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COUNTRY PROFILES


PROFILE

Country Profile

Area: 65,200 sq. km (25,174 sq. miles)
Population: 3.35million (2010)
Capital City: Vilnius (population: 588 600 )
People: 84% Lithuanian, 6% Russian, 7% Polish, 1.5% Belarusian, 1% others
Languages: Lithuanian (the state language), Russian, English
Religion(s): predominantly Roman Catholic
Currency: Litas
Major political parties: Homeland Union (referred to as Conservatives), Social Democratic Party, Liberal Centrist Party, Liberal Movement, Order and Justice Party, Labour Party, Lithuanian Poles' Electoral Action
Government: Parliamentary Democracy.
Head of State: President Dalia Grybauskaite (since 2009, presidential term is for five years, next election in May 2014)
Prime Minister: Andrius Kubilius (since 2008)
Foreign Minister: Audronius Ažubalis (since 2010)
Membership of international groupings/ organisations: United Nations (UN), European Union (EU), North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), Council of Europe (COE), Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council (EAPC), World Trade Organisation (WTO), Council of the Baltic Sea States (CBSS) and Organisation for Co-operation and Security in Europe (OSCE). Lithuania holds the chair of the OSCE for in 2011, and will hold the EU Presidency in 2013.

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ECONOMY

Basic Economic Facts

GDP: USD $35.73 billion (approx £55.49 billion GBP) (2010)
GDP per capita: USD $15,900 (approx £24.900 GBP) (2010)
Annual Growth: 0.4% (2010)
Inflation: 0.9% (2010)
Unemployment: 16% (2010)
Major Industries: metal-cutting machine tools, electric motors, television sets, refrigerators and freezers, petroleum refining, shipbuilding (small ships), furniture making, textiles, food processing, fertilizers, agricultural machinery, optical equipment, electronic components, computers, amber jewellery.
Major trading partners: January - August 2010: imports: Russia 33% Germany - 10,3%, Latvia - 9,5%, Exports: Germany - 10,3%, Russia- 14,8%, Latvia - 9,5%, Poland 7,5%.

Lithuania's economy grew on average 8% per year for the four years prior to 2008 driven by exports and domestic demand. The downturn following the global financial crisis has been the worst since re-independence in 1991. The economy is estimated to have shrunk by 15% in 2009, leading to the government, in the same year, launching a high profile campaign, led by Prime Minister Kubilius, to attract foreign investment and to develop export markets. The government also implemented a package of austerity measures: public spending was cut by 30%, public sector wages fell by between 20-30%, pensions were cut by up to 11%, VAT rose from 18% to 21%, corporate tax went from 15% to 20% and there were significant tax rises on alcohol and pharmaceuticals. The measures resulted in savings equivalent to 9% of GDP. Whilst these measures were harsh, they allowed Lithuania to get through the worst of the economic crisis without calling on the assistance of the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Lithuania is now focussed on economic recovery and intends to meet the Maastricht criteria for entry into the Euro by 2014.

Further information about Lithuania's economy can be found at:

UK Trade & Investment Country Profile: Lithuania (http://www.uktradeinvest.gov.uk/ukti/lithuania) .

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HISTORY

Present-day Lithuanians, an Indo-European ethnic group, settled on the Baltic coast some 4000 years ago. The name of Lithuania was first mentioned in the Quedlinburg Annals in 1009. In the 14th century under Grand Duke Mindaugas, who is recognized as the founder of Lithuania and the only King in Lithuanian history, and the Grand Duke Gediminas the territory was extended southwards to take in Minsk. In 1386 royal marriage brought Lithuania and Poland under a combined crown and this power enabled Lithuania to withstand the advance of the Teutonic Knights and to reach, together with Poland, the decisive victory at the Zalgiris (Tannenberg) battle in 1410. At one stage the Polish-Lithuanian commonwealth stretched from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea. Its power declined during the 16th and 17th centuries, ending in 1795 with the partition of Poland by Prussia, Russia, and Austria and the annexation of Lithuania by Russia. Russia ruled the region until the German occupation of World War I.

Lithuania, along with other Russian territories, was occupied by Germany in 1915, and a period of complex political negotiations followed when Lithuania strived for independence from both Germany and Russia. Lithuania declared independence in 1918 and began a programme of land reform and made both economic and educational advances. However, a series of wars, against Russian Bolsheviks, a Russian/German group known as the Bermontians and Poland, followed which delayed international recognition. The UK recognised Lithuanian independence de jure on 22 December 1922.

