Posts filed under ‘USA’

Standard & Poor’s upgraded Lithuania’s outlook to stable

The Lithuania’s Ministry of Finance announced that Standard & Poor’s (S&P) Ratings Services has revised its outlook on Lithuania by increasing it from negative to stable.  The agency also declared that Lithuania’s Long Term local and foreign currency sovereign credit rating is at BBB and is Short Term rating is at A-3.This increase of ratings is due to the Cabinet’s successful budget cuts and Lithuania’s strong political will to keep its currency stable.

In the press release issued by the S&P its analyst Frank Gill said “The ratings on Lithuania reflect clear commitment across all political parties to support and implement budgetary and structural policies which anchor the currency board regime and enhance the economy’s flexible labor and goods markets”.  He also added by saying, “While the resulting unemployment and deflation of nominal income are weighing on tax collection, the process should ultimately result in a stabilization of national income as net exports stimulate growth”.

This fantastic news to Lithuania, which has experienced an unprecedented drop of its GDP in 2009.  According to the latest report from the Statistics Department Lithuania’s GDP in 2009 contracted by 15 pct.  However, the Lithuanian GDP grew in the last two consequent quarters even though only by 0,1 pct in the last quarter of 2009.

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February 3, 2010 at 8:28 pm Leave a comment

The Lithuanian Prime Minister invites Silicon Valley venture capitalists to invest in Lithuania

Continuing his working visit to the U.S., Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius visited Silicon Valley, San Francisco, where he met with one of the most powerful groups in the IT sector, i.e. members of major Venture Capital Association Accel Partners and other IT investors. Accel Partners and associated investors hold many well-known IT companies, including MySpace, Walmart.com, Macromedia, etc. Henri Mossinac, who had invested in Facebook at its rudimentary stage, was also present.

Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius invited investors to turn an eye to Lithuania, a country that boasts highly skilled multilingual workforce and one of the best IT infrastructures in Europe and the world. According to the Prime Minister, Lithuania is an ideal place for venture capital to invest, as this is about the “investment in courage, and the Lithuanian IT sector is full of bold ideas”.

Investors got interested in the list of promising Lithuanian IT companies, drawn by the Lithuanian government.

The participants of the meeting included Ilja Laurs, founder and CEO of GetJar, the only Lithuanian capital company with the head office in the Silicon Valley. GetJar has grown into a world`s largest independent mobile apps store following the investment by Rich Wong from Accel Partners.

“Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius’s visit is very important in terms of Lithuania`s image building. The information American companies have about our country is scarce. Therefore, every opportunity must be seized to increase investor awareness about investment opportunities in Lithuania, and to offer an individual and flexible approach in each investment case. I am certain that the Prime Minister’s visit will yield tangible results”, – said Ilja Laurs.

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February 3, 2010 at 12:58 am 2 comments

On tragedies. Speech by Prof. Vytautas Landsbergis at Conference of the European Friends of Israel

Excellencies, distinguished priests of One God, colleagues parliamentarians, ladies and gentlemen!

Let me share with you some words on tragedies in plural, not only that unique we are commemorating.

Haiti disaster caused by the earthquake is an enormous and terrible human tragedy, which does continue until now.

The tsunami, which passed over Aceha and other Indonesian areas, caused tremendously huge and painful human tragedy, as well.

But what about mass murders in Rwanda, Darfur, East Timor, Kambodja, Chechnya etc.? – there we need another, different definition.

Tragedy for the victims, not for the killers.

What then about the Holodomor or death camps of Nazis and Soviet Bolsheviks, indoctrinated and premeditated for extermination day-by-day of millions of innocents? We need again a different, special definition there for the dark creatures – from the system-builders to physical perpetrators, so similar to humans – but we would abuse the beasts when calling those shaped on two legs by this very word. Wild beasts never behave in such a way. Who could kill the elder, women and children – thousands and millions – only because they were Jewish?

Allow me to say, Ladies and Gentlemen, not so many words of sorrow and sympathy to the victims we are commemorating in solidarity and mourning, as they deserve, today and here, near to Auschwitz. Requiem aeternam. This European camp of death is a particular one, as it was used for real industry of killing and only by one totalitarian power only, not by two replacing each other like it was made in Buchenwald, Sachsenhausen or even Macikai in my native Lithuania. But if we stay on it, one may ask: why do you not look into the future?

