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Week in Lithuania. Ruling LFGU initiates referendum to reduce number of MPs

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Members of the ruling Lithuanian Farmers and Greens Union will collect signatures for a referendum to reduce the size of the parliament.

The Central Electoral Commission registered on Thursday, January 10, an 18-strong initiative group for a binding referendum to amend the Constitution to cut the number of seats in the Seimas to 121, from the current 141 seats.The group has six months to collect at least 300,000 signatures of eligible voters for the referendum to be held. The LFGU notes that Lithuania currently has a population of 2.8 million, down from 3.7 million in 1992, when the Constitution, which sets the number of members of the Seimas at 141, was adopted.All previous referendum initiatives for cutting the size of the Seimas fell through.

Lithuania hosts traditional Snow Meeting

Security policy experts gathered in Lithuania on Thursday, January 10, for an annual Snow Meeting to discuss challenges faced by Europe and the United States. The participants of the two-day informal gathering included the foreign ministers of Ukraine, Slovakia and Latvia, and Ben Hodges, former commander of the United States Army Europe.A total of over 100 high-ranking diplomats, advisers, parliamentarians, experts from analytical and research centres, and international and security policy experts from about 15 countries and NATO and EU bodies attended the event in the district of Trakai in proximity of Vilnius.

Lithuania’s 2019 military conscription lists out

Lithuania’s military conscription lists for 2019 were drawn up at the Defence Ministry on Thursday, January 10. The lists, which were randomly generated by a computer program, include just over 31,000 men aged between 19 and 26 years. Some 3,827 of them will be actually called up for a nine-month military service this year.

Government nods to plans to expand training area

The Lithuanian government adopted on Wednesday, January 9, decisions opening the way for expanding the Pabradė training area to install new firing ranges and ensure better training of military units. The Cabinet approved a general development plan for a part of the eastern Švenčionys district municipality that allows more than doubling the total area of the Pabradė training grounds to almost 17514 hectares, from the current 8486 ha.

Financial crime body’s info on Revolut stirs concern

Information provided by Lithuania’s Financial Crime Investigation Service (FNNT) regarding the UK-based startup Revolut’s activities causes concern, the chairman of the parliament’s Committee on Budget and Finance said on Thursday, January 10. Stasys Jakeliūnas, a Lithuanian MP, turned to FNTT and VSD on December 21, shortly after Revolut was issued with a specialised bank license by the central bank. Marius Jurgilas, a member of the central bank’s board, has said that Revolut poses no risks to customers, adding that, on the contrary, it helps increase competition.

Lithuania ready for system tests in Kaliningrad

The Baltic countries are technically prepared to prevent a total power system blackout during Russia’s isolated operation test in its Baltic Sea exclave of Kaliningrad in May, Lithuanian Energy Minister Žygimantas Vaičiūnas said on Thursday, January 10. The efforts to ensure the energy autonomy of the Kaliningrad region sends two messages to the Baltic states, one of which is not to delay the process of synchronising their power grids with the continental European network, the minister said. The Baltic grids are still part of the post-Soviet BRELL ring, which also includes Russia and Belarus, and remain dependent on the control centre in Moscow and the Russian electricity system.

Lithuania’s new ambassador to Poland

Lithuania’s ambassador to Poland Eduardas Borisovas has presented his letters of credence to President Andrzej Duda, the Lithuanian Foreign Ministry said on Thursday, January 10. Following the ceremony, Borisovas laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Warsaw and signed the memorial book.

PM pickseducation minister

Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis has nominated Algirdas Monkevičius, the 62-year-old rector of Mykolas Romeris University, for the position of education, science and sports minister.In her words, services are now performing necessary checks regarding the candidate.

Small Planet Airlines launches bankruptcy proceedings

Bankruptcy proceedings for the financially-stricken Lithuanian airline Small Planet Airlines have been launched, with information from the Centre of Registers showing that Vilnius Regional Court initiated them on Monday, January 7. Small Planet Airlines CEO Kristijonas Kaikaris said the movewas aimed at securing protection from creditors as the company no longer received revenue after the Civil Aviation Administration suspended its license in late November.

