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LITHUANIA DAILY NEWS BULLETIN, October 27, 2023

Nov 03 2023

LITHUANIA DAILY NEWS BULLETIN


IN THIS ISSUE:

  1. Upcoming events in Lithuania for Friday, October 27, 2023
  2. Eighteen irregular migrants turned away on Lithuania's border with Belarus
  3. Lithuanian leader says it's 'very bold' to expect EU budget review deal this year 
  4. Lithuania reports 421 new COVID-19 cases, no deaths
  5. Ministers to discuss critical infrastructure security in Vilnius after Baltic Sea incident
  6. Reconstruction of Via Baltica's 1st section completed in Lithuania
  7. Lithuania's Kaunas Airport starts installing new generation baggage scanners
  8. Exercise planned to test Belarusian border closure algorithm – Lithuanian minister
  9. Exercise planned to test Belarusian border closure algorithm – Lithuanian minister (expands)
  10. Lithuania sends military ship to monitor NordBalt link after Baltic Sea incidents 
  11. Lithuania sees Singapore as partner in pursuing rules-based order – formin 
  12. Lithuania opens embassy in Singapore 
  13. Lithuania's FinMin provides EC with data to get 'frozen' EUR 26 mln
  14. Lithuanian leader urges EU to step up efforts to deal with migration challenges
  15. Lithuanian army helicopter evacuates sick passenger off ferry

Upcoming events in Lithuania for Friday, October 27, 2023

VILNIUS, Oct 27, BNS – The following events are scheduled in Lithuania for Friday, October 27, 2023:

PRESIDENT Gitanas Nauseda attending a European Council meting in Brussels.

SPEAKER OF THE SEIMAS Viktorija Cmilyte-Nielsen to continue her visit to Japan.

EDUCATION, SCIENCE AND SPORT MINISTER Gintaras Jakstas to meet with Georgian Ambassador to Lithuania Salome Shapakidze at 10.30.m.

FOREIGN MINISTER Gabrielius Landsbergis to pay a working visit to Singapore.

INTERIOR MINISTER Agne Bilotaite to meet with her Latvian, Estonian, Ukrainian and Finnish counterparts and the Polish and Norwegian vice ministers at 9 a.m., followed by a press conference at 11.30 a.m.

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Eighteen irregular migrants turned away on Lithuania's border with Belarus

VILNIUS, Oct 27, BNS – Lithuanian border guards have in the past 24 hours turned away 18 migrants attempting to cross into the country from Belarus illegally, the State Border Guard Service (SBGS) said on Friday morning.

Latvia reported 144 attempts at illegal border crossings on Thursday, and 43 irregular migrants were not allowed into Poland on Wednesday, according to the latest available information.

A total of 2,184 irregular migrants have been barred from entering Lithuania from Belarus at non-designated places so far this year.

Lithuanian border guards have prevented a total of almost 21,400 people from crossing in from Belarus since August 3, 2021, when they were given the right to turn away irregular migrants. The number includes repeated attempts by the same people to cross the border.

The influx of irregular migrants to the EU's eastern member states from Belarus began in 2021 and is blamed by the West on the Minsk regime.

Almost 4,200 irregular migrants crossed into Lithuania from Belarus illegally in 2021. However, the vast majority of them fled Lithuania once they were allowed to move freely.

 

 

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Lithuanian leader says it's 'very bold' to expect EU budget review deal this year 

VILNIUS, Oct 27, BNS – Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda said last night that it is "very bold" to expect EU member states to agree on a revision of the bloc's long-term budget by the end of this year, but added that it remains possible.

The proposed budget revision includes an additional 50 billion euros to support the economy of Ukraine which is fighting back against Russia's invasion. 

Reaching a deal this year is important because Ukraine will start to need the extra funds early next year, the Lithuanian president said after EU leaders discussed the budget revision at their summit in Brussels, among other issues.  

The extra billion euros for Ukraine is the most contentious issue in discussions among EU member states on the mid-term revision of the 2021-2027 budget, as the bloc's "frugal" nations call for the funds to be reallocated from other areas rather than providing additional resources.

Meanwhile, Hungary and Slovakia oppose additional support for Ukraine in principle.

"I would probably have to agree with the view that until we have resolved these fundamental issues, it is very bold to expect us (to agree on the budget) in the next two months. It is possible, but very optimistic," Nauseda told the public broadcaster LRT after Thursday's meeting. 

