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Week in Lithuania: Seimas lowers election threshold, youngsters vandalise mosque, Vinted claims «unicorn» status

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Volodymyr Zelensky, Lithuania, Gitanas Nausėda, Vinted, warning strike

Last week, in Lithuania, the key news stories were Seimas lowering Lithuanian general election threshold, youngsters vandalising a mosque and online second-hand clothing marketplace Vinted claiming a «Unicorn» status for start-up value.

Prosecutor seeks suspended jail sentences for Paksas, Vainauskas

The public prosecutor is seeking suspended prison sentences for Lithuania’s impeached former president Rolandas Paksas and Gedvydas Vainauskas, the CEO of the media group Lietuvos Rytas, who are standing trial on influence peddling charges. Gedgaudas Norkūnas, the prosecutor, asked the court on Friday, November 29, to sentence Paksas to three years and two months’ imprisonment, to be suspended for two years and two months. The public prosecutor is seeking a three-year prison sentence, to be suspended for two years, and a fine of over 26,000 euros for Vainauskas.

Lithuania elected to chemical weapons prohibition body’s council

Lithuania has been for the first time elected to the executive council of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), the Foreign Ministry said on Friday, November 29. Lithuania’s candidacy for the OPCW executive council for the 2020-2022 period was unanimously approved in The Hague earlier this week, the ministry said in a press release.

Lithuanian opera sees huge success at Venice Biennale

Some 87,000 people have visited Lithuania’s pavilion at the 58th Venice Biennale and seen the Sun & Sea (Marina) opera performance performed on an artificial beach, its creators said this week. All in all, 159 people have worked on the project over the six months the Lithuanian pavilion was opened. And 51 performers from Lithuania, Italy, Brazil, the US, the UK, Spain, Germany, Greece and other countries impersonated the 13 opera characters.  Over the next couple of years, the Lithuanian artists plans to perform the opera in 2020 in Norway, Sweden, Spain, Switzerland, Iceland, the UK, the US, Russia, Australia and other countries.

Seimas backs proposal to reduce election threshold

The Seimas on Thursday, November 28, gave its initial backing to a proposal by the ruling parties to reduce the existing election thresholds to 3 per cent for political parties and to 5 percent for party coalitions after 62 MPs voted in favour, 44 were against and five abstained. The proposal was put forward by Ramūnas Karbauskis, leader of the Lithuanian Farmers and Greens Union, and Naglis Puteikis, leader of the Centre Party.

 CEC lifts Sinkevičius’ parlt mandate after EC confirmation

Lithuania’s Central Electoral Commission on Thursday, November 28, lifted the parliamentary mandate of Virginijus Sinkevičius, representing the ruling Lithuanian Farmers and Greens in the Lithuanian parliament after he was confirmed as a European commissioner. Sinkevičius was elected to the parliament in the Šeskinė single-member constituency in Vilnius but a new election will not be held there.

Youngsters suspected of vandalising mosque, synagogue

The same youngsters are suspected of having vandalized a mosque and synagogue in Lithuania’s second-largest city of Kaunas, Kaunas County Police said on Thursday, November 28. Windows of the mosque in the city centre were smashed on November 17, and a Heil Hitler inscription was discovered on the synagogue’s information board on November 13. Police officers believe the two offences were committed by the same youngsters. Three persons, including males aged 17 and 18 and a female aged 15, were identified. They are now being questioned and officers are taking other actions as part of the ongoing pre-trial investigation.

Transport minister in hot water

Lithuanian Transport and Communications Minister Jaroslav Narkevic said on Thursday, November 28, that he will decide on whether to remain in his post following consultations with his party and Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis. Narkevič has faced a barrage of criticism from the opposition lately for his decision to fire the management board of Lietuvos Paštas (Lithuanian Post), for his recent visit to the United Arab Emirates, for approving funding for certain road upgrades, and other issues.  President Gitanas Nausėda has called this week Narkevič to resign.

