Books on Lithuania
Update No: 316 - (26/04/07)
Lithuania is in a crisis. But there is a possibility its
president at least is a still point in a turning world.
Lithuania's PM doesn't rule out resignation
Following days of dramatic moves by Lithuania's lawmakers during which the
ruling Social Democrat Party started talks about disbanding Parliament, Prime
Minister Gediminas Kirkilas has said he does not rule out the possibility of his
own resignation. "If there will be need, we will do it," Kirkilas told
Ziniu Radijas news radio on April 5. He said he is not fastened to the post, and
if the political situation demands it, he can withdraw.
In the prime minister's words, the initiative of the Social Democrats to dismiss
Parliament forced every party to evaluate its activities.
"Politicians act very irresponsibly in Parliament. This is why trust in the
Parliament is that low. Who can trust a parliament that cannot pass the agenda
for half of a working day, which spends more than half of its time not for
deliberation of projects but for formation of different commissions, endless
disputes," Kirkilas said.
The prime minister was referring to the March 29th meeting of Parliament, during
which lawmakers spent half the day in deadlock over the meeting's agenda, which
threatened to delay a scheduled speech by European Commission President Jose
The minority government headed by Kirkilas has so far only been able to function
because of its support by oppositional Conservatives.
But on April 16th the presidium of the ruling Social Democratic Party decided to
turn down the opposition Conservatives' support and called for early elections.
Parliament voted down the call in April.
The elder statesman
President Adamkus is the elder statesman of Lithuania, a very respected figure
in a country where politicians are not highly esteemed, indeed are often
suspected of being corrupt.
Adamkus is serving his second five-year term as leader of the largest of the
three Baltic states. First elected in 1998, he served until 2003, then lost a
re-election bid to Rolandas Paksas, a dubious figure, who seemed to be in the
pocket of the Russians. After Paksas was impeached, Adamkus ran again and was
re-elected in 2004. He is a staunch advocate for democratic government, the
environment and human rights.
Born in Kaunas, Lithuania, he left the country with his parents during World War
II and eventually settled in Chicago. He earned an engineering degree from the
Illinois Institute of Technology and served as an administrator in the US
Environmental Protection Agency from its inception in 1970 until 1997.
Throughout his years in the United States, he was active in the Lithuanian
ND announces this year's honorary degree recipients
He is also highly regarded abroad, both in the US and Europe.The president of
Lithuania, the president of the University of Michigan and a Chicago-based
international sculptor are among those who will receive honorary degrees May 20
at the University of Notre Dame's 162nd commencement ceremony.
They will join principal speaker Jeffrey Immelt, chief executive officer of
General Electric Co., who will receive an honorary doctor of engineering degree.
Lithuania ready to mediate in Ukraine political crisis
Adamkus is willing to mediate in Ukraine's political crisis if Kiev so
requested, the Lithuanian presidential spokeswoman said on April 18th. But until
now, Lithuania has not received such an invitation. The current political
turmoil in Ukraine erupted in March when 11 lawmakers from pro-presidential
factions defected to Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich's ruling coalition.
Polish President Lech Kaczynski paid a brief visit to Lithuania in mid-April and
met with his Lithuanian counterpart Adamkus, with whom he discussed the
Ukrainian situation. Kaczynski told a news conference that Poland did not want
to interfere in Ukraine's internal affairs, but was ready to help out if Ukraine
turned to his country for such assistance.
During the "Orange Revolution" in Ukraine at the end of 2004, Adamkus
and then Polish president Aleksander Kwasniewski participated in mediation
together on the political crisis. Ukrainian President Victor Yushchenko issued
an order in early April to dissolve parliament and hold early elections on May
27. Yanukovych and his ruling coalition in parliament have refused to accept the
order. Thereupon Yanukovych called for international mediation to resolve the
Adamkus spoke against the international isolation of Belarus.
Speaking of another, even more troubled, country: "For us, it is important
that Belarus is not separated from Europe because of its government's
actions," he said in his annual address to the Lithuanian legislature.
The transcript of the speech was posted on the Lithuanian president's website.
"We must spare no economic or institutional effort to help establish
security and stability in Eastern neighbouring regions. It will notably reduce
potential threats to the people of Lithuania, its statehood and economy,"
he went on to say.
Mr. Adamkus stressed that Lithuania continued "to pursue the historic
mission of a country connecting rich and similar cultures of Eastern and Western
civilizations - their unity and diversity respected as a great asset."
