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Archive for February, 2011

Impressive comeback for former Vilnius Mayor, Arturas Zuokas

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No doubt. Arturas Zuokas, who was Mayor of Vilnius twice, is eager and ready to occupy the chair for a third time. He didn’t make a secret out of it at a press conference on Monday, saying that he was ready to take the responsibility once again. His ‘Vilnius Coalition’ got 12 out of 51 mandates in the Vilnius election, just surpassing ‘The Polish Party’ that got 11 mandates.

An impressive comeback for a man who had already been written off by many.

In 100 polling districts (out of totally 151), Arturas Zuokas and his Vilnius Coalition received support from 17.45% of the voters; the Polish and Russian coalition was supported by 15.77% of the voters. The Homeland Union-Lithuanian Christian Democrats came third with 13.49% of the vote.

Zuokas predicts that the ruling coalition in Vilnius City Municipal Council will be formed from at least three parties which are expected to be named as soon as Monday.

Also the Polish minority party increased its number of seats in the Vilnius city Council, when the Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania managed to win 15.24 percent of the ballot in coalition with the Union of Russians, gaining 11 out of the 51 seats available in the capital’s council.

Waldemar Tomaszewski, head of the party and an MEP from the European Conservatives and Reformists grouping, tol din a press releasethat „the elections are a success.”

The Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania also won in regional elections, gaining 64.72 percent of the ballot in the Vilnius region, gaining 19 out of 27 seats in the local government.

44.04% of Lithuania’s voters went to the polls this Sunday to express their political will. Voter turnout data was collected from 2,016 polling stations in 60 municipalities. Turnout reached 1.152,765 people voted, 4.51% of ballot papers found invalid. Preliminary data shows that Alytus, Birstonas, Lazdijai, Silale, Svencionys, Salcininkai, Raseiniai, Pagegiai, Ignalina,Vilnius, Zarasai districts and Neringa city saw the highest local governments election turnout with over 50% of the local electorate going to the polls. The percentage of voters in the major cities was lower. According to preliminary counts, voter turnout was at 36.62% in Panevezys, 40.1% in Kaunas, 33.55% in Klaipeda, 41.49% in Alytus, 39.43 in Siauliai and 43.93% in Vilnius. Polling stations closed at 8 p.m.

A total of 16,404 candidates stood for election to municipal councils. Seats at municipal councils were sought by 23 party lists of candidates and 505 independent candidates.

Voters in 60 municipalities elected 1,526 municipal council members.

Sources: BNS, lrytas.lt, veidas.lt, delfi.lt

Category : News

For the President it was easy to decide for whom to vote

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The President of Lithuania Dalia Grybauskaite votes at the municipal elections in Sauletekis electoral district in Vilnius.
Photo from the Presidential Press Office

More than 16 thousand candidates took part in the municipal elections which were held on February 27th, 2011. Only about 1.5 thousand of them will be assigned with responsibilities in all 60 municipalities of Lithuania. 2 million 634 thousand 582 Lithuanian citizens had a right to vote in this municipal election, but not all of them performed their civil duties.

State politicians also participated in elections as voters. The president of Lithuania, Dalia Grybauskaite, encouraged Lithuanian people to give their votes in municipal elections. She made her choice at the Sauletekis electoral district on Sunday morning and noticed that it was easy to decide for whom to vote, while former president of Lithuania Valdas Adamkus said that it was a difficult task to choose a candidate or a list of candidates whom he frankly supports. Adamkus also claimed that civil society in Lithuania is still immature but expressed hope that “perhaps we move out from this serious domestic political crisis in which we are now”.

Some election violation cases were registered during the voting day. In Varena district the election observer publicly humiliated a voter in a wheelchair claiming that he should have took a ballot home, while according to the law, disabled people may vote at home if they wish as well as at the ward. Due to this case the local electoral commission drew up a report on administrative offence and withdrew the observer’s certificate. Also there had been some small voter bribery cases registered during the Election Day.

According to the recent data more than 43% of all voters participated in municipal elections, Central Electoral Commission of Lithuania announced. However, this is not a final result. The chairperson of VRK Zenonas Vaigauskas predicts that more than 45% of voters took part in the election on Sunday. This is the highest result of voters’ activeness in recent years.

Sources: BNS, lrytas.lt, veidas.lt, delfi.lt

Category : News

Lithuanian Jewish Community

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Lietuvos Žydų Bendruomenė


LJC Chairman Dr. Simonas Alperavičius

The Lithuanian Jewish Community (LJC) is an organisation offering a wide range of cultural, communal and social services from kindergarten to senior level activties. Dr. Simonas Alperavičius has been the leader of the organisation since 1992. Along with the two functioning houses of worship, their house at Pylimo 4 is where you can meet the genuine Jewish locals and read the country’s only Jewish newspaper, Jerusalem of Lithuania, available in English, Yiddish, Lithuanian and Russian. The building also houses a youth club, Jewish Student Union, Union of Former Ghetto and Concentration Camp Inmates and the Union of WWII Jewish Veterans.

The LJC Chariman, Simonas Alperavičius, was born 11 October 1928 in Vilnius. In 1933, his family moved to Kaunas, where he completed six grades at the Kaunas Sholom Aleichem Jewish gymnasium. At the outbreak of World War II, he and his parents escaped to Russia.
In 1944, Alperavičius returned to Vilnius, where he graduated from the city‘s 4th Gymnasium in 1947. In 1947-1952, Alperavičius studied law at Vilnius University and graduated magna cum laude.

Alperavičius spent a period working in the Klaipėdas regional Ministry of Justice, and in 1961-1988 he taught at the Ministry of the Interior.

In 1989, he became executive director of the Jewish Community of Lithuania and in 1992 he was elected chairman. In 2006, he was elected chairman of the Jewish Community of Vilnius. He currently leads the Religious Jewish Communities of Vilnius and Lithuania. Alperavičius helped organize the first and second World Litvak Congresses.

Writer Grigory Kanovich was the first Chairman of the nowadays Lithuanian Jewish Community

 

Grigory Kanovich is one of the most re-known contemporary Jewish writers novelist, play and script writers. Grigory Kanovich was born in traditional Jewish family on 18th of June 1929 in Jonava (Yonava), Lithuania. His family escaped the WWII and spent evacuation in Kazahstan and Ural. In 1945 his family returned to Vilnius where he took Slavistic studies at Vilnius State Universitywhich he graduated in 1953.

His first poetry book was published in 1948. The very first novel about Jews to be published (1959) in post-war Soviet Union was written by G.Kanovich “I Am Glazing At Stars”. It was highly valued by that time living classic of Russian literature Konstantin Paustovski. Since then G.Kanovich wrote number of novels a kind of saga - about the fate of East European Jewry from middle of 19th century till nowadays trilogy “Candles In The Wind”, dilogy “FOOLS TEARS AND PRAYERS”, “Smile Upon Us, Lord!”, ”Two penny kid”, ”There Is No Paradise For Slaves”, ”Turn Not The Face From Death”, ”The Jewish Park”, ” Leaves Of Fallen Trees”, ”Fascination of Devil” and others.

Kanovich, as a member of the Holocaust generation, writing in Russian, depicts his protagonists as spiritual and hardworking people with strong self-confidence, resting on religion and custom. By means of the narrative technique of memory, Kanovich creates a literary resurrection of the Lithuanian Jews as a people which was almost completely exterminated during the Holocaust.
Omnipresent pictures of cemetery and grave transform the Lithuanian space into a metonymy of death and, grotesquely, to the only place of home, being the”shelter” for the killed bodies of the Lithuanian Jewry. (Christina Parnell, Department of Slavic Literature, University of Erfurt,Germany) East European Jewish Affairs, Volume 38, Issue 2 August 2008 , pages 169 183) Both Kanovich's personality and the special circumstances in Lithuania relating to Jewish nationality turned him into a cultural symbol for a whole generation of Soviet Russian Jews (Velvl Chernin, Jewish Political Studies Review 14:1-2 (Spring 2002) Novels of G.Kanovich are published with turnaround of more than 1,5mio copies in 12 languages English, German, Hebrew, Polish, Chezch and others. Literary critics often compare works of G. Kanovich with those of Itzhak Bashevis Zinger.

G. Kanovich won numerous awards for his novels National Prize of Literature of Lithuania ( for his trilogy ”Candles In The Wind” 1989), best novel in Israel (1997 ”Jewish Park”), number of times his novels were among those to seek award of Russian Booker prize. His novel ”Seller of Dreams was among those nominated for International Booker award in 1997. His latest novel ”Fascination of Devil” is among nominees of Russian Booker award for 2009.

G. Kanovich is an author of more than twenty plays and scripts. A play based on his novels ”Smile Upon Us, Lord !” and ”Two Penny Kid” staged by Rimas Tuminas and performed by Vilnius Mazasis Teatras is considered the best theatrical performance in Lithuaniain the past 20 years. The play and actors have won numerous national and international awards among them First prize of International Theatre Festival of Baltic and North European Countries held in Sankt Petersburg, Russia.” Smile Upon Us, Lord is a production which touched me, overwhelmed me from head to toes, which made me cry and then laugh through tears. I belong to those who did read the novels of Grigori Kanovich and I have to say that all his novels build up a single large painting about the life of Lithuanian Jews, like a mosaic made of tiny colour stones, that you can't dismantle, which you can't share out, because this entirety, like the creation of Sholom Aleikhem, Iossif Babel, has already become a part of a newly discovered, fixed, stopped and already passed life. I never imagined that one could transfer it on stage, and do it so easily as if it was a research, a game, an improvisation, with the joy of being on the stage and of having a possibility to act” (http://www.vmt.lt/en/pages/view/?id=41).

In 1989 G. Kanovich was elected to the last Supreme Soviet in Moscow as a candidate of Lithuanian Independence movement Sajudis. He was among few delegates who have initiated a letter to last Soviet President Gorbachev about growing anti-Semitism in USSR. Letter was signed by 200 delegates of Supreme Soviet, including B.Jeltzin.

