Posts filed under ‘EU’
See an article from Lithuanian daily Lietuvos zinios about possible links between investigation into death of the Lithuanian State Security Colonel Vytautas Pociunas and the current investigations of alleged secret CIA prisons in Lithuania.
Article by Jurga Tvaskiene: “State in Swamp of Double Lies”, November 26
The habit to lie to the Seimas’ ad hoc commissions, which was introduced by senior state officials, has become a norm. MPs try to fight against this with proposals to introduce prison sentences for those who give false testimonies. If such measures were applied earlier, perhaps now we would know whose interests killed Colonel Vytautas Pociunas and how those who obstructed the investigation into his death are tied to the new scandal related to CIA prisons in Lithuania.
Politicians do not lie – they just do not tell the whole truth. Such a joke can be found on Lithuanian Internet portals. Yet, MPs, who form ad hoc probe commissions in the Seimas in order to find answers to questions that often are unsolvable even to law enforcement officers, are not laughing. Especially, when after testifying before the Seimas’ investigators senior officials admit they have been talking gibberish. And do not get punished.
The increasingly deeper swamp of lies is especially worrisome now, when the Seimas is conducting a probe into the possible existence of a CIA prison in Lithuania. People, who three years ago lied and practically destroyed the probe into the death of Pociunas, a colonel of the State Security Department (VSD), and into the real motives of the VSD activities, will probably be invited to testify in this probe. [passage omitted on the fact that former senior officials of Lithuania denied having any knowledge about the alleged CIA prison].
In April 2004, Rolandas Paksas, who had been president for a mere year and a half, was impeached from his post. Soon after that, Valdas Adamkus returned to this post and transferred actual control of the country to other persons. Including VSD leaders, who during Paksas’ impeachment process, together with other persons desiring influence, got used to doing whatever they liked in Lithuania.
Assistance to Russian special services representatives in developing their businesses in Lithuania, manipulations with classified reports, pandering to the interests of a small group of people, and, on the other hand, attempts to cover their moves with Western partners’ demands. These were daily activities of the VSD leadership.
In addition, one should not forget that the CIA, which after the events of 11 September 2001 declared a war on international terrorism, was spending huge amounts of money on this. Only now in the US scandals are starting that money allocated for antiterrorism activities were spend on unclear things, but the declared goal has not been achieved.
In the spring of 2004, a group of persons who understand each other very well assembled at the VSD. Thanks to lies, Gintaras Bagdonas was not allowed to become VSD director (Bagdonas, who had been proposed to this post by Paksas, was not suitable for Lithuania, but was greatly evaluated by NATO leadership). After that, KGB reserve officer Arvydas Pocius became VSD director. He was met by Dainius Dabasinskas, who had been a VSD deputy director since 2001 and who had been sent there by the Foreign Ministry. Soon after, Darius Jurgelevicius was also appointed [a VSD deputy director] with the same type recommendations.
By the way, the year 2005 became the year of financial prosperity for these men. The representatives of Lithuania’s poor law enforcement sector started driving luxury cars. For example, Dabasinskas started driving a brand new US-made Chrysler. Was it a gift from CIA colleagues? That same year Dabasinskas, who until then had been renting an apartment in Turniskes, purchased it for more than a half a million litas. This information surfaced only a few years later, when it turned out the apartment had cost less than the market price at the time, and the circumstances of the sale resembled a bribe.
Dabasinskas, just as the other fate brothers, was merely reprimanded, but retained his post. [passage omitted on an overview of the parliamentary probe into the death of VSD officer Pociunas].
On 8 August, Jurgelevicius requested to be discharged from his service at the VSD due to “personal reasons,” without even waiting until VSD Director Povilas Malakauskas returned to work from his unexpected sick leave. Until that moment MPs, who conducted a probe, and civic groups, who were demanding adherence to the principles of justice in Lithuania, were unable to oust Jurgelevicius from his post. After President Dalia Grybauskaite granted his request, the official immediately went as far from Lithuania as possible – it was said he became the Georgian interior minister’s adviser. Considering the fact that Georgia is actively trying to gain greater patronage from the US and therefore may be ready to make various concessions, Jurgelevicius’ desire to work in the institution, which oversees law enforcement and security structures of that country, in the current context may raise various thoughts.
