LRT English Newsletter – December 3, 2021.
Lithuania has posted the highest annual inflation rate in the eurozone – 9.3 percent against the average of 4.9 percent. The “monstrous inflation”, not seen since before the financial crisis of 2009, risks eroding savings and negating wage growth (a whopping 11 percent over the past year, on average). According to economists, much of the troubles are caused by rising fuel prices, which are set to balloon by up to around a third in January.
WHERE WE HEADING
A survey commissioned by LRT has given some interesting insights into how the people view Lithuania’s foreign policy. Namely, the two big apples (for Vilnius) – Belarus and China. When it comes down to the current trajectory with Lukashenko, more respondents support Lithuania’s actions. With China, however, the answers are less clear-cut.
Most young respondents actually have no opinion, while the young-to-middle aged segment would prefer a more neutral policy. According to experts commenting on the results, the China issue is new and not yet well understood in Lithuania. Those working in professional and business fields may also worry about the economic impact. Meanwhile, Belarus policy has more consensus, although it was not clear from the results how much the migration question influenced the responses. Read more here.
OVER THE HORIZON
As Russian troop build-up continues, the US and NATO have rallied to show solidarity, yet have come short of promising military deterrence options. Since the article was published, the Kremlin has revealed its negotiation position (no NATO enlargement), while Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has also suggested the need to negotiate with Moscow. Lithuania’s Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis has called for more security guarantees in NATO’s “eastern flank”.
Meanwhile, Ukrainian media have reported that the country’s richest oligarch, cited by Zelensky as part of an alleged coup, visited Lithuania where he met with other compatriots.
THE GROUP OF 14
A group of 14 people, including six children, entered Lithuania from Belarus on Tuesday, surviving what they said was a five-day ping-pong game of being pushed back and forth by Belarusian and Lithuanian officers. LRT was there to capture the footage, before the group was taken to a nearby frontier station.
The children and several adults were checked by medics and all of them spent a night there. However, the following day they were returned to Belarus, as their asylum claims were not accepted. According to the latest information available to us, they then headed back to Minsk, but the contact was lost sometime in the early hours of Thursday. Children's Rights Ombudsman Institution in Lithuania has launched an investigation.
Lithuania is now moving to extend the current state of emergency along the border with Belarus, and also extend it to cover the border with Poland. Good news is that journalists are allowed access to the border, but humanitarian workers are still banned. Access to the detention centres is still largely denied.
EU GREENLIGHTS PUSHBACKS?
The European Commission is set to grant exceptions to asylum procedures in Lithuania, Latvia, and Poland. According to Politico Europe, Brussels will allow longer asylum processing times, which some lawyers say amount to de facto detention. Human rights groups and liberal politicians have criticised the EU’s approach. The Commission has also dodged questions whether the pushback policy in Poland (and by extension Lithuania) complies with EU rules.
Lithuania has reshuffled testing and national certificate rules. Most of them came into effect on Wednesday, but more are set to go live on December 28. Namely, a booster shot will be mandatory seven months after full vaccination if you would like to retain the national Covid certificate.
In other pandemic news, Lithuania will donate over 600,000 vaccine doses via the COVAX programme.
– Nobel Peace Prize winner Nadia Murad has asked Lithuania and other European countries to provide safety to “hundreds of Yazidis” stranded on the EU border with Belarus and make it possible for them to apply for asylum.
– A conscript has allegedly committed suicide during training.
– Last year, Lithuanian students spent 200 days studying remotely. But Vilnius Ozas Gymnasium has been organising distance learning for over 20 years. Could more schools adopt such a teaching model even after the pandemic?
– The author Silvia Foti argues that spending time in a Nazi concentration camp does not exonerate her grandfather, a well-known anti-Soviet partisan Jonas Noreika, from his role in the Holocaust in Lithuania.
– We’re back with Lithuania’s peculiar fascination with which city has the best Christmas tree. Anyway, some cities have already unveiled theirs, have a look. Or not.
– One evening, after a day of arduous work, two friends went to a sauna to relax – and then decided to buy it. If you’re in Vilnius, you will probably recognise the building on the side of the Kalvarijų market. Anyway, read their story here.
– Swedish director Lasse Hallström, best known for The Cider House Rules and Chocolat, brought a stellar cast to Vilnius to shoot the biographical drama Hilma.
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Written by Benas Gerdžiūnas
Edited by Justinas Šuliokas