"The drama here is that Ukraine will start to run out of this money at the beginning of next year, so we can't allow our disagreements to prevent Ukraine from having access to the funds it desperately needs," he added.

The president said that the majority of EU member countries agree on the need for additional financial assistance to Ukraine and that he is confident that it will eventually be provided.

"Despite all the challenges in the Middle East, we have to seek not only military aid instruments, but also to help Ukraine not to collapse as an economy and as a state, which is impossible without financial injections," he said.

Nauseda also said that he called for additional funds for military mobility projects in the revised budget.

At the European Council meeting, the president also urged the bloc's member states to adopt the 12th package of sanctions against Russia, his office said in a press release.  

 

By Saulius Jakučionis

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Lithuania reports 421 new COVID-19 cases, no deaths

VILNIUS, Oct 27, BNS – Lithuania has recorded 421 new coronavirus infections and no deaths from COVID-19 over the past 24 hours, official statistics showed on Friday morning.

The number of COVID-19 patients in hospitals stands at 99, including four ICU cases. 

The 14-day primary infection rate has risen to 176.4 cases per 100,000 people, with the seven-day percentage of positive tests at 29.7 percent.

The number of new coronavirus cases hit the peak in Lithuania in early February 2022 when more than 14,000 new infections were recorded daily. Around 1.19 million people in Lithuania have tested positive for COVID-19 at least once.

COVID-19 incidence in Lithuania took an upward turn in mid-September after having stayed at a low level since May. 

Some 68.5 percent of people in the country have received at least one coronavirus vaccine jab so far, according to the statistics.

 

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Ministers to discuss critical infrastructure security in Vilnius after Baltic Sea incident

VILNIUS, Oct 27, BNS – Lithuanian Interior Minister Agne Bilotaite is hosting her counterparts from the region's countries in Vilnius on Friday for talks on critical infrastructure security in the wake of a recent Baltic Sea incident where a gas pipeline and a telecommunications cable were damaged.

Officials from Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Poland, Ukraine, Finland and Norway are also expected to discuss hybrid threats, border protection, migration, and civil protection.

Information and cyber security is also on the agenda following a wave of hoax bomb threats targeting various establishments in the Baltic countries in recent weeks. 

"All the countries in the region that share a border with Russia and Belarus face similar challenges, primarily illegal migration and other hybrid attacks," said Bilotaite.

"The aim of this meeting is to talk about common threats, joint actions and collective resilience in a broad format of as many as seven countries," she added.

Officials said earlier that during the meeting in Vilnius, the ministers could also agree on common criteria for closing the borders with Belarus and Russia.

Poland and the Baltic states started to consider closing their borders with Belarus after several thousand Wagner mercenaries relocated to the country. However, some of the fighters left Belarus following the death of the Russian mercenary group's leaders. 

 

 

By Augustas Stankevičius

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Reconstruction of Via Baltica's 1st section completed in Lithuania

VILNIUS, Oct 27, BNS - The reconstruction of the almost 6-km-long section of the Via Baltica highway is being completed on Friday. This is the first section of the reconstructed Via Baltica from the southern city of Marijampole to the Lithuanian-Polish border to be completed in Lithuania.

The Kaunas-Marijampole-Suwalki section has been reconstructed into a four-lane highway, with interconnecting and connecting roads at different levels for a total length of 15 km, Lithuania's first green bridge for the migration of animals, a tunnel passage, and acoustic barriers. A 78-meter-long viaduct has also been built.

The reconstruction work has cost around 55.8 million euros and has been carried out by Fegda.

The entire 40-km-long road between Marijampole and the Lithuanian-Polish section will be reconstructed into a four-lane highway by 2025, and will be adapted for both civilian and military mobility needs.

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Lithuania's Kaunas Airport starts installing new generation baggage scanners

KAUNAS, Lithuania, Oct 27, BNS – Lithuania's Kaunas Airport has started installing new generation baggage scanners that will allow passengers to undergo screening without the need to remove electronic devices and liquids from their suitcases or backpacks, Lietuvos Oro Uostai (Lithuanian Airports, LTOU), the airport operator in Lithuania, says.

The airport also warns that passengers may experience some short-term inconveniences in some periods in November due to the installation works, but later on the new generation technology will make passenger baggage screening more convenient and less stressful.