Allow me to say more words about the mysteries of the degrading human soul. It may become deadfully significant for our common future. Holocaust of the 20th century was a signal about essential failures of culture, even that called the Western one, but same time also about future disasters which are currently and worldwide coming on.

Did we receive that signal?

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February 1, 2010 at 5:39 pm Leave a comment

Lithuania’s President appointed new Minister of Foreign Affairs

The President of Lithuania Dalia Grybauskaitė has on 29 January signed a decree appointing Audronius Ažubalis as a new Minister of Foreign Affairs of Lithuania.  Mr Azubalis, the Conservative Member of Parliament is currently Parliament’s Chairperson of the Committee on Foreign Affairs.  The meeting was scheduled for 45 minutes but lasted double that.

After the meeting Ažubalis told journalists that the Lithuania’s foreign policy priorities are the same, ‘Real and deep integration into NATO and the European Union, good relation with our neighbours.  It sounds banal; there is a lot of talk and writings about it.  On the other hand, it is a different matter how we implement that.  But I don’t want to comment on that at the moment.  However, I have an impression that our conversation with the President was open, very clear, benevolent and to be precise, I am in a good mood from it.’

Asked to give his opinion about a Parliamentary probe on the secret CIA prisons in Lithuania he answered, ‘The probe helped Lithuania to clear out another jammed pipe in its circulation of democracy.’  He also added that in his opinion the probe will not effect Lithuania’s relationship with the USA in any negative way.

Some politicians and commentators see Mr Ažubalis as too anti Russian and not able to fit with a new, so called a pragmatic policy towards Russia, which began when Grybauskaite took the office half year ago.

“I think that Russia is a complicated neighbour and some of its actions can be named as threatening. Let us just look at the example of closure of Druzhba gas pipeline, the act that was threatening to Lithuania economically.  We cannot deny that.” said Ažubalis.

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January 30, 2010 at 12:46 am 1 comment

Lithuania’s grey cardinal interviewed on relations with US, CIA prison and more

Lithuanian web site Delfi on 12 January published an interview with Albinas Januška, a former state secretary of the Foreign Ministry, former adviser to President Valdas Adamkus and Prime Minister Gediminas Kirkilas, and signatory to the Lithuanian Independence Act. 

Some commentators call him Lithuania’s grey cardinal and a mastermind behind so called group called the ‘Statesmen’ (Valstybininkai).  This very rear interview with a man who is known for being the main Lithuania’s foreign policy strategist, but his influence in Lithuanian politics was also huge.

The interview is omitted.  Commentator Vladimiras Laučius conducted it.  

Foreign Policy Is Too Personal
(Delfi.lt) About a year ago, current Foreign Minister Vygaudas Ušackas announced his plans to “open new page in relations with Russia.” Have you noticed any changes?

(Januška) Usačkas is talented and brave. Visions and innovations are necessary. There indeed are some new initiatives. But it is important not to make a mistake and not to imagine oneself as the forerunner of a new historical period.

It seemed that the country was mature enough, that it had opened a sufficient number of “new pages,” and that we had the right to expect to have a predictable, stable, but also sharp and expansive foreign policy.

The biggest mistake is that we again chose to have relations with the Kremlin based on the tête-à-tête principle. This is why we are a member of a modern empire – the EU, to speak with Russia as an equal. A powerful rival against an equally powerful rival. The Kremlin’s foreign policy is based on the principle that one has to divide and rule, because when Russia deals with everyone separately, it is stronger. Our current policy helps Russia strengthen its interests.

I would like to remind you that when Adamkus and [former Minister of Foreign Affairs] Petras Vaitiekūnas were in power, they had added to the EU-Russia negotiation mandate some issues that were important to us and other EU countries: Russia’s commitment to observe the requirements defined in the Energy Charter, the possibility to renew the delivery of oil via the Friendship [Druzhba] pipeline.

