Posts filed under ‘Scandinavia’
On 31 December the Vilniaus diena paper published an interview with the Prime Minister Adnrius Kubilius. Even thought the 2009 was a very challenging year the PM hopes that 2010 will be a less difficult year. See the interview
Vilniaus diena – Was 2009 a difficult year for you personally?
Kubilius - This was an interesting year. All these challenges we had to face were sometimes extraordinary, therefore interesting.
Of course, we had to make some difficult decisions. However, I would like to thank the people that they have endured the effects of these decisions.
Vilniaus diena – They have endured them with much difficulty, but have they understood them?
Kubilius - It seems to me that the majority of them have understood the necessity of these decisions. They have understood just as we, the government, have understood that, unfortunately, we cannot avoid making difficult decisions. We had a very clear understanding that there was no other alternative.
The example of our neighbours shows that there is no other alternative. If we do not believe in ourselves, we can compare our situation with the situation in Latvia or Estonia, which have chosen the same way and have implemented similar decisions. They have cut their spending and are planning to cut spending even further; they have increased their taxes as well.
Vilniaus diena – But the Latvian Constitutional Court has ruled against pension cuts. We may have a similar ruling in Lithuania. Will you assume the responsibility if your proposals are assessed as legally invalid?
Kubilius - I would not rush to forecast that Latvia’s decision will be automatically approved in Lithuania. First of all, Latvia has a different system of pension benefits. Moreover, it has different procedures for reducing pensions and other social benefits than in Lithuania. I think that our procedures are more appropriate.
However, I would like to underscore that we will soon discuss the reform of the entire system of social benefits. One of the issues we will discuss is how to compensate for the reduced pensions. This is why I doubt we should be so apocalyptic about the legally invalid decisions.
Vilniaus diena – Many people see 2009 as the year of riots, worries about the future, growing unemployment, decreasing salaries and social benefits, and other disasters. What is your opinion?
Kubilius – This has been the year of energetic activities. I think we have made quite effective decisions that allowed us to stabilize the financial system. Moreover, we have reorganized things in many areas. I would like to mention here the energy sector. I think that comparing the situation with the one we had at the end of 2008, the future looks much better and we have made a huge leap forward.
Just the fact that we have decided to disband LEO LT is very significant. This was not a painful disbandment. We have clearly moved forward with the energy projects, such as the electricity bridge to Sweden, market liberalization, and the construction of a new nuclear power plant…
Vilniaus diena – It looks like we will have to face even more challenges in 2010. Some foreign analytics forecast that we will have one of the worst economy falls, unemployment will reach 20 per cent, salaries will be cut, prices of electricity and other prices will grow. Is it possible to be optimistic?
Kubilius - Of course, there will be challenges. But we should see the positive side. There are some positive signs. I am doing my best to encourage the people to see the good signs. For example, SEB Bank has announced a new forecast, according to which the economy could grow by 1 per cent or so in 2010. Earlier, the forecast was that it would fall by some 3-4 per cent.
On the other hand, the forecasts change every day. When there is an economic crisis, nobody is able to forecast the future correctly.
Vilniaus diena - Which means that the SEB forecast may prove to be incorrect?
Kubilius – Well, at least it is optimistic. This is also very important (smiling).
Vilniaus diena – Does this mean that you are optimistic about 2010?
Kubilius – I think that as far as economic forecasts are concerned, there is a certain rule: It is difficult to predict what is going to happen because of the turning points, this is why when the indicators are falling, they often fall lower than expected; and when they are growing, they grow higher then predicted.
Vilniaus diena - But your optimistic statements will not comfort every fifth Lithuanian who is in danger of being unemployed next year.
Kubilius - Without a doubt, the economy will continue falling for some time. However, the countries to which we export have started to recover from the crisis. This allows us to be more optimistic about 2010 than we were in mid-2009.
We have corrected the forecasts. The Finance Ministry has announced that the economy this year will fall not by 18 per cent, but by 15 per cent. This is an improvement. We can expect much better results next year.
Of course, we will still have serious problems with the budget next year, the debt will grow and the administration expenses will also grow.
