Posts filed under ‘Norway’
In 1009 Lithuania’s name (Lituae) was first mentioned in the chronicles of ancient German town Kvedlinburg in reference to the death of missionary St. Bruno.
Lithuania on July 6 is marking its millennial Statehood Day. This small nation, sandwiched between great Germanic and Slavic giants managed to survive against all odds in the world. It experienced its glory days for few centuries with it medieval empire which stretched from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea. Some historian argue that if there was not such an empire there would not have been Belarusian and Ukrainian nations today.
It was carved up, occupied and slaughtered for few centuries to revive again and again. It is a story of a small and great nation which held on to this piece of land next to the Baltic Sea and managed to survive. This is why it is amazing. Lithuania, together with its Baltic sisters managed to survive. Despite of all difficulties at the moment we will rise like phoenix out of ashes. Crisis are coming and going, but such nations are here to stay and prosper.
Celebratory events taking place throughout the day will be attended by Queen of Denmark Margarethe II, King Harald V of Norway, King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia of Sweden.
Other distinguished guests will include President Olafur Ragnar of Iceland, President Valdis Zatlers of Latvia, President Lech Kaczynski of Poland, President Viktor Yushchenko of Ukraine, President Tarja Halonen of Finland, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Legate of Pope Benedict XVI and Dean of the College of Cardinals, Prime Minister Andrus Ansip of Estonia, and Russia’s Minister of Culture Alexander Avdeyev among others.
Lithuania’s millennial celebration kicked off at noon with a Flag Hoisting Ceremony in Daukanto Square, next to the Office of President of the Republic of Lithuania Valdas Adamkus, with a Holy Mass at the Vilnius Cathedral to follow, the president’s press service said in a statement.
The Holy Mass will be followed by a symbolic ceremony marking the opening of a reconstructed Royal Palace of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and a farewell to participants of the Millennium Song Festival “Song of the Centuries”, the statement says.
Later in the day the action will move over to the Museum of Applied Arts, where the honorable guests will visit millennial exhibitions on display, namely “Lithuania in Ancient Historical Sources”, “Wawel in Vilnius. From the Jagiellonian Dynasty to the end of the Republic, and “The Art of Balts”, and will attend lunch hosted by President Adamkus.
In the evening, guests will deliver addresses in Lithuania’s Millennial Song Contest, and later attend dinner hosted by Adamkus in the President’s Office.
As the Lietuvos Rytas writes the Oslo Mayor Erling Lae brought his spouse Jens T. Olsen to an international mayoral forum in Vilnius during the weekend due to what he said was a complex gay situation in Lithuania BNS informed.
Lae said he had consciously decided to fly to Vilnius with his male partner, the daily newspaper Lietuvos Zinios reported.
The Norwegian capital’s mayor said that he wanted to stress he was married to a man.
In Lae’s words, the situation of Lithuania’s gay community somewhat improved after Vilius Navickas was elected as Vilnius mayor. His predecessor Juozas Imbrasas (has been elected to the European Parliament) was notorious for his conflicts with an organization of homosexuals. Last August, he refused the European Union’s truck “For Diversity, Against Discrimination” entry into Lithuania for the second consecutive year and said that a gay parade in the Lithuanian capital was out of the question.
The Oslo mayor was also critical of Navickas’ recent statement that he would allow a gay parade on the industrial Savanoriu Avenue, however, would not tolerate their demonstration in the city canter writes BNS.
Lae described the gay situation in Lithuania as worse than in other two Baltic states, accusing Vilnius of resisting the EU counter-discrimination directive.
The head of the Vilnius municipality’s Foreign Affairs Division, Zilvinas Abaravicius, said that guests had been invited to attend at the international mayoral forum with their spouses.
“Lae’s arrival with his spouse is not a problem at all. Vilnius is an open and tolerant city,” he said.
“A person is entitled to stating his attitude. It is a personal affair, and I do not intend to criticize it,” the Vilnius mayor said in comment of the critical statements by his Oslo counterpart on the situation of Lithuania’s gay community.
Navickas said that homosexual matters were not discussed during the meeting with the mayor of the Norwegian capital.
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.
As the BNS informed The prime ministers of the three Baltic countries agreed in Vilnius on 27th of April that an undersea power cable Swedlink would be built between Sweden and Lithuania.
Lithuanian, Latvian and Swedish energy companies should have equal shares in the project.
This is envisaged in a joint declaration signed by the three prime ministers.
According to the declaration, the decision was made in view of the progress achieved and of technological, financial and economic aspects.