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January 22, 2010 at 12:07 am Leave a comment

Council of Europe expecting explanations on Lithuania’s CIA prison allegations

Baltic News Service informed that the Council of Europe secretary general asked Lithuania’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs if Vilnius could give all available information to the Council of Europe regarding the allegation of possible secret CIA prisons, or so called ‘black sites’ in Lithuania.

According to BNS the letter was sent to Lithuania a month ago and signed by Thorbjørn Jagland.  Mr Jagland said that his predecessor had already asked for information on any involvement of public figures, by action or omission, in the deprivation of liberty of transport of detainees.  The secretary also informed that this information relevant to an inquiry on CIA detention centres in Europe launched back in November 2005.

BNS quoted the letter in which Mr Jagland addresses to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, “I should be grateful if you could provide me with any information available at this stage which could be useful for the purposes of the inquiry”.

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January 19, 2010 at 3:19 pm Leave a comment

Lietuvos zinios paper views security chiefs’ role in alleged CIA prison affair

See an article from Lithuanian daily Lietuvos zinios about possible links between investigation into death of the Lithuanian State Security Colonel Vytautas Pociunas and the current investigations of alleged secret CIA prisons in Lithuania.

Article by Jurga Tvaskiene: “State in Swamp of Double Lies”, November 26
The habit to lie to the Seimas’ ad hoc commissions, which was introduced by senior state officials, has become a norm. MPs try to fight against this with proposals to introduce prison sentences for those who give false testimonies. If such measures were applied earlier, perhaps now we would know whose interests killed Colonel Vytautas Pociunas and how those who obstructed the investigation into his death are tied to the new scandal related to CIA prisons in Lithuania.

Politicians do not lie – they just do not tell the whole truth. Such a joke can be found on Lithuanian Internet portals. Yet, MPs, who form ad hoc probe commissions in the Seimas in order to find answers to questions that often are unsolvable even to law enforcement officers, are not laughing. Especially, when after testifying before the Seimas’ investigators senior officials admit they have been talking gibberish. And do not get punished.

The increasingly deeper swamp of lies is especially worrisome now, when the Seimas is conducting a probe into the possible existence of a CIA prison in Lithuania. People, who three years ago lied and practically destroyed the probe into the death of Pociunas, a colonel of the State Security Department (VSD), and into the real motives of the VSD activities, will probably be invited to testify in this probe. [passage omitted on the fact that former senior officials of Lithuania denied having any knowledge about the alleged CIA prison].

In April 2004, Rolandas Paksas, who had been president for a mere year and a half, was impeached from his post. Soon after that, Valdas Adamkus returned to this post and transferred actual control of the country to other persons. Including VSD leaders, who during Paksas’ impeachment process, together with other persons desiring influence, got used to doing whatever they liked in Lithuania.

Assistance to Russian special services representatives in developing their businesses in Lithuania, manipulations with classified reports, pandering to the interests of a small group of people, and, on the other hand, attempts to cover their moves with Western partners’ demands. These were daily activities of the VSD leadership.

In addition, one should not forget that the CIA, which after the events of 11 September 2001 declared a war on international terrorism, was spending huge amounts of money on this. Only now in the US scandals are starting that money allocated for antiterrorism activities were spend on unclear things, but the declared goal has not been achieved.

Profitable Service
In the spring of 2004, a group of persons who understand each other very well assembled at the VSD. Thanks to lies, Gintaras Bagdonas was not allowed to become VSD director (Bagdonas, who had been proposed to this post by Paksas, was not suitable for Lithuania, but was greatly evaluated by NATO leadership). After that, KGB reserve officer Arvydas Pocius became VSD director. He was met by Dainius Dabasinskas, who had been a VSD deputy director since 2001 and who had been sent there by the Foreign Ministry. Soon after, Darius Jurgelevicius was also appointed [a VSD deputy director] with the same type recommendations.

By the way, the year 2005 became the year of financial prosperity for these men. The representatives of Lithuania’s poor law enforcement sector started driving luxury cars. For example, Dabasinskas started driving a brand new US-made Chrysler. Was it a gift from CIA colleagues? That same year Dabasinskas, who until then had been renting an apartment in Turniskes, purchased it for more than a half a million litas. This information surfaced only a few years later, when it turned out the apartment had cost less than the market price at the time, and the circumstances of the sale resembled a bribe.

