Week in Lithuania. Government set to raise teachers’ pay only in 2020

Lithuania’s government on Thursday, November 29, proposed to trade unions that an agreement of political parties on raising teachers’ pay should be signed. But due to failure to make any decision on teachers’ salaries, the negotiations at the Ministry of Education and Science were postponed.

Members of the Lithuanian Education Employees Trade Union, led by Andrius Navickas, say such proposals are unacceptable and demand that pay coefficients be raised by a fifth from January 1, 2019. Lithuania’s government says it can commit on raising teachers’ pay only in 2020.

The government says that would need 130 million euros in additional funding and it’s impossible to amend the next year’s state budget that much. Around 100 schoolchildren gathered outside the parliament building in Vilnius on Thursday, November 29, to show solidarity with teachers who have been on strike for two and a half weeks now.

Power prices for households to go up 15 per cent

Lithuania’s National Commission for Energy Control and Prices has on Friday approved new around 15 per cent higher power prices for households for 2019. Under the most popular “standard” plan, the single time interval tariff will rise 15 per cent, or 1.7 cents, to 13 cents per kWh. In the case of the dual time interval, the day tariff will go up 14.7 per cent, or 2.1 cents, to 14.3 cents, and the night tariff will increase 9 per cent, or 0.9 cents, to 10 cents. Energy Minister Žygimantas Vaičiūnas said on Wednesday the price rise was determined by the prices of raw materials on the market, but the government was able to cut the increase by around a third.

Small Planet Airlines doesn’t rule out bankruptcy

Lithuania’s charter airline Small Planet Airlines does not rule out turning to court and launching bankruptcy proceedings after the country’s Civil Aviation Administration suspended its license earlier this week and a Vilnius court rejected its request for launching a restructuring case, the airline’s commercial director Simonas Bartkus said.The group’s subsidiaries in Poland and Germany are undergoing restructuring but have not lost their flight licenses.

Listed without consent

Part of members of the Russian Union in Lithuania, led by MP Irina Rozova, are unaware of their membership, a probe by Lithuania’s public broadcaster LRT has revealed. The people officially joined the party three years ago when the Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania – Christian Families Alliance, led by Valdemar Tomaševski, helped the Russian Union to find new members. The LRT investigation shows that at least 200 people from eastern Lithuania, where the EAPL-CFA is the most popular party, joined the Russian Union which is mostly active in the western city of Klaipeda.

Central banker warns about rise in interest rates

The Lithuanian real estate market shows no signs of overheating, but it will soon face challenges due to rising interest rates, the central bank governor said on Thursday, November 29. Vitas Vasiliauskas said that the era of low interest rates is coming to an end, adding that property buyers and developers, and banks should be weighing in the risks. He reiterated his position that it is time to introduce a real estate tax. Vasiliauskas noted that the housing market will also be affected by the deteriorating demographic trends, with the number of young people in Lithuania forecast to halve in 15 years’ time.

Lithuania earmarks funds pay lawyers in big disputes

Lithuanian government has approved another 3.2 million euros to pay lawyers representing the country in its arbitration disputes against France’s Veolia and Russia’s Gazprom. The Cabinet decided on Wednesday, November 28, to allocate 3.2 million euros in funds borrowed on behalf of the state to the Energy Ministry, which says it may need a total of around 7.5 million euros to pay the lawyers in 2018 through 2020.The ministry was allocated 2.3 million euros for this purpose a year ago. Shearman & Sterling, one of the world’s largest law firms, represents Lithuania in its dispute against Gazprom at the Stockholm arbitration court.

PM: Lithuanian banking market needs new players

Concentration in Lithuania’s banking market, just like in the retail market, is too high and new players need to be attracted, Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis said on Wednesday, November 28. Skvernelis was asked to comment on a statement by Stasys Jakeliūnas, chairman of the parliament’s Committee on Budget and Finance, that one of the two Swedish banks operating in Lithuania, either SEB or Swedbank, should be sold. Jakeliūnas said earlier in the day that the level of concentration of Swedish-owned banks in Lithuania and the other two Baltic states is too high, and either SEB or Swedbank should be sold. Mantas Zalatorius, president of the Association of Lithuanian Banks, said he was surprised to see a politician making such proposals, and conservative MP Mykolas Majauskas described Jakeliūnas’ statement as «ravings».

Lithuania decides to open embassy in UAE

Lithuania’s government on Wednesday, November 28, decided to open its embassy in the United Arab Emirates. The idea to open an embassy in one of the Gulf countries was first brought up last year. The oil-rich United Arab Emirates is the second-largest economy in the Gulf after Saudi Arabia and is one of the richest countries in terms of GDP per capita.

PM asks Polish minister’s support

Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis has met this week with Poland’s First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Culture and National Heritage Piotr Glinski and once again asked for the Polish government to create conditions for the rebroadcasting of the Lithuanian public broadcaster LRT in Poland’s territories where people of Lithuanian origin live. The Lithuanian prime minister also asked for Poland’s support for a Lithuanian education and cultural centre being established in Suwalki. The need for such a centre and a kindergarten was earlier expressed by the local Lithuanians, and the issue was discussed during the prime minister’s recent meeting with his Polish counterpart Mateusz Morawiecki. Skvernelis said then he was promised that the issue would be resolved.

Lithuanian farmers to stage new protests in Brussels

Lithuanian farmers plan new protests in Brussels to demand higher direct payments from, the European Union. Farmers from Lithuania and another five EU member states plan to stage a protest in Brussels in December. Arūnas Svitojus, chairman of the Lithuanian Chamber of Agriculture, says Lithuanian farmers want payments to match the EU average. Lithuanians get under 70 percent of the EU average, according to Svitojus. In his words, farmers plan a new protest on December 13 when the EU’s budget for 2021-2027 and other agricultural issues will be discussed in Brussels.

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