“The Baltic countries have proved once more that they are capable of finding the solutions acceptable to all parties in pursuit of a common objective,” Lithuania’s PM Andrius Kubilius said to the BNS.
According to him, the route of the cable was not that important with the common Baltic market in place. The most important was to implement the project as soon as possible, he said. “This is a common interest of all three Baltic countries. Today’s agreement will benefit all countries involved in the project.”
European Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs welcomed the agreement.
“I welcome this agreement. The new link will provide a framework for the Baltic and Nordic countries to trade in electricity. This is the first specific result of work undertaken by a high-level group on the connection of energy networks of the Baltic Sea countries formed by Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso last October,” he said.
Matthias Ruete, the Director General for Energy and Transport of the European Commission, told BNS on Monday that the integration of the Baltic markets was the most important thing, more important than the route of the cable.
“The most important thing is the market integration. The security of energy supply is relevant for all countries, hence this issue cannot be solved for the benefit of one country at the expense of the others,” he said.
The Prime Ministers of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia also agreed to establish an open and transparent common Baltic electricity market based on Nordpool – the Nordic electricity market – model by 2013 at the latest.
“The creation of electricity market shall be launched with no delay, we shall bring the dominance of energy monopolies to a halt. Here, in Lithuania, we shall initiate actual, and not “paper” actions for the creation of electricity market immediately. We are already behind Latvia, which has advanced well in this regard. Free electricity market means functioning competition, a possibility for all users to choose an electricity supplier instead of buying electricity from one supplier, as it is now. The experience of Nordic countries shows that it will be advantageous for electricity users since competition will bring the prices of electricity down,” Kubilius said.
After the approval of economic recovery action plan by the European Parliament and the Council, the EU would be ready to allocate significant financial support of 175 million euros (LTL 604 mln) for this project, Piebalgs said. As outlined in the declaration, alongside the construction of the power link those funds would also be used for the improvement of transmission grids in the western part of Latvia.
The declaration also highlights the need to support preparatory works for the building of a power link between Lithuania and Poland and continue cooperation on the implementation of new Lithuania’s nuclear power plant.
As agreed by the Baltic Prime Ministers, a joint application for the EU funds would be submitted by May 15 and a study of the seabed would be conducted in summer. As projected, the power link with Sweden could be built in four or five years.
The participants of Vilnius conference also discussed other relevant regional energy issues.
Since the new government was sworn everyone were talking about the anti crisis management plan. However, some of the other interesting developments are also taking place. First of all, for the first time in Lithuanian history we have a female minister of Defence.
The new defence minister, Rasa Juknevičienė, says that Lithuania should not limit itself to the defence guaranteed by NATO, and that the national army should be ready to defend Lithuanian territory. According to the minister, the decision to cancel conscription was premature and several thousands of professionals are not enough to fight the dangers Lithuania might face.
“Only the naive can believe that several thousands of professionals are capable of fighting against the dangers Lithuania might face,” Juknevičienė said in her interview with Lrt.lt.
[LTV] The Social Democrats (LSDP) were in charge of the Defence Ministry for eight years. What changes can we expect after the ministry was taken over by the Conservatives? What will be your first and foremost task?
[Juknevičienė] The changes are presented in our programme. If you compare our programme with that of the LSDP, you can see the differences. However, the national defence system is one of the areas where we need policy continuity, and we support this idea. The areas in which the national security system was being strengthened will continue to be strengthened, and changes will be carried out in the areas we feel that changes are needed.
The system has never been too open. This is why even when I was working on the parliamentary National Security and Defence Committee (NSGK) I did not have information about certain ongoing processes; I could only assume something was happening. This is why my first and most important task is to analyse the problems and evaluate the system. I will dedicate more of my attention to that. I will try to visit all the units after the New Year, so that I can personally see things and the situation.
For now I can say that our priority will be to bring back the balance to what we had signed before we joined NATO. [as published] I have in mind Articles 3 and 5 of the NATO Agreement. In my opinion, there has been a certain disproportion as far as these articles are concerned. There has been a lot of talk that NATO will protect us and that we do not need anything else. However, I am more concerned with how well the Lithuanian Armed Forces is prepared for defending its territory.
I already have a feeling that a lot will have to be done here. Of course, we will need much more resources to deal with this problem, and, unfortunately, we cannot do that now because of the financial crisis. However, we should use this period to get ready and analyse the situation, to create a theoretic groundwork, so that, when the economic situation gets better, we know where to allocate the necessary funds, so that these funds indeed bring us benefits and help us strengthen our country’s security.
