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LITHUANIA DAILY NEWS BULLETIN, December 20, 2023

LITHUANIA DAILY NEWS BULLETIN


IN THIS ISSUE:

  1. Upcoming events in Lithuania for Wednesday, December 20, 2023
  2. Lithuania records no illegal border crossings from Belarus
  3. MPs to discuss failures to prevent Russian artists from getting on stage in Lithuania
  4. Seimas speaker: it is hard to justify Lithuania not having ambassador in Poland
  5. Lithuania reports 1,171 new COVID-19 cases, no deaths
  6. Lease of building proposed for EU agency would cost EUR 13.3 mln to Lithuania over 5 yrs
  7. Orthodox under Patriarchate of Constantinople to celebrate Christmas on December 25
  8. Lithuanian committee chair suggests deciding on Poland ambassador in parlt
  9. Lithuania hands over field facility equipment, MREs to Ukrainian army
  10. Lithuanian Seimas committee proposes to set up special panel to assess Russian performers
  11. Failure to meet three indicators prevents Lithuania from submitting 2nd RRF application
  12. Lithuanian govt nominates Jarukaitis for CJEU judge, Norkus for advocate general
  13. Baltic PMs sign declaration on uniform implementation of sanctions for Russia
  14. Lithuania: Via Baltica reconstruction halfway through, other half to be completed by 2025
  15. Lithuania's CNSD chair expects 'clearer picture' on rotational air defense next year
  16. Lithuania govt: EUR 20 mln from Ignitis Group for wind farm to be used to repay state debt
  17. Lithuanian finmin: we will ask authorities to find out Yellowstone’s final beneficiaries
  18. No need for Lithuania to decide on migrant admission yet, despite EU deal – vicemin
  19. Lithuanian parlt panel looking into SSD whistleblower case asks SIS to declassify info

Upcoming events in Lithuania for Wednesday, December 20, 2023

VILNIUS, Dec 20, BNS – The following events are scheduled in Lithuania for Wednesday, December 20, 2023:

PRESIDENT Gitanas Nauseda to visit Silute.

SPEAKER OF THE SEIMAS Viktorija Cmilyte-Nielsen to have a virtual conversation with 

Marshal of the Polish Senate Małgorzata Kidawa-Błońska at 10.50 a.m.

PRIME MINISTER Ingrida Simonyte to chair a Cabinet meeting and sitting at 1 p.m.

By Jurgita Andriejauskaitė

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Lithuania records no illegal border crossings from Belarus

VILNIUS, Dec 20, BNS – Lithuanian border guards have in the past 24 hours recorded no attempts to cross into the country from Belarus illegally, the State Border Guard Service (SBGS) said on Wednesday morning.

Latvia reported no attempts at illegal border crossings on Tuesday either, and 22 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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MPs to discuss failures to prevent Russian artists from getting on stage in Lithuania

VILNIUS, Dec 20, BNS – The parliamentary Committee on Culture will discuss on Wednesday why performances by artists who pose a threat to national security continue to be staged in Lithuania.

“We will try to find a way to find out who will take responsibility and who has to make the final decision to prevent one or another performer from coming to Lithuania," Conservative MP Vytautas Kernagis, a member of the committee, told BNS.

According to him, the ministries do not agree on who should take action to prevent such cultural figures from performing in Lithuania.

"The ministries have not found agreement yet, some say it [action] is necessary, others say it is not. I think that today there is no that one and only person who would say "yes" and that's it. One sees it, hands it over to another ministry, the latter considers it, hands it over to a third ministry, and then someone says that maybe it's not entirely bad here, and that's how the issue disappears," the MP said.

Representatives of the State Security Department, the Ministries of the Interior, Foreign Affairs and Culture were invited to the meeting of the Committee on Culture on Wednesday.

The situation will be examined in a closed session.

Following Russia's annexation of Crimea, which belongs to Ukraine, back in 2014, cultural figures who have expressed support for the Kremlin's action and have performed there or in the separatist republics of Donetsk and Luhansk are not welcome in Lithuania.

Lithuania has placed several Russian artists on the list of undesirable persons, including pop singers Filip Kirkorov, Natasha Koroliova and others.

Last year, Culture Minister Simonas Kairys expressed hope that Russian cultural figures would not be able to come to Lithuania, primarily because Lithuania does not issue visas to Russian citizens.

The Seimas has adopted legislative amendments allowing the inclusion of those who have expressed support for aggressive policies of a foreign state in violation of international law on the list of undesirable persons in Lithuania.

These amendments were drafted after it emerged that the Council for Culture had granted subsidies for cancelled or postponed events to the organizers of shows in Lithuania by Russian artists Filip Kirkorov and Mikhail Shufutinsky.

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Seimas speaker: it is hard to justify Lithuania not having ambassador in Poland

VILNIUS, Dec 20, BNS – Seimas Speaker Viktorija Cmilyte-Nielsen says it is difficult to justify that Lithuania does not have an ambassador in Poland.

"In my view, at a time like now, when the war in Ukraine is going on, when changes have taken place in Poland, when elections have just been held, it is difficult to justify the fact that Lithuania does not have an ambassador in Poland," she told the Ziniu Radijas news radio on Wednesday.

"If that absence of an ambassador is based on what we hear, that the president does not like the proposed candidates, I find it hard to justify it," she added.

Cmilyte-Nielsen noted that such a situation is detrimental to the state.

“It seems to me that this is not good for the country, for the presidential office and for the foreign ministry, so we all suffer. It is very important now that relations with Poland continue to be so close that cooperation is good at all levels", she said.

The Seimas speaker insisted that efforts were being made at parliamentary level to maintain close contacts with Poland.

"Today I will speak with my new colleague, the Marshal of the Senate, and soon I will also have a video conversation with the Marshal of the Sejm. I am sure that at parliamentary level we are doing our best to maintain our close cooperation in all areas," Cmilyte-Nielsen said.

Lithuania's Ambassador to Poland Eduardas Borisovas was recalled on September 7 after his term expired, and the embassy is currently headed by Minister Plenipotentiary Audrone Markeviciene.

Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis said last week that the appointment of Lithuania's new ambassador to Poland was being stalled by the presidential office. According to him, the Foreign Ministry submitted the first nominations for the post on time almost 18 months ago.

Presidential spokesman Ridas Jasiulionis said earlier that the last nominated candidate was rejected because of his qualifications and because he did not speak Polish.

