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LITHUANIA


 

 

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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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 Manuel Barroso.

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 expatriate community.

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 crisis. 

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.

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ENERGY

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 reported.
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 Union. 

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