Prime Minister Ingrida Šimonytė assumed office on November 25, 2020, becoming the second woman in the nation’s history to serve in the position. As a trained economist, Prime Minister Šimonytė served as the Director of the Tax Department from 2002 to 2004, the Undersecretary of the Ministry of Finance of the Republic of Lithuania from 2004 to 2009, and the Minister of Finance from 2009 to 2012. In 2016, Prime Minister Šimonytė served in Lithuania's parliament, Seimas, for the Antakalnis constituency. In this position, Šimonytė served on the European Affairs Committee and was the chairperson of the Audit Committee. In 2020, Šimonytė was re-elected to her position, receiving over 60% of the vote in her constituency.
PC CREDIT: DELFI / Karolina Pansevič
Šimonytė received her Masters degree in Economics from the Faculty of Economics at Vilnius University in 1998, and her Bachelor degree in Business Administration and Management from the Faculty of Economics at Vilnius University in 1996. Prime Minister Šimonytė later served as President of the Council at her alma mater, Vilnius University, from 2014 to 2016. Prime Minister Šimonytė speaks Lithuanian, English, Russian, Polish, and basic Swedish. Prime Minister Šimonytė received the Cross of Officer of the Order of Vytautas the Great in 2015, and the Clear Wave award for transparent and responsible activities in 2012
Speech by Prime Minister Ingrida Šimonytė
Speech by the Prime Minister of Lithuania Ingrida Šimonytė at the conference „A Divisive Past: The Soviet-German War and Narratives of Mass Violence in East Central Europe”. The conference was dedicated to the memory of the recently deceased Literature Professor Irena Veisaitė. ‘What helped me keep moving forward after I managed to miraculously survive the war, was my resolute desire to tell the world what really happened. However, it seemed that no one was willing to hear about the horrific experience that I and other people had to go through. And thus bringing up the subject was completely pointless’, said survivor of the Holocaust, Professor Irena Veisaitė, in whose memory this conference is dedicated, in a book co-authored with historian Aurimas Švedas. Irena Veisaitė had given herself selflessly to the cause of a democratic, open and tolerant state of Lithuania. Lithuania, where dialogue would triumph against confrontation, where there would be no first-class and second-class citizens, where no one would be allowed to monopolise speaking on behalf of the nation, as a nation devoid of polylogues or heated debates is indeed doomed to tread instead of the path of democracy the path of authoritarianism, where a part of society is recommended to stay low and raise no questions. Lithuania, which would, along its aspirations to foster its identity, be mindful of the world around it and use the best it has to offer, and which would not only capriciously demand attention and satisfaction of its interests from the international community, but, looking back on its difficult history marked by violence of totalitarian regimes, reach out to those countries and people who find themselves today on the front lines of the fight for freedom and human rights. The Professor would always say that her mind is a perfect home to the three identities: Jewish, Lithuanian and European. These are the three elements that complement each other, rather than the opposite. It is particularly true today, when national populist movements emerging in different countries seek to impose a mythology of a besieged fortress whose defensive walls must be strengthened to protect them from all alleged foreign and domestic enemies. It is also particularly true of a country that had lost much of its Jewish population during the Holocaust, where anti-Semitism resurfaces under the guise of new masks. The example of Irena Veisaitė testifies to the importance of the efforts of each individual not only of the public authorities in confronting these challenges through empathy, listening and respect for human rights and freedoms, rather than through hostility. Professor’s words quoted in the beginning point out to a poignant truth: those relentlessly persecuted by the totalitarian regimes of communism and Nazism were inevitably in for yet another blow: during the occupation, they were unable to share the historical truth about what they had gone through. It is deeply traumatic, so it is particularly important today to professionally look at this complicated past which will only then settle into history from the still painful trauma when there is nothing pending that has been selectively omitted or bypassed, and when no one is left unheard or ignored, when historians can proceed peacefully with their work without being passionately reproached for seeking truth supported by facts and documents.