Meanwhile, Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda has said that the selection process leads him to believe that "certain people" are being pushed through to fill ambassadorial positions, bypassing other people who "may not be to the liking of the ministry's leadership".

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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Lithuania reports 1,171 new COVID-19 cases, no deaths

VILNIUS, Dec 20, BNS – Lithuania has recorded 1,171 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 dropped to 531.3 cases per 100,000 people, with the seven-day percentage of positive tests at 34.7 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 1.36 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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Lease of building proposed for EU agency would cost EUR 13.3 mln to Lithuania over 5 yrs

VILNIUS, Dec 20, BNS – The lease of a building in Vilnius' business center Yellowstone proposed for a new European Union (EU) authority for countering money laundering and financing of terrorism (Anti-money-laundering authority, or AMLA) will cost the Lithuanian state almost 13.3 million euros over five years if the EU institutions decide to establish the new authority’s headquarters in Vilnius.  

According to Finance Minister Gintare Skaiste, this cost would be covered by the government.

BNS reported earlier that on November 27, the Finance Ministry signed a five-year lease agreement with Project RE 1, whose ultimate beneficiary, according to the Centre of Registers, is Vilius Kavaliauskas, the founder and shareholder of the Lewben Group.

However, according to the Yellowstone project developer, 14 other beneficiaries – investors in the project – do not want to disclose their identities. The only thing that is clear is that they are “sufficiently well-known” Lithuanian natural and legal persons.

The Finance Ministry told BNS that the contractual rent for the premises is 33.53 euros per square meter and the leased area is 6,591 square meters. The rent would amount to around 221,000 euros per month, it said.

BNS estimates that the rent would amount to around 2.652 million euros over one year and 13.26 million euros over five years. 

"As the government, we are committed to cover the costs of rent, installation and maintenance for five years, and we hope that this will increase the competitiveness of our application," Skaiste said last Friday.

According to the Finance Ministry, Project RE 1's bid was the lowest and the company was declared the winner of the tender.

A decision at the EU level is expected in the first quarter of 2024. According to Skaiste, the new authority is expected to employ 400 people and have a budget of around 70 million euros.

AMLA’s headquarters would be located in the Yellowstone Business Center in Vilnius, next to the Verslo Trikampis (Business Triangle) business complex, which is being renovated and expanded. The developers expect to complete the construction of the 9-storey modern business center worth more than 25 million euros in the second quarter of 2024.

Agnius Tamosaitis, CEO of Project RE 1, says that Kavaliauskas is not the real ultimate beneficiary of the company as the real beneficiaries are the 14 investors who have invested in the Yellowstone Business Center project, while Equite, of which Kavaliauskas is a shareholder and CEO, is providing project management services, for which it will receive the remuneration stipulated in the contract.

Tamosaitis said that due to confidentiality reasons he could not disclose the names of the investors, who "believe in the success of the project", without their consent.

"These investors are sufficiently well-known natural and legal persons from Lithuania (the beneficiaries of the legal persons are also Lithuanian citizens). Contrary to what has been claimed in the public domain, these investors are the final beneficiaries of the project," he said.

Skaiste announced last Friday that the new EU authority would be headquartered in the Yellowstone Business Center.

Following revelations that the center’s developer is linked to a company formerly known as Lewben, which has recently merged with the law firm Primus to form a new company called Noewe, the ministry said it was assessing the information and would consider referring the matter to competent authorities.

Based on information from the State Security Department, in autumn 2017, the then Commission for the Assessment of Compliance of Potential Bidders with the Interests of National Security (now the Commission for Coordination of Protection of Objects of Importance to Ensuring National Security) blocked the plans of Lewben Investment Management (currently known as Braitin) to acquire Prosperus Real Estate II, an investment company that was going to invest in an office complex in the Verslo Trikampis area of Vilnius, because of its ties to Belarusian businessmen.

Lewben Investment Management tried to overturn the Commission's decision in courts, but the Lithuanian courts rejected its appeals, ruling that the Commission's decision was legal. In June this year, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg ruled that Lithuania had not violated Braitin's right to a fair trial in Lithuania.

Kavaliauskas explained in a public letter a year ago that the Lewben Group had significantly narrowed its geography of operations since 2018 and abandoned its trust services in Belarus, where One Energy, the trading company he owned, operated.

“Lewben does not cooperate with Russian or Belarusian residents, and reviews the scope of services for the few citizens of these countries remaining in the clients' portfolio, even if they are legally resident and working in the European Union... Lewben Group has never invested and does not invest in the assets of the beneficiaries of the Russian or Belarusian citizens in Lithuania or in other EU countries," Kavaliauskas stated.

AMLA will be the main authority to ensure a unified anti-money laundering and anti-terrorist financing framework in the EU financial sector and to coordinate with national supervisory authorities in the Member States.

By Roma Pakėnienė

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Orthodox under Patriarchate of Constantinople to celebrate Christmas on December 25

VILNIUS, Dec 20, BNS - Orthodox Christians under the Patriarchate of Constantinople will celebrate Christmas on December 25 according to the new calendar, not the old one.

Ukraine, which has a majority Orthodox population, made the same decision earlier this year in order to distance itself from Russia. Under the old calendar, Christmas is celebrated on January. 7

The decision is aimed at "having a more comfortable life in Lithuania and in harmony with the majority of Orthodox Christians in Europe and the Western world", Father Gintaras Sungaila told BNS on Wednesday.

"Such a decision will harmonize the Orthodox liturgical dates with the Lithuanian calendar of public holidays, which includes the Christmas Eve, Christmas and the Assumption Day, also celebrated by the Orthodox, and these are public holidays. It will also make life easier for mixed familie, who until now have had to celebrate holidays twice," the father said.

This decision was made earlier this year by all Constantinople Orthodox parishes in Lithuania. Currently, there are four parishes in Vilnius and one each in Kaunas, Klaipeda, Siauliai, Anyksciai, Taurage and Elektrenai, Songaila said.

"Priests have the possibility to continue to serve according to the old calendar, if there are believers who wish to do so," the priest said.

Many communities under the Patriarchate of Constantinople around the world follow the new calendar, but it is also allowed to follow the old calendar, he pointed out.

"The patriarchate believes that the calendar is a matter of local tradition, not a matter of faith, and that communities are free to choose the calendar they prefer," he said.

Under the old calendar, communities will only celebrate Easter and related dates.