Another important thing is, of course, transparency. After all, the government allocates over 1 billion litas [LTL] to national defence and to the national defence system, and society has the right to know whether the funds are being used transparently and whether they are being used for proper and important purposes. For the time being, I cannot answer the question whether there are very serious problems in this area, but what I can say is that I will be paying attention to that and that this is important to me. Honest and qualified people who perform the functions that suit their qualifications create transparency. I will be able to give you a better answer to these questions after I become acquainted with the situation and with the people working in the system.
The first task I had to come to terms with right away was the budget. One thing I discovered was unpaid bills amounting to 150 million [LTL]. I found this out on 10 December. A week later, we managed to reduce the debt by 50 million, and I hope that we will manage to reduce it even more. Another important thing is the 2009 budget, which, unfortunately, had to be reduced compared with the draft budget proposed by the previous government. But this was an unavoidable and necessary step. And this is why the Defence Ministry, just like any other institution, had to do that.
[LTV] Lithuania’s commitment to NATO is to allocate 2 per cent of GDP to national defence on a yearly basis. However, it has not managed to fulfil the commitment, and Lithuania remains one of the NATO countries that allocated the least to national defence. How much funds have you planned for national defence in the 2009 budget? Will the prestige of Lithuania, an international partner, not suffer because of the reduced funding? Will Lithuania manage to implement all the international commitments properly?
[Juknevičienė] Unfortunately, we will only allocate 1.01 per cent of GDP next year. Perhaps we will manage to achieve 1.03 per cent, because nobody knows what the real GDP will be, various experts give various estimates.
Of course, it is not good for Lithuania’s prestige, but it is even worse when not enough funds are being allocated during the period when the economic situation is good. Our economy had been growing over the past five years, but Lithuania, however, was far behind Latvia and Estonia in allocating funds to national defence. This is a certain indicator. Everybody understands what the situation is when there is a crisis. This is why I hope the new government’s actions will be appreciated.
However, we will certainly start increasing our budget and financial commitments after we overcome the economic difficulties. This is incorporated in the government programme.
We are shaken and stirred by the crisis, but we also can find solutions. This is why if we manage to purify ourselves during the crisis, to reduce the operations that are not typical national defence operations; to reduce funding of less important things, to concentrate on just the priorities, perhaps then the financial shake-up will bring some kind of benefit. However, we first of all need to carry out a very thorough revision of our priorities.
[LTV] What would these priorities be? And in which areas are you going to reduce funding?
[Juknevičienė] The priorities are set out in the government programme. Speaking about the cuts in spending, we should allocate fewer funds to public relations and to various additional sponsorship programmes. Everybody has become accustomed to asking the Defence Ministry for support and money. We will take a very close look at that, and we will allocate the defence budget to defence, and not to the things related to prestige and publicity.
[LTV] What will happen to the projects not directly related to defence? For example, with the project the Defence Ministry has been implementing to restore ancient armour and armaments.
[Juknevičienė] I am not saying that we do not need all that. Armed forces usually invest in historic artefacts and things that are related to the armed forces. Our lives without the roots would be absolutely meaningless. However, I think we will need to have a closer look at advertising, publicity, and some other things.
I think that the period of partisan movement in national defence history deserves to be given more attention. I will try to pay more attention to that and will encourage others to take interest in this period. [Passage omitted on the importance of this period for the patriotic education of the youth]
[LTV] What is the future of the international missions in which Lithuanian troops are participating at present? Are you going to participate in other missions?
[Juknevičienė] Lithuania is a NATO member and its participation in the NATO missions is obligatory and should be seen as a priority. We will try to balance this with the objectives of Articles 3 and 5. Our first and foremost duty is to be prepared to protect our own territory. Article 3 says the same, that each NATO member is responsible for its own territory. This is the priority. According to the situation we have now, I find it difficult to imagine that we could expand the missions. We would be lucky to carry out the tasks we have already undertaken.
[LTV] In your opinion, what are the main military and security dangers Lithuania might face? Is Lithuania capable of properly reacting and responding to these dangers?
[Juknevičienė] I cannot give you a proper answer to the question of whether Lithuania has the needed capacity. I hope that, with NATO assistance, it is capable of responding to the dangers. However, the fact that other countries, such as neighbouring Poland, are speaking about a revision of their defence plans, the fact that Denmark and other Scandinavian countries have started reviewing some of their current plans, shows that the dangers Lithuania might face are preconditioned by its geopolitical situation. We can look at the example of the Russian-Georgian conflict and have an answer to the question.
[LTV] As part of the military reform carried out by the LSDP-led government, it decided to cancel conscription and to build up a professional army. The Conservatives were against the decision. In what direction will the current government take the military reform? Will you come back to the conscription system? What kind of army does Lithuania need?