According to LTOU, the new-standard scanners and lines will help to handle more passengers over the same period of time, and passengers will no longer have to remove any electronic devices or liquids from their hand luggage, although they will still have to be in containers of under 100 ml. The total amount of liquids per passenger will also continue to be limited to 1 liter.

The new scanners should be operational by January.

Dimark S.A., a Polish company, won LTOU's international public tender for the installation of next-generation scanners and baggage lines in 2022, with the project's total value standing at 5.8 million euros, excluding VAT.

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Exercise planned to test Belarusian border closure algorithm – Lithuanian minister

VILNIUS, Oct 27, BNS - A regional exercise is planned to test the agreed algorithms for closing the border with Belarus, Lithuanian Interior Minister Agne Bilotaite says.

"Those criteria are already in place, we have agreed to even hold some exercises involving our institutions," the minister said on Friday after meeting in Vilnius with representatives from the Interior Ministries of Latvia, Estonia, Ukraine, Finland, Poland and Norway.

"Today, we discussed the more general context of possible situations, and today we confirmed that the format that we had in Warsaw and our joint action was a very serious signal, first of all, to Belarus, and they have certainly felt that we are very seriously prepared to act together in a coordinated manner," Bilotaite said.

She said that a test would be carried out "to see how the algorithm could work during such regional exercises".

"Those things are foreseen and we are planning to do that," she said.

In late August, the interior ministers of Lithuania, Latvia and Poland agreed that their borders with Belarus could be closed in the event of an armed incident involving illegal migrants.

It was also agreed that in the event of one of these criteria, there would be an operational exchange of information, firstly at the inter-institutional level, and then a decision would be made at the inter-governmental level.

"We want to have similar criteria and we are coordinating and will continue coordinating them, but today's agenda did not include a dedicated item to discuss in detail the criteria themselves. We plan to do that at the technical level," the minister said on Friday.

Lithuania has closed two of its six border checkpoints with Belarus.

The Belarusian opposition has asked for humanitarian corridors to be left open for people fleeing the Belarusian regime's crackdown to be able to enter countries in the region.

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Exercise planned to test Belarusian border closure algorithm – Lithuanian minister (expands)

(Updated version: updates throughout)

VILNIUS, Oct 27, BNS - A regional exercise is planned to test the agreed algorithms for closing the border with Belarus, Lithuanian Interior Minister Agne Bilotaite says.

"Those criteria are already in place, we have agreed to even hold some exercises involving our institutions," the minister said on Friday after meeting in Vilnius with representatives from the Interior Ministries of Latvia, Estonia, Ukraine, Finland, Poland and Norway.

"Today, we discussed the more general context of possible situations, and today we confirmed that the format that we had in Warsaw and our joint action was a very serious signal, first of all, to Belarus, and they have certainly felt that we are very seriously prepared to act together in a coordinated manner," Bilotaite said.

She said that a test would be carried out "to see how the algorithm could work during such regional exercises".

"Those things are foreseen and we are planning to do that," she said.

Coordinated criteria

In late August, the interior ministers of Lithuania, Latvia and Poland agreed that their borders with Belarus could be closed in the event of an armed incident involving illegal migrants.

It was also agreed that in the event of one of these criteria, there would be an operational exchange of information, firstly at the inter-institutional level, and then a decision would be made at the inter-governmental level.

"We want to have similar criteria and we are coordinating and will continue coordinating them, but today's agenda did not include a dedicated item to discuss in detail the criteria themselves. We plan to do that at the technical level," the minister said on Friday.

Lithuania has closed two of its six border checkpoints with Belarus.

The Belarusian opposition has asked for humanitarian corridors to be left open for people fleeing the Belarusian regime's crackdown to be able to enter countries in the region.

Need for border guards

Irregular migration in the region was also discussed during the meeting. Latvia has recently seen an increase in the inflow of irregular migrants as the country recorded as many as 144 attempts to enter illegally over the past 24 hours alone.

Lithuania is also providing assistance to Latvia and sends its border guards every two weeks to help protect the Latvian-Belarusian border.

Latvian Interior Minister Rihards Kozlovskis told reporters that the number of attempts to cross into the country has stabilized, and there is no need for additional help from neighboring countries.