Belarus Plans Import of Oil via Lithuania
The two countries are coming closer together in practical ways. From 2008
Belarus plans to import crude oil via Lithuanian terminals. "We are
discussing possibilities of crude oil import from Venezuela and Iran, it means
that we study a possibility to use the oil terminals of Butinge and Klaipedos,"
Uladzimir Drazhyn, Belarussian ambassador to Lithuania, said on April 19th. He
said that import of crude oil via Lithuania could make up to 7 million tons a
year, it means one third of Belarus' wants. First deliveries could start in
2008, though the final solution hasn't been reached.
Adamkus asked Minsk to consider a variant of crude oil import via a terminal in
Klaipeda after Russia suspended oil deliveries to Belarus for several days
because of clash of interests concerning imposing new export duties. As a
result, with relations with Moscow in the doghouse, Belarus is anxious to find
and has actively been seeking, new sources of supply.
This year Russia has imposed export duties on oil for refineries in Belarus,
decreasing their profitability and causing concerns of the market over decrease
of high quality raw products export to Western Europe and the US. "We
should look for alternative ways of crude oil import, as existing reserves do
not meet the growing demand," the Ambassador said.
Oil refineries in Belarus need up to 21.5 million tons of fuel a year, he added.
Products of these refineries are usually delivered to European markets via
Baltic ports, including Klaipeda.
Govt mulls buying electricity from Ukraine
Lithuanian Prime Minister, Gediminas Kirkilas, was cited as saying on April 12th
that the country may import electricity from Ukraine if the Baltic country finds
this more economical than expanding its own generating capacity and hence
increasing its consumption of natural gas, Interfax News Agency reported.
Lithuania is considering building new generating facilities as a way to plug an
electricity shortfall that will be caused by the planned closure of its nuclear
power plant in Ignalina in 2009, Kirkilas told a joint news conference in Kiev
with Ukrainian Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich after the two premiers held
talks earlier on April 12th. This means the country will have to increase its
gas consumption by 1.5 million cubic metres a year, an amount that is equivalent
to between 30-40 percent of the nation's current gas consumption, Kirkilas was
cited by Interfax as saying.
He also said Lithuania was looking at Belarus and Poland as potential
alternative transit stages in importing electricity from Ukraine. Yanukovich
said it would be "a technical issue" whether Ukrainian electricity
would come to Lithuania through Belarus or through Poland. "Everything
would depend on what volumes are declared and on whether we would agree the
price," he said.
Lithuania to regulate gas prices despite Gazprom deal
The Lithuanian parliament on March 20th embossed the long-debated amendments to
a gas law aimed at empowering the government to regulate gas prices, New Europe
However, some legislators of the new European Union member opposed the motion,
saying it went against a 2003 agreement with Russia's Gazprom providing for gas
price liberalisation. "On the one hand, we want to restrict the profit of
one single gas company. On the other, we have a long-term deal with Gazprom,"
Prime Minister Gediminas Kirkilas said after the bill was passed by a majority
of 71 attending lawmakers out of the 141-seat legislature. Lithuania presently
consumes 3 billion cubic meters of gas a year at a price of US$202 per 1,000 cu
m, which is 25-30 per cent less than the price for western Europe.
"We pay lower prices than Europe on average, and this is only thanks to the
deal with Gazprom," Kirkilas said. Kirkilas and former President Algirdas
Brazauskas had strongly opposed the amendments for fear they could lead to
serious price hikes. The bill was debated for two years. Under the 2003 deal
with the Lithuanian government, Gazprom bought 34 per cent in Lithuania's gas
pipeline grid company Lietuvos dujos.
Ignalina nuclear facility may be key to energy security
Poland and Estonia agree the construction of a new nuclear power reactor at
Lithuania's existing Ignalina plant will boost their energy security, Speaker of
Poland's Parliament Marek Jurek said after talks with Estonian President Toomas
Hendrik Ilves on April 4th, Deutsche Presse-Agentur (dpa) reported.
"This has great meaning for the energy security of both states and is a
chance for all of our states to create an enterprise which can have great
economic significance," Jurek was quoted as saying, referring to Estonia,
Latvia, Lithuania, Poland.
Plans call for the project to be completed by 2015 at a cost of five to US$ six
billion. Poland and Lithuania have also forged plans to hook up their electrical
power grids in order to plug all three Baltic European Union states into the
EU's larger electrical power network. A Soviet-era reactor at the Ignalina
facility is being phased out as part of Lithuania's EU accession agreement.
Ilves, who began a two-day visit to Poland on April 3, also discussed
cooperation between the Baltic three states and Poland on the new Ignalina
reactor with Polish President Kaczynski.
Speaking at a public lecture, Ilves also insisted the lack of a joint energy
policy posed the greatest threat to the security of the 27-member European