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Monday 19.11.2018 | Name days: Liza, Līze, Elizabete, Betija
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Week in Lithuania. Lithuania's unexpected vote on Jerusalem: against U.S. in solidarity with EU

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Lithuania on Thursday, December 21, unexpectedly voted in favour of a UN resolution rejecting Washington’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, thus defying American warnings and showing solidarity with the EU’s major powers.

The 193-member UN General Assembly adopted the resolution in a vote of 128 to nine with 35 abstentions.

President Dalia Grybauskaitė’s chief foreign policy adviser, Nerijus Aleksiejūnas, said in a comment forwarded by the president’s spokeswoman that «Lithuania has consistently held that the issue of Jerusalem can only be resolved through negotiations».

Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevičius has decided not to comment on the reasons for the vote.

Lithuania voted in solidarity with most EU member states, including Germany, France and Britain. Five EU countries – Latvia, Poland, the Czech Republic, Croatia and Romania – abstained.

Lithuania’s vote is not in line with its earlier practice of being one of Israel’s strongest diplomatic supporters in the EU, mostly due to the history of Lithuanian Jews and Vilnius’ efforts to win favour with the United States.

MPs back decision to initiate EU-level discussions on time

The parliamentarians on Thursday, December 21, endorsed the decision taken by the government earlier this week, suggesting that Lithuania should be free to decide on the twice-yearly clock shift. The parliament’s resolution on application of the so-called daylight -saving time (DST) was supported by 76 of Lithuania’s 141 parliamentarians, while seven were against and seven abstained.

With the resolution, the MPs advised the government to open consultations with the European Commission on the possibility to revise the provisions of the directive 2000/84/EB to allow every member-state of the European Union to decide on the application of the daylight-saving time in its territory based on analyses of the impact of the time shift.

On Wednesday, December 20, the Lithuanian Cabinet announced that it was initiating EU-level discussions on the summer time directive.

Russian Kaspersky Lab software poses threat to Lithuania’s security

Russia-based Kaspersky Lab’s software products pose a potential threat to Lithuania’s national security, the country’s government has stated. The Cabinet formulated this position during its meeting on Wednesday, December 20.

Specialists of the National Cyber Security Centre will provide consultations and other assistance to institutions in replacement of the software, said Rytis Rainys, deputy director of the Cyber Security and Telecommunications Service. In light of the government’s decision, Lithuania will replace the legal acts regulating public procurement in the field of defence and security.

Banks need to raise 50-60 mn euro to meet buffer requirement

Lithuanian commercial banks will need to raise an estimated 50 million to 60 million euros to meet a 0.5-percent capital buffer requirement imposed by the central bank as the property market is heating up, the president of the Lithuanian Banks Association (LBA) said on Thursday, December 21. According to Mantas Zalatorius, the LBA head, the counter-cyclical capital buffer of around 50-60 million euros is not a stressful amount for a bank.

Lithuania receives another 16 Syrian refugees

Lithuania on Tuesday, December 19, relocated another 16 Syrian refugees under the European Union (EU) program, the Migration Department said. Three migrant families arrived in Lithuania from refugee camps in Turkey. Over two years ago, Lithuania committed itself to receiving 1,105 refugees from countries, such as Syria, Iraq and Eritrea. Although the country has received 447 persons by now, many of them already left for wealthier western European states.

Lithuania to try to recover record anti-trust fine from Gazprom abroad

Lithuania will turn to some foreign countries in an effort to recover the amount of a record-high anti-trust fine of around 42 million euros, including interest, from Russia’s gas giant Gazprom. The Lithuanian government decided on Wednesday, December 20, turn to some foreign countries and evaluate the assets Gazprom holds there, Energy Minister Žygimantas Vaičiūnas said.

The Competition Council slapped Gazprom with a 35.651-million-euro fine, the largest anti-trust fine ever in the country, in October 2014. The competition authority stated in June 2014 that Gazprom’s refusal to negotiate with Lietuvos Energijos Gamyba (Lithuanian Energy Production), formerly known as Lietuvos Energija (Lithuanian Energy), on a natural gas exchange deal in 2013-2015 prevented the Lithuanian company from purchasing cheaper gas from another supplier.