From 1989 till his repatriation in 1993 to Israel G. Kanovich was elected and served as a Chairman of Lithuanian Jewish Community. He remains an Honorary Chairman of this Community up to date. For his literature achievements and his role in Lithuanian culture GG. Kanovich was awarded by Lithuanian president V. Adamkus medal of Gediminas. G. Kanovich is a member of Israel and Russia PEN club. G. Kanovich and his wife Olga are residing in Bat Yam, Israel.

Source: http://www.gkanovich.com/

Category : Litvak forum sidebar

Lithuania has become a leading gateway for smuggling to EU

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Steinar Westby (35) had to learn it the hard way. He is now free again after almost 8 years in jail.

Norwegian Steinar Westby (35) is back in Lithuania after nearly eight years in prison in Norway. It was here in Vilnius that he was arrested in 2003 for large-scale smuggling of the drug Rophynol from Russia through Lithuania to Scandinavia, and for the scrapping of stolen cars, preparing them for 'export' from Norway to Lithuania.

"No matter how much money you earn on criminal activity, it is not worth it!" Steinar has had enough of the madness and is now just happy that he got through his criminal career with his life and health intact, as he directs a clear warning to other young people who may think this kind of easy money may provide a basis for a good life.

"Rohypnol is no longer in production," he says over a beer in a Vilnius pub this Saturday afternoon. "Now it’s mostly amphetamines, alcohol and cigarettes that is smuggled through Lithuania to Western Europe. Smuggling of these items, however, takes place on a very large scale, and Lithuania has in recent years become a leading gateway for smuggling to the EU. It is still quite possible to bribe customs officials and border guards here, and the border control is also far too random and not very extensive," he tells me."Another typical activity for criminals in today's Lithuania," he says, "is to steal cars in Germany and bring them here for resale to the countries further east. That there no longer are border controls within the EU, has made this type of activity far simpler."

Steinar insists that he, for his own part, is finished for good with criminal activity. "Now I'll try to rebuild my life and do my best to warn other young people about falling into the crime trap," he says.

To read the complete article, go to our
Section 9 – LITHUANIA TODAY

Category : News

Lithuania has become a leading gateway for smuggling to EU

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Steinar Westby (35) had to learn it the hard way. He is now free again after almost 8 years in jail.

 

Text: Aage Myhre

Norwegian Steinar Westby (35) is back in Lithuania after nearly eight years in prison in Norway. It was here in Vilnius that he was arrested in 2003 for large-scale smuggling of the drug Rophynol from Russia  through Lithuania to Scandinavia, and for the scrapping of stolen cars planned for 'export' from Norway to Lithuania.

"No matter how much money you earn on criminal activity, it is not worth it!" Steinar has had enough of the madness and is now just happy that he got through his criminal career with his life and health intact, as he directs a clear warning to other young people who may think this kind of easy money may provide a basis for a good life.

"Rohypnol is no longer in production," he says over a beer in a Vilnius pub this Saturday afternoon.  "Now it’s mostly amphetamines, alcohol and cigarettes that is smuggled through Lithuania to Western  Europe. Smuggling of these items, however, takes place on a very large scale, and Lithuania has in recent years become a leading gateway for smuggling to the EU. It is still quite possible to bribe customs officials and border guards here, and the border control is also far too random and not very extensive," he tells me.

"Another typical activity for criminals in today's Lithuania," he says, "is to steal cars in Germany and bring  them here for resale to the countries further east. That there no longer are border controls within the EU, has made this type of activity far simpler."

Steinar insists that he, for his own part, is finished for good with criminal activity. "Now I'll try to rebuild my life and do my best to warn other young people about falling into the crime trap," he says.

It was a stripper at an Oslo nightclub who in 1996 initially aroused Steinar's interest in Lithuania. He  travelled here to visit her and found out soon that he could engage in trade business with his great passion - antiques. The trade went well, and Steinar had four good years actively engaged in finding antique objects that he exported to Norway.

"I was 21 years old and naturally hung out in bars and nightclubs to have fun like most young people," he tells me. "I learned Lithuanian, which I this day speak fluently, and I felt that I was well into the  environments of young, dynamic people. Then it started. People invited me to join their ‘business’, giving me the opportunity to participate in activities that would give me easy money. My job would be to find buyers for the drug Rohypnol in Norway while the people here would take care of purchasing and transportation from Moscow through Lithuania to Norway. In year 2000 the trucks started rolling.”

When Steinar was taken, in 2003, already almost half a million pills had arrived in Norway through  his channels. 

"How could it be possible," I ask, "that such large amounts could pass the Norwegian border and nothing was detected? Was not the trailer loads controlled?" 

"Well," he replies, "it was seldom that the pills were part of the cargo. They were instead often hidden in the tires, or other places under the trailers, so that our cars could easily get 'the goods' on scheduled  stops at certain parking places in different parts of Norway."

"And then you were taken, after three years in the criminal business. What happened?"

"One of our dealers in Norway started playing millionaire. The police discovered and began wiretapping  and doing other forms of investigations. They found out about it all, and in 2003 I was arrested here in Vilnius."

"How was the arrest exercised?" 

"Rather brutal. I was thrown into a cell where I was constantly subjected to harsh interrogation, beaten  repeatedly with fists and sticks, with no opportunity to speak directly with the defence lawyer who was  appointed by public authorities."

"You spent two months in prison in Vilnius before you were transferred to Norway. How would you  describe the two months?"

"Hell on Earth, I lived in a 6-man cell where the 'toilet' was an open, stinking hole in the middle of the floor. We had the opportunity to shower only once a week, and we were constantly subjected to brutal  interrogations."

"Then you had your mental collapse?" 

"That's right. I had been put in solitary confinement and after about three weeks, it was simply too much for me and I tried to set fire to the cell. It was only just that I survived. Fortunately, it was not long after that Norwegian police came and picked me."

"How would you describe the difference between Lithuanian and Norwegian prisons?" 

"Norwegian prisons are like hotels compared to what we have here in this country. As you know there are many Lithuanians who are imprisoned in Norway, and they just laugh at Norwegian prisons and systems."

"Were any of your Norwegian accomplices arrested?" 

"Only one. And the real guys, those behind this type of activity at that time as today, both here in Lithuania and in Norway, were of course never taken. They are known as successful  business men that none of us foot soldiers ever got to meet or know the identity of. "

"Does it feel good to be a free man, back in Lithuania?" 

"It feels infinite good. I've never felt happier in my entire life!"

 

What is Rohypnol?

 

A book by Andrew Hutchinson

9781741668223, Random House Vintage, 2007

 

Rohypnol is about bad people. They follow the rules of the ‘new punk’, meaning that they can take what they want, when they want it. They are young, male, rich, and live by the motto - ‘f**k people’. The group’s main activity is spiking the drinks of women and raping them.


Who would want to read about this? The book is horrific, sickening and difficult. It is also skillful, probing and fresh. Andrew Hutchinson gives his characters no motivational aspects – no sob-story childhoods, no incidents that made them what they are. The narrator just repeats that he is a bad person and knows it. It is challenging and stimulating for the reader to fill in the gaps. It allows a deep engagement with the voice and the narrative. Like Lolita, it both sickens and compels you.

 

 LITERARYMINDED  18.11.07

 

http://www.bbc.co.uk/health/physical_health/conditions/rohypnol.shtml

Rohypnol is the brand name of flunitrazepam, and is a part of the benzodiazepine class of drugs, of which ‘Valium’ or diazepam is perhaps the best known. It is 10 times more potent than diazepam. The drug is not legally available in the US, but is in some countries of Europe and Mexico. In the UK it is only available on private prescription, and it is illegal to possess it without one, being a class C drug.

It rose to prominence as the date rape drug because it was colourless, odourless and tasteless - ideal for spiking drinks undetected - and causes sedation or euphoria in approximately 20 to 30 minutes. Several cases report the drug being given to women without their consent in order to remove their inhibitions.

However, Hoffman-Roche, the company that manufactures the drug, revised the formula in January 1998 to make it easier to detect. It now contains a blue dye that will appear when it is added to any drink, and it is slower to dissolve. Counterfeit versions of the drug have been reported in the US which do not have these added features.

 

Why is it used?

The drug has a number of legal and illegal uses. It is used in the short-term treatment of sleep disorders, but has been abused for more sinister purposes. It has been implicated in several date rape cases in the US, although there is no confirmed case of it being used in sexual assault cases in the UK.

Ravers use the drug because of the its euphoric and relaxing effects. The effects last for about eight hours but it can take over 24 hours for its ‘hangover’ effect to disappear. Street names for Rohypnol include rophies, ropies, ruffies, roofies, roche, R-2, mexican valium, rib, and rope. Users report mixing it with beer to enhance the feeling of drunkenness, and it has been reported to be used in combination with marijuana and cocaine, as well as heroin.

It is also used to ease the come down from a cocaine or crack binge, according to RaveSafe, a drugs information service. However, it is the drug's use in date rape cases that has led to its notoriety.

 

What are the risks?

When combined with alcohol, Rohypnol can make users shed their inhibitions. They can also suffer from loss of memory. It has been labelled the date rapist's drug of choice. Amnesia can set in within a short time of ingesting the drug, and the disinhibiting effects kick in soon after. Someone who has taken the drug unwittingly is unlikely to remember what happened while they were under the influence. The journal report continues: "Due to the amnesic effects of flunitrazepam, historical clues of the rape event are difficult to obtain.

"Patients with a complaint of sexual assault who appear intoxicated or have anterograde amnesia should be suspected of unknowingly ingesting flunitrazepam."

It also recommends doctors perform a urine test specifically for the drug, but this needs to be done within 72 hours of the assault to successfully detect traces of flunitrazepam.

Another drug, gamma-hydroxybutryate (GHB) is also reported to have been used to incapacitate victims in order to sexually abuse them. The effects of GHB are similar to those of Rohypnol - dizziness, confusion and memory loss. It is colourless and odourless. It is most commonly found in liquid form and is also known as liquid X or g-juice. It was once sold in health food stores to bodybuilders, but was pulled off the market in 1990 because of its bad side effects.

However, a US study in 1997, and continued evidence from UK statistics, shows that alcohol remains the substance most frequently associated with substance-assisted sexual assault.

 

What are the recommendations?

