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LITHUANIA DAILY NEWS BULLETIN, December 14, 2023

LITHUANIA DAILY NEWS BULLETIN


IN THIS ISSUE:

  1. Lithuania records no illegal border crossings from Belarus
  2. Lithuanian president in Brussels urges Western Balkans to support Kyiv
  3. Lithuanian president, other EU leaders seek to break Hungary's veto on Ukraine
  4. Lithuania signs contract to buy new NASAMS air defense system
  5. Lithuania signs EUR 200 mln contract to buy new NASAMS air defense system (expands)
  6. Lithuania reports 1,219 new COVID-19 cases, no deaths
  7. Latvians' concern over nuclear waste border disposal 'premature' – Lithuanian minister
  8. Lithuanian president ready to invite political parties for defense talks – advisor
  9. Lithuanian MPs to decide on banning troops from traveling to unfriendly countries
  10. Lithuanian president, other EU leaders seek to break Hungary's veto on Ukraine (updates)
  11. Failure to convince Hungary would move talks on Ukraine's future to March – Landsbergis
  12. German brigade deployment plan to be signed next week – Lithuanian DefMin
  13. Presidential office stalls appointment of Polish ambassador – Lithuanian formin
  14. Lithuanian parlt OKs use of night sights for hunting
  15. German brigade deployment plan to be signed next week – Lithuanian DefMin (expands)
  16. Appointment of Lithuania's ambassador to Poland has taken too long – PM
  17. Residence permit issuance suspended for 2,000 Belarusians in Lithuania – Tsikhanouskaya
  18. Residence permit issuance suspended for 2,000 Belarusians in Lithuania – Tsikhanouskaya (expands)
  19. Lithuanian parlt bans professional troops from traveling to unfriendly countries
  20. Upcoming events in Lithuania for Friday, December 15, 2023

Lithuania records no illegal border crossings from Belarus

VILNIUS, Dec 14, BNS – Lithuanian border guards have in the past 24 hours turned away ... migrants attempting to cross into the country from Belarus illegally, the State Border Guard Service (SBGS) said on Thursday morning.

Latvia reported 16 attempts at illegal border crossings on Wednesday, and 13 irregular migrants were not allowed into Poland on Tuesday, according to the latest available information.

More than 2,500 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 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.

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 president in Brussels urges Western Balkans to support Kyiv

VILNIUS, Dec 14, BNS – Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda took part in Wednesday's EU-Western Balkans summit in Brussels to discuss security policies and the progress of the region's integration into the bloc.

At the summit, Nauseda emphasized that "synchronizing" the Western Balkan's position with the EU's foreign and security policies is essential for closer cooperation, his office said in a press release.

The Lithuanian president called on Western Balkan leaders to implement the EU's sanctions against Russia and Belarus and to prevent the circumvention of the restrictions. 

"If we want peace and stability in Europe, we must make every effort to support Ukraine," Nauseda said in the press release.

"If Russia's aggression is not stopped in Ukraine, Europe will face new attempts by Russia to ignite conflicts and foment discord in neighboring countries, including the Western Balkans," he said. 

The president underlined the significance of EU enlargement for the well-being of Europe as a whole and underscored Lithuania's support for the enlargement process in the Western Balkans, based on reforms, especially in the areas of the fight against corruption, the rule of law, and the independence of judiciary, according to the press release. 

According to Nauseda, regional cooperation and good relations among Western Balkan countries also remain important.

He urged Serbia and Kosovo to make efforts to de-escalate tensions and return to constructive dialogue.

 

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Lithuanian president, other EU leaders seek to break Hungary's veto on Ukraine

BRUSSELS, Dec 14, BNS – EU leaders are starting in Brussels on Thursday two days of intensive talks on a 50-billion-euro financial package to Ukraine and the opening of accession negotiations with Kyiv. 

Both measures require the unanimous approval of all 27 member states, but have so far been opposed by Hungary.

On the eve of the European Council summit, the European Commission released 10 billion euros of funding for Hungary, saying that the country has taken measures to improve the judiciary's independence. However, around 20 billion euros in EU money remains blocked. 

Critics accuse the Commission of giving in to Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban's "blackmail". Brussels rejects the criticism, insisting that the funds have been unblocked because Budapest has met its commitments.

The Commission proposed a review of the bloc's budget back in the summer, including a new financial instrument to support Kyiv. These funds, made up of grants and loans, amount to around 50 billion euros.

It is said in the corridors of Brussels that if efforts to persuade Hungary to back the aid package fail, the remaining 26 member states could set up a separate assistance fund for Ukraine.

The start of Ukraine's membership negotiations poses more challenges, as such a decision requires a unanimous vote.

Nauseda says that by blocking the opening of Ukraine's accession talks, Hungary gives "additional arguments to the camp of sceptics who say that we have to move to simple or qualified majority voting" in the EU.   

"We certainly don't want that. I think Hungary, as a rather small country, should not want that," he told reporters on the eve of the talks.

Budapest says that Ukraine's accession talks remain a "red line" for Hungary. According to Orban, Ukraine is one of the most corrupt countries in the world and is not ready to join the EU.

 

By Augustas Stankevičius

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Lithuania signs contract to buy new NASAMS air defense system

VILNIUS, Dec 14, BNS – The Lithuanian Defense Ministry has signed a contract to purchase a new NASAMS system.

This marks the start of the second phase of procurement of the medium-range air defense system, the ministry said in a press release on Thursday. 

"This week, an acquisition contract was signed with Kongsberg Defense and Aerospace, the Norwegian company that produces the system," it said. 

Part of the NASAMS equipment acquired in the second phase is expected to be delivered to Lithuania in 2026.

The Defense Ministry launched the first NASAMS procurement phase in 2016. The system reached Lithuania in 2020 and was successfully integrated into its Armed Forces in 2022, after the completion of personnel training.

 

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Lithuania signs EUR 200 mln contract to buy new NASAMS air defense system (expands)

VILNIUS, Dec 14, BNS – The Lithuanian Defense Ministry has signed a 200-million-euro contract to purchase a new NASAMS system from its Norwegian manufacturer.

This marks the start of the second phase of procurement of the medium-range air defense system, the ministry said in a press release on Thursday. 

"In order to strengthen the country's air defense in the most effective way, the Lithuanian Armed Forces will purchase and further develop the NASAMS system," it said. "This week, an acquisition contract was signed with Kongsberg Defense and Aerospace, the Norwegian company that produces the system."  

According to the ministry, the value of the newly-procured NASAMS system is around 200 million euros. This covers system components, a package of spare parts and tools, training of operators and technical staff, and integration of the existing and newly-purchased systems.

Part of the NASAMS equipment acquired in the second phase is expected to be delivered to Lithuania in 2026.

The Defense Ministry launched the first NASAMS procurement phase in 2016. The system reached Lithuania in 2020 and was successfully integrated into its Armed Forces in 2022 after the completion of personnel training.

NASAMS is the most widely used medium-range air defense system across NATO and is fully in line with the requirements for Lithuania's defense capabilities, according to the press release.

The third generation air defense systems are designed to destroy various types of aircraft, cruise missiles and remotely piloted aircraft, it said.

The ministry notes that by further developing the NASAMS system, Lithuania maintains "not only the full compatibility of the existing and newly-procured systems, but also the logistical and administrative integrity, and the interchangeability of the system components and personnel".

 

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Lithuania reports 1,219 new COVID-19 cases, no deaths

VILNIUS, Dec 14, BNS – Lithuania has recorded 1,219 new coronavirus infections and no deaths from COVID-19 over the past 24 hours, official statistics showed on Thursday morning.

