Books on Lithuania
Update No: 313 - (25/01/07)
Trouble brewing with Russia
Russia's relations with the Baltic states are taking a marked turn for the
worse. Partly this is due to energy problems in mid-winter. But there are other
sources of discontent, to do with the past.
In Estonia the Second World War is a live issue, as is the disposal of the
graves of Soviet soldiers there, which the radical nationalists in power want to
see happen, as well as the removal of war memorials. The Estonians regard the
whole Soviet period as an occupation, not a liberation.
So of course do the Lithuanians, who also have taken a nationalist turn right
now after the retirement of Premier Algirdas Brazuaskas last year. Brazauskas,
as the former communist president of the country, knew how to mollify Moscow.
Conservatives ask Russia to compensate for Jan. 13th victims
Lithuanian relations with Russia could freeze over again if Parliament supports
a resolution prepared by the opposition Conservative party that will ask Russia
to compensate those killed and wounded in the events of Jan. 13th, 1991.
Lithuania had declared independence in March, 1990 and demonstrations in favour
of it were mounting in Vilnius. Soviet troops opened fire, killing 14 and
wounding many more in the capital - before Gorbachev was able to have them
The draft resolution, registered in the legislature in mid-January, states that
the Soviet army's attack in Vilnius on Jan. 13th, 1991 - currently known as
Freedom Defenders' Day - was an "act of aggression against independent
Lithuania and its people" and that many unarmed people were killed and
seriously injured. The document also notes that, taking into account that Russia
is considered to be the successor state of the Soviet Union, the Lithuanian
government should require Russia to pay compensation for those killed and
injured during the events, as well as their families.
The draft resolution also calls upon the government to initiate the negotiations
with Russia on this issue.
Fourteen people were killed and hundreds wounded during the Jan. 13 attack, when
the Soviet army took over the TV tower and radio and television building. Tens
of thousands of people surrounded Parliament, effectively preventing the Soviets
from attacking the government building.
The resolution, prepared by Conservative (Homeland Union) Audronis Azubalis was
welcomed and supported by Vytautas Landsbergis, member of the European
Parliament and Lithuania's first head-of-state after regaining independence in
1991. "Jan. 13th was an aggression against the restored state of Lithuania,
not another act of violence in an occupied land," Landsbergis, who was
president during the events, said in a statement. "The most important thing
is to realize the state's duty and responsibility, and to let the people's
representatives speak their opinion," he added.
But there are dissenters
The initiative was heavily criticized by Raimundas Lopata, director of the
Vilnius Institute of International Relations and Political Science, who called
the move "masochism."
"Nobody should play games using such a sensitive issue," Lopata said
in an interview with the Baltic News Service.
He also called for taking into account the international situation and the
prognosis that relations between the East and West will be strained approaching
"The demand to compensate for the victims of Jan. 13th would add tension to
Lithuanian-Russian relations. We should consider whether Lithuania will be able
to resist this tension," Lopata said.
Lopata also reminded Lithuania that the elections to Russia's Duma, or lower
house of Parliament, and the presidential elections will be held soon. "Is
it worth handing Russian politicians the Lithuanian card for manipulation?"
he asked rhetorically.
Prime Minister Gediminas Kirkilas was also sceptical about the Conservatives'
initiative. "Lithuania has addressed Russia with the compensation issue
more than once, but all these appeals have had no effect. If we forward new
demands, should we expect a reaction?" Kirkilas asked.
He doubtless had in mind that in June 2000, Parliament adopted a law obliging
the government to start negotiations with Russia on compensation for the 50-year
long Soviet occupation. The damage caused to Lithuania was estimated at $20
billion by a special government commission. Russia refused to acknowledge
Lithuania's demand for compensation. Indeed it is never likely to do so.
The Conservatives are playing politics, but this could lead to a serious
deterioration of relations or all that, as Kirkilas and Lopata clearly fear.
Lithuania predicts change in Belarus' economy, policies
The views of the Lithuanians on the energy dissension between Moscow and
Minsk are worth hearing. The outcome of the Russian-Belarussian talks on the
price for natural gas shipments will have a strong impact on Belarus' policies,
said Prime Minister Kirkilas.
"Belarus will inevitably start changing and its economy will have to get
adjusted to a new environment. Energy and economic challenges normally affect
politics, so change is imminent in Belarus in my opinion," Kirkilas said on
national radio on January 14th.
Belarus' economy up until now has relied on low prices for the energy provided
by Russia, Kirkilas said, adding that a nearly 100% rise in the price for gas
"may cause tensions in Russian-Belarussian relations to increase."
"It will be a serious challenge for the Belarussian economy," he said.
Vilnius was deeply relieved to learn that Russia and Belarus had signed a gas
deal, said Kirkilas.
Lithuanian president in Warsaw
The Lithuanians are looking westwards these days, now that they are inside
the EU and NATO.
President Valdas Adamkus met with his Polish opposite number Lech Kaczynski in
mid-January. The Lithuanian president came to Warsaw on a brief visit, which had
been re-scheduled. The two politicians tackled bilateral cooperation within the
EU as well as energy policy issues.
Still in December, the Lithuanian and Polish Prime Ministers, Gedyminas Kirkilas
and Jaroslaw Kaczynski respectively, had signed an agreement on bridging the two
countries power grids, strengthening the region's energy security system. The
total cost of the undertaking is to reach 290 million euros. It is expected the
project will receive EU financial assistance.
