LITHUANIA DAILY NEWS BULLETIN
IN THIS ISSUE:
- Upcoming events in Lithuania for Friday, October 28, 2022
- MPs to turn to Constitutional Court over non-Lithuanian name spelling
- Lithuania signs contract on acquisition of Spanish mortars
- COVID-19 testing facilities closed at Lithuanian airports
- Lithuanian border guards prevent 17 migrants from crossing in from Belarus
- US backs Baltic synchronization, BRELL disconnection – Lithuanian energmin
- Lithuania reports 383 new COVID-19 cases, three deaths
- Lithuania to increase active reserve faster, assign reservists to military units
- New education advisor to join Lithuanian president's team
- Lithuanian speaker sees aid to Ukraine, bolstering NATO east flank as 2 sides of coin
- Lithuania may spend EUR 550 mln less on energy price subsidies next year – c. bank
- Putin's nuclear threats remind me of North Korea – Lithuanian PM
- Lithuania's c.banker criticizes govt over tax reforms
- Finnish president to visit Lithuania next week
- Two Lithuanian films to vie for Oscar awards
- Greek PM to visit Vilnius Monday
- Upcoming events in Lithuania for Monday, October 31, 2022
VILNIUS, Oct 28, BNS – The following events are scheduled in Lithuania for Friday, October 28, 2022:
PRESIDENT Gitanas Nauseda to meet with former and current judges of the Constitutional Court at 10 a.m.; to meet with students of the Medardas Cobotas University of the Third Age at 1 p.m.
SPEAKER OF THE SEIMAS Viktorija Cmilyte-Nielsen, on a visit to Latvia, to take part in a meeting of the Presidium of the Baltic Assembly and the speakers of the national parliaments of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia at 9 a.m.; to participate in the opening of the 41st session of the Baltic Assembly at 10 a.m.; to meet with her Estonian and Latvian counterparts, Juri Ratas and Inara Murniece, at 11:15 a.m.
PRIME MINISTER Ingrida Simonyte, on a visit to Japan, to meet with Hirofumi Nakasone, chairman of Japan-Lithuania Parliamentary Friendship League, and a group of parliamentarians at 6:30 a.m. (Vilnius time); to take part in a press conference at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan at 8:30 a.m.; to meet with Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Yasutoshi Nishimura at 10 a.m.
The Lithuanian Cabinet to hold a meeting at 10 a.m.
JUSTICE MINISTER Ewelina Dobrowolska to meet with Marco M. Aleman, assistant director general at the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), at 10 a.m.
VILNIUS, Oct 28, BNS – A group of Lithuanian lawmakers have collected signatures and will turn to the country's Constitutional Court over a law adopted earlier this year and allowing the use of the letters "w", "q" and "x" in personal documents.
Speaking with BNS, Eugenijus Jovaisa, one of the initiators of the move, representing the opposition Lithuanian Farmers and Greens Union in the Seimas, says the motion has so far been supported by a total of 30 MPs, including not only those representing the LFGU and Democrats "For Lithuania", but also some representatives of the ruling conservative Homeland Union – Lithuanian Christian Democrats.
A motion to turn to the Constitutional Court requires at least 29 MP signatures.
"Yes, we have collected the signatures, we are already registering them. I think that once the Seimas speaker, who is now in Latvia, signs it, it will be immediately forwarded to the Constitutional Court," Jovaisa said.
The lawmakers are questioning the constitutionality of the new law on the spelling of names and surnames in documents, which came into force in May. It states that a Lithuanian citizen's name and surname may be written using the Latin alphabet without diacritical marks in personal documents in certain cases, i.e. the use of non-Lithuanian letters "w", "q", "x" is allowed in personal names.
This spelling is possible if a Lithuanian citizen chooses a non-Lithuanian surname of their spouse, as well as if the surname of their parents or one of the parents is written in a non-Lithuanian manner in the source document.
Some MPs also have a problem with the Identity Card and Passport Law related to the new legislation.
The law adopted in January also stipulates that members of ethnic minorities are required to officially declare their nationality in order to change their surname.