The 14-day primary infection rate has risen to 544.8 cases per 100,000 people, with the seven-day percentage of positive tests at 38.2 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 1.36 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. 

Two-thirds of the country's population have received at least one coronavirus vaccine jab so far, according to the statistics.

 

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Latvians' concern over nuclear waste border disposal 'premature' – Lithuanian minister

VILNIUS, Dec 14, BNS – As Latvia is concerned aboutLithuania's plans to bury nuclear waste close to its border, Lithuanian Environment Minister Simonas Gentvilas says the Latvians' concern is premature as the process of selecting a disposal site is still ongoing.

"The process is now underway, and we are looking into 77 sites around Lithuania, and the Latvians' concern is a bit premature because in general those sites would probably not be near Latvia. But I think that basically world science will find out in 50 years how to use radioactive waste and we will not have to spend 2.5 billion euros on the installation of that underground repository," Gentvilas told the Ziniu Radijas news radio on Thursday.

Citing Latvijas Radio, Lithuania's public broadcaster LRT reported on Wednesday that the existing waste disposal plan had raised concern among residents of the Latvian municipality of Augsdaugava. The neighbors are angered by the latest plans to build a bitumen radioactive waste repository just 8 km from the Latvian-Lithuanian border. 

Gentvilas says the search for a repository site is underway in the southern part of Lithuania, adding that waste would be buried some 400 m underground. Right now, the radioactive materials are containerized in capsules with a lifespan of 50 years and are stored near the Visaginas nuclear power plant.

"We have 50 years to find a place, dig an underground storage facility, place it, and this is being done on a scientific basis, and geologists are discussing potential sites in Lithuania," the minister said. 

Once the Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant is completely closed, it is important to find a place to put radioactive waste for a long period of time, tens of thousands of years, the minister said, adding that there's global agreement that countries cannot export their radioactive waste and have to solve the storage issue themselves. 

The Ignalina NPP in Lithuania was launched in 1983. In 2009, the plant was shut down at the request of the European Union, and the question then arose as to its dismantling and the disposal of radioactive waste.

By Jurgita Andriejauskaitė

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Lithuanian president ready to invite political parties for defense talks – advisor

VILNIUS, Dec 14, BNS – Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda is ready to invite political parties for talks on how to bolster national defense if they fail to reach agreement on the matter, Kestutis Budrys, his chief national security advisor, has said. 

"Alongside the election cycle, there is also a cycle of war and therefore, consensus is necessary," Budrys said during the Lithuania Speaks program on LRT TV on Wednesday evening.

"If this solidarity cannot be maintained after the show, the president (...) will certainly be ready to invite the parties," he added.

Discussions among politicians on beefing up defense capabilities are intensifying after Ukraine's failure to conduct a swift and successful counteroffensive against Russia this year and amid experts' warnings that Moscow, which is rebuilding its capabilities, could increase pressure on NATO in the future.

The ruling conservative Homeland Union-Lithuanian Christian Democrats vow to make efforts to rally support for a new tax to boost defense funding and for universal military conscription.

 

By Saulius Jakučionis

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Lithuanian MPs to decide on banning troops from traveling to unfriendly countries

VILNIUS, Dec 14, BNS –Lithuanian lawmakers are set on Thursday to considering amendments that would ban the country's professional troops from traveling to countries posing a threat to Lithuania's national security for non-service purposes.

Such legal changes have been initiated by the Defense Ministry. The bill stipulates that the government would approve a list of countries or territories troops would be banned from traveling to.

In early December, the Defense Ministry published an initial list of such countries and it includes Russia and its occupied Crimea, Belarus, as well as Armenia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, China, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, including the Transnistrian region, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and the Abkhazian and South Ossetian regions of Georgia.

Also, professional troops would not be allowed to travel to foreign countries or territories if the Foreign Ministry advised citizens against traveling to these countries or told them to leave immediately.

Under the proposed amendments, the government could determine cases, including exceptions due to personal circumstances, and the procedure when professional troops could travel to foreign countries or territories included in the list with a permit or declaration of information on departure.

The Defense Ministry says such a ban has to do with national security interests.

In late September, Lithuania's National Crisis Management Center reported that people working with classified information would not be able to travel to Russia, Belarus and other countries that pose a threat to Lithuania.

The move to restrict some Lithuanian citizens from traveling to unfriendly comes amid reports that Belarusian intelligence services have been stepping up their activities at the Lithuanian-Belarusian border for some time already.

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Lithuanian president, other EU leaders seek to break Hungary's veto on Ukraine (updates)

BRUSSELS, Dec 14, BNS – EU leaders are starting two days of intensive talks on support for Ukraine in Brussels on Thursday, with a 50-billion-euro financial package and the opening of accession negotiations with Kyiv on the table. 

Both measures require the unanimous approval of all 27 member states, but have so far been opposed by Hungary.

EU leaders are also expected to decide on the opening of accession negotiations with Moldova, a move that is not opposed in principle by any member state. 

"We have a historical chance to take a very bold decision regarding the start of negotiations with Ukraine and Moldova," Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda told reporters on Thursday. 

"This is in our hands. We can take it, but we can waste it," he added. 

On the eve of the European Council summit, the European Commission released 10 billion euros of funding for Hungary, saying that the country has taken measures to improve the judiciary's independence. However, around 20 billion euros in EU money remains blocked. 

Critics accuse the Commission of giving in to Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban's "blackmail". Brussels rejects the criticism, insisting that the funds have been unblocked because Budapest has met its commitments.

The Commission proposed a review of the bloc's budget back in the summer, including a new financial instrument to support Kyiv. These funds, made up of grants and loans, amount to around 50 billion euros.

It is said in the corridors of Brussels that if efforts to persuade Hungary to back the aid package fail, the remaining 26 member states could set up a separate assistance fund for Ukraine.

Orban also spoke about this as he arrived for the summit. 

"The money for Ukraine in the short term is already in the budget. If you would like to give a longer term and bigger money, we have to manage outside the budget. And we support it," he said.

The start of Ukraine's membership negotiations poses more challenges, as such a decision requires a unanimous vote.

Orban said that the EU's enlargement is a "merit-based, legally detailed process" and that Ukraine has failed to meet at least three of the seven conditions set by the Commission when Kyiv was granted candidate status.

"If you haven't fulfilled the preconditions, there is no chance to start negotiations," the Hungarian prime minister said.

Nauseda told Lithuanian media on the eve of the talks that by blocking the opening of Ukraine's accession talks, Hungary gives "additional arguments to the camp of sceptics who say that we have to move to simple or qualified majority voting" in the EU.   

Budapest says that Ukraine's accession talks remain a "red line" for Hungary. According to Orban, Ukraine is one of the most corrupt countries in the world and is not ready to join the EU.

 

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Failure to convince Hungary would move talks on Ukraine's future to March – Landsbergis

VILNIUS, Dec 14, BNS - If EU leaders fail to persuade Budapest to support the start of Ukraine's EU membership talks, the issue could be moved to the next European Council meeting in March or even later, Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis says.

If Budapest does not renounce its veto, Europe will incur "severe damage", he pointed out.

"Maybe then we would move to the next European Council, which is in March. Some think that Hungary will take over the presidency after that, which starts in the second half of next year, and, gain, maybe there would be something there, maybe Hungary would want to show that they are then freeing up something. In any case, it would be severe damage to Europe", Landsbergis told reporters at the Seimas on Thursday.

