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Week in Lithuania. Watchdog: Simpsons might have negative effect on minors

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This image released by FOX shows character Homer Simpson, from the animated series, “The Simpsons”

The Radio and Television Commission (RTCL) of Lithuania believes the popular American sitcom, The Simpsons, might be having negative impact on minors, thus, should be shown after 9 p.m. According to the watchdog, certain scenes involving the use of alcohol, polygamy promotion, and talks about sexual intercourse, could be detrimental to minors. The RTCL has asked the TV3 channel airing The Simpsons to provide explanations.

Parliament extends fall session until January 12

The Lithuanian parliament has extended its fall session until January 12. Newly-appointed ministers are expected to be sworn in during plenary sittings scheduled for January 11 and 12. Under the Constitution, the parliament’s fall session starts on September 10 and ends on December 23. If the session had not been extended, the Seimas would have had to hold a plenary sitting on Sunday, December 23, the day before Christmas Eve.

Parliament backs MRU-VGTU merger

The Seimas of Lithuania on Thursday, December 20, endorsed plans to merge Mykolas Romeris University with Vilnius Gediminas Technical University, with 84 votes in favour, no votes against and two abstentions. Earlier, the Lithuanian parliament backed the merger of Aleksandras Stulginskis University and the Lithuanian University of Educational Sciences. In early December, lawmakers backed the government’s proposal to merge Siauliai and Vilnius Universities.

Seimas greenlights Lithuanian Railway’s overhaul

The Seimas of Lithuania (Parliament) on Thursday, December 20, backed plans for the overhaul of the state-run railways company Lietuvos Geležinkeliai (Lithuanian Railways), with 69 votes in favour and nine abstentions. Under the plan, instead of the railway company’s three existing directorates, including Passenger Transportation Directorate, Freight Transportation Directorate and the Railway Infrastructure Directorate, three separate enterprises will be established and Lietuvos Geležinkeliai will own their shares. Lietuvos Geležinkeliai will remain a solely state-owned company. Failure to overhaul the railway company would have caused Brussels’ punitive actions.

Presidents’ friendship encouraged to invest in Belarus

Ramūnas Karbauskis, the leader of the ruling Lithuanian Farmers and Greens Union (LFGU), says the Lithuanian and Belarusian presidents’ friendship encouraged Agrokoncernas to invest in the neighbouring country, even though his business purchased a plant in the Brest region before Dalia Grybauskaite became president. Karbauskis’ comment came after the Lithuanian Radio and Television (LRT) reported on Thursday that Agrokoncernas had owned a fertilizer plant in Belarus in 2008 to 2017. Agrokoncernas acquired a 50 per cent stake in Xoll Kemikal, the owner of the Belarusian fertilizer plant, in 2008 and signed a deal to buy another 30 per cent of shares at the end of that year, bringing its total shareholding to 83.22 per cent.

New referendum law allows more polling places abroad

The Lithuanian parliament adopted on Thursday, December 20, the new wording of the Law on Referendum that adjusts referendum organization procedures and allows more polling places abroad.

The new wording of the law, which was passed with 65 votes in favour, two against and 18 abstentions, is expected to come into force in January. Decisions on additional polling stations for a referendum will be made by the Foreign Ministry and will have to be approved by the Central Electoral Commission. Lithuania plans to hold a dual citizenship referendum on May 12 and May 26, 2019, in tandem with the first and second rounds of voting in the next presidential election.

President signs 2019 budget bill into law

President Dalia Grybauskaite on Thursday, December 20, signed into law a bill on next year’s central government and municipal budgets. The 2019 budget projects a total of 10.59 billion euros in central government budget revenue, including 1.922 billion euros in EU and other international financial support, and 11.706 billion euros in expenditure. This leaves a budget deficit of 1.106 billion euros. The ruling bloc says the planned cut in labour taxes will help increase incomes for all working Lithuanians and will encourage job creation, but critics warn that the reform will leave a hole in the state’s coffers that will affect public sector financing.

Minister regrets failure to stop Belarus’ N-plant project

Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius regrets that Lithuania failed to stop the construction of the Astravyets nuclear power plant in Belarus, despite major efforts to torpedo the project. He said the project in Astravyets, just 50 kilometers from Vilnius, should have been stopped from the beginning. The chief diplomat also said he regretted that Lithuania did not have sufficient arguments to convince neighbouring countries not to buy electricity from the Astravyets plant. Belarus expects the plant’s first reactor unit to be ready for industrial power generation by late 2019 and the second unit to be operational by mid-2020.

