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LITHUANIA


 

 

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Key Economic Data 
 
  2003 2002 2001 Ranking(2003)
GDP
Millions of US $ 18,213 13,796 12,000 74
         
GNI per capita
 US $ 4,490 3,660 3,350 74
Ranking is given out of 208 nations - (data from the World Bank)

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REPUBLICAN REFERENCE

Area (sq.km)
65,200 

Population 
3,607,899 

Principal 
ethnic groups 
Lithuanians 81.3%
Russians 8.4%
Poles 7.0%

Capital
Vilnius 

Currency 
Litas

President
Valdas Adamkus


  

Update No: 291 - (29/03/05)

To attend or not to attend; that is the question
History weighs down heavily on the Baltic states as in few other places in Europe - excepting the Balkans of course! No Lithuanian has forgotten the rape of their country by the Soviet Union in 1940 and again in 1945.
Lithuanian president Valdas Adamkus is quite likely to turn down Moscow's invitation to attend celebrations in Moscow on May 9th of the 60th anniversary of the defeat of Nazi Germany, Lithuanian television has reported, quoting its sources within the state's administration, although the matter is not yet certain. 
Adamkus would neither confirm nor deny the report, saying in a statement only that he would listen to public discussions on the matter before giving his final word. "I have my own opinion on this question, but I have to approach the Lithuanian public, to discuss everything in detail and than make a decision," Adamkus said. 
The celebrations raise positive and negative emotions for citizens of the three Baltic states, which were incorporated in the Soviet Union in 1940, captured by the Nazis, and then retaken by Soviet troops in 1945. Lithuania is perhaps the least hostile of the three states toward Moscow, with little friction between Balts and resident ethnic Russians, who number only 11% of the population, as opposed to 20% in Estonia and 34% in Latvia.
Of the three presidents of the Baltic states, only Latvia's President Vaira Vike-Freiberga has said she will go to Moscow. At the same time, she has made it clear that she does not consider the Soviets to have liberated Latvia, but to have occupied it. Estonia is yet to respond to the invitation. 
Earlier this year, Adamkus said that if he was an ordinary citizen he would not go to Moscow, but his decision on whether to attend would be made in accordance with his responsibilities as head of Lithuania. "As a head of the state, I feel responsibility for the country and people of Lithuania. I will take such a decision that will serve the common good," he said. 

The Kremlin still hopes Adamkus will come
Russian Transportation and Communications Minister Igor Levitin on March 20th travelled to Lithuania for a dialogue at a meeting in Vilnius with Lithuania's Foreign Minister Antanas Valenis. "I think we have to meet more often. During the last two years there was no dialogue. If we don't hear each other, and instead of a dialogue between each other we are engaged in a monologue for TV cameras, nothing good will come out if it," Levitin said.
Valenis has demanded that Russia pay back Lithuanian citizens $7.29 million that was taken out from Lithuanian branch of Vneshekonombank of the U.S.S.R. when the Soviet Union collapsed and also that cultural items taken from Lithuania be returned. 
Meanwhile, the Lithuanian public seems strongly against Adamkus' participation, according to opinions expressed by leading politicians. "So many Soviet soldiers died freeing Lithuania," said Arturas Paulauskas, speaker of the Lithuanian parliament in an interview with Latvian radio Lietuvos Radijas. "They died without bringing freedom and without knowing that for the next 50 years Lithuania would carry the yoke of occupation."
"They, the soldiers, were going towards the West with a holy belief that they were freeing Europe and Lithuania," he said. "Let's honour them, but let's honour them at [our] home. Let's set a candle on the graves of each of them, lay flowers. Let them know that they are not forgotten. But there should be no trips to Moscow while politicians there keep declaring publicly and loudly that there was no occupation. This is my position as a human being and a citizen of Lithuania." 
Vitautas Landsbergis, a European Parliament member for Lithuania and its former president, said Russia has to recognize that the Soviet Union committed war crimes against the Baltic States. Until it admits that, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania should maintain a hard line. "It would be right to honour on May 8th and 9th the memory of all that died. These who want can go to Gruto park," Landsbergis said referring to a private museum that collected statues of the Soviet era after Lithuania became an independent state. 
Influential Russian magazine Expert has said that Lithuanian reaction is part of a conspiracy against Russia initiated by Germany in order to equate the crimes of Adolf Hitler and Josef Stalin. "[An attempt] to wreck the Moscow celebrations in this situation [means] a deliverance from an unpleasant feast for Germany," the magazine wrote. "The idea of equating Stalin and Hitler, to represent Hitler not as the main villain, but as one villain among others, makes it possible [for Germany] to escape part of its guilt, to take off a part of responsibility for a unique evil deed." 
U.S. diplomat Richard Holbrook suggested that Adamkus should take into account the opinions of Lithuanians and that of the Kremlin, which is apparently threatening to punish Lithuania if it does not attend as well as urging it to participate in the celebrations. 
"Valdas Adamkus has a problem," Holbrook said in a comment in the Washington Post. "The 79-year-old president of Lithuania has been invited - personally, persistently, even threateningly - by Russian President Vladimir Putin to an event that he really, doesn't think he should attend: the May 9th celebrations in Moscow marking the 60th anniversary of the Soviet Union's victory over Adolf Hitler. 
"But Adamkus does not view May 9, 1945, as a day of liberation for his tiny country and its Baltic neighbours. 'On that day we traded Hitler for Stalin, and we should not celebrate it,' he tells visitors. Most Lithuanians, proud of their central role in breaking up the Soviet Union in 1991, agree. 
"But Putin seems almost desperate to have all the former Soviet republics honour Russia on May 9th; he has even used his most potent threat, hinting that if Adamkus does not go, it could affect Russia's shipments of oil and gas," Holbrook wrote.

