24 February 2018
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Time to leave Lithuania?

“You are crazy still staying in Lithuania. Look what
you have done for this country, not even getting a
thank you in return; pack your things and leave.”
A Lithuanian friend told me this not long ago.

By Aage Myhre,

Lithuania is a terrific country with infinitely many good qualities. For several centuries this nation set a good example to the rest of Europe, in politics, diplomacy, tolerance, multiculturalism, religious freedom, economy, trade, agriculture and much more. Much was admittedly destroyed by the Russian occupation during the 19th century, the devastating, bloody developments during and after the Second World War, and finally the Soviet occupation of this once strong, proud nation, from the war until year 1990.

In 1990, when I came to Lithuania for the first time, my conclusion was that Lithuania was an amazing country that would soon regain its former greatness, not as it was during the reign of the Grand Dukes from the 14th to the 17th century when the country was stretching from the Baltic to the Black Sea, more like the nation that emerged in the interwar years when the country finally became free after more than 100 years under the Russian Tsar's supremacy.

I'm not so sure anymore. Admittedly, a lot of good happened over the last 22 years, but we have also seen revealed much filth, corruption, lack of teamwork, indistinct or absent political leadership often more interested in own pockets than the country's welfare. The joy of again being a free country was short-lived, quickly replaced by greed, distrust and fight for positions rather than constructive, energetic cooperation.

Many Lithuanians, especially the young people, who should lead the country forward, are terrible disillusioned over the development, and leave in droves.

Last month the government statistics office says there now are 2.988.000 people living here, the lowest level in decades, 19,300 less than in January. In 1992, after Lithuania broke away from the Soviet Union, its population was 3.7 million.

According to research conducted by Lithuania’s statistics office, most of the 53,863 people who left Lithuania in 2011 travelled to Western Europe.

Analysts are rightfully worried that if the exodus continues it will further damage Lithuania’s already weak economy.

According to Romas Latzuka, an economist at Vilnius University, the population of the country will continue to age more quickly as greater numbers of younger people decide to cross the border into West Europe and further. 

He goes as far as to say that the emigration figures represent a national disaster.

Latzuka predicts that the rate of emigration is unlikely to decline, even though many European nations now are experiencing economic slowdown. He explains that colonies which have been established abroad means that it now is easier for Lithuanians to settle in western countries. 

While Lithuania’s gross domestic product will advance 2.5 percent this year and 3 percent in 2013, according to the Finance Ministry, output plunged almost 25 percent as Prime Minister Kubilius implemented very strict austerity measures when the recession started in 2008.

As the 115 billion litai ($43 billion) economy has expanded, unemployment has fallen from a peak of 18.3 percent in the second quarter of 2010. Still, it remains above 13 percent, driving emigration to countries such as Norway and the U.K.

Spending cuts and tax increases since 2008 have also pushed inequality to the highest level in the EU, with the proportion of people at risk of poverty surging to the biggest among the bloc’s 27 members, according to Eurostat.

The incumbent government's extensive cuts have not only caused many to leave the country. Those who are left here show strong dissatisfaction over how they have been treated. This was clearly demonstrated during the first round of the parliamentary elections which took place on 14 October.

But maybe the likely new political leadership will mean that we move from bad to worse. The three left-leaning politicians who appear as the election victors, have made many promises but the question is whether one can have confidence in their execution capabilities.

It is also worrying that they all seem to have a relatively warm relationship with Moscow.

The Social Democrats, who advocate euro adoption a year later than Kubilius’s 2014 goal, have pledged to create jobs and adjust income-tax rates to benefit those who earn least. The Labor Party says it will raise the minimum wage to 1,509 litai ($563) a month from 800 litai ($300) today, and reduce the value-added tax on basic food stuffs.

These plans contradict promises by both parties to maintain control of fiscal affairs, PM Kubilius says.

President Dalia Grybauskaite, who must name Lithuania’s new premier after the elections, has criticized some of the parties’ spending pledges, urging fiscal responsibility.

A new coalition will probably have to include Homeland Union or the Liberal Movement, which engineered the austerity policies of the last four years. Algirdas Butkevicius, leader of the Social Democrats, has vowed to maintain fiscal discipline as Lithuania gears up to assume the EU’s rotating presidency for the first time next July.

“There will be no revolutions in the budget,” Butkevicius said in a recent interview. “Lithuania won’t follow the same path Greece, Italy or Portugal did.”

I have been one of the very few who have moved to Lithuania from a western country. I have believed in this country for over 20 years and have done my best to help in different areas.

But was it worth the trouble?

Category : Featured blue / Lithuania today
  • Boris Bakunas

    Thank you for your superb summary of the economic and demographic factors that are having an impact on Lithuania, Aage. Everything you have written matches my own observations during my visits to Lithuania during the past decade. But I would like to add two important points.

