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Archive for May, 2012

U.S.-Nordic-Baltic cooperation

- Posted by - (6) Comment

By Dr. Stasys Backaitis

Conference on U.S.-Nordic-Baltic Cooperation:
Shaping the U.S.-European Agenda

The conference provided an overview by U.S. and European researchers and political experts on the importance, need and benefits of a close U.S. collaboration with the Nordic-Baltic region. The collaboration would facilitate building a wider and more secure Europe, reinforcing U.S. attention to transatlantic engagement, and achieving a more constructive dialog with Russia leading to democratization of its society. The conference took place on Friday, May 4, 2012, at The Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies of the John Hopkins University, Washington, D.C.

The agenda included:

   
 

Opening remarks. Kurt Volker, Senior Fellow, Center for Transatlantic Relations

 


Europe Whole and Free - An Unfinished Business. Adam Daniel Rotfeld, Professor, former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Poland

Russia, NATO and Nordic-Baltic Perspectives. Linas Linkevicius, Ambassador-at-Large, Office of the President of Lithuania, Former Minister of Defense of Lithuania

 

Panel Discussion

Russia and the East. Damon Wilson, Vice president, The Atlantic Counsel; DavidKramer President, Freedom House;Urban Ahlin, MP, Deputy chairman of the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the Swedish Parliament;
Kadri Liik, Senior Researcher, International Center for Defence Studies of Estonia

 


Keynote Remarks. Julia Smith, Deputy National Security Advisor in the office of the Vice President

 

Panel Discussion

Embedding and Integration. Kurt Volker, Senior Fellow, Center for Transatlantic Relations
Jānis Sārts, State Secretary, Ministry of Defense of Latvia
Daniel P. Fata, Vice President, The Cohen Group
Mike Winnerstig, Swedish Defense Research Agency

 

Panel Discussion

Energy Security. Robert Nurick, Senior Fellow, The Atlantic Council
Matthew Breeze, former US Ambassador to Azerbaijan
Andris Sprūds, Latvian Institute of International Affairs
Arunas Molis, Energy Security Center under Lithuanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs

 

Concluding Remarks
Kurt Volker, Senior Fellow, Center for Transatlantic Relations

Reception at the Lithuanian Embassy and Remarks by James Townsend, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for European and NATO Policy

This summary does not intend to deal with every specific issue addressed in this conference. Since many of the issues covered by the speakers and discussers overlapped, it would be of little value to repeat them in this summary on an author to author basis. Rather, the summary is intended to highlight the issues raised and provide the readers the general direction of the topics presented. Details of the issues addressed may be found in the Center for Transatlantic Relations publication entitled “Nordic-Baltic-American Cooperation: Shaping the U.S.-European Agenda”, John Hopkins University, Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies, May 4, 2012, Kurt Volker and Ieva Kupce, Editors. 

Need for more attention towards the relationship between the United States (U.S.) and the democracies of the Nordic- Baltic Region (NB8)
The conference highlighted the need for more attention towards the relationship between the United States (U.S.) and the democracies of the Nordic- Baltic Region.  Encompassing Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway and Sweden, the Nordic-Baltic countries (NB8) are remarkable for their economic health, their promotion of democracy, respect for human rights and the rule of law, their contribution to international security and peacekeeping operations beyond their borders, in spite of the on-going economic crisis in the EU.  The values and the vision  of the NB8 countries to strive and promote these policies make them valuable allies to the United States.  In spite of a changing globalized world and shifting power centers, a strong transatlantic link remains indispensable for enhancing common principles and values within the Euro-Atlantic area in general, and particularly valuable and example setting between the U.S. and the NB8.

While there is some disappointment in the U.S. over Europe’s difficulties to cope effectively with the economic crisis and being an effective security partner, the NB8 nations stand out uniquely as a stable, responsible and dynamic region of Europe.  The region also shows that democracy still works, that a positive onward vision of the free world is possible, and that there are still important challenges ahead for the transatlantic institutions.  The conference explored how the NB8 region and the U.S. can be engaged in and cooperate to shape the broader transatlantic agenda in a positive direction.