In June 1940, Soviet troops occupied Lithuania. Under a provision of the 1939 Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact Lithuania was drawn into the USSR. The UK did not recognise de jure the incorporation of the Baltic States into the Soviet Union.

Recent History

On 11 March 1990, Lithuania became the first of the Soviet republics to declare re-independence, subsequently restructuring its economy for integration into Western European institutions. Lithuania joined both NATO and the EU in the spring of 2004.

Longer Historical Perspective

BBC News Country Timeline: Lithuania (http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/world/europe/country_profiles/newsid_1106000/1106095.stm)

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INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS

Lithuania's Relations with Neighbours

Lithuania's relations with Russia were normalised with the signing of the Agreement on the Foundations of Inter-State Relations on 29 July 1991. This was followed by the signature of a border agreement with Russia on 24 October 1997, an important step forward in their relations. Lithuania was the first former Soviet republic to conclude such an agreement. The Lithuanian Parliament ratified the agreement in October 1999 and the Duma (Russian Parliament) ratified the agreement in 2003. In May 2003 Lithuania and Russia signed a re-admission agreement.

Citizenship and the treatment of ethnic minorities are much less contentious issues in Lithuania than in neighbouring states where there are much larger Russian-speaking minorities. Citizenship (with no language requirement) was available to all residents at the time of independence, and most of the non-Lithuanian minority (approx 20%) took it up.

There have been complaints from the Polish community in Lithuania over the problems with official spelling of Polish names, a failure to resolve Polish property claims and other issues.
Lithuania has agreed its land borders with Latvia, Belarus, Poland and Russia. The maritime border with Russia (Kaliningrad) remains undetermined. An agreement on the demarcation of the maritime border with Latvia was signed in July 1999.

The Baltic States have developed a wide network of co-operation.

Inter-governmental co-operation is managed in the framework of the Baltic Council of Ministers. Heads of State and Government meet regularly - at least once a year. Co-operation focuses on areas such as trade, economic relations and EU/NATO integration.

Lithuania's Relations with the International Community

Lithuania's overriding foreign policy goal had been full membership of Western institutions. In April 2004 Lithuania formally joined NATO and on 1 May 2004 also became a member of the EU, thereby completing two long-term objectives, which had dominated Lithuania's foreign policy agenda for more than a decade.

Lithuania plays a significant role in global responsibilities, having been responsible for a multinational Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) in Ghowr Province of Afghanistan since May 2005.

In 2011 Lithuania holds the Chair of the OSCE, and will hold the EU Presidency in 2013.

Lithuania's relations with the UK

Together with EU partners, the UK recognised Lithuania's restored independence on 27 August 1991. The British Embassy opened in Vilnius in October 1991 and new, owned premises were formally inaugurated in April 1994. Britain's relations with Lithuania remain close and friendly.

There is a bilateral group in the Lithuanian Parliament chaired by Vilija Aleknaitė Abramikienė. The Lithuania All-Party Group in Parliament is chaired by Lord Bowness. Sir Malcolm Rifkind is Honorary President of the British-Lithuanian Society.

Cultural Relations with the UK

Close cultural contacts between the two countries have developed over the years. Lithuanian opera singers such as Violeta Urmana and Edgaras Montvidas have performed in opera productions for the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden and Glyndebourne. Dalia Ibelhauptaite has directed opera and theatre in London. The Lithuanian National Opera and Ballet Theatre and the English National Opera collaborated in presenting Anthony Minghella’s production of Madam Butterfly. Several English historical films, including Elizabeth I with Helen Mirren and Jeremy Irons have been filmed in Lithuania. British theatre companies, orchestras and pop stars perform to large audience on Lithuanian stages and arenas.

The British Council has an office in Vilnius which has an active programme of events. It focuses on events that encourage the development of networks of people and which provide participants with opportunities to share experience and expertise in priority areas: social inclusion and diversity, economic, and social and cultural prosperity.

