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Week in Lithuania: President proposes legislative initiatives, Tesla on lookout, Klaipėda Port faces fine

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Lithuania, Gitanas Nausėda, history manipulation, waste-to-energy plants, wastewater pollution, week

Lithuanian President Gitanas Nausėda

In Lithuania, the top news stories of the past week were President Gitanas Nausėda proposing nine legislative initiatives, US electric car maker Tesla considering a network of charging stations and Klaipėda Port facing a fine for allegedly discharging wastewater containing mercury.

Underfunding of Kaliningrad transit scheme may jeopardize EU security

If the European Union fails to provide sufficient funding for the Kaliningrad transit scheme, this will make travel by Russian citizens via Lithuania more difficult and may jeopardize security, Linas Linkevičius has warned this week. Lithuania is seeking 215 million euros in EU funding for the program in the bloc’s 2021-2027 budget. European Council President Charles Michel has proposed 139 million euros.

Supreme Court upholds guilty verdict

The Lithuanian Supreme Court on Thursday, February 20, upheld the guilty verdict in former Lithuanian MP Kęstutis Pukas’ sexual harassment case, and he was also found guilty of illegal possession of firearms and ammunition. Lower-instance courts found Pukas guilty of sexually harassing a woman who worked as his assistant when he was an MP, but acquitted him on charges of harassment against three other young women who sought the job of secretary-assistant. Pukas resigned as MP in January 2018 shortly before the Seimas’ vote on stripping him of his mandate.

President proposes nine legislative initiatives

President Gitanas Nausėda has proposed nine legislative initiatives into the parliament’s spring agenda, including a public procurement reform, reducing the scale of clearcutting and giving parents raising a child under 12 an additional day-off. Among the other things, the head of state proposed a review of the public procurement system by centralizing the network of contracting authorities and simplifying the procedure for low-value procurements.

Tesla on lookout in Lithuania

Representatives of American electric car giant Tesla visited Vilnius on Thursday, February 20, as the company is considering creating a network of charging stations for electric vehicles in the country. Vice Minister of Economy and Innovation Marius Skuodis had an unofficial meeting with the Tesla representatives. Several years ago, Lithuania invited Tesla to build a giga-factory but the company chose Germany instead.

Nausėda vows to demand more in EU compensation

President Gitanas Nausėda pledges to demand at the European Council meeting more in compensation in the Community’s new budget for Lithuanians emigrating to Western European countries. The Lithuanian president said that ahead of the summit on the EU’s 2021–2027 budget. Last Friday, Charles Michel, president of the European Council, suggested allocating additional funding to countries that lost the largest number of people over the past decade. Under the project, Lithuania would get around 180 million euros.

Klaipėda port faces fine

The Lithuanian seaport of Klaipėda faces a fine for allegedly discharging wastewater containing mercury into the Curonian Lagoon for seven years without the necessary permit, according to the investigative journalism unit of the public broadcaster LRT. The wastewater was separated from polluted soil dredged from Maluku Bay, where pollutants had accumulated since the Soviet era, and stored at a hazardous sludge site near the Smeltė peninsula, LRT Investigation Team found.  Vidmantas Paukštė, the port’s acting CEO, says the project is aimed at cleaning the Curonian Lagoon and what is released from sludge bags is lagoon water, not wastewater.

President: decisions on state bank only possible after election

President Gitanas Nausėda believes that the idea of setting a state-owned commercial bank in Lithuania should be given consideration, but any decisions on this issue could only be made after next fall’s parliamentary election, he said on Wednesday, February 19. A Vilmorus opinion poll commissioned by BNS found last December that 47.9 per cent of the population favoured the idea of setting up a state commercial bank. Another 20.9 per cent of respondents were against and 31.3 per cent had no opinion.