The topics in the conference explored the vision the Nordic Baltic countries together with the U.S. might bring to the table and cooperate to shape the broader transatlantic agenda for common good and security.  The conference organizers noted that concrete contributions as a result of such cooperation, in line with the EU and the NATO agendas, can be made in a number of areas such as:

  • Continue to promote a Europe whole, free and at peace,
  • Help aspiring European nations to join the NATO and EU
  • Regional integration to attain higher levels of security than could be possible as a disparate collection of individual states and policies
  • The relationship with Russia
  • Energy and Cyber security
  • U.S engagement with Europe

NB8 region has found ways to produce unprecedented security and stability
At a time when a larger part of the Euro-Atlantic community struggles to determine how it should address and resolve its financial and political difficulties, the NB8 region has found ways to produce unprecedented security and stability. Unlike their older EU counterparts, the Nordic and the Baltic countries have shown willingness to reform, to cooperate and to integrate where necessary. Their example of addressing together the arising challenges is a good example to the rest of the EU members on how to solve their current difficulties, leading to a Europe that is whole, free and at peace. .   

The Baltic states, Norway and Finland, bordering Russia, have a direct interest and valuable perspective on living with Russia as a neighbor and managing with it security, energy and environmental issues. This provides them a better in-depth understanding and ability to interpret linkages between Russia’s authoritarian system and its external behavior.  The NB8 states cannot change Russia on their own, but they can contribute to better formulated and more coherent EU, NATO and U.S. policies toward Russia.

The Baltic states, being particularly energy resources poor, stand out as models for handling complicated and intertwined energy issues with Russia while also reducing their dependency on Russia’s supplies.  There is a concerted effort by all NB8 states to move towards integrated energy security by interconnecting their energy generating systems, cooperation in the development  of alternative resources, and the construction of a common regional energy market.  The region’s move towards greater energy security and sustainability is a good policy model to both the EU and NATO.

In view of the new U.S. Defense Policy Guidance of January 2012, in which the U.S. intends to reduce its military presence in Europe, Washington promised as compensation rotation of U.S. based brigade size forces to Europe to participate in multinational and NATO led training and military exercises.  These rotations should be structured to maximize U.S-Nordic-Baltic military engagements  including the use of training facilities on both sides of the Atlantic. By the use of trips across the Atlantic, the Nordic-Baltics would leverage state of the art training facilities in the United States and Canada and would enhance their readiness to undertake expeditionary operations throughout the entire NATO nordic region.  Active and increasing participation by NB8 in various NATO training operations both at combat and command as well as planning levels, offer to the U.S a value model on the need to sustain a strong transatlantic engagement.  

While there can be no security guarantee to the NB8 region without the U.S., there is also no sustainability of a U.S. role in the NorthAtlantic-Baltic and Central European regions without participation and contribution by the Nordic-Baltic countries.  The United States needs Europe and thereby NATO, as much as Europe needs the United States as well as NATO. Transatlantic solidarity is essential to support and promote global trade, economic development, security and stability in an increasingly unpredictable world. The interdependence is best reflected in common political objectives, such as to assure a level playing field through unique transatlantic solidarity embodied by NATO.  The Alliance’s new focus on partnerships at the Chicago NATO summit is in recognition of global security interdependence.