Now, in Lithuania, only the Orthodox and Old Believer communities subordinate to Moscow follow the old calendar.

The Orthodox under Constantinople are also seeking to formally establish an ecclesiastical structure in Lithuania and are awaiting the final decision from the patriarchate.

This community is based on five former priests of the Moscow Patriarchate who were defrocked last year by Metropolitan Innokentiy, but were later reinstated by Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople in February.

The Moscow Patriarchate accused the clergy of canonical offenses, but Constantinople stated that the priests were not removed for breaking church rules, but for their position on the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Orthodox Christians in Lithuania are one of nine traditional religious communities in the country.

By Augustas Stankevičius

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Lithuanian committee chair suggests deciding on Poland ambassador in parlt

VILNIUS, Dec 20, BNS – As Lithuania's Foreign Ministry and the presidential office are at loggerheads over the country's ambassador to Poland, Zygimantas Pavilionis, the chair of the parliamentary Committee on Foreign Affairs, has proposed resolving the issue in the Seimas and invited Asta Skaisgiryte, a chief advisor to President Gitanos Nauseda, to the next parliament sitting.

"I suggest and ask you to tell the honorable advisor, Ambassador Skaisgiryte, that we are waiting for her at the next meeting on January 10, a closed-door session, to try to find a solution on Poland together," Pavilionis said during the committee meeting on Wednesday.

On Wednesday, committee members and Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis discussed the reasons for the delay in the appointment of an ambassador to Poland. When the public portion of the meeting ended, the committee switched to a closed-door session.

"What is happening is unacceptable because if there have been processes regarding Poland for a year and no solution could be found with a key strategic partner that has gone through a tectonic power change, it is very dangerous," Pavilionis said.

For his part, Landsbergis says this is a rational way forward and he's ready to brief committee members on the qualifications of the candidates rejected by the presidential office.

The minister also informed that the process to select the country's ambassador to Poland was launched in 2022 and took place on September 1 as a total of four candidates took part, and one of whom "clearly stood out for in terms of his competence and work experience".

Landsbergis assured that this diplomat had previously worked at the Lithuanian Embassy in Poland and speaks Polish, and one of the four diplomats mentioned also speaks Polish, but does not have the same command of the language. One candidate met the requirements, Landsbergis said, and was presented along with the others, but "the process stalled".

A new competition was then launched and one diplomat, who did not speak Polish but spoke a "close language" and could learn Polish until his appointment, took part.

The names of the ambassadorial candidates have not been made public, nor has Landsbergis named them. However, Albinas Januska, a long-time diplomat, has announced on Facebook that the candidate rejected by the president was Giedrius Puodziunas, Lithuania's former ambassador to Austria and Georgia, who has also served as the first secretary of the Lithuanian Embassy in Poland and as acting charge d'affaires.

Puodziunas is currently the director of the Foreign Ministry's Transatlantic Cooperation and Security Policy Department.

Lithuania's Ambassador to Poland Eduardas Borisovas was recalled on September 7 after his term expired, and the embassy is currently headed by Minister Plenipotentiary Audrone Markeviciene.

Landsbergis said last week that the appointment of Lithuania's new ambassador to Poland was being stalled by the presidential office. According to him, the Foreign Ministry submitted the first nominations for the post on time almost 18 months ago.

Presidential spokesman Ridas Jasiulionis said earlier that the last nominated candidate was rejected because of his qualifications and because he did not speak Polish. Skaisgiryte also added that in addition to a good command Polish, the successful candidate was required to have knowledge of Polish history and culture.

Landsbergis stressed that the candidate had a degree in history and met the requirements.

Nauseda said earlier the way the competition had been conducted made him believe there was an attempt to push through "certain people" to fill the ambassadorial position, bypassing other candidates who "might not please the ministry's leadership".

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

By Milena Andrukaitytė

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Lithuania hands over field facility equipment, MREs to Ukrainian army

VILNIUS, Dec 20, BNS – Lithuania has sent field facility equipment vital for the military and several thousand MRE packages to the Ukrainian army.

The latest shipment of Lithuania’s military assistance was delivered to the Armed Forces of Ukraine on Wednesday, the Defense Ministry said in a press release.

“We continue doing everything we can to ease the hard fight of Ukraine against the brutality of the aggressor. The different field equipment is critical during the cold season. Each package of our assistance is a step towards victory,” the press release quoted Defense Minister Arvydas Anusauskas as saying.

Last week, Lithuania handed over several millions of rounds and several thousand grenades for short-range anti-tank grenade launchers to Ukraine.

In addition to the regular transfer of military equipment, Lithuania is also actively training Ukrainian soldiers, providing medical treatment and rehabilitation, expert advice, and is contributing to international funds for Ukraine.

Lithuania has earmarked a 200 million euro military aid package for Ukraine for 2024-2026.

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Lithuanian Seimas committee proposes to set up special panel to assess Russian performers

VILNIUS, Dec 20, BNS – The Seimas Committee on Culture will propose to the government to set up an inter-institutional commission to assess, if necessary, whether a particular Russian or Belarusian performer or artist poses a threat to national security and whether he or she can perform in Lithuania.

On Wednesday, the Committee decided to propose to the government to create such an inter-institutional panel.

For their part, MPs promise to draft legislative amendments to strengthen the responsibility of event organizers.

“The Committee decided to ask the government to create a commission which would be the responsible unit that could answer questions why certain performers can or cannot perform in Lithuania," Conservative MP Vytautas Kernagis, a member of the Committee on Culture, told reporters on Wednesday after the Committee’s closed session.

According to him, the organizers of events do not know now who to turn to in order to get a conclusion on whether a certain artist could pose a threat to national security or whether his or her concerts in Lithuania would cause negative reactions.

The Committee also considers a possibility of stipulating in law that a person who has performed in Crimea or other occupied territories of Ukraine, should be banned from performing in Lithuania for, for example, 20 years, even if he or she has subsequently spoken out against a large-scale war.

"I think we will clarify these provisions in the law", the MP said.

Following Russia's annexation of Crimea, which belongs to Ukraine, back in 2014, cultural figures who have expressed support for the Kremlin's action and have performed there or in the separatist republics of Donetsk and Luhansk are not welcome in Lithuania.

Lithuania has placed several Russian artists on the list of undesirable persons, including pop singers Filip Kirkorov, Natasha Koroliova and others.

Last year, Culture Minister Simonas Kairys expressed hope that Russian cultural figures would not be able to come to Lithuania, primarily because Lithuania does not issue visas to Russian citizens.

