Week in Lihuania | Lithuanian President to seek re-election in 2024; parliament approves 2024 budget

Last week, Lithuania’s straw garden binding tradition was added to UNESCO list; intelligence body’s whistleblower revealed his identity
Lithuania reports 1175 new COVID-19 cases, two deaths on Friday
Lithuania recorded 1175 new coronavirus infections and two deaths from COVID-19 over Thursday, the 7th of December, official statistics showed on Friday, the 8th of December. The 14-day primary infection rate has risen to 503.7 cases per 100 000 people, with the seven-day percentage of positive tests at 39.3%. COVID-19 incidence in Lithuania took an upward turn in mid-September after having stayed at a low level since May. Two-thirds of the country’s population have received at least one coronavirus vaccine jab so far, according to the statistics.
New Lithuanian primary school opens in Poland’s Suwalki
A new Lithuanian basic school was opened on Friday, the 8th of December, in the northeastern Polish town of Suwalki, which is home to a sizeable ethnic Lithuanian community. The Education, Science and Sport Ministry says work on the new Lithuanian school in Suwalki started last year. The ministry allocated 525 000 euros for the acquisition of the building with a land parcel, and provided another one million euros this year for the renovation and adaptation of the building for school purposes.
Lithuanian President Nausėda will seek re-election
Lithuanian President Gitanas Nausėda announced on Thursday, the 7th of December, his decision to seek re-election next year. “I am determined and committed to continue the started work. I will run for president in May 2024 and I hope that the people of Lithuania will give me a strong mandate of trust, as they did in 2019,” Nausėda told a press conference at the Presidential Palace on Thursday. Nausėda says his attitudes have not changed since 2019 when he first ran for president. The president refrained to assess his chances in next year’s presidential election, but he is a clear frontrunner in all polls. Nausėda was elected president in 2019, defeating incumbent Prime Minister Ingrida Šimonytė in the runoff.
KN resumes supply of diesel to Ukraine in ISO containers
Lithuania’s state-controlled oil and LNG terminals operator Klaipėdos Nafta (KN) is resuming the supply of diesel fuel to Ukraine in ISO containers. At the company’s liquid products terminal in Klaipeda, 30 000 tons of diesel will be loaded into ISO containers and will be transported by rail to Ukraine via Poland,” KN said. The loading of oil products into ISO containerized tanks was first tested by KN in late 2022, when the first containers with diesel fuel were dispatched to Ukraine.
Ryanair to fly from Kaunas to Berlin, Zadar, Pisa in 2024 summer
Ireland’s budget airline Ryanair is set to launch regular flights from Lithuania’s second-biggest city of Kaunas to the German capital of Berlin, the Croatian city of Zadar and the Italian city of Pisa in the 2024 summer season. Lietuvos Oro Uostai (Lithuanian Airports, LTOU) said on Wednesday, the 6th of December, that, based on information from Ryanair’s ticketing systems, the airline will operate three weekly flights between Kaunas and Berlin from late March, and two flights to Zadar from early June. Ryanair last week announced plans to reintroduce 15 regular flight routes to Lithuania for the spring and summer of 2024.
Lithuanian intelligence body’s whistleblower reveals his identity
The Lithuanian State Security Department’s whistleblower Tomas Gailius revealed his identity and on Wednesday came to testify publicly before a parliamentary inquiry commission looking into his report on the actions of the intelligence agency’s top officials in vetting the inner circle of Gitanas Nausėda, then a presidential candidate. Vytautas Bakas, the commission’s chairman, asked Gailius if he agreed to have his surname revealed, and he responded affirmatively. The commission is investigating whether the authority’s property responded to the information provided by the whistleblower and whether the necessary protection was ensured for him. The identify of Gailius, who is protected by law as a whistleblower, was not made public, but his name last spring was revealed by Marius Laurinavičius, a political analyst. The parliamentary commission, which has until March 10 to present its findings, has already interviewed current and former heads of the General Prosecutor’s Office, and plans to interview officials from the Special Investigation Service (SIS).
Lithuania to ask for EC’s help to fight scammers, clones on Facebook, Instagram
Lithuanian institutions lack response from Meta, the company that runs Facebook and Instagram, to reports of fraud and fake accounts, and plan to ask the European Commission for help to fight this problem. Such an appeal is being prepared by the Communications Regulatory Authority and the Seimas Committee on Culture. The goal is to inform the EC about Meta’s possible breaches of the Digital Services Act due to its failure to guaranteeing consumer safety. On Wednesday, the 6th of December, Debunk.org, a disinformation analysis center, informed members of the parliamentary Committee on Culture about a study it had carried out on large-scale fraud, brand theft and the creation of fake accounts on Facebook and Instagram.
Lithuania’s straw garden binding tradition added to UNESCO list
Lithuania’s tradition of binding straw gardens, or making hanging straw ornaments, has been included into the UNESCO’s list of the Representative Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, the country’s Culture Minister Simonas Kairys announced on Tuesday, the 5th of December. Following this decision, the list now includes four Lithuanian cultural valuables: cross-crafting and its symbolism in Lithuania, the tradition of song and dance festivals in the Baltic states, multipart songs and the tradition of binding straw gardens. The Culture Ministry submitted its nomination for straw gardens to UNESCO last year.
Lithuanian parliament approves 2024 budget
The Lithuanian parliament on Tuesday, the 5th ofDecember, adopted the 2024 state budget after more than three hours of deliberations as 73 MPs voted in favour, 52 voted against it and one lawmaker abstained. Next year, defense funding will for the first time exceed two billion euros and stand at 2.75% of GDP. Traditional budget allocations will amount to 2.52% of GDP, with the rest coming from the existing temporary bank solidarity levy and borrowings. The increase in excise duties will raise the price of beer, wine and other alcoholic beverages, as well as tobacco products. State revenue next year will amount to 16.98 billion euros and expenditure will stand at 20.6 billion euros, leading to a budget deficit of 3% of GDP.
Lithuania contributes one million euros to CEB’s Ukraine Solidarity Fund
Finance Minister Gintarė Skaistė and Carlo Monticelli, the governor of the Council of Europe Development Bank (CEB), signed in Vilnius on Monday, the 4th of December, an agreement on Lithuania’s one-million-euro contribution to the CEB’s Ukraine Solidarity Fund. The Fund will support internally displaced persons and contribute to the reconstruction of Ukraine. According to Skaistė, the Fund will focus on Ukraine’s social and healthcare infrastructure and the reconstruction of residential buildings. Monticelli noted that Lithuania’s contribution to the Ukraine Solidarity Fund is among the largest in the world, relative to its GDP.
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