Posts filed under ‘Great Britain’
would think that every minister should feel the political situation so well as never to receive an official suggestion from the head of state to leave his post. „I am not clinging to my chair, so if my resignation would solve the problems, I will immediately sign an application to resign,” -this standard sentence is repeated by everybody. Also we all see how much the words differ from the deeds. A phrase “I would like to check how much confidence is placed on me” is still absent in Lithuanian political vocabulary.
A Minister of Foreign Affairs who did not manage to check how much confidence he enjoys, did a mistake that makes us to entertain doubts about his diplomatic wit. Even though this might be only a coincidence, however, this kind of mistakes are not justifiable for a former negotiator for EU membership, Lithuanian ambassador in Washington and London, one of the most professional our diplomats.
It is also hard to understand how Vygaudas Ušackas understood one of the most important problems that are rooted in Lithuanian diplomatic service that is under his leadership. While having a look from aside, it is hard to get a rid from an impression that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was too much close with the State Security Department, and this impression was even more sustained by a free migration between these two services. Links between these two institutions are natural as well as cooperation between them.
However, these links have to be based not on a subjection of one of these services to another but on healthy competition between them. As we can see from a tragic story of Col.Vytautas Pociūnas or from a shameful story of the adviser of the minister Dainius Dabašinskas, there was no balance between the Ministry and the Department. After choosing the side of the faction and not the state interests in the case of CIA prisons, Vygaudas Ušackas showed that he will not manage to regulate the relationships with the State Security Department.
The publicly announced President’s idea to invite the President of the Federation of Russia to the celebration of March the 11th was the last proof for the Minister. Vygaudas Ušackas who is skilfully griping in the channels of mass media showed that he is not inclined to use these skills as well as the cultivation made by the Ministry in the public sphere for the sake of the state.
Lithuanian Def Min: If Financing for Military Reduced Further, Lithuanian Will Be Incapable of Being NATO member
A Lithuanian weekly magazine Veidas on 23 February has published an interview with a first female Defence Minister Rasa Jukneviciene in Lithuania’s history. The interview came out on the day after the first hundred days of the 14th Government.
[Veidas] Is it true that you are trying to force Povilas Malakauskas, director of the State Security Department (VSD), to resign?
[Jukneviciene] Ask Lietuvos Rytas. They seem to be better informed about my activities than I am, because I do not know anything about this; I have not spoken to anyone about this. I read about this during my visit in the US, where I had a meeting with Defence Secretary Robert Gates.
On the other hand, there are attempts to link certain persons with the efforts by the Seimas [parliament] National Security and Defence Committee to reform the overseeing of special services and to implement a control mechanism. This, however, will be done, and it does not matter who is heading the VSD – Mr Smith, Mr Doe, or Mr Malakauskas. This is the Seimas’ prerogative – to fix past mistakes and to create a mechanism for controlling special services, which can be found in all NATO countries. By the way, this control mechanism will also affect the Defence Ministry’s Second Operations Department, which is directly subordinate to me.
[Veidas] You were the first NATO defence minister to meet with the new US defence secretary – Mr Gates. Was this a coincidence or a political gesture from the US’ side?
[Jukneviciene] I do not think this was some sort of a gesture. I think this revealed the US’ view towards Lithuania, not towards a certain person. I clearly felt the US viewed its allies as being very important.
[Veidas] Did Mr Gates want to discuss a specific question related to the military cooperation between the US and Lithuania or did you just discuss general questions, for example, whether Lithuania was planning to withdraw from Afghanistan?
[Jukneviciene] We did not discuss the option of withdrawing from Afghanistan. We talked about strengthening capabilities and about the need to look for ways to solve problems in Afghanistan.
[Veidas] For a while now, there has been talk that, considering its financial capabilities, Lithuania is giving Afghanistan more than it can give.
[Jukneviciene] On the contrary, we are giving too little, compared to the amount that is foreseen for international missions. Up to 10 per cent of the defence spending should be allocated for this. Thus, there are reserves.