Dabasinskas, just as the other fate brothers, was merely reprimanded, but retained his post. [passage omitted on an overview of the parliamentary probe into the death of VSD officer Pociunas].

On 8 August, Jurgelevicius requested to be discharged from his service at the VSD due to “personal reasons,” without even waiting until VSD Director Povilas Malakauskas returned to work from his unexpected sick leave. Until that moment MPs, who conducted a probe, and civic groups, who were demanding adherence to the principles of justice in Lithuania, were unable to oust Jurgelevicius from his post. After President Dalia Grybauskaite granted his request, the official immediately went as far from Lithuania as possible – it was said he became the Georgian interior minister’s adviser. Considering the fact that Georgia is actively trying to gain greater patronage from the US and therefore may be ready to make various concessions, Jurgelevicius’ desire to work in the institution, which oversees law enforcement and security structures of that country, in the current context may raise various thoughts.

A week after Jurgelevicius’ resignation there was the second news – without commenting on the reasons for his decision, Dabasinskas, Jurgelevicius’ colleague, left his post, too. After receiving a recommendation from the VSD in a record time, he was sent by the Foreign Ministry to work at the embassy in Ukraine.

Exactly two weeks later, American TV station ABC News announced the first information about the CIA prison in Lithuania. One can have various assessments of the Lithuanian VSD inside the country, but it would hard to reject the well-developed ties with foreign partners (especially with the US partners). Thus, it is possible that Jurgelevicius and Dabasinskas, who held high posts inside the VSD, much earlier that the public received information that US media started digging and would soon reveal the information, which had been kept secret for a few years.

It was also only a matter of time before similar news from this or that VSD officer tied to the CIA activities in our country was going reach the public in Lithuania. It was said that even VSD leaders once in a while among themselves were wondering about their subordinates’ silence, which they could not understand.

One can think that VSD heads, who had gained the backing of previous Lithuanian leadership one way or another, realized that to get away this time would not be as easy as during the probe into the death of Pociunas and into the VSD activities related to his death. The countries, which are seen as Lithuania’s friends and which do not belong to the EU (with all of its strict rules), are an excellent shelter in the increasingly difficult situation.

Moreover, if Lithuania this time decides to defend the truth and law, the characters who damaged the country’s reputation probably will not avoid responsibility. [passage omitted on international law Professor Dainius Zalimas's opinion that the state and its officials would be responsible for alleged human rights violations at the CIA prison and on proposals to introduce accountability for false testimony before parliamentary committees].

Translated by the BBC Monitoring

December 1, 2009 at 5:02 pm Leave a comment

CIA prisons in Lithuania as plausible as the adventures of James Bond

The TV station Russia Today reported on the alleged location of a CIA prison on a former Soviet military base in Rudninkai, 40 kilometres from Vilnius.  Lithuanian daily Vilniaus Diena in its editorial on 27 August voiced its suspicions regarding the report.

The news about the exceptional attention paid to the godforsaken Rudninkai by the most powerful spy agency of the most powerful country on the planet, just as the hypothesis about the CIA prison in Lithuania, surprised our country’s leaders, who may have ruled the country without even knowing what was happening here.

The surprise that was showed by the then Prime Minister Algirdas Brazauskas and the then President Valdas Adamkus might seem somewhat fake – theoretically at least one of them (most likely the latter) must have known about the existence of such a secret site.

On the other hand, considering the trust among NATO allies, one cannot rule out the possibility that the prison was simply marked as secret object XY, and the president did not even need to know what was behind those letters. It is even more likely that the very secret information about this very secret object did not go beyond the walls of Lithuania’s special services and was available only to the persons of those services who belong to the so called statesmen clan.

However, in the race who will be the first to find the site of the CIA prison in Lithuania, another question (which has become secondary) is important: Why was this information disclosed only now?

If it is true that the CIA prison was established in our country and if it is true that it happened back in 2001, then this reveals exceptional trust in Lithuania. Since then, the situation has changed a little bit over the years. Lithuania’s relations with the US have not become warmer; there have been essential changes in Washington and Vilnius, however.