YPC CREDIT: DELFI / Mindaugas Ažušilis
I tend to believe that the maturity of society is also measurable as to whether it can accept from historians truth, which can at times be awkward or which can call for revisiting or rethinking of what has already been established, or it wants that the historians weave one or another collective narrative or mythology, where our side involves only heroes, victims or observers, at worst, but, God forbid, certainly not executioners or collaborators. History is nothing like an old Soviet television showing only ‘black and white’. To be able to discern the colours or the shades to that matter, we must, in the first place, get rid of the interpretive schemes of history imposed by totalitarian regimes, where an individual had no value unless he was part of one or another collective entity: a class, nation or race. Belonging to the ‘wrong’ race or class or group was often seen as a crime, while belonging to the ‘right’ side, on the other hand, would easily wash off the most heinous crimes against humanity. Isn’t it still true today that we see cases with some people justified just because of belonging to the group of our own? Isn’t it still true today that we have cases where the suffering of others deserves less compassion and their voice remains unheard just because they are strangers so to speak? The maturity of society is also evidenced by our ability to listen and embrace different perspectives. It is only natural that following our regained independence, we rushed to voice our thoughts after so many years of living in a lie, so the tongue often worked more effectively than our ears. We were often sceptical of other narratives or treated them at times with hostility lest they overshadow our voice, or in some way deny or challenge what we were trying to assert. We have been living in freedom for three decades now and we are strong enough not to treat every awkward question, every doubt expressed and every different perspective as a threat. At this point it is notable that the host of this conference - Vilnius itself is a city where Lithuanian, Polish, Jewish and Belarusian stories meet. To hear and understand them, we don’t necessarily have to agree on everything. We are invited to focus on what unites rather than divides us. And the strongest link can be the one based on values. In other words, we can ask not only what we are telling but what values our historical narrative and its assessment is based on, what our mistakes are, what lessons we have learnt, and what story we see today as an inspiration to continue building our future? Although asked in different tongues, all these questions can bring us closer to the common language of the heart.
PC CREDIT: Ingrida Šimonytė / E. Blaževič / LRT photo.
When telling a story, tensions often rise between the so-called grand narrative and personal memory. Our actions and attitudes speak volumes of the maturity of our society. Do we tend to silence and hide voices that are in dissonance, or do we indeed have the courage and humility to leave room for a different voice that is also seeking truth? This, as a matter of fact, was also testified by talented poet Matilda Olkinaitė, who wrote the following words before her eighteenth birthday in May 1940: ‘I see you, oh suffering soul’. A little over a year later, she was killed together with her loved ones by white-arm-banders, Nazi collaborators. Matilda’s words remain our guidance today. Following her - means having no fear of the Kremlin and its hybrid aggression, with history, among its other targets. False information coming from the Kremlin seeks division, polarisation, disruption in the social fabric and undermined mutual trust among the population. False information aims to discredit states in the eyes of international partners. It is important to note that it often targets unanswered, bypassed or hidden questions, or which are, conversely, escalated in support of certain myth rather than in search of truth. Hence, historical research and its quality and our own openness to dialogue that bridges the divide, is not only about the past but also about today’s challenges: social solidarity, resilience and public security, which call for more than military build-up. The doom of the 1941 lied in the fact that some were waiting in horror for the approaching Nazis, while others in the meantime hoped that the Nazi-Soviet conflict might open up an opportunity for Lithuania to regain what had been lost without a single bullet in the 1940s. Today’s rushed world, where, according to one sociologist invoking Alice in Wonderland, we have to ‘run as fast as we can, just to stay in place’, often pushes us to make hasty assessments without the required in-depth analysis or without trying to look at the matter not from the nowadays perspective, when we already know the outcome, but from the perspective of those who were trapped between the hammer and the anvil or between one or another totalitarian regime. This is how history may serve a stage for the demonstration of pride and self-righteousness and may suffer impoverishment to the point of labelling. It is my belief and wish that this conference, which has brought together prominent experts in their fields, will place an important emphasis on the common duty for us all to take time to understand and delve in the matter instead of rushing out our assessments. Finally, I will recall Irena Veisaitė’s words from her preface to Matilda Olkinaitė’s diary and poetry book: ‘I have no idea how people could have been persuaded to even kill children. Until then, everyone had lived in peace. My grandfather who lived in Babtai before the war got along well with others, he was loved and respected by his neighbours, and I had never heard any bad word about Lithuanians from him. Why did he have to be killed? It’s beyond my understanding. It was true however that cruelty spread at that time as a universal phenomenon all across Europe, and it would be wrong therefore to blame one nation or another. After all, a nation can never be guilty because there are different people in every nation, there are murderers and rescuers. And I am afraid that it might happen again. I have deep concerns about the modern world.’ The Professor’s words testify to the fact that in the face of the most brutal epochs in history, we are powerless to answer some of the questions that have shaken our very faith in human being and humanity. We will hardly ever be able to put a full stop in terms of the answers sought, saying that what was covered is now revealed. However, this does not relieve us of our duty to seek and delve into the matter while feeling responsibility for those who are no more, those who live today and those who are yet to come into this world that will be passed on to them as our co-created legacy. After all, to feel concern about today’s world - to put it in Irena Veisaitė’s words - means to take responsibility for it, so that the words ‘never again’ are not a mere ritual repeated once or twice a year but a personal commitment to do everything within my might to make change happen.
