Lithuania

   

Quality of Democracy

#10
Key Findings
With free and fair electoral procedures, Lithuania receives a high overall ranking (rank 10) with regard to democracy quality. Its score on this measure is unchanged relative to its 2014 level.

Campaign-finance laws restrict corporate donations, and contributions must be made public. Sanctions for violations have been increased, with a major party recently barred from fundraising for six months, but serious loopholes remain. State funding provides the largest share of party revenue. A referendum to amend the constitution to introduce dual citizenship is likely to be held in 2019.

The media is broadly independent, but several episodes have come to light in recent years in which branches of the government have sought to influence, surveil or otherwise interfere with the operations of the free media. While several major transparency initiatives have been passed, implementation has been slow.

Civil rights are officially protected, but poor prison conditions and intolerance for sexual and ethnic minorities are problematic. Weak public support has undermined the efficacy of anti-discrimination efforts. Corruption remains a problem. Judicial efficiency is comparatively good, and courts are independent.

Electoral Processes

#4

How fair are procedures for registering candidates and parties?

10
 9

Legal regulations provide for a fair registration procedure for all elections; candidates and parties are not discriminated against.
 8
 7
 6


A few restrictions on election procedures discriminate against a small number of candidates and parties.
 5
 4
 3


Some unreasonable restrictions on election procedures exist that discriminate against many candidates and parties.
 2
 1

Discriminating registration procedures for elections are widespread and prevent a large number of potential candidates or parties from participating.
Candidacy Procedures
9
Lithuania’s regulations provide for a fair registration procedure for all elections. In general, neither individual candidates nor parties are discriminated against. Minimal requirements for establishing a political party and registering candidacies produced a large number of candidates, and a broad choice of political alternatives in the 2012 and 2016 parliamentary elections. Independent candidates as well as party-affiliated candidates can stand for election. However, a few provisions should be noted. The provision that “any citizen…who is not bound by an oath or pledge to a foreign state…may be elected” does not conform to the evolving jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights on dual citizenship. The court also ruled that the lifetime ban on standing for elected office on impeached former President Rolandas Paksas was disproportionate. However, this ban has not been lifted as votes in 2015 and 2018 in the Lithuanian parliament on his electoral eligibility were insufficient. As a consequence, Paksas was unable to run in the 2016 parliamentary elections and will likely remain unable to run in the 2019 presidential elections. In response to an inquiry initiated by a group of parliamentarians, the Constitutional Court ruled that the territorial boundaries of single-candidate constituencies should be redrawn to reduce population differences that had developed over time due to demographic changes and migration from the provinces to the capital. The decision of the Constitutional Court was implemented in December 2015, when the new constituencies were announced. A major change related to the establishment of two additional constituencies in Vilnius, where the number of voters has been constantly increasing. Allowing electoral committees, which benefit from more lax regulations than political parties, to run for municipal elections has been one of the more debated issues since the last elections in 2015; with the next elections approaching in 2019, some analysts argue that candidates running with electoral committees contributes to the further decline of already weak political parties.

Citations:
OSCE/ODIHR Election Assessment Mission Report on the 2016 parliamentary elections in Lithuania, see http://www.osce.org/odihr/elections/lithuania/296446.
OSCE/ODIHR Election Assessment Report on the 2014 presidential elections in Lithuania, http://www.osce.org/odihr/elections/116359?download=true
ECHR judgment of Jan. 6 of 2011 on Case of Paksas v. Lithuania, http://hudoc.echr.coe.int/sites/eng/pages/search.aspx?i=001-102617#“itemid”:[“001-102617”].

To what extent do candidates and parties have fair access to the media and other means of communication?

10
 9

All candidates and parties have equal opportunities of access to the media and other means of communication. All major media outlets provide a fair and balanced coverage of the range of different political positions.
 8
 7
 6


Candidates and parties have largely equal opportunities of access to the media and other means of communication. The major media outlets provide a fair and balanced coverage of different political positions.
 5
 4
 3


Candidates and parties often do not have equal opportunities of access to the media and other means of communication. While the major media outlets represent a partisan political bias, the media system as a whole provides fair coverage of different political positions.
 2
 1

Candidates and parties lack equal opportunities of access to the media and other means of communications. The major media outlets are biased in favor of certain political groups or views and discriminate against others.
Media Access
9
The publicly owned media are obliged to provide equal access to all political parties and coalitions. Debate programs on the state-funded Lithuanian Radio and Television are financed by the Central Electoral Commission. The media are also obliged to offer all campaigns the same terms when selling air time for paid campaign advertisements.