Another headache is unemployment. We will seek to find solutions to this problem. This could be done through economic stimulus programmes.
Vilniaus diena – Do you think that unemployment will not reach 15-20 per cent?
Kubilius - The data for the last quarter of 2009 shows that unemployment was stabilized at the level of 11-12 per cent. It is difficult to predict whether this tendency changes or not. However, even in this area there are some signs of optimism.
Vilniaus diena – In your opinion, have we reached the bottom?
Kubilius - We certainly have reached the bottom, and have started slowly moving upward. Of course, we will be in a difficult situation for some time, but we can be more optimistic now because we see the light at the end of the tunnel. This means that we can continue our work to improve our economy and wellbeing.
Vilniaus diena – This economic growth could bring about political instability. Are you confident you will remain the prime minister?
Kubilius - I would like to underscore that the economic growth in the second half of 2010 could improve public mood. I would like to thank the people for this year, despite the several aggressive riots and the broken windows in the Seimas [parliament], the people did not continue [their violence]. This means that society understands that violence will not help us overcome the economic crisis.
There is more optimism in society. This means that political destabilization will be less possible. Because of that the political situation will be more stable and peaceful. I believe that the ruling coalition will be effective and consistent in its work.
Vilniaus diena – Because of the crisis, you have to dedicate more attention to politics and your work in the government. Is your wife not jealous of the time you spend at work? Perhaps she reproaches you for spending most of your time at work and earning less than before?
Kubilius - No. I think I and Rasa [Kubilius's wife] have got accustomed to this way of living. The peaceful atmosphere at home is very important; it helps me to deal with all these challenges in the Seimas and the government. The atmosphere in our home is certainly peaceful (smiling).
Translated by the BBC Monitoring
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.
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.
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.
Is the BNS informs on 18 June the Nordic and Baltic prime ministers agreed in Brussels that the victory of centre-right parties in the recent elections to the European Parliament (EP) boost the chances of a second tenure for European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso.
“In these obscure times, at least something should be clear. Europe needs strong mustering leadership. Jose Manuel Barroso is perfectly suitable for the position,” Lithuania’s government cited Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius as saying.
Earlier on 18 June, Kubilius met with his Nordic and Baltic counterparts to discuss the stances taken by the countries before the start of the European Council. Heads of Finnish, Swedish, Danish, Lithuanian, Latvian and Estonian governments attended the meeting.
The prime ministers shared their evaluations of the economic situation in their countries and the region, as well as plans of overcoming the downturn, discussed the election of EC’s new president and enforcement of the Lisbon Treaty.
Latvian Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis presented the steps of his government to reduce the budget deficit.
According to the press release, the Nordic and Baltic prime ministers expressed support to Latvia’s difficult but necessary steps and agreed that the frequent proposals to devalue national currencies would not solve the problems but, instead, create new ones.
As the BNS writes the leaders of all Baltic Sea countries and European Commission President Barroso signed in Brussels on June 18 a memorandum of understanding on the Baltic Energy Market Interconnection Plan, thus marking the launch of the implementation of this action plan.
Lithuanian Deputy Energy Minister Romas Svedas, who is a member of the EU’s high-level group on developing the plan, confirmed the signing of the memorandum.
“This is an unprecedented fact in the European Union’s energy policy history: such an important document has been worked out within such a short period of time — eight months. The annexes [of the document] set out how and when a Baltic energy market will be established and integrated into the Nordic market,” he told BNS.
Svedas pointed out that the document identifies concrete projects, amounts of money and the main companies responsible for their implementation.
“This is a conceptual and phenomenal document and a good example for other EU regions, defining the energy development policy. This is a long-term document that is integrated into the period of Sweden’s presidency of the EU, which means that a focus will be given on a strategy for the whole Baltic Sea region, encompassing science, culture, energy and transport,” the official said to the BNS.
“The Baltic states, which are an energy island, must be integrated into the EU’s internal energy market and the energy island label has to be eliminated,” he said.
