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Lithuanian report Lithuanian report
by Euro Reporter
2012-11-30 11:52:55
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Lithuanian lawmaker dies in radio studio

A senior Lithuanian lawmaker died Monday in a radio studio just a minute before he was due to go on air for a talk show, the programme's editor said. Julius Veselka, 69, died after collapsing in the studio ahead of the noon-time broadcast on the private station Ziniu Radijas. "Everything was fine, he did not complain about his health, but when he went up to the studio, about a minute before broadcast he felt bad and collapsed in the chair," editor Skirmantas Malinauskas told journalists. "An ambulance was called immediately and came pretty fast. There were attempts to save his life but the medics could do nothing," he added.

After reporting what had happened, the station replaced its broadcasts with music for several hours. Emergency services declined to comment on the cause of death. Veselka had been a member of Lithuania's parliament for 16 of the past 20 years, and was economy minister from 1992 to 1994. A by-election will be held within six months in the seat that Veselka had retained in last month's parliamentary polls. His death cuts to 85 the number of seats controlled in Lithuania's 141-member parliament by the incoming government led by the centre-left Social Democrats, who ousted a centre-right coalition last month.

Veselka was a member of the right-wing populist Order and Justice party, who have signed a governing deal with the Social Democrats, the left-wing populist Labour party and an ethnic-Polish movement. Veselka had been expected to chair the parliamentary economy committee, a high-profile post as Lithuania recovers from a deep slump amid an austerity drive. "Veselka was able to speak simply and clearly to people about complicated economic matters," Lithuania's President Dalia Grybauskaite said in a statement after news broke of his death.


Elections in Lithuania: Hand of Moscow?

Autumn of 2012 is eventful. Apart from parliamentary race in Ukraine, there have been presidential elections in US, parliamentary elections in Georgia and Lithuania. There are grounds to believe that in last two cases Moscow had a finger in the pie, meaning pro-Russian forces ready to lobby Moscow interests have come to power. Thus, in Lithuania an opposition coalition have won parliamentary elections. According to the results, the Social Democrats won 38 seats, the Homeland Union-Lithuanian Christian Democrats won 33 seats, the Labor Party won 29 seats. Experts remind that Social Democrats and Labor Party are closely connected with interests of Russia, especially the Labor Party, which is related to Gazprom. Though Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite officially doubted the results, in the end she agreed to nominate the center-left opposition leader Algirdas Butkevicius as prime minister.

According to analysts, the results of Lithuanian elections remind the Kremlin's project on imposing political influence "in one particular country". Thus, director of the Center for civil society problems study Vitaly Kulik notes that previous government was carrying out policy aimed at strengthening of country's independence, including energy independence from the Kremlin. 'The previous Cabinet launched construction of an LNG terminal in Klaipeda port, initiated a lawsuit against Gazprom, accusing it of abuse of power regarding gas price policy. Vilnius appeared to be a consistent opponent to the new expansion policy being carried out by Russia for the last years," the specialist said.  He also noted that observing such policy Moscow leaders conceived a plan to re-conquer Lithuania, meaning to bring it back under the economic and political wing of Russia. And it may have a chance, as the crisis in Europe continues and the Lithuanian people, as any other people, accuses its government of failure to overcome this crisis. Following the subject of the "hand of Moscow", political expert Evhen Leshan points out that most probably all anti-Kremlin initiatives will be suspended, like it has already been done with the construction of a new nuclear power plant. "It's not difficult to draw an analogy with Ukrainian reality and to forecast what could have happened if our "opposition", which has close ties with north neighbors, had come to power. We would have no longer had plans on construction of an LNG terminal, on extraction of our own shell gas or on import of western gas," the political scientist assumes. 

The Social Democrats’ natural ally in government would be the Labour Party. But what is interesting, in 2006 its controversial Russian-born leader Victor Uspaskich was accused of tax evasion and  the party itself, three of its top members and its former accountant were accused of bribing and false documentation. During an investigation into his party’s book-keeping he fled to Moscow. In September 2008 he was detained in Moscow but released the same day on bail. It is also interesting to know that the Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania, which won eight seats in the parliament, has announced alliance with pro-Russian forces as well. According to Kulik, it proves that there are not so many "invariably anti-Russian forces" and that the political positions of parties and governments can change in pursuance of current situation. Moreover, European states apply the same attitude towards the official Kyiv. Economists assume that Lithuania is the first step in the large-scale plan of Russia on restoration of political and economic influence over post-Soviet republics in Eastern Europe. Thus, enthronement of pro-Kremlin Cabinet in Vilnius breaks the longstanding Baltic "anti-Russian" belt, formed after USSR collapse. Moreover, all three Baltic countries are EU members, and even one country is sufficient for Kremlin to promote its interests in Brussels.

Having re-conquered Lithuania, Russia may proceed with Latvia, where the economic situation is more complicated and discontent of Russian speaking population with national policy of the government is stronger. However, with true figures of small but steady economic growth in both Lithuania and Latvia, Russian attempts to take advantage of the crisis are artificial and manipulative.  Therefore, in case of success Russian may get access to big cargo ports and metallurgic and construction plants of Latvia, including RVR and Liepajas metalurgs. In September of 2011 the pro-Russian center-left union "Harmony Center" already won early parliamentary elections in Latvia, though failed to pass its candidate for the presidential post. The next parliamentary elections are scheduled for 2015, and pro-Moscow forces will have more chances to win them. Leshan also adds that Belarus nay appear under Russian wing even earlier than Latvia. It's a known fact that Moscow is no longer satisfied with Lukashenko because of his independent policy. Even Russian mass media have been criticizing Lukashenko ruling for the last couple of years. Belarus has way more "juicy" objects than Latvia, including famous automobile plants. Next presidential elections in Belarus will take place in 2015 and certain top pro-Russian candidate will be able to give Lukashenko a good run for his money, Kulik says. A number of specialists believe that Russia points at Yaroslav Romanchuk, 46, deputy head of the opposition "United civil party", who mustered 2% of votes, which is not bad for "almost unanimous" country.

As a result of similar trends, post-Soviet Eastern Europe may find itself inside a certain pro-Russian belt, which will weaken Ukraine's position in the region, as Kyiv is still not interested in strengthening of dependence on Russia and distancing from Brussels. Thus, Lithuania would no longer lobby Ukraine's integration into Europe, as it used to do despite complicated political environment and Minks would no longer be an alternative foreign partner, through which Ukraine could influence Customs Union decisions.  However, even if this unfavorable development of events takes place, Kyiv should not surrender to the White-stone. On the contrary, our government should move heaven and earth to speed up the integration with Europe and ratify the Association agreement. The position of Ukraine's authorities on this issue has been stable so far: our country is an integral part of European civilization, which means there are all conditions not to fall under influence of Russia again and to fight for stability and development of national economy, despite negative effects of foreign policy expansion carried out by Moscow. 


Lithuania to change road rules of favour of electric cars in 2013

From 2013 electric cars and cars with 4 or more passengers will be allowed to use the public transport lane on Lithuanian roads. These and other changes to road rules of Lithuania were approved Wednesday by the Government. The changes aim at encouraging people to cooperate during the rush hours and share cars.

The new road rules next year will be updated with three road signs for electric cars. They will sign electric car charging sites, cases when road signs do not apply to electric cars and a parking space for electric cars and other electric vehicles. Acting Minister of Transport and Communications Eligijus Masiulis says that updating will not cost more than paint to make new road sings on lanes.
"That much as one would pay for paint – LTL 50, 100, maybe 200," he said Wednesday after the Government's meeting. The minister also noted that the initiative to update road rules was proposed by Vilnius city municipality.

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