Paksas, Vainauskas, Zabulis deny influence peddling charges

MEP Rolandas Paksas, Lietuvos Rytas media group CEO Gedvydas Vainauskas and businessman Antanas Zabulis plead not guilty on charges of influence peddling but will provide testimony to court. Vainauskas told journalists he had been doing investigative journalism and does not agree with the charges, adding he wanted to know Paksas’ response about the situation. In his words, an article would have appeared, had the law-enforcement not interfered.

Prosecutors suspect that Paksas, as the-then leader of the Order and Justice party, agreed to accept a 15,000-euro bribe from Vainauskas in late August of 2015 and pledged to use his public status, circle of acquaintances and other supposed influence upon state institutions and officials to influence them.

According to information from the Special Investigation Service (STT), there has been no evidence of the money reaching Paksas. However, a deal and a pledge are enough to qualify the criminal deed under the Penal Code, STT said.

Fence on Lithuania-Kaliningrad border completed

A security fence along the Lithuanian border with the Russian Kaliningrad region was completed on Wednesday, December 20, after over six months of construction. The fence was built in stretches of the Lithuania-Russia state border that runs on dry land, with the exception of a few stretches next to small rivers.

The total length of the fence is over 40 km. Border guards have already installed technical surveillance systems along the 109-kilometer-long river section of the border with Russia.The aim of the fence is to curb smuggling and keep illegal migrants out of the country.

LG to electrify Vilnius–Klaipeda route

Lietuvos Geležinkeliai (Lithuanian Railways, LG), the state-run railway company, intends to electrify the route from Vilnius to Klaipeda within four years. The company’s CEO Mantas Bartuška said the work could cost 250-300 million euros, which is considerably less than planned before.

In his words, a contractor competition should be called shortly, with the work to be completed in 2021 -2022. Electrification of other stretches will be considered in the future, said Bartuška. The company currently owns about 10 electric passenger locomotives, planning to purchase electric freight locomotives it currently doesn’t have.

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Week in Lithuania. Lithuanian government approves rules for paying whistleblowers

The Lithuanian government approved on Wednesday, November 14, rules for financially rewarding people who provide the authorities with valuable information on illegal activities.

BNN summary of the week: government formation in Latvia, Brexit plans, and Latvia’s 100th birthday

If someone hoped to see Latvia compile a government before the national holiday, they are going to be disappointed – three parties have decided to exit government formation talks headed by New Conservative Party. NCP’s prime minister candidate Jānis Bordāns receive criticism for having too ambitious and expensive goals. NCP, on the other hand, says parties did not try to study the party’s offers.

PUC commences dispute between AS Gaso and natural gas consumer

On Friday, 16 November, Public Utilities Commission decided to commence a dispute procedure between a natural gas consumer and AS Gaso in regards to natural gas supplies, as confirmed by the commission.

Latvian parties continue informal talks while next prime minister is being picked

While President Raimonds Vējonis is busy picking the next prime minister candidate, politicians of different parties are performing informal consultations. No official consultations are currently planned.

UN's global migration compact stirs up Estonia's calm politics

The Estonian government has taken a long time to reach a unanimous position on the United Nation's Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration. This has been criticised by Estonian President Kersti Kaljulaid, who has to attend a conference in favour of the document in Morocco in December.

Latvian authorities detain CityCommerce Bank co-owner accused of embezzlement

Reinis Tumovs, co-owner of Ukrainian CityCommerce Bank, has been detained in Latvia. He is suspected of embezzling nearly UAH 300 million (EUR 9.5 million), as confirmed by Ukrainian National Police Economy Protection Department on Thursday, 15 November.

Russia ordered to pay damages for Navalny's political arrests by human rights court

Russia has been ordered by the European Court of Human Rights to repay 64 000 euros in damages and costs for politically-motivated arrests of Russian anti-corruption activist Alexei Navalny.

Latvian president to consider Gobzems and Pabriks as perspective prime minister candidates

As parties’ efforts to form a new government continue, Latvia’s President Raimonds Vējonis plans to consider two new prime minister candidates – KPV LV leader Aldis Gobzems and Attīstībai/Par! candidate Artis Pabriks.

EC wants to reduce funding for supplies of fruits, vegetables and milk to schools

European Commission’s proposed regulation on organization of agriculture products market provides for reducing EU funding for the support programme on provision of fruits, vegetables and milk for schools by EUR 29.2 million or the same as United Kingdom’s share.