[Juknevičienė] When this issue was discussed in the Seimas [parliament], the Homeland Union [TS, Conservatives] was against the method of carrying out the reforms. Presently I am even more convinced that they [the previous government] chose the wrong method and everything was done in a hurry. The previous [defence] minister, Juozas Olekas, issued an order to cancel conscription, this was the only document cancelling conscription and this was done when the election campaign was about to start. The NSGK was not informed about the decision.
The law states that conscription will be cancelled by 2013, whereas they already cancelled it this year, when the country is facing a crisis and when no additional budget has been allocated. This is a big problem now, and this is why I think that this was a big mistake.
How to correct it? It looks like we have gone too far, but we will try to find a solution to this problem. By the middle of next year we will demobilize about 1,000 of the conscripts currently serving in the army, and we will have to hire professionals instead, but we do not have sufficient financial resources to do that.
Can you imagine how much it will cost? And the LSDP did not allocate the money for that. This was a very irresponsible step. It was taken to attract more voters, and now we have to deal with the problems.
[LTV] How are you going to correct this mistake?
[Juknevičienė] By reducing the budget we are trying to preserve the budget line for salaries, so that we can invite people to work as private soldiers for the salary that has been agreed on, the salary that has been promised, and the salary that is appropriate considering present competitive market conditions. Otherwise the situation will be such that there will be many officers in the army, but there will be no soldiers. And an army without soldiers is not an army.
Moreover, because we are not properly prepared for that step, the volunteer national defence system has incurred some losses. New people are not as active in joining the volunteer system. Previously their motivation was not to serve in the army and to join the volunteer forces instead, so that they could be closer to their homes. [passage omitted on how to motivate people to join the volunteer forces]
We should create a system that would replace the conscription system and allow us to have reserves. We are working on that and will continue working on this. The naive imagine that a professional army of a few thousand can deal with the dangers Lithuania might face.
A well-prepared professional army can defend the country only when it can do it together with well-prepared reserve soldiers whose training is up to date, who are prepared and know what to do in times of danger. This is the most important thing. And attempts to have a primitive discussion on which army is better – professional or conscription – is useless. A professional army together with the reserves and conscription army could be well prepared. [passage omitted on the options for training the reserves]
[LTV] Previously you claimed that the Lithuanian Armed Forces were affected by erosion. In what area does this erosion appear and how does it manifest itself?
[Juknevičienė] I will not take my words back, but I do not want to speak about that in more detail. I think that holding this office means carrying out specific tasks and not speaking much.
[LTV] Does it mean that you would also prefer not to speak in more detail about problems in the army?
[Juknevičienė] I can only mention one problem. I feel worried because young people who received their military education in the West still do not have the possibility of holding high-ranking posts in the army. I will do my best to deal with all the other problems.
[LTV] The new government has included in its programme plans to improve the work of the State Security Department (VSD) and to define the scope of its accountability. Are you seeking to make the VSD accountable to the government?
[Juknevičienė] I think that sooner or later we will have to discuss this issue. The VSD is a constituent part of the Lithuanian security system and is one of the most important organizations carrying out counterintelligence tasks. Its activities are very closely related to the processes going on in the economic, energy, and transport sectors. According to the constitution and according to the Law on Government and other laws, the government is responsible for the aforementioned sectors, and this is why the VSD should maintain a particularly close contact with the government.
I do not know how we will do that. We could have the same system they have in Western countries – NATO and EU members – where such structures are a constituent part of the government, or we could find another mechanism, because we have also the presidential institution included in our system. The NSGK is going to set up a special working group for this purpose. Probably, the Security Sub-committee will undertake this initiative, the parties will express their opinion, projects will be created, and the Seimas will approve or reject them.
My suggestion to the VSD management is not to react in such a sensitive manner and not to escalate some deliberate tension here. Instead, they should look at the core of the problem and deal with it. Presently, the quality of the contact actually depends on whether the relations between the government and the VSD director are good or bad. This is not how it should be. There should be certain laws that establish what this contact with the government should be like, when the VSD should provide the government with information, and how it is supposed to do that.
And finally, there is another issue – the formulation of tasks. The government should participate when tasks for this structure are being formulated, it should not formulate its own tasks.
[LTV] Not long ago, the Russian President spoke about the plans to deploy short-range missiles at Iskander in Kaliningrad, something Russia also mentioned in the past. In your opinion, are these plans serious and will they be implemented? What influence will the missiles deployed close to the Lithuanian border have on Lithuania’s security? What should Lithuania’s response be?