NATO and EU seem to share similar objectives in energy diversification of supplies, working toward creation of identical infrastructures and interconnectivity, response to emergencies, assistance to third countries , etc.  Shale gas has been and will be a game changer in the foreseeable future.  It is breaking Russia’s stranglehold on supplies to Europe. Furthermore, the developing interconnectivity of gas and electricity resources and competition in the energy market within the Nordic–Baltic region is diminishing GAZPROM’s power of monopoly.  Focusing on diversification of supplies, attaining diminished vulnerability, and building a permanent framework for reduction of short and long term  energy security risks are activities bringing greatest added value to energy security.  This will be beneficial for both the EU and NATO, because it will make them much stronger in dealing with possible future energy crisis, and projecting stability and sustainability in their respective areas of operation. Effective NB8 cooperation supported by U.S. in the establishment of NATO Energy Security Center of Excellence in Lithuania represents a window of opportunity for attaining these goals.

NB8 countries are leaders in promoting democracy, rule of law, human rights and market based development
The Nordic-Baltic region offers many assets to the transatlantic community. They are leaders in promoting democracy, rule of law, human rights and market based development in Europe and around the world.  They are also regarded as honest brokers in many hotspots of the globe. U.S.-Nordic-Baltic cooperation can serve as an important new and stable pillar to the transatlantic community.  The shared vision, values, capabilities and collaboration that define the Nordic-Baltics, can be used to reanimate the effort to build a wider and more secure Europe, transatlantic stability, and help to achieve constructive dialog and cooperation with Russia. Such collaboration can also reinforce U.S. commitments to Europe’s regional security requirements and simultaneously drive forward the transatlantic community’s effort  to address developing global challenges

During subsequent discussions several comments were made on the futility of the U.S. and EU to accommodate Russia’s adversarial political positions, and continuing human rights and rule of law violations. It was suggested that the West should take a strong and critical stand on these abuses with the Russian government while encouraging and facilitating developments of respect for human rights, rule of law and governance by the people through democratic institutions.  While some comments indicated that the U.S. and EU currently are not in a good position to challenge Russia because of critical access to Afghanistan, others noted that Russia needs NATO presence in Afghanistan as means to reduce its vulnerability to Muslim extremism.  In this regard the United States and the Nordic-Baltics should leverage their capacities and experience in a way to deepen their engagement with the Russian people and the state.  Shared concerns in the Baltic Sea region such as environment protection, maritime safety, land and air transportation, could serve as platforms of common interest. Properly constructed, U.S.and NB8 cooperation could become a positive reinforcement of the insecurities encountered in the EU-U.S. transatlantic partnership.  U.S.-Nordic–Baltic cooperation will also be a positive inducement to the U.S. to reinforce its commitment to maintain strong transatlantic ties as means of maintaining stability in the adjoining part of the world with minimal expense and effort.

Stan Backaitis
05/25/12

United Nordic-Baltic region will ensure economic stability and energy security

Saturday, October 29, Helsinki - President Dalia Grybauskaitė, currently on a working visit in Helsinki, met with the President of Finland, Tarja Halonen, to discuss Nordic-Baltic cooperation issues, Press Service of the President reports.
This year Finland coordinates the Nordic-Baltic Eight (NB8) cooperation with Lithuania taking over these duties next year. Lithuania and the other Baltic and Nordic countries cooperate actively in advocating the interests of the region in the EU, NATO, OSCE, and other international organizations.

“Joint efforts to strengthen the security of the region’s borders, ensure its economic stability and energy security will help create general well-being and advance progress in the Baltic-Nordic area,” the President said.

The President noted that the deepening of security cooperation was among next year’s top priorities, including border control of the Nordic and Baltic countries, closer interaction on the Baltic Sea environmental issues as well as in cyber and energy security, using to the full extent the possibilities offered by the Vilnius-based Energy Security Center.

The President underlined that the Nordic-Baltic region – one of the most rapidly developing regions in the European Union – was a dynamic driving force to advance economic stability, growth, responsible fiscal policies, innovations, and progress.

The Nordic Baltic region aspires to be among the first to put a single information space and digital market in place for accelerating electronic settlements, information exchange and access to information.

The presidents of Lithuania and Finland emphasized that keeping the Baltic Sea clean and secure for the future generations was a key commitment for all the Baltic Sea rim countries. Specific measures binding for all the nations around the Baltic Sea were set forth at the Baltic Sea Action summit held in Helsinki last year.