Genocide verdicts handed to Khmer Rouge leaders in Cambodia

In Cambodia, the two most senior living leaders of the Khmer Rouge Communist regime have been found guilty of their role in the atrocities that resulted in the deaths of at least 1.7 million in Cambodia between 1977 and 1979.

Latvian parties pick candidates to work in Saeima committees

Parties elected to the 13th Saeima have picked representatives to work in the parliament’s standing committees. Final decision will be made 20 November. Harmony may be represented by deputies Nikolajs Kabanovs and Jānis Tutins in Saeima’s Foreign Affairs Committee. Attīstībai/Par! has picked Artis Pabriks, and Union of Greens and Farmers has picked Uldis Augulis.

EU leaders: No appetite for renegotiating Brexit deal

EU leaders have dismissed talk of renegotiating the draft Brexit deal and warned the UK's political situation could make a «no-deal» more likely.

Some rain expected for Latvia’s centenary; cold snap expected next week

The sky will become clear every now and then. Still, some rain is expected for the country’s centenary. Wet snow is expected in the country’s eastern regions. It will be dry in the country for the most part next week, as reported by Latvian State Environment, Geology and Meteorology Centre.

Latvian ministry plans to form Media Ethics Council and develop Latvian Media Ethics Code

Culture Ministry has proposed forming Media Ethics Council. The majority of institutions of the media industry have started working on a self-regulatory council and development of a Single Latvian Media Ethics Code, as reported by the ministry’s public relations office manager Lita Kokale.

Harmony picks representatives in Saeima’s committees

Nikolajs Kabanovs and Jānis Tutins may become Harmony’s representatives in Saeima’s Foreign Affairs Committee, whereas Valērijs Agešins may become the party’s representative in the National Security Committee.

Lithuania’s corruption buster: firms donating to hospitals stand better chance in tenders

The majority of the winners of the tenders organised by major Lithuanian hospitals have expressed their gratitude to the health providers by making donations to them in the form of financial support.

Employment level in Latvia reached 65.3% in Q3 2018

920.1 thousand people or 65.3 % of Latvia population aged 15–74 were employed in Q3 2018. Over the year, employment rate grew by 1.7 percentage points and number of employed persons by 17.2 thousand.

Unemployment level in Latvia was 7% in Q3 2018

In Q3 2018 Latvian unemployment rate constituted 7.0 %. Compared to the previous quarter, unemployment rate fell by 0.7 percentage points, while over the year by 1.5 percentage points.

AS PKL Flote enforces EUR 1.35 million from Riga Freeport authority in court

The Department of Civil Cases of the Supreme Court has ruled that the verdict of Riga Regional Court – one that penalized Riga Freeport authority for breach of Competition Law against PKL Flote – was correct. Now Riga Freeport has ten days, starting with 13 November, to pay the company EUR 1.35 million to cover damages caused by this violation, BNN was told by PKL Flote board chairman Sergejs Odincovs.

British government loses two more members; EU sets date for Brexit summit

In the UK government, Brexit minister Dominic Raab and Northern Ireland's junior minister have resigned in disagreement with the country's draft withdrawal agreement with the EU, already passed by the government.

Saeima deputy: data protection regulation will not protect «KGB associates»

Documents detailing KGB workers’ names, nationality, work place, participation in the Communist party are not covered by the Personal Data Protection Regulation, stresses Saeima deputy Ritvars Jansons from the National Alliance ‘All for Latvia’ – ‘For Fatherland and Freedom/LNNK’.

EP: Moldova and Georgia should continue initiated reforms

Members of the European Parliament welcome the reforms Georgia has commenced. At the same time, Moldova was criticized for its worsened state of democracy and rule of law, as reported by EP press-secretary in Latvia Signe Znotiņa-Znota.

Germany economy shrinks for first time in three years

Germany economy has contracted by 0.2% in the third quarter of 2018, a first such result in the largest economy of the European Union in over three years.

Latvian president gives parties holiday break to continue talks

Latvian President Raimonds Vējonis calls off nomination of NCP candidate Jānis Bordāns to for government. Talks regarding the next prime minister candidate will continue after the state holiday.

Ireland satisfied with Brexit draft deal in every priority

The government of Ireland has stated that draft withdrawal agreement between Irish neighbour, the UK, and the European Union, Dublin had achieved a satisfying result in all its priorities, also regarding the border on the island of Ireland.

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