As a result of the amendments, some Poles, including Justice Minister Ewelina Dobrowolska, changed the spelling of their names.
Other local Poles say they are not satisfied with the current norm as it still does not allow them to spell their names in their original form using diacritical marks.
By Ignas Jačauskas
VILNIUS, Oct 28, BNS - Lithuania has signed a contract on the acquisition of Spanish mortars, Lithuania's Ministry of National Defense said on Friday.
The contract on the acquisition of towed 120-mm EXPAL 120-MX2-SM mortars was signed with Spain's EXPAL Systems, S.A. for 9.8 million euros, including mortars and their parts.
The company was chosen because it offered the best price.
The weapons are to be delivered within two years, the ministry said, adding that the Lithuanian army is expected to get half of the mortars by the end of next year.
"The acquisition of this modern and high quality weaponry will significantly strengthen the Lithuanian Armed Forces' indirect fire support capability," National Defense Minister Arvydas Anusauskas says.
The ministry points out that the mortar system is "reliable and in line with NATO weapon standards".
Mobile and versatile mortar systems with increased firepower and accuracy allow infantry and artillery to respond adequately to tactical needs through indirect fire support. The mortars procured by Lithuania can reach targets of up to 8 km away.
VILNIUS, Oct 28, BNS – On-site COVID-19 testing will no longer be available at Kaunas and Palanga Airports as of Friday, and at Vilnius Airport as of November 1.
The service will no longer be provided due to the drop in demands from passengers to get tested before or after their flight, Lietuvos Oro Uostai (Lithuanian Airports), the airport operator in Lithuania, said.
This year, European countries have been rapidly lifting the restrictions imposed on travelers due to the global coronavirus pandemic as people are no longer required to have a negative test result or to provide proof of having been vaccinated or recovered from the coronavirus infection, they said.
Also, the implementation and continuation of successful vaccination campaigns in many countries have removed the need for additional testing.
Lab testing company Rezus.lt has been providing testing services to passengers since early 2021.
VILNIUS, Oct 28, BNS – Lithuanian border guards have in the past 24 hours turned away 17 migrants attempting to cross into the country from Belarus illegally, the State Border Guard Service (SBGS) said on Thursday morning.
Latvia recorded nine attempts to cross the border illegally on Thursday, and Polish border guards denied entry to 73 irregular migrants on Wednesday, according to the latest available information.
The daily number of migrants refused entry to Lithuania reached this year's high of 135 on September 20, nine fewer than the highest ever number recorded on November 12, 2021.
A total of 9,665 irregular migrants have been stopped from entering Lithuania since January.
Lithuanian border guards have sent around 17,700 people back to Belarus since August 3, 2021, when they were given the right to deny entry to irregular migrants. The number includes repeated attempts by the same people to cross the border.
The SBGS says that illegal migration to Lithuania and the EU is being facilitated by Belarusian officials.
Almost 4,200 irregular migrants crossed into Lithuania from Belarus illegally last year.
Lithuania calls the unprecedented influx of migrants from Belarus, which began more than a year ago, a "hybrid attack" by the Minsk regime.
VILNIUS, Oct 28, BNS - The United States supports Lithuania's bid to accelerate the Baltic states' synchronization and their disconnection from the BRELL electricity ring, Lithuanian Energy Minister Dainius Kreivys, currently in Washington, says.
"The United States is the guarantor of our security, not only in the area of defense but also in the area energy security. The US fully supports Lithuania's ambition to accelerate the Baltic states' synchronization and their disconnection from the BRELL electricity ring as early as possible, without waiting until 2025," the minister was quoted as saying in a statement released by his ministry on Friday.
On Thursday in Washington, Kreivys briefed US Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm on the energy security situation in Lithuania.
"Russia's energy blackmail and geopolitical manipulations in the gas market are increasing the likelihood of unilateral actions against EU countries, and faster synchronization with continental Europe's electricity grids would help ensure greater energy security for the Baltic states," Kreivys said.