"We are approximately at the same pressure level. If the situation becomes worse, yes, we will ask our closest neighbors for more support," the Latvian minister said.

The influx of migrants from Belarus to the EU's eastern member states started in 2021 and the West blames the Minsk regime for it. Almost 4,200 migrants entered Lithuania illegally from Belarus then, but most of them have left the country since movement restrictions were lifted.

Support for Ukraine

Ukrainian Interior Minister Ihor Klymenko thanked the countries in the region for their support to his country as it has been fighting against the Russian invasion since February 2022.

Ukrainian border guards had taken all necessary measures to ensure that none of the weapons used in the war illegally entered the European Union, he said.

Speaking of the country's demining missions, he expects more support from countries in the region.

We are in dire need of addition equipment, for example, demining machines," Klymenko said and also stressed the importance of humanitarian and medical assistance.

In his words, Russia will soon step up its attacks on energy infrastructure, therefore, it needs proper protection, and Ukraine also needs generators.

At the meeting, Klymenko also said he discussed cyber and information security issues, stressing the need for swift information exchange in order to properly ensure the security of both Ukraine and the region.

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Lithuania sends military ship to monitor NordBalt link after Baltic Sea incidents 

KLAIPEDA, Lithuania, Oct 27, BNS – The Lithuanian Navy has dispatched a mine countermeasures vessel to monitor the NordBalt power link with Sweden, in response to incidents in the Baltic Sea where a gas pipeline and a telecommunications cable between Finland and Estonia were damaged. 

According to the Navy, an inspection of the NordBalt cable in the Baltic Sea area assigned to it has found that the cable is safe. 

"The main undersea infrastructure is the NordBalt power cable connecting Sweden and Lithuania. In response to the situation in the Baltic Sea, the Navy has sent its mine countermeasures ship to monitor this cable to ensure that are no submarine objects nearby and that the facility is under surveillance for added security," Lithuanian Navy Commander Giedrius Premeneckas told reporters on Friday. 

The monitoring of the Butinge crude terminal has also been reinforced. 

The military say they are maintaining communication and exchanging information with the NATO headquarters. 

The Finish and Estonian natural gas system operators said on October 8 that they had detected an unusual pressure drop in Balticconnector, which led them to shut down the gas flow.

On October 10, Helsinki said that a telecom cable between Finland and Estonia, both NATO members, had also been damaged and that the leak in the gas pipeline had been likely caused by external activity.  

Finnish police said Tuesday they believed that the pipeline had been damaged by a Chinese container ship's dislodged anchor.

 

By Jurgita Andriejauskaitė

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Lithuania sees Singapore as partner in pursuing rules-based order – formin 

VILNIUS, Oct 27, BNS – The European Union and the Indo-Pacific countries share a common interest in ensuring that the rules-based international order remains resilient and capable of withstanding geopolitical and economic shocks, Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis said as he met with his Singaporean counterpart Vivian Balakrishnan on Friday.

"In Lithuania's Indo-Pacific strategy, we see Singapore as an important like-minded partner in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), and we want a more active political dialogue in order to jointly strengthen the rules-based order," Lithuania's top diplomat said in a press release. 

"We live in turbulent times. Whether it is the brutal war that Russia is waging against its sovereign neighbor Ukraine, or the violence in the Middle East, or the growing uncertainty in this region, all signs point to our shared interest in uniting around a rules-based system that ensures the security and well-being of both European and Southeast Asian people," he said. 

According to Landsbergis, Lithuania wants to attract more Singaporean investment in its sectors with growth potential, such as biotechnology, fintech, software and IT services.

During their meeting in Singapore, the two ministers also discussed support for Ukraine, and the implications of Russia's war for the region and global security.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Lithuania and Singapore. 

From October 24 to 31, Landsbergis, along with a Lithuanian business delegation, is visiting Vietnam, Singapore and Indonesia.

 

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Lithuania opens embassy in Singapore 

VILNIUS, Oct 27, BNS – Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis officially opened Lithuania's embassy to Singapore on Friday.  

In his speech, the minister said that this marked "the opening of yet another gateway to Southeast Asia", according to the Lithuanian Foreign Ministry. 

"This embassy is indeed a symbol of Lithuania's new relationship with the Indo-Pacific region and its growing friendship with Singapore. As we like to say in Europe, for our freedom and yours," he said. 