Court starts hearing Russian spy case

The regional court in Lithuania’s western port of Klaipėda on Tuesday, January 8, started hearing the case of a Lithuanian citizen, Roman Sesel, charged with spying for Russia.The court had decided to hold hearings behind closed doors, citing the need to protect state secrets. In December, the regional court extended Sesel’s detention until March 14. Lithuania’s Prosecutor General’s Office says Sesel collected information on Lithuania’s Navy, NATO military ships and military equipment they carried, the city of Klaipeda and the port’s infrastructure, including that having strategic importance for Lithuania’s national security.

Šimonytė’s presidential race team’s chief named

Ingrida Šimonyė, the conservative Homeland Union–Lithuanian Christian Democrats’ presidential candidate, has chosen Paulius Lukauskas, a former managing director of the government’s export promotion agency Enterprise Lithuania, to head her election campaign. Šimonytė presented her election team to reporters on Tuesday, January 8, describing them as people who are committed to Lithuania being a modern, democratic and Western country.The candidate said several hundred volunteers will help her during next May’s presidential election.

Businessman sells his stake in Moscow’s airport

Lithuanian businessman Gediminas Žiemelis has sold his shareholding in Moscow’s Zhukovsky Airport. He confirmed it on Tuesday, January 8. The businessman said his decision to exit the project was due to several factors, including pressure to reduce the volume of business in Russia.Avia Solutions Group, a Vilnius-based aviation business group controlled by Žiemelis, announced its exit from Moscow’s Zhukovsky Airport last October, but it did not comment at that time on his possible decisions.

First persongetswhistle-blower status

Rasa Kazėnienė, an official who disclosed irregularities in Lithuania’s prison system two years ago, has become the first person to obtain whistle-blower status and protection. The woman applied for whistle-blower status in an effort to stop litigation with Niklita, a company which sued her for alleged damage to its business reputation.Kazėnienė told the prosecutor’s office that Niklita had been granted exclusive conditions for commercial operations at the Kaunas Remand Prison. The prosecutors found her reports about possible abusive practices, stealing of funds and other offenses at the Kaunas Remand Prison to be correct.The Law on the Protection of Whistle-blowers, which was passed by the Seimas in 2017 and came into force from the new year.


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Week in Lithuania: PM Skvernelis undergoes surgery, Nausėda meets Merkel, rebukes Latvia

Last week, President Gitanas Nausėda rejected the government’s candidate for EU judge, hints of big changes at Šiaulių Bankas ahead

Independent Deputies Faction joins forces with Honour to Serve Riga

Riga City Council’s Independent Deputies Faction has signed a cooperation agreement with Honour to Serve Riga political party, pledging support for the party’s mayoral candidate Oļegs Burovs, as LETA was told by the faction’s leader Valērijs Petrovs on Monday, 18 August.

Saeima’s MPC investigation committee requests information on every issued license

The parliamentary committee formed to investigate the mandatory procurement component has requested access to information regarding every issued MPC license and decision made by officials in regards to this field, says the committee’s representative Ilze Vanaga.

Latvian athlete receives two-year disqualification

Former Latvian long jumper Ineta Radeviča has received a two-year disqualification, as confirmed by International Association of Athletics Federation’s Athletics Integrity Unit.

Minister: state budget funds will not be used to compensate PNB Bank’s clients

The Deposit Guarantee Fund is sufficient to pay compensations to affected PNB Bank clients. This means not a cent from Latvia’s state budget will be used, said Latvia’s Finance Minister Jānis Reirs in a telephone conversation with public broadcaster LTV programme Rīta Panorāma on Friday, 16 August.

Estonia to invest 22 million in construction of a new TV house

Estonian government has set aside EUR 22 million for the construction of a new public television building, as reported by Estonian public media ERR.

Another one falls – Latvian FCMC halts PNB Bank’s operations

Operations of PNB Bank [formerly Norvik Banka] have been halted in Latvia, as confirmed by Finance and Capital Market Commission.

Unemployment index in Latvia drops – rate down to 6.4% in Q2

In Q2 2019 Latvian unemployment rate constituted 6.4 %. Compared to the previous quarter, unemployment rate fell by 0.5 percentage points, and compared to the rate recorded a year ago, it dropped by 1.3 percentage points.