According to the report, the US energy secretary expressed her full support for Lithuania's intentions and expressed interest in Lithuania's preparations for the winter season.
VILNIUS, Oct 28, BNS – Lithuania has recorded 383 new coronavirus infections and three deaths from COVID-19 over the past 24 hours, official statistics showed on Friday morning.
Of the new cases, 301 were primary, 79 were secondary, two were tertiary, and one person contracted the virus for a fourth time.
The number of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 now stands at 122, including 13 ICU cases.
The 14-day primary infection rate has edged down to 234.7 cases per 100,000 people, with the seven-day percentage of positive tests down to 24.4 percent.
The daily number of new coronavirus cases remains well below the peak of over 14,000 reached in early February.
More than 1.2 million people in Lithuania have tested positive with COVID-19 at least once.
Some 70 percent of the Lithuanian population have received at least one coronavirus vaccine jab so far.
VILNIUS, Oct 28, BNS – The Lithuanian Defense Ministry on Friday unveiled plans to accelerate the formation of the country's active military reserve, assign each reservist to a specific military unit and purchase weapons for the reserve brigade.
The aim is to have an active reserve of 36,000 troops and bring the prepared reserve of military personnel close to 120,000 by 2025, it said in a press release.
By the end of this year, each member of the active reserve will be assigned to a specific unit to which they will be called up for service or to refresh their skills, according to Defense Minister Arvydas Anusauskas.
"From next year onwards, active reserve conscripts will be called up to their unit to update their skills, and the number of conscripts called up will double in 2024 compared to 2021," the minister said in the press release.
"Training programs are also being updated to bring them in line with the needs of the armed forces and the newly acquired modern weapons," he added.
The active reserve is made up of conscripts who have served in the Armed Forces in the past ten years. They are trained, equipped and assigned to a military unit.
The prepared reserve of the Armed Forces consists of all Lithuanian citizens up to the age of 60 who have completed their military training and active military service.
Additional quantities of individual weapons and equipment should reach the Armed Forces in the near future to fully equip the units assigned to the Armed Forces' wartime structure, according to Anusauskas.
The acquisition of new modern weapons as part of the Armed Forces' modernization allows allocating existing weapons to the reserve brigade, the ministry said.
VILNIUS, Oct 28, BNS – Professor Jolanta Urbanovic of Mykolas Romeris University is set to join Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda's team on November 7 as an advisor on education issues, the president's office said on Friday.
Paulius Baltokas, until now a member of Nauseda's Education, Science and Culture Group, has been appointed as the president's representative in the Seimas and will work in the Domestic Policy Group from October 31.
Reda Brandisauskiene, until recently Nauseda's representative in the parliament, has resigned as presidential advisor for personal reasons, according to the press release.
Urbanovic is a professor at the Institute of Public Administration of Mykolas Romeris University and the head of the Master's program in Education and Science Policy and Management.
She served as education, science and sport vice-minister in 2019-2020.
VILNIUS, Oct 28, BNS – Assistance to Ukraine and the strengthening of NATO's eastern flank are two sides of the same coin, Viktorija Cmilyte-Nielsen, speaker of the Lithuanian parliament, said in Riga on Friday.
Cmilyte-Nielsen said at the opening of the 41st session of the Baltic Assembly that in the face of the war in Ukraine, parliamentarians play a very important role in supporting people's determination not to surrender, according to the Lithuanian parliament's public relations office.
"The Kremlin is betting that come winter, people will be scared of rising electricity prices and inflation, the war against Ukraine will become routine, and aggression will be overshadowed by other world events," she was quoted as saying in a press release.
"I am therefore calling on you to show that the Kremlin cannot be more wrong, as it has been so often in this war," she said.
Alongside efforts to help Ukraine, it is necessary to work towards the security of the Baltic States and to bolster NATO's eastern flank, as any failure to protect at least one NATO member "would deal an irreversible blow to the Alliance itself", according to Cmilyte-Nielsen.
"I see assistance to Ukraine and strengthening NATO's eastern flank as two sides of the same coin," she said.
