Lithuania

Lithuania

I INTRODUCTION
Lithuania (in Lithuanian, Lietuva), officially Republic of Lithuania, republic in north-eastern Europe, bounded on the north by Latvia; on the east and south by Belarus; on the south-east by Poland and the Kaliningrad oblast, Russia; and on the west by the Baltic Sea. With Latvia and Estonia, Lithuania is one of the Baltic republics. Lithuania has an area of about 65,300 sq km (25,200 sq mi). Vilnius, the capital and largest city of Lithuania, is in the south-eastern part of the country.
II LAND ANND RESOURCES
Lithuania consists of a low-lying plain broken by low hills in the west and south. Almost the entire territory of the country is less than 200 m (about 655 ft) in elevation. The Baltic coast in the west is fringed by sand dunes running south from the border with Latvia to Klaipėda, where the Kurši Marios lagoon is almost completely cut off from the sea by the Kurši Nerija, a sand-spit 100 km (62 mi) long. The central lowlands running north to south giive way to the higher ground of the Baltic Highlands in the eastern and south-eastern part of the country. Mount Juoapinė (292 m/958 ft) in the south-eastern highlands is the highest point.
A Rivers and Lakes
Lithuania contains many lakes and rivers, 22 of which ha

ave a total length of 100 km (about 60 mi) or more. Many of the larger lakes are in the east and south-east of the country. The most extensive of these is the Nemunas (Neman), a major river that supplies the country with hydroelectric power. The main tributaries of the Nemunas are the Myarkis, Nevėžis, Dubysa, Jūra, Minija, and Šešupė. Many of the rivers are slow and meandering and drain into the Baltic. Marshes and swamps are prevalent, especially in the north and west, although half of all original wetlands have been drained.
B Climate
The climate is dominated by marine influences, but conditions are more variable in the eastern portion of the republic. In the west summers are cooler, and winters are milder. Average annnual precipitation ranges from less than 600 mm (about 20 in) per year in the centre of the country to more than 850 mm (about 35 in) per year in the west.
C Natural Resources
Lithuania is the largest of the Baltic States and more than 25 per cent of the land is forested. Soils range from sands to heavy clays; loamy and sandy soils predominate in the north-west; loamy peats in the central region; and sandy soils predominate in the south-east. Swamp and marshlands account for about 7
per cent of the land area. The limited mineral resources include limestone, sand, clay, gravel, peat, and dolomite, and small reserves of oil and gas. During the Soviet era environmental degradation was a cost of economic expansion around the Akmene cement works and the Jonava fertilizer plant.
D Plants and Animals
Western maritime regions are fringed by pine forests and the sand dunes support the growth of wild rye and bushy vegetation; spruce is common in the hilly eastern areas. Forests containing oak, birch, black alder, and aspen are a feature of the central region, that gives way to more pine forests in the south of the country. These habitats support a diverse range of wildlife that includes: foxes, wolves, badgers, boars, elk, deer, beavers, minks, white storks, and many varieties of waterfowl.
E Environmental Concerns
Like many countries of the former USSR, Lithuania has significant environmental problems related to pollution. Despite the growth of the country’s environmental awareness since its independence from the USSR in 1991, a lack of technology, equipment, and funds make it difficult to adequately treat industrial emissions and to replace old equipment. Emissions from motor vehicles contribute significantly to air pollution. Industrial centres such as Vilnius and Kaunas, with their power stations, fe
ertilizer plants, and cement plants, have also contributed to the severe contamination of the air. Air pollution has resulted in acid rain, which further degrades water and soil quality.
Lithuania is struggling to upgrade its sewage treatment plants, because much of the country’s surface water is contaminated with bacteria. Agricultural run-off from fertilizers and pesticides also contributes to the pollution of the country’s groundwater and many of its rivers. Contamination of rivers, in turn, pollutes the coastal areas into which the rivers empty. Lithuania depends almost entirely on nuclear power for electricity. The Ignalina nuclear plant supplies electricity to Lithuania and to some neighbouring countries. Constructed in the 1980s, the plant poses a considerable environmental threat; its reactors are of the same design as those at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, which in 1986 suffered the worst nuclear disaster in history. One reactor is set for closure in 2005 with the second being decommissioned in 2009.