Following Russia's full-scale war in Ukraine, Kairys said that he had suspended consideration of all applications for tours by those figures in Lithuania.

The Seimas has adopted legislative amendments allowing the inclusion of those who have expressed support for aggressive policies of a foreign state in violation of international law on the list of undesirable persons in Lithuania.

These amendments were drafted after it emerged that the Council for Culture had granted subsidies for cancelled or postponed events to the organizers of shows in Lithuania by Russian artists Filip Kirkorov and Mikhail Shufutinsky.

By Jūratė Skėrytė

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Failure to meet three indicators prevents Lithuania from submitting 2nd RRF application

VILNIUS, Dec 20, BNS - Failure to meet three out of 19 indicators is preventing Lithuania from submitting a second application to the European Commission for hundreds of millions of EU funds under the Recovery and Resilience Facility, a representative of the Finance Ministry says. 

The initial plan was to submit the application by the end of this year, after the EC approved Lithuania's updated RRF spending plan, according to Paulius Baniunas, an advisor from the ministry's Investment Department.

"Speaking of the earliest timing for the second payment application, which was supposed to be submitted by the end of this year, after the updated plan, we currently have three out of nineteen indicators that have not been achieved," Baniunas told the Seimas Committee on Audit on Wednesday. "As we have not reached the indicators, of course we cannot submit a payment application."

In his words, the non-met indicators posing the biggest risk are the new incentive system for businesses to invest in R&D) and the changes to social security contributions currently being debated by the Seimas and expected to be adopted shortly.

The Agriculture Ministry is responsible for the third non-achieved indicator, he said, and it’s the revised description of the project financing conditions. It should be completed shortly.

The Finance Ministry said earlier it expected to receive around 230 million euros in RRF funds under the second application.

In May, the European Commission paid Lithuania the first installment of 542.3 million euros from the RRF,for the first 30 or so indicators. At the time, 26 million euros were temporarily withheld for failure to met two outstanding indicators, but on Tuesday the EC allowed Lithuania to use almost 9 million euros out of this amount. 

The RRF plan has a total of 191 indicators, and the progress of meeting them is being monitored together with EC experts. In October, the EC approved an updated RRF package of 3.85 billion euros for Lithuania.

By Giedrius Gaidamavičius

Editor: Roma Pakėnienė

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Lithuanian govt nominates Jarukaitis for CJEU judge, Norkus for advocate general

VILNIUS, Dec 20, BNS – The Lithuanian government has nominated Irmantas Jarukaitis as the country's candidate for a judge of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU), and Rimvydas Norkus as the candidate for an advocate general.

The Cabinet agreed on nominations at its Wednesday meeting, and the decision on the candidates, one of whom, Jarukaitis, is already working at the CJEU, will now have to be taken by the president and the Seimas.

Under the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, the judges and advocates general of the CJEU are appointed by common accord of the governments of member states for a term of office of six years, after consultation of a statutory committee.

The CJEU is made up of 27 judges and 11 advocates general, appointed by common accord of member states for a term of six years.

The court monitors the legality of acts of EU institutions, ensures that member states comply with their obligations under the treaties and interprets EU law at the request of national courts.

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Baltic PMs sign declaration on uniform implementation of sanctions for Russia

VILNIUS, Dec 20, BNS – Lithuanian, Latvian and Estonian Prime Ministers Ingrida Simonyte, Evika Silina and Kaja Kallas have agreed on the uniform regional implementation of EU sanctions for Russia and Belarus and signed a joint declaration on the matter, the Lithuanian government said on Wednesday.

The declaration notes that closing loopholes and ensuring the effective implementation of sanctions is of critical importance in strengthening the impact of sanctions and disrupting Russia’s ability to continue its war of aggression against Ukraine.

The document also includes a commitment to ensure uniform customs controls and information exchange; the relevant authorities in the Baltic States will adopt the regional approach no later than January 31, 2024.

Customs authorities will agree on principles for a common approach of handling the cases when illogical routes of goods are detected, to demand additional documentation concerning the transit or the end use of goods, to require additional declarations from manufacturers and exporters to minimize the risk of circumvention of sanctions, the declaration reads.

The Baltic prime ministers also emphasized the utmost importance for the Baltic states to act together in ensuring the strict and uniform implementation of sanctions.

Western economic, diplomatic and other sanctions for Russia and its supporter Belarus have been in place since Moscow launched its large-scale invasion of Ukraine nearly two years ago.

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Lithuania: Via Baltica reconstruction halfway through, other half to be completed by 2025

VILNIUS, Dec 20, BNS – Reconstruction of Via Baltica international motorway's section from kilometer 79 to kilometer 85 was completed officially on Wednesday.

The new road connects Marijampole and Kalvarija, two towns in southwestern Lithuania, and its opening marks the halfway point of the entire Via Baltica project, the Lithuanian Road Administration (LAKD) said in a press release.

Four viaducts, four bridges, a tunnel passage and a green bridge for animal migration were built during the year, according to LAKD.

Transport and Communications Minister Marius Skuodis said that the work was completed without delay.

He noted that the third section of the Via Baltica from Kaunas to Marijampole was now being worked on, while the fourth section was yet to be tendered.

"Twelve and a half kilometers have already been built, and work continues in full swing ... on another 16 kilometers, and we are just waiting for the end of the tender process for the last section at the Polish border," Skuodis said.

According to LAKD, the reconstruction of the fourth and final section is scheduled to start next year.

The entire 40-kilometer-long road will be reconstructed into a four-lane motorway by 2025 and will be adapted for both civilian and military mobility needs.

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Lithuania's CNSD chair expects 'clearer picture' on rotational air defense next year

VILNIUS, Dec 20, BNS - As the Baltic states seek to secure rotational allied air defense capabilities in the region, Laurynas Kasciunas, the chair of Lithuanian Committee on National Security and Defense, says a "clearer picture" on the implementation of this model is expected next year.

"We will have a clearer picture next year," he told BNS on Wednesday.

In June, NATO countries agreed on a rotational air defense model in response to calls from the Baltic states to bolster the ongoing air policing mission.

Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia have proposed a rotational deployment of air defense forces, given the shortage of air defense weapons, meaning that a different Western partner could send military equipment to a different Baltic country on a rotational basis.

Kasciunas says talks with countries having such capabilities are taking place "at all levels".