A week after Jurgelevicius’ resignation there was the second news – without commenting on the reasons for his decision, Dabasinskas, Jurgelevicius’ colleague, left his post, too. After receiving a recommendation from the VSD in a record time, he was sent by the Foreign Ministry to work at the embassy in Ukraine.
Exactly two weeks later, American TV station ABC News announced the first information about the CIA prison in Lithuania. One can have various assessments of the Lithuanian VSD inside the country, but it would hard to reject the well-developed ties with foreign partners (especially with the US partners). Thus, it is possible that Jurgelevicius and Dabasinskas, who held high posts inside the VSD, much earlier that the public received information that US media started digging and would soon reveal the information, which had been kept secret for a few years.
It was also only a matter of time before similar news from this or that VSD officer tied to the CIA activities in our country was going reach the public in Lithuania. It was said that even VSD leaders once in a while among themselves were wondering about their subordinates’ silence, which they could not understand.
One can think that VSD heads, who had gained the backing of previous Lithuanian leadership one way or another, realized that to get away this time would not be as easy as during the probe into the death of Pociunas and into the VSD activities related to his death. The countries, which are seen as Lithuania’s friends and which do not belong to the EU (with all of its strict rules), are an excellent shelter in the increasingly difficult situation.
Moreover, if Lithuania this time decides to defend the truth and law, the characters who damaged the country’s reputation probably will not avoid responsibility. [passage omitted on international law Professor Dainius Zalimas's opinion that the state and its officials would be responsible for alleged human rights violations at the CIA prison and on proposals to introduce accountability for false testimony before parliamentary committees].
Translated by the BBC Monitoring
As the Lithuanian President Grybauskaite admitted the NATO has no plan a defence plan for the Baltic States. A custom NATO defence plan for the Baltic States could be expected no earlier than in two years time.
As the BNS writes, a small state has to consider a mixed model for its armed forces, not excluding a certain extent of conscription, Grybauskaite on 28 July told the press after receiving the oath of office of Lithuania’s new Army Chief Major General Arvydas Pocius.
“A little country can think and consider mixed options. Especially as NATO, as you are aware, doesn’t have a defence plan for this region, and won’t have one for another two years at the least,” Grybauskaite said.
The shape Lithuania’s army reserve could take on, i.e. whether this would require reinstating mandatory military training for Lithuania’s youth, is still the object of discussions, Grybauskaite said.
“I haven’t heard any specific proposals, meaning at this time I have nothing to discuss in this respect,” the president spoke.
The North Atlantic Alliance’s developments on a specific defence plan for the Baltic State are yet to be clearly formulated and communicated.
As the BNS informed Lithuanian Foreign Minister Vygaudas Usackas on 23 July will depart for Iceland, where he will voice Lithuania’s firm support to the country’s bid for EU accession and offer political and technical help for the impending preparations for joining the 27-strong bloc.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Rolandas Kacinskas said the minister will personally deliver a Seimas’ resolution, which was passed to express support to Iceland’s bid, and discuss how Lithuania can help Iceland amid its preparations.
“The meetings will focus on Iceland’s EU prospect amid the upcoming meeting of EU foreign ministers; Iceland’s application for EU membership will also be addressed. Lithuania is ready to provide political and technical support to Iceland,” Kacinskas on 23 July told BNS.
Usackas will depart for Reykjavik on 23 July evening, with core meetings scheduled on 24 July, including those with the Icelandic foreign minister and influential Members of Parliament.
