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News2019.12.13 08:00

LRT English Newsletter: Budget talks, European shouts and artistic whispers 2019.12.13 08:00

LRT English Newsletter – December 13, 2019

Written by Justinas Šuliokas
Edited by Benas Gerdžiūnas


This week, the Lithuanian parliament resumed debates on next year’s government spending bill. The thing is still contentious: while a parliamentary committee stalled the proposed taxes on bank assets and retail chains, a higher profit tax rate on banks was given a go-ahead.

Will the budget bill pass? The vote is set for December 17, but the biggest opposition party has already vowed to reject it. If no budget agreement is reached this month, Lithuania’s state institutions will in January have to make do with 1/12 of this year’s budget.


An equally heated issue is how much Lithuania will get from the EU. As Western member states want to slash financing for the east, Lithuanian President Nausėda has already said the current proposals are unacceptable. Smaller budget may compromise the EU’s climate change effort, he said, and Lithuania would not be able to foot the 14-billion-euro bill alone.

Some Eastern Europeans are even challenging the notion that money is moving west to east and not the other way round.


Speaking of money, we all knew it, but the statisticians now said it: since the adoption of the euro five years ago, prices have gone up: services appreciated 22 percent and some, such as childcare, almost doubled. Prices of goods appreciated less and, in fairness, pay has gone up too.


Last week’s NATO summit, and particularly President Donald Trump’s performance, continues to echo in comedy. Trump being shunned by the “cool kids” and having to hang out with the Baltic “nerds” was a common thread in US comedy shows, picked up by The Daily Show and Saturday Night Live.

On a more serious note, Lithuania’s foreign minister said that media leaks of Turkey willing to block NATO’s defence plans for the Baltics and Poland was probably what made Ankara reconsider.


Contemporary art can be hit and miss – and Trakai Public Library’s attempt to build a sculpture of old books did not go well with audiences. Piercing books with a pole and exposing them to the elements is a barbarous way to treat the written word, some social media commentators said.

More successful at art were the security officers at Vilnius Airport. They used confiscated items – knives, toy guns and the like – to build a Christmas tree (which also serves as an information board of what you are not allowed to take on a plane).

Art can also build bridges and a contemporary art exhibition in Paris opened last weekend to celebrate the centenary of Franco-Lithuanian diplomatic relations.

Four hundred million people in India will now have a chance to learn more about Lithuania after the country’s embassy published ‘History of Lithuania’ in Hindi. It wasn’t an easy task, particularly for translators.


Developments in close neighbourhood kept Lithuanian observers engaged over the week. First, the leaders of Belarus and Russia met in Sochi to discuss further integration of the two countries, sparking opposition protests in Minsk.

Secondly, Nausėda’s own performance as Lithuania’s chief foreign policymaker has left sopolitical scientists sceptical. Eglė Murauskaitė argues that Vilnius is putting all its eggs into the German basket and completely neglecting France.


Those weary of the end-of-year political bickering may have missed an important new law that can change the rules of the political game: in a second attempt, Lithuanian MPs lowered the electoral threshold from 5 percent to 3 percent, meaning that more small parties will qualify for parliament seats in next year’s general election. Coalition-forming may become more difficult.


A rally in Kaunas demanded to stop the sale of the city’s iconic Central Post Office Building. While the state-owned Post of Lithuania says it has no use for the 1930s listed building nor resources to maintain it, public pressure appears to have forced to call off the auction.

Elsewhere in Kaunas, a small plane crashed in a suburban backyard last weekend. Two pilots onboard perished.


Surgeons at Kaunas Clinics performed a complicated procedure that had never been done in Lithuania before, saving a man’s leg from amputation.

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