He made the remarks as two days of intensive discussions on support for Ukraine are kicking off in Brussels and EU leaders are set to decide on a 50 billion euros financial package and EU membership talks with Kyiv.

Unlike the membership talks, the issue of support and the establishment of a common fund can be resolved without Budapest's approval, Landsbergis added.

"Regarding support, yes. Let's say, in Lithuania's case, Lithuania has earmarked support for Ukraine in its next year's budget, and it would be transferred to the fund, even if the fund is created without one or the other EU country," the minister said.

"This money, if slightly increased because of absence of one non-participating member state, can still be pooled in the common fund. We are prepared for such an eventuality if it happens (...) But the decision to start EU membership talks must be united. A veto is a veto, then they do not start," he added.

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German brigade deployment plan to be signed next week – Lithuanian DefMin

VILNIUS, Dec 14, BNS – The Lithuanian and German defense ministers will sign a plan for the deployment of a Bundeswehr brigade in Lithuania in Vilnius next week, the Lithuanian Defense Ministry said on Thursday.

The plan will be signed by Arvydas Anusauskas and Boris Pistorius on Monday, December 18, and it will consolidate the two countries' intentions regarding the German brigade in Lithuania and the further course of action for the full deployment of the army unit, the ministry said.

Under the plan, the German brigade would be deployed in Lithuania gradually, starting from 2024, and is expected to be fully deployed by 2027.

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Presidential office stalls appointment of Polish ambassador – Lithuanian formin

VILNIUS, Dec 14, BNS - The presidential office is stalling the appointment of Lithuania's new ambassador to Poland, Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis says, adding that the Foreign Ministry submitted the first nominations for the post on time almost 18 months ago.

"We have submitted them at least twice," the minister said. He also refrained to comment on the reasons why President Gitanas Nauseda rejected the candidates.

"I would not like to comment on the president's actions," Landsbergis said.

For his part, Ridas Jasiulionis, the spokesperson for the president, told BNS that the submitted candidate was rejected because of their qualifications.

"Unfortunately, the last candidate submitted by the Foreign Ministry for ambassador to Poland does not speak Polish. The president is waiting for another candidate," he said.

Landsbergis point out that Poland is an extremely important country for Lithuania.

On Wednesday, he had a phone conversation with Poland's new Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski and they discussed bilateral and regional ties, support for Ukraine in its fight against the Russian invasion.

Lithuanian Ambassador to Poland Eduardas Borisovas was recalled from Warsaw on September 7 after his term expired. The embassy is now headed by Minister Plenipotentiary Audrone Markeviciene.

In Lithuania, ambassadors are appointed and dismissed by the president on a proposal from the government and with the approval of the Seimas Committee on Foreign Affairs.

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Lithuanian parlt OKs use of night sights for hunting

VILNIUS, Dec 14, BNS – Lithuanian lawmakers on Thursday approved the use of night sights for hunting wild boar, foxes, raccoon dogs, raccoons, minks, nutrias and muskrats after 69 MPs voted in favor of the proposed to the Law on Hunting, three voted against and one abstained.

Most of the bill's opponents were absent from the vote.

If President Gitanas Nauseda signs the amendment into law, it should enter into force in May.

Currently, the instruments allowed and forbidden for hunting are laid down in the hunting regulations that are approved by the environment minister. Thursday's decision transposes such lists into law.

Proponents of night sights argue that the use of these devices would contribute to a more effective animal welfare approach, i.e. a single shot would be fired at the animal, making the fight against African swine fever more effective.

Opponents, however, say the use of these devices for hunting would prevent animals from escaping from hunters and would make it impossible to determine whether an animal has been shot using a night sight or not.

By Jūratė Skėrytė

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German brigade deployment plan to be signed next week – Lithuanian DefMin (expands)

VILNIUS, Dec 14, BNS – The Lithuanian and German defense ministers will sign a plan for the deployment of a Bundeswehr brigade in Lithuania in Vilnius next week, the Lithuanian Defense Ministry said on Thursday.

Arvydas Anusauskas and Boris Pistorius on Monday, December 18, will sign "the Lithuanian-German Action Plan ("Roadmap"), outlining the intentions of both countries regarding the deployment of the German brigade in Lithuania and the subsequent steps for its full deployment," it said in a press release.

The plan calls for the gradual stationing of the German brigade in Lithuania starting next year. The deployment is expected to be completed in 2027.

The roadmap has been worked out by a joint task group from the German and Lithuanian Defense Ministries.

"Germany is committed to deploying a heavy brigade with three maneuver battalions and all necessary enablers, including combat support units," the Lithuanian ministry said in the press release.

The core of the brigade should consist of tank and mechanized infantry battalions, with the third maneuver battalion to be initially formed by the German-led NATO Forward Presence Battalion Battlegroup already present in Lithuania.

"The German brigade in Lithuania will be composed of existing and newly formed units," the ministry said. "The 203rd Tank Battalion from North Rhine-Westphalia and the 122nd Armored Infantry Battalion from Bavaria will be transferred to Lithuania." 

"The enhanced Forward Presence Battlegroup currently deployed in Lithuania will be transformed into a multinational battalion and will become an integral part of the brigade," it said.

The Lithuania-stationed brigade will be called Panzerbrigade 42. The brigade's deployment HQ is planned to be relocated to Lithuania in the last quarter of 2024. 

"In total, around 5,000 German brigade soldiers and civilians are expected to be stationed in Lithuania, some with their families," the ministry said.

"There will be two duty places in Rudninkai and Rukla, with soldiers and their families living in Vilnius and Kaunas, and additional logistical points in other parts of Lithuania," it said.

Discussions about the brigade's deployment in Lithuania to bolster regional security began in the wake of Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine

The brigade's Forward Command Element is currently stationed in Lithuania.

Germany has been leading NATO's multinational battalion in Lithuania since 2017.

 

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Appointment of Lithuania's ambassador to Poland has taken too long – PM

VILNIUS, Dec 14, BNS – The process of appointing Lithuania's ambassador to Poland has taken too much time – long enough for any qualified diplomat to acquire sufficient command of Polish for the job, Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte said on Thursday.

Her comment came in response to the explanation by President Gitanas Nauseda's office that the appointment has stalled because the candidate proposed by the Foreign Ministry failed to meet the qualification requirements as they do not speak Polish.

"The proposals for an ambassador to Poland, to my knowledge, started to be coordinated so long ago that it would not have been a big problem for any qualified diplomat to learn Polish, at least enough to be able to work," Simonyte told reporters. 

The prime minister said she was familiar with discussions among the Foreign Ministry, the parliamentary Committee on Foreign Affairs and the president's office on the coordination of nominations, but added that she had not heard any complaints as to language proficiency. 

"Now, as ever, it would be very important to have our ambassador to Poland, but, well, we'll have to seek consensus until we find one," she said.

Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis said earlier on Thursday that his ministry submitted the first nominations for the post almost 18 months ago, but the process got stuck at the president's office.

For his part, Ridas Jasiulionis, Nauseda's spokesman, told BNS that the latest candidate was rejected because of their qualifications. 

"Unfortunately, the last candidate submitted by the Foreign Ministry for ambassador to Poland does not speak Polish. The president is waiting for another candidate," he said.

Lithuanian Ambassador to Poland Eduardas Borisovas was recalled from Warsaw on September 7 after his term expired. The embassy is now headed by Minister Plenipotentiary Audrone Markeviciene.

The ambassadorial appointment issue arises at a time when Vilnius expects to improve relations with Warsaw and avoid past disagreements following the swearing-in of Poland's new government of Prime Minister Donald Tusk.