[Veidas] We are talking about reconstructing the province of Ghowr, which is too difficult for Lithuania.
[Jukneviciene] The Ghowr Provincial Reconstruction Team is working in two directions: The military, security direction (the Defence Ministry is responsible for this direction) and the civilian direction – fixing the province’s life. It is obvious that in the latter viewpoint Lithuania cannot compete with the big and rich NATO countries.
Politicians are still debating whether Lithuania made the right decision, when it accepted responsibility for the entire province and whether it was a calculated move. An unequivocal answer to this question does not exist. The fact that we are in Ghowr, that we can lead the mission is useful to Lithuania, because the troops gain combat experience.
On the other hand, with Mr Gates we talked about the possibility for other countries to join civilian projects implemented in the province of Ghowr. For example, the continued construction of an airport. The US promised to find money for this so that the project would not be implemented solely from Lithuanian funds.
[Veidas] Recently, there have been sharp discussions related to the use of money intended for Afghanistan’s reconstruction. For example, the Defence Ministry’s Second Department is investigating how over one million US dollars that Lithuanian had transferred “evaporated” from one bank in Afghanistan.
[Jukneviciene] We should not get those things mixed up: That $1.2 million that disappeared was not a result of misuse by Lithuanian troops. It was a problem of the Afghanistan bank. On our part, one could only detect some signs of carelessness, when the money deposit agreement was signed in 2007 with that bank, which at the time did not seem to have any problems. Afghanistan’s officials even sent us a letter stating that other countries that were part of the international force for stabilizing Afghanistan were keeping their money in that bank, too. Now it is being investigated whether the letter was forged, because later the bank started having problems with Afghanistan’s law enforcement agencies.
Today, the Lithuanian military does not have any dealings with this bank. I hope we will manage to get that money back in one form or another. From that account we will transfer money to local companies for works that have not been completed yet.
[Veidas] Why then was the military’s logistics chief replaced so quickly?
[Jukneviciene] This is another matter – concluding contracts with certain Afghani companies that were obligated to do certain works. Using surveys, companies were selected. Later, however, it turned out those companies were nontransparent, and today our auditors view them as unreliable. I signed a decree that there will be no new contracts with those companies. Because of this, Lieutenant Colonel Giedrius Vasiliauskas lost his job last summer.
The most important thing today is to make sure everything is transparent in the logistics department.
[Veidas] Was the Defence Ministry involved in the Foreign Ministry’s “democracy spreading” projects, which now are investigated by a Seimas committee and the new leadership of the Foreign Ministry?
[Jukneviciene] Well, they denied the reports about the alleged planting of an oak park in the province of Ghowr.
However, it is good that there is control, that things are reviewed. If it is necessary, our ministry will cooperate with the investigators in every way; we will present all documents, including classified documents.
[Veidas] Yet, it is apparent that recently the Defence Ministry has been buying equipment that is not the most important for the country’s defence – minesweeper ships, cargo plane, and armoured trucks.
[Jukneviciene] The previous government made those decisions. The previous Seimas also approved the military capability plans. They thought purchasing minesweepers and cargo planes was a priority.
Our government would not see purchasing minesweepers as a priority and would strengthen other forces. On the other hand, sooner or later Lithuania would have been forced to purchase the minesweepers, because Lithuania is obligated to participate in the joint Baltic Sea mine clearing fleet; those plans have been coordinated with NATO.
[Veidas] All military branches had purchase projects. The navy, however, managed to present its demands clearly and to organize a competition. Meanwhile, projects for purchasing armoured vehicles or helicopters still have not been prepared.
[Jukneviciene] I can only confirm that the issue of priorities is very important. This year, which is a “year of drought” (just as the next year will be), we cannot even dream about any additional purchases. However, it is an excellent opportunity for quiet contemplation and planning; we can set purchasing priorities for the future, when the financing for the Defence Ministry is normal again. Priority will be given to anti-airplane and anti-tank defence.