A report in the Academic Emergency Medicine journal says that counterfeit products are hard to detect. It says: "Flunitrazepam readily dissolves, and once in solution, is colourless, odourless, and tasteless. "The predominant clinical manifestations are drowsiness, impaired motor skills, and anterograde amnesia."

There is an agent that reverses the effects of Rohypnol. It is a benzodiazepine antagonist called ‘Romazicon’ or flumazenil, and is used for reversing the severe effects of overdose. However, it needs to be administered by a doctor as it is an injection.

The best advice to avoid being spiked is to trust no one. Counsellors say anyone who feels at risk should never accept any opened drink, particularly not from a stranger. Tamper-proof bottles or cans are recommended. They should not be opened by someone else.

 

Disclaimer

All content within BBC Health is provided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or any other health care professional. The BBC is not responsible or liable for any diagnosis made by a user based on the content of the BBC Health website. The BBC is not liable for the contents of any external internet sites listed, nor does it endorse any commercial product or service mentioned or advised on any of the sites. See our Links Policy for more information. Always consult your own GP if you're in any way concerned about your health.

 

 

Category : Lithuania today

Evelina Sasenko and “C’est Ma Vie” will represent Lithuania in the Eurovision Song Contest

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Lithuania held its national final Thursday night with 13 acts competing for a ticket to the Eurovision Song Contest in May. After a combination of jury and viewer voting, Evelina Sasenko and the song "C'est Ma Vie" will represent the country in Dusseldorf, Germany.

The final featured nine songs that advanced from semi-final competition and four wildcard selections. Styles included jazz, power pop, dance, and funk. 

After jury votes were tabulated, Evelina Sasenko's "C'est Ma Vie", Linas Adomaitis's "Floating to You" and Liepa's "Laukiu" (the only song not in English) were the frontrunners. The home audience favored Sasenko, Monika's "Days Go By", and Adomaitis. Sasenko, Adomaitis, and Ruta Sciogolevaite, whose "Break Free" scored well with both groups, advanced to the Superfinal.

After the three superfinalists performed their songs again, the jury selected the winner. Evelina Sasenko will compete in the second half of the first Semi-Final in Dusseldorf on May 10.

http://www.tvlatest.com

Listen to Evelina at YouTube:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CT5wZw7vP3Q

Category : News

Searching for fresh money in London, Boston and New York

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Finance Minister Ingrida Šimonytė.

February 22, 2011 (BNS)

Lithuania is getting ready to sell a new USD denominated bond issue on international markets. Meetings with potential investors, some of which might be attended by Finance Minister Ingrida Simonyte, were scheduled for this and next week, the minister's aide, Giedre Balcytyte, confirmed. She also confirmed that the road show to promote the issue would be held in London, New York and Boston on February 25 - March 1. The Finance Ministry plans to borrow some LTL 6.1 bn in 2011 to finance the budget deficit and repay maturing debts. About LTL 4 bn will be borrowed on international markets and some additional LTL 2 bn on the domestic market.
Lithuania sold ten-year bonds for USD 2 bn under the annual interest of 7.625% in February 2010 and seven-year bonds for USD 750 mn under the interest of 5.125% early in September.

Category : News

USA will provide Lithuania with radiation detectors

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Wednesday, Feb 23, 2011

The United States is set to provide Lithuania with portable and fixed-location radiation sensors under a newly signed agreement to bolster joint work by the countries on combating illicit nuclear material transfers, the U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration announced yesterday (see GSN, Feb. 9, 2004).

The atomic agency would provide training to prepare Lithuanian personnel to spot, intercept and analyze radiological materials under the Implementation Agreement on Cooperation in Preventing Illicit Trafficking of Nuclear and Other Radioactive Material. The Lithuanian State Border Guard Service and the NNSA Second Line of Defense program since 2003 have pursued updates for radiation detection gear at certain facilities.

“Our continued partnership with Lithuania and this latest agreement represents our shared effort to prevent dangerous nuclear materials from falling into the hands of terrorists, smugglers and proliferators,” NNSA Deputy Administrator Anne Harrington said in a press release.

“By preventing terrorists or would-be proliferators from smuggling nuclear materials across international borders, we are working to implement President Obama’s unprecedented nuclear security agenda while promoting peace and security around the world”

http://www.globalsecuritynewswire.org

Category : News

U.S., Lithuania expand cooperation to prevent nuclear smuggling

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The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) and the Republic of Lithuania today announced that they have signed an Implementation Agreement on Cooperation in Preventing Illicit Trafficking of Nuclear and Other Radioactive Material. Lithuania’s State Border Guard Service under the Ministry of the Interior will work with NNSA to implement the agreement. The agreement was announced days after President Obama unveiled a budget request that includes $2.5 billion for Fiscal Year 2012 and $14.2 billion over the next five years to support NNSA’s nuclear nonproliferation programs.

Since 2003, NNSA’s Second Line of Defense (SLD) and the State Border Guard Service of Lithuania have been working to upgrade radiation detection equipment at select sites. Today’s agreement will expand that cooperation and strengthen the Lithuania’s capability to deter, detect, and interdict illicit trafficking in nuclear and other radioactive materials in the Baltic region. As part of this agreement, NNSA will provide the government of Lithuania radiation portal monitors, handheld radiation detectors and comprehensive training to assist front-line personnel to detect, interdict and identify radioactive material.

“Our continued partnership with Lithuania and this latest agreement represents our shared effort to prevent dangerous nuclear materials from falling into the hands of terrorists, smugglers and proliferators,” said NNSA Deputy Administrator for Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation Anne Harrington. “By preventing terrorists or would-be proliferators from smuggling nuclear materials across international borders, we are working to implement President Obama’s unprecedented nuclear security agenda while promoting peace and security around the world.”

The agreement will be implemented by NNSA’s Second Line of Defense (SLD) program, which works collaboratively with foreign governments at border crossings, airports, seaports, and other points of entry to install specialized radiation detection equipment and associated communications equipment. The SLD Program also provides training to host government border guard officials and other personnel to detect smuggled nuclear and other radioactive materials. NNSA has installed similar equipment at more than 400 sites in 50 countries around the world.

The FY 2012 budget request submitted to Congress earlier this week requests $2.5 billion in FY 2012 and $14.2 billion over the next five years to reduce the global nuclear threat by detecting, securing, safeguarding, disposing and controlling nuclear and radiological material, as well as promoting the responsible application of nuclear technology and science. It includes $263.8 million for the Second Line of Defense Program, highlighting the critical role NNSA and its nonproliferation programs play in implementing the President’s nuclear security agenda.

Source: NNSA
Source: http://www.yournuclearnews.com

Category : News

BALTIC NUCLEAR FEAR

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NUCLEAR FEAR

 

Back home after the bar experience, I sat down and made

this sketch of the image I had been shown of the one bomb

that was dug up for photography (Sketch: Aage Myhre). 

 A bar-visit in Vilnius can sometimes offer interesting surprises. Not least was that the case in the early 1990s, when Lithuania's freedom was still new and unfamiliar for many. Western companies and embassies had barely begun to establish themselves, while all kinds of traders, fortune hunters, spies and journalists swarmed around in bars and hotel corridors.

Late one evening in 1992 I talked with two men in their 50s, both with typical grey suits and short neckties. One of them spoke some English, so we got into a sort of dialogue. The second man explained that he was a lawyer and that he had been an adviser in the Kremlin until recently, but now had gone into business and would try to exploit the contacts and experience he had from his time in the Soviet power apparatus.

While a couple of vodka bottles were consumed I got to know bit by bit what kind of business errand he was in Lithuania for. What he said was really quite disturbing and chilling, but my old journalist-curiosity was aroused, so I remained sitting, listening to what he had to say. He told that he and some ex-colleagues had been able to get hold of seven nuclear bombs from a nuclear storage facility in a former Soviet republic, and that his task was now to try to find buyers and transport opportunities for the bombs. Transport by rail through Russia, to Lithuania's port city of Klaipeda, and from there by boat to the buyers was a possible transport route. So this was what had led him to Lithuania. The most potential clients, he said, would be Iraq and Iran.

I expressed my doubt about his story, but then he took out an entire folder from the briefcase he had under the table and picked up Polaroid pictures that allegedly showed one of the bombs. He said that all seven bombs were lying buried in a safe territory in the mentioned former Soviet state, but that they had dug up one in order to bring to the table photo-evidence that the bombs really existed. In addition, he showed a computer disk that potential buyers would be offered to ensure the bombs’ authenticity.

The Polaroid image showed a grey-green spherical container with a diameter of approximately 70 cm, and the man told me that the bomb weighed about 700 kg, whereof 2 kg was enriched plutonium. He also told me that he knew of about 20 different groups throughout the former USSR who all were dealing with bombs or other material that could be used to make nuclear weapons, and he estimated that there were about 100 bombs that had 'come astray' after the Soviet collapse.

So if I could help him to find buyers, I would be well rewarded, he concluded. Price to the end buyers was 250 million U.S. dollars per bomb. But I went home, shaken by what I had gotten to know. The information was almost to verbose to be true, but there was something about the man's appearance and intelligence which made me conclude that he might well have been telling the truth.

Back home after the bar experience, I sat down and drew a sketch of the image I had been shown of the one bomb that was dug up for photography. It is this sketch you can see at the top of this page. The morning after I went straight to the Norwegian Embassy in Vilnius to tell the story directly to the ambassador.

The ambassador got very nervous when I began to talk, and told me immediately to stop. He would like to hear the rest, he said, but asked me to continue outdoors. Well outside he said that he feared the embassy could be tapped, and that he therefore had asked me out for a walk around the block with him instead.

The ambassador sent the same day my story to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Oslo. A few days later came the response, which, in brief, said that the Ministry did not believe the story was true. Instead, the ambassador had gently been asked to find out more about who I was, and how I could have access to such information. Both the ambassador and I reacted with disbelief and surprise, but could do nothing more.

 

Through contacts in Germany I had soon after conveyed the story to the highest level in Washington. And the Americans responded, immediately and professionally. No single sign of the kind of the self-glorifying and dangerous arrogance that the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs had shown a few days earlier.

The number of employees at the U.S. Embassy in Vilnius grew remarkably quickly that spring, and it soon became clear that the Americans took the threat of Soviet nuclear material in the wrong hands very seriously. The following article from the Washington Post is one remarkable success story of their search.

