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LITHUANIAN HIGHLIGHTS 5704

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Deputy Speaker of the Seimas, Chairman of the European Affairs Committee Gediminas Kirkilas says that Lithuania is very well aware of Turkey's desire to be a part of Europe. Situations of the both countries are not the same but when Lithuania restored the independence one of its main goals were to "return to Europe".

This motivation reflected Lithuania's desire to be and feel as a part of Europe politically and economically, as well as in cultural sense and from point of view of values.

Therefore, Lithuania is supporting Turkey's negotiations on the membership of the European Union (EU) and its internal reforms, especially constitutional, and its efforts in the field of human rights.

"I agree with President of Lithuania Dalia Grybauskaite who said that Europe needs Turkey and Turkey still needs Europe, "says Kirkilas and adds that "Turkey is beneficial to Europe and Europe is beneficial for Turkey," says Kirkilas.

TURKEY WELCOME TO JOIN VIKING TRAIN ROUTE - LITHUANIA'S AMBASSADOR FOR ENERGY, TRANSPORT

Vilnius: Lithuanian Ambassador for Energy and Transport Policy Vytautas Nauduzas says that Turkey should complement the success story of Viking train.

"Transport system is changing constantly and dramatically. We already have experience of how to connect the Baltic and Black Sea regions from Scandinavia to Odessa. Viking is a success story of developing a common system between Lithuania, Belarus and Ukraine. Georgia and Moldova have also joined the project. Azerbaijan and Romania are doing their best to join our team. Now we are waiting for Turkey,"said Nauduzas in Lithuanian and Turkish business forum, Thursday.

Minister of Transport and Communications Rimantas Sinkevicius says that it is very important step in negotiations with Turkey defining Lithuania's and Turkey's cooperation perspectives in development of Viking train project.

"Turkey's accession to the project will open up new business opportunities and bring tangible economic benefits to Lithuania," says Sinkevicius.

LITHUANIA'S SNORO LIZINGAS WILL BE SOLD SEPARATELY

Vilnius: Creditors committee of the bankrupt company bank Snoras approved of new sales method of company Snoro Lizingas (Snoras Leasing) shares. The objet will be sold separately from the other assets of the Bank.

This altered method of sales changed the method approved on August of 2012 according to which Snoro Lizingas and Bank Finasta were to be sold together for the investor that would submit the most financially beneficial bid.

"This suggestion satisfies interests of all creditors, thus they approved of it unanimously. Currently, the bankruptcy administrator is working on sales details which we can only disclose after the purchase contract is signed, "says Head of Creditors Committee of Bank Snoras Aurelija Mazintiene.

HOUSEHOLDS' LOANS DECREASE IN FEB IN LITHUANIA

Vilnius: In Lithuania, in February, loans to households decreased by LTL 47.2 million (EUR 13.6 million), and they contracted because of a decline in consumer loans, loans for house purchase and other loans (LTL 9.3 million (EUR 2.6 million), LTL 14.6 million (EUR 4.2 million) and LTL 23.4 million (EUR 6.7 million), respectively), the Statistics Department of the Bank of Lithuania informed.

Other monetary financial institutions (MFIs') loans to residents denominated in euro dominated the credit composition by currency: at the end of February they amounted to 67.2 percent, while litas loans amounted to 30.3 percent.

Such differences in loans by currency resulted from the composition of other MFIs' loans to non-financial corporations and households.

At the end of February, other MFIs' euro lending to non-financial corporations amounted to 68 percent, while litas lending - 27.9 percent. Other MFIs' loans to households in euro amounted to 71 percent, while loans in litas were 28 percent.

PUBLIC TRANSPORT REFORM WILL INCREASE SPEED, NUMBER OF PASSENGERS - VILNIUS MAYOR

Vilnius: Vilnius City Mayor Arturas Zuokas says that only 40 percent of passengers are currently using services of Vilnius public transport, whereas the planned public transport reform is about to increase this number.

Zuokas says that after the reform new six high-speed bus routes will be introduced and additional lay-by for public transport will be set up. This, according to the mayor, will help to increase the speed of public transport.

Vilnius City Mayor says that they do not plan to destroy opportunities of private transfer business, the goal is to integrate them into a single Vilnius transport system where different modes of transport should complement each other, regardless of the form of ownership.

LITHUANIA'S, TURKEY'S NATIONAL BROADCASTERS WILL INCREASE CULTURAL EXCHANGE

Vilnius: In the ongoing Lithuania's and Turkey's business forum, national broadcasters signed an agreement which will provide opportunities to expand cultural exchanges and to share information. The countries intend to exchange personnel and technical facilities during various training programmes.

President Dalia Grybauskaite wished that the agreement between the national broadcasters would encourage more active relations.

In order to strengthen cooperation between the countries, two other agreements were signed: memorandum on train Viking project and business association agreements.

