Lithuania is the largest of the three Baltic States situated on the eastern shore of the Baltic Sea. It shares 1273 km of border with Latvia on the north, Belarus on the east and south, and Poland and the Kaliningrad region of Russia on the southwest. Its major warm-water port, Klaipėda is at the mouth of Curonian Lagoon which runs southwards to Kaliningrad where the Curonian Spit separates it from the Baltic Sea.
It is here the Kuršių Nerija National Park is found, incorporating the region’s extraordinary sand dunes. Internal shipping is conducted on the Neman River and some of its tributaries. Inland ships transport tons of cargo annually, making up under 1% of the total goods traffic.
Lithuania is glacially flat with the exception of low-lying morainic hills. Assorted forests cover more than 33% of the country, which is further punctuated by 21 rivers, an abundance of small lakes and swamps. Industry makes up 21.5% of GDP, Trade, hotels and restaurants, transport, storage and communication make up over 30% of GDP and Agriculture has dropped to below 5% of GDP over the years.
Lithuania’s population is 2,728,686, and it is a member of both the EU and the Schengen zone. It experienced rapid socio-economic and political transformation since re-establishing its independence from the Soviet Union in 1990. The country’s Social Security Rate pays for social programs including health care and welfare funded by taxes related to labour income.
Educational institutions are state subsidised according to the ‘pupil’s basket’ or ‘student’s basket’, a principle whereby the money follows the pupil. For Lithuanians and the European Union nationals, most medical services are without charge.
Lithuania was occupied by the Soviet Union in 1940 after which mass deportations of residents and cultural and ideological genocide were the norm. Nazi Germany occupied the country during the Second World War, after which it was again occupied by the Soviet Union. A partisan war ensued resulting in more deportations. In 1990 Lithuania re-established its independence and has consistently instituted reforms to speed up integration into Europe’s political and economic structures, including NATO and the EU.
Lithuania is scattered with abundant castles and historic buildings going back to the middle ages and before. Medieval towns are also abundant, with atmospheric cobbled streets and architectural heritage blending baroque, gothic, renaissance and Russian elements. Four Lithuanian sites are inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List, the Old Town of Vilnius, the Curonian Spit, the Archaeological Site of Kernavė and the Struvė Geodetic Arc.
Not on the list is the Hill of Crosses which dates back to a battle in 1831 and boasts over 100,000 crosses and crucifixes of varying sizes left by Catholic pilgrims.
Australians will be glad to hear that this country offers one of the lowest beer prices abroad.
Lithuania joined the European Union in 2004, together with other East European countries, and became the member of the Schengen area in 2007. These steps have resulted in the previously Communist bloc country enjoying closer economic and political ties with the Western European countries. As a Schengen country, Lithuanian nationals benefit from the Schengen borderless policy which allows them the freedom to travel within the zone.
The European Union Commission’s answer to growing insecurity in Europe is the European Travel Information Authorisation System (ETIAS) In effect it will be a European visa waiver for the nationals of those 62 countries, including Australia, currently benefitting from the visa liberation policy. These travellers will have to apply online for permission to travel to Europe once it is implemented in 2021.
The application will cost a small fee for anyone between the ages of 18 and 70. The authorisation is electronically attached to the passport and is valid until the passport expires or 3 years, whichever comes first. Schengen restriction and requirements will remain the same, and European Union citizens will still be free to visit each other’s countries as they currently do.
ETIAS will address the rising problem of terrorism and uncontrolled immigration within Europe which impedes the security and safety of citizens and tourists in Europe. Risks will be identified before the traveller leaves his country and reaches the European borders.
The first Lithuanians arrived in Australia in 1833 as refugees fleeing exile to Siberia after the insurrection of 1831. Approximately 10,000 Lithuanian migrants came to Australia as refugees in the 1940s and 50s, mostly to escape the second Soviet occupation. Most post-war Lithuanian immigrants, all over the age of 18, had to enter into a two-year work contract with the Australian government.
Bilateral relations between Australia and Lithuania are underpinned by agreements covering Trade and Economic Cooperation and Investment Promotion and Protection. Two-way merchandise trade between the countries includes imports from in the form of animal feed and electrical circuits equipment. Imports Exports are mainly wood and wood manufactures, furnishings and electrical distributing equipment.
Approximately 16,300 people in Australia have Lithuanian ancestry.
Australians interested in visiting Lithuania for short stay tourism and business purposes can do so at present for up to 90 days with just a valid passport. When ETIAS is implemented in 2021, Australians will require this electronic pre-authorisation before embarking on the trip.