Lietuva in brief - 2004-11-01

  • 2004-11-01
Lithuania's population shrank by some 11,000 people in the first eight months of this year, according to government statistics. In early September the population stood at 3,434,100 people, 11,800 fewer than in January. During the same period 27,408 people died, an increase of 184 on last year, although 20,649 babies have been born so far this year - 124 more than 2003. Despite this small increase, Lithuania's mortality rate still exceeds its birth rate.

Special services allayed fears on Nov. 1 about a possible terrorist threat, which were heightened after the U.S. Department of State issued a warning to its embassies in Helsinki and Riga. The department had reportedly received information about possible terrorist attacks in the countries. Lithuanian Defense Minister Linas Linkevicius said: "There is no threat greater than usual in the country." However, Linkevicius is taking extra precautions and asked Vilnius Airport employees and members of the State Border Guard Service to increase security alertness.

An additional two Tornado F3 fighters from the British Royal Air Force will join the NATO air-policing mission in the Baltic states on Nov. 6. The fighters will land at the First Air Base in Zokniai, near the northern city of Siauliai, to join the two Tornadoes that arrived on Oct. 14. About 100 British officers and aircraft support personnel, including navigation and communication officers, medics, military police and firefighters are stationed in Zokniai. The British contingent will guard the Baltic's air space until January 2005, when airmen from another NATO country will replace them.

Lithuanian Foreign Minister Antanas Valionis attended a meeting of the EU's General Affairs and External Relations Council in Brussels on Nov. 2, which focused on preparations for the European Council meeting, scheduled to be held in Brussels Nov. 4-5. Relations between the EU and Russia were also a primary focus at the meeting, as well as the situation in the Middle East, Iraq, Belarus and some regions of Africa. Valionis also met with Jean Asselborn, Luxembourg's foreign affairs and immigration minister, and signed a governmental agreement between the two countries to avoid double taxation of incomes and capital, as well as the prevention of tax evasion.

Lithuania raised a total of 384.2 million litas (111.36 million euros) through the sale of state-owned and municipal assets during the first 10 months of 2004, up by 17.8 percent from 326.1 million litas received over the same period a year ago, according to the State Property Fund. The SPF concluded 220 privatization transactions, raising 220 million litas for the state, while municipal privatization agencies closed 264 deals, generating 146.1 million litas in proceeds. The sale of a 34 percent equity stake in the natural gas utility Lietuvos Dujos (Lithuanian Gas) to Russia's gas giant Gazprom for 100 million litas has been Lithuania's biggest privatization transaction this year so far.