Lithuania. According to Countryaah.com, Lithuania Independence Day is February 16. The January presidential election saw a surprising result. The challenger, former Prime Minister Rolandas Paksas, defeated popular sitting president Valdas Adamkus, who had generally been tipped to be a superior winner. Paksas received 55% of the vote against 45% for Adamkus, who had won the first round of elections at the end of 2002. The 46-year-old Paksas won after running an intense and populist election campaign in the countryside.
The L government played an important role when ten Eastern European countries in February jointly voiced their support for US policy against Iraq. The ten countries then came to be referred to as the Vilnius Group.
Despite widespread EU skepticism in rural L, over 91% of voters said yes to Lithuanian EU membership in the referendum in May. Almost all leading politicians, as well as the influential Catholic Church, had urged the Lithuanians to vote yes. Lithuania joined the EU in May 2004.
On July 1, visas were imposed on residents of the Russian enclave Kaliningrad, who want to travel through the future EU country Lithuania to the real Russia. Moscow had demanded freedom of visa.
Lithuania was recognized during the year for having Europe’s fastest growing economy. In the first quarter, the growth rate was 9.4% and full-year growth was expected to be 6.8%, while poverty and unemployment were high in their parts of the country.
Lithuania came in second place when the EU Commission in November rated the EU alignment with the ten new EU countries.
At the end of the year, the security service revealed sensational information that President Paksa’s advisers had contacts in the Russian-Lithuanian mafia. After a parliamentary review committee declared that the president posed a threat to state security, Parliament began a judicial process against Paksas shortly before New Year. The Prime Minister and the President appealed to Paksas to resign voluntarily, but he claimed that the charges against him were false and that he was subject to a conspiracy.
Equal government in place
The new center-right government between the Fosterlandsförbundet, the Liberal Party and the Freedom Party is sworn in. Seven of the fifteen ministers are women; in the outgoing government under Saulius Skvernelis there was only one female minister. Gintare Skaiste becomes Minister of Finance but the post of Foreign Minister goes to one man – Gabrielius Landsbergis. The governing parties have more than half of the seats in parliament and can thus enforce laws themselves. The number of seats is also enough to dismiss any vetoes on the part of the president.
Investigation into MRI crime in Belarus initiated
Lithuania’s public prosecutor is launching an investigation into whether Belarusian police have committed human rights abuses. The investigation is being launched after a Belarusian citizen who fled to Lithuania turned to the Lithuanian prosecutor’s office with a report that he had been tortured while in custody in Belarus.
Sanctions are imposed on more people in Belarus
20th of November
Lithuania and the other Baltic countries impose a travel ban on two Belarusian ministers and 26 others. They thus end up on the Baltic countries’ sanctions list, which now includes over 150 people in addition to President Lukashenko. Sports Minister Sergei Kravchuk ends up on the list when he is accused of putting pressure on athletes who spoke out against Lukashenko. Information Minister Igor Lutsky is also blacklisted as being held responsible for shutting down the internet in order to stop protests. The Baltic countries are moving harder towards Belarus than the EU as a whole. The EU has so far imposed sanctions on 59 Belarusians.
Ingrida Šimonytė becomes Prime Minister
Parliament approves Ingrida Šimonytė as the new Prime Minister. She will lead a coalition between the right-wing party Fosterlandsförbundet, which won the election in October, and two center-left parties – the Liberal Movement and the Freedom Party. The parties in the coalition say they want to cut bureaucracy, modernize the economy and introduce same-sex marriage. At the same time, Šimonytė makes it clear that the main task of the new government will be to halt the spread of covid-19. Lithuania is now experiencing a second wave of infection. However, the pandemic has not had as devastating an effect on the country’s economy as elsewhere. The economy is expected to shrink by just over 2 percent in 2020, which is a low figure in the EU.