The Seimas on Thursday adopted a resolution calling on parliaments and governments of EU member states to back Iceland’s EU bid by requesting that the European Commission (EC) by the end of 2009 offers its opinion on Iceland’s readiness for accession talks.
Usackas had earlier said that Lithuania will offer unconditional support to Iceland’s quest.
Political analysts say Iceland could join the bloc in three-four years time. The Nordic country’s EU prospects will be discussed early next week in the General Affairs and External Relations Council (GAERC) session.
As the BNS informed the Lithuanian parliament has urged European Union nations to support Iceland’s aspiration of joining the organization.
Some 106 parliamentarians voted in support, two were against and four more abstained in the Thursday’s ballot on the resolution, which “calls upon national parliaments and governments of all EU countries to support Iceland’s objective of joining the European Union, asking the European Commission (EC) to state its opinion by the end of 2009 on Iceland’s readiness to open membership negotiations.” The majority of those against were Euro-sceptical MPs.
The resolution also recalls and appreciates Iceland’s support to the Lithuanian nation and country when Iceland was the first Western democracy to recognize Lithuania’s restored independence in 1990.
The parliament also expressed “hope that Iceland would be ready to start the talks in early 2010,” declaring determination to share experience of its EU accession talks.
Lithuania’s Foreign Minister Vygaudas Usackas is flying to Reykjavik later on Friday in sign of support to Iceland.
The Baltic state’s diplomats say that EU nations have not yet reached common grounds on the Icelandic EU membership application: Nordic countries have advocated urgent accession, while some Southern European nations do not want Iceland to be an exception and suggest it should be admitted according to regular procedures. In this case, Iceland would be in the same group of EU aspirants with Albania.
Last week, Iceland submitted an official application to the EU’s presidency Sweden on accession to the organization.
A comment has been posted on this blog in relation to the recently adopted law on protection of minors against negative information.
“we have one more state which shares with us the Western liberal values. ”
LOL! Oh yes, please Mr Adamkus, tell us about your glorious “Western liberal values”.
Doesn’t seem like the Baltic times agrees with this assessment.’
Here is what I would like to say on this issue:
I totally agree with you point and I am whole hart ashamed with this legislation, which by no any means does not correspond with the Western liberal values. However, I would like to make few points here.
First of all, Mr Adamkus has vetoed this legislation. Nevertheless, Seimas with the majority votes over ruled the veto and adopted this law. The law is not coming into effect any time soon. From what I remember it suppose to come into force next year.
Second point is that our new President Grybauskaite has resolutely declared that she does not support this law, but regrettably she will have to sign it today. The president will have to comply with the Constitution.
Thirdly, the Liberal movement has announced that it will initiate an appeal to the Constitutional Court, which will have to explain if the Law does not contravene with Constitution. According to the Constitution the President could also put complain to the Constitutional Court on the same grounds.
Fourthly, the President has a Constitutional right to initiate amendments to a law. Ms Grybauskaite mentioned that she will do just that, perhaps even during this session (the session will end on the 23 July) as Lietuvos Zinios paper wrote.
Lithuania’s society at large is still very homophobic and in majority supports this law. However, the most upsetting circumstance in all this is that our politicians, even those who got their PhDs in Oxbridge in the UK, has also voted in favour of this law. Instead of loosing some of its political capital by educating its electorate their confirmed with homophobic radical mullahs MPs. This is really shocking, even though major papers but Respublika, which is homophobic, ultra nationalist, anti-Semitic, and anti everything, have condemned the law.
The EU, and the international organisations should keep condemning this act of barbaric medievalism and put a lot of pressure to the Lithuanian politicians.
I would like to offer you an interview of Lithuania’s newly sworn President Dalia Grybauskaite. The interview was published in the Lithuanian business daily Verslo žinios on July 13. Verslo žinios names this interview as a Grybauskaite’s vision for her presidency. I would highly recommend you to read it.
“Encompassing Ideals of Gandhi, Toughness of Churchill”
[Verslo žinios] Should the state limit its functions in a time of crisis or should it control the economy more?