[Baciulis] The Defence Ministry was already forced to reduce its budget by 150 million litas, but it is estimated the ministry will have to save another 100 million litas.
[Jukneviciene] If the financing is reduced further, Lithuanian will be physically incapable of being a NATO member, because it will be unable to participate in joint missions. Next year, Lithuania will have to participate in NATO’ rapid reaction force. One needs a fully operational, mechanized battalion for this. If we do not have one, the rapid reaction project may stop. Today, it is very important to us, because the rapid reaction force will have to ensure defence of the NATO territory. In Krakow we will talk about this with our colleagues from other NATO countries.
[Veidas] Is it possible that after reducing defence spending we will be unable to finance the new professional military, because six months from now we will give up the draft system?
[Jukneviciene] We are witnessing the results of the hurried switching to the professional army. Additional money is needed to maintain the professional army, while the defence spending had to be reduced. This means that we will hire fewer regular soldiers than we ought to, and the disproportion between the private soldiers and the officers will increase even more
The saddest consequences will be felt by the anti-air defence battalion, which is defending the Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant, because we will have no one to replace the draftees. We will have to raise the issue whether it is worth defending the airspace above the Ignalina plant, especially considering the fact that since 11 September 2001 there have not been similar incidents in the world. Moreover, today we have the NATO air police mission.
[Veidas] Listening to you, one gets the impression that all the military will be doing in the near future is trying to survive.
[Jukneviciene] This is no secret. This and the next year will be the years of survival for the military. Just as for the entire Lithuania. The most important thing is to retain human resources, although there will be difficult decisions, trying to even out the disproportion between the officers and the privates and sergeants.
Source BBC Monitoring
This blog already mentioned about Lithuania’s first attempts to fight for President Obama’s attention. Lithuania’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Mr. Usackas has mentioned that Lithuania could possible accept few Guantanamo inmates. Then reaction from MP Kaseta followed that Vilnius has not discussed about this possibility yet.
Discussion has starter in Lithuania about possibly providing ‘hospitality’ to some of the Guantanamo inmates here. Even the USA Ambassador to Lithuania Mr J. Cloud has entered the discussion by publishing an article in Delfi.lt on February 5 with a heading ‘America will not forget Lithuania’s determination in taking in Guantanamo inmates’. He mostly referred to the Foreign Minister’s remarks, who starting to have his own agenda meanwhile running the Ministry.
Lithuanian Members of European Parliament, which on February 4 welcomed President’s Obama decision to close down the Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp and urged the European Union to be ready to take in detainees, but also are sceptical about this possibility, however all for different reasons.
Lithuania should opt against taking in Guantanamo inmates under some exclusive right, Social Democrat MEP Aloyzas Sakalas told BNS, adding that the Migration Department should keep in mind their potential affiliation with terrorists.
As the BNS writes it hasn’t been proven that they’re in no way connected to terrorist groups, Conservative MEP Vytautas Landsbegis explained his argument for maintaining a cautious position on hosting Guantanamo inmates. “My stance is one of caution. I don’t know whether Lithuania is prepared to examine those detainees. The fact that they’re not connected with the events of September 11 doesn’t at all mean they’re not connected with terrorist organizations. Their having seemed suspicious and gotten caught is already grounds for worry. I believe that Lithuania doesn’t need prisoners, whose affiliation with terrorists cannot be refuted, and there’s nothing to refute that at this point”.
The new Centre Right Government has approved a new Budget for 2009 today even though it is encountering even more grim statistics than it expected. Almost eight years of the Centre Left ruling, with the Social Democrats being in charge of the Governments, has left Lithuanian economy in lets put it mildly, in a grun situation.
The new opposition leader MP Kirkilas, and the former Prime Minister still maintains that the new government is too pessimistic and that the economical situation is not as bad as the Conservatives portray it.
