Democracy and rights
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.