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Week in Lithuania. Seimas discusses state recognition to Lithuanian Neopagans

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The Lithuanian parliament has started debates on a proposal to grant state recognition to Romuva, a religious community of the ancient Baltic faith. The proposal on Thursday, May 24, passed the first reading in the Seimas and will now go to parliamentary committees.

The state may recognize a non-traditional religious association as a part of Lithuania’s historical, spiritual and social heritage if it is backed by society and its teachings and rites do not run counter to laws and morality. Such state recognition is granted by the Seimas after the Justice Ministry gives its opinion. The ministry has stated that Romuva as a religious community promoting ethnic culture makes a significant part of Lithuania’s cultural and religious life, noting that it has been the country’s fastest growing religious community lately.

Ruling parties move to lower yes-vote threshold for dual citizenship referendum

The leaders of the Lithuanian Farmers and Greens Union (LFGU) and its junior government coalition partner, the Lithuanian Social Democratic Labour Party (LSDLP), announced this week they will seek to lower the yes-vote threshold for a dual citizenship referendum.

It is proposed that the same requirement should apply to all binding referendums: a proposal would be deemed as approved if more than half of voters who turned out, but at least one-third of all citizens with the right to vote, voted in favour. The amendments are being submitted by LFGU Chairman Ramūnas Karbauskis, Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis and LSDLP Chairman Gediminas Kirkilas. Currently, people who left Lithuania after it regained independence in 1990 cannot hold dual citizenship, apart from a few exceptions. That provision can only be amended by referendum.

Agreement between Lithuania and Poland

Gas transmission system operators Amber Grid of Lithuania and Gaz-System of Poland signed on Thursday, May 24, an agreement to invest into Gas Interconnection Poland-Lithuania (GIPL), thus starting the construction stage of the project.

New justice minister intends to start discussions on LGBT rights

New Justice Minister Elvinas Jankevičius intends to initiate discussions on sexual minorities’ rights, although he does not reveal his position on these issues. Liberal politicians in Lithuania have repeatedly tabled proposals to legalize civil partnership of same-sex couples, but these initiatives never reached the adoption stage at the parliament. Those in favour of regulating by law same-sex relationship say that homosexual couples in Lithuania are now discriminated against, because such people have no right to inheritance or automatic access to information about their partner’s health in an emergency, and they cannot represent each other in court proceedings. Lithuania this year scores better in a survey on LGBT rights, but still lags behind many EU member countries.

Ministry: EC probe to help control Gazprom’s behaviour

Lithuanian Energy Minister Žygimantas Vaičiūnas says that the European Commission’s investigation into Gazprom’s operations in Central and Eastern Europe will help to better control the Russian gas giant’s behaviour in the European gas market. The European Commission took into account a considerable part of Lithuania’s proposals, which turned Gazprom’s earlier-proposed symbolic commitments into instruments that will actually function in the market,” Vaičiūnas said in a press release. According to Vaičiūnas, Lithuania will continue to look for ways of compensating for the losses incurred by Lithuanian gas consumers. PM Saulius Skvernelis does not rule out contesting the European Commission’s decision not to fine Russia’s gas giant Gazprom, saying that the same criteria should apply when deciding on anti-trust infringements.

Lithuanian truck collided with train in Italy

A Lithuanian driver managed to jump out of his truck before a train crashed into it in northern Italy. Two people died and 18 were injured when the train derailed after hitting the Lithuanian-registered truck near Torino. The truck was heading to a warehouse nearby. The Lithuanian company owning the trucks says that the truck was accompanied by three cars and two of these cars had passed through the crossing before the heavy vehicle entered it.

Lithuania to be late for implementation of new EU data protection rules

Lithuania has failed to adopt necessary laws in time for the start of the application of the European Union’s new data protection rules on Friday, May 25. Nevertheless, the European Commission says Lithuania won’t be late very much to start implementing the rules, but it plans to keep an eye on the situation and take action, if necessary. The regulation is applied directly and does not need transferring into national law but countries had to reform their national data protection institutions to get ready for its application.

