Lithuania. After a GDP decline of close to 15 percent last year, the economy reversed during the second quarter with growth of just over one percent. The upturn continued during the third quarter, but was lower than expected.
However, the government continued with severe budget savings to reduce the budget deficit, so that Lithuania can be approved for transition to the euro in 2014. But the plan to gradually increase the retirement age to lower costs in the long term failed. The protests were strong and Parliament rejected the proposal. Some members of the government parties felt that the people had enough of financial hardship and they voted no.
Also in foreign policy there were contradictions in the state management. Foreign Minister Vygauda’s Usackas ended up in conflict with President Dalia Grybauskaite and resigned at the beginning of the year. He had tried to downplay information that Lithuania had released two secret prisons where the US intelligence service CIA flew suspected terrorists for questioning.
According to COUNTRYAAH, Lithuania has a population of 2.794 million (2019). The President and the outgoing Foreign Minister also disagreed on Lithuania’s relationship with Belarus. The minister was critical of Grybauskaite’s efforts to approach the dictator Aljaksandr Lukasjenka’s regime. Lukashenka was invited to Lithuania’s 20th anniversary in March by the Declaration of Independence, which was much debated. In October, the Grybauskaite made a visit to Minsk, the first of a Lithuanian head of state in Belarus. Her message was that the EU wanted the Belarusian elections in December to be free and fair. The approach to Belarus was an attempt to attract the country to increased cooperation with the EU, at a time when the Belarusian-Russian relationship was frosty.
In May, conflict around a Pride parade in Vilnius, which was first granted permission, was subsequently banned and then allowed again. About 400 people participated, guarded by twice as many police officers, as there is a strong resistance to homosexuals in Lithuanian society. Swedish Union Minister Birgitta Ohlsson spoke in conjunction with the parade.
Former Prime Minister and President Algirdas Brazauskas died in June, aged 77. He was leader of the Lithuanian Communist Party during the Soviet era and was at the forefront of the party’s break with Moscow in 1989, of great importance for the liberation of Lithuania and the Baltics and the dissolution of the Soviet Union.
During the year, Lithuania’s difficulties in handling the memory of the Holocaust were clarified, which meant that around 200,000 Jews were murdered in the country. In the autumn, Parliament debated unsuccessfully the unresolved issue of compensation for property taken from the Jews during the Nazi era and even the Soviet era. In November, high-level Holocaust denial was revealed. A historian employed by the Department of the Interior published an article in which he described the Holocaust as a legend of six million murdered Jews. Ambassadors from seven countries, including Sweden, sent a sharply worded protest letter to i.a. President. The official left his post, and the Minister of the Interior withdrew from the article, explaining that it did not express the Ministry’s position.
Lithuania and Sweden agreed during the year that an electric cable should be laid through the Baltic between the two countries and be completed in 2016. The connection goes by the name Nordbalt.