Bilateral relations between the two neighboring countries during Tusk's former term as prime minister between 2007 and 2014 were marred by disagreements over the Polish oil group Orlen's investments and the situation of the Polish minority.

Radoslaw Sikorski, who is returning to the post of foreign minister he held in Tusk's previous Cabinet, was particularly categorical towards Lithuania.

In Lithuania, ambassadors are appointed and dismissed by the president on the nomination of the government and with the approval of the Committee on Foreign Affairs.

 

By Ignas Jačauskas

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Residence permit issuance suspended for 2,000 Belarusians in Lithuania – Tsikhanouskaya

VILNIUS, Dec 14, BNS - The issuance of temporary residence permits to some 2,000 Belarusians has been suspended in Lithuania which is causing concern for everyone here, Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya says.

She and other Belarusian opposition representatives have called on Lithuanian politicians not to introduce new restrictions and not to build an iron curtain between the two countries.

"The issuance of temporary residence permits in Lithuania has been suspended for about 2,000 Belarusians. Of course, this is a matter of great concern for us as we do not know each individual case, but most of these people cannot return to Belarus because they will be persecuted or imprisoned there," Tsikhanouskaya told reporters at the Seimas after a meeting with Lithuanian politicians.

"Moreover, we don't know the reasons for the suspension. Even in my office, where we really have people who are at risk of being targeted by the regime, most of them have had questions about the extension of their permits," she said.

Based in Vilnius since the 2020 presidential election in Belarus, Tsikhanouskaya on Thursday asked Lithuanian politicians not to impose new restrictions on Belarusian citizens living in Lithuania, and instead focus on supporters of the Lukashenko regime.

"We understand the security concern and we are ready to help to identify agents and proponents of the regime. You have to close the loopholes in the European sanctions and stop the funding of the regime's repressions and the war in Ukraine," the Belarusian opposition leader said.

She also proposed stopping political discussions on Litvinism as it doesn't have support in the Belarusian society.

"Let's leave the topic to historians and let's make it clear that Lithuanian territory, Lithuanian history belongs to Lithuanian people, period," she said.

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Residence permit issuance suspended for 2,000 Belarusians in Lithuania – Tsikhanouskaya (expands)

Updated version: updates throughout

VILNIUS, Dec 14, BNS - The issuance of temporary residence permits to some 2,000 Belarusians has been suspended in Lithuania which is causing concern for everyone here, Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya says.

She and other Belarusian opposition representatives have called on Lithuanian politicians not to introduce new restrictions and not to build an Iron Curtain between the two countries.

"The issuance of temporary residence permits in Lithuania has been suspended for about 2,000 Belarusians. Of course, this is a matter of great concern for us as we do not know each individual case, but most of these people cannot return to Belarus because they will be persecuted or imprisoned there," Tsikhanouskaya told reporters at the Seimas after a meeting with Lithuanian politicians.

"Moreover, we don't know the reasons for the suspension. Even in my office, where we really have people who are at risk of being targeted by the regime, most of them have had questions about the extension of their permits," she said.

On par with Russians

Based in Vilnius since the 2020 presidential election in Belarus, Tsikhanouskaya on Thursday asked Lithuanian politicians not to impose new restrictions on Belarusian citizens living in Lithuania, and instead focus on supporters of the Lukashenko regime.

"We understand the security concern and we are ready to help to identify agents and proponents of the regime. You have to close the loopholes in the European sanctions and stop the funding of the regime's repressions and the war in Ukraine," the Belarusian opposition leader said.

She said her office could help the Lithuanian special services to check Belarusians applying for residence permits in Lithuania because it has its own database.

The constant threat of expulsion or loss of residence permits demoralizes Belarusians, she said.

Now based in Poland, Vital Rymasheuski, a co-chairman of the Belarusian Christian Democracy, rejected claims that Belarusians pose a threat to Lithuania's national security.

"Today, Belarusians are a people without a state as our government does not represent our interests. Today, we feel like the Jews once did when they had no state," he said. "Please, don't build an Iron Curtain, there is not a single state that can overcome the enemy by building a Chinese Wall. (... People who are fighting the regime need support," he said.

For his part, Anatoli Liabedzka, an adviser to Tsikhanouskaya, argued that Lithuanians traveling to Belarus could also pose a threat to national security.

"I was in a hairdresser's and I was talking to some Lithuanian women, and they told me how they had gone to Belarus, how wonderful it was, how great the roads were, how cheap the vodka was. When I asked how they got there, it turned out that many buses from Lithuanian tourist agencies take people to Belarus every Sunday. (...) Maybe there is a national security problem here?" he asked.

Amendments have recently been registered in the Lithuanian Seimas, proposing to tighten restrictions on Belarusian citizens living in Lithuania. The amendments would but Belarusian nationals on par with on Russian citizens in terms of sanctions, meaning that Lithuanian would also stop accepting their applications for temporary residence permits through external service providers abroad. Also Belarusian nationals would be required to pass a Lithuanian language exam in order to renew their residence permits, and they would also be subject to other additional sanctions.

The amendments were drafted in response to Lithuanian intelligence reports on the increase in Belarusian special intelligence services and threats to national security due to the growing number incoming of foreigners.

Speaking with reporters today, Audronius Azubalis, one of the Lithuanian MPs behind the mentioned amendments, said he had asked the Belarusian opposition to state in writing which of the proposed norms were of concern for them. In his words, most of the incoming Belarusian nationals Belarus are economic migrants, and some of them are vulnerable to the influence of the Belarusian special services.

After the meeting at the Seimas, Tsikhanouskaya also called for an end to political discussions on Litvinism as it doesn't have support in the Belarusian society.

"Let's leave the topic to historians and let's make it clear that Lithuanian territory, Lithuanian history belongs to Lithuanian people, period," the Belarusian opposition leader said.

She also proposed drawing up and publishing a joint document on this ideology questioning Lithuania's historical autonomy.

Lithuanian intelligence identifies Litvinism as a radical branch of Belarusian nationalism, and the activities of its representatives may increase inter-ethnic tensions, although they do not pose a real threat to Lithuania's sovereignty.

By Jūratė Skėrytė

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Lithuanian parlt bans professional troops from traveling to unfriendly countries

VILNIUS, Dec 14, BNS – Lithuanian lawmakers on Thursday to banned the country's professional troops from traveling to countries posing a threat to Lithuania's national security for non-service purposes after 78 MPs voted in favor, there were no votes against and abstentions.

"Some soldiers have permits to work with secret or top secret information. And to avoid, I would say, bad things, I think this amendment should be definitely be approved," Arvydas Pocius, a former army chief of defense, representing the ruling conservative Homeland Union – Lithuanian Christian Democrats, said before the vote.

Such legal changes had been initiated by the Defense Ministry. The bill stipulates that the government will approve a list of countries or territories troops would be banned from traveling to.

In early December, the Defense Ministry published an initial list of such countries and it includes Russia and its occupied Crimea, Belarus, as well as Armenia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, China, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, including the Transnistrian region, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and the Abkhazian and South Ossetian regions of Georgia.

Also, professional troops would not be allowed to travel to foreign countries or territories if the Foreign Ministry advised citizens against traveling to these countries or told them to leave immediately.

Under the proposed amendments, the government could determine cases, including exceptions due to personal circumstances, and the procedure when professional troops could travel to foreign countries or territories included in the list with a permit or declaration of information on departure.

The Defense Ministry says such a ban has to do with national security interests.