During the 1990s Lithuania focused on rebuilding its economy, but the country has been able to effect some environmental change as well. Environmental regulations passed in the early 1990s called for reduced pollution and a more effective monitoring system for environmental issues. These regulations also sought to en
nd the government secrecy about environmental issues that characterized the Soviet era. Lithuania has ratified agreements protecting biodiversity, the ozone layer, and wetlands. It is also party to international treaties concerning climate change and ship pollution.
III POPULATION
Lithuanians constitute more than 80 per cent of the country’s population. The proportion of Lithuanians increased in the first years after the dissolution of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) in 1991, as Lithuanians immigrated from other parts of the USSR and abroad, and ethnic minorities, especially Slavs, left Lithuania in large numbers.
A Population Characteristics
According to official estimates, Russians account for about 8 per cent, and Poles for 7 per cent of the total population , which is 3,584,836 (2004 estimate). Other minorities include Ukrainians, Jews, and Belorussians.
Lithuania is highly urbanized, with about 69 per cent of the population living in urban areas. In contrast to most other republics of the former USSR, Lithuania is not dominated by a single urban centre. Population density is 55 people per sq km (142 per sq mi). Life expectancy in 2004 was 70 years.
B Political Divisions
For administrative purposes the country is divided into ten counties (apskritys): Alytus; Kaunas; Klaipėda; Marijampolė; Panevėžys; Šiauliai; Tauragė; Teliai; Utena; and Vilnius; and 60 municipalities.
C Principal Cities
Vilnius, the capital, is the largest city, with a population of 543,000 (2001); the country contains other medium-to-large cities, such as Kaunas, population 381,300 (2001), and the seaport Klaipėda, 194,400 (2001).
D Religion
Roman Catholics form the majority of the population: some 80 per cent of the population adhere to the faith. Other faiths practised in Lithuania include the Orthodox Church, Evangelical Lutheranism, Judaism, and Islam.
E Language
Lithuanian, from the Baltic subfamily of Indo-European languages, is the official language and is spoken by the majority of the population. Karaim, an Altaic language, and Baltic Romani, an Indo-Iranian language, are spoken by small minorities. Russian and English tend to be used by Lithuanians as second languages.
F Education
Reforms in the education system began in the late 1980s before independence. Under the 1992 constitution education is compulsory between the ages of 6 and 16, and is provided free of charge. Lithuanian is the principal language of instruction but Russian, Belorussian, Polish, and Yiddish are used as the languages of instruction in schools serving those communities; in 1996-1997 about 14 per cent of pupils attended schools for ethnic minorities. In the same year about 58,700 students attended 14 institutes with university status, including Vilnius University (1579), one of the oldest universities in Eastern Europe. Other important institutions include Kaunas University of Medicine (1920) and Kaunas University of Technology (1922); Vytautas Magnus University (1922); Klaipéda University (1991); Šiauliai University (1948); and Vilnius Academy of Arts (1793). Education was allocated 6.5 per cent of total spending in 1998–1999.
G Culture
The cultural traditions of Lithuania that have been passed down are among the oldest in Europe, and they continue to enjoy a high level of interest and support. Folk art has a distinctive style that is widely expressed in ceramics, woodcarving, and textiles. The Vilnius drawing school, founded in the mid-19th century, had great influence on the tradition of fine art. Musical traditions are thought to have been emerging before the 13th century in the folk music of the Baltic peoples. Subsequent alliances with Poland and Russia have contributed to a rich musical heritage, which is celebrated in festivals of dance and music held throughout the country each summer.
IV ECONOMY
Although agriculture dominated the Lithuanian economy before Soviet annexation in 1940, industry has become the leading sector of the economy. Industry accounted for about 31.2 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2002. Food processing, shipbuilding, and the manufacture of electrical machinery are the most important industries. Other manufactures include cement, textiles, televisions, and paper. In 2002 Lithuania’s gross national product (GNP) was US$12,715 million, equivalent to US$3,670 per head (World Bank estimate).