Is Lithuania's new, female-led government a sign of improved gender equality in the country
Lithuania is often so masculine in its outlook that independent, straight-talking females are still referred to as "women with balls". So the emergence of a female-led governing coalition has sent shockwaves across swathes of Lithuanian society. Ingrida Simonyte is not the country's first female prime minister. But she is one of three women - representing each of the coalition parties - pulling the strings of government. That in itself is highly unusual. On top of that, another potential first: half of Lithuania's 14-strong cabinet - if approved by the president - will be women. It's a development that does not tally with the statistics. Lithuania ranks 22 out of 28 countries on the EU Gender Equality Index. Its score of 56.3 points out of 100, is well below the EU average and it has dropped four places since 2010.
Who are the women leading Lithuania?
Ingrida Simonyte, who was this week confirmed as Lithuania's new prime minister, represents the conservative Homeland Union-Lithuanian Christian Democrats (HU-LCD) party. A former finance minister and presidential candidate, HU-LCD won the most votes in October's parliamentary election. The 46-year-old trained economist is widely known for her fondness for ice hockey, football and rock music. Viktorija Cmilyte-Nielsen heads up the Liberal Movement, which won just 7% of the vote in October and is one of three parties in the governing coalition. The 37-year-old is also a European chess champion and is credited with saving the movement from extinction. She will head up Lithuania's parliament, the Seimas. Ausrine Armonaite, 31, is a former member of the Liberal Movement but left to form the new Freedom Party in 2019. The party, which includes the mayor of Vilnius among its ranks, won more than 9% of the vote in October's election. She has been put forward to be Lithuania's next economy minister. Meanwhile, there are several other women put forward for cabinet posts: Gintare Skaiste (education);Jurgita Siugzdinienė (science/sport); Monika Navickiene (social security/labour); Agne Bilotaite (interior ministry); Dalia Miniataite (agriculture); and Evelina Dobrovolska (justice).
What has the reaction been like?
“Frankly, I have never heard of some of the names," said Vytautas Dumbliauskas, associate professor of Mykolas Romeris University in Vilnius, referring to the proposed cabinet. "Lithuania has never had a coalition or a government like that.” Dumbliauskas's sentiments were echoed by Lithuania's outgoing prime minister Saulius Skvernelis. “I believe my colleague Ingrida is really brave, very, very, very, very, brave,” he said. “She is an experienced captain, but with such a crew as hers I would not sail across the ocean even as a passenger.” Indeed female members of her "crew" have already been subject to scrutiny that perhaps male ones would not ordinarily receive. For example, tattoos on the upper chest of Dobrovolska (proposed for the justice ministry) stirred a debate on social media, compelling her to explain. “If I were a man - not a woman and a Pole by nationality - I’d not fall under such scrutiny,” Dobrovolska told LRT.
Is Lithuania the new Scandinavia?