The speaker underlined the need to supply Ukraine with advanced air defense systems and to ensure that those responsible for Russian crimes in Ukraine are brought to justice.
"It is necessary to continue to exert all-out pressure on Russia without hesitation, to impose new sanctions and to properly enforce existing ones. Our immediate and long-term support for Ukraine's reconstruction is also essential," she said.
VILNIUS, Oct 28, BNS – The Lithuanian state may spend around 550 million euros less than planned to cover part of natural gas and electricity bills for households and businesses next year, meaning that inflation will not decelerate as rapidly as expected, a central bank economist said on Friday.
Given the current electricity market prices, the Bank of Lithuania estimates that the state may need 313 million euros less than planned for subsidies for households and 177 million euros less for businesses, according to Vaidotas Tuzikas, principal economist at the central bank's Macroeconomics and Forecasting Division.
Electricity prices on the Nord Pool power exchange averaged 200 euros per megawatt-hour in October.
"If the price of electricity on the power exchange stayed at this level throughout next year, the need for compensation would likely be lower," Tuzikas told the parliamentary Committee on Budget and Finance.
The 2023 draft budget earmarks 812 million euros for covering part of households' natural gas and electricity bills, and another 234 million euros for price subsidies for businesses.
The Bank of Lithuania estimates that if the planned amount were fully used, inflation would fall by about three percentage points in 2023 and by two points in 2024.
However, the central bank forecasts that inflation next year will be driven up by planned increases in wages, the non-taxable income threshold and social benefits.
"Measures to increase people's incomes (excluding the amount planned for electricity and gas price subsidies) will raise inflation by 0.2-0.6 percentage points in 2023 and by 0.1-0.7 percentage points in 2024," it said.
By Sniegė Balčiūnaitė
Editor: Roma Pakėnienė
VILNIUS, Oct 28, BNS - Russian President Vladimir Putin's threats to use nuclear weapons now resemble North Korea's similar behavior, Lithuanian Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte, currently in Japan, says.
In a statement issued on Friday, the Lithuanian prime minister stressed that Japan, which is situated not far from North Korea, is constantly watching how its representatives "from time to time allow themselves to go out and brandish nuclear weapons".
"Clearly, this is very similar to Putin's threats. Obviously, Japan takes this threat very seriously. It's certainly a matter of great concern and apprehension since it's one of the countries that have survived a nuclear tragedy," Simonyte said.
"Clearly, the global effort aimed at stopping the madmen who even think they can talk about using nuclear weapons, must be more focused than ever," the Lithuanian prime minister said.
Simonyte said she heard Japanese politicians and business people's support for Ukraine in its fight against the Russian invasion as they understand that "one cannot surrender to autocratic regimes, and democracies must unite to support Ukraine".
Putin has made numerous threats to use nuclear weapons ever since he started the invasion of Ukraine in late February. Most recently, he has accused Kyiv of allegedly preparing to use a "dirty bomb".
These statements have raised concern within the international community that Russia may try to use this statement as a pretext to escalate the situation.
Kyiv suspects that Russia itself may use a "dirty bomb" and blame it on the Ukrainians to justify the use of conventional nuclear weapons after Moscow has recently suffered several military defeats in southern and eastern Ukraine.
Meanwhile, nuclear-armed Pyongyang is a constant source of concern for its neighbors and the international community because of its ballistic missile launches.
VILNIUS, Oct 28, BNS - Despite the existing geopolitical and economic uncertainty, the Lithuanian government should not delay tax reforms or at least decision-making, Gediminas Simkus, board chairman of the central Bank of Lithuania, says.
In his words, the country's tax system is still a thriving "cattle farm" and it is in the state's interest to put it in order.
"We believe there are gaps in our tax system as we have a very large VAT gap, we also have a "cattle farm", and our real estate tax base is also very narrow, and our country collects very little in environmental taxes. These are the many things that can and should be done better sooner than later," Simkus told reporters on Friday.
