Democracy and rights
Abbreviated as LTH by Abbreviationfinder, Lithuania is a well-functioning democracy with independent institutions and free and fair elections. Several challenges remain, but the general debate climate seems to be moving towards greater openness.
The political institutions in Lithuania meet the demands that can be placed on a well-functioning democracy. The country has a multi-party system and elections that are seen by independent election observers as free and fair.
- Countryaah: Offers a comprehensive list of airports in Lithuania, including international airports with city located, size and abbreviation, as well as the biggest airlines.
The constitution guarantees freedom of assembly and association, which is generally respected. However, the Communist Party and a number of organizations associated with the Soviet occupation are prohibited. Civil society organizations often find it difficult to find stable funding.
The constitution guarantees freedom of religion and freedom to practice a religion, but the Jewish minority of the country testifies to outbreaks of open anti-Semitism (see Population and Languages). Despite pressures from the outside world, the legal settlement of mass murders of Jews during World War II has been slow.
After independence in 1991, Lithuania offered citizenship to all permanent residents who wanted it, even to those who came to the country during the Soviet era. This means that the number of stateless residents is not as large as in neighboring countries. However, the Polish minority has expressed dissatisfaction with the Lithuanian authorities, in particular regarding the status of Polish-speaking schools.
The Roma minority of about 2,000 people is particularly vulnerable in Lithuania. The UN Committee on Human Rights notes that the Roma are discriminated against in access to education, housing, health care and work.
Violence in close relationships is a widespread problem. Since 2011, the country has a law for protection against violence in close relationships, but human rights organizations have highlighted several shortcomings in the law. Lithuania has signed but not ratified the Council of Europe Convention on the Prevention and Control of Domestic Violence and Domestic Violence.
Sexual orientation is subject to a prohibition of discrimination, but according to law, marriage can only be entered into between a man and a woman. At the same time, the general debate climate seems to be moving towards greater acceptance and openness.
Corruption is a social problem. The government has adopted an anti-corruption program for 2015-2025 and in conjunction with the country’s accession to the OECD 2018, anti-corruption work has been further strengthened. The work has not yet produced any visible results. In Transparency International’s index 2018, Lithuania ranked 38 out of 180 countries, which is the same place as the year before.
Freedom of expression and media
The Constitution keeps watch over freedom of expression and media and the country’s media (See mass media) can independently review state power.
According to a law on information accessibility, the authorities are obliged to give citizens access to public documents and this is generally complied with.
As Lithuania’s relations with Russia have been strained during the 2010s (see Foreign Policy and Defense), the Lithuanian authorities have on several occasions intervened in Russian-owned media to prevent what they perceived as Russian propaganda.
On Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Index for 2019, Lithuania ranks 30th, which means a push upwards by six places compared to the previous year. An open debate climate and good conditions for investigative journalism are stated as a reason.
Judicial system and legal security
According to the Constitution, the Lithuanian judicial system is independent of state power. According to Freedom House’s recent review of Lithuania, the functionality of the judiciary is judged to be independent and good.
The UN Human Rights Committee’s 2018 review has expressed concern that the average number of days a suspect is detained has increased.
In May 2018, the European Court of Justice ruled that Lithuania violated the European Convention in Abu Zubaydah v Lithuania, which claims that torture-like methods were used in a secret prison that must have operated on Lithuanian territory by the US CIA 2005-2006.
The death penalty was abolished in 1998.
Trial against Soviet commands
An appellate court ruled that two former commanders of the Soviet-era domestic force Omon should be tried in Lithuania in their absence. The two defendants are located in Russia. They are charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity for involvement in the murders of seven Lithuanian border guards at the Lithuanian-Belarusian border in July 1991.
Journalist gets right
Following the appeal, a journalist from the news agency BNS gets the right to protect the source of information about the security police (see November). A higher court goes against an earlier verdict and states that investigators’ search of the journalist’s home was illegal.
Prosecutions against media
The state prosecutor is conducting a preliminary investigation into leaked state secrets in the media. At the BNS news agency, computers are seized, employees are interrogated, and one of the journalists is ordered by the court to disclose its source. Investigators are also searching the journalist’s home. She has reported that the security service warned that Russia planned to discredit the President of Lithuania. The BNS protests against the court’s decision and claims that it violates the country’s constitution and the European Court of Justice’s case law.
Success in the UN
Lithuania is elected for the first time as a member of the UN Security Council.
Trade dispute with Russia
Russia stops all imports of dairy products from Lithuania, obviously as a punishment for Lithuania’s efforts as EU President to draw countries such as Ukraine and Moldova closer to the EU. 85% of Lithuanian dairy exports have gone to Russia. Ukraine and Moldova are expected to conclude crucial cooperation and free trade agreements with the EU at the Vilnius summit in November.
The President resigns
After intense political pressure from both the opposition and the government, Parliament’s Deputy Speaker Vytautas Gapšys resigned, who was sentenced to fines for accounting and tax violations committed within the Labor Party (see July), where he is leader. First President Vydas Gedvilas also leaves his post in solidarity with Gapšys. Loreta Graužinienė is elected from the Labor Party as new President.
Russian trade sanctions
Russia imposes informal trade sanctions on Lithuania. They are considered to be partly due to Lithuania’s attempts to reduce its dependence on Russian energy (see Natural Resources and Energy) and partly because Lithuania, as the current EU President, leads the efforts to draw other former Soviet states closer to the EU politically and economically. Russia sees this as a threat to its influence in its neighborhood and puts pressure on Lithuania on several fronts. Among other things, Russia imposes restrictions on imports of milk products from Lithuania, and detailed checks on Lithuanian cars and trucks are carried out at the border with the Russian exclave Kaliningrad. At the same time, Lithuania is trying in vain to negotiate lower gas prices.
Reduced support for the Labor Party
The Labor Party’s support in opinion falls since several of its leading politicians have been convicted of financial crime (see July). The party that received the most votes and close to 20 percent in the 2012 parliamentary elections is now in fourth place with only 7.8 percent of voters behind it, according to a new opinion poll. The Social Democrats are the largest with 24.4 percent, followed by Order and Justice with 9.4 percent and the opposition party Fosterlandsförbundet with 8.7 percent.
Strict judgments against top politicians
Former leader of the Labor Party Viktor Uspaskitj is sentenced to four years in prison for accounting and tax offenses committed within the party. According to the prosecutor, the Labor Party had, among other things, withheld large sums in the income declarations 2004-2006. MP Vitalija Vonžutaitė is sentenced to three years in prison, the party’s former accountant for one year and the current party leader and Deputy Speaker of Parliament Vytautas Gapšys to a fine of SEK 100,000. All convictions are appealed. If the judges stand firm, Uspaskitj and Vonžutaitė must pay the equivalent of more than SEK 7.5 million in compensation for the taxes and fees the party withheld from the state. The Labor Party remains in government despite the judgments against its leading politicians.
Lithuania becomes EU President
Lithuania will take over the EU Presidency for six months. The country’s main ambition for these six months is to reach association and free trade agreements with the former Soviet Republics of Ukraine, Armenia, Georgia and Moldova.
Nuclear power talks with neighboring countries
The government decides to initiate talks with Latvia and Estonia on new conditions for the construction of a nuclear power reactor in Visaginas. According to the Lithuanian government, the previously planned project will be so expensive that the electricity price will not be competitive, and construction can only be carried out if the conditions are improved in talks with neighboring energy companies and the Japanese contractor Hitachi. According to the government, a decision should be made until October 1.