This is a question some will pose given Lithuania's proximity to the likes of Sweden, Finland and Denmark, frequently lauded for progress in terms of gender equality. Indeed the government in Helsinki is led by a coalition of five female party leaders. Experts, however, are adamant Lithuania still has a long way to go. “To me, the high number of women in the new government is more of a coincidence, the result of the swinging of the political pendulum rather than the aftermath of a societal and cultural shift, one Scandinavia has seen,” Aiste Ramonaite, professor at the Institute of International Relations and Political Science of Vilnius University, told Euronews. Vytautas Bruveris, an analyst at daily newspaper Lietuvos Rytas, agrees. “Definitely not a trend or a cultural shift," Bruveris told Euronews. "Lithuania has not yet seen a major breakthrough on gender quality – and neither [has] the political parties. "Frankly, to me, the jubilant emphasis on women’s prevalence in the coalition and the government is sexist in its core. Underneath it lies quite a deplorable situation of women in Lithuania, where women are still being considerably underpaid and misrepresented in various power structures.” Nevertheless, Tomas Janeliunas, professor at the Institute of International Relations and Political Science of Vilnius University said with only one female minister in the previous government, having such a potential increase would be “remarkable”. “But is Lithuania going through a cultural and societal shift in terms of egalitarianism? No, I do not think so. It seems to me a happenchance. Lithuania is still pretty far from the Scandinavian standards in terms of gender equality,” the analyst concluded.
How might this government change Lithuania?
The new cabinet's plate is full already. The biggest headache seems to be the volatile spread of COVID-19 — exceeding two thousand daily cases on most days recently — and the impact on the economy. Simonyte has expressed concerns about the shallow state coffers, even though the International Monetary Fund (IMF) predicted the Lithuanian economy will contract a mere 1.8% — the smallest drop in Europe — and GDP growth of 4.1% next year. There could also be coalition tension of a liberal push to lower taxes and legalise same-sex partnerships. “The first impression I am receiving about the new coalition is not much different from those I’ve had with the other new coalitions in the past: plenty of promises, but what sets this one apart from the others in the past, is abstractness and the declarative nature of its programme," said Bruveris. "Disagreements in the coalition can be 'programmed' prior to the start and they stem from the different perception of values, be it legislating same-sex partnerships or decriminalising small possession of marijuana, ratifying the Istanbul Convention, or allowing to write non-Lithuanian names with the diacritics of the original language, all of which the Freedom Party wants, for example.” It is obviously too early to judge the coalition, but experts agree that the female-driven coalition has an unprecedented opportunity. “The women are in a unique position to shatter the conviction of many here that males are better managers in general," said Dumbliauskas. "The years of the previous, nearly-all-male-governments were marked with never-ending-squabbles and, with women in the coalition and the government, we may see change and be approaching Scandinavia (in terms of gender quality). "But only the future will show if a cabinet like this will be a one-time thing or something that will develop into something deeper and better.” “The three women have been given a unique possibility to shake-up the Conservative sexism-ridden patriarchal Lithuanian society, but, like many other Eastern European states, Lithuania is still far from the front of gender equality," said Bruveris. "If the new Coalition does well, then the cause will be enhanced, but if they fail or sink into squabbles, the army of naysayers will be handed a formidable argument: 'Look, what happens when women are given power!' PM Simonyte, perhaps mindful of the deep-rooted perceptions, said the women-led coalition did not have a goal of destroying "the old-world order”. “However, the goal is to change those solutions that don't work. But this does not mean that we have to change everything today,” she told the national broadcaster, LRT. Asked why women were considered the victors of October's election, she added: “I think what led to this was that there's a little less testosterone in a discussion led by a woman, more listening and more willingness to recognise one's own limitations."
Despite Progress, Women’s Representation Nowhere Near Gender Parity
It is a compilation of stories about women’s representation in politics, on boards, in sports and entertainment, in judicial offices and in the private sector in the U.S. and around the world—with a little gardening and goodwill mixed in for refreshment!