[Juknevičienė] I hope the missiles will not be deployed there. I do not see any reason why this should be done. I think that common sense will prevail. Russia needs NATO-Russia cooperation more than anybody else. And such a step would not contribute to mutual cooperation. Lithuania is in favour of good neighbourly relations with Russia and has always declared that. However, not everything depends on us.
[LTV] The government programme says that the government will try to encourage NATO to pay more attention to the defence of the Baltic region. What specific steps should the Alliance take? Perhaps you have in mind the possibility of deploying elements of the US European anti-missile shield in Lithuania?
[Juknevičienė] This issue has already been solved. The anti-missile shield will be deployed in the Czech Republic and Poland. This is why the question is not on the agenda anymore.
However, the question how NATO together with Lithuania and the other Baltic countries would protect its territory has always been important. All the plans should be constantly revised as the circumstances are changing. I think that they are being revised. For the time being, NATO preparedness to defend its territory will always be on the agenda.
[LTV] Warfare and national defence are usually perceived as something men do. You are the first woman who has become Lithuanian Defence Minister. Are you not afraid of the difficulties you might face?
[Juknevičienė] It seems to me that it is very difficult to sweep the streets at 0600; nobody has asked the women doing that whether it is hard for them. I think that any job is difficult if you are working hard. However, when I accepted this post I certainly did not think about the fact that I would be the first or the second woman. I have been working in this field for many years. Perhaps this was why the party and Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius decided to offer me this post.
Some may find it unusual. I have met some people who do not have a thorough knowledge of the system. Many do not know that an armed forces commander is in charge of the armed forces and that all warfare issues are his prerogative. According to our law, the defence minister has to be a civilian. This is an obligatory requirement in democratic countries. Whether it is a man or a woman is irrelevant.
When I was appointed to the post, many people asked me what kind of uniform I would now wear. I thought this was strange. I would like to use this opportunity and say that not a single defence minister of a NATO country wears a uniform. These are civilians. They shape policy and manage the system. The military personnel obey the system; they are responsible for the army’s combat readiness and other things for which they need special knowledge.
Source BBC Monitoring
During the last Baltics’ Prime Ministers meeting in Tartu Lithuanian acting PM Kirkilas has suggested to create a Pan Baltic TV channel. Previously, Lithuania’s president Adamkus suggested the same during his visit to Tallinn. The Baltic Prime Ministers agreed to create a working group, which would discuss the idea.I touched upon the idea in 18 Feb post. Few days ago the post received a very interesting comment from an Estonian Mr Allan Alaküla, who actually expanded on idea and suggested to create a Baltoscandic channel. Allan Alaküla is currently working as a as Head of Tallinn EU Office in Brussels and kindly agreed that I would post his comment as a separate post. Lets hope that the working group from the Baltic states will manage to generate some ideas and will achieve something concrete results.WHY BSR NEEDS CHANNEL?
BBC World, al-Jazeera, Russia Today, China´s CCTV9, Spain’s TVE International, France24 and other global reaching TV channels are a challenge to the media-rich Baltic Sea Region (BSR). The countries around the Baltic Sea have strong public service broadcasters and well developed private media with the world’s highest readership of written press and very high Internet usage. There are some pan-Baltic media and pan-Scandinavian media cooperation, but there is none remarkable media outlet which addresses the entire BSR or present the region to the outside world.
The EU BSR Strategy should set a target of founding a central media channel with remarkable share inside the BSR. The Baltic Channel would serve as a vibrant tool for building an internal identity of the region and for presenting the image of the region to the outside world. The Baltic Channel should be a multimedia outlet built on the latest technique for TV, web and mobile.
Such a BSR channel could serve as a model for European Union identity-building. Unless there are no effective media targeting the entire Baltic Sea Region, there are very small chances to form an identity of the region as such. The same is true of the EU as long as Euronews or any other pan-European media outlet does not compete with major national channels over the share of viewer ship.
1. The BSR is media-rich. It has probably got the world´s strongest public service broadcasters (PSB) in terms of share in respective nation states. But it has also got a very well developed private media sector with the world´s highest readership of written press and very high Internet usage. This would serve as a perfect environment for an extensive use of media with the aim of forming a common identity for a relatively diverse region of nine countries.
2. Private media is already highly integrated in the BSR with regard to ownership structure. Norwegian Schibsted and Orkla, Swedish Marieberg, semi- Swedish Viasat (MTG) and German and Finnish multinational media companies already operate in large scale in Scandinavia, in the three Baltic states, in Poland and even in St Petersburg (Dagens Industri´s sisterpaper Delovoi Peterburg). BSR multinational media companies already control the tv and press market of the region.