"These include Germany, Sweden, the Netherlands, Italy, Greece. These are the countries that have the best-developed capabilities", he said, adding that Lithuania is also making decisions at the national level by purchasing NASAMS systems.

"We are hanging on to every opportunity," Kasciunas pointed out.

In mid-December, Lithuania's Defense Ministry said it had signed a 200 million euro contract with a Norwegian manufacturer for the purchase of a new medium-range air defense system NASAMS.

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Lithuania govt: EUR 20 mln from Ignitis Group for wind farm to be used to repay state debt

VILNIUS, Dec 20, BNS – Twenty million euros paid as a development fee by Ignitis Renewables, a subsidiary of Lithuania's state-owned energy group Ignitis Grupe (Ignitis Group), after winning the tender for the development of the country's first offshore wind farm in the Baltic Sea, will be used to repay the funds borrowed on behalf of the state.

The government approved a respective proposal of the Finance Ministry on Wednesday.

According to the ministry, Ignitis Renewables transferred the 20-million-euro development fee in December and if this money were spent next year, it would increase public spending and the general government deficit.

The funds borrowed by the state were used to compensate households and businesses for electricity and gas prices. This year, 175 million euros has been used for this purpose and 423 million euros in 2022.

Earlier this year, Ignitis Grupe and its partner Ocean Winds won a tender to develop Lithuania's first 700 MW offshore wind farm in the Baltic Sea without state aid, having offered 20 million euros as a development fee to the state. The wind farm is preliminary valued at 1.8 billion euros.

By Erika Alonderytė-Kazlauskė

Editor: Roma Pakėnienė

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Lithuanian finmin: we will ask authorities to find out Yellowstone’s final beneficiaries

VILNIUS, Dec 20, BNS – The Lithuanian Finance Ministry will ask competent authorities to find out the final beneficiaries of a lease deal for the building proposed for a new European Union (EU) authority for countering money laundering and financing of terrorism (Anti-money-laundering authority, or AMLA), Finance Minister Gintare Skaiste has said in response to media reports that investors of the Yellowstone business center in Vilnius – the proposed site of ALMA’s headquarters – have not been disclosed publicly and one of them is linked to the former company Lewben.

“Taking into account the information that has emerged in the public domain that there may be risks regarding the reputation and other links of the beneficiaries, we are going to turn this week to the institutions that have additional information and then, when we receive that information, we will be able to assess it," the minister told BNS on Wednesday.

She noted, however, that this would only be relevant if Lithuania won the EU competition.

"In that case, if Europe decides that the agency should be headquartered in Vilnius, only in that case those [contractual] relations come into force. So I would say that we still have time before a decision is taken, we will gather additional information and see if additional decisions are needed," Skaiste said.

According to her, Lithuania is competing to host the AMLA with nine other cities, including Madrid, Paris, and Frankfurt.

The five-year lease for Yellowstone was signed with Project RE 1 on November 27, with the option to terminate the contract if the EU Council and the Parliament decide to locate AMLA's headquarters outside Lithuania or if no decision is taken within 6 months. The decision on the host country of the new authority’s headquarters is expected in the first quarter of 2024.

If the decision is taken to base the authority’s headquarters in Vilnius, the Lithuanian state would cover the costs of renting and maintaining the building for five years – almost 13.3 million euros.

BNS reported earlier that the final beneficiary of Project RE 1, according to the data of the Center of Registers, is Vilius Kavaliauskas, the founder and shareholder of Lewben Group.

The media has repeatedly raised questions about the group's links with various individuals from Eastern countries and the content of its services.

However, another 14 beneficiaries – the investors of the Yellowstone project who have not been publicly registered anywhere – do not want to disclose their identities in public, according to the Yellowstone project developer.

Agnius Tamosaitis, CEO of Project RE 1, told BNS on Monday that he would disclose the names of those investors if they agreed. On Tuesday, however, he stated that due to confidentiality reasons he could not do so without their consent.

AMLA will be the main authority to ensure a unified anti-money laundering and anti-terrorist financing framework in the EU financial sector and to coordinate with national supervisory authorities in the Member States.

By Goda Vileikytė

Editor: Roma Pakėnienė

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No need for Lithuania to decide on migrant admission yet, despite EU deal – vicemin

VILNIUS, Dec 20, BNS – There's no rush for Lithuania to decide whether to take in more than 500 migrants each year or pay several million euros, despite an EU consensus on migration, Interior Vice Minister Arnoldas Abramavicius says.

He was speaking after EU member states and the European Parliament agreed on five separate EU rules on how to manage the inflow of asylum seekers and migrants, and how to deal with sudden migrant crises.

One of the changes is the creation of a compulsory solidarity mechanism, which means that a certain proportion of migrants will be relocated to other EU countries. If any block member refuses to take these people in, it would have to make a financial or material contribution to receiving countries.

Lithuania estimates that, at current illegal migration flows, it would have to take in 158 people per year or pay 3.18 million euros.

"Today's announcement that a political agreement has been reached does not mean that the regulation enters into force today and now. Quite some time will pass until it enters into force and the final approval will take place in the EP in April," Abramavicius told BNS on Wednesday.

"Then we will have a 24-month transition period, and in this case the decision on whether to accept 158 migrants per year or to pay the contribution will probably have to be made much later, certainly not today and certainly not next year," he added.

The EU migrant reform also includes faster screening of irregular arrivals, the creation of detention centers at the borders, and faster removal of those refused asylum.

The rules also address situations where third countries or hostile non-state actors seek to use migration as a tool to destabilize the EU, and therefore provide for temporary derogations from the normal asylum procedure.

Lithuania has been a vocal advocate of the latter, as it faced increased migrant flows from Belarus a few years ago.

"I think this is a certain achievement for Lithuania here," Abramavicius said. "Procedural facilitation emerges: the accommodation of migrants under simplified conditions and the restriction of their movements. In this case, the procedures would be similar to the ones we had in 2021."

Lithuania blamed the Minsk regime for the influx of migrants from Belarus in 2021 and still has a policy of turning back migrants in place, which has been criticized by NGOs.

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Lithuanian parlt panel looking into SSD whistleblower case asks SIS to declassify info

VILNIUS, Dec 20, BNS – The Lithuanian parliamentary commission investigating the story of whistleblower Tomas Gailius, a former employee of the country's State Security Department, heard the testimony of Linas Pernavas, the head of the Special Investigation Service, on Wednesday, and asked for the submitted material to be declassified.

