Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia have taken over control of the NATO air police mission. As of Jan. 8, the Regional Air Surveillance and Control Center, situated in Karmelava, Lithuania, has full control over fighter planes patrolling the Baltic airspace. "This is a huge step forward. From now on we will no longer need the Combined Air Operations Center in Germany to scramble the fighters, we will be able to do it ourselves," Lithuanian Air Force Commander Arturas Leita told the Baltic News Service. Older NATO members have taken turns patrolling the Baltic airspace since March 2004, when Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia joined NATO. The three Baltic states, which emerged from Soviet rule only 16 years ago, do not have the aircraft or personnel to police the skies themselves.
Thirty-nine percent of registered voters do not plan to participate in the forthcoming municipal elections, scheduled for Feb. 25, a survey by RAIT pollster shows. Another 9.9 percent said they would not know who to vote for if the elections were held this weekend. The survey shows that the Social Democrat Party may expect the largest support in the municipal elections 's 12.6 percent of votes. Of 1,050 respondents the Homeland Union was supported by 10.8 percent, and the Labor Party - by 10.3 percent. New Union would also pass the mandatory 4 percent threshold with 4.8 percent. The Liberal and Centrist Union showed 4.3 percent support, while the National Farmers' Union came close to the threshold with 3.8 percent support.
Foreign Minister Petras Vaitiekunas, alongside Latvian counterpart Artis Pabriks, agreed to ask the European Union to prioritize the nations' long lines of trucks at the Latvian-Lithuanian border. "We agreed to operate more actively in Brussels, attracting more attention from the European Union along with funds to solve the problem. The lines of vehicles are relevant to both countries, but Lithuania's economy has suffered the greater loss. This must not happen again," Vaitiekunas said after the meeting. In late November, Latvia began restricting the inflow of trucks at its border with Lithuania. Latvian representatives said the restrictions had been imposed because of bad roads along the Latvian-Russian border and security requirements for the recent NATO summit in Riga.
Writer and poet Tomas Venclova was awarded the 1956 Hungarian revolution memorial award. The bronze medal is awarded to individuals who participated or supported the Hungarian revolution, as well as those whose lives were strongly affected by the event. Venclova won for his "important and significant intellectual contribution to the modern understanding of the importance of Hungary's anti-Soviet uprising." The poet actively supported the Hungarians while in Vilnius in 1956. In his writing, Venclova later described the Hungarian revolution as one of the most important times of his life, which encouraged him to cut any remaining ties with the Soviet regime.