As the BNS reported the previous government of Kirkilas has left behind one billion LTL (EUR 297.4 mln) in debts plus over a million litas in overdue VAT refunds to businesses.
There are even delays in paying salaries and social benefits, as well as in paying for goods and services.
The new Finance Minister Semeta said to the BNS that the new administration will make every effort to ensure that debts to businesses are repaid as soon possible, but added that they will need the parliament’s help in passing certain legislative amendments that would allow the state to save more money, as proposed in the government’s program and its anti-crisis plan.
Social Security and Labour Minister Rimantas Jonas Dagys said, “Payments in the social sector are five days overdue.”
National Defence Minister Rasa Jukneviciene informed the parliament that she has inherited 150.4 million litas in debts from her predecessor.
Heath Minister Algis Caplikas said that the debt left by the former administration in the healthcare system amounts to 43 million litas writes the BNS.
The BNS also informs that the Lithuanian central government’s budget revenue for 11 months of this year fell 589.6 million litas (EUR 171 mln), or 3.2 percent, short of target.
Budget revenue for January through November came in at 17.818 billion litas, compared with the projected revenue of 18.408 billion litas BSN informed.
Revenue for November alone reached 1.394 billion litas, 15 million litas short of the 1.409-billion-litas estimates.
Overall budget revenue for the 11 months, including 3.248 billion litas in EU assistance money, amounted to 21.066 billion litas. Total revenue for November, including 149.3 million litas in EU aid, came to 1.543 billion litas.
Further more, few days ago the Ministry of Finance announced that they project a negative GDP 4,8 percent growth in 2009.
The newly elected Prime Minister Kubilius his duties began not in his office in Vilnius but in EU President’s Borroso office in Brussels. The newly baked PM brought a message to Brussels that Lithuania has an anti-crises action plan.
After meeting with the EU Commissioner Joaquin responsible for Economic and Monetary Affairs, Joaquin Almunia on December 11 Kubilius said to BNS: “There is common understanding that we should consolidate the fiscal situation rather than ponder upon fiscal stimulation and promotion of consumption – the path chosen by some other nations of the EU. It would serve as a poison to us”.
After meeting with Almunia, the Lithuanian PM attended a session of Nordic and Baltic prime ministers, which, in his words, addressed regional cooperation in the face of the crisis.
“There is a perception that all countries in the region should take part in the efforts to resolve problems of the economic and financial crisis. Already there are reports that Sweden has pledged regional support to Latvia. I believe it is a serious signal to us all, although we do not need financial assistance yet, however, the ideological and solidarity support is very important,” Kubilius concluded to the BNS.
The latest news that the IMF has finished its routine work in Lithuania and tomorrow will talk in detail about it with the authorities. According to the first reactions the IMF has positively evaluated the anti-crisis plan. According to the Lithuanian authorities there was no talk about a possible loan from the IMF. MP Glaveckas, who is also the Head of the Seimas’ Finance and Budget Committee, said that Lithuania is in talks with some Japanese and the Chinese financial institutions about a possibility of a loan.
Any talk of Litas’ devaluation is considered to be not serious and such an opinion is marginalised in the Lithuanian media. The situation is grim, however the government is in good hands. Tomorrow the government will present the new budget to the Parliament. The plan is to adopt the new budget this year.
The wages of skilled employees in Lithuania are three times less than those in the UK and four times less than the wages in Ireland.
Last year the difference was 4 times and 4.75 times, respectively.
“The comparison of wages in Lithuania and abroad shall also include living costs. In countries, which are chosen for emigration by our compatriots the most often, life is more expensive than in Lithuania. When considering that, the situation is way more different – the gap between wages in Lithuania and Ireland narrows to 2 times, in Lithuania and the UK – to 1.5 times,” Neda Songinaite, Hay Group CEO for the Baltic countries, said at a news conference on Wednesday and the BNS informed.
As shown by the survey, the wages of employees at Lithuanian companies controlled by local investors were 18 percent below those paid at international companies. Last year that gap was 20 percent, in 2006 – 26 percent.
