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Friday 03.04.2020 | Name days: Daira, Dairis

Week in Lithuania: Soldiers removed from Iraq, authorities scramble to inspect polluting facilities

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Lithuania, Iraq, president, pollution, climate change, Alvora, Kuwait

In Lithuania, the top news stories of last week were the withdrawal of Lithuanian soldiers from Iraq, authorities scrambling to inspect polluting facilities, as well as the U-turn on the decision on green arrows on traffic lights.

Government initiates monument to ex-president

Lithuania’s government is initiating the erection of a monument to the country’s first President Antanas Smetona in Vilnius. Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis has set up a special working group to organize all monument-related work, the government said on Thursday, January 9. The group is tasked to find a location for the monument in cooperation with Vilnius Municipality, and also draft proposals on how the monument should look like and submit them to the government by March 16. Smetona served as Lithuania’s president in 1919-1920 and 1926-1940. He was killed in a fire at his home in the US in 1944.

Matulionis proposed for Lithuania’s NATO Ambassador

Deputy Government Chancellor Deividas Matulionis is being proposed for Lithuania’s permanent representative to NATO, according draft legislation produced by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. If approved by the government and president, Matulionis would assume his new position on April 20. He was backed by the parliamentary Committee on Foreign Affairs in late December.

Court refuses to halt GIPL contract signing with Alvora

A Vilnius court has refused to temporarily halt the signing of the contract, worth almost 80 million euros, by Lithuania’s gas transmission company Amber Grid and Alvora, a Lithuanian pipeline construction company that won the public procurement procedure earlier this year, for the construction of the Lithuanian part of the Gas Interconnector Poland-Lithuania (GIPL). Vilnius Regional Court on Thursday, January 9, rejected gas pipeline construction company MT Group’s request to introduce interim measure and halt the implementation of the contract with Alvora and its partner Šiaulių Dujotiekio Statyba, Lina Nemeikaitė, spokeswoman for the Vilnius court, said.

Soldiers moved from attacked Iraqi base to Kuwait

Six Lithuanian soldiers who served at an Iraqi military base attacked by Iranian missiles are being redeployed to Kuwait on Thursday, January 9, the Defence Staff and Defence Minister Raimundas Karoblis said. The Lithuanian soldiers trained local forces fighting the Islamic States at the al Asad base as part of a Danish contingent. According to Karoblis, the decision to move the military instructors was made by Denmark. Another six Lithuanians are serving in a NATO-led mission in Iraq. They remain in the country for the time being.

President dismisses criticism of his intelligence bill

President Gitanas Nausėda has dismissed as overblown criticism of his legislative initiative to expand the powers of intelligence services. The proposed amendments to the Law on Intelligence would help to better regulate the existing practice of preventive conversations. The measure would only apply to people on the radar of hostile intelligence officials according to Nausėda.

Government set to inspect all polluting facilities

Following the release of untreated industrial wastewater into the Curonian Lagoon, the Lithuanian government on Wednesday, January 8, gave the relevant authorities a month to analyse the pollution situation in Klaipeda and come up with proposals on how to better control the situation. The government wants other similar facilities to be inspected, too. Prosecutors in Klaipeda said on Tuesday, January 7, they had launched an investigation on suspicions that Grigeo’s cardboard plant could have been discharging untreated wastewater into the lagoon through a special pipe, bypassing the port city’s sewage system.  Most of untreated wastewater allegedly released by Grigeo’s cardboard plant into the Curonian Lagoon must have been carried by prevailing currents into the Baltic Sea, the mayor of the Curonian Spit municipality of Neringa said on Wednesday, January 8.

Vice minister declines EU advisor job offer

Lithuanian Deputy Finance Minister Miglė Tuskienė has declined the offer to work as European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen’s economic advisor siting personal reasons. The Lithuanian Finance Ministry said last November that Tuskienė had been invited to join von der Leyen’s team as an advisor on economic issues.

President calls for diplomatic solution of Iran-U.S. standoff

President Gitanas Nausėda called on Wednesday, January 8, for a diplomatic solution of the standoff between the Iran and United States. Tensions in the Middle East heightened after a US airstrike killed Iranian General Qassem Soleimani last week and Iran launched a missile strike on two Iraqi military bases housing U.S.-led troops last Tuesday, January 7.

Ex-judge’s case goes to court

Prosecutors in Lithuania’s second-biggest city of Kaunas said on Wednesday, January 8, they had concluded their pre-trial investigation in the case of Neringa Venckienė, a former judge and lawmaker who was extradited from the United States last year. The case will be handed over to Kaunas Regional Court, where Venckienė has worked in the past. It will be up to the court, which earlier recused itself from hearing the case, to decide what to do next. The former lawmaker was flown back to Lithuania from the US, where she had spent almost two years in a prison, on November 6. She is suspected of refusing to obey a court order, resisting a police officer, hindering a bailiff, and hitting Laimutė Stankūnaitė, the mother of her niece, in the face.

Government allows putting green arrows back on traffic lights

The Lithuanian government on Wednesday, January 8, gave the go-ahead for municipalities to indefinitely put green arrows back on traffic lights to allow drivers to turn right at a red light. The Cabinet thus reversed its previous resolution ordering the removal of these signs by January 1, 2020. The green arrow signs allowing a right turn on red were removed from all intersections in Lithuania in early January, but local authorities in Vilnius and other cities say that the measure has increased traffic congestion, but has done little to improve safety. The Transport Ministry suggested removing the green arrow signs back in 2014 after a study carried out in Kaunas years linked the presence of green arrows at intersections to higher numbers of road accident involving fatalities or injuries.

January 13 case handed over to Court of Appeals

The January 13 case was handed over to the Court of Appeal of Lithuania on Wednesday, January 8, Vilnius Regional Court. It also said it had received 61 appeals. The victims, defendants, lawyers and prosecutors appealed against the March ruling in the case. The Court of Appeal is scheduled to start hearing the case on March 26. The court received over 760 volumes of case materials, including the 16-volume indictment.

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

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Germany to keep gathering restrictions past Easter

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Shuttle buses and express buses on hold in Riga

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Belarus introduces ban on buckwheat exports

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