LRT English Newsletter – February 28, 2020.
Lithuania has declared a state of emergency as a preventative measure against the spread of the virus. It’s a bureaucratic mechanism seeking to streamline the government’s management process. For example, the state can utilise medical reserves, replenish them without the need for public procurement, etc.
The authorities can also make certain recommendations mandatory, for example, put restrictions on mass gathering events. Although, the government is yet to decide on an action plan.
Meanwhile, Estonia has reported its first coronavirus case. A passenger travelled from Istanbul to Riga Airport and took a Lux Express bus to Tallinn. After being cleaned, the bus then left for St Petersburg in Russia before being removed from service.
Follow the latest updates in Lithuania here.
LITHUANIAN POLITICS IN BRIEF
Let’s run through some of the key political events in Lithuania since last Friday. A Lithuanian MP called for an investigation into alleged corrupt practices at one of the state security institutions. The parliament refused to launch an investigation, and the president asked the MP to refrain from escalating the situation. He, meanwhile, claimed the information was subsequently classified “which speaks for itself”.
Lithuania's conservative Homeland Union is still the most popular party in the country, followed by the ruling Farmers and Greens in second, and Social Democrats in third.
In other news: the port of Klaipėda is allegedly polluting Baltic waters, the first individual constitutional complaint reaches the top court, another court upholds the sexual harassment ruling against a former MP, and Kaunas sacks its police chief after he loses the right to work with classified information.
A black panther, to be precise. Latvian police handed one over to the Riga zoo along with other wild animals, including two lynxes that attacked their owner.
After arriving in Brussels in high spirits, Lithuanian President Gitanas Nausėda was criticised by Dalia Grybauskaitė, his ‘iron lady’ predecessor, for sharing good news before the budget talks ultimately failed, rendering the earlier proclamations premature. The criticism reminded him of a Soviet anecdote, said Nausėda, where “one is digging a trench and five others are watching and telling him how to dig”.
Meanwhile, Nausėda welcomed the 200-million-euros compensation for emigration earmarked by the EU. He said economic migrants are Lithuania’s “contribution to the EU wellbeing”.
RUSSIAN TRANSIT WOES
In Brussels, Vilnius’ diplomats raised red flags over proposed EU budget cuts to the Russian transit scheme via Lithuania, saying it could jeopardise European security.
Several days before the announcement, we ran a story exploring how the transit scheme came into being, and how it nearly became an obstacle to Lithuania’s EU aspirations.
Revolut will relocate some of its operations to Lithuania because of Brexit, the government will join an EU plastic coalition, a Cypriot investment scam targets the country’s residents, Lithuania has received its first “historic” A+ credit rating, and in another first, a Lithuanian textile firm has become the first Greenpeace-verified producer in the world.
Meanwhile, the economic fruits have not benefited everyone in Lithuania just yet, according to the European Commission. Yet on the flipside, Lithuanians are more optimistic than the EU average, saying the next year will only get better.
As we kick-off a forum of voices from the region, Andrei Sannikov – a former Belarusian diplomat and a “prisoner of conscience” according to Amnesty International – argues that Lukashenko is lying to Lithuania and the West, again. “There is no need to help the dictator to swing the pendulum – it is not connected with the clock and its swinging doesn’t affect the clock’s arrows.They are not moving and the time is still frozen in Belarus,” writes Andrei Sannikov. Read the exclusive op-ed here.
LITHUANIA AND FAR-RIGHT
One of the most popular publications this week. Fabio Belafatti, a researcher at Vilnius University, argues that Lithuanian far-right is walking into Putin’s trap. “The problem is not the past. It is the present,” writes Belafatti.
The unclear future of Nord Stream 2 stretching across the Baltic Sea, from our partners at Deutsche Welle. Bring yourself up to speed with the latest developments, here.
And, on a lighter note, an exclusive LRT.lt interview with the new US ambassador in Vilnius, Robert S. Gilchrist.
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Written by Benas Gerdžiūnas