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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: 269 - (29/05/03)
Pro-EU poll result
The Lithuanian republic is the first Baltic state to vote in a referendum for EU entry. The voting took place on May 10th-11th and indicated a large majority in favour on a turn-out of 52%, the key figure since one of 50% or more was required to validate the poll.
All parties support EU entry, not surprisingly given the past of the country. There is a massive pro-European sentiment in all the Baltic states, due to fond memories of good relations with the continental powers before being taken over by Russia in the late eighteenth century. The memories are not quite accurate, but certainly in Lithuania's case it was better off in the Union of Lublin with Poland from 1569 onwards than with Russia.
The result was hailed as a victory on all sides. "We should all be waving EU flags today," said the deputy speaker of parliament, Vytenis Andriukaitis; "this day is as important as the day Lithuania declared independence." That day was March 13th 1990, an historic moment, indeed, for it led straight to the collapse of Soviet Union seventeen months later. Now Lithuania is to be back in the European fold, due in May next year.
The only significant figure in any way ambivalent on the issue is the president, elected earlier this year, Rolandas Paksas. He has questioned whether there would be such harmony as all that, in joining the EU, considering Polish objections about the matter. Nevertheless, he made public appeals for people to vote, knowing that the turn-out was the vital determinant of the result, the pro-EU verdict being a foregone conclusion.
Certain people not so well disposed towards him have compared his populism to that of Haider in Austria, who has spoken admiringly of the SS. Paksas has vigorously denied this, as well he might.
Lithuania was very much a victim in the Second World War, which saw it lose its independence to the USSR in 1940, before being overrun by Nazi Germany, from which it was liberated in 1944 after terrible suffering, only to be subject to more horrors under the Soviet yoke. March 13th 1990 and May 12th 2003 are here certainly the red letter days in modern history.
Lithuanian president urges premier to give more money to farmers
President Rolandas Paksas, has urged Prime Minister, Algirdas Brazauskas, to start dealing with the farmers' situation immediately and to resolve their problems as soon as possible, Lithuanian Radio reported.
The president and the prime minister have discussed the agricultural situation, farmers' demands and the possibilities of responding to them. Presidential spokesman, Rosvaldas Gorbaciovas, said that many dairy farms were on the verge of bankruptcy because their profits had shrunk by 18 per cent over the past years. According to Gorbaciovas, the president believes that the bankruptcy of dairy farmers would cost the state much more than financial support for them.
Responding to milk producers' demands, the Seimas [parliament] Rural Affairs Committee had adopted a resolution proposing to give farmers an additional amount of approximately 140m litas [US$45m] from this year's budget, in order to ensure at least minimum income from the milk they produce and sell.
Brazauskas said after the meeting with the president that they would be dealing with the milk producers' problems, but as yet, did not give any guarantees that they would find the additional millions in the state budget.
Lithuania on its way to EU entry
Lithuanians rejoiced recently after their country appeared on track to become the first Soviet republic to vote itself into the European Union. In a two-day referendum enough votes were cast to make the measure to join the EU valid, The International Herald Tribune has reported.
Lithuania's staunchly pro-EU leaders predicted the measure was sure to pass and called it a turning point in the history of the country of 3.5 million, bounced for so many centuries between one regional power and another.
Election officials said about 52% of the 2.7 million registered voters had cast votes -exceeding the required 50% minimum. They originally said turnout was nearly 60%, but lowered the estimate after realising they had mistakenly added the 7% who voted in advance.
Lawmakers who followed the turnout from parliament in the capital, Vilnius, were visibly relieved after election officials said enough votes had been cast.
"We should all be waving EU flags today," said Vytenis Andriukaitis, the deputy speaker of Parliament. "This day is as important as the day Lithuania declared independence."
Former president, Valdas Adamkus, a Chicagoan who returned to serve as president from 1998-2003, said Lithuania "voted not only for its own future, but for the future of a common Europe."
Any failure to approve the referendum would be a major embarrassment for Lithuania, where virtually all major parties staunchly back EU accession. During voting, turnout was just 30%, prompting leaders to urge residents to vote.
Prime Minister Algirdas Brazauskas, cancelled a planned visit to Estonia to campaign for voter turnout. President Rolandas Paksas, and the speaker of parliament, Arturas Paulauskas, also made public appeals.
Lithuania began seeking EU entry after it regained independence amid the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union.
Lithuania is the first of the three former Soviet Baltic states to hold an EU referendum, with Latvia and Estonia to follow in September. In all, 10 countries are to join the EU in 2004. Malta, Slovenia and Hungary have held successful ballots. Slovakia will vote in May and Poland in June. The other EU candidates are Cyprus and the Czech Republic.
French president vows support for new nuclear reactor in Lithuania
The French president Jacques Chirac has promised to help Lithuania build a new nuclear reactor. At his meeting with the French leader in Paris, Lithuanian President Rolandas Paksas asked him for support to Lithuania in building a new modern nuclear reactor at the Ignalina nuclear power plant to replace the current two power units that will be decommissioned, LNK television has reported.
Jacques Chirac promised to authorize his representative to discuss the issue with Lithuanian officials. He also pledged to be Lithuania's advocate in discussing European Union aid projects.
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