64.7% of Latvia’s population reportedly employed in Q2 2019

905.6 thousand people or 64.7 % of Latvia’s population aged 15–74 were employed in Q2 2019.

Lithuanian Conservatives’ tensions: can the party split?

The Conservative Homeland Union - Lithuanian Christian Democrats (TS-LKD) have risen to unseen heights lately – although in the opposition now, in 2016 parliamentary election the party racked up a record support in its 30 years’ history.

Minister: Latvia’s social budget surplus has reached one billion

The surplus of the state social budget has come close of the pre-crisis level – EUR 1 billion, said Latvian Welfare Minister Ramona Petraviča in an interview to LTV programme Rīta panorama on 15 August.

Riga City Council permitted to elect mayor after two-month deadline

In spite of the fact that 21 August will mark two months of Riga City Council working without a mayor, a condition that permits Latvia’s Saeima to dismiss the entire city council, deputies of the municipality will nonetheless have the right to elect a mayor after the deadline, says Environment Protection Minister Juris Pūce’s advisor for legal affairs Valdis Verners.

Lithuanian president unhappy with Latvia’s decision to purchase energy from Belarus

Lithuanian President Gitanas Nausėda has voiced sadness over Latvia’s decision to purchase electrical energy produced at Astravets nuclear power plant in Belarus not far from the Lithuanian border. He admits, however, that this decision was not unexpected for him.

State Real Estate claims ReRe Būve 1 may be trying to circumvent the law

Construction company Rere Būve 1 publicly voices desire to continue implementing the construction contract. However, the construction company’s submitted work schedule for reconstruction of New Riga Theatre has everything changed – volume of work, terms and budget, Latvian State Real Estate reports.

Lithuanian mountaineer dies climbing French Alps

Lithuanian 38-year-old mountaineer Vytautas Mažeika died in a 50 m fall in the French Alps, Lithuanian public media LRT reports with reference to 15min.lt.

Estonia decides to reform pension system; increase not promised

Helir-Valdor Seeder, leader of Estonian coalition party Isamaa, has confirmed that the government has agreed on his proposed pension reform, as reported by Estonian public media ERR.

Ruling party in Lithuania promises national agreement for education affairs

While more and more small town schools close down in Lithuania, the leader of the ruling party promises a «national agreement» for education affairs, as reported by Lithuanian public media LRT.

Viesturs Zeps’ has yet to convince NCP and Unity to support him as mayoral candidate

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Audit: planning problems impede growth of Latvia’s defensive capabilities

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Minister: increase of doctors’ wages is a priority over all other promises

First it is necessary to increase doctors’ wages. Then it will be possible to tackle all other promises, said Latvian Healthcare Minister Ilze Viņķele during a meeting of the Saeima’s Social and Employment Matters Committee on Wednesday, 14 August.

Is Latvia becoming more hospitable? Tourist upturn observed

A total of 781.1 thousand visitors stayed at Latvian tourist accommodation establishments in Q2 2019, which is 1.1 % more than in Q2 2018.

Village in Russia to be evacuated following nuclear accident

Russian authorities have announced evacuation of Nenoksa village, as it is the closest to the military area where a nuclear accident recently happened. This may mean the situation there is far more dangerous than initially reported, as reported by New York Times.

Lithuania’s president says he sees no reason to meet with Putin

A meeting with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin is unlikely and would be pointless, said Lithuania’s President Gitanas Nausėda in an interview to public media LRT.

Shadow of political dealings over SRS. ZZS people – Knoks, Podiņš, Vaivars

Although the State Revenue Service has never had a truly spotless reputation, there is now a much bigger and darker shadow hovering over the service’s director general Ieva Jaunzeme. Serious concerns have been voiced in regards to possible employment of «chosen people» in important posts, which allows them to either halt or push criminal processes forward in order to make life difficult for their political opponents, pretending to fight the good fight while, in reality, realizing some «political hit».

Prime Minister: 2020 budget will be Latvia’s largest one yet

The next year’s budget will be the largest in the history of Latvia and will exceed EUR 10 billion, said Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš in an interview to public broadcaster LTV programme Rīta Panorāma on Wednesday, 14 August.

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