A Agriculture, Forestry, and Fishing
Agriculture accounts for about 45 per cent of land use and it is the third-largest component of GDP, accounting for some 7 per cent, but it remains the largest within the employment sector, accounting for some 16 per cent of the workforce. The experience of privatization in agriculture has not been a particularly good one; about 1,100 large units were divided into some 12,000 smaller ones, resulting in units that were too small to be economic and efficient. Combined with fuel shortages, this resulted in a fall in agricultural production of 24 per cent in 1992, although there has been some recovery since. Livestock-rearing is the main activity and cereals, potatoes, vegetables, sugar beet and flax are the principal crops. Timber production has increased recently; the 1994 production was some 3.9 million cu m (137.7 cu ft), and production to 1995 had increased by 54 per cent over four years.
B Mining
There are few indigenous mineral resources, but there are small reserves of oil and gas. The main minerals extracted are limestone, sand, clay, gravel, and dolomite; peat is also utilized. In 1994, 2.1 million tonnes of dolomite, 411,000 tonnes of peat, 830,00 tonnes of limestone, 947,000 tonnes of quartz sand, 351,000 tonnes of gravel, and 93,000 tonnes of petroleum were extracted.
C Manufacturing
Manufacturing and industry had been largely determined by the Soviet economic model, and suffered the greatest decline in the Baltic region when the Soviet Union broke up. The leading manufacturing sector in 1994 was food processing, which accounted for about 25 per cent of output, followed by refined petroleum products (19 per cent), textiles and clothing (11 per cent), and beverages (6 per cent).
D Tourism
The beach resort of Palanga, on the north Baltic coast, was popular during the Soviet era, but now foreign tourists tend to congregate in Vilnius. The sand-spit at Kurši Nerija and five national parks are other tourist attractions. The revenue from tourism in 1999 was some US$341 million.
E Energy
There is a great reliance on imports of hydrocarbons, but small deposits of oil and gas are present. Some electricity is generated by thermal (about 17 per cent), and hydroelectric (about 6 per cent) plants, but most is generated in nuclear facilities. In 2001 nuclear generation accounted for 78 per cent of the production of 14.6 billion kWh. In the same year exports of electricity amounted to some 6.3 billion kWh. Although domestic energy production can meet a large proportion of the country’s needs, the economy has suffered greatly from Russian demands that fossil-fuel shipments be paid for at world prices. The two Chernobyl-style nuclear power reactors at the Ignalina plant in Lithuania, the only civilian nuclear power facility in the Baltic republics, can supply roughly half of the country’s energy needs. Technical difficulties, however, have forced officials to close the plant briefly on more than one occasion since independence. Minor oil deposits were discovered in the area of Klaipėda, which should help keep the Mazeikiai refinery operational. The only oil refinery in the Baltic republics, the Mazeikiai plant was forced to close down for a period due to lack of oil. It serves the Kaliningrad oblast in Russia, which has prompted Russian officials to resume regular deliveries of oil.
F Currency and Banking
After gaining independence, Lithuania began making plans to introduce its own currency, the litas, to replace the Russian rouble in circulation. Lithuanian officials decided to first introduce coupons to supplement roubles, which were in short supply. The talonas (Lithuanian for “coupon”) was issued freely, since it was assumed that a wide circulation of the coupons would aid Lithuanian consumers, with minimal negative economic consequences. But with energy price shocks and a policy of indexing wages and pensions, inflation became rampant, and the value of the talonas dropped steadily. The litas was introduced as the sole legal tender in 1993, after which the supply of litas fluctuated greatly. In March 1994 the parliament passed legislation that fixed the litas to the US dollar at a rate of 4 litas per US$1. By early 2004 that rate had dropped to 3 litas to the US$1.
The banking sector experienced serious difficulties in the mid-1990s, which were characterized by suspensions and liquidation. In the wake of the collapse in parts of the system, a restructuring programme was instituted after consultation with the IMF and the World Bank. At the beginning of 1997 there were 12 commercial banks in operation.
G Commerce and Trade
Russia remains the principal trading partner, both as a destination for exports and a source of imports. Germany and Poland are also important markets for exports and Germany, Ukraine, and Poland are leading sources of imports. Principal exports are textiles, chemical products, mineral products, machinery and electrical products; leading imports are mineral products, machinery and transport equipment, and textiles. In 2001 the estimated expenditure on imports was US$6,353 million and the estimated income from exports was US$4,583 million.