In late September, Lithuania's National Crisis Management Center reported that people working with classified information would not be able to travel to Russia, Belarus and other countries that pose a threat to Lithuania.

The move to restrict some Lithuanian citizens from traveling to unfriendly comes amid reports that Belarusian intelligence services have been stepping up their activities at the Lithuanian-Belarusian border for some time already.

By Jūratė Skėrytė

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Upcoming events in Lithuania for Friday, December 15, 2023

VILNIUS, Dec 15, BNS – The following events are scheduled in Lithuania for Friday, December 15, 2023:

PRESIDENT Gitanas Nauseda attending an EU summit in Brussels.

DEFENSE MINISTER Arvydas Anusauskas to visit the training area in Gaiziunai where Leopard II tanks brought from Ukraine and repaired will be tested.

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Dec 15 2023

LITHUANIA DAILY NEWS BULLETIN, December 13, 2023

LITHUANIA DAILY NEWS BULLETIN


IN THIS ISSUE:

  1. Upcoming events in Lithuania for Wednesday, December 13, 2023
  2. One irregular migrant turned away on Lithuania's border with Belarus
  3. Lithuania has to either limit immigration or bolster intelligence – intelligence chief
  4. Lithuania reports 1,391 new COVID-19 cases, no deaths
  5. Lithuanian govt to decide on DefMin's proposed conscription reform
  6. Lithuanian intelligence chief mulls turning to law enforcement over defamation
  7. SocDems, conservatives continue to top Lithuania's party rankings – Delfi/Spinter poll
  8. Police launch probe into Russia-praising Lithuanian citizen's statements
  9. Lithuanian PM congratulates Poland’s new Prime Minister Donald Tusk
  10. Lithuanian formin hopes to avoid past grievances in ties with Tusk government  - BNS SPECIAL
  11. Bubnyte-Sirmene to join CC after position of Lithuanian govt's rep at ECHR abolished
  12. Lithuania to set up commission to coordinate preparations to host German brigade
  13. Lithuanian govt proposes Krivas for ambassador to Council of Europe
  14. Lithuanian president signs 2024 state budget
  15. Lithuanian formin discusses ties, support for Ukraine with new Polish counterpart
  16. Lithuania must step up gears of defense funding until 2030 - parlt committee chair   
  17. Lithuanian court upholds fine for website for spreading disinformation
  18. Lithuanian president slams Hungary for objecting to start of EU accession talks with Kyiv
  19. Lithuania's Nauseda hopes to meet with Poland's Tusk in Brussels

Upcoming events in Lithuania for Wednesday, December 13, 2023

VILNIUS, Dec 13, BNS – The following events are scheduled in Lithuania for Wednesday, December 13, 2023:

PRESIDENT Gitanas Nauseda to attend the EU-Western Balkans Summit in Brussels.

SPEAKER OF THE SEIMAS Viktorija Cmilyte-Nielsen  to meet with Canadian Ambassador Jeanette Sautner at 10 a.m.

THE CABINET to hold its regular meeting and sitting at 1 p.m.

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One irregular migrant turned away on Lithuania's border with Belarus

VILNIUS, Dec 13, BNS – Lithuanian border guards have in the past 24 hours turned away one migrants attempting to cross into the country from Belarus illegally, the State Border Guard Service (SBGS) said on Wednesday morning.

This follows five straight days of no recorded attempts to enter the country illegally.

Latvia reported no attempts at illegal border crossings on Tuesday. Thirteen irregular migrants were not allowed into Poland on Monday, according to the latest available information.

More than 2,500 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 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.

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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Lithuania has to either limit immigration or bolster intelligence – intelligence chief

VILNIUS, Dec 13, BNS – Lithuania's authorities have to either limit immigration or bolster intelligence capabilities as the country nears a point where officers will no longer be able to vet all arriving foreign nationals, Darius Jauniskis, director of the State Security Department (SSD), has said.   

Around 17,000 immigrants arrive from Belarus alone annually, according to Jauniskis.

"We should think about how to stop this process," the intelligence agency's director told BNS in an interview.  

"That threshold has not been reached, but I believe we are approaching a critical point," he said. "That is why I say that we should take these things very seriously and make certain decisions."

Jauniskis said that he understands businesses' needs to bring in labor, but added that this also poses "counter-intelligence risks that the state will not be able to cope with in the near future".

"Either we significantly beef up the capabilities of services, which is a rather lengthy and very costly process, or we take certain measures to halt the growth of diasporas," he said. 

The SSD has warned earlier about an unprecedented level of activity from Belarus' KGB. 

"I understand that the Belarusian opposition has always been a target for the secret services, always seen as a threat, but lately, we have been observing this very strong intensification," Jauniskis told BNS. 

In an effort to curb immigration flows, several MPs of the ruling conservative Homeland Union-Lithuanian Christian Democrats in early December registered draft legislative amendments aimed at tightening restrictions on Belarusian citizens to make them the same as those currently applied to Russians. An exception would only apply to Belarusians arriving for highly skilled work.

Jauniskis says he supports these proposals.

"Of course I back them, because (...) my duty is to protect the Lithuanian state from counter-intelligence threats. I am always in favor of taking more drastic measures to reduce the risk to our citizens," he said. 

However, the ruling bloc's leaders say that these proposals require a more detailed discussion.

 

By Saulius Jakučionis, Augustas Stankevičius

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Lithuania reports 1,391 new COVID-19 cases, no deaths

VILNIUS, Dec 13, BNS – Lithuania has recorded 1,391 new coronavirus infections and no deaths from COVID-19 over the past 24 hours, official statistics showed on Wednesday morning.

The 14-day primary infection rate has risen to 539.4 cases per 100,000 people, with the seven-day percentage of positive tests at 38.9 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 1.36 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. 

Two-thirds of the country's population have received at least one coronavirus vaccine jab so far, according to the statistics.

 

 

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Lithuanian govt to decide on DefMin's proposed conscription reform

VILNIUS, Dec 13, BNS – The Lithuanian government is set to decide on Wednesday whether to approve the changes to the existing conscription procedure, proposed by the Defense Ministry.

As Defense Minister Arvydas Anusauskas told BNS earlier, the proposed changes would create legal preconditions for the implementation of universal male conscription.

Under the new model, the conscription age limit would be set at 18-21 years, instead of the existing 18-23 years, and studies in higher education establishments would not be seen as an exception to postpone military service.

Volunteers would be able to serve so between the ages of 18 and 38, unchanged from now.

Higher education students will be required to perform their service, either by attending the Junior Officer Commanders' training or by joining the National Defense Volunteer Force, thus combining it with their studies.

The reform will also include the reduction of the existing 9-month service time to six months for some conscripts.

Also, conscripts who have acquired a qualification in a profession that is in short supply in the army could serve for three months. The conscription age for such persons would be up to 30 years.

Young men on the conscript lists who are studying and living abroad will have the same choices as those studying and living in Lithuania.

There are also exceptions planned as conscripts who have been deferred on an individual basis would be called up to the age of 22 after the end of the foreseen circumstances. Also, in order to prevent the evasion of service, a conscription age of 30 years would be introduced for persons who have been called up for service but failed to report for service.

According to the ministry, the amendments are also aimed at enabling those who want to serve but are unable to perform compulsory military service because of their health condition. They will have to declare their willingness to serve, and the duration and form of service will be decided by the chief of defense.

In addition, the proposal is to increase the duration of alternative service from 10 to 12 months.

The changes would also extend the length of service in the active reserve and it would last 15 years instead of the existing 10 years. During this service, reserve troops would be periodically called up for repeated reserve training. 

