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ethnic groups 
Lithuanians 81.3%
Russians 8.4%
Poles 7.0%



Rolandas Paskas

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Independent between the two World Wars, Lithuania was annexed by the USSR in 1940. On 11 March 1990, Lithuania became the first of the Soviet republics to declare its independence, but this proclamation was not generally recognized until September of 1991 (following the abortive coup in Moscow). The last Russian troops withdrew in 1993. Lithuania subsequently has restructured its economy for eventual integration into Western European institutions. 

Update No: 265 - (28/01/03)

New President
The Lithuanians did an unexpected thing in early January when they elected a new president, Rolandas Paskas, in place of the incumbent, Vladas Adamkus. The result should perhaps not have been such a surprise. The challenger had several advantages, a big age difference, he being 46 to Adamkus at 76, being an asset for one who also demonstrated his prowess as a stunt pilot, flying his own plane with other planes under a Vilnius bridge. He was formerly a mayor of Vilnius and prime minister, a formidable political operator.
Paskas takes over on February 26th. The premier, Algirdas Brazauskas, a former communist leader of the country, has been briefing him on foreign policy issues in the interim, domestic matters being more of his own concern. Paskas made a lot of domestic disquiet and distress in his campaign, pointing to the poverty of many pensioners, the ubiquity of crime and corruption, the persistence of red tape in local, as well as central, government and the decline in public morality generally. There is little he can do about any of this, but it soothed people's nerves to hear him sounding off about it. 

Westward Ho!
The conduct of public affairs remain in the capable hands of Brazaukas, a political operator of long experience. People understand very well that he was not really a communist at all, but a Lithuanian patriot who had to play along with the Russians on the question for a while. By declaring the Lithuanian Communist party independent of the Soviet Communist party in 1989 he started the process that led to national independence.
Brazauskas now leads a coalition of Social-Democrats, into which the communists have mutated, and Social-Liberals. His course is obvious, pro-Western, but not slavishly so. The change in the presidency will not deflect Lithuania from its avowed direction - towards both NATO and EU membership. As Paskas said after his victory: "I would like to assure you that Lithuania's foreign policy is not going to change. Membership of NATO and the EU and good relations with neighbours remain Lithuania's foreign policy priorities."
Entry into the two Western organisations is due in 2004. A referendum on EU membership is expected in May, which should be won for those in favour.

Two new champions face up
But the most important coming event, is due in the autumn of 2004 elections to parliament, the real seat of power. Paskas is the leader of the Lithuanian Liberal-Democratic Party and must be hoping to see it do sufficiently well that he could to oust Brazauskas and re-assume the leadership of his country. From now on it looks likely to be Paksas versus Brazauskas which is the big contest coming up.
Brazauskas has the disadvantage of having entered his eighth decade which was the bugbear of Adamkus. Paskas making so much of his pitch for the presidency on domestic issues is not so unreasonable, with the 2004 elections in mind. He is laying out his programme for success at the polls then and re-assumption of real power.

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Fitch upgrades long-term rating of 2 banks

Fitch, the international rating agency, has upgraded the long-term ratings of Lithuania's Vilnius Bankas (VB) and of Lietuvos Zemes Ukio Bankas (LZUB) to BBB from BBB- (BBB minus). The long-term outlook for both entities was changed to stable from positive, the agency said in a press release, reports New Europe. 
At the same time, the agency upgraded the Individual rating of VB to C from C/D and affirmed its short-term and support ratings of LZUB were affirmed at D/E, F3 and 3, respectively. The rating action follows the upgrade of the sovereign rating for Lithuania to BBB from BBB- and reflects the potential support the banks could receive from their foreign owners in case of need. VB is 98.9 per cent owned by the Swedish banking group Skandinaviska Enskilda Banken and LZUB is 93.09 per cent owned by the German bank NORD/LB.

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Lithuania may join euro as early as 2006, central bank president says

The chairman of the Bank of Lithuania, Reinoldijus Sarkinas, has said that Lithuania may introduce the euro as early as in 2006, Lithuanian Radio has reported. After the meeting with the chairman of the Seimas [parliament], Sarkinas said that Lithuania will be able to satisfy all the requirements of the European Monetary Union and join the euro zone several years earlier than planned. 
Sarkinas said: "It is realistic to expect that this may happen at the beginning of January 2006 or at latest 2007 as I see no indicators or obstacles that would hinder the creation of exchange rate mechanism and implement the conditions required." 
The decision to replace the national currency with the euro will be taken together with the government and the Seimas.

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Adamkus for preserving nuclear energy industry

Lithuania should look for ways to preserve its nuclear energy potential after it shuts down two power units of the Ignalina nuclear power plant, Interfax News Agency reported the incumbent President, Valdas Adamkus, as saying. "This nuclear energy is the purest and cheapest energy of those existing in the world, and Lithuania cannot abandon it," Adamkus said after visiting the Ignalina plant.
Two Soviet-made RBMK reactors, which are installed at the Ignalina plant, are considered unsafe according to world standards. Lithuania pledged to the European Union that it would shut down power unit 1 by 2005, and unit 2 by 2009, provided the EU assists it in closing the plant and overcoming the consequences of this step.
Adamkus said that Lithuania should form an ad hoc team of experts to analyse the situation and prepare specific proposals on building a new, up-to-date reactor. Adamkus said he has discussed the further use of nuclear energy in Lithuania with French and German specialists. He also addressed this issue with the president of Finland, a country that has already decided to build its own nuclear reactor.
"I believe we will not break our international commitments, and I clearly declared at a closed session of the EU leaders that Lithuania would not stop using nuclear energy in the future, and will do its utmost to build a state-of-the-art reactor," he said.
Talking with Ignalina plant personnel, Adamkus noted that, in his view, power unit 2 could have been operated until 2015, but pressed by its neighbours and the EU, Lithuania has committed to shutting it down earlier. The president also reiterated that Lithuania is not obliged to stop using nuclear energy in general. Lithuanian president-elect, Rolandas Paksas, also champions the construction of a new modern nuclear reactor in the Baltic state.

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