So many stories in the news and in our everyday lives revolve around power—the power we have, the lack of power that so many experience, and the untapped power that we must find to build a future where power is shared and is grounded in justice and equality. As if on cue, the Council of Foreign Relations released their updated Women’s Power Index this week and, according to their metrics, women’s power has increased in countries—including the United States, Belgium and Lithuania—and 22 countries now have a woman head of state (as was true in 2019). But overall women’s power has grown very little: Women’s representation in politics globally continues to increase, albeit slowly, according to new data from CFR’s “Women’s Power Index,” an interactive tool first published in February 2020 that ranks 193 UN member countries on their progress toward gender parity in political participation. Three countries have made significant progress toward gender parity in political representation since the Index was updated last fall. In the wake of the 2020 election, the United States featured the largest improvement in its score and ranking, moving from #128 to #43. As President Joe Biden sought to fulfill his campaign pledge to appoint a gender balanced cabinet, the number of women cabinet members rose from 17 percent to nearly half (47%), with two cabinet vacancies still remaining. The number of female members in U.S. Congress rose to a record-breaking 27%. Across the Atlantic, in Brussels, a historic cabinet composed of eight women and six men under Prime Minister Alexander De Croo helped Belgium leap ahead in the rankings, from #32 to #13. And in Lithuania, Ingrida Simonyte, the newly elected female prime minister, appointed a nearly gender-balanced cabinet, which boosted the country’s score and ranking to #29. Once again, Costa Rica and Rwanda sit at the top of the rankings, demonstrating how gender quotas and reservations make a powerful difference in elevating women’s leadership. Twenty-two countries are now led by women, an achievement reached only once before, in 2019. Sophie Wilmès (Belgium), Jeanine Áñez (Bolivia), and Simonetta Sommaruga (Switzerland) departed from office, and Kaja Kallas (Estonia), Ingrida Šimonytė (Lithuania), Maia Sandu (Moldova), Samia Suluhu Hassan (Tanzania), and Victoire Tomegah Dogbé (Togo) were sworn in. Estonia has both a female head of state and government. Despite this progress, women’s representation remains nowhere near gender parity. The global average political parity score rose—slightly—from 26.9 to 27.5, on a scale in which 100 represents full gender equality. UN Women estimates that it will take until 2077 to achieve gender parity in ministerial positions and until 2063 for reach gender balance in national parliaments. And while the overall global trend toward gender balance in political representation is growing, in some countries it is declining: Romania, for example, fell ten points on the index, plummeting to the lowest ranking in Europe after Prime Minister Florin Citu appointed just one woman in a cabinet of twenty-one people. This backsliding was evident elsewhere: although women’s representation rose in eighty-eight countries since September 2020, it fell in sixty-one others.
The U.S., although it ranked No. 18 for perceived gender equality, falls just under Canada in terms of women’s representation within its federal government. (Ike Hayman) Kaia Hubbard writes in U.S. News and World report about the The World Economic Forum’s 2021 Global Gender Gap report that finds that it will take another 135 years to close the gender gap—an increase of 35 years compared to the report released in 2020. Echoing RepresentWomen’s international research, Hubbard points to the role of electoral systems and gender quotas in advancing women’s representation and power in the higher ranking countries: According to a study by the Inter-Parliamentary Union, a correlation exists between a country’s electoral system and high levels of female political representation. In Western European countries where 20% or more of the seats in parliament were held by women, all had a proportional electoral system, where “political groups receive seats in proportion to their electoral strength,” according to the study. Worldwide, the study found that of all the countries with women making up 30% or more of parliament, none operated under a majoritarian system. But electoral systems are only part of the picture when it comes to bolstering women’s participation in government. According to the IPU, countries with well-designed gender quotas, varying measures designed to ensure that women constitute a certain portion of political positions, elect significantly more women to parliament. The Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark and Norway – which all operate under either a proportional or mixed electoral system – use some form of voluntary quotas set by political parties, or other forms of affirmative action. In Sweden, for example, a “zipper system” is employed by a number of political parties, requiring that candidate lists alternate between male and female candidates, which ensures that for every three candidates one woman must be included. Among other liberal democracies, Australia, which operates under a partial proportional electoral system with voluntary gender quotas limited to its Labour Party, ranks No. 8 for perceived gender equality according to the U.S. News & World Report Best Countries rankings. Recently, however, the gender quota debate has resurfaced within the country’s NSW Liberal Party, as rape allegations and harrasment claims surfaced and brought up questions about the situation for women in Canberra. Some in opposition of the gender quotas say they are anti-democratic or discriminate against men. Prime Minister Scott Morrison is reportedly open to gender quotas, however, citing that the party had tried the “other way” of getting women elected, which had not produced the intended results. Still, Australia slightly beats out Canada, which ranked within the top five of the U.S. News & World Report Best Countries rankings, and the U.S. when it comes to women’s representation in government, with 31% overall, a testament to its Senate, in which over half are women, and who were elected by the country’s proportional electoral system used within its Senate elections. Although it ranks highly for gender equality by perception, according to the U.S. News & World Report Best Countries rankings, Canada’s representation for women in parliament is weaker than its European counterparts, while the country operates under a first-past-the-post electoral system, unlike the Northern-European nations that join it atop the list. The U.S., although it ranked No. 18 for perceived gender equality, falls just under Canada in terms of women’s representation within its federal government. The country has neither a proportional electoral system nor a quota system, and although it has seen its highest levels of political representation among women in recent years, it lags behind nearly every other Western democracy, with women making up 27% of representatives.