Lithuania disappointed with Apple

Lithuania is disappointed with Apple’s decision to show the annexed Crimean peninsula as part of Russian territory on its apps when viewed from Russia, Foreign Minister Linas Linkevičius said on Thursday, November 28. Ukraine on Wednesday condemned the US technology giant for agreeing to show Crimea as Russian territory on its products.

Teachers stage warning strike

Teachers in several hundred schools across Lithuania staged a two-hour warning strike on Thursday, November 28, to press their demand for more funding next year. The strike action was backed by all trade unions that signed in 2017 a collective agreement that provided for allocating 117 million euros in additional funding for education in the 2020 budget. The government’s 2020 budget bill currently earmarks just over 55 million euros in extra funding for that purpose.

Startup Vinted becomes Lithuania’s 1st «unicorn»

Online second-hand clothing marketplace Vinted has raised 128 million euros in a funding round, making it Lithuania’s first «unicorn», a start-up company valued at over 1 billion euros. The new round was led by Lightspeed Venture Partners, a new investor in Vinted, the company said on Thursday, November 28. Vinted will use the money to develop its technological platform and to accelerate its expansion and growth in Europe.

Nausėda gets Zelensky’s assurances over fertiliser exports

President Gitanas Nausėda says he has received assurances from his Ukrainian counterpart, Volodymyr Zelensky, that Ukraine will next spring complete its fertilizer market studies that are worrying Lithuanian fertilizer manufacturers. Speaking in a joint news conference after the two presidents’ meeting in Vilnius, Nausėda said he believed that Lithuanian companies would have free access to the Ukrainian fertilizer market. Lithuanian producers and government officials are concerned that Ukraine’s trade protection studies regarding ammonium nitrate and compound fertilizers may lead to the country imposing import duties or quotas.


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Snap elections in Riga may be postponed until March

If Latvia’s government and Saeima support dismissal of Riga City Council, snap elections in the capital city may be pushed to the first half of March, according to information from LETA.

Bank of Latvia downgrades GDP growth outlook to 2.3% for 2019

The Bank of Latvia has downgraded GDP growth outlook for 2019 from the previous 2.5% to 2.3%, whereas economic growth outlook for next year has been preserved at 2.6%, as journalists were told by Bank of Latvia governor Ilmārs Rimšēvičs in an interview to Latvijas Radio on Monday, 16 December.

So-called «media controlled by Lembergs» may end up under sanctions

There is a possibility of so-called «media controlled by Aivars Lembergs», such as Ventas Balss and Neatkarīgā Rīta Avīze, may experience negative consequences from the sanctions USA has applied against him and four legal persons in Latvia.

Greece: Migrant influx has reached limits and EU must help with firm policy

As Greece struggles to accommodate tens of thousands of people having arrived via routes of irregular immigration, Athens has stated the ongoing influx has reached the limits of the country.

Bordāns: many people and companies financed by Lembergs will be outlined soon

The situation created by the decision by USA to apply sanctions against Aivars Lembergs and companies associated with him may have a short negative effect on Latvia’s economy, said Justice Minister Jānis Bordāns in an interview to Latvijas Radio.

Turkey could close army bases to U.S., if Washington imposes sanctions

Turkey has warned it could close U.S. access to army bases in the country, if Washington delivers on plans to impose sanctions over the purchase of a Russian-made missile system.

Baiba Rozentāle leaves Harmony and wants to join Honour to Serve Riga

Riga City Council deputy Baiba Rozentāle has left Harmony party has written an application to join Honour to Serve Riga, as reported by LTV programme De Facto.

State company may take over Ventspils Freeport authority’s duties before year’s end

The newly-formed state company may take over the duties of Ventspils Freeport authority before the end of the year, says Latvia’s Transport Minister Tālis Linkaits.

Victims of New Zealand eruption remembered with moment of silence

In New Zealand, a minute of silence has been held to remember the 16 people, who lost their lives in a volcano eruption on an island popular among tourists.

Week in Lithuania: Conscription age lowered, Klaipėda port’s development plan approved, retail tax delayed

Last week, in Lithuania, the key news stories were the lowering of the national conscription age, the approval of the development plan of the Klaipėda port and the delay of the real estate tax.