Government to draft bill on freezing of Russian oligarchs’ assets

The government said on Wednesday, December 19, it will itself draft a bill providing a legal basis for freezing assets of Russian oligarchs and officials on Lithuania’s blacklist and restricting their economic and financial activities in the country. The Cabinet did not approve of similar amendments tabled by two opposition parties – the Homeland Union–Lithuanian Christian Democrats (HU-LCD) and the Liberal Movement. If the amendments were adopted, money kept in Lithuania-based banks and other financial assets would be frozen, and people and companies in Lithuania would be banned from doing business with blacklisted individuals.

Government nods to 3 PPP military base development projects

The Lithuanian government on Wednesday, December 19, gave the go-ahead for the Defence Ministry to develop military bases in the city of Šiauliai and in the districts of Šilalė and Vilnius on a public-private partnership (PPP) basis. A total of up to 165 million euros at net present value are planned to be allocated for the military bases, which will house three battalions of the Lithuanian Armed Forces. Negotiations with potential suppliers will be held at the turn of 2019 and 2020, with contracts to be signed in the fourth quarter of 2020.

President appoints culture minister

President Dalia Grybauskaitė on Tuesday, December 18, appointed Mindaugas Kvietkauskas as culture minister, the president’s press service said. Kvietkauskas, a 42-year-old poet and literary scholar, served as director of the Institute of Lithuanian Literature and Folklore between 2008 and 2018 and now holds the post of deputy director at the institute. Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis in early December announced his decision to replace the ministers for culture, education and environment, saying he wanted to give fresh impetus to reforms.

Parliament green-lights purchase of Klaipeda LNGT

The Lithuanian parliament on Tuesday, December 18, gave the green light for purchasing the Klaipeda liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal’s floating storage and regasification unit (FSRU) by late 2024, when the lease contract with Norway’s Hoegh LNG ends. The Seimas passed the respective amendments to the Law on LNG Terminal in a vote of 99 to one with 17 abstentions. Following the approval from the Seimas, the terminal’s operating costs are to be reduced to 43 million euros per year, from the current 66 million euros. The terminal’s costs for the fertilizer manufacturer Achema, Lithuania’s single largest gas consumer, would go down by around 6 million euros annually.


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Estonia eyes one-year prison sentence for first-time drunk drivers

Estonian government ministers have proposed harsher sanctions for drunk driving. Their initiative comes after three people got killed in a crash, where a heavily intoxicated driver was involved.

Latvian residents trust National Armed Forces the most and the Saeima the least

Latvia’s residents trust the country’s National Armed Forces and the president the most and the Saeima the least, according to the survey performed by Latvian National Security Academy’s Security and Strategic Research Centre.

In China, coronavirus claims more lives as transport limitations put in place

The Chinese outbreak of a new strain of coronavirus has reached the death toll of 26 people, meanwhile, authorities are trying to keep it from spreading introducing transport movement limitations in at least 10 cities.

Information about VDD new office building’s construction costs is a state secret

Although some media have mentioned different amounts of money the construction of a new office for the State Security Service at the location of former Marss cycling track may cost, the service reports that this information is considered a state secret.

Kariņš: Latvia is no longer the younger brother – our country’s voice is heard

Latvia is no longer the younger brother on the international arena – our country is heard and its opinion is taken seriously, said Latvian Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš at annual foreign policy debates on Thursday, 23 January.

Poland passes law on limiting public actions, statements of judges

The Polish Sejm has passed a draft law that sets forth limiting the say of judges over justice appointments, court reform and politics. The limitations have been widely criticised abroad.

Linkaits: banks once again service Ventspils Freeport terminals

The situation with Ventspils Freeport is gradually becoming more relaxed. On top of that, banks once again service port terminals there, as Latvian Transport Minister Tālis Linkaits affirmed in a conversation with journalists on Thursday, 23 January.

Aivars Lembergs picks ex-prime minister’s freelance advisor Grudulis as his lawyer for debates

The suspended Mayor of Ventspils Aivars Lembergs, who is also accused of committing serious crimes and is under US sanctions, has picked once the prime minister of Latvia Māris Kučinskis’ freelance advisor Māris Grudulis as his lawyer for debates in court, as was announced in court on Thursday, 23 January.