Tagged as: Dalia Grybauskaitė, Nordic-Baltic cooperation, Tarja Halonen

JAV-Šiaurės-Baltijos valstybių bendradarbiavimas formuojant JAV-Europos kooperavimo darbotvarkę

Dr. Stasys Backaitis, P.E., SAE Fellow

Category : Culture & events / Lithuania in the world

- Posted by - (0) Comment

CONSIDER RETIRING IN LITHUANIA?
Dear VilNews readers,

Rimantas Aukstuolis (see below) believes there are many Lithuanian-Americans who would like to retire in Lithuania, while Gintautas Kaminskas thinks "the shocks" you have to expect makes such an idea less attractive.

I think Rimantas is right that moving here for retirement is a good idea and that you may well enjoy many, many years in your home country's warm embrace. At the same time I give Gintautas right that there are obstacles that could easily topple such plans.

I do therefore offer, hereby, to help anyone who plans to retire in Lithuania. I have lived here for 20 years (I'm originally Norwegian), and I must say that I most of the time have been very pleased and happy.

I've managed to get through the problem areas Gintautas refers to, and I have an infinite number of good friends and interesting tasks that make life here extraordinary interesting and attractive.

I am ready to share my many experiences with you who would like to move here or just visit for shorter periods, and I am willing to tell you which experts you should seek advice from, being it within legal, health care or other fields.

I can also help you to find a new home.

Call me or write me if you find this interesting. To retire in Lithuania is a brilliant idea, and I promise to help you getting things in place in an excellent way.

Warm Regards,
Aage Myhre
Editor-in-Chief
aage.myhre@VilNews.com
____________________________

Makes me wish I were old enough to retire...:)
The Baltic looks MUCH calmer in this photo than it did when I was there in July 2007...Makes me wish I were old enough to retire...:)
Jenifer C. Dillis
____________________________

My impression is that many of us Lithuanian-Americans have thought about the possibility of retiring in Lithuania

Rimantas Aukstuolis

Dear Editor,
I enjoy reading VilNews and, VilNews seems to touch on, if not already delve into, a variety of issues which are relevant to someone who may wish to retire in Lithuania. It might be interesting for much of your readership to more sharply focus on specific retirement issues such as comparisons and advantages of retiring in Lithuania, vs. the US. This seems to be evolving as a hot topic in the US as many baby boomers face the reality of high living costs (particularly healthcare) and diminished pension resources.

Detailed and systematic comparisons of living costs, tax issues, health care and real estate ownership might even result in significant "foreign investment" into Lithuania by foreign, especially US retirees. My impression is that many of us Lithuanian-Americans have thought about this possibility. I know several who have taken action. Perhaps such "dreams" should be encouraged with facts, experiences, even government incentives. Thoughts?
Rimantas Aukstuolis
Cleveland, Ohio, USA
____________________________

Trying to retire in Lithuania is in for not just "a shock", but a number of shocks

Gintautas Kaminskas

Rimantas Aukštuolis asks for other readers' on the possibility of retiring in Lithuania. Well, I tried to (2008-9). I'm deliberately not going to go into specific details of my case (that's personal), but I have to say from my experience that any Lithuanian-American (and it's not just Americans, don't forget that there are Lithuanians in other parts of the world, too) who tries to retire in Lithuania is in for not just "a shock", but a number of shocks. By the way, I happen to speak fluent Lithuanian (I am a professional translator). That certainly helps in some ways, but it's no help against the myriad of problems confronting present-day Lithuania, which are mostly to do with the lingering Soviet mentality ("naglumas - antra laimė").