"Perhaps, we could do some changes to the tax system that would come into force after some time, with some transitional periods. But we cannot avoid these issues and not to address them. We have to put them on the table, discuss them and make decisions," the central banker said.
He says he cannot justify delaying the tax reform on the grounds of the ongoing war in Ukraine, economic slowdown and inflation.
"There is always something going on in life but we have to decide what is important for us as a country because a well-functioning tax system is the foundation of our public finances," Simkus said.
He earlier called for a debate on property and environmental taxes and he was also against the proposal to extend indefinitely existing VAT relief for hotels, which was set to expire this year.
In an interview with BNS in early October, Lithuanian Finance Minister Gintare Skaiste said her ministry had prepared a tax relief review, but she did not believe at the time it should be put forward for discussion and adoption amid the existing economic uncertainty.
Meanwhile, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development has suggested that the Lithuanian government should cut tax relief measures and introduce environmental taxes. Earlier this year, the government , however, dropped plans to introduce a car pollution tax.
By Remigijus Bielinskas
Editor: Roma Pakėnienė
VILNIUS, Oct 28, BNS – Finnish President Sauli Niinisto is expected to pay a visit to Lithuania next week.
He is scheduled to meet with Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda on Friday, November 4.
The two leaders "will discuss the security situation in Europe, Finland's NATO membership and bilateral cooperation, as well as cooperation in the European Union and energy issues," Nauseda's office said on Friday.
The bilateral meeting will be followed by a joint press conference, it said.
Niinisto's visit to Lithuania was originally planned for November 2021, but was postponed due to the Finnish president's illness.
VILNIUS, Oct 28, BNS - Two more films from Lithuania, Sergei Loznitsa's documentary Mr. Landsbergis. Destroy the Evil Empire and Limousine, Saule Bliuvaite's documentary short, have been chosen to represent Lithuania and vie for an Oscar, the Lithuanian Film Center announced on Friday.
The two films have been proposed for the awards by the US Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' commission in Lithuania. They will join the ranks of Laurynas Bareisa's Pilgrims which had already been approved by the commission.
Mr. Landsbergis. To Destroy the Evil Empireis a contender in the documentary category, while Limousine will try to get into the documentary short category.
The two films are contenders for an Oscar nomination after they won in the competition programs of A-grade festivals. Limousine was awarded the Best Documentary Short Film prize at the Warsaw International Film Festival in 2021, and Mr. Landsbergis was the winner of the Best Documentary Award at the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA) last year.
Loznitsa's film is also up for nomination at this year's prestigious European Film Awards.
Loznitsa film made its debut in 2021 and tells about the endless desire for freedom.
"This film is important as a reminder that courage is the most important weapon in the hands of even a small nation, capable of destroying an evil empire," the film director said.
According to the Lithuanian Film Center, Bliuvaite's Limousine looks at people from different generations who rent a limousine for one hour. In such a short time, the passengers experience moments of anger, happiness and sadness as they try to fulfill their vision of a party.
VILNIUS, Oct 28, BNS – Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis is to pay a visit to Vilnius on Monday.
Mitsotakis is coming to Lithuania at the invitation of Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte.
He is also scheduled to meet with Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda to discuss bilateral relations and cooperation within NATO in implementing the Madrid Summit's decisions, the president's office told BNS on Friday.
Nauseda also plans to discuss with Mitsotakis cooperation in the EU format on energy security and further military, political and humanitarian support to Ukraine to help it counter Russia's military aggression, it said.
VILNIUS, Oct 28, BNS – The following events are scheduled in Lithuania for Monday, October 31, 2022:
PRESIDENT Gitanas Nauseda to meet with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis at 2:40 p.m.
THE SEIMAS to host at 9 a.m. a discussion on "Rethinking Russia: Which lessons does the war against Ukraine teach us about Russia?"
PRIME MINISTER Ingrida Simonyte and Mitsotakis to hold a bilateral meeting at 12:05 p.m., to be followed by a meeting of the prime ministers and delegations at 12:25 p.m., and a joint press conference by the prime ministers at 12:50 p.m.