"Unfortunately, it happens so that the SIS owns the information in question by law, and this prevents the commission from commenting on the information received during this hearing. But we have formally asked the SIS to declassify the information that was submitted to the commission," Vytautas Bakas, who chairs the commission, told reporters after the meeting on Wednesday.

In his words, the commission believes that the SIS' classified letters "do not comply with the criteria provided for in the law", which defines that only information posing a threat to state security and the activities of special services can be classified.

Speaking with reporters after the meeting, Pernavas refrained to comment on anything, including on potential declassification, saying that everything that was discussed was the material of a closed meeting.

The SIS chief was questioned during a closed-door meeting. Later one, commission members heard Birute Davidonyte and Dovydas Pancerovas, the authors of The Whistleblower and the President. Part of it is based on the information provided by Gailius.

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.

Gailius earlier told the parliamentary commission that the top SSD officials might have committed a disciplinary offense or even a crime by asking the department's employees to vet Nauseda's inner circle and possibly sharing information with unauthorized persons. He also claimed to have seen information on the possible non-transparent financing of the 2019 presidential election campaign when he worked for the intelligence service. However, he did not singled out a specific candidate.

Following Gailius' testiony, the SSD reiterated that it followed the law when it vetted Nauseda's inner circle.

Evaldas Pasilis, a former prosecutor general, and his deputy Zydrunas Radisauskas earlier told the commission that the SIS seemed to be the most appropriate institution to assess the material received from Gailius.

They said the SIS launched a nine-month criminal intelligence investigation, but terminated it after it failed to find any signs of a criminal offense.

Published early this year, The Whistleblower and the President is based on Gailius' testimony and raises questions regarding the transparency of funding of Nauseda's election campaign.

For his part, Nauseda rejects suspicions of non-transparent funding and says he's ready to answer the commission's questions in writing.

By Milena Andrukaitytė

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Dec 22 2023

LITHUANIA DAILY NEWS BULLETIN, December 19, 2023

LITHUANIA DAILY NEWS BULLETIN


IN THIS ISSUE:

  1. Upcoming events in Lithuania for Tuesday, December 19, 2023
  2. Two irregular migrants turned away on Lithuania's border with Belarus
  3. EU Energy Council to decide on gas price cap, synchronization declaration due on sidelines
  4. Presidential advisor sees possibility of agreeing on Lithuania’s new ambassador to Poland
  5. Lithuania reports 1,866 new COVID-19 cases, four deaths
  6. EU should not stop tightening sanctions against Russia – Lithuanian presidential advisor
  7. Satunas to replace Neliupsiene as foreign vice minister in Lithuania
  8. Ukraine’s Join UP! launches direct flights from Vilnius to Sri Lanka
  9. Majority of Lithuanians back deployment of German brigade in Lithuania – survey
  10. EU Commission unlocks EUR 9 mln to Lithuania out of frozen RRF funds
  11. KTU: hackers got access to employee data – Lithuania's KTU
  12. EC, Baltics, Poland agree on synchronization in February 2025
  13. Lithuania wants to ban troops from traveling to Belarus, China, Russia without permission
  14. Upcoming events in Lithuania for Wednesday, December 20, 2023

Upcoming events in Lithuania for Tuesday, December 19, 2023

VILNIUS, Dec 19, BNS – The following events are scheduled in Lithuania for Tuesday, December 19, 2023:

PRESIDENT Gitanas Nauseda to meet with Klaipeda Mayor Arvydas Vaitkus in Klaipeda at 10.30 a.m., to attend a meeting at the Klaipeda State Seaport Authority to discuss issues related to the maritime economy, the infrastructure of the Port of Klaipeda, and the port's preparedness to act in the event of a crisis or a threat at 1.30 p.m., to give comments to the media at the Port Authority at 2.40 p.m.

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

VILNIUS, Dec 19, BNS – Lithuanian border guards have in the past 24 hours turned away two migrants attempting to cross into the country from Belarus illegally, the State Border Guard Service (SBGS) said on Tuesday morning.

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

Latvia reported two attempts at illegal border crossings on Monday, and 40 irregular migrants were not allowed into Poland on Sunday, 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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EU Energy Council to decide on gas price cap, synchronization declaration due on sidelines

VILNIUS, Dec 19, BNS – The European Union’s (EU) energy ministers will seek to extend the period of application of the emergency measures adopted last December to tackle the energy crisis, including the gas price cap, at the meeting of the Union’s Transport, Telecommunications and Energy Council (Energy) in Brussels on Tuesday.

In addition, EU Energy Commissioner Kadri Simson and the energy ministers of Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Poland are expected to sign an updated political declaration on the synchronization of the Baltic countries' electricity grids with Western Europe in February 2025 on the sidelines of the meeting.

According to the Council, the market correction mechanism, which entered into force on February 1 this year and was due to remain in effect for one year, and which also provides for a 180-euro per megawatt-hour (MWh) gas price ceiling, is to be extended for another year, until January 31, 2025.

The trigger conditions for the gas price cap, approved by the Community’s energy ministers last December, are that the benchmark TTF front-month contract price exceeds 180 euros per MWh and is also at least 35 euros per MWh higher than a reference global LNG price for three consecutive working days.

EU energy ministers are also expected to agree on Tuesday to extend for one year the other two measures adopted last December to address the energy crisis.

In particular, the solidarity-enhancing mechanism providing for joint gas purchases should be extended until December 31, 2024, and the measure to accelerate the deployment of renewable energy – until June 30, 2025.

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Presidential advisor sees possibility of agreeing on Lithuania’s new ambassador to Poland

VILNIUS, Dec 19, BNS – Presidential advisor Asta Skaisgiryte sees possibilities for the head of state, the government and the Seimas to agree on the country’s new ambassador to Poland whose appointment procedures have stalled.

“Our ambassador to Poland ended his term in September and there is definitely a search for his successor going on. We would think that there is a possibility to reach an agreement, but we need to keep looking and we will find the most suitable, the most professional candidate, which is what the president would want," she told the Ziniu Radijas news radio on Tuesday.

Lithuania's Ambassador to Poland Eduardas Borisovas was recalled on September 7 after his term expired, and the embassy is currently headed by Minister Plenipotentiary Audrone Markeviciene.

Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis said last week that the appointment of Lithuania's new ambassador to Poland was being stalled by the presidential office. According to him, the Foreign Ministry submitted the first nominations for the post on time almost 18 months ago.