I think very few people in the west are aware of how dangerous the 1990s could have become for world balance, and I think we should appreciate having the U.S. as the world's watchdog. Today, Russia's control over its own nuclear store is much better, but still there is, unfortunately, far too much hazardous material that can not be accounted for. 

How the U.S. flew out 600 kg uranium from Kazakhstan 

C-5 Galaxy is the largest aircraft in the U.S. Armed Forces. In October 1994 three aircraft of this type went on their longest transport mission ever, to bring 600 kg uranium from Kazakhstan to Tennessee.

(Illustration: Aftenposten, Norway)

 

On a snowy day in December 1993, just months after Andy Weber began his diplomatic job at the U.S. Embassy in Almaty, Kazakhstan, he met with a tall, bullet-headed man he knew only as Col. Korbator.

"Andy, let's take a walk," the colonel said. As they strolled through a dim apartment courtyard, Korbator handed Weber a piece of paper. Weber unfolded it. On the paper was written:

U235

90 percent

600 kilos

Weber did the calculation: 1,322 pounds of highly enriched uranium, enough to make about 24 nuclear bombs. He closed the note, put it in his pocket and thanked the colonel. After several months of patient cultivation of his contacts, Weber finally had the answer he had been seeking.

The piece of paper was a glimpse into what had become the most urgent proliferation crisis to follow the collapse of the Soviet Union: the discovery of tons of nuclear materials left behind by the Cold War arms race, much of it unguarded and unaccounted for.

This is the story of Project Sapphire, the code name for an early pioneering mission to secure a portion of those nuclear materials before they could fall into the wrong hands. New documents and interviews provide the fullest account yet of this covert operation to remove the dangerous uranium from Kazakhstan and fly it to the United States. When it was over, the U.S. government paid Kazakhstan about $27 million for the cache.

The enormous transports, operating in total secrecy, flew 20 hours straight through to Dover with several aerial refuelling, the longest C-5 flights in U.S. history. Once on the ground in Delaware, the uranium was loaded into large, unmarked trucks specially outfitted to protect nuclear materials during the drive to Oak Ridge.

On Nov. 23, the Clinton administration announced at a Washington news conference that it had removed the uranium. Defence Secretary William J. Perry called it "defence by other means, in a big way" and added: "We have put this bomb-grade nuclear material forever out of the reach of potential black marketers, terrorists or a new nuclear regime."

With imagination and daring, Project Sapphire underscored what could be done with the cooperation of another government. But the methods used in that mission could not be replicated in Russia, where there was far more uranium and plutonium, and much more suspicion.

In late 1994, the Joint Atomic Energy Intelligence Committee prepared a report about the extent of the Russian nuclear materials crisis. The top-secret document concluded that not a single facility storing highly enriched uranium or plutonium in the former Soviet Union had safeguards up to Western standards.

Not one.

By David E. Hoffman

Washington Post Staff Writer 
Monday, September 21, 2009

Read the full story at:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/09/20/AR2009092002881.html

Still a risk of nuclear ‘export’ through the Baltic region?

Arctic Sea cargo ship 

Was the 'Arctic Sea’s' real purpose to check the effectiveness

of Western Europe's sea route control systems?

What exactly happened to the cargo ship ‘Arctic Sea’ that so strangely disappeared from the Baltic Sea last summer after allegedly having been ‘hijacked by pirates’?

I’ve been fascinated by both the rumour mill and lack of a credible story surrounding the disappearance of this ship at the end of July 2009, and Russia’s announcement on the 18th of August that it had captured the ship and arrested eight men for hijacking it. While I’m hoping that some fearless media will throw serious resources behind this story and get to the bottom of it, I’m amazed it didn’t grab more attention last year.

The mystery surrounding the ship still stands unresolved. How on earth could it be that a ship with a cargo of timber on the way from Finland to Algeria was 'kidnapped by pirates’ right in front of both the Finnish and Swedish Coast Guard? How could it happen that the ship was able to pass Polish, Swedish, Danish and German observation posts and coast guards on its way out of the Baltic Sea without being noticed? And how could the ship pass through the English Channel without being stopped, despite the fact that it, at this point, was internationally sought? Why was a Russian journalist called in the middle of the night and warned that he could be killed if he continued to investigate what had happened to the ship? And why was Israel suddenly involved? Why did such a flurry of diplomatic activity between Russia and Israel follow? Why did President Shimon Peres, unannounced, visit Moscow the same day the ship was finally found, west of Cape Verde in Africa?  Why did Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli Prime Minister, make a secret trip to the Kremlin a few days later?

Normally I don’t think much on conspiracy theories, but in this case there are simply too many strange events in a row to make me trust the official explanations. My personal theory is that the 'Arctic Sea' was supposed to test how effective Western Europe's control systems of its surrounding sea areas and straits are in reality. To me, the experiment showed that the control systems of our European waters are frighteningly deficient.

If there were people or organizations with criminal intentions behind them, they now realize that they can do almost whatever they want with regard to reaching even the most prized European sea port without being noticed.

What if a ship like the 'Arctic Sea' is loaded with a few ‘dirty’ nuclear bombs like those I have described above, in addition to lots of dynamite or other explosive devices? What if such a ship comes up the Thames towards London or up the Hudson River to New York? A ship with such a load blown up near one of these cities would in reality mean that the city would be laid waste for the foreseeable future, not to mention all the hundreds of thousands who would perish in an almost unimaginably horrible way.

In 2005, the director of the CIA, Porter Goss gave a chilling assessment of the dangers posed by nuclear material that is missing from nuclear storage sites in Russia. Responding to a question from Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., about materials missing from Russian nuclear facilities, Goss said: "There is sufficient material unaccounted for, so that it would be possible for those with know-how to construct a nuclear weapon." Goss said he could not assure the American people that the missing nuclear material had not found its way into terrorists' hands.

Today's difficult economic times in the Baltic States is likely contributing to cases with officials within the police and customs services now more than ever open to 'suggestions' that gives them some additional income, and I consider therefore that the horror scenarios described above may well be more imminent than ever.

We already know that there are people and organizations along Russia's southern border that are more than willing to take human lives for their causes.

Is what I've written above excerpts from a bad crime novel? Unfortunately not.

 

Aage Myhre,

Editor

 

Category : News / Blog archive

Municipal elections Sunday 27 February: Use your voice to push for new impetus for Lithuania

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LP ALDE.jpg

Order and justice logo.jpg

http://t1.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcR5A8RQgkWn6pmAJ__mO8hGKJdYtjlSyNEdNl-5c_bLBI_Rg2mu

http://www.eurofactbook.eu/images/parties/LITHUANIA_TS-LKD.jpg

 

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/f/f2/Lit-lsdp.png

 

 

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Lithuania ALDE.jpg

 

Lithuania.png

Text: Evelina Gudzinskaitė.

27th of February is the day of municipal elections in Lithuania. Will you be there?

If you have spent a winter in Lithuania, you will probably know what a flu virus is. It is very contagious, and one must be really careful or very strong in order to remain healthy throughout the winter. But there is another virus, a more dangerous one, because it persists, it changes shapes, it infects one in various ways and it can corrupt even the healthiest organisms. It is a virus of scepticism. 

Local people are just not happy with their country, their surroundings, their neighbours, their lives in general. The biggest part of debates or monologues in the media is of a pessimistic, criticizing nature. Each positive news gets lost easily and is forgotten. And then, everyone knows that an article which mashes someone into dust gives one more points in political career, so why bother in trying to create healthy atmosphere?

But why do I call it a virus? Because it contaminates almost every newcomer. You can observe how a foreigner comes here with big or smaller aims to create something big, something useful, to give something for this country. She or he radiates incentive, spreads ideas, suggestions, how to improve the administration of the country, how to make people happy. Then with time such radiation diminishes. Suddenly you hear that life is not so simple here (after a year or so), that it is quite complicated (after a couple of years), that it is very difficult and needs some major improvements (after five years). Then you can state that the foreigner has melted with local inhabitants: she or he complains, but does nothing in order to change at least a thing. And justifications are similar: “what can I do? I’m just a foreigner...”

Well actually you foreigners can do something. You can elect people into local municipal councils or even participate in the elections. You CAN participate in governing the town or village where you live. We even amended our Constitution in order to let you do it!

In 2007, when the economy was booming and people were confident that life would get even better, 25 foreigners decided to participate in the municipal elections. It could not be because of their failure to win that this time we have only one foreigner, a citizen of Poland, who decided to enter elections to the Vilnius municipal council. Such shrinking in foreigners’ participation number must be caused by this virus, this disbelief that something could be changed in Lithuania.

Indeed, it seems that after every elections situation worsens. But maybe this time will be different? Many candidates believe so and are ready to work for a common good. It is now up to the voter to elect the right councillors. However, it won’t be an easy task, as these elections offer huge variety of personalities and political streams.

Will foreigners dare to take part in this game and share responsibility?

 

Eligibility requirements

Let’s just make a short break and check whether you (if you are a foreigner) meet the election requirements. Not every foreigner can vote or participate in the elections – only those who are permanent residents of Lithuania. The status of a permanent resident is granted after 5 years of continuous legal residence in Lithuania. So check, what document you have:

- If you are a citizen of the EU or Norway, Iceland, Switzerland or Lichtenstein, you must possess either a card named “Permanent residence permit of a citizen of a member state of the European Communities” (Europos Bendrijų valstybės narės piliečio leidimas gyventi nuolat; these cards are not issued anymore), or a certificate confirming the right of the EU citizen to permanently reside in Lithuania;

- if you are a family member of a citizen of the EU or one of those other 4 countries, you must have either a card named “Permanent residence permit of a citizen of a member state of the European Communities” (Europos Bendrijų valstybės narės piliečio leidimas gyventi nuolat; these cards are not issued anymore) or a card with a title “Residence permit of a family member of a citizen of an EU member state in the Republic of Lithuania” (Europos Sąjungos valstybės narės piliečio šeimos nario leidimas gyventi Lietuvos Respublikoje), which is valid for 10 years;

- if you are not such family member and you are a citizen of a so-called third country, you must have a permanent residence permit in the Republic of Lithuania (to be a long-term resident of the European Community).