H Labour
The labour force in 2002 was some 1,813,940; 16 per cent was employed in agriculture, 28 per cent in manufacturing, and more than 56 per cent in service industries.
I Transport
There are 76,573 km (47,580 mi) of roads, of which about 91 per cent are hard-surfaced. The Via Baltica, a 1,000-km (621-mi) road that is well advanced in its construction, will run from Helsinki via the Baltic States to Poland and Germany. Car ownership has increased rapidly since independence, rising to 345 cars per thousand people in 2000.
Lithuanian Airlines is the national carrier and provides connections via the international airport at Vilnius. International air services are also operated from Kaunas and Palanga. Klaipėda is the main port and has road and rail connections to Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine, and container line connections with Germany, Poland, Netherlands, and the United Kingdom.
J Communications
The distribution of telephone lines in the population is about 270 lines to every 1,000 people. Bite GSM, a consortium of international telecommunications companies, provides a mobile phone network. There were 22 daily newspapers in circulation in 2000, but rising production costs have placed them as a luxury for many people and sales have dropped. The state-owned company Lithuanian Radio and Television operates a television channel and two radio networks, but independent television and radio companies have the greatest audience share. More than 95 per cent of the population has access to television, and about 20 per cent of people are able to access cable services.
V GOVERNMENT
Movement towards political independence gathered pace during the period of glasnost in the mid-1980s, and by 1991 tensions between the Soviets and supporters of independence resulted in increasingly violent confrontations. The Soviet coup collapsed in September 1991 and in an October 1992 referendum, a new constitution met with overwhelming approval.
A Executive and Legislature
Executive power is vested in the president, who is elected for a five-year term by universal suffrage. Citizens aged 18 and over are eligible to vote. The president appoints the country’s prime minister and is also commander-in-chief of the armed forces. Legislative power rests with the Seimas, a unicameral assembly of 141 members, who are elected for terms of four years. Of the total number of seats, 71 are directly elected by majority vote, and the remaining 70 are selected from party lists on the basis of proportional representation.
B Political Parties
Following the elections in October 2000 the main political parties represented in the Seimas included: the socialist Democratic Labour Party of Lithuania (LDDP); the Lithuanian Social-Democratic Party (LSDP); the New Democratic Party (NDP); the minority Lithuanian Russian Union (LRS); the liberal New Union (NS); the Lithuanian Liberal Union (LLS); and the conservative Homeland Union—Conservatives of Lithuania (TS-LK). The LDDP and LSDP have since merged into one Lithuanian Social-Democratic Party.
C Judiciary
Justice is administered through the Supreme Court, which is the highest court, the Court of Appeal, the Constitutional Court, the Commercial Court, and a system of regional courts. The Constitutional Court, established in 1993, consists of nine judges, appointed by the Seimas for a non-renewable term of nine years. Judges to the Supreme Court are also appointed by the Seimas, and judges to the Court of Appeal are appointed by the president. A Prosecutor-General, who is also appointed by the Seimas, oversees a system of local prosecutors.
D Local Government
The system of local government in Lithuania includes: 10 higher administrative units—counties or apskritys—which are supervised by, and subordinate to, the state administration; 60 municipalities (including 9 city municipalities), which constitute self-governing administrative units; and around 500 neighbourhoods—territorial units, which are subordinate to the municipalities. As the counties are units of state administration, no elections are held at this level. Elections to self-governing councils are held on the basis of proportional representation and, since 1996, take place every three years. The Association of Local Authorities in Lithuania (ALA), approved in 1995, is charged with representing the interests of local administration in all institutions of state and central government.
E Health and Welfare
The economic decline was responsible for worsening health care in the early years of independence. It has since been the subject of radical reforms, and regional health funds, financed by medical social insurance funds, have replaced the municipal authorities. The new system will focus on the provision of primary care and will move away from the former hospital-centred system. Although private medical practice is legal, it is in reality out of the financial reach of most of the population. In 2001, 16.1 per cent of government expenditure was devoted to health care; the distribution of doctors in the population was 1 to 240 people; and in 2004 the infant mortality rate was 14 deaths per 1,000 live births.