Leonhard Weiss will build Rail Baltica stretch

German-owned Estonian company Leonhard Weiss has replaced Hidrostatyba, a Lithuanian company that filed for restructuring in late 2019, as the for the construction of the 55-million-euro Kaunas-Palemonas segment of the European-gauge railway Rail Baltica. The 870-kilometer Rail Baltica railway connecting Helsinki to Warsaw via Tallinn, Parnu, Riga, Panevėžys, Kaunas and Vilnius is expected to be built by 2026.

Lithuania to open embassy in Australia

The Lithuanian government decided on Wednesday, February 19, to establish the country’s embassy in Australia.  Under the Foreign Ministry’s proposal, the embassy should be opened in Canberra in July. The Foreign Ministry estimates that Australia is home to around 50,000 people of Lithuanian descent. Currently, Lithuania is represented in Australia by its embassy in Japan.

Top court finds restrictions on waste-to-energy plants unconstitutional

The 2018 amendments to Lithuania’s Law on Waste Management that imposed a ban on building waste-to-energy facilities within 20 kilometres from residential areas are unconstitutional, the Constitutional Court ruled on Tuesday, February 18. The court found the ban disproportionate.

Theatre cancels China tour amid coronavirus fears

The Lithuanian National Drama Theatre (LNDT) has cancelled its planned month-long tour of China due to the coronavirus outbreak. LNDT said on Monday, February 17, arrangements for the tour of five Chinese cities with the play Lokis had taken more than a year to complete. LNDT said the tour had been scheduled to start in late April and end in late May.

President draws diplomats’ attention on history manipulation

Lithuania’s three key foreign policy priorities are reducing divisions in the world, seeking global partners and developing soft power, President Gitanas Nausėda told foreign ambassadors accredited to Vilnius on Monday, February 17. Nausėda also underlined the need for standing up to attempts to falsify the history of Lithuania and the other Baltic countries.

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airBaltic to cancel up to 50% of planned flights until November 2020

As the crisis caused by COVID-19 pandemic continues in Latvia, the country’s national airline airBaltic has decided to cancel nearly 50% of planned flights until November 2020, as reported by the airline’s representative Alise Briede.

Latvian government increases penalty for breach of COVID-19 restrictions

On Thursday, 3 April, Latvia’s Saeima approved amendments to the Latvian Code of Administrative Violations in the final reading. The new changes increase the fine for violation of epidemiological security requirements, as well as restrictions imposed for the duration of the state of emergency in the country.

Estonian government to help local governments with supplementary budget

The Estonian government has submitted to legislators a supplementary budget aimed at allocating to local governments 30 million euros and another 100 million to help continue economic activity in the country, Estonian public broadcaster ERR reports.

Home. Soap. Two metres – SPKC reminds residents of the main safety measures

COVID-19 coronavirus spreads through direct contact with an infected person through droplets when a person sneezes of coughs, or by touching surfaces the infected person had previously sneezed or coughed on.

Belarus rejects Lithuania’s worries about alleged hiding of COVID-19 data

Minsk has rejected the concern voiced by Lithuania that alleged inadequate reaction to the spread of COVID-19 in Belarus could turn the country into a hotspot, which endangers Lithuania, LRT reports.

COVID-19 pandemic and corruption risks. How can government and society defend against them?

During a state of emergency, it is important for the Saeima, Cabinet of Ministers, Crisis Management Council and other officials to make decisions quickly and ensure completion. However, in such a situation there is a risk of dishonest officials abusing their powers for personal gain, risking the quality of democracy.

First death from COVID-19 confirmed in Latvia

The first death from COVID-19 coronavirus has been found in Latvia, as reported by public media

UN General Assembly calls for closer cooperation to contain pandemic

World’s nations in the UN General Assembly have unanimously passed a resolution confirming the unprecedented effects of COVID-19 and calling countries for increased cooperation, Qatari broadcaster Al Jazeera reports.

COVID-19 update in Baltics. 493 infection cases in Latvia, 696 in Lithuania, 961 in Estonia

The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Latvia has reached 493, increasing by 35 in the past day. Lithuania, meanwhile, reports 696 confirmed cases. According to the latest information from Estonia, the number of confirmed infection cases there has reached 858.