"Nevertheless, the 18-19-year-olds who finish school and start compulsory military service immediately after leaving school will remain the priority and ideal option," the Defense Ministry says.

The army estimates that up to 7,000 young men graduate from school each year and are fit for service.

Plans to reform conscription in Lithuania were announced in February and the bill was registered in August.

Once approved by the Cabinet, the proposed changed will still need the parliament's approval.

By Augustas Stankevičius

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Lithuanian intelligence chief mulls turning to law enforcement over defamation

VILNIUS, Dec 13, BNS – Darius Jauniskis, director of Lithuania's State Security Department (SSD), has said he is considering turning to law-enforcement bodies over possible defamation in the so-called whistleblower story currently under scrutiny by a parliamentary commission. 

"I am thinking about it, yes," he told BNS in an interview. 

The director said he does not see a pretext for this yet, but will wait to see the outcome of the parliamentary inquiry, part of which concerns his department's activities.

The temporary parliamentary inquiry commission is looking, among other things, into whether the SSD followed the law when vetting the inner circle and potential financial supporters of Gitanas Nauseda, who was then preparing to run in the 2019 presidential race, and whether it passed its findings to individuals unauthorized to access classified information.

Tomas Gailius, a former head of one of the SSD's boards, testified before the commission last week. The whistleblower back in 2019 turned to Vytautas Bakas, then chairman of the parliamentary Committee on National Security and Defense (CNSD), to report what he considered to be the department's unlawful actions.

Gailius testified that he understood from one of his conversations with Jauniskis that the information collected by his team could be disclosed to a person who had no right to access it and that the vetting had been ordered by this person.

In his interview with BNS, Jauniskis once again denied that the SSD information about Nauseda's inner circle had been leaked outside the department and said that the whistleblower's words contained "a lot of falsehood".

The director reiterated that his agency had adhered to laws and other legal acts.

"I myself have been on the floor of the Seimas twice and answered these questions," Jauniskis told BNS. "We have nothing more to add for now. If the commission has any questions, we are ready to answer them."  

"How long can we keep repeating the same thing? We are not parrots. I say again: if there are certain questions, they will be answered according to the law," he added.

 

By Saulius Jakučionis

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SocDems, conservatives continue to top Lithuania's party rankings – Delfi/Spinter poll

VILNIUS, Dec 13, BNS – The opposition Lithuanian Social Democratic Party (LSDP) continues to top Lithuania's political party rankings, followed in second place by the ruling conservative Homeland Union-Lithuanian Christian Democrats (HU-LCD), according to the latest Spinter Tyrimai opinion poll published by Delfi on Wednesday. 

Some 13.8 percent of respondents said in November that they would vote for the LSDP and 9.7 percent supported the HU-LCD, compared to 15.5 percent and 10.5 percent, respectively, in the previous poll in October.

The opposition Lithuanian Farmers and Greens Union ranked third with 8 percent (6.5 percent in October), followed in fourth position by the Liberal Movement, a member of the ruling coalition, with 6.6 percent (7.4 percent). 

Further down the list was the opposition Democratic Union "For Lithuania" with 4 percent (5.5 percent) and the ruling Freedom Party with 3.3 percent (3.5 percent).  

When asked who they saw as best-suited to be prime minister, 8.4 percent of those polled in November chose MEP Vilija Blinkeviciute, the LSDP leader, almost unchanged from 8.2 percent in the previous poll.

Ingrida Simonyte, the incumbent head of government, came in second with 7.2 percent (8 percent in October).

When asked about the current government's performance, 67.8 percent of respondents said their opinion was rather negative or negative (65.8 percent in the previous poll). 

In the representative survey commissioned by Delfi, Spinter Tyrimai polled 1,015 people between November 17 and 29. The results of the poll have an error margin of 3.1 percent.

 

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Police launch probe into Russia-praising Lithuanian citizen's statements

VILNIUS, Dec 13, BNS - The Police Commissariat in Lithuania's eastern city of Salcininkai has launched a pre-trial investigation into the statements of a young Lithuanian man praising Russia in a video, Ramunas Matonis, the spokesman for the Police Department, told BNS.

In his words, the probe was launched into public incitement of violence or a physical violent treatment of a group of persons.

"On December 5, a pre-trial investigation under Article 170 of the Criminal Code into a threat of violence against a certain group of people was launched by the Salcininkai District Police Commissariat into this incident," Matonis told BNS.

Under this article, a person faces a fine, restriction of liberty, arrest or custodial sentence of up to three years.

The 15min.lt news website reported on Tuesday that Laurynas Kasciunas, the chair of the Seimas Committee on National Security and Defense, had asked the Prosecutor General's Office, the police and the State Security Department to launch an investigation into the case of the Lithuanian citizen who praised Russia in the video.

In the video, the man, who identified himself as Genadij Rogac, expressed support for Russia's war in Ukraine and disparaged Lithuania, saying that if someone "gave him a Kalashnikov", he would shoot the entire Seimas.

Ukrainian Edgar Mirotvorets shares videos of conversations on his social media accounts, pretending to be pro-Russian and provoking his interlocutors. He then discloses supporters of the Russian regime on social media.

On November 5, the Ukrainian activist shared a conversation with the Lithuanian man who identified himself as 22-year-old Genadij Rogac on his Youtube channel. The young man said he had wanted to beat up his Ukrainians co-workers in Vilnius several times, but feared that he might go to jail for it.

Photos of him wearing a Lithuanian army uniform started circulating on social media. According to the news website, Rogac completed his compulsory military service in 2022 and is currently a member of the ready reserve.

Kasciunas is asking the authorities to assess the young man's statements in terms of possible incitement to hatred, public support for international crimes and possible threats.

In a comment sent to BNS, the Lithuanian army also stated that "an assessment of the content has been initiated with a view to referring the matter to the competent authorities".

Commenting on the video, army representatives said it did not and would not have an impact on their activities, adding that, in this case, "a legal assessment is possible in accordance with the law, but must be carried out by the law enforcement authorities".

By Ingrida Steniulienė

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Lithuanian PM congratulates Poland’s new Prime Minister Donald Tusk

VILNIUS, Dec 13, BNS – Lithuanian Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte on Wednesday congratulated her newly appointed Polish counterpart Donald Tusk and said they would meet in Tallinn next week.

In her message of congratulation, Simonyte wished Tusk success in pursuit of Poland’s national goals, promoting the security and prosperity of the country, and strengthening the common European home.

The Lithuanian prime minister hopes to work with the new Polish government to successfully complete key bilateral projects, like the synchronization of the Baltic states' electricity grids with continental European networks and the Rail Baltica, and also take bilateral cooperation further "on all matters of shared concern".

In her message of congratulation, the Lithuanian prime minister also highlighted shared historical experience, common values and a commitment "to the ideals of freedom and democracy".

"History has repeatedly shown that the freedom of our nations is interconnected. Thus, I am convinced that common goals and exceptionally significant challenges of today will further bring our nations together, and we will firmly support each other in the European Union, NATO, and other international formats," Simonyte said.

The Lithuanian prime minister is set to go to Tallinn on Sunday to attend the Baltic prime ministers' meeting with Tusk.

"Yes, the prime minister will go to Tallinn for a formal meeting of the Baltic prime ministers," Ieva Skarelyte, the head of the prime minister's office, told BNS on Wednesday.

On Tuesday, Tusk confirmed that his first visits as head of government would be this week's EU summit in Brussels and a trip to Tallinn to meet with the Baltic prime ministers.