F Defence
In 2002, Lithuania’s armed forces numbered 12,700 personnel, including 7,950 in the army, 1,150 in the air force, and 650 in the navy. The armed forces included 4,200 conscripts who serve for a period of 12 months; for persons who decline to bear arms because of religious or pacifist convictions, there are provisions for alternative forms of service. In addition, there were approximately 309,200 reserves and 13,850 paramilitary forces. In 2002, Lithuania spent US$233 million (1.8 per cent of its GDP) on defence.
G International Organizations
Lithuania is a member of the following organizations: the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE); the Council of Europe (CE); the Partnership for Peace (PFP); the Council of the Baltic Sea States (CBSS); the United Nations (UN); the World Trade Organization (WTO); the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO); and the European Union (EU).
VI HISTORY
Some scholars believe that Lithuanians inhabited the Baltic area as early as 2500 BC; others argue that they migrated to the Baltic area about the beginning of the 1st century AD. The first reference to them by name was in AD 1009 in a medieval Prussian manuscript, the Quedlinburg Chronicle.
A The Medieval Jagiełłon Empire
With the rise of the medieval lords in adjacent Prussia and Russia, Lithuania acted for centuries as a buffer between Germany to the west and Mongols and Tatars to the east, constantly subjected to invasion and attempted conquest. As a result, a loose federation of Lithuanian peoples was formed in the early Middle Ages and became the Kingdom of Lithuania in 1251. In the 13th century AD, when the Teutonic Knights, a German militaristic religious order, were establishing their power, the Lithuanians resisted; in about 1260 they defeated the order. About a century later a dynasty of grand dukes called the Jagiełłons established, through conquest, a Lithuanian empire reaching from the Baltic to the Black Sea. The Lithuanian prince, Gedimin, occupied Belarus and western Ukraine; his son, Grand Duke Olgierd, added the territory between Ukraine and the Black Sea. Jagiełło, the son of Olgierd, succeeded his father in 1377. In 1386 he married Jadwiga, Queen of Poland, and, after accepting Christianity, was crowned Władysław II Jagiełło, King of Poland.
Jagiełło’s cousin, Witold, revolted against him in 1390, and two years later Jagiełło recognized him as Vice-Regent. Witold made the grand duchy into a prestigious state, and in 1401 Jagiełło created him a duke; together, the reconciled cousins decisively defeated the Teutonic Knights in 1410. In 1447, under Casimir IV, the son of Jagiełło, Lithuania and Poland were allied. From 1501, with the accession of Casimir’s son, Alexander I, the countries had one ruler, and in 1569 they agreed to have a common legislature and an elective king. The political union was induced by the threat of Russian conquest, but provided little protection. As a result of the partitions of Poland in 1772, 1793, and 1795, Lithuania became a part of Russia, except for a small section awarded to Prussia. Lithuanians became a completely subject people, but they staged large-scale nationalist insurrections in 1812, 1831, 1863, and 1905.
B Short-Lived Independence
During World War I the German army occupied Lithuania, but at the end of the war nationalists established the country’s independence. This was recognized by the Treaty of Versailles in 1919. In August 1922 the Lithuanian constituent assembly, in session since May 1920, approved a constitution that proclaimed the country a democratic republic.
Conservative and liberal factions in the Seimas collided during the next two years. On December 17, 1926, the army and nationalists, led by the conservative statesman Antanas Smetona, engineered a coup d’état. All liberals and leftists were expelled from the Seimas, which then elected Smetona as president, with Augustinas Voldemaras as premier.
Following the rise to power of Adolf Hitler in Germany, Lithuanian-German friction over the city of Memel (now Klaipėda) increased steadily. With the outbreak of World War II and the partition of Poland by Germany and the USSR, the Lithuanian and Soviet governments concluded a mutual-assistance treaty in October 1939. A pro-Soviet government assumed power in Lithuania the following June. Shortly thereafter the Communist Working People’s Bloc, the only political party allowed to function, campaigned for inclusion of Lithuania in the USSR. Political dissidents were rounded up, and the electorate voted, on July 14-15, 1940, in a parliamentary election. The new parliament unanimously approved a resolution requesting incorporation of Lithuania in the USSR. Western democratic powers, however, refused to recognize the legality of the Soviet annexation.