3. There are quite a few Pan-Baltic media outlets, with newsrooms regularly sharing content between countries. This applies to the news agency BNS (Baltic News Service belongs to Finnish Kauppalehti group of Alma Media) and the Estonian online media portal Delfi, both of which operates in the three Baltic states. The weekly newspaper The Baltic Times covers politics and business of the same area. In Finland, Sweden, Norway and Denmark the national news agencies extensively cross-use news content.
But the region lacks a common channel, The Baltic Channel.
In an initial phase in-depth research of potential viewers would be needed and a group of communicators should be formed, who could take the lead in developing the idea of a BSR central media channel?
The next phase would be extensive exchange of content between Public Service Broadcasters of BSR countries, also inside and between multinational media companies of the BSR. EU and national governments should subsidize such an exchange.
In this phase efforts should be made also to make existing TV-channels more easily accessible between different countries. This applies especially to the Nordic countries, where language is not a big barrier but where the idea was never realized in spite of lengthy discussions.
The final phase would see the development of a central international PSB channel/media platform of the Baltic Sea Region: tv, web, mobile. It would be unique in today’s world with an international Public Service Broadcaster, which would be based on national states stakes. In order to set up management and program structures thorough research of Euronews failures and advantages would be necessary.
BUSINESS ORIENTED AND TV-BASED SERVICES
The PSB channel should have a strong orientation towards business – not only for complimentary funding but getting business streams involved also into forming the channel agenda.
Not paradoxically, economic crisis serves well for exposing the need for cooperation in common marketing of BSR in global scale.
In this regard there is only joint interest, no rationale for external competition, as in global scale all of us are marginals.
WHO WILL BENEFIT?
1. The peoples of the BSR and of the EU.
2. Businesses, operating on BSR and Global level and needing a BSR brand.
3. BSR and EU political elite, which stands for the idea of forming a BSR identity.
That is of course if there is a political consensus not only to move in the direction of BSR identity-building, but an honest will for achieving it.
THE NAME ISSUE
Naming of the Channel derives from the naming of the Sea.
Estonians are the only ones in the world who call it The Western Sea (Läänemeri), our Finno-Ugrian mates Finns and north-neighbours call it The Eastern Sea (Itämeri), and Scandinavians and Germans use the same name. For Russia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland it is The Baltic Sea. For centuries it is known to the rest of the world as The Baltic (the term Mare Balticum was coined already by the Romans), including the two major languages of the EU, English and French.
We Estonians could seize the opportunity to recover the name Baltic Sea in our own language, as it was used in the first decade of the Estonian Republic, which celebrates its 90th anniversary 2008. That would encourage also other nations to use the same name under which the Sea is known to the world.
THE LANGUAGE ISSUE
The major language of The Baltic Channel would be English. However, all participating countries (up to nine) would be able to have their voice-over option (along with linear channels also via web and mobile) in the national language. For external promotion there could be provision also for language options like Spanish, French, Arabic, Chinese etc (German and Russian would be involved already).
Competition is not only global. It is also with the Mediterranean region inside EU. If Benita Ferrero-Waldner says that `The Mediterranean was the cradle and will be the future of Europe`, the Baltic Sea Region has to take up its Hanseatic legacy, where the language was Niedersaxen only for the elite. Now the elite in BSR businesses (banks, media, shipping) has already largely shifted to English. The same language is also widely spoken in services on the ground level – you can by ice-cream in English in almost every village around The Baltic Sea.
In the BSR English more and more replaces the previous Nordic and Russian region languages. It could be seen as an advantage for regional cooperation – it will be equal for all partners around the Sea (there is no native English-speaking nation) and the language is the most used in the EU and on a Global scale.
Like former Niedersaxen or Latin, English is just a modern lingua franca, a practical tool with no deep ambitions, and perhaps not even abilities, to abolish the use or hinder the development of national languages.
THE RUSSIAN ISSUE
Almost 1,5 million people in the three Baltic States are Russian speakers (plus Kaliningrad enclave with over half million Russian inhabitants). It is vitally important to involve them into the BSR information space, not less because PSB media in the Baltic States have failed to reach them. So far the Baltic Russians have been mostly under a Russian info-space. Originated from Moscow (Ostankino First Channel) but translated and edited from Riga to the three Baltic states PBK (First Baltic Channel) has for example from this summer in Estonia bigger share compared to PSB Estonian Television.
