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Week in Lithuania. Polish legislative initiative stuns Lithuanian parliamentarians

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Lithuanian politicians were flabbergasted by a proposed legislative initiative in the Polish parliament equating «Lithuanian nationalism» to a totalitarian regime. If adopted, Lithuania-related monuments may be subject to demolishing in neighbouring Poland.

«It is a slap in the face. But if one understands the ideological nature of the current Polish government and remembers their earlier initiatives, such as a resolution on the historical nuances of relations with Ukraine, this is not surprising. This is something close to their traditional thinking. They live as if in a surrounded fortress and, naturally, see nationalisms of others, but do not see their own nationalism,» Laurynas Kasčiūnas, a member of the Lithuanian parliament‘s Committee on Foreign Affairs, said.

The conservative lawmaker said that if the amendment were passed, all memorial signs associated with Lithuania in Poland would be under threat.

Gediminas Kirkilas, chairman of the parliament’s Committee on European Affairs, is of the same opinion.

«In fact, not everybody in Poland approves of that. We saw an assessment from the Polish Prosecutor General’s Office that does not approve of that. People in the Prosecutor General’s Office understand that such a law may have consequences. Perhaps some monuments will have to be demolished or plaques will have to be torn off. They understand that it will be they who have to do it,» the Social Democrat said. According to proposed amendments to a law on banning «propaganda of communism or other totalitarian regime in the names of buildings, objects and public facilities», «particularly fascism, German Nazism, Ukrainian and Lithuanian nationalism, Prussian, Russian and German militarism» would be considered as a totalitarian regime.

Amid the hoopla, the Polish legislature removed the draft from the agenda.

Lithuania gets assurances from Trump team

Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevičius has received assurances from US President-elect Donald Trump‘s national security adviser that the US will maintain strong economic and defense links with Lithuania. The minister said on Friday, December 16, that Michael Flynn had assured him in a telephone conversation that «the US relations with Lithuania in the areas of trade, economy and security will remain as strong as they are.»The minister said that he had congratulated Flynn on the successful election campaign and that the latter had asked him to convey Turmp‘s greetings to Lithuania‘s leaders.

New board of Lithuanian Railways held its first meeting

The new management board of Lietuvos Geležinkeliai (Lithuanian Railways, or LG) held its first meeting on Friday, December 16. Mantas Bartuška, CEO of the state-run oil product and liquefied natural gas terminals operator Klaipėdos Nafta (Klaipeda Oil), became a new CEO of LG, the country‘s largest company, which has lately come on the radar screen of law-enforcement. Bartuška would take over from Andrius Montrimas, who was appointed as the railway company’s caretaker CEO after Stasys Dailydka in early December quit the post he had held for 10 years.

No blood from Latvia used in Lithuania

Media reports about patient deaths caused by transfusions of blood infected with Hepatitis C are misleading, Joana Bikulčienė, director of the Lithuanian National Blood Center, said, emphasizing that donated blood from Latvia, which was embroiled in the Hepatitis C-infected blood scandal, was not used in Lithuania.«The only possible way of getting blood from abroad is when a country asks for humanitarian assistance in case of a certain humanitarian disaster,» she said. Latvian media has reported about nearly 200 letters sent by the country‘s national blood bank to hospitals, warning patients about the possibility of transfusion of blood donated by a Hepatitis C carrier.

 President reaffirmed its pledge to help Lithuanians in UK

Lithuania will not abandon its citizens living in the United Kingdom in the Brexit negotiations, President Dalia Grybauskaitė said at a meeting with Britain‘s Prime Minister Theresa May in Brussels on Thursday, December 15.During the meeting, Grybauskaitė pointed out that there had been cases of discrimination and harassment against foreign nationals, including Lithuanians, and requested May to take all possible actions to guarantee the security of all people in the United Kingdom. In the Lithuanian president‘s words, Britain is a very important economic and security partner of Lithuania. According to the president, the United Kingdom will continue to play an important and active role in maintaining the security of the Baltic States. The UK will lead an international NATO battalion in Estonia. British troops and navy took part in a number of military exercises in the region.

Police reform halted until mid-2017

An agreement has been reached with Police Commissioner General Linas Pernavas to suspend the police reform until the middle of 2017, says Lithuania‘s new Interior Minister Eimutis Misiūnas. Leadership of the Police Department launched the reform earlier this year in an effort to boost public security, raise the number of police officers on patrol and improve working conditions of police officers. Steps have been taken to combine public and criminal police in police stations, scrapping the position of officers on duty and reducing the number of police officers working in offices.The reform has been opposed by police trade unions. Their leaders say police officers lack clarity on what branches of the department will remain after the restructuring and what functions they will perform, on the criteria for officers willing to take new posts.

Statkevičius to sketch national costume for children

Well-known Lithuanian fashion designer Juozas Statkevičius has promised to Ramūnas Karbauskis, the leader of the Lithuanian Peasant and Green Union (LPGU), to sketch the design of a national costume that is planned to be given for free to all children of Lithuania aged under seven on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of Lithuania‘s statehood. An unannounced meeting between the LPGU leader and the famous fashion designer at the politician’s office in the Seimas lasted for almost an hour. Karbauskis has mentioned that around 150,000 traditional costumes would have to be made. He expects Lithuanian businesses to help put this idea into practice.