C Soviet Republic
Under the terms of the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact (1940) the Soviet Union annexed Lithuania. Large-scale anti-Soviet uprisings in Lithuania followed the German invasion, on June 22, 1941, of the USSR. Unable to contend with both the revolt and the German onslaught, the Soviet forces withdrew. The Germans pillaged Lithuanian resources and, as a national resistance movement developed, killed more than 200,000 people.
In the summer of 1944 the Soviets reoccupied Lithuania, which was re-established as a Soviet republic. The Soviet government deported about 350,000 Lithuanians to labour camps in Siberia as punishment for holding anti-Communist beliefs or resisting Soviet rule. In 1949 the Communist regime closed most churches, deported many priests, and prosecuted people possessing religious iconography. Additional deportations and a great influx of Russians and Poles into Vilnius were noted in 1956. Subsequently, Lithuania settled into comparative calm, and most nations tacitly accepted its status as a Soviet republic.
D Independence Renewed
In the late 1980s, rapid political changes in Eastern Europe and the USSR sparked a resurgence of Lithuanian nationalism. Multi-party elections were held in February 1990 and independence was declared in March 1990. However, the USSR used economic, political, and military pressure to keep Lithuania within the union. After Soviet Communism collapsed in August 1991, however, the central government granted independence to Lithuania, Estonia, and Latvia on September 6, and all three Baltic republics were admitted to the UN later that month.
As in several other former Soviet republics, such as Azerbaijan and Georgia, former communists in Lithuania staged a political comeback in the post-USSR period. Although the anti-Soviet, pro-independence Sajudis coalition (the Lithuanian Movement for Reconstruction) had won the parliamentary elections in February 1990 and successfully led the struggle for Lithuanian independence, the coalition could not maintain political leadership. Their popularity dropped as a result of political infighting in the coalition, a severe economic crisis caused by the disruption of trade ties with the former Soviet republics, and a worsening of international relations with neighbouring countries. As a result, the Democratic Labour Party (DLP; the former Communist Party of Lithuania) won a majority of seats in the Seimas in February 1992. The DLP leader Algirdas Brazauskas was elected as Chair of the Seimas and the acting president of Lithuania until direct presidential elections, which he won in February 1993. Popular support for the new government soon declined, however, as the DLP leadership also failed to solve the country’s economic problems. In 1993 Lithuania became the first of the three Baltic states to be free of a Russian military presence. The last unit of Russian troops left the country on August 31 of that year.
President Lech Wałęsa became the first Polish head of state, in April 1994, to visit Lithuania for a hundred years. In September Prime Minister Slezevicius apologized to Jews for Lithuania’s part in the genocide of World War II, and he visited Israel in October. Lithuanian was legally established as the official language of the state in January 1995. In April the Council of Europe accused Lithuania of serious human rights violations against members of national minorities. Nonetheless, after an associate membership agreement had been signed with the EU earlier that month, at the beginning of December Lithuania applied for membership of the EU.
Later in December, the country’s largest commercial bank, the Lithuanian Incorporated Innovation Bank (LAIB), was declared insolvent: its senior executives were later arrested. The banking collapse precipitated a serious political crisis which gathered momentum throughout January 1996; culminating in President Brazauskas signing a decree calling on the Seimas to approve the dismissal of Prime Minister Slezevicius. The position of Slezevicius and Interior Minister Romasis Vaitekunas became untenable when it was revealed that both had withdrawn funds from the stricken bank shortly before the central bank, the Bank of Lithuania, had frozen operations at the LAIB and Litimpeks bank. Slezevicius was forced from office, when the decree was approved in February, to be replaced in office by Laurynas Mindaugas Stankevicus. Brazauskas signed a decree in July declaring a moratorium on capital punishment, as a precursor to eventual integration into the EU.
