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Ceturtdiena 12.12.2019 | Name days: Otīlija, Iveta

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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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.

Lower election threshold in Lithuania – more democracy or chaos?

The Lithuanian legislature, Seimas, has lowered this week the parliamentary election threshold to 3 per cent for political parties and 5 per cent for coalitions.

Russia expels German diplomats, retaliating to German step over Berlin murder

Russia has asked two diplomats of the German Embassy to leave the country. This is a tit-for-tat measure after Germany declared two Russian diplomats personae non grata as Berlin investigates an international murder in the German capital, TASS reported.

Riga Freeport and Liepaja Special Economic Zone to leave LTAB

Riga Freeport and Liepaja Special Economic Zone will leave Latvian Transit Business Association managed by Aivars Lembergs, as both are subjected to US sanctions.

Lembergs’ influence over Ventspils Freeport needs to end, bank supervisors say

The goal of the US sanctions is reducing Aivars Lembergs’ economic and political influence over Ventspils Freeport and other companies under his control. Sanctions are not meant to paralyse companies, rather seeing how they are used to process deals influenced by the person under sanctions – Aivars Lembergs, said Finance and Capital Market Commission head Santa Purgaile during a press-conference on Thursday, 12 December.

USD 25 million offered in Weinstein sage to 30 alleged sexual abuse victims

In the U.S. movie industry scandal surrounding sexual abuse claims against film producer Harvey Weinstein his lawyers have offered a USD 25-million settlement to more than 30 women, The Guardian reports.

Legal Affairs Committee supports lifting judge immunity for administrative violation cases

Saeima’s Legal Affairs Committee supported prior to the second reading legislative drafts to the Law on Judicial Power and Law on Judges Disciplinary Liability intended to lift the immunity of judges in administrative violation cases, as confirmed by Justice Ministry.

Estonian-Finnish gas interconnection unveiled

Estonia and Finland have held ceremonies to unveil the gas pipeline Balticconnector, built to connect the gas transmission networks of both countries separated by the Baltic Sea.

Mārtiņš Kazāks officially becomes governor of the Bank of Latvia

On Thursday, 12 December, Latvia’s Saeima officially approved Mārtiņš Kazāks as the new governor of the Bank of Latvia, as BNN was told by Saeima’s press-service.

What is Ventspils Development Agency and what will its members do now?

Among the organizations against which US Department of Treasury Office for Foreign Asset Control has adopted sanctions is also Ventspils Development Agency. In accordance with OFAC issued Global Magnitsky General Licence Nr.1, global partners have 30 days to cease all cooperation with this organization.

Israel on way to third parliamentary election in year

Israeli legislators have been unable to overcome a prolonged political crisis. The Knesset has given its initial approval to the third parliamentary election in the Middle Eastern country in a year’s time after legislators proved unable to form a majority coalition.

Social Integration Fund torn over NGO support priorities

Although sides of the Social Integration Fund have argued over priorities of the Non-Government Organizations Fund, the contest to start using funding allocated to NGOs may yet be announced this year, allows Social Integration Fund council member and Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš’s representative Imants Parādnieks.

EC signs von der Leyen’s European Green Deal toward 2050 climate neutrality

The European Commission has signed off new leader’s plan to make Europe the world's first climate neutral continent. The European Green Deal envisages net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Committee supports amendments that allow electing city council for longer

Saeima’s Public Administration and Local Government Committee has decided to support law amendments to allow electing Riga City Council for a term longer than five years.

Finland ends EU presidency with call to take free AI course

Finland is opening up a wildly popular Elements of Artificial Intelligence online course to all EU citizens. The announcement was made in Brussels on Tuesday to mark the approaching end of Finland’s presidency of the Council of the EU.

Latvian ministers agree on general sea port management reform

On Wednesday, 11 December, during an extraordinary meeting of the government dedicated to allowing the state to take over management of Riga and Ventspils freeport, ministers agreed on the necessity to implement a general reformation of management at Latvia’s various ports.

FKTK proposes isolating Lembergs and companies under US sanctions

Finance and Capital Market Commission invites financial market participants to refrain from providing financial services to suspended Mayor of Ventspils Aivars Lembergs, as well as companies and institutions applied with US sanctions, FKTK reports.

To take over Riga and Ventspils port government to form a separate company

On Wednesday, 11 December, the Cabinet of Ministers decided at an extraordinary meeting to invite the Saeima to add amendments to the Law on Ports to accommodate the plan for the government to take control over Riga and Ventspils freeports.

Estonia health body calls for measles vaccination of Ukrainian guest workers

Estonia’s health authority has issued a recommendation to employers working with Ukrainian guest workers to ensure the vaccination of their personnel against measles, pointing to critical situation in Ukraine.

In UN Court: Myanmar leader calls Rohingya genocide claims incorrect

In the International Court of Justice, Myanmar's leader Aung San Suu Kyi has been rejecting claims that her country’s military has been involved in allegations of genocide.

Family doctor visits may become more expensive for some residents in Latvia next year

Patient fees might increase or reduce next year. The latter may include more expensive family doctors visits: some residents may have to pay EUR 2 instead of EUR 1.42. The patient fee for specialist consultations will reduce.

20% of Riga Central Station design work for Rail Baltica is complete

Nearly 20% of Rail Baltica project’s design work on Riga Central Station has been completed. Construction company Bererix has closed off territory, railway, underground areas and other infrastructure for topographical and measuring work, as reported by Rail Baltica project’s representative Linda Vītola.

Fire in Tartu turns tragic to family

After a fire in Tartu, a family of five has been found dead, Estonian public broadcaster ERR reports.

Forecast: UK snap election to be won by Johnson’s Conservatives

In the United Kingdom’s snap elections, called to resolve the Brexit crisis, the victory of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party is forecast by British sociology centre YouGov.

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