In the US, the Guantanamo prison’s political status changed. In Lithuania, Dalia Grybauskaite, who for now demonstrates exceptional attention to Lithuania’s partners on the old continent and clearly wants to boost the front of our country’s allies inside the EU, replaced pro-American President Adamkus.

Both circumstances create quiet favourable conditions for weakening Lithuania’s pro-American positions. Who benefits from increased anti-American moods in Lithuania? This question should be addressed to those who claimed they were the first to “discover” the CIA prison branch in Vilnius region but failed to provide witnesses or strips of prison clothes that would support this version. Without evidence, the appearance of Rudninkai on the map of the world’s most important intelligence agencies seems as plausible as the adventures of the famous 007 agent – James Bond

September 10, 2009 at 9:12 pm Leave a comment

Dual citizenship remains core issue for Lithuania’s émigré community

As the BNS writes the Lithuanians living abroad are content with neither the Citizenship Law currently in force, nor the one under consideration in the Seimas.

This issue on 8 July  will be addressed in the 13th Seimas session of the World Lithuanian Community (WLC).

“Citizenship is at the core of our community. Citizenship acts as our most meaningful tie with our homeland. And this issue is yet to be fixed in Lithuania. The law currently in force will no longer be valid at the end of the year. There will be no law on this at all. How can a nation exist without a Citizenship Law?” Chairwoman of the WLC Regina Narusiene rhetorically asked in the session.

The law currently being mulled in the Seimas is no good, said she. “It’s no good for either the welfare of the Lithuanian state nor, with regards to the émigré community, the nation,” Narusiene stressed.

Both of the bills on citizenship speak not of granting citizenship but of revoking it, said the WLC chair.

“The possibility of having our citizenship revoked, especially for those of us with a birthright – Lithuanians by origin – is outright offensive. We are not traitors – while we may be physically distant, our hearts, our actions extend to Lithuania,” said she to BNS.

Narusiene noted that the WLC Seimas is certain to pass a resolution on this issue.

Under a draft piece of legislation landed for consideration in the Seimas, dual citizenship can be extended to persons who left Lithuania before the independence period and their descendants, while persons who emigrated after 1990 will not be eligible for dual citizenship, which would only be granted to their children born abroad, as is the procedure at this time.

Under article 12.2 of the Constitution, no one can hold the citizenship of Lithuania and another country at the same time, save for a few exceptions. The constitutional provision can only be revised via a referendum.

According to the draft bill, Lithuanians who emigrated after the reestablishment of independence will be granted dual citizenship only by way of exception, for example by marrying a foreign citizen whose country has legitimized dual citizenship and thus acquiring it. On the other hand, their children, born abroad, will be eligible for dual citizenship as is currently stipulated in the country’s legislation.

Discussions on dual citizenship roused after the Constitutional Court in the fall of 2006 found that the country’s main law provides for dual citizenship as rare exceptions, declaring laws allowing dual citizenship as running counter the Constitution.

The WLC Seimas will be in session in Vilnius until 10 July. The session will also work to operationalize the concept of a Lithuanian living abroad, discuss what kind of support is needed from Lithuania to retain nationhood abroad, also issues concerning Lithuanian language education, Lithuanian community archives, etc.

July 8, 2009 at 3:26 pm 4 comments

US President Obama called Lithuania’s President Adamkus

Lithuania’s outgoing President Valdas Adamkus on 23 June had a phone conversation with US President Barack Obama as the BNS informed.

The two presidents discussed President Barack Obama’s upcoming July 6 visit to the Russian Federation and addressed the situation in Georgia, the Lithuanian president’s press service said in a statement.

Obama noted Lithuania as being an important partner to the US in the region and thanked President Adamkus for his contribution to developing bipartite relations.

Adamkus, in turn, said he was hopeful that Lithuania and US maintain successful cooperation in promoting democracy and transatlantic integration. Adamkus also added he feels the US and the European Union (EU) should spare more attention to Europe’s Eastern neighbours and thus help stabilize the region.

Speaking on the situation in Georgia, Adamkus underlined the need for the country’s ruling and opposition political forces to steer clear of further confrontations and adhere to principles of democracy BNS wrote.

June 24, 2009 at 1:20 pm Leave a comment

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