Lithuania is best known as Latvia’s neighbor. It is a small country although it is the largest of the three Baltic countries. The Capital Vilnius is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the largest old town in Europe.
Official language: Lithuanian
Passport and visa: A Finnish citizen needs a passport or identity card as a travel document.
Time difference to Finland: No time difference.
Agriculture is important for Lithuania’s economy and employment, especially livestock and dairy production. However, the country’s agricultural exports have been adversely affected since Russia in 2014 banned imports of certain goods from the EU.
- CountryAAH: Comprehensive import regulations of Lithuania. Covers import prohibitions and special documentation requirements for a list of prohibited items.
Lithuania is an old farming country, where livestock management has traditionally been the basis for a significant food industry. During the Soviet era (1944–1991), Lithuania was an important supplier of dairy products in the Union’s internal market.
After independence in 1991, agriculture was forced to undergo a dramatic transition to market economy. Lithuania lost export markets in the east, while fuel and fertilizer shortages contributed to a sharp decline in production. The dissolution of more than 1,000 agricultural and state agriculture became a political issue. The left wanted to see a slow privatization with some preserved economies of scale, while the right advocated a quicker transition. The right-hand line prevailed. Most farms were sold out or returned to pre-war owners or their heirs. For Lithuania defense and foreign policy, please check relationshipsplus.
Dependent on EU support
Hundreds of thousands of small family farms were created, but few of them have been able to afford new investments. Many farms have been closed down or largely run as self-catering. In economically difficult times, many residents have depended on the cultivation of relatives and friends in the countryside. When the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) fell by almost 15 percent in 2009, agricultural production increased simultaneously.
Following Lithuania’s EU accession in 2004, the demands for better quality and hygiene have knocked out many Lithuanian farms, and tens of thousands have been closed with grants from Brussels. At the same time, other agriculture has survived thanks to EU agricultural support, which, however, was lower than in the old EU countries. In the Union budget for 2013-2020, Lithuania received increased area aid, which is to be gradually increased to almost 75 percent of average EU support. Lithuania also received increased regional support.
Livestock management has declined significantly since 1991, the number of animals has more than halved. But dairy products, pork, beef and chicken meat and eggs are still important industrial and export goods. The food is usually sold mainly to Russia, but exports declined substantially after 2014. Grain cultivation is also significant. Wheat is the biggest crop. Barley and rapeseed are also important, and a lot of potatoes and sugar beets are grown. In 2015, crops accounted for almost two-thirds of agricultural production, while livestock management accounted for just over one-third.
Important timber industry
Just over two-fifths of the country consists of arable land. Almost a tenth of the labor force is employed in agriculture, an unusually high proportion in the EU. An average farm in Lithuania has 12 hectares of land, but most farms are smaller than that. The backbone of commercial food production is a few hundred large companies, often converted from collective farming, to close to 600 hectares on average.
More than a third of Lithuania’s surface is wooded, mainly with pine, fir, birch and birch. Around half of the forest is state-owned. Timber is one of the country’s most important natural resources. The timber and paper industry is important. Furniture manufacturing and other carpentry are also important industries.
Lithuania’s fishing fleet operates in both the Baltic and the Atlantic. In the Baltic Sea is mainly caught herring, cod and herring. Freshwater features include carp and salmon trout. Fish preserves are an important export product. Klaipėda has the most important fishing port.
FACTS – AGRICULTURE
Agriculture’s share of GDP
2.7 percent (2018)
Percentage of land used for agriculture
47.2 percent (2016)
- Abbreviationfinder.org: Offers how the 3-letter acronym of LTH stands for the state of Lithuania in geography.
Prosecution of spies suspected
For the second time in a few weeks, a Lithuanian citizen is being charged with espionage on behalf of Belarus. It is a military doctor who is accused of having provided information on the defense personnel and facilities for five years. The former case involved a former air traffic controller.
Russian border blocked
The Government of Lithuania claims that Russia introduced a blockade against Lithuanian vehicle transports of persons and goods into Russia. The blockade is introduced the day after President Grybauskaité, on a visit to Kiev, called Russia a “terrorist state”. According to Lithuania, a similar blockade occurred during a month of 2013 ahead of the EU summit where the then Ukrainian government was expected to sign an association agreement with the European Union.
Suspected war criminals are identified
A multi-year investigation into the shooting deaths in Vilnius in January 1991, when Soviet soldiers stormed the TV tower and killed 13 unarmed civilian guards, is complete. According to the National Prosecutor’s Office, 69 Russian, Belarusian and Ukrainian citizens, who then belonged to the Soviet army, are suspected of crimes against humanity and war crimes. Since most people live in other countries, European arrest warrants have been issued. The trial is expected to start in May 2015.