Aer Lingus announces new route to Vilnius
Aer Lingus has announced it would commence direct scheduled flights to Lithuania
for the first time with three flights a week from Dublin to Vilnius, with
service commencing in May 2007, New Europe reported.
Aer Lingus commercial director, Enda Corneille, said: "The introduction of
these new routes reaffirms Aer Lingus' commitment to providing direct, low fares
access for Irish customers to new destinations as well as providing real growth
opportunities in inbound tourism from emerging markets." Special
introductory one-way fares excluding taxes and charges from Dublin to Vilnius
would be 29 Euro, according to an Aer Lingus statement.
There was no indication how many customers would be served by the new link,
either from the Irish or Lithuanian side, or projections on how many might take
advantage of the low-cost flight. Low-cost airlines in the European Union have
been looking to expand markets to emerging countries.
Bulgaria agreement with Lithuania to avoid double taxation
According to a bilateral agreement ratified by the parliament, Bulgaria and
Lithuania will avoid double taxation, Sofia news agency reported.
Bulgaria's parliament passed at first and second reading the government's
proposal to ratify the bilateral tax treaty for avoiding double taxation and
preventing tax evasion signed between Bulgaria and Lithuania. The taxation
treaty was signed on May 9th 2006 in Vilnius. The government of Bulgaria now
deems it necessary for the economic cooperation to expand between the two
PKN Orlen gets status of exclusive supplier of MN
The heads of Poland's PKN Orlen and Lithuania's Mazeikiu Nafta (MN) on January
5th signed an agreement giving Orlen exclusive rights to supply MN with crude
oil. "Under the agreement signed for an unlimited time and effective as of
the date of signing crude oil will be delivered along the Druzhba pipeline and
through the marine terminal in Butinge," the MN press service said on
January 8th, Interfax News Agency reported.
The price of oil deliveries in the first five years is estimated at US$19
Following a trade deal in mid-December 2006 PKN Orlen owns over 84 per cent of
the Lithuanian oil company. At the end of July 2006 Russia suspended oil
deliveries to Lithuania along pipelines on account of a breakdown and the need
for repair. Hence Mazeikiu refinery has been operating at approximately half of
its capacity and using crude delivered by tankers to Butinge and pumped from
there along a pipeline.
Lietuvos Dujos net profit to remain unchanged in 2006
Lithuania's largest gas importer and transporter, Lietuvos Dujos, which is
controlled by Russia's Gazprom and Germany's E.ON Ruhrgas, expects to receive
about 50 million litas in net profit in 2006, or roughly the same amount it had
in 2005, Lietuvos Dujos director general, Viktoras Valentukevicius, said at a
press conference recently, New Europe reported.
Sales are expected to total 800 million litas in 2006 and one billion litas in
2007. Lietuvos Dujos had net profit of 39.2 million litas in January-September
2006, up 21.7 per cent year-on-year. E.ON Ruhrgas International owns a 38.9 per
cent stake in Lietuvos Dujos, Gazprom - 37.1 per cent, the Lithuanian government
- 17.7 per cent and minority shareholders - 6.3 per cent.
Poland to help build nuclear power plant in Lithuania
Poland will join an international project to build a nuclear power plant in
Lithuania. Agreement to build this facility, which will replace the ageing
Ignalina power plant in eastern Lithuania, will be signed this year - President
of the PSE Polish energy company, Jacek Socha, said in a radio interview
This is a signal to Russia and Europe, experts say. Representatives of the
electricity companies of Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Poland met in Warsaw to
discuss the project right at a time when Russia cut off the flow of oil to the
EU over a transit fee dispute with Belarus. Lithuanian radio journalist, Audrius
Braukyla, says the nuclear power plant project is a response to energy blackmail
'It's the beginning of a new era in the energy field in this part of the world.
It is not only about energy but it's also about policy, especially now that the
Polish oil company, Orlen, has bought Lithuania's biggest oil refinery,
Mazieikiu. Poland is now the biggest foreign investor in Lithuania. This is all
a good sign of cooperation towards acquiring independent energy sources.'
Tomasz Chmal, an analyst at the Warsaw-based Sobieski Institute think tank, says
the power plant project shows that the countries of this region are intent on
pursuing a new policy that would guarantee security to them.
'We have to distinguish between different issues - one is electricity in which
Poland is independent thanks to its coal resources. Cooperation in electric
energy is mainly for the benefit of Lithuania, helping it to diversify supplies.
But in the area of natural gas and oil. Poland is highly dependent on Russian
oil, which supplies over 95 per cent of its needs.'
And if only for this reason Poland will not become independent of Russian oil
and natural gas supplies in the foreseeable future. The recent cut of oil
supplies over a dispute with Belarus, and when Russia closed the tap on its gas
supplies through Ukraine to Europe, alarmed the European energy markets and made
them question the reliability of Russia as a supplier.
Ferran Tarradellas, a spokesman for the European Commission, said, 'The EC has
underlined that it is unacceptable that energy suppliers or transit countries do
not inform their counterparts of any decisions that may affect the supplies.'
Tomasz Chmal stresses the need for EU solidarity in the energy security field.
'I hope that Poland and the EU will find a common approach toward Russia. It is
crucial to find common ground for discussion and try to win individual
interests, with one country playing against the other. There is a huge need for
The nuclear power plant to be built in Lithuania, with the participation of
Poland, Latvia and Estonia, is expected to become operational by 2015. According
to recent surveys some 60 per cent of Poles are in favour of using nuclear
energy for peaceful purposes.