Savickas appointed PM‘seconomic advisor

Lukas Savickas has been appointed as Lithuanian Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis‘ advisor on economic matters and strategic change management. Savickas holds a Master of Arts in European Public Affairs from Maastricht University in the Netherlands and a Bachelor of Arts in Politics and International Relations from the University of York in the United Kingdom, the prime minister‘s spokesman said.

Winners of national culture and arts prize announced

Writer Valdas Papievis, actor Vytautas Anyžis and film director Gytis Lukšas are among the winners of this year‘s Lithuanian National Prize for Culture and Arts. The other laureates are jazz musicians Vyacheslav Ganelin, Vladimir Tarasov and Vladimir Chekasin, as well as architect Audrius Ambrasas and painter Rūta Katiliūtė. Viktorija Daujotytė, chairwoman of the selection commission, announced the winners in a ceremony on Wednesday, December 14. The prize is awarded annually to up to six individuals or groups for their achievements in culture and arts. Each of them receives 30,400 euros.

Intelligence department to train MPs

The Lithuanian State Security Department is planning to organize training for newly-elected members of the parliament.«We have many new members in the Seimas. We have agreed that we will organize training in individual political groups to give them a better understanding of intelligence activities and to prevent delays in passing some laws because of a lack of knowledge and to ensure that this process is smooth,» Seimas Speaker Viktoras Pranckietis told reporters on Wednesday, December 14, after meeting with Darius Jauniškis, the department‘s director. Jauniškis said that parliamentarians need help to understand what intelligence is.«There are many new members of the Seimas who are not very much familiar with intelligence and do not always understand the difference between intelligence and criminal intelligence. We must talk and help them understand how things work and it will then be easier to explain to them why certain laws are needed,» the director said.

 Pensions to go up by 20 euro from new year

The average old-pension should go up by about 20 euros starting early 2017, which is 5 euros more than the increase planned earlier. The raise is envisaged in the revised 2017 budget draft of the Sodra state-run social insurer. The draft does not say anything about the plans of the Peasant and Green Union, which won the October general elections, to increase pensions by 40 euros from July. The pension raise from Jan. 1 will require about 167.4 million euros. The earlier plan was to increase them by 15 euros to 281.19 euros, which would have required approximately 116 million euros. Sodra‘s planned revenue should stand at 3.739 billion euros next year, which is 9 per cent  more than expected this year, while the spending should be 3.708 billion euros, up by 6.2 per cent above this year‘s spending. After ten years, the fund’s budget should be a surplus, with planned revenue 31.546 million euros above the spending.

New exhibits in Palace of Grand Dukes

The collection of the Lithuanian Palace of the Grand Dukes has received two new valuable exhibits – the 5 th edition of the Third Statute of Lithuania and a set of laws of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and other documents. The publications, in a superb condition, were donated by a US-Lithuanian businessman Aloyzas Petrikas, president of the high-tech medical technologies corporation Vitta Corporation, the Palace of the Grand Dukes said. According to the press release, the Third Statute of Lithuania, which has been published in 1693, is of extreme value. The issue provides an overview of the resolutions of the parliaments of the Lithuanian-Polish Commonwealth and other legal acts of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania approved between 1550 and 1690.

Lithuanian police conduct probe into cyber attacks

The Lithuanian Criminal Police Bureau is conducting pre-trial investigations into DDoS attacks, i.e., Distributed Denial of Service. The Police Department said the investigations were opened following the international operation held in early December against users of websites providing DDoS attack services. Two underage citizens of Lithuania have been questioned as witnesses in the case. No further information has been provided. A total of 34 persons were detained during the operation carried out by the Europol and law-enforcement institutions from 13 countries, in addition to questioning and warning of further 101 individuals and searches of their homes. Some of the persons were fined, with parents warned about criminal suspicions against the young people. Most of the suspects are youngsters under the age of 20.

Military to modernize self-propelled howitzers in Germany

Self-propelled howitzers PzH2000 Lithuania‘s Armed Forces purchased from Germany will be overhauled in the manufacturer‘s company in Germany, the Defense Ministry said. The modernization contract with the German manufacturer KMW was signed by the NATO support agency authorized by the ministry earlier in December. Under the contract, the German company KMW will modernize 16 combat and two training howitzers PzH2000 and restore their technical parameters to the manufacturer level, renovate and integrate control and command systems, as well as prepare technical documentation to fit the requirements of Lithuania.

Lithuanian government chancellor appointed

Milda Dargužaitė, a former managing director of Invest Lithuania, the government‘s foreign investment promotion agency, appointed chancellor of the new government of Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis, says that her first tasks in the office would be reducing bureaucracy, raising the transparency of the government’s operations and efficiency of state-run enterprises.«Discussing specific plans is still too early but I think that we know the main course of what needs to be done. The first priority is to ensure that the government works as a team for common goals, its work should be result-oriented. Also, to improve the quality of work, to reduce bureaucracy and make work processes more efficient. Another important priority is more transparent management of the government and state institutions in general, including all parties concerned at the level of discussions already, so that the decisions are discussed from the very start with all parties and that we all make efforts together,» Dargužaitė said.

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