Week in Lithuania: China downgrades diplomatic ties with Lithuania, stops issuing visas

Last week in Lithuania, the Prime Minister said shutting transport links with Belarus is not being considered, the government endorsed car pollution tax, but China announced stopping issuing visas in Lithuania.
PM urges Brussels to coordinate talks with Minsk
Lithuanian Prime Minister Ingrida Šimonytė said on Monday, November 22, that the European Commission’s technical talks with Minsk representatives on the migrant crisis should be coordinated with frontline EU member states. The European Commission has confirmed it would hold technical talks with Belarus on ways to repatriate migrants trying to cross into the EU via the Polish border. The announcement followed German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s two conversations with authoritarian Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko.
China downgrades diplomatic ties with Lithuania
China has officially downgraded its diplomatic relations with Lithuania to the level of chargé d’affaires, its Foreign Ministry announced on Monday, November 22. The move comes in response to the opening of a Taiwanese representative office in Vilnius last week and means that Chinese and Lithuanian ambassadors would not work in Vilnius and Beijing and diplomatic representations would be led by lower-level diplomats, chargé d’affaires.
US’ vArmour opens software development centre in Vilnius
vArmour, a leading provider of application relationship management software, is opened on Monday, November 22, its latest development centre in Vilnius. The company expects Lithuania’s centre to become the forefront of vArmour’s core development efforts and one of the company’s primary European hubs, Investuok Lietuvoje (Invest Lithuania), Lithuania’s foreign investment promotion agency, said.
Old-age pensions to rise by 50 euros on average from January
Lithuania’s average old-age pension is set to increase by 51 euros to 465 euros as of next January, with the average pension of those who have the necessary minimum length of service to go up by 48 euros to 489 euros after Seimas, the Lithuanian parliament, on Tuesday, November 23, passed the respective amendments to the Law on Social Insurance Pensions, with 98 votes in favour and 17 abstentions. Social Security and Labour Minister Monika Navickienė says an additional 138 million will be needed for the pension increase proposed by the ruling bloc.
Lithuania not mulling shutting transport links with Belarus
Lithuania is not considering shutting transport links with Belarus, Prime Minister Ingrida Šimonytė said on Tuesday, November 23, after neighbouring Poland mentioned that it might do so. Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki had said that his government was ready to tighten sanctions against Belarus over the migration crisis, including closing border crossings to stop the movement of goods.
Hospital to carry out clinical trial of anti-coronavirus drug
The Lithuanian University of Health Sciences’ hospital Kauno Klinikos said on Tuesday, November 23, that it will conduct a clinical trial of an anti-coronavirus drug as part of a multinational project named COVend. The clinical trial of the drug, whose manufacturer is not named due to confidentiality agreements, will involve around 30 patients in the Kaunas hospital.
Lithuanian cabinet endorses new car pollution tax
The Lithuanian government approved on Wednesday, November 24, the Environment Ministry’s proposal to scrap the existing one-off vehicle registration levy and instead introduce an annual car pollution tax.   If the parliament gives the green light, the new tax will be phased in between 2023 and 2025, generating an estimated 170 million euros in revenue to the state annually. The Environment Ministry said last week that 54 percent of car owners in the country would have to pay up to 100 euros in the annual pollution tax. The new tax is planned to be introduced on January 1, 2023.
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Customs nab 183 kg of hashish
Lithuanian officials found 183 kilograms of hashish in a truck that was stopped last Sunday, November 21, after crossing the border from Poland on its return trip from Western Europe, the Customs Criminal Service said on Wednesday, November 24. The street value of the consignment is estimated at around 1.83 million euros, it said. The hashish haul was found hidden in the spare wheels of the Scania truck, which was pulled over at the former Kalvarija border checkpoint.
Russian software developer set to expand to Lithuania
 AxxonSoft, a Russian-owned video and physical security information management software developer, is planning to open an office in Lithuania and hire at least 25 specialists within three years, Invest Lithuania, the government’s foreign investment promotion agency, said on Thursday, November 25. Murat Altuev, the founder of AxxonSoft, said Lithuania was chosen not only because of its high IT education levels, but also because of the government’s support. AxxonSoft, which is owned by private individuals, has more than 600 employees across the globe, of whom about 300 are engineers. The company expects to almost double its technical team in three years.
Six MPs to attend forum in Taiwan amid tensions with China
Representatives of six political groups in the Lithuanian parliament are planning to visit Taipei amid tensions between Vilnius and Beijing over the opening of a Taiwanese representative office in the Lithuanian capital. The six MPs will attend the 2021 Open Parliament Forum to be held in December, Mantas Maldeikis, head of the Lithuanian parliament’s Parliamentary Group for Relations with the Republic of China (Taiwan), said on Thursday, November 25. The visit is not related to the opening of the Taiwanese representative office in Vilnius and should not have any impact on Lithuania’s relations with China, the MP said.
Chinese Embassy suspends visas in Lithuania
China on Thursday, November 25, suspended the issuance of visas in Lithuania, the country’s embassy said. It says the issuance of visas was suspended for technical reasons but it comes amid the ongoing crisis on Lithuanian-Chinese relations due to Vilnius’ ties with Taiwan. Last week, China officially downgraded its diplomatic relations with Lithuania to the level of chargés d’affaires. The move came in response to the opening of a Taiwanese representative office in Vilnius.
Lithuania reports 2,002 new coronavirus cases, 14 deaths
Lithuania registered 2,002 new coronavirus infections and 14 deaths from COVID-19 over the past 24 hours, the country’s statistics office said on Friday, November 26. Eleven of the fatalities were either not vaccinated or only partially vaccinated.