Intelligence agency turns to prosecutors

The Lithuanian State Security Department (VSD) turned on Wednesday, May 23, to the Prosecutor General’s Office over allegedly unlawful disclosure of intelligence information. The media earlier this month made public a part of the information on businesses’ influence on political processes that the intelligence agency had provided to the country’s top officials and the Seimas Committee on National Security and Defense.

President describes influence probe as selective

President Dalia Grybauskaitė says that the ongoing parliamentary investigation into businesses’ influence on political processes is selective as it does not cover links between the current ruling bloc and businesses. The president also says that the findings of the probe will have no legal consequences and that these findings could be used by the defense in a major political corruption case involving MG Baltic and several political parties.

EU Commission calls on Lithuania to improve tax collection

The European Commission has recommended that Lithuania improve tax collection, the quality of the education system and the tax and benefit system. The Commission released on Wednesday, May 23, its recommendations based on a detailed analysis of the Lithuanian economy and on the country’s national reform and stability programs.

Russia bans entry to Lithuanian PACE rapporteur

Emanuelis Zingeris, a Lithuanian lawmaker appointed by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) as a special rapporteur for the Boris Nemtsov murder case, has been banned from entering Russia. The lawmaker said that the Kremlin’s decision derailed his plans to go to Moscow to collect material on the murder of the Russian opposition leader, adding that he will now have to do so remotely.


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Week in Lithuania. Lithuanian government approves rules for paying whistleblowers

The Lithuanian government approved on Wednesday, November 14, rules for financially rewarding people who provide the authorities with valuable information on illegal activities.

BNN summary of the week: government formation in Latvia, Brexit plans, and Latvia’s 100th birthday

If someone hoped to see Latvia compile a government before the national holiday, they are going to be disappointed – three parties have decided to exit government formation talks headed by New Conservative Party. NCP’s prime minister candidate Jānis Bordāns receive criticism for having too ambitious and expensive goals. NCP, on the other hand, says parties did not try to study the party’s offers.

PUC commences dispute between AS Gaso and natural gas consumer

On Friday, 16 November, Public Utilities Commission decided to commence a dispute procedure between a natural gas consumer and AS Gaso in regards to natural gas supplies, as confirmed by the commission.

Latvian parties continue informal talks while next prime minister is being picked

While President Raimonds Vējonis is busy picking the next prime minister candidate, politicians of different parties are performing informal consultations. No official consultations are currently planned.

UN's global migration compact stirs up Estonia's calm politics

The Estonian government has taken a long time to reach a unanimous position on the United Nation's Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration. This has been criticised by Estonian President Kersti Kaljulaid, who has to attend a conference in favour of the document in Morocco in December.

Latvian authorities detain CityCommerce Bank co-owner accused of embezzlement

Reinis Tumovs, co-owner of Ukrainian CityCommerce Bank, has been detained in Latvia. He is suspected of embezzling nearly UAH 300 million (EUR 9.5 million), as confirmed by Ukrainian National Police Economy Protection Department on Thursday, 15 November.

Russia ordered to pay damages for Navalny's political arrests by human rights court

Russia has been ordered by the European Court of Human Rights to repay 64 000 euros in damages and costs for politically-motivated arrests of Russian anti-corruption activist Alexei Navalny.

Latvian president to consider Gobzems and Pabriks as perspective prime minister candidates

As parties’ efforts to form a new government continue, Latvia’s President Raimonds Vējonis plans to consider two new prime minister candidates – KPV LV leader Aldis Gobzems and Attīstībai/Par! candidate Artis Pabriks.

EC wants to reduce funding for supplies of fruits, vegetables and milk to schools

European Commission’s proposed regulation on organization of agriculture products market provides for reducing EU funding for the support programme on provision of fruits, vegetables and milk for schools by EUR 29.2 million or the same as United Kingdom’s share.

Genocide verdicts handed to Khmer Rouge leaders in Cambodia

In Cambodia, the two most senior living leaders of the Khmer Rouge Communist regime have been found guilty of their role in the atrocities that resulted in the deaths of at least 1.7 million in Cambodia between 1977 and 1979.