Presidential spokesman Ridas Jasiulionis said earlier that the last nominated candidate was rejected because of his qualifications and because he did not speak Polish.

Meanwhile, Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda has said that the selection process leads him to believe that "certain people" are being pushed through to fill ambassadorial positions, bypassing other people who "may not be to the liking of the ministry's leadership".

Skaisgiryte says that, in addition to knowledge of the Polish language, candidates are required to have knowledge of Polish history and culture.

"Poland is a really special ally of Lithuania, so sending a person who quickly learns Polish is probably not an option, because it's not just about the Polish language, it's about a whole complex of qualities that an ambassador must have," she said.

According to the advisor, the absence of an ambassador does not fundamentally harm bilateral relations, as the Lithuanian and Polish presidents are currently in frequent and direct contact.

Speaking about the relations between Lithuania and Poland after the approval of the new government of Donald Tusk, Skaisgiryte stressed that Nauseda's meeting with Tusk at the EU Council was a hopeful sign that this would be the beginning of "good and close communication".

She also stressed that Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski should not be pre-judged either. Sikorski was the head of Polish diplomacy in Tusk's previous government and often reproached Lithuania on national minorities and other issues at the time.

"People change, and those historical circumstances are different. Let's take our time with the circumstances and wait for the new minister to get to work and let those works show what the situation is. But it is clear that the historical, geopolitical and security situation in the region has changed a lot, and it is in the interest of both Poland and Lithuania to work together," she said.

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Lithuania reports 1,866 new COVID-19 cases, four deaths

VILNIUS, Dec 19, BNS – Lithuania has recorded 1,866 new coronavirus infections and four deaths from COVID-19 over the past 24 hours, official statistics showed on Tuesday morning.

The 14-day primary infection rate has dropped to 534.4 cases per 100,000 people, with the seven-day percentage of positive tests at 37.2 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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EU should not stop tightening sanctions against Russia – Lithuanian presidential advisor

VILNIUS, Dec 19, BNS – The European Union (EU) should not stop working out new sanctions after the adoption of the 12th package of sanctions against Russia on Monday, Asta Skaisgiryte, President Gitanas Nauseda's chief foreign policy advisor, has said.

"The cherry on the cake of this package is Russian diamonds, which will finally be sanctioned, because it has been talked about for a year and never got done, but now it has ... It is probably obvious that the sanctions are working, but we should not stop at the 12th package, I think as soon as it comes into force, we should prepare the 13th package," she told the Ziniu Radijas news radio on Tuesday.

According to her, as Russia's war in Ukraine drags on, more and more representatives of the Russian authorities should continue to be sanctioned.

The EU on Monday adopted a new package of sanctions on Russia that include an import ban on Russian diamonds.

The package is the 12th packet leveled at Moscow since it sent Russian troops into Ukraine on February 24, 2022, in a full-scale invasion.

The EU ban on Russian diamonds covers natural and synthetic varieties as well as in jewellery from January, and Russian diamonds cut in other countries as from September next year.

The package also provides for a ban on provision of software for the management of enterprises and software for industrial design and manufacture.

In addition, the sanctions package extends EU efforts to restrict technology Moscow can get its hands on for military purposes, adding 29 more companies to a list of entities prohibited from exporting products able to help Russia's arms industry.

The EU is also seeking better enforcement of previous sanctions hitting Russian oil exports, which place a price cap on its crude.

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Satunas to replace Neliupsiene as foreign vice minister in Lithuania

VILNIUS, Dec 19, BNS - Diplomat Simonas Satunas will take up the positions of a foreign minister in Lithuania from the beginning of 2024 and will replace Jovita Neliupsiene who has been appointed head of the EU mission in the United States, the Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday.

Satunas will be responsible for EU policy shaping and implementation, EU trade policy, relations with EU institutions, as well as sanction coordination issues. The diplomat will also be responsible for bilateral relations with European countries, as well as Lithuania's development cooperation policy and its implementation.

"With more than 20 years of working in the diplomatic service, Satunas is an experienced diplomat with an excellent knowledge of EU policy shaping and implementation. Having previously worked in the fields of energy and trade policy, he has a wide range of experience in inter-institutional coordination and in managing large teams," Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis pointed out.

Up until now, Satunas has led Landsbergis' office.

Before returning to Lithuania, he was the head of European Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevicius' office. From 2019 to 2022, Satunas served as Lithuania's deputy permanent representative to the EU in Brussels (a COREPER1 ambassador), and later became an acting permanent representative to the EU and a COREPER2 ambassador.

The diplomat has also worked at the US State Department, the Lithuanian Embassies in Washington and Riga.

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Ukraine’s Join UP! launches direct flights from Vilnius to Sri Lanka

VILNIUS, Dec 19, BNS – Join UP!, Ukraine's leading tour operator, launches direct flights from Vilnius to Sri Lanka on Thursday.

Ukraine’s SkyUp Airlines will fly tourists to Mattala Airport, while Join UP! will offer charter flights, the company said in a press release.

"This winter, we are seeing an increased demand for exotic destinations in Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, especially during the Christmas holidays when most of the trips to other countries are already sold out. In response to this demand, we have started to offer trips to Sri Lanka from Vilnius," the press release quoted Sabina Saikovskaja, Join UP! Baltic executive director, as saying.

A flight from Vilnius to Sri Lanka will take around 12 hours, with a one-hour stopover in Bahrain for refueling.

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Majority of Lithuanians back deployment of German brigade in Lithuania – survey

VILNIUS, Dec 19, BNS - The majority of the population in Lithuania support the deployment of a German brigade in the country, according to a new survey published by the Lithuanian army on Tuesday.

According to the poll conducted by Spinter Tyrimai, 82 per cent of Lithuanians support the permanent deployment of a German brigade in Lithuania, while 83 percent have a positive view of German soldiers.

76 percent believe that the German brigade will contribute to strengthening Lithuania's defense, and more than half of them believe that it will make a significant contribution.

The Lithuanian and German defense ministers signed an action plan on the deployment of a Bundeswehr brigade in Vilnius on Monday, and it sets out deadlines for the relocation of military units and commitments on living conditions for soldiers' families, including schools and kindergartens for children.

Under the signed agreement, the brigade's key deployment to Lithuania will take place between 2025 and 2026, and the brigade should be fully deployed by 2027.

