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: 270 - (26/06/03)
New leaders coming forward
Earlier this year, the former mayor of Vilnius, the youngish and acrobatic stunt pilot, Rolandas Paksas, up-seated the septuagenarian Valdas Adamkus for the presidency. Adamkus, fifty years resident in the US, came across as a remote figure, whereas Paksas was more in touch with people's troubles.
After all GDP, although now recovering, is still only 77% of its 1989 level. There is a lot of poverty around, a fact Paksas played upon.
His success has doubtless been a reason why the Fatherland Union, the main opposition party, has switched to a new younger leader too, former premier Andrius Kabilius, in place of veteran Vytautas Landsbergis who declared independence unilaterally in 1990 from the USSR.
His long-time rival, however, Algirdas Brazauskas, is the premier, despite being a generation older than the 46-year old Kabilius. Kabilius is preparing to lead Fatherland Union to victory in parliamentary elections in autumn next year. Unless something remarkable happens to the economy or Brazauskas pulls something out of a hat, Kabilius has an excellent chance to win.
Moscow-Vilnius ties important
Brazauskas knows that the adhesion of Lithuania to the EU, due in May 1st 2004, will not be the rabbit he needs to win elections a few months later. The policy of joining the EU is not a partisan one; all parties agree to it, as to NATO entry. His Social Democrats, the ex-Communists in effect, cannot claim special credit for it. Anyway, its occurrence is not likely to change things much straightaway.
As the former communist president of the country, who, nevertheless, declared the independence of the communist Party of Lithuania from that of the Soviet Communist Party (with Yeltsin's backing, vital to his success), he knows how to handle tricky relations with Russia.
Putin has recently cited recent accords with Lithuania on travel and other matters as "exemplary." These know how to do a deal. Transit to and from Kaliningrad, the Russian enclave between Poland and Lithuania, was agreed on a simpler basis from July 1st.
NATO and the US to the fore
Relations with the West are even more vital. Lithuania gave full support to the US over Iraq, as did Latvia and Estonia. It is sending 130 troops to Iraq to help peacekeeping efforts there.
Next spring comes NATO membership, another non-controversial policy for the country. Lithuania is gearing up to be part of the West at the heart of Europe; indeed Vilnius is the geographical centre of the continent. With Poland as a close ally to its immediate west, with whom it once was united (the Union of Lublin of 1569), it is now coming back to its European roots.
Vilnius, Tallinn get Microsoft offices
After 10 year of operating in Lithuania and Estonia through its partner companies, information technology giant, Microsoft, has decided to open subsidiaries in Vilnius and Tallinn, New Europe reported recently. "This is part of a natural development process," said Torben Andersen, head of Microsoft Baltic in Riga.
"Microsoft has seen 300 per cent growth in the Baltic states over four years, so we feel its time to be closer to our customers in the region." Andersen said that Microsoft Baltic chose Riga for its regional office in 1999 "purely for logistical reasons" and that customers in Lithuania and Estonia had been asking for a closer relationship with the company ever since. "These new offices are a big commitment for us, one that we can't go back on very easily," he said. While worldwide IT growth from the Baltic states in 2004 and said that this number would likely remain "in the double digits" over the next few years. "Lithuania is the largest IT market in the Baltic states and the one with the largest potential," said Martynas Bieliunas, a Microsoft sales representative in Lithuania.
Vilnius 10 meet in Lithuania
The parliamentary speakers of the so-called Vilnius 10 - the seven states who have received invitations to join NATO along with Albania, Croatia and FYR Macedonia - met recently in Trakai, Lithuania's medieval capital, BNS News Agency reported. In opening the meeting, Lithuanian President, Rolandas Paksas, said the Vilnius 10 had not yet completed its mission to build a united and indivisible Europe and reiterated his support for future NATO membership of additional countries that meet the alliance's membership requirements. Georgian parliamentary speaker, Nino Burdjanadze, told the meeting that membership pf NATO would serve the interests of her country and the alliance. The 10 speakers signed a statement stating their commitment to an "open door" policy and that they "strongly believe that Albania, Croatia and FYR Macedonia should be invited to join NATO at the earliest opportunity." The statement also called for stronger Euro-Atlantic cooperation.
Baltic officials discuss new nuclear power plant
The energy officials of the Baltic states were expected to meet in Vilnius recently to discuss the construction of a new nuclear power plant in Lithuania, the Latvian Economy Ministry said. The meeting participants were also due to discuss Latvia and Estonia's possible participation in the project.
Latvia and Estonia were officially invited to take part in the construction of the new Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant by Lithuanian president, Rolandas Paksas, when the presidents of the three Baltic states met in Tartu in late April. Lithuania intends to build the plant once the current Iganalina Nuclear Power Plant, which the EU believes to be unsafe, is closed in 2009. The construction of the new plant will cost €3bn.
At the moment, Latvia is being cautious about participating in the project. The Latvian energy company, Latenergo, does not have enough free funds to take part in the financing of this project. The company management believes that the final decision on Latvia's participation should be made at a political level. The Estonian energy company, Eesti Energia, is more optimistic than Latenergo about the possibility of participating in the project, Latvian Economy Ministry said, BNS News Agency reported.
In 2002, the Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant produced 14.14bn kWh of electrical power, a 24.5 per cent increase from 2001. In 2003, the plant is expecting to produce 14.4 kWh. The Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant produces over 75 per cent of Lithuania's electrical power.
Cisco Systems chooses Lithuanian Telecom for investment
Cisco Systems recently announced that delivery to Lithuanian Telecom (Lietuvos Telekomas) for deploying a Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS)-based IP core network is complete, New Europe reported. "Lietuvos Telekomas has several years of experience in using Cisco technology for datacom networks, and we have been quick to use the advantages of the development that Cisco has invested into its core routing platforms," said Harri Suokko, director of services development, Lithuania Telecom.
"Our key criteria for selection was to find reasonably priced 10-Gbit/s-capable MPLS-based IP core network which we can expand on an ongoing basis minimising the need for forklift upgrades in the future." "The Cisco MPLS-based IP core network will help Lithuania Telecom to expand its service offerings in a secure and cost-effective way," commented Michael Bayer, director of service provider marketing, Cisco Systems, EMEA. "By integrating the Cisco 12000 Series routers into its existing Cisco-based network, Lithuania Telecom is helping to lower the time and costs of deployment and at the same time build a solid IP network foundation that can differentiate premium traffic to support advanced services such as voice over IP."
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