Week in Lithuania: Endorses stricter accountability for sanction violations; offshore wind farm tender launched

In Lithuania, the chairwoman of the Central Election Commission has resigned this week, while the Seimas has proposed establishing stricter responsibility for violating sanctions; meanwhile, the fight against illegal migrants continues on the border with Belarus.
Lithuania reports 219 new COVID-19 cases, two deaths
Lithuania recorded 219 new coronavirus infections and two deaths from COVID-19 over Thursday, the 30th of March, official statistics showed on Friday, the 31st of March. The number of COVID-19 patients in hospitals now stands at 97, including six ICU cases. The daily number of new coronavirus cases remains well below the peak of over 14,000 reached in early February 2022. More than 1.18 million people in Lithuania have tested positive for COVID-19 at least once. Some 69.7 percent of people in the country have received at least one coronavirus vaccine jab so far.
Five migrants pushed back on the border with Belarus
Lithuanian border guards turned away five migrants over Friday night, attempting to cross into the country from Belarus illegally, the State Border Guard Service (SBGS) said on Friday, the 31st of March. A total of 612 irregular migrants have been barred from entering Lithuania from Belarus at non-designated places so far this year. Some 11,200 irregular migrants were turned away in 2022. Almost 4,200 irregular migrants crossed into Lithuania from Belarus illegally in 2021. However, the vast majority of them fled Lithuania once they were allowed to move freely.
Veolia lawsuit must be redeliberated
The State of Lithuania’s lawsuit on damages valued at more than 240 million euros against Veolia, a French energy group, will be reconsidered in court, the Supreme Court of Lithuania ruled on Thursday, the 30th of March. It concludes that previous courts had not heard the lawsuit properly, overturned those rulings, and ordered the case to be reheard. The Supreme Court’s judicial panel deemed unfounded the conclusion of previous courts, which considered the lawsuit’s admissibility, that the state, represented by the Ministry of Energy, had no right to file such a lawsuit as it was not entitled to do so under the existing law.
Seimas endorses stricter accountability for sanction violations
The Seimas of Lithuania on Thursday, the 30th of March, approved tougher punishment for Lithuanian companies for violating international sanctions against Russia and Belarus. Under the amendments to the Law on International Sanctions, adopted by a vote of 90 in favour to one against with eight abstentions, violation of sanctions will be punishable by a fine of up to 50,000 euros, seizure of goods or money relating to the violations and/or a fine of up to 5 percent of annual revenue. The amendments stipulate that tougher punishment will be handed out for violations of both international sanctions and the restrictive measures imposed by national authorities.
Lithuania launches its 1st offshore wind farm tender
 Lithuania on Thursday, the 30th of March, launched a tender for the development of its first 700 MW offshore wind farm in the Baltic Sea, preliminary valued at 1.8 billion euros, without state aid, meaning that it’s a commercial tender. Energy Minister Dainius Kreivys says Lithuania is the first country to announce the launch of such a tender in the eastern part of the Baltic Sea. Lithuania plans to build two wind farms in the Baltic Sea. The second auction for the developer of a 700 MW wind park with state aid is expected to be launched in September.
Issue of Moscow Patriarch Kirill in Ukrainians’ prayers
The Orthodox Archdiocese of Vilnius and Lithuania, which is subordinate to the Moscow Patriarchate, will let Ukrainian refugees pray without mentioning Moscow Patriarch Kirill. However, it says it will continue to mention him during its services. The Ukrainian community of believers will pray with parishioners of the Church of Saint Paraskeva in Vilnius, Marija Jakubovskaja, spokeswoman for the archdiocese, told a press conference on Wednesday, the 29th of March. Patriarch Kirill of Moscow regularly justifies, supports, and blesses Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in his speeches. He has been banned from entering Lithuania because of his stance. However, other Orthodox parishes will continue to pray for Patriarch Kirill, Jakuboskaja said, as the Church cannot act autonomously, and cannot declare itself independent. Church services in Lithuania will be also led by Ukrainian Orthodox priests who came to Lithuania from Ukraine because of the Russian invasion.
President welcomes plans to borrow extra one billion euros
President Gitanas Nausėda welcomed on Wednesday, the 29th of March, the Finance Ministry’s proposal to borrow up to 1 billion euros from the EU recovery fund for business investments. According to him, the Finance Ministry’s proposal to provide an additional borrowing facility of up to 1 billion euros for advanced export-oriented manufacturing businesses is a welcome thing.
Vilnius City Council OKs purchase of 91 new trolleybuses
Vilnius City Council on Wednesday, the 29th of March, approved the purchase of 91 trolleybuses with autonomous running, in what will be the first phase of the acquisition of a total of 159 such trolleybuses for 92.4 million euros. Vilniaus Viešasis Transportas (Vilnius Public Transport, VVT), the municipal public transport enterprise, has also secured another 10 million euros under the Climate Change Program. VVT is set to announce the winner of the trolleybus tender out of the two bidders – Skoda from the Czech Republic and Poland’s Solaris. Trolleybuses with autonomous running can be charged from the overhead lines and do not need charging stations during the run.
Head of CEC resigns after election criticism
Jolanta Petkevičienė, chair of Lithuania’s Central Electoral Commission, announced her decision to resign on Tuesday, the 28th of March. On Tuesday, the CEC chair answered lawmakers’ questions on problems related to the organization of the municipal elections held early this month. Petkevičienė mostly came under fire over the mayoral elections in Anyškčiai and Visaginas where candidates Kęstutis Tubis in Anykščiai and Dalia Straupaitė in Visaginas, who both made it into the runoff, were initially removed as candidates and later reinstated.
MPs register proposal to hold dual citizenship referendum in 2024
A group of Lithuanian lawmakers registered on Monday, the 27th of March, a bill on holding a compulsory referendum on the legalisation of dual citizenship on the 12th of May, 2024. More than 60 members of the country’s parliament, the Seimas, have registered such a proposal. The documents state that citizenship of the Republic of Lithuania shall be acquired by birth and on other grounds in accordance with the procedure established by constitutional law.  Lithuanian held a referendum on expanding possibilities for having dual citizenship in conjunction with the presidential elections in 2019 but failed to get enough votes to pass as the change needed backing from more than half of the citizens having the right to vote and being on the electoral roll.
Central bank leaves forecasts unchanged
The central Bank of Lithuania has not changed its December projections and expects the country’s economy to grow by 1.3 percent this year and further expand by 3.2 percent next year. The bank cut its 2023 annual inflation projection to 9 percent, from 9.5 percent. Its board chairman Gediminas Šimkus said on Monday, the 27th of March, he sees 2023 as a turning point for positive.  Economists from the central bank expect annual inflation to reach 9 percent this year and then fall to 2.7 percent in 2024. In December, inflation was forecast to reach 9.5 percent this year.