BNN summary of the week: end of Lembergs Era? New governor for Bank of Latvia; fight for Riga City Council

The overthrowing of the «old league» in Latvia has caused a domino effect. The most notable event to have taken place this week is the addition of Aivars Lembergs and four of the associations he has influence over to the list of sanctioned persons USA. This has shaken up the established order in Ventspils and Latvia.

Aivars Lembergs leaves his post in Latvian Olympic Committee

On Friday, 13 December, individual member of Latvian Olympic Committee and member of its Executive Committee Aivars Lembergs announced to LOK board his decision to leave the organization, BNN was told by LOK press-secretary Mārtiņš Mālmeisters.

Ralfs Kļaviņš and Edvīns Bērziņš leave the board of Latvian Transit Business Association

Chairman of Riga Commercial Port Ralfs Kļaviņš and ex-chairman of Latvian Railway Edvīns Bērziņš have left the board of Latvian Transit Business Association, according to information from Firmas.lv.

US sanctions will not affect companies in which Lembergs no longer has any influence

The sanctions introduced by USA against Lembergs will not affect the companies over which he no longer has control thanks to a ruling of the court.

Liquidation of discount fares on multiple RMS routes would help save money for Rīgas satiksme

By liquidating multiple discounts for passenger fares on multiple LLC Rīgas mikroautobusu satiksme routes, LLC Rīgas satiksme public transport company hopes to save approximately EUR 1.75 million a year.

Tallinn region GDP portion decreases in Estonian economy

In 2018, 65% of the Estonian gross value added was created in Harju county, while the rest of the country is inching closed with Harju county, the official statistics of the Baltic country showed.

EU prolongs targeted sanctions against Russia over Ukraine

The European Union has extended for another six months its sanctions against Russia’s energy, finance and military sectors. The continued restrictive measures are said to remain in full until Minsk peace deal is implemented.

Local government representatives will no longer work at Riga and Ventspils freeport

Following the coming into force of amendments to the Law on Ports, representatives of Riga City Council and Ventspils City Council will lose their respective posts in the board of Riga Freeport and Ventspils Freeport, the law states.

Total tax debts in Latvia at December’s beginning – EUR 869.4 million

At the beginning of December, total tax debts in Latvia, including outstanding, halted and extended debts, were equal to EUR 869.367 million, which is 1.9% less than a month prior, according to data from the State Revenue Service.

In UK’s Brexit election, Conservatives win comfortable majority

In the British snap parliamentary election aimed at breaking the Brexit impasse, the ruling Conservative Party has won gaining a comfortable majority, according to close to complete results.

Riga City Council’s interim administration may be entrusted to VARAM state secretary Balševics

If the Saeima votes in favour of dismissing Riga City Council, the interim municipal administration may be entrusted to Environment Protection and Regional Ministry’s state secretary Edvīns Balševics, according to the ministry’s Riga City Council dismissal legislative draft to be decided on by the government on 17 December.

EU member states commit to 2050 carbon neutrality, Poland opts out

European Union’s 26 members, including the Baltic states, have supported the planned political course to considerably reduce the greenhouse gas emissions to net-zero by 2050. Coal-powered Poland said it could not reach the goal and opted out.

Latvia’s prime minister forms a work group to ensure Ventspils Freeport’s operations

On Thursday, 12 December, Latvia’s Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš has issued an order on formation of a work group under Transport Minister Tālis Linkaits in order to ensure undisrupted operations at Ventspils Freeport, as reported by the prime minister’s press-secretary Sandris Sabajevs.

Ministry: to prevent damaging Latvian sports sector’s reputation, Lembergs should leave LOK

To avoid letting US sanctions negatively affect Latvian Olympic Committee and spread to the reputation of the country’s sports sector, the ministry can only ask Aivars Lembergs step down as member of LOK Executive Committee, BNN was told by Education and Science Ministry.

Budget Committee declines residents’ request to postpone increasing funding for parties

Saeima’s Budget and Finance Committee has rejected a public initiative signed by more than 11 000 residents. This initiative requested postponing the planned increase of funding for political parties.


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