The European Commission’s president and the leaders of Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Lithuania, Latvia, Poland and Sweden signed the memorandum on the eve of the European Council meeting in Brussels,
The memorandum underlines the need for a further development of the electricity and gas markets in the Baltic Sea region and their integration into a wider EU energy market, as well as for promoting investments.
According to the document, the three Baltic countries aim to create a level playing field in the electricity market, open up to free international trade, and establish free competition and pricing policies.
In the gas market, their main goals are to find the cheapest solution for linking Finland and the Baltic countries to an integrated European gas network and new sources of supply, as well as to accelerate the opening of the market.
The European Union has earmarked 175 million euros for the planned power interconnection under the Baltic Sea from Sweden to Lithuania. Another 100 million euros should be provided for a second interconnection between Estonia and Finland.
The countries are to submit their joint application for the EU’s funds by Jul. 15.
As the BNS reported the Energy Ministry proposes that the much-criticized national energy company Leo LT should not be allowed to build either a new nuclear power plant or power links with Sweden and Poland, and that a state-owned company should take charge of the projects.
The ministry also proposes that Leo LT should not be allowed to administer EU funds.
Energy Minister Arvydas Sekmokas presented the preliminary proposal to the Cabinet on 3 June.
“A state-owned company will build both the interconnection with Sweden and a new nuclear power plant. Leo LT will not have EU funds at its disposal. Those two principles are laid down in the [ministry's] conclusions,” Ridas Jasiulionis, the prime minister’s spokesman, told reporters after the Cabinet meeting BNS wrties.
The Cabinet is likely to discuss the proposal next week, he said.
The spokesman could not say which state-owned company would implement the projects.
The European Union has earmarked 175 million euros for the planned power interconnection under the Baltic Sea from Sweden to Lithuania, including the reinforcement of the power transmission network in western Latvia.
The countries are to submit their joint application for the EU’s funds by Jul. 15.
Additionally the BNS informed that a special-purpose governmental task group has proposed to raise the state’s interest in Lithuania’s national energy company Leo LT to at least 66 percent thus conferring more powers to the government to make decisions on the future of the company.
The government then could decide to use the assets of Leo LT for the financing of planned construction of a new nuclear power plant and power links, or to reorganize the company.
The Cabinet will consider the conclusions of the task group, a transcript of which has been obtained by BNS, as well as proposed legislative amendments, next week.
The construction of new nuclear facility and power links with Poland and Sweden is expected to be handed over to public companies, some shares of which could be assigned to the companies controlled by Estonia, Latvia and Poland.
The state’s holding in Leo LT could be raised to at least 66 percent via the issue of new shares exclusively to the government.
New shares might be paid up by property contributions, which would be determined via reappraisal of existing state’s contribution to the authorized capital of Leo LT. Estimation of value of the state’s property contribution will include Kruonis Hydro Accumulative Power Plant and the Kaunas Hydro-Electric Plant.
The state’s interest in Leo LT would have to be raised to 66 percent no later than in six months from the enforcement of relevant legislative amendments.
The government owns 61.7 percent of Leo LT, which was established last year as an investment vehicle in the planned new nuclear power plant and other multi-billion-litas energy projects. NDX Energija, a privately owned firm, holds the remaining 38.3 percent.
According to the latest official results Ms Dalia Grybauskaite has won the elections for the Lithuania’s presidential post. Some 69.08% voted for the EU Commissioner, the biggest ever support for a presidential candidate. 51.71% of all voters executed their constitutional right. Those are preliminary results announced at 1200. The final announcement should come on Sunday.
Butkevicius got 11.83%, Mazuronis 6.16%, Tomasevski 4.74%, Prunskiene 3.91%, Grauziniene 3.61%, Jezerskas 0.67% .
President Adamkus, the Speaker of the Parliament Valinskas and the PM Kubilius all congratulated the President in waiting. It is still unclear who is going to work in Grybauskaite’s team. A lecture of the Vilnius University Institute of International Affairs and Political Science Mr V. Dumbliauskas stated to the Lietuvos Rytas paper that the members of her team are going to be fresh and young people without any political baggage. He mentioned that four of his former students are invited in the team.