Latvian parties pick candidates to work in Saeima committees

Parties elected to the 13th Saeima have picked representatives to work in the parliament’s standing committees. Final decision will be made 20 November. Harmony may be represented by deputies Nikolajs Kabanovs and Jānis Tutins in Saeima’s Foreign Affairs Committee. Attīstībai/Par! has picked Artis Pabriks, and Union of Greens and Farmers has picked Uldis Augulis.

EU leaders: No appetite for renegotiating Brexit deal

EU leaders have dismissed talk of renegotiating the draft Brexit deal and warned the UK's political situation could make a «no-deal» more likely.

Some rain expected for Latvia’s centenary; cold snap expected next week

The sky will become clear every now and then. Still, some rain is expected for the country’s centenary. Wet snow is expected in the country’s eastern regions. It will be dry in the country for the most part next week, as reported by Latvian State Environment, Geology and Meteorology Centre.

Latvian ministry plans to form Media Ethics Council and develop Latvian Media Ethics Code

Culture Ministry has proposed forming Media Ethics Council. The majority of institutions of the media industry have started working on a self-regulatory council and development of a Single Latvian Media Ethics Code, as reported by the ministry’s public relations office manager Lita Kokale.

Harmony picks representatives in Saeima’s committees

Nikolajs Kabanovs and Jānis Tutins may become Harmony’s representatives in Saeima’s Foreign Affairs Committee, whereas Valērijs Agešins may become the party’s representative in the National Security Committee.

Lithuania’s corruption buster: firms donating to hospitals stand better chance in tenders

The majority of the winners of the tenders organised by major Lithuanian hospitals have expressed their gratitude to the health providers by making donations to them in the form of financial support.

Employment level in Latvia reached 65.3% in Q3 2018

920.1 thousand people or 65.3 % of Latvia population aged 15–74 were employed in Q3 2018. Over the year, employment rate grew by 1.7 percentage points and number of employed persons by 17.2 thousand.

Unemployment level in Latvia was 7% in Q3 2018

In Q3 2018 Latvian unemployment rate constituted 7.0 %. Compared to the previous quarter, unemployment rate fell by 0.7 percentage points, while over the year by 1.5 percentage points.

AS PKL Flote enforces EUR 1.35 million from Riga Freeport authority in court

The Department of Civil Cases of the Supreme Court has ruled that the verdict of Riga Regional Court – one that penalized Riga Freeport authority for breach of Competition Law against PKL Flote – was correct. Now Riga Freeport has ten days, starting with 13 November, to pay the company EUR 1.35 million to cover damages caused by this violation, BNN was told by PKL Flote board chairman Sergejs Odincovs.

British government loses two more members; EU sets date for Brexit summit

In the UK government, Brexit minister Dominic Raab and Northern Ireland's junior minister have resigned in disagreement with the country's draft withdrawal agreement with the EU, already passed by the government.

Saeima deputy: data protection regulation will not protect «KGB associates»

Documents detailing KGB workers’ names, nationality, work place, participation in the Communist party are not covered by the Personal Data Protection Regulation, stresses Saeima deputy Ritvars Jansons from the National Alliance ‘All for Latvia’ – ‘For Fatherland and Freedom/LNNK’.

EP: Moldova and Georgia should continue initiated reforms

Members of the European Parliament welcome the reforms Georgia has commenced. At the same time, Moldova was criticized for its worsened state of democracy and rule of law, as reported by EP press-secretary in Latvia Signe Znotiņa-Znota.

Germany economy shrinks for first time in three years

Germany economy has contracted by 0.2% in the third quarter of 2018, a first such result in the largest economy of the European Union in over three years.

Latvian president gives parties holiday break to continue talks

Latvian President Raimonds Vējonis calls off nomination of NCP candidate Jānis Bordāns to for government. Talks regarding the next prime minister candidate will continue after the state holiday.

Ireland satisfied with Brexit draft deal in every priority

The government of Ireland has stated that draft withdrawal agreement between Irish neighbour, the UK, and the European Union, Dublin had achieved a satisfying result in all its priorities, also regarding the border on the island of Ireland.

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