More than 200 Lithuanian companies have taken part in Hay Group’s survey this year.
Just to illustrate my point I would like to suggest you to have a look at a survey published in the FT, which was conducted in the Western Countries, our NATO allies in arms, so to speak. There were few questions, but the most interesting was this; ‘Will you support or oppose troops from your country defending the Baltic states if Russia were to take a military action against them’.
According to the FT in Germany, Italy and Spain, more people say they would oppose the notion of their national troops rushing to defend the Baltic states than would support the idea.
In Germany, as many as 50 per cent of people say they would oppose national troops going to the defence of the three states, compared with only 26 per cent who say they would support it. Only in Britain and France do more people support the idea of their armies defending the Baltic states than oppose it.
Have a look at the survey. Needless to say more…
One of the issues relevant only to Lithuania is widely discussed in the world. Due to a large Lithuanian Diaspora abroad the Lithuanian Dual Citizenship is heatedly discussed from Australia to Canada, from Norway to South Africa. In the USA alone some 1 mln are claiming to be of the Lithuanian descent. Only in the last 18 years some 400.000 have left Lithuania for a short time or for a good. Having in mind the tragic Lithuania’s demographical situation it would be logical to encourage the Lithuanians abroad to maintain their link to Lithuania. Nevertheless, some political groups for various reasons don’t want that.
The Constitution currently allows dual citizenship as rare exceptions, however this issue is especially relevant to Lithuanians living abroad, as by accepting citizenship of their country of residence, they are deprived of their right to a Lithuanian passport.
In the autumn of 2006, the Constitutional Court found that the country’s main law provides for dual citizenship as rare exceptions, declaring laws allowing dual citizenship as running counter the Constitution.
However, today the Seimas Human Rights Committee approved a provision to the new Citizenship Law by allowing a possibility of dual citizenship to Lithuanians who are not only European Union (EU) passport holders, but also those of NATO member states.
According to the BSN, the committee’s Chairman Arminas Lydeka noted that this is not the only group, which will be granted the possibility of holding passports of two countries, i.e. Lithuania and some other country, adding that there a seven such clauses, therefore countrymen not living in a country pertaining to either NATO or the EU community, would also be allowed dual citizenship under certain circumstances.
Political deportees and prisoners as well as three generations of their descendants make up a separate group of people, who will be granted the right to hold a Lithuanian passport as well as that of their country of residence. Lydeka noted that this provision is especially relevant to Lithuanians living in Russia, Kazakhstan and other countries, where Lithuanians ended up after deportations implemented in the then Soviet Union.
The third group of persons to be allowed dual citizenship encompasses those, who left Lithuania during the Soviet rule (1940-1990) as well as three generations of their descendants.
“This is of most relevance to persons of Lithuanian descent living in Australia, Germany, and, of course, those living in the United States of America”, Lydeka told BNS.
The fourth group is composed of traditionally numerous communities of people of Lithuanian descent living in countries sharing a common border with Lithuania. , i.e. Lithuanians living in Belarus, Poland and Russia’s Kaliningrad enclave will also have the right to dual citizenship.
Dual citizenship will also be retained by citizens already holding passports of two countries, granted in by special decree of the president. This is the fifth group provisioned in the law.
The sixth group, BNS remained, is composed of the offspring of Lithuanian citizens. The committee agreed that offspring born to Lithuanian citizens in any part of the world will be granted the right to hold both a Lithuanian passport and that of the country of residence. This provision is relevant to children of Lithuanians living in Ireland or the US, as they apply the so called soli principle, meaning that a person acquires citizenship of that country by birth in its territory, regardless of the will of their parents. On the other hand, according to Lithuanian legislation prior to the validation of this law, the young Lithuanians automatically were deprived of the possibility of getting a Lithuanian passport.