While Americans fret over all the unqualified women who might flood the political system if quotas were instituted in the United States, parliamentarians in Malta have approved legislation that would enact quotas when insufficient numbers of women are elected according to this story in Lovin Malta: Gender quotas for Parliament look set to be implemented in time for the next general election, with a bill passing its penultimate hurdle this evening. The landmark bill was approved by Parliament’s Consideration of Bills Committee today and will now go to a vote in the House, where cross-party support is required seeing as it will require a change to the Maltese Constitution. It shouldn’t be a problem though, as both the government and Opposition have come out in favour of the bill in principle. “We look forward to reaping the fruit of this law in time for the next general election,” said Labour MP Rosianne Cutajar, who had spearheaded this bill when she was Parliamentary Secretary for Reforms. This bill will introduce a ‘gender corrective mechanism’ that would automatically kick in if the lesser represented gender gains under 40% of the total seats. Currently, just 13% of MPs are female. Up to 12 seats, split evenly between PL and PN, would be added for women or gender-neutral people who failed to get elected in the first round, to ensure a minimum 40% representation of the underrepresented sex. This mechanism will only apply if MPs from two political parties are elected, with the government shooting down an Opposition request to extend it to third parties. It has a 20-year sunset clause, after which it will automatically expire. Proponents of the bill argue that it’s necessary to boost female participation in Maltese politics, which has been consistently low over the decades, while critics warn it will undermine democracy and tokenise women.
Lithuania celebrates Freedom
On 11 March 2021, Lithuania celebrates the 31th anniversary of the Restoration of Independence. Drawing strength from the centuries-long tradition of statehood, Lithuania was the first to break away from the Soviet Union, thus launching the fall of the oppressive Empire. Lithuania’s quest for national freedom was followed by the resolve of its people to take destiny in their own hands and succeed. The country has gradually re-emerged with democratically functioning public bodies, financial stability, progress, and the growing wellbeing of the people. Lithuania gave rise to a generation of true change-makers, who spark creativity and are ready to take on global challenges. They are the people who make significant imprint on the world’s culture, art, and sports. The people who advance the world’s life sciences to improve human health. The people who master technology innovations and financial services. Stellar talents in science Lithuania has given the world many prominent scientists. Among those recognised worldwide are Prof. Vladas Algirdas Bumelis and Prof. Virginijus Šikšnys who has discovered CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing technique revolutionising the process of gene editing. The discoveries in this field were awarded the Nobel Prize in 2020, while Professor Šikšnys contributed greatly to the global achievement by being the first to prove that the CRISPR-Cas9 system could be transferred from one bacterium to another. In 2020, Vilnius University team Vilnius-Lithuania iGEM won the International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM), the most prestigious international synthetic biology competition. Vilnius University students competed against more than 300 teams representing the leading world universities, and won twice. Lithuania, a leading light in laser technology If you have seen a laser in the laboratories of the EU, USA or Japan, it is a high chance it comes from Lithuania. Half of all picosecond lasers sold worldwide are produced by Lithuanian companies, while Lithuanian-made femtosecond parametric light amplifiers, used in generating the ultrashort laser pulses, account for as much as 80 % of the world market. The Lithuanian lasers are used by NASA, CERN, and other world-famous companies, such as IBM, Hitachi, Toyota, and Mitsubishi. As many as 90 out of 100 top universities of the world use Lithuanian lasers and related systems at present. Life sciences industry contributes to solving global problems Lithuania’s life sciences industry is one of the most advanced in the region. Setting trends in research, collaborating with foreign biotechnology companies and universities, and exporting to over 100 countries, Lithuania steadily sets its foot in the industry that is expected to claim a 5% share of its GDP in 2030. In September 