LITHUANIAN NEWSPAPERS on Friday, April 5

POLITICS

"I would like to share with you something that media does not know or keeps it down. Before the resignation of the previous pope, around 80 bishops left their posts too. Pope does not dismiss anyone, but everything was made in the way that they leave on their own. It was a major clean-up," said signatory of the Independence Restoration Act, MP Algirdas Patackas. Southern Europe lately has been in the spotlight. Pope Benedict XVI resigned, Pope Francis was elected. A hint by the new head of the Roman Catholics who tries to show off his ascetic life style was not left unheard: he would like to close the Vatican bank. At the same, the Cypriot banking system was paralysed.

Are all these events in these states a coincidence or a trend? And what are, in any case, the consequences of them to Lithuania? This was a topic for a round table discussion of the Zalgiris national resistance movement with Patackas, signatory of the Independence Restoration Act Rolandas Paulauskas, MP, former minister of foreign affairs, economist Povilas Gylys, MP, political scientists Egidijus Vareikis and Zalgiris movement member Gediminas Jakavonis. RESPUBLIKA

Proposal by Minister of Justice Juozas Bernatonis to consider a possible parliamentary election reform received varied opinions. Some MPs from the ruling coalition think that the time has come for such a reform, while opposition sees a wish to bring in some turmoil. Minister of Justice Bernatonis thinks that Lithuania's parliament should be elected according to the Estonian model. He has already informed Seimas' political groups about the guidelines of the possible reform. Politicians have different opinions about them. The guidelines say that the main aim of them is to establish a system which allows a citizen who votes in parliamentary election vote for an individual person rather than a political party's list. They also suggest giving up grouping candidate MPs into multi-member and single-member constituencies. The minister's proposal envisages electing new MPs only in multi-member constituencies and dividing Lithuania into 10 of them, accordingly to the country's countie

s. According to Bernatonis, the new election system would resemble the one in force during the interwar period, now successfully applied in Estonia and Finland.

Jurgis Razma, first deputy chairman of the Homeland Union-Lithuanian Christian Democrats (TS-LKD), the biggest oppositional parliamentary group, says that this new election system would not give anything but some confusion. Meanwhile, First Deputy Seimas Speaker, member of the Labour Party Vytautas Gapsys thinks that the proposals must be discussed. Political scientist Algis Krupavicius admits that the current parliamentary election system is not without flaws, however, if there is a decision to reform it, there should be several alternatives available, not just one. LIETUVOS ZINIOS

The party has only one leader and everybody dances to his tune, which is not efficient. Next to all this comes arrogance, formal, bureaucratic communication, lack of ideas and imitation of democracy. Such are the high notes in the programmes of Andrius Kubilius' rivals. Only three weeks are left before the election of a new chairperson of the party, but the programmes of four rivals were announced only on Wednesday, in the semi-official publication of the Homeland Union-Lithuanian Christian Democrats (TS-LKD) entitled News of the Homeland Union. How should the party change, what is bad now and what should be done next? Candidates to the TS-LKD chairperson's post tried to answer these questions in their election programmes. For example, MEP Laima Andrikiene, who wants to replace Kubilius, says that "a political party that can count thousands of members has to admit that it does not have any worthy candidate to be proposed to the president's post". KAUNO DIENA

EVENTS IN LITHUANIA

to take place on Friday, April 5

-- President Dalia Grybauskaite:

-- -- to visit International Agricultural Exhibition As You Sow ... 2013 at Aleksandras Stulginskis University (Kaunas District; 12:00).

-- Seimas Speaker Vydas Gedvilas:

-- -- to receive members of Canada-Baltic Parliamentary Friendship Group (9:00).

-- Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevicius:

-- -- to meet with Finnish Prime Minister Jyrki Katainen (St. Petersburg; 9:30);

-- -- to participate in the plenary session of the Baltic Sea States Summit for ecological problems of the Baltic Sea (12:00);

-- -- to meet with Peter Altmaier, German Federal Minister for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (16:15);

-- -- to meet with Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev (17:30).

PRESS CONFERENCE

-- Press conference Lithuania's Anatomy: What Has Changed After The Crisis? will be held in United agencies idea house (Gostauto str. 40, Vilnius). The conference will be attended by Sociologist, SIC Research Strategy Manager Ruta Gaudiesiene, Communications Consultant, Chairman of Hill + Knowlton SSI Strategies Mykolas Katkus (11:00).

-- END.

EUROSTAT HEAD CONSIDERS LATVIA'S STATISTICAL DATA HIGHLY RELIABLE

Riga: Visiting European Union statistical office Eurostat Director General Walter Radermacher considers Latvia's official statistical data highly reliable, as Radermacher told reporters after a meeting with Finance Minister Andris Vilks (Unity) on Thursday.

