Week in Lithuania: 726 new cases of COVID-19, Foreign Minister rebukes EC President for Gorbachev praise – Baltic News Network

Last week, President Nausėda said he would prefer energy subsidies to 3% of the GDP defense budget, the Interior Ministry is drafting a bill to legalize pushbacks of irregular migrants at the border only in crisis situations.

Border guards turn back 99 irregular migrants

Lithuanian border guards turned back 99 migrants on Thursday (September 1st), attempting to enter the country illegally from Belarus, the National Border Guard Service (SBGS) announced on Friday (September 2). Lithuanian border guards have returned more than 13,600 people to Belarus since August 3, 2021, when they won the right to refuse entry to irregular migrants. Nearly 4,200 irregular migrants entered Lithuania illegally from Belarus last year.

Lithuania reports 726 new cases of COVID-19, two deaths

Lithuania recorded 726 new coronavirus infections and two deaths from COVID-19 on Thursday, September 1, according to official statistics for Friday, September 2. Of the new cases, 535 were primary, 181 were secondary and 10 were tertiary. The number of hospitalized patients now stands at 106, including eight cases in intensive care.

The 14-day primary infection rate fell slightly to 449.1 cases per 100,000 people, with a seven-day positive test rate of 43.9%. More than 1.2 million people in Lithuania have tested positive for COVID-19 at least once. So far, some 69.9% of the Lithuanian population has received at least one coronavirus vaccine.

Foreign Minister scolds EC President for Gorbachev praise

Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis said Thursday (September 1st) that “it would have been good” if European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen had taken the Baltics’ history into account when assessing of the role of the last Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.

The EC President was one of the first high-ranking politicians to express his condolences for Gorbachev’s death.

She hailed the former Soviet president as a “trusted and respected leader” who “paved the way for a free Europe”.

In Lithuania, however, Gorbachev will be remembered for suppressing independence seekers. Fourteen civilians were killed and hundreds more injured when Soviet troops stormed the TV tower and the building of the Radio and Television Committee in Vilnius in the early hours of January 13, 1991.

President Says Nord Pool’s Pricing Algorithms Need Changes

The problem of exorbitant electricity prices can only be truly solved by increased production, but there is also a need to change the pricing algorithms used by the Nord Pool electricity exchange, said Lithuanian President Gitanas Nausėda Thursday September 1st.

Under the current Nord Pool pricing algorithm, even lower price offers are rejected in some cases, with market participants claiming that such an algorithm paradox leads to a situation where a capacity of very expensive production able to offer very specific quantities of energy leads to records – high price of electricity on the stock exchange.

President prefers energy subsidies to 3% of GDP defense budget

President Gitanas Nausėda said on Wednesday August 31 that he would give preference to subsidizing electricity and natural gas prices over increasing the country’s defense spending to 3% of GDP in 2023 if there were not enough funds in next year’s budget for either.

Prime Minister Ingrida Šimonytė said subsidizing part of electricity and natural gas bills could cost the state between 500 million and 1 billion euros next year.

According to her, the government is currently preparing the state budget for next year and will present it to Nausėda and the parliamentary opposition once it is ready.

Earlier this year, the government allocated 570 million euros in budgetary funds to subsidize part of the electricity and natural gas bills of households and businesses in the second half of 2022. Of these funds, around 370 million euros were used to cover the debt of Ignitis, the public supplier, and approximately 200 million euros were allocated to natural gas and electricity suppliers.

GDP contracts by 0.5% in the second quarter compared to the first quarter

Lithuania’s real gross domestic product (GDP) contracted by 0.5% in the second quarter compared to the first quarter, to 16.1 billion euros at current prices, according to the second estimate of the statistics office of the country, Wednesday August 31. the country’s GDP grew by 2.6% from April to June. Flash estimates released in late July showed the country’s GDP rose 2.8% in the second quarter year-on-year, but fell 0.45% on a quarterly basis. The latest growth figures are based on calendar and seasonally adjusted data.

Minister says bill aims to legalize pushbacks of migrants only in crisis situations

Lithuania’s Interior Ministry is drafting a bill to legalize pushbacks of irregular migrants at the border only in crisis situations, Interior Minister Agnė Bilotaitė said on Tuesday (August 30th). The bill, which is almost ready, would only allow border guards to use the measure when the country is in an extreme situation, a state of emergency or martial law, according to the minister.

Currently, border guards are authorized to refuse entry to irregular migrants based on a decree signed by the minister in August 2021.

If the measure is authorized by law, the responsibility will lie with parliament as a whole, according to the minister.

Prime Minister Ingrida Šimonytė said on Monday August 29 that she would not rule out proposing legislative amendments that would allow Lithuania to apply the policy of pushing back migrants even in the absence of an extreme situation or a state of emergency. emergency.

Critics say these actions actually amount to evictions, a practice that violates international law.

Presidential adviser slams Belarusian officers for tampering with border fence

Kęstutis Budrys, the Lithuanian President’s senior adviser for national security affairs, slammed Monday, August 29, tampering with the border fence by Belarusian officers as provocations poised on a very dangerous edge.

Budrys pointed out that Lithuania was in a very dangerous area due to circumstances such as Belarusian officers were sent to another country to tamper with physical assets and protective facilities.

Lithuania completed construction of the physical barrier – a fence and barbed wire – along its border with Belarus late last week. Even though migrant flows decreased at the beginning of this year, the number of irregular migrants trying to cross into Lithuania has increased again recently.

Lithuania names its most influential public figures

Lithuanian experts named journalist and TV host Edmundas Jakilaitis, political scientist Linas Kojala and historian Alfredas Bumblauskas as the country’s most influential public figures, according to a survey published by online news site Delfi.lt on Monday August 29. The trio are then followed in the annual ranking by humanitarian activist Jonas Ohman and Catholic priest Ričardas Doveika.

The so-called elite survey was carried out for Delfi by Reitingai magazine, which interviewed 925 politicians, businessmen, civil servants, journalists, public figures and other personalities between May 17 and June 23.