Landsbergis said that this step is in line with Lithuania's strategic commitment to expand its relations with the Indo-Pacific region.

"During the term of this government, we have already opened our embassies to Australia and South Korea, and a trade representative office in Taiwan," he noted.

Ambassador Darius Gaidys said Lithuania sees Singapore as a reliable intermediary for accessing other Southeast Asian markets in Southeast Asia.

"Lithuania, despite being a maritime nation, has not had a wide reach to the South East Asian region so far," the diplomat said. 

"The official opening of the embassy in the presence of the Lithuanian and Singaporean ministers symbolizes the expansion of maritime, land and air routes for Lithuanian businesses, tourism and cultural exchanges," he added. 

According to the Foreign Ministry, bilateral trade between Lithuania and Singapore amounts to 223.5 million euros.

 

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Lithuania's FinMin provides EC with data to get 'frozen' EUR 26 mln

VILNIUS, Oct 27, BNS - Lithuania has submitted all the necessary data and arguments to the European Commission to receive the "frozen" 26 million euros under the Recovery and Resilience Facility, the Finance Ministry told BNS on Friday. 

"The European Commission will assess the information provided within two months and will then make a decision," the ministry said. 

The government was to submit the documents to the EC by Saturday, October 28. 

Brussels has been informed about the amendments on the "green" excise duties and environmental pollution taxes, already adopted by the Seimas, as well as a bill on a new real estate tax model, also submitted to the Seimas.

The EC has already transferred more than half a billion euros to Lithuania this year, but 26 million euros have been withheld due to failure to implement tax requirements on time. 

If the EC adopts a positive assessment on the latter law, the government will receive the withheld money early next year.

In May, the European Commission paid Lithuania the first RRF installment of 542.3 million euros for the first around 30 indicators.

Earlier this week, the EC approved an updated package of 3.85 billion in RRF funds for Lithuania, but rejected Lithuania's request for a delay in deadlines related to tax changes. According to the Commission, Lithuania has one more month to submit possible additional comments on this issue.

The government is seeking to postpone the RRF plan deadlines related to tax changes as the tax reform has stalled in the parliament.

The bill on the new real estate tax model has also not reached the Seimas fall for the final vote as its adoption has been postponed until November following disputes.

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Lithuanian leader urges EU to step up efforts to deal with migration challenges

VILNIUS, Oct 27, BNS – Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda on Friday urged the European Union to step up its efforts to deal with the challenges of irregular migration. 

In his speech at the European Council, Nauseda said that "not only the migratory pressure in the Mediterranean countries, but also the situation at the EU eastern borders calls for decisive action at the EU level", according to a press release by his office. 

In the Lithuanian leader's words, attention must be paid both to protecting the EU's external borders and to engaging with the countries of origin of irregular migration.

"The instrumentalization of migrants at the EU's eastern borders continues," said Nauseda. "For two years now, we have been facing the phenomenon which requires not only adequate preparation and prompt response, but also legal measures at the EU level." 

Lithuania and some other EU states want the Schengen Border Code to include the concept of migration instrumentalization, references to all types of stationary and mobile border security infrastructure, common minimum border surveillance standards, and the possibility for member states facing migration instrumentalization to take the relevant national measures.

However, the European Parliament's Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs in September voted in favor of removing all provisions related to the instrumentalization of migration from the draft amendments to the Schengen Code.

Almost 4,200 migrants entered Lithuania illegally from Belarus in 2021. However, the vast majority of them fled Lithuania once they were allowed to move freely.

Lithuanian border guards have prevented a total of almost 22,000 people from crossing in from Belarus since August 3, 2021, when they were given the right to turn away irregular migrants. The number includes repeated attempts by the same people to cross the border.

 

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Lithuanian army helicopter evacuates sick passenger off ferry

VILNIUS, Oct 27, BNS – A Lithuanian Air Force helicopter airlifted a sick passenger off a ferry on Friday, the army said.

The Navy's Maritime Rescue Coordination Center received a report from the Aura Seaways ferry that a passenger had fallen ill. The centre sent a AS365 Dauphin helicopter with a medic at 2.57 p.m.

The ferry was on its way to Klaipeda and was about 50 nautical miles (about 90 km) off the coast at the time.

After the ferry's medic assessed the passenger's condition, a decision was made to airlift the person and take them to one of hospitals in Klaipeda.

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