If you don’t know what municipality you belong to, you can find it here by entering the address of your declared (official) place of residence in Lithuania. If you didn’t receive the voter’s card, you can obtain it from here. So it’s simple: you take this voter’s card, your passport or an ID card, find the place where the voting will take place, and visit it on the 27th of February. Well, you also have to understand some Lithuanian – in order to mark the correct party or candidate.

And some information for the future: foreigners can also participate in the elections themselves. Foreigners cannot be members of Lithuanian political parties, but they can be included into lists of political parties as non-party candidates or they can nominate themselves as independent candidates to the municipal councils. In order to become an independent candidate, a person must collect a certain amount of voters’ signatures (this amount varies from municipality to municipality, and it is calculated by the Central Electoral Commission). The municipal councillor is the highest governmental position that a foreigner can obtain in Lithuania – the posts of mayors and vice-mayors are reserved to Lithuanian citizens.

There are more than 20 thousand foreigners in Lithuania who are permanent residents. Having excluded minors we still get a significant number of voters who can bring in their own views on how municipalities should be governed.

 

What choices do we have?

During first elections people mostly voted for traditional parties. When these parties didn’t bring expected changes, people started looking for other “saviours” (although the traditional parties maintained their electorates). First, various new parties started emerging; usually they had a famous leader, but other members were not well known in the society. Such was the Labour Party (Darbo partija), founded in 2003 by a Russian millionaire Viktor Uspaskich (now suspected for tax fraud), or the party “Order and Justice” (“Tvarka ir teisingumas”), founded in 2002 by Rolandas Paksas (a politician who twice resigned from the post of the Prime Minister, a former mayor of Vilnius during whose term of office Vilnius municipality started sinking into debts, and finally a president who was impeached for breaching the Constitution of Lithuania – just to mention a few of his resignations and removals).

When people became disappointed of all politicians in general, various TV stars or controversial personalities entered the political arena. As they justified their names and didn’t transform themselves into real politicians, it is unlikely that they would be re-elected. For example, the Party of National Revival (Tautos prisikėlimo partija), composed of various actors, musicians, TV stars, etc., was created just before the Parliamentary elections in 2008, and won 16 seats in the Parliament (out of 141). However, after various internal quarrels and splits, it lost its political weight, and for the coming municipal elections it presented its lists of candidates for only 8 municipalities (out of 60). It didn’t even bother to create some common electoral programme.

The upcoming municipal elections are particular by the fact that it will be the first time when individual candidates, who do not belong to any political party, will be able to participate in the municipal elections. Therefore these municipal elections present as colourful bouquet of candidates as ever: together with the political parties, one sees various social movements and independent candidates; besides, the list of participating stars is refreshed by new artists and sportsmen. It seems that even the most eccentric voter should now be able to find her or his favourite candidate.

 

File:Municipalities in Lithuania.png

 

There are more than 17 thousand candidates who wish to obtain one of the 1 526 mandates; more than 11 thousand of them have never participated in elections before, 60% have higher education. Average age of candidates is 46. For the first time, the number of participating women (more than 7 thousands) almost came up with the number of participating men. Almost 300 participants are millionaires.

More than 200 candidates confessed about their previous convictions (usually for minor breaches of law), and the Central Electoral Commission already established that almost 250 other candidates have concealed the information on their previous convictions (they will be removed from the elections). Voters will be informed about the candidates with previous convictions by special remarks under their photographs in places of voting.

More than 20 members of the Parliament and 3 members of the European Parliament entered their names on top of candidates’ lists. It is unlikely that they seriously intend to change their mandates; however, their names will attract more votes for the party.

There are 23 political parties, 11 parties’ coalitions, 515 independent candidates and 39 coalitions of independent candidates.

 

http://www.nepartiniai.lt/header5.png

 

One can notice that the main slogan of many coalitions of independent candidates is “we are different than them, political parties”. Just look into their titles: Coalition “Different Lithuania” (“Kitokia Lietuva”), Coalition “We – Non-party Returned Emigrants” (“Mes – nepartiniai grįžę emigrantai”), Coalition “Differently” (“Kitaip”), Coalition “For Changes” (“Už pokyčius”), etc. Also the word “non-party” dominates in their language; check, for example, the Coalition of Non-party Candidates “Vilnius – Our Business” (“Vilnius – mūsų reikalas”), who decided to bury political parties; Coalition of Artūras Zuokas and Vilnius, supported by A. Zuokas’ (former controversial mayor of Vilnius) social movement “Yes!” (“Taip!”), who stresses that non-belonging to any political party allows candidates to remain professional (although A. Zuokas himself and some other candidates were previously successful members of political parties); Coalition “United Kaunas” (“Vieningas Kaunas”) promises to work instead of talking and remain decent, etc.

 

http://www.taip.lt/uploads/assets/text_assets/info.jpg

Taip!

 

So the traditional political parties have many troubles in trying to maintain their electorate. First of all because some of their own members do not believe in them and decide to follow the local popular trend – to change political parties, sometimes choosing completely opposite political views. Second of all, because people continue blaming the government for all the misfortunes that they experience, for the fact that situation in Lithuania does not compare to the situation “out there” (in the West), forgetting that the government represents the political will of the people. And also because the traditional political parties represent the three main political streams, which for some people today associate with three main political ways of lying.

It will be particularly difficult for the conservatives, the Homeland Union – Lithuanian Christian Democrats (Tėvynės Sąjunga – Lietuvos krikščionys demokratai). They had a misfortune to win the parliamentary elections in 2008 (received 45 mandates), when Lithuania was ready to jump deep down into the ocean of economic crisis. In order to save the country from a possible bankruptcy, they had to make a lot of unpopular decisions. This caused dissatisfaction of various groups of society who used to receive social and financial benefits from the state, but also of businessmen, because their tax burden was increased even more. These municipal elections will be a real test of the loyalty of the conservatives’ electorate.

Exactly this diminishing popularity of the conservatives seems promising to the socialists, first of all, the Lithuanian Social Democratic Party (Lietuvos socialdemokratų partija). They safely spent the most difficult time of the economic crisis in the opposition (the biggest group of opposition, 24 mandates in the Parliament), criticising the reforms without providing constructive alternatives, so they created an image of fighters against injustice. Besides, their campaign promises sound very sexy: “The state of common welfare has no place for poverty, unemployment, social inequality, violations of human rights. Economic reforms are never made at the expense of social justice of people”. Who wouldn’t vote for that? However, if people remember that this political party has the biggest number of mayors (17) in the present municipal councils, when the level of corruption and inactivity continues rising in many municipalities, they might reconsider their choice.

A liberal party, the Liberals’ Movement of the Republic of Lithuania (Lietuvos Respublikos liberalų sąjūdis), is in a peculiar situation in this context. Although forming a part of position in the Parliament (13 mandates), they have to agree with some decisions which contradict the liberal ideology. However they succeeded in implementing some of their ideas, especially in those areas which fall under the competence of the liberal ministers (minister of education and science, minister of transport and communications and minister of justice). It seems that their electorate agrees with the liberals’ programme, and the support for the Liberals’ Movement is steadily growing.

 

What outcome can we expect?

It may seem strange that, while talking about municipal elections, I look into the situation at the national, parliamentary level. Well it is not strange at all. There is still a big lack of understanding about the functions and role of the municipalities. Many people often forget that the municipal administrations are responsible for various issues which directly influence the surroundings of inhabitants, and often require the Parliament to solve issues which actually fall under the competence of municipalities. And vice versa – while electing municipal councillors, people expect them to increase salaries, pensions and reduce taxes, which could be done only at the national level.

Thus many people will look at the Parliament and decide whom to vote for in these municipal elections. And the participants in the elections are aware of that. Therefore they spread many promises which would never be implemented exactly because the municipalities don’t have the power to do so. Besides, political parties use these municipal elections as a test platform for the upcoming parliamentary elections in 2012.

Actually, just a few people care about reading electoral programmes. Most of people will vote for personalities, their favourite political streams or – as it happened in the past – for some marginal personalities or movements just for the fun of it.

One Lithuanian right-wing weekly magazine, “Veidas”, asked various experts in law, economics, political science, sociology and territorial government to evaluate electoral programmes. The experts noted that the programmes were mostly filled with slogans, vain expressions, such as “we will aim at”, “we will strive for”, without explaining how this would be done, where the funds would be taken from, etc. The experts gave marks for the electoral programmes, taking into account their feasibility, intellectual potential and professionalism.

The highest mark 8 (out of 10) was given to the Liberals’ Movement of the Republic of Lithuania (so this party did have the reason to choose their slogan “Liberals – the rights of sensible mind” (“Liberalai – sveiko proto dešinieji”)) and the conservatives, the Homeland Union – Lithuanian Christian Democrats. The second best mark 7,5 was given to a central party New Union (Social liberals) (Naujoji sąjunga (socialliberalai)), a socialist party Union of Social Democrats of Lithuania (Lietuvos socialdemokratų sąjunga) and a right-wing party the Lithuanian Peasant Popular Union  (Lietuvos valstiečių liaudininkų sąjunga).

 

http://t3.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcQ8Ku9g302X44hoOLEgcH6duHPZ0gu84h_-7k5-np9m6N4RkjbK

 

To resume, the choice of candidates and ideas is immense. However not all of candidates would be willing or capable to keep their promises. Just a minority has experience how the governing should be done; others will have to learn in the process. With no doubt, independent candidates will have to form coalitions with major political parties in individual municipalities and lose their “politics-free” pose; otherwise they would not be able to implement their vision.

The outcome of the elections will also very much depend on who will come to vote. Usually the voters’ participation rate is not high, especially among younger people. In order to increase the participation of the youth, the Liberals’ Movement had suggested introducing the possibility to vote in these municipal elections by internet; however, this idea was rejected by other political parties. And one can only guess whether they did it because of the fear that Lithuania is not ready for the e-voting, or because of the fact that their electorate is more mature and would not use the e-voting possibility anyway.

Let’s hope that these municipal elections will be a peak of political variety and experiments and that the next elections (to the Parliament) will be considered more seriously and responsibly.