Living costs are lower there, but the health care system is a nightmare. You won't even get the health care you're entitled to as a Lithuanian citizen without paying bribes, and as a foreigner you're "fair game". Real estate ownership? Make sure you have a very good lawyer. Government incentives? Which Government? The Lithuanian Government? As the kids say these days: "LOL". From the lowliest local or State government officials right up to some Seimūnai (Members of Parliament) and Cabinet Ministers - corruption reigns. They enter Government "service" asking not what they can do for their country but what they can get for No. 1. (For anyone not familiar with the English idiom - No. 1 is "moi", me, myself, I - and my family and friends and clan to some extent.) That's the reality. You only need to follow the Lithuanian media to realise that what I'm saying is the truth and no exaggeration.

Just for the record, I am still in love with my native land and would still love to live there: theoretically (lengthy visits will have to suffice). It's green, beautifully uncrowded, lots of nice lakes and streams, and I have no problem with the climate, not even in winter. It's wonderful to meet thoughtful Lithuanians and to communicate with them in our native language. But .... see above.
Gintautas Kaminskas
____________________________

An issue for elderly seeking to reconnect with families and younger professionals who seek to participate in the economies

Tony Mazeika

Relocation back to Lithuania will only be an issue for elderly seeking to reconnect with families and younger professionals who seek to participate in the economies. The vast majority of "diaspora" have citizenship from their adopted nations like the US, Canada, Australia. Ironically, the real issue is the continuing alarming emigration of young educated from Lithuania to the UK, US, Canada, etc. The numbers are a threat to the developing economy and future political stability of Lithuania. That void could be made up with people within the EU including Muslims.
Tony Mazeika
California
Category : Lithuania in the world sidebar / Opinions

Wizz Air becomes the biggest airline in Vilnius

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Wizz Air, the largest low-fare, low-cost airline in Central and Eastern Europe, celebrated yesterday the arrival of its second Vilnius-based aircraft, Vilnius Airport said in a statement.

Wizz Air has now increased its investment to USD 160 million at the Lithuanian capital and will carry over 500,000 passengers in the current year, outgrowing any other airline in Vilnius, writes LETA/ELTA.

This growth comes as Wizz Air commences five new Vilnius routes and offers the biggest route choice compared to any other airline at Vilnius airport. Wizz Air's 13 low-fare routes, which include the 5 new routes to Bergen, Liverpool, Oslo, Paris and Stavanger, will grow incoming tourism and allow Lithuanian families to beat the recession with low fares to the sun and exciting European cities.

Category : News

I can only hope that we all will work together

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I was raised to have a very positive view of our ancestral homeland, and hope that we can avoid polarizing Emigres and Lithuanian citizens. I have always felt welcome when I visit, but have personally never attempted to do business. This could be a difficult process, and one that creates tension. I can only hope that we all work together for a successful and sustainable economy.

Jurate Kutkus Burns,
Florida, USA

Category : Lithuania in the world sidebar / Opinions

“We have met the enemy and he is us!”

- Posted by - (0) Comment

Dear Editor
There has been a lot of negative commentary in Vilnews recently from some of your readers and even from Regina Narusiene in the recent piece about the need for change in attitudes toward what the Lithuanian diaspora can do for the country and what volunteerism can do within Lithuania. I guess I don't disagree at all, however…

Sitting here on the shores of Lake Erie in Cleveland I'm reminded of the battle flag of Commander Oliver Hazard Perry, USN during the decisive battle of Lake Erie during the War of 1812. On the blue flag were the words "Don't Give Up the Ship" which he had to transfer from his sinking flagship to the sistership, Niagara. Commander Perry ultimately won that battle against the Royal Navy and altered the military balance on the Great Lakes. In his report to superiors he stated "We have met the enemy and they are ours".

To all my Lithuanian friends and friends of Lithuania I exhort "Don't Give Up the Ship" . And especially to my Lithuanian friends I quote the "Pogo" cartoon paraphrase of Perry " We have met the enemy and he is us!" Maybe our modern Lithuanian example of heroism needs to be Bishop Valancius who came to the conclusion that in the mid 19th century Lithuanians needed to sober up before they came to any national reawakening or effective resistance to Russian domination.