[Grybauskaite] I think during an economic boom the state should limit its functions, and during a downturn it should be more active. I think history confirms this. Today we see that certain financial services were being developed faster than certain governments had predicted or anticipated. The Breton Woods safeguards and other mechanisms that had existed did not stop the crisis. It is necessary to look for something new. In the near future, governments will have to be more actively-involved in the markets. International organizations will have to get involved and participate in regulation as well.
[Verslo žinios] How do you imagine intervention?
[Grybauskaite] Theoretically, the free market system is a very good idea. In the global world, however, we witnessed the creation of global monopoly, not free market. Especially in the area of finances and financial instruments. This monopolistic system started controlling the global economy and market mechanisms. The free market system mutated. Governments and international organizations should create new mechanisms that would revive competition.
[Verslo žinios] What needs to be done?
[Grybauskaite] In the world there is a very interesting discussion: What can be done by big countries, which can fire up their money printing machines, and what can be done by small countries, which do not have resources or money printing machines. I think countries like Lithuania cannot increase public spending, deficit, and debt. Above all, they must reduce public spending and government apparatus and must eliminate overlapping functions of various institutes as well as obstacles for businesses. In addition, such countries must save. Small countries, which do not have resources and money printing machines, have only these options in addition to structural reforms. [passage omitted: The Baltic states should start recovering approximately six months after Europe's economic recovery].
[Verslo žinios] What reforms are the most necessary in Lithuania?
[Grybauskaite] Lithuania until now has been partially parasitizing and has been stuck in the old, inefficient economic structure. The economy lacks innovation and the service sector is underdeveloped. Our possibilities are innovation, services, science, and scientific research. Without abundance of natural resources, the biggest wealth one has is people, who must be valued. The problem is this: During the past twenty years we have freed the market and have reduced the state’s involvement in the economy, yet we have not reduced the state’s social obligations. The old style social security system that we have inherited does not go well with the market economy. During an economic crisis, this disproportion becomes an impossible burden for the state.
[Verslo žinios] Does this mean that in the future there will be smaller pensions, social payments, and assignations for education?
[Grybauskaite] I would phrase the problem differently. Society must decide anew what size taxes it is prepared to pay and what services it wants to receive from the state. Between these things there is a direct correlation. If one wants to maintain the same social system, one has to increase taxes. If taxes remain the same, the state’s obligations must decrease. Of course, even the funds the state has today can be used more effectively, too. For example, the latest study of the World Bank shows that our healthcare system looks like this: There are too many hospitals, there is too much equipment that is not used properly, because there are no specialists trained to use that equipment. Money disappears, but there is no impact.
[Verslo žinios] Unlike Latvia, Lithuania has refused to ask the IMF for help. You once said that such a step was unnecessary. Why?
[Grybauskaite] It is the last step a country can take. If external borrowing conditions do not get worse, Lithuania will still able to manage on its own. I do not want to criticize the IMF or the World Bank, but every politician should know that no one will solve our problems for us. I do not want to comment on Latvia’s problems, too much. I think Latvia asked the IMF for assistance when it had no other choice.
[Verslo žinios] The government completely ruled out the litas devaluation scenario and announced it would try to enter the euro zone in 2012 by reducing public spending. Do you support this strategy?
[Grybauskaite] I would not want to discuss concrete dates. However, the euro zone is synonymous with financial discipline. Order in our financial system must be the main paradigm of our thinking, as a real alternative to political populism. Concrete date for joining the euro zone will depend on the extent of the crisis and on our ability to have order. I also do not see any alleged benefits of devaluating the litas. Perhaps it would be meaningful, talking about increasing competitiveness of our exports. However, can you show me any markets that today are not gripped by recession? Therefore, devaluating the litas would only increase the country’s debt, two thirds of which are in foreign currency. In addition, energy resources would become more expensive. Therefore, we should move in the direction of euro adoption.