Latvia's statistics fully reflect the situation and are of very high quality, confirmed Radermacher, adding that he is in Latvia on a routine visit and that such visits were paid to all countries planning to join the eurozone.

The key economic indexes of countries applying for eurozone membership are double-checked, said Radermacher. "However, there is no reason to worry, this is the usual procedure," he explained.

Vilks told reporters that he and Radermacher had discussed current cooperation between Eurostat and the Central Statistical Bureau, concluding that it was very successful. Latvia's preparedness to join the euro area and Eurostat future plans regarding several programs to offer more extensive information on the EU member states was also discussed at the meeting.

"There is no question about the reliability of Latvia's data, because we have been part of the international loan program for so many years. Do you imagine how many times each figure is checked in Latvia? No other country has experienced anything like this," said Vilks, emphasizing that statistical data on Latvia were precise and presented to the public as soon as possible.

Central Statistical Bureau Director Aija Zigure, in turn, said that concern about differences in Latvia and Eurostat data were unfounded as Eurostat mostly used data presented by the Republic of Latvia.

TAX BREAKS AT LATVIA'S FREEPORTS AND IN SPECIAL ECONOMIC ZONES EXTENDED UNTIL 2035

Riga: Saeima members today passed amendments to the law on tax breaks at freeports and in special economic zones in the final reading, which stipulate that tax breaks will apply to companies operating in the territory of freeports and special economic zones until December 31, 2035.

The amendments are to foster investments in Latvia, as companies at the freeports of Riga and Ventspils and in Liepaja and Rezekne special economic zones were unable to make full use of the tax breaks and attract new investments during the economic crisis. Originally, the law said the tax breaks would apply until 2017, which is not a sufficient period of time for long-term investments.

In mid-March, Saeima passed amendments to several laws in the final reading that stipulated extending the period when investments made by special economic zones' companies are applied tax breaks until 2035.

ESTONIA'S PM NOT PUTTING MUCH HOPE FOR MEETING WITH MEDVEDEV

Tallinn: Estonian Prime Minister Andrus Ansip is not putting much hope on meeting tomorrow with Russian Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev within the framework of the Baltic Sea environmental protection conference in St. Petersburg, Estonian Public Broadcasting reports.

Ansip said at a government press conference today that the meeting has been agreed upon but there is a chance that there will not be enough time for it to take place because of the time constraints of the main meeting.

"Based on the agreement, we should focus on interstate relations. Let me say at once that such meetings that take place on the sidelines of multilateral meetings are of short duration and topics won't be discussed in depth," said Ansip.

As reported, Latvian Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis (Unity) will also be in St Petersburg tomorrow, and he too is to have a bilateral meeting with Medvedev.

AFGHANISTAN - IMPORTANT DEVELOPMENT CO-OPERATION PRIORITY PARTNER FOR ESTONIA - FORMIN

Tallinn: Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Paet on Thursday met with Catriona Laing, the head of the Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) in the capital of Helmand Province Lashkar Gah, the Estonian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

"Due to the reduction of foreign troops, civilian co-operation and development aid play an increasingly important role in building up Afghanistan and supporting the development of the country," Paet emphasized.

Foreign Minister Paet stated that the goal of development aid is to make the reforms that have been carried out in Afghanistan irreversible and help the country reach the stage where Afghans can manage affairs in their country. Over the past many years Estonia has contributed first and foremost to building up the health care and education sectors in Helmand.

"Our goal has been to enable as many women and children here as possible to get better health care and education than before," said Paet. From 2008-2012, Estonia has sent four experts to the British-led PRT.

"We hope that our contribution to the co-ordination of international development co-operation projects and the development of the health care sector in Helmand Province have borne fruit and that the local community will soon take responsibility for health care issue entirely onto themselves," stated the foreign minister.

Talking about future co-operation opportunities, Paet noted that this year Estonia would like to send one of its experts to join Great Britain's Department of International Development (DFID) team in Kabul. Estonia will also continue contributing to the NATO Training Mission (NTM-A) and the EU Police Mission (EUPOL) in 2013 - currently there are four Estonian experts in each mission.

At his meeting with Laing, Foreign Minister Paet also confirmed that Afghanistan remains one of Estonia's development co-operation priority countries and this year we will contribute 1.4 million euros to development co-operation in Afghanistan.

"In our development co-operation activities, we give particular attention to standing for the rights of women and children, since they are the most vulnerable groups in the country. Therefore there are many activities that Estonia will continue supporting in the future that focus on improving the situation of women and children," Paet explained.

At the meeting, Paet also gave an overview of Estonia's biggest ongoing bilateral development co-operation projects, which are Tallinn University's project to develop an IT-related master's programme at Kabul University; the Estonian School of Diplomacy's project, within the framework of which short training courses are carried out for Afghan diplomats; and the project of the NPO Mondo, which involves holding various types of training courses in rural areas in Afghanistan.

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