A big educational work should still be carried out. People should learn to read the political language, to follow history, to connect consequences with the real reasons, and to understand that the civil society can govern not only by entering municipal councils or the Parliament, but also by demanding responsibility from the elected ones.

Foreigners could also do their part, by getting involved more in the municipal lives, by sharing their experience, points of view and by helping to create nicer environment for everyone.

So, will you be there on the 27th of January?

 

Sources of reference: www.lrs.lt, www.vrk.lt, www.delfi.lt, www.lrt.lt, www.veidas.lt

Category : News

Gorbachev named a price for Lithuanian independence

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Source Andy Potts at 24/02/2011

Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev attempted to hold Lithuania to ransom over its bid for independence in 1990, according to recently declassified files.

Documents by Swedish consul Dag Sebastian Alander, who was working in Leningrad at that time, say Gorbachev called for the payment of 21 billion roubles (about $126 billion according to the unofficial exchange rate of the time) and the transfer of the Klaipeda region to the Russian Soviet republic, delfi.lt reported.

The documents detail a meeting on March 9, 1990, in which Gorbachev apparently agreed to let Vilnius follow its own course – at a price.

No deal was struck at that time, and Lithuania eventually won its independence in Aug. 1991, a few months before the official collapse of the USSR.

http://themoscownews.com

Category : News

Maxima for sale?

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Several media reports this week that Yelena Baturina, wife of former Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov, is one of several interested parties to buy Lithuania-based retailer Maxima Group, the biggest Baltic retail chain with 437 shops in Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Bulgaria.

Category : News

VilNews has now readers in 64 countries around the world!

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USA and Lithuania were over the last week competing every day about being the leading nation among our VilNews readers. Last night, however, USA made a rather big jump up and is now clearly ahead of Lithuania. These two countries are, by the way, in a league of their own, representing 70% of our total readership. These are the figures of the day:

On the places after India follow:
Japan, Ireland, France, Sweden, Denmark, Hong Kong, Russia, Portugal, Latvia, Finland, Kenya, Spain, South Africa and the Czech Republic.

We have also readers in countries like:

Argentina, Qatar, Kyrgyzstan, Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Indonesia, Thailand, China, Colombia, Malaysia, Trinidad and Tobago.

Lithuania-lovers in absolutely every corner of the world, in other words...

Category : News

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Foreign trade 2010:
Exports increased by 33.2% and imports by 34.5%.

The increase in exports was influenced by a 49.4 per cent increase in exports of petroleum products.

Exports in 2010 amounted to LTL 54.3 billion, imports – LTL 60.9 billion. Foreign trade deficit of Lithuania amounted to LTL 6.6 billion, which is 45.8% more than in 2009. The increase in exports was influenced by a 49.4 per cent increase in exports of petroleum products, 46.7 per cent – ground vehicles, 41 per cent – boilers, machinery and mechanical appliances. The increase in imports was influenced by a 50.2 per cent increase in imports of crude petroleum, 68.4 – ground vehicles, 42 per cent – electrical machinery and equipment and parts thereof.
In 2010, the most important partners in exports were Russia (15.6 per cent), Germany (9.8 per cent), Latvia (9.6 per cent) and Poland (7.7 per cent), in imports – Russia (32.6 per cent), Germany (10.9 per cent), Poland (8.8 per cent) and Latvia (6.3 per cent).
Read more...

Unemployment increases, up 4.2% to 17.8% in 2010
The good news, however, is that there were some improvements to see at the end of the year.
Read more...

Consumer goods and services up 1,6% last month
Over the last year, changes in prices for housing, water, electricity, gas and other fuels group of goods and services were mostly determined by a 14.9 per cent increase in prices for solid fuel, 5.1 per cent – liquefied gas for cooking, as well as by a 6.2 per cent price drop in prices for natural gas. In 2011, the annual inflation (January 2011, against January 2010) stood at 2.9 per cent. The Over a year, prices for consumer goods grew by 3.9 per cent, while prices for services dropped by 0.2 per cent.
Read more...

Category : News

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Foreign trade 
2011 02 09
PRESS RELEASE

FOREIGN TRADE OF LITHUANIA IN 2010  

Statistics Lithuania informs that, based on provisional data obtained from customs declarations and Intrastat reporting data, exports in 2010 amounted to LTL 54.3 billion, imports – LTL 60.9 billion. Foreign trade deficit of Lithuania amounted to LTL 6.6 billion, which is by 45.8 per cent more than in 2009. Data on trade with the EU countries were adjusted after VAT returns data had been received. 

Over a year (in 2010, against 2009), exports and imports increased by 33.2 and 34.5 per cent respectively. Mineral products excluded, exports and imports increased by 29.6 and 26.5 per cent respectively; exports of goods of Lithuanian origin increased by 29.5 per cent, mineral products excluded – by 23.2 per cent. An increase in exports was influenced by a 49.4 per cent increase in exports of petroleum products, 46.7 per cent – ground vehicles, 41 per cent – boilers, machinery and mechanical appliances. An increase in imports was influenced by a 50.2 per cent increase in imports of crude petroleum, 68.4 – ground vehicles, 42 per cent – electrical machinery and equipment and parts thereof. 

In 2010, the most important partners in exports were Russia (15.6 per cent), Germany (9.8 per cent), Latvia (9.6 per cent) and Poland (7.7 per cent), in imports – Russia (32.6 per cent), Germany (10.9 per cent), Poland (8.8 per cent) and Latvia (6.3 per cent). 

In 2010, the largest share in exports fell within mineral products (23.6 per cent), machinery and mechanical appliances, electrical equipment (10.5 per cent), products of the chemical or allied industries (8.1 per cent), in imports – mineral products (33.3 per cent), machinery and mechanical appliances, electrical equipment (12.6 per cent), products of the chemical or allied industries (11 per cent). 

In December 2010, compared to December 2009, exports and imports grew by 45.4 and 54.9 per cent respectively. Mineral products excluded, exports and imports increased by 42.5 and 41.8 per cent respectively; exports of goods of Lithuanian origin increased by 35 per cent, mineral products excluded – 27.4 per cent. An increase in exports was influenced by a 58.3 per cent increase in exports of petroleum products, 64.5 per cent – boilers, machinery and mechanical appliances, 82.1 per cent – fertilisers. An increase in imports was influenced by an 87.6 per cent increase in imports of crude petroleum, 74.4 per cent – ground vehicles. 

Over a month (December 2010, against November), exports increased by 1.2 per cent, while imports decreased by 1.5 per cent. Mineral products excluded, exports and imports decreased by 2.9 and 1.6 per cent respectively; exports of goods of Lithuanian origin decreased by 1.5 per cent, mineral products excluded – by 9.6 per cent. An increase in exports was influenced by a 17.3 per cent increase in exports of petroleum products. A decrease in imports was determined by a 5.5 per cent decrease in imports of ground vehicles, 35.8 per cent – fertilisers. 

Table 1. Foreign trade balance
LTL million

 

Exports

Imports

Balance

2010 

54264.3

60942.7

-6678.4

January**

3108.5

3552.1

-443.6

February**

3583.1

3938.6

-355.5

March**

3856.2

4531.1

-674.9

I quarter**

10547.8

12021.8

-1474.0

April**

4164.8

4969.6

-804.8

May**

4320.1

4634.2

-314.1

June**

4655.0

5068.2

-413.2

II quarter**

13139.9

14672.0

-1532.1

July**

4530.5

5522.3

-991.8

August**

4934.6

5268.1

-333.5

September**

4970.3

5724.5

-754.2

III quarter**

14435.4

16514.9

-2079.5

October**

5367.5

5748.3

-380.8

November**

5353.6

6037.5

-683.9

December

5420.1

5948.2

-528.1

IV quarter

16141.2

17734.0

-1592.8

 

 

 

 

2009

40732.0

45311.0

-4579.0

I quarter

9490.8

10543.9

-1053.1

II quarter

9543.6

10838.3

-1294.7

III quarter

10611.8

11934.9

-1323.1

December

3726.7

3840.4

-113.7

IV quarter

11085.8

11993.9

-908.1

** Revised data.
◘ Provisional data. 
Table 2. Structure of and changes in foreign trade by BEC

BEC

2010

exports

imports

against 2009, growth, drop (-), %

LTL million

%

LTL million

%

exports

imports

Total

54264.3

100.0

60942.7

100.0

33.2

34.5

Capital goods

5317.1

9.8

6476.6

10.6

45.5

40.9

Intermediate goods

27374.2

50.4

39086.1

64.1

35.8

41.8

Consumption goods

15029.0

27.7

13167.8

21.6

23.4

13.9

Motor spirit

4675.1

8.6

117.1

0.2

42.2

7.7 t.

Passenger motor cars

1723.2

3.2

2073.2

3.4

29.3

37.8

Other

145.7

0.3

21.9

0.0

-

-

 Table 3. Structure of and changes in trade with key foreign partners

Exports

2010

Imports

2010

LTL million

%

against 2009, growth, drop (-), %

LTL million

%

against 2009, growth, drop (-), %

Total

54264.3

100.0

33.2

Total

60942.7

100.0

34.5

EU

33146.7

61.1

26.6

EU

34482.2

56.6

28.8

CIS1

14598.2

26.9

52.9

CIS1

21760.3

35.7

46.1

EFTA2

1653.5

3.0

32.0

EFTA2

398.7

0.7

-2.8

Russia

8457.4

15.6

56.8

Russia

19878.1

32.6

46.8

Germany

5325.4

9.8

35.0

Germany

6667.9

10.9

29.9

Latvia

5187.4

9.6

26.6

Poland

5386.6

8.8

19.2

Poland

4174.6

7.7

42.6

Latvia

3814.6

6.3

31.3

Netherlands

2997.7

5.5

45.0

Netherlands

2682.3

4.4

46.1

Belarus

2840.7

5.2

47.7

Italy

1991.4

3.3

14.7

Estonia

2739.0

5.0

-4.3

Sweden

1989.6

3.3

62.2

United Kingdom

2661.2

4.9

48.8

Belgium

1973.0

3.2

46.6

Ukraine

1954.1

3.6

60.0

Estonia

1741.0

2.9

46.5

Sweden

1931.6

3.6

31.1

France

1571.0

2.6

39.0

France

1794.4

3.3

37.5

China

1486.2

2.4

32.4

Denmark

1625.0

3.0

4.7

Finland

1080.8

1.8

27.5

Other

12575.8

23.2

-

Other

10680.2

17.5

-

1 Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, Uzbekistan.
2 Iceland, Lichtenstein, Norway, Switzerland. 
Table 4. Commodity structure of and changes in exports