Sworn in on Wednesday, Tusk led the Polish government between 2007 and 2014, and bilateral relations between Vilnius and Warsaw at the time were marred by disagreements over the investments of the Polish oil company Orlen and the situation of the Polish minority in Lithuania.

Radoslaw Sikorski, who served as foreign ministry in the previous Tusk government, will be Poland's top diplomat again. Previously, her reproached Lithuania over national minorities and other issues.

The Tusk-led coalition has replaced the right-wing Law and Justice party in Poland.

By Ignas Jačauskas

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Lithuanian formin hopes to avoid past grievances in ties with Tusk government  - BNS SPECIAL

VILNIUS, Dec 13, BNS – Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis said that he will set aside past grievances and focus on the future in his relations with Warsaw after Donald Tusk was sworn in as Poland's new prime minister on Wednesday.  

"I believe that we will base our cooperation on this and not look back to the past. We will look to the future and (focus on) what we need to do," Landsbergis told BNS in an interview on Wednesday. 

Tusk served as Poland's prime minister between 2007 and 2014. Bilateral relations between the two neighboring countries during that period were marred by disagreements over the Polish oil group Orlen's investments and the situation of the Polish minority.

Radoslaw Sikorski, who held the post of Poland's foreign minister back then and was also given the job in the new government, was particularly categorical towards Lithuania.

He has said in the past that he will not come to Lithuania until the national minority issues are resolved.

In excerpts from a secretly recorded conversation released by the Polish media in 2017, Sikorski told Orlen CEO Jacek Krawiec that he wanted to "to teach Lithuanians a lesson".

In the conversation laced with foul language, Poland's top diplomat referred to Lithuania as "a tiny state".

Reportedly, Sikorski's conversations were secretly recorded during private meetings in Warsaw restaurants in 2013 and 2014.

"I want to teach Lithuanians a lesson, so that they don't think that s***ting on Poland won't cost anything," Sikorski was quoted as saying. 

In Wednesday's interview with BNS, Landsbergis described his relations with Sikorski as "excellent".

"I communicated with the then MEP Sikorski on more than one occasion. Our relations are really excellent," the minister said.

"I believe they are based, first of all, on the same geopolitical perception and the risks for both our countries," he added.

The Tusk-led coalition ousted the right-wing Law and Justice (PiS) party from power. 

 

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Bubnyte-Sirmene to join CC after position of Lithuanian govt's rep at ECHR abolished

VILNIUS, Dec 13, BNS - Karolina Bubnyte-Sirmene, the Lithuanian government's representative at the European Court of Human Rights, will be transferred to the country's Constitutional Court after her existing position will be abolished next year, the government decided on Wednesday.

The Justice Ministry said it would represent the state at the ECHR and UN Committees as of January under the Law on the Civil Service, adding that the existing model of a one-man special officer is being replaced with new functions within the Justice Ministry.

Bubnyte-Sirmene will assume her new position as a senior advisor in late December.

She has represented Lithuania at the Strasbourg court since March 2014.

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Lithuania to set up commission to coordinate preparations to host German brigade

VILNIUS, Dec 13, BNS – The government on Wednesday gave the green light for setting up a commission to coordinate Lithuania's preparations to host Germany's brigade.

The commission will be made up of the prime minister, the chancellor of the government and all ministers except those for economy and innovation, energy and culture.

The commission will meet to discuss inter-institutional issues related to the German brigade's presence in the country and to initiate the adoption of the necessary decisions.

It will also consider measures needed to ensure the presence of the German unit and, when needed, submit proposals to the government "on the allocation of necessary resources or other decisions related to the implementation of such measures".

Defense Minister Arvydas Anusauskas has said in a press release that the commission is needed for the "smooth implementation of the brigade's deployment". 

According to him, the commission will convene as needed to discuss the progress, challenges and decisions regarding the preparations to host the German brigade.

Anusauskas is also mandated to represent the government in a joint task group of the Lithuanian and German defense ministries.

Berlin intends to deploy its brigade in Lithuania over the next few years, with an interstate agreement on this matter expected to be signed next year.

The plan is to station a tank battalion, two maneuver battalions, an artillery battalion and a logistics battalion in Lithuania.

Vilnius and Berlin are currently negotiating what infrastructure Lithuania will have to provide for the incoming German troops.

German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius has said that Lithuania will have to put in place not only military infrastructure, but also social infrastructure, such as schools, kindergartens and leisure facilities.

 

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Lithuanian govt proposes Krivas for ambassador to Council of Europe

VILNIUS, Dec 13, BNS –  The government on Wednesday decided to nominate Andrius Krivas to serve as Lithuania's ambassador to the Council of Europe.

If approved by President Gitanas Nauseda, the diplomat will take office on January 3.  

The Foreign Ministry says that the nomination has been discussed by the parliamentary Committee on Foreign Affairs and that the candidate's vetting procedures have been completed.

Krivas noted that Lithuania will chair the Council of Europe's Committee of Ministers from May to November next year, adding that the representation in Strasbourg will be "a very important pillar of support" for the foreign minister "in performing this important function".

"We view the defense of democratic values against aggression and authoritarianism as a top priority," the diplomat said.

The search for a new ambassador to the Council of Europe began after Andrius Namavicius was recalled from the position on October 31.

The Foreign Minister then said that the decision to recall Namavicius, a lawyer by profession, was made in preparation for transferring him to Vilnius' embassy to the Netherlands to work with international legal institutions, as Lithuania is involved in legal proceedings at The Hague-based courts.

In Lithuania, ambassadors are appointed and dismissed by the president on the nomination of the government and with the approval of the parliamentary Committee on Foreign Affairs.

 

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Lithuanian president signs 2024 state budget

VILNIUS, Dec 13, BNS – Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda on Wednesday signed the law on the state budget for 2024, the presidential press service said. 

The president also signed amendments to the Law on Corporate Income Tax to promote modern investments. 

Nauseda reiterated that when adopting the 2024 budget, the ruling block failed to make use of all the possibilities to better meet the needs of the state and the population, although he acknowledged that the government had heard some of the criticism and improved the budget.

In his words, the 2024 budget lacked the commitment to raise teachers' salaries and the political parties' agreement on education policy and adherence to the government's program.

"I welcome the fact that the budget allows for an increase in funding for national defense next year, if the conditions are right. The government also increased funding for the country's roads, albeit by making a one-off decision at the end of the budget adoption process. Funding for non-formal education for children was also increased very slightly. However, the overall focus on families with children remains insufficient," the president was quoted as saying in the statement.

Nauseda also welcomes the fact that fiscal discipline has been respected in terms of expenditure planning as the budget deficit will stay below the Maastricht criterion of 3 percent of GDP and government debt will stand at 39.9 percent.

More than 2 billion euros, or 2.75 percent of GDP, has been earmarked for defense next year, and Nauseda says all financial instruments earmarked for defense must be used to the maximum extent possible, and at least 3 percent of GDP could be spent on defense, if there is a surplus of revenue.

Commenting on teachers' salaries, the president vowed to follow the country's economic forecasts in 2024 and remind the government of the promises it made to teachers.

Among other things, the president point out to the planned 10 percent increase in the minimum wage from 840 to 924 euros and the 20 percent increase in the non-taxable income rate that will go up from 625 to 747 euros, meaning that an additional 75 euro increase in income for the lowest earners. 

Moreover, pensions will rise next year, bringing the country closer to the 50 percent ratio of the average pension and the average wage.