A new cult of Stalin alarms the Lithuanians
The Russians are showing a new veneration for Stalin. One half of them in a new poll regard him as having been a wise ruler and one quarter would vote for him today to rule Russia again.
A report that Russia would unveil a new statue to Joseph Stalin on May 9th all but made President Valdas Adamkus make up his mind not to participate in the Victory Day celebrations on that day, although Moscow city officials moved quickly to deny the information. 
Oleg Tolkachov, a member of Russia's Federation Council, the upper house of Parliament, told the Echo Moskvy radio station that Moscow would erect a statue to Stalin, whom many Russians credit for winning World War II, at the Poklonnaya Gora memorial complex. But Mikhail Solomentsev, a Moscow city spokesman, denied the statement, saying the city intended to erect a statue depicting four typical soldiers of the anti-Hitler coalition.
Despite assurances from Moscow officials, there was a report that a monument to Stalin would appear in the Belgorod region, site of the Kursk tank battle - the largest armour confrontation in warfare - and another complex of sculptures, including one depicting Stalin, in Crimea. Both new monuments will reportedly be unveiled in May.
Lithuanian Ambassador to Russia Rimantas Sidlauskas felt obliged to inquire at Russia's Foreign Ministry if the information could be confirmed. Adamkus has yet to make up his mind about whether to attend the WWII ceremonies, but Lithuanian politicians categorically opposed his participation should the unveiling of a Stalin statue be part of the events.
Adamkus' foreign affairs adviser, Edminas Bagdonas, admitted that any such monument would seriously affect the president's final decision.

Lithuania indignant over not being invited to Davos
Whether Adamkus attends the celebration in Moscow is one delicate affair of diplomacy. But the fact that no Lithuanian leaders were invited to the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum, which opened in Davos, Switzerland, on January 26th, is regarded as deeply offensive in Vilnius. 
Adamkus, who was vacationing in Mexico at the time at a health resort, did not receive an invitation to Davos. But nor did Prime Minister Algirdas Brazauskas, recently re-appointed to the job and the stayer among Lithuanian politicians.
Members of the Lithuanian government believe that "Vilnius is now taking the consequences of the impeachment, as a result of which President Rolandas Paksas was removed from his post," said Nemira Pumprickaite, press attache of the Lithuanian prime minister.
The architects of the Lithuanian foreign policy from the Seimas (parliament) of Lithuania believe that the organisers of the World Economic Forum made a "deplorable mistake." 
Vaclovas Stankevicius, head of the Seimas commission for NATO affairs, described the situation as "an insult to the Lithuanian state." He reminded his press conference audience of the fact that Lithuania had been invited to Davos even in those days when it had not been a member of the European Union and NATO. 

What is this all about? 
Actually, the man that matters in Vilnius is not Adamkus at all, but a very different figure from a totally different world, Brazauskas. 
Both are now old men, Adamkus being a septuagenarian and Brazauskas being almost that at 68. But the ABC of the matter, if A stands for Adamkus and B for Brazauskas, is C - what country you were living in for all those years. Adamkus was a US resident and citizen for half a century before coming back to preside over his original homeland. Brazauskas has remained a Lithuanian resident all his life, even though that meant being a Soviet, not Lithuanian, citizen for half a century. 

The Lithuanian Dubcek-cum-Gorbachev 
The political landscape in Lithuania is strewn with the corpses of those who have underestimated Algirdas Brazauskas. He has been communist president and prime minister and then ex-communist president and now prime minister again.
Yet more bodies litter the ground after the ex-president and one-time communist recently manoeuvred himself into none other than the prime minister's chair. As a former ranking communist, the 68-year-old certainly doesn't seem to have the credentials to lead a nation that is as devoutly anti-communist as it is devoutly Catholic. But he has proven consistently throughout his career that he has uncanny political instincts-a remarkable ability to quickly determine which way the winds are blowing, and to adapt accordingly. 
In 1989, he was the Dubcek of the Baltic, leading a Baltic Spring, far more likely to outlast the short-lived Prague Spring of his Czech predecessor. He led the Lithuanian Communist Party when it formally cut ties with Moscow, a bold move at the time that appeared to anticipate the very collapse of the Soviet Union. While Brazauskas started positioning himself early for the inevitable break-up, it took most other Soviet-era leaders-not least of all Mikhail Gorbachev-years to grasp what was happening then. (Some are still trying.) 