[Verslo žinios] Do you think Lithuania’s energy dependence on Russia is dangerous?
[Grybauskaite] Every country needs to strive to diversify its energy sources. Energy has always been measured using the geopolitical ruler. Therefore, integrating Lithuania’s electric power system and energy sources into Western networks would mean Lithuania’s political independence. It is necessary, and we will try to make sure we do not depend on one energy supplier.
[Verslo žinios] Does this mean that Lithuania must be prepared to pay higher prices for energy resources in the near future?
[Grybauskaite] Just as for any geopolitical choice. There is a certain price that needs to be paid for geopolitical orientation. Even if a competitive environment is established in Lithuania’s energy system in accordance with the EU requirements, the future of this sector will not be just a matter of economy or business. Of course, it is important to have a competitive environment in the energy market, but above all we must tame local monopolists and defend the consumer’s interests. Today in Lithuania, it is clear that local barriers are built against innovation and development of alternative energy sources.
[Verslo žinios] What is your opinion about the conditions for foreign investments in Lithuania? For example, Russian businessmen complain about discrimination here…
[Grybauskaite] The flow of investments, naturally, has subsided. The boom that started 15 years ago has ended. Yet, for now this is not too painful, because the lack of foreign investments in the country is compensated by the EU aid funds. Of course, we should analyse why the investment conditions have become worse. The Russian investments, meanwhile, are just as important to Lithuania as the investments from other countries. In certain areas non EU investments are limited and European interests are defended. The common EU investment policy is in the interests of Lithuania as well, but there is no national protectionism that would violate European principles.
[Verslo žinios] Have you heard any proposals to distance yourself from the executive branch and to remain a consolidating political figure, the way your predecessor, who was called “moral authority,” was?
[Grybauskaite] Political analysts say this is exactly what I should do. It would be nice to distance myself, point my finger, and criticize. I, however, see myself as someone who is not afraid of responsibility, and the first thing I will accept, if we work together with the cabinet, is responsibility.
[Verslo žinios] Perhaps today it would be meaningful to strictly adhere to the separation of power doctrine?
[Grybauskaite] It is an abstract theory. I know that today the nation entrusted a big credit of trust to me. Therefore, I want to talk about consolidating not only the government but also the public for big tasks. One of the most painful problems is the fact that the political elite have usurped democratic mechanisms. There cannot be a healthy economy, if the citizens’ power to make decisions is limited, and there cannot be a healthy economy without healthy politics. The decreasing interest in politics and lack of civic activeness is a problem not only in Lithuania, but also in Europe.
[Verslo žinios] All of your predecessors sooner or later started complaining about limited powers of the president…
[Grybauskaite] In politics there are de jure and de facto tools. Juridical tools are in the Constitution: The veto right, the right to initiate laws, the power to appoint officials. Factual tools – the nation’s trust, my word, which seems to have had substantial influence so far. Finally, I am also a professional in a certain field, which allows me to offer my help to the cabinet.
[Verslo žinios] Do you agree with those who say that every senior politician achieves the most important things during his first six months in office?
[Grybauskaite] This depends on one’s term in office (smiling)… Perhaps they are right: During the first six months one can look at things objectively, through a set of fresh eyes, before routine and system sucks one in. However, I think I clearly see the main tasks, which I raised not only during the election campaign, but also for myself. I hope that political and economic conditions will not obstruct their implementation.
Source BBC Monitoring
Industrial production in Lithuania rose by 7.3 % in May versus April and the rise was the steepest across the European Union (EU), the Eurostat reported.
In April the industry posted a 1.2% monthly decline, while over March the production contracted by 7%, according to the EU statistics agency.
In May compared with May 2008, industrial production in Lithuania plunged by 18.5%.
The monthly decline in industrial production was the largest in Latvia (4%) in May, while in Estonia the output rose by 1.3% from April.