Budget revenue in Latvia approximately 7% behind plan in March

With the spread of COVID-19 crisis in March Latvia’s state budget revenue has dropped 7.2% behind the plan, according to unofficial information from LETA.

Global number of COVID-19 cases exceeds one million

Globally, the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 has exceeded one million and the death toll related to the infectious disease is 52 500, German public broadcaster DW reports.

Latvia prohibits exports of medicines needed during state of emergency

Exports of medicines vital for the domestic market during state of emergency will be prohibited in Latvia, according to the order published in the Latvian Herald by Healthcare Minister Ilze Viņķele.

COVID-19 prompts Latvian government to involve army in border patrol with Belarus

Latvian Defence Minister Artis Pabriks has issued an order for Latvian National Armed Forces (NBS) to provide support to the State Border Guard by sending national guardsmen to organize additional patrolling of the Latvian-Belarusian border, as confirmed by the minister.

Lithuania puts COVID-19-related prosecution above human rights

What should come first in a time of emergency like the global coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic? Obviously, order, but what about human rights?

Idleness rules will apply to companies with tax debts in Latvia

The idleness regulations in Latvia will apply to companies with tax debts, as provided by amendments to Latvian government rules approved on Thursday, 2 April, to rules on companies affected by COVID-19 and who qualify for idleness support and other benefits.

Court to enforce nearly 12 000 euros from Gobzems for defaming Bunkus family

Riga City Vidzeme Suburb Court has partially satisfied the plea from the surviving members of the family of the murdered lawyer Mārtiņš Bunkus against Saeima deputy Aldis Gobzems over defamation. The court has decided to enforce EUR 11 833 from him, as confirmed from the deputy.

Spain registers unprecedented job loss as lethal cases of COVID-19 exceed 10 000

In Spain, nearly 900,000 jobs have been lost since mid-March during strict measures to fight the coronavirus. 10,000 Spaniards have died from the virus disease, BBC reports.

Emīls Jakrins becomes board chairman of restaurant business company Vincents

Ex-Riga City Council’s Transport Department’s head Emīls Jakrins has become board chairman of architecture, design and restaurant business company LLC Vincents, according to information from

Jānis Vitenbergs approved in Latvia’s Economy Minister's post

On Thursday, 2 April, Latvia’s Saeima approved parliamentarian Jānis Vitenbergs as the country’s economy minister.

Large mine closes in Estonia after one of 800 miners tested positive for COVID-19

In Estonia, it has been decided to close one of two large oil shale mines after one miner tested positive for COVID-19, Estonian public broadcaster ERR reports.

COVID-19 update in Baltics. 458 cases in Latvia, 649 in Lithuania, 858 in Estonia

The number of confirmed COVID-19 infection cases in Latvia has reached 458, growing by 12 cases in the past day. Meanwhile, Lithuanian media report 649 confirmed coronavirus infection cases.

Germany to keep gathering restrictions past Easter

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has warned that the situation with the outbreak of COVID-19 in Germany is far from being over as the government extended its strict rules for gathering in public places until April 19, DW reports.

Shuttle buses and express buses on hold in Riga

LLC Rīgas mikroautobusu satiksme has decided to shut down shuttle bus services on all routes in Riga until the state of emergency in Latvia is over, as confirmed by RMS.

Latvian government to finance COVID-19 crisis prevention efforts from state budget

Efforts to overcome the direct negative effects from COVID-10 crisis will be financed from the state budget. After the crisis, however, the economy will be stimulated using EU funds, as decided by Finance Minister Jānis Reirs’ led work group for support of entrepreneurship and the employed on Wednesday, 1 April.

EU planning lending programme to support temporary work schemes

EU member states would guarantee the creation of a fund up to 100 billion euros aimed at providing loans to governments to support workers in countries hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic, the European Commission plans, according to EurActiv.

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