Brazauskas recidivus
The window of opportunity opened for Brazauskas again when the centrist government of Rolandas Paksas suddenly collapsed in July of 2001 after the centre-left New Union, citing differences over economic policy, withdrew its support and formed an alliance with Brazauskas's Social Democrats. In a speech following his approval by parliament, Prime Minister Brazauskas promised to continue the country's pro-EU, pro-NATO course while also doing more to help the poor. "We will seek to channel Lithuania's progress and growth towards a socially oriented market," he said. 
In contrast to typically weak-kneed ex-communists and in spite of his track record as an opportunist, the burly, white-haired Brazauskas has at times shown surprising political backbone. Over the grumbling of some of his countrymen, for instance, he travelled to Israel when he was Lithuanian president to apologize on Lithuania's behalf for the role some of his countrymen played in murdering Jews during the Nazi occupation. When one Holocaust survivor stopped Brazauskas on an Israeli street explaining that his family was massacred by Lithuanian collaborators, he leaned over, kissed the man, and asked him for forgiveness.
Brazauskas was president as a member of the Democratic Labour Party, made up of reform-minded ex-communists, until 1998. Afterwards, he spent much of his time on hunting trips and many believed he'd stay in the political background; convinced of that themselves, local journalists dubbed him "Lithuanian Pensioner No. 1." Before elections last year, though, he stormed back, helping the Social Democrats win more legislative seats than any other party. He expressed anger when his party was locked out of power by the centrist Liberal Union-New Union coalition.
Many average Lithuanians see Brazauskas as affable and down-to-earth. But some businessmen worry that he'll raise taxes and delay what they say is a badly needed war on bureaucracy. Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus is thought to prefer centre-right parties; but reluctantly nominated Brazauskas when it became clear he was the only candidate capable of winning parliamentary approval. But Adamkus said he would be watching and wouldn't hesitate to criticize the new administration. 

Continuity in foreign and domestic policy
Brazauskas intends to maintain the continuity of the country's foreign policy, he said after his candidacy for the post of head of government had been submitted by President Adamkus. According to Brazauskas, the government's main aims would remain the country's membership of NATO and the European Union and friendly relations with neighbours. 
As for domestic policy, Brazauskas noted, it should be more socially-oriented. In a socially-oriented free market the initiative and competition should be agreed with social justice. For a country which has unemployed and poverty, social justice is especially important, the premier believes. According to preliminary data, Brazauskas has the support of more than 80 members in a 141-seat parliament.

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AVIATION

LAL finally goes up for auction


Discussions about privatising Lithuanian Airlines, the state's flagship carrier, have been going on for months. Words were finally put into writing on March 9 when the government approved a privatisation program, setting the initial price at 9.3 million litas (2.7 million euros). 

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ENERGY

Lithuanian electricity export drops by 60 per cent

After the first power-generating set of the Ignalina nuclear power plant in Lithuania was shut down on December 31, 2004 at the European Union's demand, Lithuania's electricity export dropped by 60 per cent, to 771.5 million kilowatt/hours in January-February, Rimantas Jozaitis, the director-general of Lietuvos Energy Company, said. This state-owned enterprise is the operator of Lithuania's power networks, ITAR-TASS News Agency reported. 
"With the stoppage of the first reactor of the Ignalina nuclear power plant and the operation of only one power-generating set, Lithuania's output of electricity dropped to one third, so energy export has sharply dwindled this year," the director-general said. Russia's Kaliningrad region was the main buyer of Lithuanian electricity in the two months of 2005. The deliveries to the Kaliningrad region made up 694.6 million kilowatt/hours of electricity. 
Jozaitis has forecast that the export of Lithuanian electricity will drop to 418.8 million kilowatt/hours in March. 
The Lithuanian company exported 7.3 billion kilowatt/hours of electricity in 2004. Lietuvos Energy plans to decrease the deliveries of electricity to foreign clients by over 72 percent, to 2 billion kilowatt/hours, this year.

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FOREIGN ECONOMIC COOPERATION

Lithuania and Hungary to develop economic cooperation

On 7 March, during the meeting between Lithuanian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Antanas Valionis, and the President of Hungary, Ferenc Mdl, the necessity to develop economic cooperation between Lithuania and Hungary was emphasized. 
Valionis paid an official visit to Budapest on 7-8 March. 
In the meeting bilateral Lithuanian and Hungarian cooperation was stated to be very good, but it appears essential to strengthen economic links between countries, promote more active contacts of countries' business communities, attract bilateral investments and increase cultural and scientific cooperation. 
The same day Valionis with Hungarian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ferenc Somogyi, talked over the aims of the European Neighbourhood Policy. 
Lithuanian and Hungarian foreign ministers stressed that the EU-Ukraine Action plan should be implemented as quickly as possible and the country be granted European perspective. 
The ministers exchanged opinions on regional cooperation and its perspectives in an enlarged European Union and NATO. 
According to Somogyi, Hungary will seek closer cooperation of the Vyshegrad Group with Lithuania and other Baltic States. 
The Vyshegrad group consists of the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland and Hungary. The latter will chair the group from July of this year.

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