paper only». This may have been done to avoid confiscation of properties in the event of a guilty verdict or a possible arrest over the real estate property. However, it is possible Lembergs maintains full control over this real estate property and, most likely, the property is used to fatten his wallet on a regular basis.

Audit: majority of Latvian housing stock has degraded to a state of a slum

Since the denationalization effective access to housing security in Latvia does not exist and most of the housing stock has degraded up to a state of a slum, as concluded by the Latvian State Audit.

Prime minister affirms possibility of carrying oil supplies for Belarus through Latvia

During his meeting with Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko on Thursday, 16 January, Latvian Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš affirmed that oil supplies for Belarus may be possible using Latvia’s ports.

Rain in Australia provides relief to continuing fight against bushfires

In eastern Australia, which has been suffering in prolonged and disastrous bushfires, heavy rain has been falling for the past 24 hours.

Weather to remain warm in Latvia at week’s end

At the end of the week the sky in Latvia will become clear and the sun will shine. No precipitation is expected. However, a low atmospheric pressure area will approach the country from the west during weekends, as reported by Latvian Environment, Geology and Meteorology Centre.

GKR helps overthrow Riga’s vice-mayors and put an end to ruling coalition

Riga City Council vice-chairperson Anna Vladova and deputy Druvis Kleins lost their respective posts at an extraordinary meeting on Thursday, 16 January. This happened because multiple deputies from Honour to Serve Riga voted together with the opposition in favour of dismissing them.

Latvian Railway plans to lay off 1 500 employees

Latvian Railway plans to terminate labour relations with approximately 1 500 employees before the end of 2020, as reported by the company’s representative Ella Pētermane.

Russian State Duma approves Putin’s new Prime Minister

The Russian State Duma has approved on Thursday, January 16, the candidacy of the country’s next Prime Minister appointed by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Ventspils opposition invites Pūce to act to prevent US sanctions from spreading to city council

Environment Protection and Regional Development Ministry and especially Juris Pūce have to act to resolve the current state of Ventsils City Council. It should be dismissed, as the municipal government does not have moral, ethical or legal foundation to continue managing and implementing the criminal management’s policy, according to Ventspils City Council opposition deputies.

Trade unions urge Latvian government to resolve transit businesses’ blocked bank accounts problem

Multiple trade unions associated with the transit industry have turned to Latvia’s highest ranking officials with a request to resolve the situation with bank accounts of multiple transit companies having been blocked because of US sanctions against Aivars Lembergs. If the government does not act, trade unions promise to organize massive protests.

Anris Leimanis picked as RB Rail council chairman

Anris Leimanis, independent council member from Latvian shareholder, has been picked as Rail Baltica joint Baltic company AS RB Rail council chairman. Ahti Kuningas and Karolis Sankovskis will serve as vice-chairmen, as confirmed by the company.

CSP: number of residents at risk of poverty declines in Latvia

In 2018 a total of 434 thousand persons or 22.9 % of the population of Latvia were at risk of poverty – 0.4 percentage points less than in 2017.

Latvian Saeima to ask Denmark to not extradite Kristīne Misāne to South African Republic

On Thursday, 16 January, Latvian Saeima made the decision to protect the rights of Latvian citizen Kristīnes Misāne, asking the Danish parliament and Danish law enforcers to support their Latvian colleagues and find a solution to avoid extraditing her to the South African Republic, as reported by Saeima’s press-service.

Smiltēns: Riga City Council’s situation can be described – divide, redistribute and plunder

«The situation in at Riga City Council can be described with three words – divide, redistribute, plunder,» said leader of Latvian Association of Regions Edvards Smiltēns in an interview to LTV programme Rīta panorama on Thursday, 16 January.

One single vote left the Lithuanian election system intact

The understanding that Lithuania’s election system needs changes is nearly overwhelming, but the ruling Farmers and Greens’ attempt to lower the Parliament election threshold in parties’ multi-member constituency from current 5 per cent to 3 per cent suffered a setback this week.

Estonian power grid executive detained over bribery suspicion

The Estonian Internal Security Service has detained a board member of the Elektrilevi power grid operator over suspicion of taking a bribe.

Demographer: Latvia has the lowest birth rate level observed the past decade

Birth rates continued to decline in Latvia in 2019. The lowest level of the past decade was reached in the country last year, says demographer Ilmārs Mežs.


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