In these times of heightening tensions between Russia and EU there is an increasing need for building of bridges within the cultural sphere and the information space. A Baltic Channel broadcasting even in Russian would not only reach the Russians in the Baltics, but it would be possible to access even into Russia itself. This could be seen as an asset for the entire region, where the Russian minority in Eastern Baltic could become a bridge, not to say a window, to Russia. Saint Petersburg 300 years ago was built as a Russian window to Europe, and in our time it might be gaining the role of a European window to Russia.
In Helsinki Radio Sputnik operates in Russian, subsidized by the municipal administration, mostly for promotion of Russian visitors, i.e. tourists. Also Russian newspapers are published in Finland and Germany.
So the issue is not only of Estonian and Latvian interest in the BSR.
May be even more important than language is the technical platform (medium is the message). As linear TV is at its twilight, most content will be duplicated and delivered via Internet, mobile and also exposed on public screens at ports, stations and hotel lobbies and in many kinds of public transport.
CROSS-BORDER E-SERVICES PLATFORM
The multimedia channel would make the best use of the world’s highest levels of Internet usage and skills among the peoples of the BSR. The channel would become a platform for developing cross-border e-services, which would have an impact for regional integration that could be compared only to that of a single currency.
There should be a massive development of TV-based services, starting from what reminds of text-TV and common Internet sites:
First level information services – where to go, who is who.
Second level interactive ticketing – all kinds of e-ticketing services brought together, from tickets to be printed out by customer to full e-ticketing (for example like ID-ticket in Estonia).
However a PSB-channel The Baltic Channel should publish adverts. This will add value for banks, media, transport (shipping, aviation) etc operating in the entire region and will strengthen their integrative messages.
As The Baltic Channel to a large extent will lay on non-linear TV, its advertising methods should be innovative too, mixing web, mobile, public screens and linear platforms.
Without media support cant be implemented BSR Strategy basic objectives of environment, prosperity, attractiveness, nor security. Nor internally, neither in Global scale.
„Thanks to” economy in crisis the need for joint marketing efforts of BSR externally should be recognised better. Channel would become one of few answers to the question – what can be done for expanding new markets (to make economy floating again).
Change of extent and modus of influence of US in the BSR will have impact to cooperation inside the region. Mostly in regard of Balts and Polish, but also in Scandinavian side of the Sea.
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!
As the BNS informed the Lithuanian press is seen as having one of the highest levels of free press among Eastern European and post-Soviet countries and is even ahead of counterparts in some of European Union’s (EU) old-timer countries.
According to the BNS this finding was revealed by the Global Press Freedom Survey 2008 announced by US-based NGO Freedom House, promoting global development of freedom.
BNS pointed out that as shown in the survey, Lithuania together with the Czech Republic share the second and third places ,both countries were rated 18, among Central and Eastern Europe as well as former Soviet Union countries according to freedom of press. Estonia is a leader when it comes to freedom of press in this group of countries, and received the rating of 16 in the report.
The aforementioned countries, together with slightly lower rated Hungary, Latvia, Slovakia, Slovenia and Poland, made it to the ranks of nations, which enjoy free press.
In a table containing global ratings, Lithuania together with the Czech Republic, Canada and Great Britain, all of which share the same rating, placed 25-28.
As the BNS writes according to freedom of press, Lithuania is ahead of EU old-timer France, Spain, Greece and Italy, who have also been attributed to the category of countries having free press.
Data of the survey illustrated that Finland and Iceland, both rated 9, have the highest level of free press, while Turkmenistan 96, Burma 97 and North Korea 98 are on the opposite end of the list. These countries received the last places on the list – 193-195.
Lithuania‘s neighbours notorious for persecution of the press – Russia 78 and Belarus 91, were assigned to a category of countries without freedom of press, and placed 170 and 188, accordingly.
Lithuania has always been known for its Agriculture sector. However, the steep rise of the other sectors left the agriculture sector lagging behind and the sector’s contributions to the national GDP is in constant decline.
Never the less, apparently doomed industry is experiencing a revival. This process is not confined only to Lithuania; this is the world’s tendency. The recent grab of the ‘Agrowill Group’ stock in the auction only reveilles that the sector is on the way to recovery. Especially encouraging sign for the company and for the sector as a whole is that the Scandinavian funds bought about 95% of all shares.
Interestingly enough, the business daily ‘Verslo Zinios’ (owned by the Swedish capital) announced an interesting article. Minister of the Foreign Affairs, Mr Vaitiekunas paid a visit to Kuwait last month. He also brought a large delegation of the Lithuanian businessmen with him.