Another lecture from the same university Mr Janeliunas mentioned to the BNS that Grybauskaite’s entry into office would undoubtedly bring changes in terms of foreign policy. Janeliunas told to the BNS that some attention from Eastern European countries like Georgia, Ukraine and Moldova will be shifted to European Union’s (EU) heavyweights, which in his words will be one of the pivotal changes. “She would look to Western European capitals for backing and then assess the feasibility of European integration among other quests. (…) Directions would shift in line with long-term priorities,” he said to the BNS on early Monday morning.
The BNS agency also quoted Director at the Centre for Eastern Geopolitical Studies Kasciunas who maintained a similar opinion. “There are signs that point to Lithuania’s increased attention to deeper EU integration rather than full-fledged EU expansion to the East,” Kasciunas told BNS.
The BNS wrote that the political expert felt that Lithuania’s shift in this particular direction could result in the country adopting a more agreeable stance on Russia in line with the popularity of this trend in Western Europe. It is impossible to provision the benefits or lack thereof implicit in this change, said Kasciunas, noting that more thorough EU integration would undoubtedly be beneficial to the country in terms of energy, however cautioning that integration to EU’s military structures could be more detrimental.
However, these are only predictions and assumptions based on Grybauskaites statements. However, these questions were not really answered during the election campaign. Hence, the predictions above remain only such.
As the BNS reported the defence ministers of the three Baltic States upon assembling in Estonia’s capital city Tallinn jointly expressed political will to better coordinate strategic military purchases, which may take on a future form of agreements on joint tripartite purchases of especially pricey high-tech military equipment, Lithuanian Defence Minister Rasa Jukneviciene said.
Jukneviciene, on the 24th of April attending a meeting of the defence ministers of the three Baltic States, didn’t go on to forecast as to the future outcome of the endeavour in question.
“This is certainly a long-term affair, what with the ample psychological, cultural and legal obstacles. But the declaration of political will was of key importance. Perhaps we should look to the example set by the Nordic countries, which have made it down this long and difficult path. This is no simple matter, it is difficult to coordinate certain domestic priorities, let alone a tripartite deal. But there is no alternative route, we must try to harmonize the planning and synchronize budget allotments,” the Defence Minister spoke.
Defence Ministry armaments directors of the three Baltic States – who assemble on a regular basis – will be authorized to carry out talks in view of implementing the joint endeavour, said the Lithuanian official.
“We’ve vested (respective bodies – BNS) to review our legal base so as to determine whether it is compatible, with no apparent contradictions among that of the different states. This is the starting point and the signal has been sent out,” said Jukneviciene.
The Lithuanian defence minister also expressed hope of this political will reaping results in the future, in the form of military purchases. Joint purchases, according to Jukneviciene, could take on that which is “connected with the air space and especially expensive purchases”.
“I would like to believe that this can be done. There are fields that we’ll keep separate. I’m referring there to the expert level – army chiefs should present their point of view and then the political level can overview the priorities. But this is a question of future prospects, as today neither of the involved states can say when to expect the end of (economic – BNS) difficulties. Though, of course, much can be put into motion already at this time, after all, purchase planning takes a few years,” the minister spoke.
The three ministers after the meeting signed a joint communiqué, which, in Jukneviciene words, reflects the agreement to pursue maintenance of current tripartite military projects amid the economic slump.
“Discussions took place in the atmosphere of understanding. Keeping existing priorities in place amid the economic downturn and defence budget clampdowns was one of the crucial points made in the communiqué. All three countries, as written in the communiqué, declare their dedication to stick to the commitment to earmark 2 percent of the GDP to the defence budget as soon as the crisis is behind us. But we also addressed the fact that we’re approaching a certain red signal line, which indicates a potential need to look over our functions, as the clampdown has to have its limits,” Jukneviciene spoke to the BNS.
It was of utmost importance to Lithuania to hear of the dedication by neighbouring Latvians and Estonians to keep the upcoming Baltic Battalion duty on the NATO Response Force in the first half of 2010 a top priority, Jukneviciene underscored to BNS.