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Week in Lithuania: new government in the offing, drug smuggler freed, VAT remains unchanged

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Leader of Lithuanian Conservatives, Gabrielius Landsbergis

Last week, the opposition Conservatives considered three possible scenarios if the ruling Farmers and Greens Union (LFGU) fulfilled its promise to leave the government if two elections go bad on them; a Columbian drug smuggler suspected of having been unlawfully released from jail; new attempts to reduce VAT fail.

POLITICS: Conservatives discuss 3 options should LFGU quit government

The conservative Homeland Union–Lithuanian Christian Democrats (HU-LCD), the biggest opposition party in the Seimas, considered this week three possible scenarios if the Lithuanian Farmers and Greens Union (LFGU) carry out their threat to quit the government.

HU-LCD leader Gabrielius Landsbergis said on Thursday, May 8, one of the most of a realistic scenario would be to form a minority government. The second scenario would be to appoint a new government of professionals without links to political parties. The third option is the so-called Latvian variant where all groups get a certain fixed number of ministerial portfolios, rather than in proportion (to their seats in the parliament). (There are) seven groups and each (receives) two ministers, thus forming a stabilization government until the next elections, according to Landsbergis. Karbauskis, the LFGU leader, has said his party will withdraw from the government if Skvernelis, its presidential candidate, does comes third or lower in Sunday’s election and does not make it to the May 26 runoff, and the party suffers a defeat in the European Parliament elections.

Seimas rejects proposal to cut VAT to 18 pc

 The value added tax will remain 21 per cent in Lithuania after the country’s parliament on Thursday, May 9, rejected the liberals’ initiative to cut it to 18 per cent from 2020, a level that was before the 2009 crisis. 22 lawmakers voted in favour of the parliament starting deliberation of the proposed amendments to the Law on Value Added Tax, 18 were against and 33 abstained. The last attempt to reduce the VAT to 18 per cent was made in the Lithuanian parliament in November, 2017.

Seimas approves government’s 2018 performance report

The Lithuanian parliament endorsed on Tuesday, May 7, the 2018 performance report of Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis’ government. The respective resolution, registered by Ramūnas Karbauskis, leader of the ruling Lithuanian Farmers and Greens Union (LFGU), was passed in a vote of 69 to 37 with 10 abstentions. The approval came from parliamentarians of the LFGU and the Lithuanian Social Democratic Labour Party, the Order and Justice Party, which has a cooperation agreement with the ruling coalition, and the Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania–Christian Families Alliance (EAPL-CFA), which is not part of the bloc but often backs their initiatives.

CONTROVERSY: Columbian convicted for drug smuggling unlawfully released

Prosecutors suspect that a Columbian citizen convicted in Lithuania for drug smuggling has been unlawfully released from a prison. The Kaunas Regional Prosecutor’s office has launched a pre-trial investigation into a suspected failure to perform one’s official duties at the Kybartai sector of the Marijampolė Correction House. Diego Pena Murillo was released after the Supreme Court returned his case to the Court of Appeals for reconsideration. Murillo was convicted in one of Lithuania’s largest-ever drug smuggling cases. In late January 2018, the Kaunas Regional Court found the Columbian man guilty of unlawful possession of more than 71 kilograms of cocaine for the purpose of selling the drugs. Officials found the cocaine haul, one of the largest ever seized in Lithuania, hidden in a coal shipment from Columbia in 2015.

ANNIVERSARY: A crowd gathers in Vilnius cemetery to mark end of WWII

More than 500 people gathered in Vilnius’ Antakalnis Cemetery on Thursday, May 9, to mark the 74th anniversary of the Soviet victory in World War II.  People wore the orange and black ribbons of St. George and held red carnations or World War II soldiers’ portraits as they marched to the memorial to the victims of the war. Among those present was Alexander Udaltsov, Russia’s ambassador to Lithuania, who carried the portraits of his mother and father.

LAW: Watchdog asks court to block illegal music streaming website

The Lithuanian Radio and Television Commission (LRTK) decided on Wednesday, May 8, to seek a court order to block an illegal online music streaming service that gives access to over 90,000 Lithuanian and foreign tracks. LRTK took the step after receiving a complaint from the Lithuanian related rights association AGATA about a copyright infringement. The watchdog does not name the website so as not to encourage more illegal downloads.

EU: Presidents of Lithuania, other 20 countries call for unity

The presidents of 21 EU member states, including Lithuania, called on Thursday, May 9, for maintaining unity in the bloc despite differences in views.  In a joint declaration issued in the run-up to the European Parliament elections, the presidents noted that the European Union has faced profound challenges in recent months, more than ever before, such as discussions on the level of integration or Brexit.

Lithuania registers positive migration balance

Lithuania registered a positive migration balance for the third successive month in April as 1,029 more people came into the country than left. Figures from the statistics office, Statistics Lithuania, show 4,061 people came to Lithuania and 3,032 left the country last month. 58 percent, or almost two thirds, of those who came were Lithuanian citizens, with citizens also making the majority of those who left

Finance minister elected vice-chairman of EBRD Board of Governors

Finance Minister Vilius Šapoka was elected vice-chairman of the Board of Governors of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) at the board’s annual meeting in Sarajevo on Wednesday, May 8. Representatives of more than 60 countries took part in the EBRD annual meeting in the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Lithuania’s first OECD ambassador receives credentials

Lina Viltrakienė, Lithuania’s first ambassador to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), on Wednesday, May 8, received credentials from President Dalia Grybauskaite who called on the ambassador to share Lithuania’s achievements within the organization, including good practice in the development of the fintech sector. Lithuania joined the OECD last July and Viltrakienė will be the country’s first OECD ambassador.


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