The largest annual drop was registered in Estonia (29.9%), while in Latvia the industrial production contracted by 19.3% compared with May 2008.
Lithuania’s economy will contract by at least 16% this year and shrink by further 3.75% in 2010, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) forecasts writes the BNS.
“Such forecasts involve rather significant uncertainty and risks over the outlook for such a development,” Catriona Purfield, the head of visiting IMF mission, said during a news conference in Vilnius on 22 June.
Lithuania needed further corrections to the scale of approximately 7% of GDP [to reduce fiscal deficit by 7 points] over mid-term, based on current estimations including the measures already taken, she said.
The BNS writes that Lithuania had not applied to the fund for assistance and there were no discussions of a loan under way, she said. The current currency board regime was adequate yet the country had to continue reforms in order to maintain it, Ms. Purfield added.
“The road ahead will be difficult, hence regular measures to ensure fiscal and financial sustainability will be necessary during that period. Despite fast balancing of the current account, the safeguards from potential risks are limited, therefore regular efforts, including further large-scale consolidation of public finances, creation of additional safeguards in the financial system, further regulation of wages and structural reforms, will be required in order to ensure smooth functioning of the currency board until the adoption of euro,” she said.
“The figures provided in the IMF working report are very clear – the consolidation of public finances, which exceeds 7% of GDP and which will have to be implemented in coming two years, is a great challenge, yet it is possible to be implemented since everybody understands what will happen if it is not implemented,” Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius told the reporters after the meeting with the IMF representatives.
The IMF mission arrived to Lithuania on 11 June.
On 23 June the SEB, Lithuania’s largest commercial bank forecasted that Lithuania’s GDP should contract by 15.5 % this year and that is forecast downgrading its previous projection of a 9 percent economic decline this year.
As the BNS informed for 2010 the bank’s analysts are projecting a 3.5% decline, unchanged from earlier forecasts. In 2011 the economy should expand by 3%.
Fiscal deficit should reach 7% of GDP this year and 5% in 2010.
“It means that the hopes of the head of Lithuania’s government to adopt the euro in 2012 are too optimistic since the authorities will not manage to reduce the fiscal deficit to the required 3 percent level until mid-2011,” Gitanas Nauseda, an adviser to SEB bank president, said on 23 June.
As the BNS informs the World Bank forecasts that Lithuania’s GDP will contract by 10 % this year.
In a report published on June 22, the World Bank warned that the Baltic countries would face the sharpest recession in Central and Eastern Europe. Latvia’s GDP is expected to slump by 13 % in 2009.
Despite relatively strong fundamentals, Poland is feeling the pinch of the crisis as well: its GDP this year is expected to grow by a mere 0.5 %.
Central and Eastern Europe’s GDP is expected to decline by 1.6 % this year and remain flat next year.
Nine countries reached agreements with the International Monetary Fund on 55.8 billion US dollars worth of loans from September 2008 to May 2009. Six of them have received aid through the World Bank, the European Commission and several other institutions.
Another 5,700 people join Lithuania’s jobless ranks in a week, Lithuanian unemployed ‘discover’ Scandinavia
As Lithuania’s Labour Exchange said on 22 June another 5,700 people were registered as unemployed in Lithuania last week, down 24% from 7,500 people registered a week earlier
The total number of people with the status of unemployed persons reached 196,400 as of 19 June (up from 194,900 a week earlier), which accounted for 9.2% of the working age population, as calculated by BNS.
As the BNS informs some 1,163 job vacancies were registered in 12-19 June down 19 % from 1,440 vacancies a week earlier. Some 2,600 persons got employed, down 19% from 3,200 the previous week.
There were around 1,300 vacancies in the Labour Exchange database on 19 June.
This morning Lithuania’s Public Radio announced that Lithuanians remains the immigration champions per capita in the EU. However, destinations for new immigrants are changing. According to this information Lithuanians starting to discover the neighbouring Scandinavian countries when looking for employment.