Dealing with Russian occupation, as difficult as it was, may have been easier than dealing with ourselves. But we have sort of been here before, haven't we? Onward!

Rimantas Aukstuolis,
Cleveland, Ohio, USA

Category : Lithuania in the world sidebar / Opinions

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VilNews is in Azerbaijan
to cover the 57th
European Song Contest!

By Arvydas Arnasius

To tell frankly Azerbaijan was not on my list of countries which I wanted to go no matter what and when there was an opportunity to visit it during the 2012 Eurovision song contest in Baku I had a reserved expectations.
For the reader I can tell that Azerbaijan is neither Europe nor Asia and this country has an incredible tangle of contradictions and contrasts. It’s fascinating nexus of ancient historical empires going back centuries ago. Yet it’s also a new and dynamic nation finding its way from the emergencies from war-torn post-Soviet times on petroleum funded explosion of optimism. Surrounded by the semi-desert on the oil rich Caspian Sea, the nation’s cosmopolitan capital – Baku, is a dynamic boom-town, where flashy limousines and mushrooming skyscrapers sweep around the picturesque old town. Yet barely few hours’ drive away there is another reality - entirely different world: timeless villages with their people and soaring high Caucasus mountains.

Read more…

Category : Front page

- Posted by - (2) Comment

VilNews is in Azerbaijan
to cover the 57th
European Song Contest!

By Arvydas Arnasius

Azerbaijan is neither Europe nor Asia and this country has an incredible tangle of contradictions and contrasts. It’s fascinating nexus of ancient historical empires going back centuries ago. 

Until the 20th century the ancient term Azerbaijan applies largely to ethnical territory centered on Tabriz and Ardabil in Iran. Over the last two thousand years it’s not just a country name and rules that have changed but also its religion, language and its ethnicity. Having spent most of that time straddling its territories of competing empires, understanding this extraordinary saga really requires understanding of the Persian, Arab, Turkish and Russian histories.

Today Azerbaijan is a new and dynamic nation finding its way from the emergencies from war-torn post-Soviet times on petroleum funded explosion of optimism. Surrounded by the semi-desert on the oil rich Caspian Sea, the nation’s cosmopolitan capital – Baku, is a dynamic boom-town, where flashy limousines and mushrooming skyscrapers sweep around the picturesque old town. Yet barely few hours’ drive away there is another reality - entirely different world: timeless villages with their people and soaring high Caucasus mountains.

The Azeri capital is Caucasus largest and most cosmopolitan city. Few cities in the world are as quickly and nowhere else in Caucasus do East and West blend as seamlessly or as chaotically. Beat up Ladas race shiny Mercedes past illuminated stone mansions, shiny glass towers and tatty old Soviet apartment blocks. Fascinating Old City surrounded by the medieval fortress wal I protected by Unesco World Heritage Foundation. The name Baku is derived from the Persian bad cube (city of winds) with the gale force winds coming from the Caspian once or twice a month.

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Baku is hosting 2012 Eurovision Song Contest which will be the 57th annual Eurovision Song Contest. It is held in Baku, Azerbaijan, following Azerbaijan's win in the 2011 Contest. The two semi-finals will be held on 22 May and 24 May 2012, and the final on 26 May 2012.Ten countries from each semi-final will qualify for the final and will be joined by Azerbaijan, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom. Forty-two countries is participating in this event.

The country took this challenge very seriously with the big development project - the venue Baku Crystal Hall in the Azerbaijani capital. On 16 May 2011, it was announced that a special concert complex with 23,000 seats for the 2012 Contest was to be built near National Flag Square in Baku. The foundations were completed on 14 October 2011 and now the hall is completely finished. There is no official information released on the cost involved in developing the infrastructure and the venue yet but, according to experts, they can easily reach over a couple of billion euros.

