Lithuania has become the first country in the EU to disconnect entirely from Russian gas supplies, calling on other European countries to follow suit. Since the beginning of April, the Lithuanian gas system has been operating free of Russian gas imports. Prime Minister Ingrida Šimonytė tweeted: ‘From now on, Lithuania won’t be consuming a cubic cm of toxic Russian gas. LT is the first EU country to refuse Russian gas import.’ The decision to reduce the country’s dependency on Russian energy was made back in 2014, when the Klaipėda LNG terminal, Independence, was inaugurated in a bid to end the monopoly of Russian gas supply.
As regards electricity supply, Lithuania has been taking every effort to step up the synchronisation of its power grid with the Continental European Network, which now seems likely to be completed way ahead of the schedule. While currently the uninterrupted power supply is not completely risk-free, Lithuania carries out risk assessments and accident simulation tests in preparation for the connection to the Continental European Network. These tests have proved that, in the case of an emergency, Lithuania will be able to secure a stable power supply using the LitPol Link, the recent electricity link between Lithuania and Poland.
Before its accession to NATO in 2004, Lithuania had actively contributed to international and NATO operations ever since 1994. Today, the country hosts the NATO Enhanced Forward Presence Battalion, currently led by Germany. More than 15,000 allied soldiers from nine NATO countries have already served in the unit on a rotational basis. Meanwhile, Lithuania’s sky is protected by NATO’s Baltic Air Policing Mission. It involves a continuous presence—24 hours a day, 365 days a year—of fighter aircraft and crews ready to respond quickly to possible airspace violations. Participating in NATO operations since 1996, Lithuania has taken part in 11 Allied training, peacekeeping, humanitarian, and military missions, including Afghanistan, Kosovo, and Iraq.
Since the early days of its membership, Lithuania has played a significant part in NATO’s deterrence strategy. The country has been steadily raising its defence spending to 2.52% of GDP this year. It is almost double of what EU-27 countries spend on their defence on average. In 2023, Lithuania is going to host a NATO summit—a sign of solidarity of allied nations and a symbol of Lithuania’s contribution to regional security.
Over the last three decades, Lithuania has built a resilient economy, welcoming a swathe of global companies and bright minds. Having nurtured more than 1,000 start-ups and created a powerhouse for both manufacturing and IT companies, the country fosters an ecosystem that keeps on giving. Recognised as the 8th best country in the world in terms of Economic Freedom, Lithuania keeps on building bridges between industries, countries and people.
Lithuania’s exports have been following a steady upward trend. As an illustration, their growth in January–February 2022 was 28.5% up on the same period last year. Most of the goods of Lithuanian origin were exported to Germany (10.2%), the United States (9.4%), Poland (8.9%), the Netherlands (6.4%), and Latvia (6%).
To further diversify its exports markets, Lithuania is planning to open Lithuania’s trade representation in Taiwan and is strengthening its economic representation in Japan, South Korea, and Singapore. In November 2021, the Taiwanese representative office was set up in the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius.
According to IBM Global Location Trends, Lithuania finds itself among TOP3 European countries for attracting FDI jobs per capita across all sectors. In 2021 alone, the country’s investment promotion agency Invest Lithuania reported 49 FDI projects that will create over 5,400 full-time equivalents. The FDI landscape in Lithuania runs the gamut from automotive manufacturers like Hella, and Continental to the likes of Nasdaq, Accenture, Revolut, and hundreds of others.
‘A rich talent pool, active start-up ecosystem, well-developed infrastructure, and ambition to move forward has made Lithuania an attractive destination for foreign companies, from fintechs to global business service centres. New companies setting up offices in the country and a regular expansion of the well-established international brands proves that Lithuania is a strong and reliable partner in business’, says Elijus Čivilis, General Manager of Invest Lithuania, the country’s Investment Promotion Agency.
Vilnius has become a hub for international business events. On 7 April, Vilnius welcomed an annual meeting of the European Photonics Industry Consortium, which attracted 200 CEOs of organisations and companies working in the field of photonics in Europe. On 26 May, the city will welcome the tenth international and largest start-up ecosystem event, Startup Fair Connect 2022, which will bring together ‘for live connection’ a much wider circle of the participants from the local and foreign startup community compared with the previous event. On 16 June, Vilnius will again welcome startups and international organisations coming to attend the GovTech Baltic Leaders 2022. In October, the capital will host the 15th European Forum for Industrial Biotechnology and Bioeconomy (EFIB), gathering around 600 of Europe’s top experts and leaders in the field of industrial biotechnology. And these are but a few to mention.
Today, Lithuania cherishes freedom, democracy, rule of law, and human rights above all. The first country to break free from the Soviet Union, Lithuania sees it as its mission to defend these values in our part of the world and beyond.
During his recent visit to Lithuania, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken remarked on Lithuania’s resolve to advocate freedom and democracy: ‘Lithuania’s commitment to freedom was evident at the Summit for Democracy that President Biden convened late last year, where Vilnius pledged to expand its efforts to support and provide refuge for pro-democracy activists from Belarus and Russia, to promote international accountability measures for gross human rights violations, to increase support for media freedom and the safety of journalists.’
Russia’s brutal and unprovoked war against Ukraine has only strengthened this uncompromising position. Standing united with the brave nation of Ukraine, Lithuania continues to be a safe place to live, invest, work, and travel.
Ordinary people have opened their homes and hearts for war refugees from Ukraine whereas charities, NGOs, businesses, and private initiatives are working day and night to ensure that those fleeing the war are safe and comfortable. The majority of procedures pertaining to life and work in Lithuania have been simplified for Ukrainians. They do not need to have travel documents, health insurance and other documents to enter Lithuania, and they can start working without a permit. To date, nearly 5,000 Ukrainian refugees have found employment in Lithuania.
‘I am proud that we are witnessing unprecedented unity among disparate democracies. I am also proud that our support to Ukraine and response to Russia is of unparalleled proportions, swifter than ever. And we are investing more in our own security as we realise that neutrality is tantamount to self-deception’, Lithuania’s Prime Minister Ingrid Šimonytė wrote in her op-ed for the Economist.
Today, 32 years on from the regained independence, Lithuania is stronger and more resilient than ever before. A fully-fledged member of the global community, we are here to support the like-minded nations, defend the values of democracy and freedom, and co-create a better tomorrow.