Apparently the representatives of the Lithuanian Agriculture sector had a proposal from the Kuwaiti businessman to replace the Danish agriculture products in Kuwait. This is of course an aftermath of the caricature scandal in 2005. As the article claims, the Lithuanians have a great opportunity to replace all Scandinavian products in the Gulf States. According to the paper the Gulf States imported USD12 bln worth of the agriculture products in 2006, or 98% of all agriculture products.
The Lithuanians are shocked with the proposal and admit that this would be a huge challenge to the sector. Not the major concern I guess but rather important to the Lithuanians how to not offend our strategic partners! Hence, the Lithuanian businessmen are considering cooperating with their Scandinavian colleagues and becoming an intermediate between the Gulf States and Scandinavia. The Scandinavians could send their products to Lithuania and the Lithuanians could pack them into the Lithuanian packages and provide the products to the Gulf States! The wolf is fed and the sheep is intact!
It is only a matter of days before Lithuania officially will recognize the Kosovo Independence. Meanwhile the Lietuvos Rytas basketball club supporters raised a banner ‘Kosovo is Serbia’ during a match just few days ago. So, what is happening in Lithuania?
First of all lets talk big politics. According to the Lithuanian Constitution such an act could be adopted only by the Parliament (Seimas). However, some politicians argue that the President alone could do this.
Nevertheless, the President already congratulated Kosovars with their Independence and asked the Minter of Foreign Affairs to submit the recognition proposal to Seimas.Hence, Seimas will begun its spring session on the 10th of March. Then it looks that the matter will be solved soon after. When the Chairman of the Seimas’ Foreign Affairs Committee was asked why Vilnius is lagging behind its Baltic neighbours and does not recognise Kosovo now he replied that ‘this is not a sports race’.
Well said, because Lithuania and Serbia (maybe more accurately, ex-Yugoslavia) has a very long sports ‘love and hate’ relationship. This is of course about Lithuania’s second religion – HM basketball. Since the Soviet times every game between a Lithuanian team and an ex-Yugoslavian team (regardless BCs or on the National lever after we gained Independence) was a nerve rack. Lithuanians were good but the Serbs or Croatians could also play, and sometimes win. When the Lithuanians lost it was never our fault, it was the Yugoslavians who bribed the referees, and so on, and so forth.
We have one or two ex-Yugoslav basketball players here and our Lietuvos Rytas team is trained by a Serb Trifunovic. As we know the sports could be very political. A great manifestation of that was a match in Vilnius when some of the Lietuvos Rytas’ supporters raised a banner with a slogan ‘Kosovo is Serbia!’ The Serbian coach refused to comment on it.
I am not convinced that the supports thought about the politics, more likely they thought about a moral support for their coach. Same as the Kaunas’ Žalgiris suporters raised the Palestinian flag during a game with the Tel Aviv Maccabi team. I am quite convinced that when the Lietuvos Rytas will change the coach to not a Serbian, we will see the Kosovo flags flying during a match against a Serbian team. The Lithuanian sports fans are notorious of their Political Incorrectness. We should only remember when the Lithuanian national team’s football fans unveiled a large banner with a shape of African Continent in the French national colours with a slogan ‘Welcome to Europe’.
Even thought the Lithuanian media is covering the Kosovo events well, I am not sure that many Lithuanians too concerned what is happening there. However, the media and the politicians are quite united in support of Kosovo case. First of all, Serbia is portrayed as the last bastion of the Russian influence in the Balkans. Hence, this automatically puts Serbia ‘on the wrong side of the fence.’ Second of all, the commentators argue that this is not an ideal solution to the problem but it is the best in this complex situation.
However, there is a feeling in the air that the Serbs put their bet on the wrong horse, starting with Milosovech and ending up with the Russians. Nevertheless, the Lithuanians congratulated the outcome of the Presidential elections in Serbia.
But the biggest talk in town at the moment is not Kosovo, it is the Vilnius Book Fair, the International Baltic book fair. Reading books is once again become a fashionable past time in Lithuania. This year the Fair welcomed the acclaimed American novelist John Irving (read an interview with him) and the most popular living Norwegian writer Per Petterson.
P.S. I am not sure that many from the general public aware that the Kosovars are the Muslims. Having in mind that absolute majority of the Lithuanians have a ‘reserved’ attitude towards the Muslims, their view of Kosovo would alter. Paradox is that a ‘reserved’ attitude towards the other races than white does not obstruct Lithuanians’ fascination with the black NBA players. Furthermore, my generation’s never ending ‘love affair’ with Freddy Mercury goes on despite a very ‘reserved’ view towards the gay persons.