2012 Eurovision song contest is considered to be a major rehearsal for the Azerbaijan's capital, Baku, plans to bid for the Olympics, with initial studies suggesting that the cost of hosting the 2016 Summer Olympic Games may be $20 billion.

Azerbaijan with its booming capital and strive to be part of Europe accompanied by its people positive attitude and deeply inherited sense of hospitality is standing a good chance winning this Olympic bid and always be enjoyable and highly memorable places to visit. 

Key Facts on Azerbaijan
Area: 86,600 sq km.
Capital: Baku
Famous for: Oil, saffron, caviar
Official name: Azarbaycan Respublikasi
Population: 7,830,000 

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Category : Culture & events

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In an open letter to Mayor Zuokas last month I recommended building new playgrounds in places such as the Rudininku Skveras and improving the playground located behind the post office on Vokieciu Gatve (behind the Post). To my delight and surprise, both have now happened!

Gene Emmer

Last month, I wrote an OPEN LETTER to Mayor Zuokas pointing out the need for more playgrounds in the old town of Vilnius. In it, I recommended amongst other things, building new playgrounds in places such as the Rudininku Skveras and improving the playground located behind the post office on Vokieciu Gatve (behind the Post). To my delight and surprise, both have happened! Perhaps these were already planned before my letter, I have no idea. But nevertheless, I am very pleased that the city of Vilnius is making these improvements.  

The new playground in Rudininku Skveras opened this week to a very appreciative audience of children and parents. So delighted were they, that the playground was absolutely packed with children. When we were there, about 30 youngsters were enjoying themselves, a very high number for such a small park.

On  the Vokieciu playground, one can see some recent attempts at landscaping slowly appearing. Perhaps this is the beginning of much needed renovations.

We can only hope that the city continues to make such improvements. The fact that the few existing playgrounds are so busy only underscores the need for more opportunities for children of the old town to play and breath fresh air.

Gene Emmer,
Vilnius
Category : Lithuania today

- Posted by - (0) Comment

In an open letter to Mayor Zuokas last month I recommended building new playgrounds in places such as the Rudininku Skveras and improving the playground located behind the post office on Vokieciu Gatve (behind the Post). To my delight and surprise, both have now happened!

Gene Emmer

Last month, I wrote an OPEN LETTER to Mayor Zuokas pointing out the need for more playgrounds in the old town of Vilnius. In it, I recommended amongst other things, building new playgrounds in places such as the Rudininku Skveras and improving the playground located behind the post office on Vokieciu Gatve (behind the Post). To my delight and surprise, both have happened! Perhaps these were already planned before my letter, I have no idea. But nevertheless, I am very pleased that the city of Vilnius is making these improvements.  

The new playground in Rudininku Skveras opened this week to a very appreciative audience of children and parents. So delighted were they, that the playground was absolutely packed with children. When we were there, about 30 youngsters were enjoying themselves, a very high number for such a small park.

On  the Vokieciu playground, one can see some recent attempts at landscaping slowly appearing. Perhaps this is the beginning of much needed renovations.

We can only hope that the city continues to make such improvements. The fact that the few existing playgrounds are so busy only underscores the need for more opportunities for children of the old town to play and breath fresh air.

Gene Emmer,
Vilnius
Category : Opinions

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Antanas Smetona (1874 – 1944) served as the first President of Lithuania from April 4, 1919 to June 19, 1920. He again served as the last President of interwar Lithuania from December 19, 1926 to June 15, 1940, before the Soviet occupation. He was also one of the famous ideologists of nationalism in Lithuania.

Category : Opinions

President Grybauskaite says Europe’s crisis may delay Lithuanian Euro plan

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President Grybauskaite and President Obama meeting in Chicago.

The European Union, battling with its sovereign debt crisis, may not be ready to expand the euro area to the east in 2014 when the Baltic nations of Lithuania and Latvia prepare to switch currencies, Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite said.