2020, the European Molecular Biology Organisation (EMBO) and Vilnius University Life Sciences Center entered into Partnership for Genome Editing Technologies. The scientific aim of the Partnership is to improve understanding of fundamental biological processes and disease mechanisms, and to develop and apply the novel genome editing tools discovered by Lithuanian scientist Prof. Virginijus Šikšnys. Business and sustainability: clear mindset and vitality Agility and experience have contributed to making Lithuania an investment destination for Nasdaq, Continental, Hella, Hollister, Western Union, Uber, Wix, and other multinationals, home for its first unicorn (Vinted), and the fastest-growing FinTech hub in Europe. The 11th rank in the World Bank’s Doing Business Index and No. 4 in Global Fintech Index manifest the thirty years of goal-oriented mindset. There are 1000 innovative startups buzzing in Lithuania, but the success of Vinted demonstrates, how the freedom generation has engaged the rest of the world to support collaborative consumption bringing sustainable living into homes. Every second transaction in France alone finds new home to second-hand items.
Led by women Ingrida Šimonytė is not the first female Prime Minister of Lithuania. However, currently she is one of the three women – representing each of the coalition parties – pulling the strings of the Government. Ingrida Šimonytė has joined the Premiers of Denmark, Finland, and Germany as the only female Heads of Government in the European Union. Standing with the people of Belarus Lithuania has punched above its weight in defending the democratic values and supporting pro-democracy forces in Belarus. The Freedom Way, organised to support the fight for freedom of the Belorussian people in August 2020, stretched 32 kilometres from Vilnius to Medininkai, a town close to the Belarusian border. The Freedom Way coincided with the 31st anniversary of the Baltic Way. On 23 August 1989, over a million people joined hands in a human chain across Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia, to demand independence from the Soviet Union. Startup spirit in the air Lithuania’s pilot innovation environment (regulatory sandbox) offers a chance to test innovative solutions in real environment and provides the required consulting assistance. There are six official sandboxes – three in FinTech, a regulatory sandbox for the energy sector, a transport solutions sandbox, and a PropTech sandbox – and boasts an exciting line-up of hubs, such as Blockchain Centre Vilnius. A generation of world-changing innovative companies has grown up in Lithuania, featuring Vinted, Trafi, CityBee, Tesonet, Brolis, TransferGo, and Paysera. Capable to adapt and create Even though 2020 will enter the pages of history as one of the most difficult years for the film industry, it has been quite a successful year for Lithuania. According to the Lithuanian Film Centre, 58 new films received funding in 2020, including 37 local, 9 co-productions, and 12 foreign productions. Lithuania boasts a reputation as a significant spot for filmmaking and is globally popular with filmmakers and the creators of TV series: Chernoby, Stranger Things and Catherine the Great. GovTech, a lab for public sector solutions GovTechLab offers solutions to fight structural problems slowing down innovation in public sector and to stimulate the growth of startups in the field. Ten solutions developed so far through the GovTech Challenge Series is a big first step in breaking down the barriers and stereotypes surrounding the startup and public sector cooperation. The future is bright Despite the pandemic which influenced all areas of our lives, Lithuania’s future looks bright. The competencies of Lithuanian technology graduates are ranked as “excellent”. Solutions in different sectors were found and adopted to counter the pandemic crisis. Scientists around the world are still searching for a method to diagnose Covid-19 as quickly, cheaply, and accurately as possible. Such a method of SARS-COV-2 virus detection in Lithuania was proposed by the medical team of Vilnius University scientists who work now on the solution. It is always possible to find a solution when we work together – in 2020 amid the challenges of state closure caused by Covid-19, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia became the first European Union member states to allow the free movement of each other’s citizens within the so-called ‘Baltic Travel Bubble’. In response to the Covid-19 crisis, the country’s capital took a creative step: it turned empty restaurant tables into fashion showcases and transformed the city’s streets into the world’s largest open-air café.