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Week in Lithuania. Lithuania to hold referendum on reducing number of MPs

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A referendum on reducing the number of lawmakers to 121 from the existing 141 will be held on May 12 alongside the presidential election in Lithuania, the country’s parliament has decided after 58 lawmakers voted in favour on Thursday, February 14, 42 were against and two abstained.

The Seimas resolution on the referendum was adopted under a fast-track procedure, meaning the bill was put forward and adopted the same day. The referendum had been initiated by almost 40 members of the ruling Lithuanian Farmers and Greens Union’s political group in the Seimas.

Members of the opposition, who voted against, accuse the LFGU of using this initiate to increase voter turnout during the presidential run-off to ensure bigger support to Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis who’s running for president. Previously, the LFGU put forward constitutional amendments on reducing the number of Seimas members to 101 but the parliament failed to endorse this move.

Seimas ends fall session

Lithuania’s parliament, Seimas, officially finished its fall session on Thursday, February 14. Under the country’s Constitution, the fall session started on September 10 and finished on December 23 but this time it was extended by the parliament twice. The parliament has adopted 501 bills over the five months of the parliamentary session, including the key document of the year, the law on the state and municipal budget.

Government holds training on election cyber threats

The Chancellery of the Lithuanian Government held training exercises earlier this week, dedicated to countering cyber threats during elections. According to the government, the events on Tuesday, February 12, and Wednesday, February 13, were attended by representatives of the Central Electoral Commission, the presidential and government chancelleries, the Ministries of National Defence, Foreign Affairs and Justice, the National Cyber Security Centre, law enforcement institutions, intelligence services and the army. Experts from Sweden, Finland and Poland shared their experience.

Minister slams mayor’s raving

Foreign Minister Linas Linkevičius has slammed as intolerable hints by Lazdijai Mayor Arūuras Margelis that Poland’s northeastern towns of Sejny and Punsk should be part of the southern Lithuanian district. When asked what he had wanted but so far failed to change in the municipality, Margelis told the news website that it would be good to have Sejny and Punsk in the Lazdijai district. The mayor defended his remark, saying he was just joking and insisted that the Poles understand his humour. The two Polish towns have large communities of ethnic Lithuanians.

Lithuania won’t give up veto power on taxes

The veto power on tax matters is a major competitive advantage that Lithuania does not intend to abandon, Finance Minister Vilius Šapoka said on Thursday, February 14. The European Commission’s proposal to gradually move from unanimity to qualified majority voting on taxation was discussed at this week’s meeting of the Eurogroup and the Economic and Financial Affairs Council (ECOFIN). According to Šapoka, Lithuania receives support from other countries’ finance ministers on the issue.

Agency responsible for EU law to lose its independent status

Despite opposition from the Foreign Ministry, the Lithuanian government decided on Wednesday. February 13, to strip its agency supervising compliance with EU law of its status of a separate legal entity. The Cabinet approved a proposal to incorporate the European Law Department into the Justice Ministry. Supporters of the move say it will help save funds, but critics fear this may affect the quality of the agency’s work and its independence.

Lithuania strengthening its embassy in UK amid Brexit

In the run-up to Brexit, Lithuania is strengthening its embassy in the United Kingdom by adding new consular staff positions and extending reception hours.  The measures were presented at the Cabinet’s meeting on Wednesday, February 13, the Foreign Ministry said. Amid a rapid increase in the number of Lithuanians applying to the embassy for the renewal of their documents, it is proposed to amend the Law on Identity Card and Passport to allow using external service providers’ services in accepting Lithuanian nationals’ documents for renewal, he said.

Funding for dual citizenship referendum campaign

The Lithuanian government decided on Wednesday, February 13, to allocate 230,000 euros for campaigning for a dual citizenship referendum expected to be held in May. The government plans to appoint a special working group for organizing the referendum, which is planned to be held on May 12 and May 26, 2019, in tandem with the first and second rounds of voting in Lithuania’s presidential election. The Constitutional Court is currently looking at whether the Seimas’ decision to hold the referendum on two days with a gap of two weeks between them is in line with the Constitution.

Commission head says has no info that Revolut threats

Alminas Mačiulis, head of a special government commission says the panel does not plan, at least for now, to reconsider the reliability of Revolut as it has no new information suggesting that the UK-based fintech startup, which is setting up a specialized bank in Lithuania, might pose a threat to national security. CBF Chairman Stasys Jakeliūnas, who wants Revolut’s reliability to be reassessed from the national security viewpoint, told reporters after the meeting that he would consider bringing the issue before the full parliament, adding that he would consult the Seimas Committee on National Security and Defence on the matter.

Police seize 1.5 tons of hashish, detain three people

Lithuania’s police said on Wednesday, February 13, they had seized a record 1.5-ton shipment of hashish, destined for Russia, and detained two Lithuanian and one Belarusian citizens. Linas Pernavas, the police commissioner general, said in a press conference the drugs were bought on the wholesale market for slightly less than 1.5 million euros, and their retail value stands at around 20 million euros. The police chief also said the investigation took around six months and identified the drug distribution network involved.

Lithuania-Polish parliamentary assembly resumes work

The Lithuanian-Polish Parliamentary Assembly has resumed work after a decade-long break. Arvydas Nekrošius, leading the Lithuanian Seimas’ delegation, told Wednesday, February 13, that a declaration adopted during lawmakers’ meeting in Warsaw stressed the importance of this format and the need to continue meetings in the future.

LFGU will fund PM’s election campaign

Lithuanian Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis’ presidential election campaign will be funded by the ruling Lithuanian Farmers and Greens Union, the party’s leader Ramūnas Karbauskis says. The LFGU has already donated 50,000 euros to Skvernelis’ election campaign, and Karbauskis says the party will donate all the necessary funds. Lithuania will elect a new president in May.

Lithuanian, Belarusian ministers met in Klaipeda

Lithuanian Transport and Communications Minister Rokas Masiulis met with his Belarusian counterpart, Alexei Avramenko, in Klaipeda on Tuesday, February 12, to discuss the results of and prospects for cargo transportation. The Klaipeda port handled a record 46.6 million tons of cargo last year, a rise of 7.9 percent compared with 2017.

Paysera launches operations in Estonia

Lithuanian-owned payment services company Paysera is starting operations in Estonia after opening a customer service centre in Tallinn, with plans to launch a sales unit in the spring. Paysera CEO Vytenis Morkūnas said on Monday, February 11, that expansion abroad is one of the company’s main strategic goals. Paysera plans to invest up to 700,000 euros in the Estonian unit, which is headed by Anna Nicols, within three years.

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