If Europe is ready, “of course we will join,” Grybauskaite said in an interview yesterday with Bloomberg News in Chicago. “It’s not only about Lithuania. It’s about Europe. Will Europe be ready to enlarge in 2014 because still we are seeing pending a lot of difficulties in the south of Europe, probably new elections in Greece.”

The Baltic nations of Latvia and Lithuania are next in line to switch currencies to the euro, while other governments across eastern Europe including the Czech Republic, Poland and Hungary are slowing preparations for the changeover as the euro region grapples with the debt crisis. Doubts are mounting on whether Greece can remain in the 17-nation currency zone as it prepares for June 17 elections following an inconclusive May 6 ballot.
Both Latvia and Lithuania peg their currencies to the euro with the official government goal of joining Europe’s monetary union in 2014.

Read more…

Category : News

Lithuania warns NATO of Russian missile threat

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A Russian newspaper reported in April that the military has begun deploying S-400 mobile surface-to-air missiles in Kaliningrad, the Baltic exclave bordered by Poland and Lithuania.

Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite has urged NATO to strengthen its military deterrence potential in the face of Russia’s intensified militarization in Kaliningrad.

The European missile shield is largely considered as part of the global American anti-ballistic missile system. Russia previously suggested that a joint anti-missile defense system be created on a territorial principle of shared responsibility. The offer was dismissed by NATO who also refused to give Moscow any legal guarantees that it won’t be targeted, forcing Russia to deploy a new radar system in Kaliningrad. Russia also warned it would relocate Iskander missiles to its westernmost region.

Addressing the NATO summit in Chicago, Dalia Grybauskaite said that, according to the Lisbon agreement, Russia was to cooperate with NATO on principles of mutual trust, transparency and predictability, which it allegedly violated by deploying surface-to-air and surface-to-surface missiles in Kaliningrad.

She stressed that the abovementioned missiles could reach Vilnius, Riga, Tallinn, Warsaw, Berlin and other NATO capitals, urging the alliance to create a stronger deterrence mechanism and show more flexibility at joint military drills. She also cautioned the allies of passing military know-how technologies or equipment to third parties.

Category : News

- Posted by - (0) Comment

President Valdas Adamkus:
Send President Smetona’s remains back to Lithuania


President Valdas Adamkus

In our today’s interview with former President Valdas Adamkus, he says:

"Send the remains back to his home country: It is sad to see that Smetona's family seems to have ended up in an internal conflict instead of thinking about what an important man he was for Lithuania. There is absolutely no reason to doubt Lithuania's safe anchorage in freedom and democracy nowadays and therefore this is not a reason not to provide a dignified burial for Smetona in his beloved homeland."

Adamkus adds that there also are many who believe Smetona was an autocratic president who does not deserve to be honoured by his home country, something he strongly disagrees with. "We must remember that such was the political situation in much of Europe throughout the interwar period. Also our neighbouring countries were led by autocrats, and it is my clear opinion, in such a perspective, that Smetona was a very good president who deserves all possible recognition for his tremendous efforts as a statesman of the highest rank," he says.
Category : Opinions

No flowers for Smetona

- Posted by - (0) Comment


Frank Passic

Ohio crypt holds remains of first Lithuanian President, yet he has been forgotten here in a Mausoleum tucked away in a Catholic Cemetery east of Cleveland, USA.

There are no flowers at his crypt, although the Mausoleum is filled with them on the vaults of others nearby. He was the President, yet you would not know that by reading the simple inscription found upon his nameplate. His image was on a coin, a banknote, various stamps and medals. Yet he has been forgotten here in a Mausoleum tucked away in a Catholic Cemetery east of Cleveland, Ohio, USA.

Frank Passic
Albion, Michigan

To read the article CLICK HERE

Below: Comments to the article

Category : Opinions

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...
* * *
Click HERE to read previous opinion letters >



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