CN sections, chapters

2010

LTL million

%

against 2009, growth, drop (-), %

 

Total

54264.3

100.0

33.2

I–IV

Agricultural products and foodstuffs

9802.0

18.1

22.8

04

 

Dairy produce; birds’ eggs; natural honey; edible products of animal origin, not elsewhere specified or included

1444.8

2.7

25.0

08

 

Edible fruit and nuts; peel of citrus fruit or melons

989.3

1.8

46.1

V

Mineral products

12821.2

23.6

46.6

27

 

Mineral fuels, mineral oils and products of their distillation;bituminous substances; mineral waxes

12721.7

23.4

46.6

VI

Products of the chemical or allied industries

4377.0

8.1

18.5

31

 

Fertilisers

2052.6

3.8

13.1

VII

Plastics and articles thereof; rubber and articles thereof

3662.7

6.7

33.1

39

 

Plastics and articles thereof

3449.2

6.4

32.2

XI

Textiles and textile articles

3224.1

5.9

22.8

62

 

Articles of apparel and clothing accessories, not knitted or crocheted

965.0

1.8

18.5

XV

Base metals and articles of base metal

2430.6

4.5

33.8

73

 

Articles of iron or steel

1003.8

1.8

15.9

XVI

Machinery and mechanical appliances; electrical equipment; parts thereof; sound recorders and reproducers, television image and sound recorders and reproducers, and parts and accessories of such articles

5721.4

10.5

40.3

84

 

Nuclear reactors, boilers, machinery and mechanical appliances; parts thereof

3186.4

5.9

41.0

XVII

Vehicles, aircraft, vessels and associated transport equipment

4194.0

7.7

41.9

87

 

Vehicles other than railway or tramway rolling stock, and parts and accessories thereof

3500.3

6.5

46.7

XX

Miscellaneous manufactured articles

3149.0

5.8

21.0

94

 

Furniture; bedding, mattresses, mattress supports, cushions and similar stuffed furnishings; lamps and lighting fittings not elsewhere specified or included; illuminated signs, illuminated nameplates and the like; prefabricated buildings

2878.1

5.3

19.7

 

Other

4882.3

9.1

-

Table 5. Commodity structure of and changes in imports


CN sections, chapters

2010

LTL million

%

against 2009, growth, drop (-), %

 

Total

60942.7

100.0

34.5

I–IV

Agricultural products and foodstuffs

7935.2

13.0

19.3

03

 

Fish and crustaceans, molluscs and other aquatic invertebrates

825.0

1.4

28.7

08

 

Edible fruit and nuts; peel of citrus fruit or melons

1199.1

2.0

35.3

V

Mineral products

20268.5

33.3

54.0

27

 

Mineral fuels, mineral oils and products of their distillation;bituminous substances; mineral waxes

19518.2

32.0

55.8

VI

Products of the chemical or allied industries

6688.8

11.0

20.1

29

 

Organic chemicals

1969.9

3.2

39.7

VII

Plastics and articles thereof; rubber and articles thereof

2718.7

4.5

32.1

39

 

Plastics and articles thereof

2254.3

3.7

29.2

XI

Textiles and textile articles

2733.4

4.5

19.6

61

 

Articles of apparel and clothing accessories, knitted orcrocheted

546.3

0.9

3.4

XV

Base metals and articles of base metal

3003.6

4.9

32.1

72

 

Iron and steel

1110.4

1.8

41.7

XVI

Machinery and mechanical appliances; electrical equipment; parts thereof; sound recorders and reproducers, television image and sound recorders and reproducers, and parts and accessories of such articles

7649.3

12.6

27.5

84

 

Nuclear reactors, boilers, machinery and mechanical appliances; parts thereof

4123.2

6.8

17.3

XVII

Vehicles, aircraft, vessels and associated transport equipment

4793.6

7.9

62.3

87

 

Vehicles other than railway or tramway rolling stock, and parts and accessories thereof

4383.8

7.2

68.4

 

Other

5151.6

8.3

-

Table 6. Changes in imports and exports 


Period

Exports

Exports of goods of Lithuanian origin

Imports

Balance

LTL million

against the previous month, growth, drop (-), %

LTL million

against the previous month, growth, drop (-), %

LTL million

against the previous month, growth, drop (-), %

LTL million

2009-12

3726.7

2.9

2544.3

3.0

3840.4

-4.1

-113.7

2010-01

3108.5

-16.6

2310.1

-9.2

3552.1

-7.5

-443.6

2010-02

3583.1

15.3

2550.6

10.4

3938.6

10.9

-355.5

2010-03

3856.2

7.6

2540.3

-0.4

4531.1

15.0

-674.9

2010-04

4164.8

8.0

2858.9

12.5

4969.6

9.7

-804.8

2010-05

4320.1

3.7

2951.7

3.2

4634.2

-6.7

-314.1

2010-06

4655.0

7.8

3243.7

9.9

5068.2

9.4

-413.2

2010-07

4530.5

-2.7

3071.7

-5.3

5522.3

9.0

-991.8

2010-08

4934.6

8.9

3334.6

8.6

5268.1

-4.6

-333.5

2010-09

4970.3

0.7

3351.7

0.5

5724.5

8.7

-754.2

2010-10

5367.5

8.0

3522.2

5.1

5748.3

0.4

-380.8

2010-11

5353.6

-0.3

3485.6

-1.0

6037.5

5.0

-683.8

2010-12

5420.1

1.2

3433.7

-1.5

5948.2

-1.5

-528.1

Note. Due to rounding, the sum of lines or columns in some tables may disagree with the “Total”. 
A press release on foreign trade in January 2011 is due on 10 March 2011.

 

Deputy Director General, Deputising for the Director General

Jonas Markelevičius

Contact: Irena Jocienė
Head, Foreign Trade Statistics
Tel. (+370 5) 236 4963
Email irena.jociene@stat.gov.lt 

Category : Statistics Lithuania

OPINIONS

Have your say. Send to:
editor@VilNews.com


By Dr. Boris Vytautas Bakunas,
Ph. D., Chicago

A wave of unity sweeps the international Lithuanian community on March 11th every year as Lithuanians celebrated the anniversary of the Lithuanian Parliament's declaration of independence from the Soviet Union in 1990. However, the sense of national unity engendered by the celebration could be short-lived.

Human beings have a strong tendency to overgeneralize and succumb to stereotypical us-them distinctions that can shatter even the strongest bonds. We need only search the internet to find examples of divisive thinking at work:

- "50 years of Soviet rule has ruined an entire generation of Lithuanian.

- "Those who fled Lithuania during World II were cowards -- and now they come back, flaunt their wealth, and tell us 'true Lithuanians' how to live."

- "Lithuanians who work abroad have abandoned their homeland and should be deprived of their Lithuanian citizenship."

Could such stereotypical, emotionally-charged accusations be one of the main reasons why relations between Lithuania's diaspora groups and their countrymen back home have become strained?

Read more...
* * *


Text: Saulene Valskyte

In Lithuania Christmas Eve is a family event and the New Year's Eve a great party with friends!
Lithuanian say "Kaip sutiksi naujus metus, taip juos ir praleisi" (the way you'll meet the new year is the way you will spend it). So everyone is trying to spend New Year's Eve with friend and have as much fun as possible.

Lithuanian New Year's traditions are very similar to those in other countries, and actually were similar since many years ago. Also, the traditional Lithuanian New Years Eve party was very similar to other big celebrations throughout the year.

The New Year's Eve table is quite similar to the Christmas Eve table, but without straws under the tablecloth, and now including meat dishes. A tradition that definitely hasn't changes is that everybody is trying not to fell asleep before midnight. It was said that if you oversleep the midnight point you will be lazy all the upcoming year. People were also trying to get up early on the first day of the new year, because waking up late also meant a very lazy and unfortunate year.

During the New Year celebration people were dancing, singing, playing games and doing magic to guess the future. People didn't drink much of alcohol, especially was that the case for women.

Here are some advices from elders:
- During the New Year, be very nice and listen to relatives - what you are during New Year Eve, you will be throughout the year.

- During to the New Year Eve, try not to fall, because if this happens, next year you will be unhappy.

- If in the start of the New Year, the first news are good - then the year will be successful. If not - the year will be problematic.

New year predictions
* If during New Year eve it's snowing - then it will be bad weather all year round. If the day is fine - one can expect good harvest.
* If New Year's night is cold and starry - look forward to a good summer!
* If the during New Year Eve trees are covered with frost - then it will be a good year. If it is wet weather on New Year's Eve, one can expect a year where many will die and dangerous epidemics occur.
* If the first day of the new year is snowy - the upcoming year will see many young people die. If the night is snowy - mostly old people will die.
* If the New Year time is cold - then Easter will be warm.
* If during New Year there are a lot of birds in your homestead - then all year around there will be many guests and the year will be fun.

Read more...
* * *

* * *
VilNews
Christmas greetings
from Vilnius


* * *
Ukraine won the historic
and epic battle for the
future
By Leonidas Donskis
Kaunas
Philosopher, political theorist, historian of
ideas, social analyst, and political
commentator

Immediately after Russia stepped in Syria, we understood that it is time to sum up the convoluted and long story about Ukraine and the EU - a story of pride and prejudice which has a chance to become a story of a new vision regained after self-inflicted blindness.

Ukraine was and continues to be perceived by the EU political class as a sort of grey zone with its immense potential and possibilities for the future, yet deeply embedded and trapped in No Man's Land with all of its troubled past, post-Soviet traumas, ambiguities, insecurities, corruption, social divisions, and despair. Why worry for what has yet to emerge as a new actor of world history in terms of nation-building, European identity, and deeper commitments to transparency and free market economy?