Follow this link to the British Council in Lithuania website. (http://www.britishcouncil.org/lithuania.htm)

Recent Visits

Inward

Mr Andrius Kubilius (Prime Minister) in 2011

-- Mr Andrius Kubilius (Prime Minister) in 2010

-- Mr Evaldas Ignatavičius (Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs) in 2009

Mr Andrius Kubilius (Prime Minister) in 2009

-- Mr Vygaudas Usackas (Foreign Minister) in March 2009

Mr Valdas Adamkus (President) in February 2008

-- Mr Gediminas Kirkilas (Prime Minister) in June 2007

-- Dr Petras Vaitiekunas (Foreign Minister) in February 2007

-- Mr Valdas Adamkus (President) in July 2006

-- Ms Vilija Blinkeviciute (Labour Minister) in March 2005

-- Lithuanian Defence Committee in March 2004

Outward

-- Mr John Mann MP, Chairman of the UK All-Party Parliamentary Group on anti-Semitism in 2011

-- Mr David Lidington (Minister for Europe) in September 2010

Mr Malcolm Wicks (BERR) in October 2007

-- Mr Jonathan Shaw (DEFRA) in September 2007

-- UK All Party Parliamentary Group in September 2007

-- UK Parliamentary Trade and Industry Select Committee in May 2007

-- State Visit by HMQ Elizabeth II and Duke of Edinburgh in October 2006

-- Margaret Beckett (Minister for Foreign Affairs) in October 2006

-- UK All Party Parliamentary Group in September 2006

-- Mr Douglas Alexander (Minister for Europe) in May 2006

Baroness Ashton (DCA) in August 2005

-- Dr Stephen Ladyman (DfT) in August 2005

-- Mr Douglas Alexander (Minister for Europe) in June 2005

-- Mr Ben Bradshaw (DEFRA) in June 2005

Baroness Symons (FCO) in April 2005

-- Mr Ivor Chaplin (MOD) in January 2005

Mr Gerry Sutcliffe (DTI) in June 2004

-- The Lord Mayor of London, Alderman Robert Finch in June 2004

-- Shadow Foreign Secretary Mr Michael Ancram in December 2003

-- UK All Party Parliamentary Group in June 2004

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GEOGRAPHY

Lithuania is the largest of the three Baltic States. The geographical centre of Europe is said to be near Bernotai, 15 miles north of Vilnius. The landscape is diverse, consisting of gently rolling plains and extensive forests. There are over 2800 lakes and 750 rivers. The highest point is Juozapine Hill (294m) in the south-east of the country. The Baltic coastline and ports (main port Klaipeda) are generally ice-free in winter.

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TRADE AND INVESTMENT

UK Development Assistance

Lithuania benefited from many programmes under DFID's bilateral programme (former Know How Fund), which ended in 2003. The UK continues to have a small bilateral programme (the 'EU Action Plan') which aims to further enhance both Government and civil society capabilities with working in the EU context.

The UK is also a significant contributor to the EU technical assistance programme, which focuses on economic and political restructuring and assistance with accession issues. The main thrust of British Military assistance to the Baltic States has been English-language and basic infantry training for BALTBAT, the Baltic Peacekeeping Battalion.

Trade and Investment with the UK

Lithuania is the largest UK export market in the Baltic States and in Jan-Oct 2010 was our 74th largest market with the value of goods totalling £173.5m. The main UK exports were organic chemicals, textile yarn, fabrics, professional services, scientific instruments and applications, road vehicles, machinery specialised for particular industries and other miscellaneous manufactured articles. The main Lithuanian imports to the UK were petroleum, and related materials, fertilisers, furniture, feeding stuff for animals, tobacco and articles of apparel and clothing accessories.

more information on general figures and trade opportunities, see the:

UK Trade & Investment Country Profile: Lithuania (http://www.uktradeinvest.gov.uk/ukti/lithuania) .

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POLITICS

The current government was formed following the election in October 2008. It is a coalition comprising the Homeland Union-Lithuanian Christian Democrats, the Liberal Movement, the Liberal and Centre Union, and the National Resurrection Party. It originally had a large majority, but this has changed with the defection of a number of MPs to the opposition. The coalition is now in a minority in parliament, with 70 seats.

Parliament is the 141-member Seimas: 71 members are elected by popular vote, 70 elected by proportional representation. The last elections took place in October 2008, and next to be held in October 2012.

The President is elected by popular vote for a five-year term and is eligible for a second term. The last Presidential election took place on 17 May 2009 and the next will be held in May 2014.

The Prime Minister is appointed by the president on the approval of the Parliament.

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Last Updated: April 2011

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