Minister “comes out”
Foreign Minister Edgar Rinkēvičs publicly announces that he is gay. That a person with such a high official status “comes out” is very unusual in Latvian society, where the prejudice against sexual minorities is widespread. In the long term, the Foreign Minister’s message is believed to be able to lead to a more accepting attitude towards same-sex relations in socially strongly conservative Latvia.
New gas terminal
Lithuania gets its first liquefied natural gas terminal, which is stationed in the port city of Klaipéda. The country has been completely dependent on imports of Russian natural gas, but as of 2015, will now have the capacity to import significantly more gas from the West, for example from Norwegian Statoil, than has been purchased from Russia to date. Thus, Estonia and Latvia are also estimated to be able to meet some of their needs via the Lithuanian plant.
New strength against hybrid warfare
The government decides to form a rapid response force of 2,500 men to respond to “hybrid warfare”, such as the uprising of the Russian minority, armed provocations, attacks by armed groups or border violations. The action takes place in the light of Russia’s actions in Ukraine.
More money for the defense
The government decides to increase defense spending by a third in 2015, but still falls far short of NATO’s recommendation of 2 percent of GDP. The government is determined to reach the NATO target by 2020. It is the perceived new threat from Russia that is causing the increase in funding.
Fishing boat taken by Russia
The EU calls on Russia to release a Lithuanian fishing boat which, according to the EU, was seized by a Russian border patrol on international waters in the Barents Sea earlier in September. The crew of nearly 30 people, including both Lithuanians and Russians, is being held in detention centers in Murmansk, according to EU sources.
Ritual slaughter is allowed
Parliament adopts a law that allows ritual slaughter. The intention is to be able to export meat to Israel and Muslim countries to compensate for the loss of exports to Russia. Lithuania has been identified as the most affected EU country by Russia banning imports of almost all EU food as a counter to EU financial sanctions for Russian intervention in Ukraine. The law comes into force in 2015.
Defense agreement with neighbors
Ukraine, Poland and Lithuania sign an agreement to build a joint brigade to strengthen and modernize the Ukrainian defense. The brigade has its headquarters in Lublin in eastern Poland.
Census on land ownership invalid
A referendum to ban foreign nationals from owning land in Lithuania is declared invalid as only 15 percent of voters participate. It had been required 50 percent. Upon entry into the EU in 2004, Lithuania was allowed to retain a ban on foreign land ownership for ten years, but that exception expired in May. Reintroducing such a ban could have caused major problems in the country’s relations with the EU. All major parties, like the president, opposed the proposal.
Lithuania ready for the euro
The European Commission announces that Lithuania now meets all the requirements for switching to the euro as its currency. By the end of 2015, the country would thus become the nineteenth member of the EU’s currency cooperation.
The President is re-elected
The incumbent President Dalia Grybauskaitė is re-elected, but only in the second round of elections. She gets 46 percent in the first round but is forced to make a decisive election against Socialist Zigmantas Balčytis, who gets just under 14 percent of the vote. In the second round, Grybauskaitė gets 58 percent of the vote against 42 percent for Balčytis, despite being supported by Prime Minister Butkevičius. It is the president who is responsible for foreign policy and Grybauskaitė has emphasized national security and criticism of Russia in his election campaign.
At the same time as the second round of elections, elections to the European Parliament are held. Opposition Party Fosterlandsförbundet – Lithuanian Christian Democrats get the largest with 17.4 percent of the vote. The Social Democrats win roughly the same number of votes: 17.3 percent.
Russia closes Kaliningrad
The government says that Russia unilaterally terminated a 2001 agreement that gave Lithuania the right to send military inspectors every year to the Russian enclave Kaliningrad, which is on the Baltic Sea between Lithuania and Poland. The government regrets Russia’s “unwillingness to constructive cooperation”, but says it can get the information it needs “through other channels”. Lithuania has been a member of NATO since 2004.
Russian TV broadcasts are banned
Lithuania bans the state-run Russian TV channel RTR Planeta for three months for its hard-hitting reporting on the crisis in Ukraine. The channel is accused of justifying the Russian military intervention in Ukraine and questioning the legitimacy of the Ukrainian government.
The UN dotted Lithuania
The UN Human Rights Committee blames Lithuania for violating the civil rights of former President Rolandas Paksa for 2012 to have enacted a law that excludes him for life from seeking political assignments. The law was passed shortly before general elections in which he would run for office. Paksas was deposed in 2004 (see Current policy of having sold Lithuanian citizenship to a Russian businessman. The UN Committee gives Paksas the right to have the law addressed to him personally and came into effect retroactively.
Grybauskaitė favorite for the election
President Grybauskaitė announces that she will stand for re-election in May. According to opinion polls, she is clearly the favorite for victory in the presidential election.