Week in Lithuania | EP president receives Freedom statuette; Vilnius hosts annual Snow Meeting

Last week, Ukrainian President Zelensky visited Vilnius; a missing underage girl found in Kaunas, suspected abductor apprehended
President plays down not inviting Foreign minister to meet Zelensky
President Gitanas Nausėda said on Friday, the 12th of January, that there was “nothing personal” in the decision not to invite Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis to the meeting on the 10th of January with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky at the presidential palace in Vilnius. “There was nothing personal here and I would suggest not making any big generalisations from this,” Nausėda told reporters. The president’s office has said earlier that the meeting between the Lithuanian and Ukrainian leaders focused on military assistance and, therefore, Defence Minister Arvydas Anušauskas was invited to attend.
EP president accepts Freedom statuette, not cash prize
European Parliament President Roberta Metsola came to Vilnius on Friday, the 12th of January, to pick up the Freedom statuette awarded by the Lithuanian parliament, as the EU legislative body has opted not to accept the cash prize. The vice-speaker said she will suggest allocating the 11 000 euros to investigators of Russian war crimes and crimes against humanity in Ukraine. Lithuania on Friday and Saturday is commemorating the Soviet crackdown on unarmed civilians in Vilnius on the 13th of January, 1991. The Lithuanian Parliament Seimas awarded the Freedom Prize 2023 to the European Parliament for the current efforts to consolidate democracy and human rights, for the defence of the right of nations to free self-determination and sovereignty, for the unrelenting efforts towards historical justice, for support to the cause of Lithuania’s freedom and the aspiration of the Soviet-occupied Baltic States towards independence.
Vilnius hosts annual Snow Meeting
Vilnius hosted the Snow Meeting, an annual foreign and security policy conference, on Friday, the 12th of January. This year’s gathering brought together the Romanian, Swedish and Polish foreign ministers, Lithuanian and foreign politicians, and several dozen security policy experts from the US, Germany, France, the UK and other countries. The participants discussed how to mobilise international community support for Ukraine more effectively, as well as priorities for NATO’s Washington summit, steeping up the Alliance’s cooperation with its Indo-Pacific partners, and other issues. Vilnius hosted the Snow Meeting, traditionally organised in January, for the 17th time this year.
Justice minister cautions against populism over Russian schools
Justice Minister Ewelina Dobrowolska said on Thursday, the 11th of January, that minority education in the country is facing problems, but they must be deal with by finding ways to help Lithuanian citizens obtain quality education rather than by closing schools. “If we talk about national minority schools, whether Russian or Polish, there are challenges in terms of quality, exam performance, enrolment and teaching the Lithuanian language,” Dobrowolska told the Žinių Radijas radio station. She also noted that minority issues are usually brought into the spotlight in election years to mobilise voters. Education, Science and Sport Minister Gintautas Jakštas last week reignited the debate on Russian schools by saying that Lithuania should consider following the lead of Estonia and Latvia and scrap Russian-language education. The discussion on Russian schools resurfaced after an incident where teenagers attending a Russian school fired a pneumatic gun at a classmate because he said he was against the war in Ukraine.
Lithuania to send M577 armored personnel carriers to Ukraine
Lithuania will send M577 armoured personnel carriers to Ukraine in February, President Gitanas Nausėda said on Wednesday, the 10th of January. Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is asking the West for air defence systems. Nausėda noted that Lithuania’s State Defence Council has approved a long-term military aid package worth 200 million euros for Ukraine for 2024-2026. The Lithuanian leader also emphasized the need to ensure the continuity of long-term support from allies and partners for Ukraine.
Ukrainian President Zelensky visits Vilnius
Ukraine has proved that Russia can be stopped and now it needs to wrest peace from it, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in Vilnius on Wednesday, 10th of January. “We have proved that Russia can be stopped, that deterrence is possible. Now we have to wrest peace from Russia’s hands, the kind of peace we want – a just one – and get security for our nations. The security we need. And hope,” he said. Zelensky said that this year will be decisive in many respects.
Lithuanian government approves EU presidency preparation plan
The Lithuanian government on Wednesday, the 10th of January, approved a plan to prepare for the EU presidency, with the preparations and the presidency itself expected to cost around 100 million euros. Lithuania will hold the rotating EU presidency in the first half of 2027, from the 1st of January to the 30th of June, and will prepare a joint presidency program with Ireland and Greece. The former will precede and the latter will follow Lithuania. According to the approved plan, preparations for the presidency will include training for staff, a calendar of presidency events and ensuring direct daily flights to Brussels from January 2027. The goal is to have at least two direct flights a day to Brussels and, if necessary, direct flights to other cities important for Lithuania’s EU presidency. Also, Lithuania plans to temporarily increase the number of staff at the Permanent Representation of Lithuania to the EU from the existing number of 100 to 200 over the next year.
Missing underage girl found in Kaunas, suspected abductor detained
A nine-year-old girl who went missing on her way to a bus stop in Lithuania’s second-biggest city of Kaunas last Sunday was found safe and alive, the police said on Tuesday, the 9th of January. Police Commissioner General Renatas Požėla told a press conference in the early hours of Wednesday that a man had been detained on suspicion of abducting the girl and that she had been taken to hospital. Požėla said that the girl was well but added that she had sustained some injuries and was being examined by doctors. According to Kaunas police chief Mindaugas Baršys, the 42-year-old suspect has no convictions, (but) has been punished more than once. Požėla added that the crime was committed in a rather qualified manner. The girl, born in 2014, disappeared after she left her home in Kaunas at around 4:30 p.m. last Sunday. She headed to a public transport stop to take bus to a shop. However, she did not make it to the shop.
Central banker calls banks’ fee hikes despite record profits “greed”
Gediminas Šimkus, the Lithuanian central bank’s governor, has described fee hikes by some banks, which posted record profits last year, as “greed”. “I don’t want to comment on individual institutions’ decisions, but sometimes greed is great,” Šimkus told the 15min online news site in an interview published on Tuesday, the 9th of January. Lithuania’s banks have posted 757.5 million euros in combined net profits for January-September 2023, more than a two-fold increase from a year earlier.
Lithuania publishes 2024 military conscription list
The Lithuanian Armed Forces published this year’s military conscription lists on Monday, the 8th of January. A total of 27 291 Lithuanian citizens are on the lists, available online at sauktiniai.karys.lt, and 3,845 of them will be called up for a nine-month compulsory initial military service. Men aged between 18 and 23 are conscripted for military service. The first conscripts are expected to start their service at the Air Defence Battalion in Radviliškis in early February. Higher education students are not included in the lists, but they can be called up for one year after graduation until the age of 26. Volunteer conscripts can serve until the age of 38.
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