In the first round of the general election held in October, the ruling Lithuanian Democratic Labour Party was defeated and after run-off elections in November, a right-wing coalition of the Homeland Union (Lithuanian Conservatives) and the Lithuanian Christian Democratic Party formed the government; the 17-member Cabinet received presidential approval in December. In July 1997 the Seimas unanimously adopted December 21 as the date for the presidential elections, and in October President Brazauskas announced that he did not intend to stand for re-election. A new law that provided for cash to be used for privatizations, in place of the existing system of voucher sales, was approved in November. No candidate gained an overall majority in the presidential election, and a run-off was scheduled to take place in January 1998. In the January round of the election Valdas Adamkus narrowly defeated the other candidate Arturas Paulauskas. Adamkus, who had spent most of his adult life in the United States and worked for the United States Environmental Protection Agency, holds dual US/Lithuanian citizenship. Following a ruling of the Constitutional Court, the death penalty was abolished by the Seimas in December. The Lithuanian National Democratic Party held its inaugural congress in January 1999; the party is opposed to Lithuania joining the EU.
Lithuania’s privatization programme was pushed forward by Adamkus and included the highly controversial sale of the public oil company to an American firm in October 1999, despite strong opposition from the Seimas. At the Helsinki summit of European leaders in December the EU officially invited Lithuania to begin talks for membership.
Internal politics in late 1999 and throughout 2000 were dominated by preparations for legislative elections in October and by implementing strategies to facilitate the country’s entry into the EU. Two new parties emerged in December 1999—the Homeland People’s Party (centre-right) and the Social Democracy 2000. In March 2000 a small moderate faction broke away from the ruling party, Homeland Union. Two major left-wing groupings, the Democratic Labour Party and the Social Democrats, formed a coalition in May to prepare for the election, though they ruled out any prospect of merging.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) allocated a standby credit to Lithuania in March 2000 to facilitate the implementation of economic and market policies. In May, the parliament approved plans to shut down one of the reactors at the nuclear plant in Ignalina by 2005; the decision, which followed considerable pressure from the EU, was expected to affect the country’s energy production, as Lithuania relies heavily on nuclear power.
Election to the Seimas took place in October 2000; the Social Democratic coalition achieved a convincing majority, securing 31.3 per cent of the vote and 52 seats; the Lithuanian Liberal Union won 24.3 per cent of the vote and 34 seats, while the New Union—Social Liberals came third with 19.5 per cent and 29 seats. The ruling Homeland Union managed to secure just 8.6 per cent of the vote and 9 seats.
A coalition government, led by Rolandas Paksas, head of the Lithuanian Liberal Union, was formed later that month. Surprisingly, although the Social Democratic coalition achieved a majority in the elections, it was prevented from forming the government by an alliance of the New Union, the Lithuanian Liberal Union, the Centre Union, and the Modern Christian Democrats, who jointly held 71 seats. The new government’s programme, approved by the Seimas in early November, set as priorities further market reforms and an overhaul of the educational system, as well as Lithuania’s membership of the EU and NATO.
In June 2001 six Cabinet ministers from the New Union party resigned from the coalition over arguments concerning privatization reforms. Shortly afterwards, Prime Minister Paksas resigned. Eugenijus Gentvilas was appointed caretaker prime minister until parliament approved Algirdas Brazauskas, the former president, as the new prime minister, in July.
Lithuania achieved two major international aims at the end of 2002 when invited by NATO and the European Union to join each of their organizations in 2004. The republic agreed to a gradual decommissioning of reactors of the Ignalina nuclear power station to smooth the process of EU membership. In the presidential election run-off held in January 2003, Rolandas Paksas surprisingly beat the incumbent, President Adamkus, with 55 per cent of the vote, coming from behind after the first round of voting the previous December. He took office in February. In May a referendum strongly backed EU membership with a 90 per cent vote. In December the parliament voted to institute proceedings for the impeachment of President Paksas amid allegations of his involvement in corruption. In April he was removed from office, to be replaced by the Speaker Arturas Paulauskasas as acting president. Also in April 2004, Lithuania joined NATO. On May 1, 2004, the country joined the EU in the latest wave of admissions. In the presidential election that followed the removal of Paksas, held in June, Valdas Adamkus was returned to office, defeating the former prime minister Kazimiera Prunskiene in the second round.

Created by: Marius Lukosius, 01-09-2006

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