Right? Wrong. No matter how troubled Ukraine's economic and political reality could be, the country has already passed the point of no return. Even if Vladimir Putin retains his leverage of power to blackmail Ukraine and the West in terms of Ukraine's zero chances to accede to NATO due to the problems of territorial integrity, occupation and annexation of Crimea, and mayhem or a frozen conflict in the Donbas region, Ukraine will never return to Russia's zone of influence. It could be deprived of the chances to join NATO or the EU in the coming years or decades, yet there are no forces on earth to make present Ukraine part of the Eurasia project fostered by Putin.

Read more...
* * *
Watch this video if you
want to learn about the
new, scary propaganda
war between Russia,
The West and the
Baltic States!


* * *
90% of all Lithuanians
believe their government
is corrupt
Lithuania is perceived to be the country with the most widespread government corruption, according to an international survey involving almost 40 countries.

Read more...
* * *
Lithuanian medical
students say no to
bribes for doctors

On International Anticorruption Day, the Special Investigation Service shifted their attention to medical institutions, where citizens encounter bribery most often. Doctors blame citizens for giving bribes while patients complain that, without bribes, they won't receive proper medical attention. Campaigners against corruption say that bribery would disappear if medical institutions themselves were to take resolute actions against corruption and made an effort to take care of their patients.

Read more...
* * *
Doing business in Lithuania

By Grant Arthur Gochin
California - USA

Lithuania emerged from the yoke of the Soviet Union a mere 25 years ago. Since then, Lithuania has attempted to model upon other European nations, joining NATO, Schengen, and the EU. But, has the Soviet Union left Lithuania?

During Soviet times, government was administered for the people in control, not for the local population, court decisions were decreed, they were not the administration of justice, and academia was the domain of ideologues. 25 years of freedom and openness should have put those bad experiences behind Lithuania, but that is not so.

Today, it is a matter of expectation that court pronouncements will be governed by ideological dictates. Few, if any Lithuanians expect real justice to be effected. For foreign companies, doing business in Lithuania is almost impossible in a situation where business people do not expect rule of law, so, surely Government would be a refuge of competence?

Lithuanian Government has not emerged from Soviet styles. In an attempt to devolve power, Lithuania has created a myriad of fiefdoms of power, each speaking in the name of the Government, each its own centralized power base of ideology.

Read more...
* * *
Greetings from Wales!
By Anita Šovaitė-Woronycz
Chepstow, Wales

Think of a nation in northern Europe whose population is around the 3 million mark a land of song, of rivers, lakes, forests, rolling green hills, beautiful coastline a land where mushrooms grow ready for the picking, a land with a passion for preserving its ancient language and culture.

Doesn't that sound suspiciously like Lithuania? Ah, but I didn't mention the mountains of Snowdonia, which would give the game away.

I'm talking about Wales, that part of the UK which Lithuanians used to call "Valija", but later named "Velsas" (why?). Wales, the nation which has welcomed two Lithuanian heads of state to its shores - firstly Professor Vytautas Landsbergis, who has paid several visits and, more recently, President Dalia Grybauskaitė who attended the 2014 NATO summit which was held in Newport, South Wales.
MADE IN WALES -
ENGLISH VERSION OF THE
AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF
VYTAUTAS LANDSBERGIS.

Read more...
* * *
IS IT POSSIBLE TO
COMMENT ON OUR
ARTICLES? :-)
Read Cassandra's article HERE

Read Rugile's article HERE

Did you know there is a comment field right after every article we publish? If you read the two above posts, you will see that they both have received many comments. Also YOU are welcome with your comments. To all our articles!
* * *

Greetings from Toronto
By Antanas Sileika,
Toronto, Canada

Toronto was a major postwar settlement centre for Lithuanian Displaced Persons, and to this day there are two Catholic parishes and one Lutheran one, as well as a Lithuanian House, retirement home, and nursing home. A new wave of immigrants has showed interest in sports.

Although Lithuanian activities have thinned over the decades as that postwar generation died out, the Lithuanian Martyrs' parish hall is crowded with many, many hundreds of visitors who come to the Lithuanian cemetery for All Souls' Day. Similarly, the Franciscan parish has standing room only for Christmas Eve mass.

Although I am firmly embedded in the literary culture of Canada, my themes are usually Lithuanian, and I'll be in Kaunas and Vilnius in mid-November 2015 to give talks about the Lithuanian translations of my novels and short stories, which I write in English.

If you have the Lithuanian language, come by to one of the talks listed in the links below. And if you don't, you can read more about my work at
www.anatanassileika.com

http://www.vdu.lt/lt/rasytojas-antanas-sileika-pristatys-savo-kuryba/
https://leu.lt/lt/lf/lf_naujienos/kvieciame-i-rasytojo-59hc.html
* * *

As long as VilNews exists,
there is hope for the future
Professor Irena Veisaite, Chairwoman of our Honorary Council, asked us to convey her heartfelt greetings to the other Council Members and to all readers of VilNews.

"My love and best wishes to all. As long as VilNews exists, there is hope for the future,"" she writes.

Irena Veisaite means very much for our publication, and we do hereby thank her for the support and wise commitment she always shows.

You can read our interview with her
HERE.
* * *
EU-Russia:
Facing a new reality

By Vygaudas Ušackas
EU Ambassador to the Russian Federation

Dear readers of VilNews,

It's great to see this online resource for people interested in Baltic affairs. I congratulate the editors. From my position as EU Ambassador to Russia, allow me to share some observations.

For a number of years, the EU and Russia had assumed the existence of a strategic partnership, based on the convergence of values, economic integration and increasingly open markets and a modernisation agenda for society.

Our agenda was positive and ambitious. We looked at Russia as a country ready to converge with "European values", a country likely to embrace both the basic principles of democratic government and a liberal concept of the world order. It was believed this would bring our relations to a new level, covering the whole spectrum of the EU's strategic relationship with Russia.

Read more...
* * *

The likelihood of Putin
invading Lithuania
By Mikhail Iossel
Professor of English at Concordia University, Canada
Founding Director at Summer Literary Seminars

The likelihood of Putin's invading Lithuania or fomenting a Donbass-style counterfeit pro-Russian uprising there, at this point, in my strong opinion, is no higher than that of his attacking Portugal, say, or Ecuador. Regardless of whether he might or might not, in principle, be interested in the insane idea of expanding Russia's geographic boundaries to those of the former USSR (and I for one do not believe that has ever been his goal), he knows this would be entirely unfeasible, both in near- and long-term historical perspective, for a variety of reasons. It is not going to happen. There will be no restoration of the Soviet Union as a geopolitical entity.

Read more...
* * *

Are all Lithuanian energy
problems now resolved?
By Dr. Stasys Backaitis,
P.E., CSMP, SAE Fellow Member of Central and Eastern European Coalition, Washington, D.C., USA

Lithuania's Energy Timeline - from total dependence to independence

Lithuania as a country does not have significant energy resources. Energy consuming infrastructure after WWII was small and totally supported by energy imports from Russia.

First nuclear reactor begins power generation at Ignalina in 1983, the second reactor in 1987. Iganlina generates enough electricity to cover Lithuania's needs and about 50%.for export. As, prerequisite for membership in EU, Ignalina ceases all nuclear power generation in 2009

The Klaipėda Sea terminal begins Russia's oil export operations in 1959 and imports in 1994.

Mazeikiu Nafta (current ORLEAN Lietuva) begins operation of oil refinery in 1980.

Read more...
* * *

Have Lithuanian ties across
the Baltic Sea become
stronger in recent years?
By Eitvydas Bajarunas
Ambassador to Sweden

My answer to affirmative "yes". Yes, Lithuanian ties across the Baltic Sea become as never before solid in recent years. For me the biggest achievement of Lithuania in the Baltic Sea region during recent years is boosting Baltic and Nordic ties. And not because of mere accident - Nordic direction was Lithuania's strategic choice.

The two decades that have passed since regaining Lithuania's independence can be described as a "building boom". From the wreckage of a captive Soviet republic, a generation of Lithuanians have built a modern European state, and are now helping construct a Nordic-Baltic community replete with institutions intended to promote political coordination and foster a trans-Baltic regional identity. Indeed, a "Nordic-Baltic community" - I will explain later in my text the meaning of this catch-phrase.

Since the restoration of Lithuania's independence 25 years ago, we have continuously felt a strong support from Nordic countries. Nordics in particular were among the countries supporting Lithuania's and Baltic States' striving towards independence. Take example of Iceland, country which recognized Lithuania in February of 1991, well in advance of other countries. Yet another example - Swedish Ambassador was the first ambassador accredited to Lithuania in 1991. The other countries followed suit. When we restored our statehood, Nordic Countries became champions in promoting Baltic integration into Euro-Atlantic institutions. To large degree thanks Nordic Countries, massive transformations occurred in Lithuania since then, Lithuania became fully-fledged member of the EU and NATO, and we joined the Eurozone on 1 January 2015.

Read more...
* * *

It's the economy, stupid *
By Valdas (Val) Samonis,
PhD, CPC

n his article, Val Samonis takes a comparative policy look at the Lithuanian economy during the period 2000-2015. He argues that the LT policy response (a radical and classical austerity) was wrong and unenlightened because it coincided with strong and continuing deflationary forces in the EU and the global economy which forces were predictable, given the right policy guidance. Also, he makes a point that LT austerity, and the resulting sharp drop in GDP and employment in LT, stimulated emigration of young people (and the related worsening of other demographics) which processes took huge dimensions thereby undercutting even the future enlightened efforts to get out of the middle-income growth trap by LT. Consequently, the country is now on the trajectory (development path) similar to that of a dog that chases its own tail. A strong effort by new generation of policymakers is badly needed to jolt the country out of that wrong trajectory and to offer the chance of escaping the middle-income growth trap via innovations.

Read more...
* * *

Have you heard about the
South African "Pencil Test"?
By Karina Simonson

If you are not South African, then, probably, you haven't. It is a test performed in South Africa during the apartheid regime and was used, together with the other ways, to determine racial identity, distinguishing whites from coloureds and blacks. That repressive test was very close to Nazi implemented ways to separate Jews from Aryans. Could you now imagine a Lithuanian mother, performing it on her own child?

But that is exactly what happened to me when I came back from South Africa. I will tell you how.

Read more...
* * *
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