And finally, the last and seventh group would theoretically consist of Lithuanians living in any nation, which would sign an international agreement with Lithuania, foreseeing that their citizens living in Lithuania would be granted the right to hold its passport, in exchange for the same right to be granted to Lithuanians living in the country in question. Lithuania has no agreements of a similar nature with any other country at this point.
A draft bill earlier prepared by a taskforce composed by the Seimas directorate provisioned that the first group of persons with a right to dual citizenship would consist only of Lithuanians, who are EU passport holders, however this provision infuriated Lithuanians living abroad, who felt discriminated. Hence, it is a good start, lets wait and see!
The BNS reported that, as Lithuanian diplomats spoke up about attempts launched by some countries to revise agreements reached by four foreign ministers in Vilnius over the negotiations mandate on the European Union (EU) – Russia Strategic Partnership Agreement, Foreign Minister Vaitiekunas repeated that Lithuania is not going to back down on fundamental issues.
Lithuania blocked the commencement of talks with Russia, proposing to include four declarations in the negotiations mandate, i.e. the issue of cut-off oil supply via the Druzhba pipeline, the necessity to deal with frozen conflicts in Georgia and Moldova, cooperation in solving occurrences of Jan. 13th and the Medininkai massacre as well as support for exiled persons, who are returning to the Baltic States.
Foreign ministers of Lithuania, Sweden, Poland and current EU presidency holder Slovenia, decided in a meeting in Vilnius on May 11 to include issues brought up by Lithuania to be included in talks with Russia, however this agreement was not endorsed by ambassadors of EU member states in a meeting Tuesday. Ambassadors plan to continue discussions next week.
A Lithuanian diplomat announced this information to BNS May 14 that;”We eliminate such attempts. If they will continue, the mandate might not be approved by May 26 (GAERC)”.
Following a meeting with Lithuanian President Adamkus on 14 May, Vaitiekunas told the press of having informed the Head-of-State of receiving a few proposals by various countries with regards to the negotiations mandate, and they are currently being considered.
“A wide arsenal of different versions of what shape our answers might take is available, and they are currently being coordinated through diplomatic channels, however, when it comes to the main, primary, fundamental issues of Lithuania’s interests, we are not going to back down. (…) We are risking European solidarity”, the foreign minister asserted.
According to the BNS he also noted that the new proposals are most concerned with the issue of frozen conflicts and added that he can reveal neither who is making the proposals, nor what matter they concern.
“In general terms, I am telling you that yes, the main question under revision, is that of frozen conflicts, a declaration on frozen conflicts. Countries stand on different grounds when it comes to geographical and geopolitical positions. Take the United Kingdom, Spain, France – their interests are different and we are simply defending our interests by assuming this position here and now. The EU will have to go a long way in order to learn how to reflect interests unanimously and speak with one voice”, Vaitiekunas explained, noting that an acceptable compromise will be sought out on the issue.
The BNS writes that the minister also noted that he cannot yet reveal what form Lithuania’s demands should take on in the mandate, and in what phrasing should it appear. The minister said that this would mean having to reveal stances on the negotiations mandate and would therefore make them less efficient.
The Lithuanian news portal alfa.lt published an interview with Edward Lucas. Lucas was the first foreigner to receive a Lithuanian visa after the country proclaimed its independence from the Soviet empire exactly eighteen years ago today, on March 11, 1990.
His first book, The New Cold War: How the Kremlin Menaces both Russia and the West, was launched at the beginning of February. A Lithuanian edition was released three weeks later. Read all interview
The Lithuanian Baltos Lankos publishing house introduced its new publication, Edward Lucas’ ’The New Cold War’ in Lithuanian today. The book was presented during a discussion at the Vilnius’ Book Fair. Mr Virgis Valantinavicius moderated the discussion. The book is already well known in Lithuania even before its official appearance.
Some of the commentators joking that the President Adamkus did a promotion for the book during his recent interview to the FT warning the West about a possibility of the New Cold War between the West and Russia.
Well, I am off to read the book, what about you?