    While I found large-scale pessimism, I also found hope, particularly in the young people I met in Vilnius. I also many people who showed kindness and fortitude in the face of hardship.

    With a declining population, it is more important now than ever before since the first fifteen years of the Soviet occupation for Lithuanians to focus on preserving what is best in their culture and traditions, while adopting an attitude of respect and appreciation for Lithuania's ethnic minorities and for its allies in NATO and the European Union.

    Politicians and corrupt bureaucrats do not determine our characters. They are not in control. We are!

    Best wishes to you and your family.

    October 22 2012
    • foreigner

      Viso gero Lietuva, as a foreingner I must say, that seldom I have heard so much about the love of the mothercountry, with songs and joy, as i have hard from Lithuanians both in Lithuania and abroad. Wonder why? Does not seem to me at all that people care about this country, thee guy that saved this place from tbeiing under control of the IMF or EU is now kicked out. Russia is stating "our man in Lithuania" wow, it is even "our man in the EU" thanks to the motherland loving Lithuanians……We are a family of four, and we are only loosely attached to Lithuania, and you know, the day is getting closer to the day when we say viso gero as well.

      October 21 2012
      • Eidukonis

        "It is always darkest before the storm. Being close to the problems is difficult. But we cannot give up! We cannot be quitters. The fight must go on. Lithuanian partisans gave their lives for their country, countless thousands of Lithuanians suffered in Gulags. Others suffered the loss of their country for years. The "Soviet" apparatus is very good. It finds legitimate problems, blows them out of proportion and demoralizes citizens. It is the most effective "Marketing" program I have ever studied. I went through the affects of "Soviet" propaganda in the Vietnam War. I watched a military dispirited by opposition fall prey to drugs and rebellion. I was part of the rebuilding of this military! It can be done. VilNews will be part of the solution. What this country needs is a Leader who believes in Lithuania, believes in the Lithuanian people.The Lithuanian people must unite – not just in Lithuania but also in the Lithuanian diaspora. We must quit living in expectation of help from the government of Lithuania. The Government cannot help. We must report bribe takers, we must not give them anything. We must unite and fight for the Lithuania we believe in. I believe in Lithuania! I especially believe in the young people of Lithuania. I believe it is our duty to expose problems with the government – but we need to come up with solutions – not just repeat the problems.
        Aage – hang in there you have more people behind you than you know."

        October 20 2012

        • Aage,Most of all feel much the same way for our dear Lithuania as we all came here not only to do something for ourselves but for this country too.I can say with confidence that things have improved but the impact is hardly felt.The Outflow of the young manpower who are the future of this country is a very worrying factor but looks like the Powers that be do not care.In this connection I am equally intrigued and confused by the influx of a large number of Indians who are opening Companies right left and center here in Lithuania.If they were solid investors and would create jobs,there would not be such anxiety but most are heading here not knowing what to do and how to do.Primarily they are interested in the Temporary Residence Permits and in the bargain the Law Firms and the Companies dealing with such activity are having a field day.I am sure it must be much true for other Countries too especially from Asia and Africa.But Stay on my friend-you area powerful pillar of this city and of this country.Let us sail together and if at all sink-then sink together.

          October 19 2012

          • "from your heart to ours" aciu, ~Rimgaudas~

            October 19 2012

            • Moving to a foreign country is one of the biggest life transitions you can ever make. While it can be challenging and fraught with paperwork, it can also be an immensely rewarding and enriching experience. Whether the move is for business purposes or for personal reasons.
              Another form of culture shock is learning what you cannot do, even though you could do in your old country. You aren't in a position to question it—you need to instead reach an acceptance that this is how things are done here. Whether the society you've gone to is more or less permissive than what you're used to, be sure to do the right thing to fit in. If you wanted to create a ruckus or take a stand, then moving to Lithuania was probably not your best choice, nor any other country. (lol)
              Moving countries is right up there at the top of the stress scale. Some days it'll be fun. Other days it'll be the worst experience ever. And other days, it'll feel just like home, because it has become home. Your roller coaster of emotions deserves to be taken care of. If you suffer from anxiety, unabated fears, depression, etc., Do not suffer in silence—it will only be compounded by the foreignness of everything and everyone around you and you can end up feeling completely isolated and disillusioned.!
              All in all Aage, I guess you know all this and we are going to miss you.Your family and your well being should always come first.
              A lot of us have never met personally, so for us, nothing has changed and nothing will change because of social networking. Bless you and your family and thank you! thank you!
              I have never ever enjoyed myself more as I have getting to know all of you, reading the paper and learning things about my heritage from all the different viewpoints and stories shared by all. See you on FB.

              October 19 2012


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