The core of the German brigade will consist of five battalions, including tank and artillery battalions. Berlin intends to deploy a total of around 5,000 German brigade soldiers and civilians in Lithuania, with families expected to come with them due to the long rotation period.

The German troops will serve in Rudninkai and Rukla, some will live in Vilnius and Kaunas, and additional logistic points will be created in other parts of Lithuania.

The German-led NATO multinational battalion deployed in Lithuania since 2017 will also be integrated into the brigade, which is expected to be done by 2026.

Commissioned by the Lithuanian army's Strategic Communication Department, the survey was conducted on November 17-29.

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EU Commission unlocks EUR 9 mln to Lithuania out of frozen RRF funds

VILNIUS, Dec 19, BNS – The European Commission (EC) on Tuesday adopted a positive preliminary assessment, which will result in unlocking to Lithuania the amount of almost 9 million euros out of frozen 26 million euros in the Recovery and Resilience Facility’s (RRF) funds, the Finance Ministry reported.

According to the ministry, the Commission’s decision was taken after assessing additional information provided by Lithuania, in view of which the Commission deemed the milestone, related to environmental taxes and taxation of other sources less detrimental to economic growth, fulfilled satisfactorily.

A total of 8.7 million euros will be disbursed for this milestone and the funds will reach Lithuania in February or March 2024 as the Commission’s assessment still needs to be discussed by the EU Council.

The remaining part of the subsidy will be the subject of a further two months of dialogue, after which a final decision will be taken.

The Commission has also concluded that Lithuania made progress towards achieving the milestone related to the abolition of tax exemptions or special tax regimes but the progress remains insufficient for the Commission to assess the milestone as satisfactorily fulfilled.

Therefore, the Commission has asked Lithuania to present its observations within two months, following which the Commission will take a final decision on the remaining frozen amount. 

In May, the Commission disbursed the first tranche of 542.3 million euros to Lithuania from the Recovery and Resilience Facility, which was made possible by Lithuania's fulfillment of around 30 milestones linked to the first installment. 

At the same time, 26 million euros was temporarily withheld for two outstanding milestones.

There are 191 milestones in the plan and progress towards their fulfillment is being monitored together with the Commission’s experts.

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KTU: hackers got access to employee data – Lithuania's KTU

VILNIUS, Dec 19, BNS - Hackers got access to the personal data of employees at Kaunas University of Technology (KTU) as it was hit by a cyber-attack in early December, the university said on Tuesday.

The data included names, surnames, personal identification numbers, addresses, phone numbers, e-mails, and car license plates.

"Although information with specific images of documents of members of the university community has appeared in public, KTU assures that the university did not store copies of these documents in the information systems that were affected by the cyber-attack. Such information may have been lost from the affected workplaces," KTU states.

The university stresses that the breach of confidentiality of this data may expose community members to cases where, unbeknownst to them and without their consent, attempts may be made to act on their behalf, or even to misappropriate their identities and take over both their work and personal accounts.

Therefore, KTU employees are urged to change their passwords for logging into KTU systems and personal accounts, to carefully evaluate incoming e-mails, to be vigilant in monitoring activities in information systems, not to open unknown links, and not to confirm suspicious authentication messages or notifications on their phones.

KTU was hit by a cyber-attack on December when its website went down, and email and several other systems were down.

KTU says it continues to investigate the incident and is working with the State Data Protection Inspectorate and the police. The university is also gradually restoring all systems affected by the incident.

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EC, Baltics, Poland agree on synchronization in February 2025

VILNIUS, Dec 19, BNS - The European Commission, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania and Poland on Tuesday signed a political declaration on the synchronization of the Baltic states electricity grids with Western Europe by February 2025.

Signed in Brussels on the sidelines of the EU Energy Council, the document also includes a commitment to accelerate the implementation of the Harmony Link electricity link between Lithuania and Poland and to explore an onshore alternative, the Energy Ministry said.

"The operators have been tasked to examine in detail an onshore alternative to the previously planned offshore link. We hope that next year this will allow us to make final decisions on the implementation of this project," Lithuanian Energy Minister Dainius Kreivys said in a statement.

EU Energy Commissioner Kadri Simson says synchronization will allow the Baltic states to take full control of their electricity networks, integrate into the European market and strengthen the region's energy security.

"Today is a historic moment when we mark the significant progress made towards the integration of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania into our internal energy market and pave the way for the completion of the Baltic synchronization project by February 2025," Simson said in the statement.

The EU has spent more than 1.2 billion euros on the synchronizations of the the Baltic electricity grids with continental Europe over the past 12 years.

In August, the Lithuanian, Latvian and Estonian prime ministers signed a declaration and committed to synchronize the Baltic electricity grids with Western Europe by February 2025. the initial plan was to do so by the end of 2025.

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Lithuania wants to ban troops from traveling to Belarus, China, Russia without permission

VILNIUS, Dc 19, BNS – Lithuania's Defense Ministry said on Tuesday it is proposing banning professional soldiers from traveling to Belarus, China and Russia without special permission.

These countries are listed in a draft government resolution.

In early December, the ministry published an initial list of countries professional troops would be ban from traveling to and it included Russia and its occupied Crimea, Belarus, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, China, Kyrgyzstan, the Transnistrian region of Moldova, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and the Abkhazian and South Ossetian regions of Georgia.

The latest proposal is to only keep Belarus, China and Russia on this list.

Last week, the Seimas adopted amendments that will prevent professional troops from traveling for off-duty purposes to countries posing a threat to Lithuania's national security. The law stipulates that the list of such countries would be approved by the government.

The resolution will also set out the cases and exceptions when a soldier would be allowed to travel to Russia, Belarus and China. These would include a serious illness or death of family members, the exercise of parental or guardianship rights, and the settlement of property matters that cannot be resolved without traveling to the countries or territories concerned.

The ban is due to enter into force early next year.

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Upcoming events in Lithuania for Wednesday, December 20, 2023

VILNIUS, Dec 20, BNS – The following events are scheduled in Lithuania for Wednesday, December 20, 2023:

PRESIDENT Gitanas Nauseda to visit Silute.

SPEAKER OF THE SEIMAS Viktorija Cmilyte-Nielsen to have a virtual conversation with 

Marshal of the Polish Senate Małgorzata Kidawa-Błońska at 10.50 a.m.

PRIME MINISTER Ingrida Simonyte to chair a Cabinet meeting and sitting at 1 p.m.

By Jurgita Andriejauskaitė

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Dec 22 2023

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