What is Lithuanian President’s main reason to skip Jerusalem Holocaust forum?

Lithuanian President Gitanas Nausėda has unexpectedly flip-flopped on where and how to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp in Poland. First, he said he will attend the commemoration in Jerusalem, but then changed his mind to pay homage to the Jewish victims in Auschwitz, in Poland. The reason? Well, there is no clear official reason for that – President’s Office did not provide one.

Audit: Rail Baltica slowed by poor risk management and slow progress with municipalities

Delays and cost increase of Rail Baltica project is heavily affected by no risk management and no strategy, as well as slow progress in cooperation with municipalities and passive alienation of properties, Latvian State Audit concluded in its latest report.

China stops public transport in two cities over coronavirus

In China, a new strain of coronavirus has claimed the lives of 17 people. To keep it form spreading, local authorities have stopped the public transport to and from the cities of Wuhan and Huanggang.

BNN investigation | Rebenoks and Krieķis may have plans to return to Olainfarm board despite ties to serious crimes

Ex-Olainfarm officials Mārtiņš Krieķis and Pāvels Rebenoks, the latter also serving as Latvian Economy Minister Ralfs Nemiro’s advisor, may return to the company’s board to, possibly, continue walking «well-travelled path» paved with non-transparent deals, according to information available to BNN.

In Estonia, forgetting to register child’s name can lead to municipality choosing it

Estonian law obliges parents to register the name of their child in a month’s time after giving birth. In the unlikely case of them being late, the law opens right to a local municipality to choose it.

Change of concept? Viesturs Kairišs becomes Dailes Theatre’s artistic director

Dailes Theatre’s board member Juris Žagars has picked Viesturs Kairišs as the theatre’s new artistic director, as journalists were told by Žagars on Thursday, 23 January.

Lukashenko: Belarus needs to diversify its oil imports, introducing Baltic supplies

As Minsk and Moscow are in talks to solve a dispute over the continuation of oil imports from Russia, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has said that Russian supplies could be cut to 30-40% of Belarus’ total imports.

Minister does not exclude possibility of number of municipalities in Latvia increasing

The Administrative Territorial Reform offers reducing the number of municipalities to 39 in Latvia. Still, it is possible there may be one or two more, said Latvian Environment Protection and Regional Development Minister Juris Pūce in an interview to LTV programme Rīta Panorāma on Thursday, 23 January.

Thirteen people die from influenza in Latvia

Three people died from influenza in Latvia last week, increasing the number of victims to 13 for this year’s flu season, according to monitoring data of acute upper respiratory tract infections published by Disease Prevention and Control Centre.

Lithuania tries to halt haulage firm exodus to Poland with new tax

Lithuania is introducing a new «exit tax» to keep road haulage firms from relocating to other European Union member states. The firms say that other ways of moving business abroad will be used.

Corruption fighters: corruption perception indexes decline in Latvia in 2019

Latvia’s positions had worsened slightly in 2019 in global anti-corruption coalition Transparency International composed Corruption Perception Index.

UK parliament passes draft Brexit law

In London, the draft law on the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union has been finally passed by the Houses of Parliament after years of inability of British legislators to decide on their preferred way out of the bloc.

Harmony prepared to approve Riga’s 2020 budget after Burovs’ dismissal

Political party Harmony will not approve Riga municipality’s 2020 budget while Oļegs Burovs remains in charge of the city council, as reported by the be faction’s head Maksims Tolstojs.

British landlords support cards showing rights of EU guest workers after Brexit

After Brexit, which is due to start with February, European Union citizens will have to prove their settled status when looking for flats. Private landlords has supported a change in the Brexit law for EU citizens to have physical cards to prove it.

Survey: 86% believe roads should be among state budget priorities in Latvia

A total of 86% Latvian residents believe maintenance and repair work of roads should be among state budget priorities, according to results of a survey by SKDS.

Vitenbergs: every investment is vital for Latvia’s national economy

Investments are the foundation for a free market economy and every investment is vital for Latvia’s national economy, said chairman of Saeima’s Economic, Agricultural, Environmental and Regional Policy Committee Jānis Vitenbergs.

Kaljulaid in Antarctica: We enable Estonians to work online from anywhere

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