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Lithuanian formin discusses ties, support for Ukraine with new Polish counterpart

VILNIUS, Dec 13, BNS – Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis had a phone conversation with his new Polish counterpart Radoslaw Sikorski on Wednesday and discussed bilateral and regional ties and support for Ukraine, Paulina Levickyte, the spokesperson for the Lithuanian minister, told BNS.

"Landsbergis congratulated newly-appointed Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski. The ministers discussed bilateral and regional cooperation and ensuring full support for Ukraine," Levickyte told BNS.

Lithuania and Poland are strategic partners and share the same stance on many international issues, Landsbergis underlined during the conversation. He also thanked Sikorski for Poland's contribution to strengthening regional security and noted that further defense and security cooperation remains an important priority.

Sikorski will serve in the new Polish government led by Donald Tusk who was sworn in earlier on Wednesday.

Tusk also led the Polish government between 2007 and 2014. At the time, bilateral relations between Vilnius and Warsaw were marred by disagreements over the investment of the Polish oil company Orlen and the situation of the Polish minority in Lithuania.

Sikorski also served as foreign minister at the time and was very categorical towards Lithuania, saying that he will not come to Lithuania until the national minority issues have been resolved.

Polish media also released a secretly recorded conversation released in 2017 when Sikorski told Jacek Krawiec, the CEO of Orlen, that he wanted to "give the Lithuanians a lesson".

Speaking with BNS on Wednesday, Landsbergis said his relations with Sikorski were excellent and he also hoped to set aside past grievances and focus on the future relations with Warsaw.

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Lithuania must step up gears of defense funding until 2030 - parlt committee chair   

VILNIUS, Dec 13, BNS – Lithuania must continue to increase the pace of defense funding until 2030, which requires clearing identifying the Armed Forces' needs, Mindaugas Linge, chairman of the parliamentary Committee on Budget and Finance (CBF), said on Wednesday. 

"The critical period is until 2030. Until then, we must keep stepping up the gears, which requires more funding, too," Linge told BNS. 

"Afterward, we should evaluate the situation based on how much democracy has emerged in the countries where we see risks. And if the processes move in a democratic way in Russia or Belarus after 2030, then we could think that this funding could be within the framework of (NATO) agreements," he said. 

The CBF discussed the issue of defense funding in a closed meeting earlier on Wednesday.

According to Linge, the current financial planning allows the implementation of prioritized projects to be excessively extended in time, which is why the plans should be made more concrete and the need for funds should be linked to specific dates.

"For instance, the issue of creating a division. It has been publicly stated that with the current funding, it would be implemented by 2035, while our plan aims for 2030. Again, this involves additional amounts that we want to have as soon as possible," he said. 

Liberal MP Vytautas Mitalas, who initiated the committee's discussion on defense matters, said that increased defense funding would also help the local defense industry to develop faster.

By purchasing more from Lithuanian manufacturers, more funds would remain in the country, making "the budget issue not so painful" compared to other areas, according to him.

Next year's total defense budget is planned at 2.06 billion euros, or 2.7 percent of GDP, compared to 2.76 percent this year. 

The Defense Ministry has announced plans to spend more than 3.1 billion euros on the acquisition of military stockpiles over the next decade.

This year, the ministry has signed several ammunition procurement contracts, incloding medium-range surface-to-air AMRAAM missiles and Javelin anti-tank missiles from the United States, and Carl-Gustaf grenade launchers and RBS-70 short-range air defense missiles from Sweden. It is also buying ammunition of various caliber (from 4.6 to 40 mm) through the NATO Support and Procurement Agency (NSPA).

According to the ministry, the national defense industry is also being incentivized as a contract was signed earlier this year with the Giraite Armaments Factory, a Lithuanian maker of small caliber ammunition, for the purchase of 7.62x51 mm ammunition.

Lithuania's defense budget earmarks a total of around 2.7 billion euros for acquisitions in 2024-2026.

 

By Jūratė Skėrytė, Milena Andrukaitytė

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., +370 5 239 64 16, Vilnius newsroom


Lithuanian court upholds fine for website for spreading disinformation

VILNIUS, Dec 13, BNS - The Vilnius Regional Administrative Court last week rejected the appeal of the Musu TV (Our TV) website and upheld the Lithuanian Radio and Television Commission's decision to fine it 2,200 euros for spreading misinformation.

The court ruled that the website's operator was aware of and responsible for the content it chooses and uploads.

According to the court, the media watchdog was right to conclude that Musu TV had spread disinformation and that programs were uploaded onto its website knowingly and intentionally, and with the knowledge and understanding that they constituted disinformation.

Musu TV was fined on October 19, 2022.

According to the LRTC, the news reports published on the musutv.lt website were aimed at forming a favorable opinion towards Russia and Belarus' foreign policy, discrediting the Lithuanian authorities, their legitimacy, independence and democracy.

The reports also gave biased coverage of events in Donetsk and Luhansk, essentially questioning Ukraine's sovereignty and its territorial integrity, and justifying Russia's military aggression in these regions. The aim was to give the viewers the impression that Ukraine was in fact the aggressor in the military conflict with Russia and that Ukraine was using targeted military action against the civilian population. It was also alleged that Ukraine was run by Fascists and Nazis.

Moreover, the new reports in question highlighted Lithuania's dependence on other countries and lack of independence, and the foreign policy and actions of NATO governments were presented as warmongering and fomenting discord in Eastern Europe.

In its defense, Musu TV claimed that the reports referred to by the LRTC were not its content and that it was not responsible for the content published by others. The media watchdog, however, said, the first person who disseminates untrue information is liable for publishing it.

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., Vilnius newsroom


Lithuanian president slams Hungary for objecting to start of EU accession talks with Kyiv

VILNIUS, Dec 13, BNS - Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda has criticized Hungary for objecting to the start of EU accession talks with Ukraine.

He made the remarks on Wednesday in Brussels as he arrived for a European Council meting that will focus on financial support for Ukraine and the possible start of its EU membership talks.

"By demonstrating its different approach from that of the whole EU, Hungary is harming itself in a sense as refraining from helping Ukraine at this time, whether we are talking about military support or political support or, in this case, the start of membership talks, it's like handing all the cards to Vladimir Putin," Nauseda said.

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., +370 5 205 85 10, Vilnius newsroom


Lithuania's Nauseda hopes to meet with Poland's Tusk in Brussels

VILNIUS, Dec 13, BNS – Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda arrived in Brussels for a European Council meeting on Wednesday and hopes to hold a bilateral meeting with Poland's new Prime Minister Donald Tusk who is also attending the meeting.

"I think we might, given that we will be here in the same room and we will talk both formally and informally," Nauseda told reporters in Brussels. "Of course, it will be quite difficult to discuss all the details and technical issues that have to do with our bilateral relations during such a short encounter, but I really think that this bilateral (...) meeting will definitely take place."

The Tusk government was sworn in earlier on Wednesday. He also led the Polish government between 2007 and 2014. At the time, bilateral relations between Vilnius and Warsaw were marred by disagreements over the investment of the Polish oil company Orlen and the situation of the Polish minority in Lithuania.

When journalists pointed this out, Nauseda replied: "There is no need to be so scared".

Nauseda pointed out that he had already met Tusk once before when he took office as president in 2019 and Tusk was then ending his term as president of the European Council.

Over the next few days, EU leaders will discuss Western Balkan countries' further European integration and decide whether to launch membership talks with Ukraine and Georgia.

By Augustas Stankevičius, Saulius Jakučionis

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., +370 5 205 85 10, Vilnius newsroom

Dec 15 2023

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