Newly introduced restrictions on political advertising, as well as restrictions on corporate donations to political parties, reduced the ability of the most-well-financed parties to dominate the airwaves in the run-up to the elections. Privately owned media organizations are not obliged to provide equal access to all political parties.

According to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), during the run-up to the 2014 presidential elections, the media environment was diverse and coverage of the campaign was thoroughly regulated. Candidates were provided with free airtime on an equal basis by the public broadcaster and all media were obliged to provide equal conditions for paid advertising. Although it was asserted by some that incumbent officials were provided with more media coverage, this did not create an uneven playing field for candidates. The OSCE confirmed the plurality of Lithuania’s media environment and that freedom of expression was generally respected during the 2016 parliamentary elections, although there were controversies concerning interference in editorial independence.

One of the rare recent controversies had to do with attempts in 2018 by the ruling Lithuanian Farmers and Greens Party to change the oversight of the state-funded Lithuanian Radio and Television – viewed by the analysts as an attempt to politicize its activities and influence the content of broadcasting (see also Media Freedom).

Citations:
OSCE/ODIHR Election Assessment Mission Report on the 2016 parliamentary elections in Lithuania, see http://www.osce.org/odihr/elections/lithuania/296446.
OSCE/ODIHR Election Assessment Report on the 2014 presidential elections in Lithuania, http://www.osce.org/odihr/elections/116359?download=true.

To what extent do all citizens have the opportunity to exercise their right of participation in national elections?

10
 9

All adult citizens can participate in national elections. All eligible voters are registered if they wish to be. There are no discriminations observable in the exercise of the right to vote. There are no disincentives to voting.
 8
 7
 6


The procedures for the registration of voters and voting are for the most part effective, impartial and nondiscriminatory. Citizens can appeal to courts if they feel being discriminated. Disincentives to voting generally do not constitute genuine obstacles.
 5
 4
 3


While the procedures for the registration of voters and voting are de jure non-discriminatory, isolated cases of discrimination occur in practice. For some citizens, disincentives to voting constitute significant obstacles.
 2
 1

The procedures for the registration of voters or voting have systemic discriminatory effects. De facto, a substantial number of adult citizens are excluded from national elections.
Voting and Registration Rights
9
All citizens who are over the age of 18 on election day are eligible to vote. Although citizens living abroad may vote if they preregister, only 11% of the Lithuanian citizens who have declared themselves to be living abroad registered to vote in the 2012 parliamentary elections. Several proposals for the introduction of internet-based voting have been rejected by the parliament, although this issue is likely to reappear on the political agenda. Votes can be cast in person on election day, but provisions are also made for early voting, out-of-country voting, voting in special institutions, and voting for those who are homebound. There are no specific disincentives to voting, although the absence of internet voting capabilities may limit participation rates for citizens living abroad, as overseas voting must be done in person in diplomatic missions that are usually located in the capitals or other major cities of foreign countries. Unlike in the first round of the autumn 2012 parliamentary elections, when a vote-buying scandal led to the cancellation of results and a second ballot in two races, no such major cases of suspected vote-buying came to light during the 2014 presidential elections. However, after the 2016 parliamentary elections, alleged cases of vote-buying in rural electoral districts became public, leading to police investigations and the removal of one elected member of parliament from the party list.

Citations:
OSCE/ODIHR Election Assessment Mission Report on the 2012 parliamentary elections in Lithuania, see http://www.osce.org/odihr/98586.
OSCE/ODIHR Election Assessment Report on the 2014 presidential elections in Lithuania, http://www.osce.org/odihr/elections/116359?download=true.
OSCE/ODIHR Election Assessment Mission Report on the 2016 parliamentary elections in Lithuania, see http://www.osce.org/odihr/elections/lithuania/296446

To what extent is private and public party financing and electoral campaign financing transparent, effectively monitored and in case of infringement of rules subject to proportionate and dissuasive sanction?

10
 9

The state enforces that donations to political parties are made public and provides for independent monitoring to that respect. Effective measures to prevent evasion are effectively in place and infringements subject to effective, proportionate and dissuasive sanctions.
 8
 7
 6


The state enforces that donations to political parties are made public and provides for independent monitoring. Although infringements are subject to proportionate sanctions, some, although few, loopholes and options for circumvention still exist.
 5
 4
 3


The state provides that donations to political parties shall be published. Party financing is subject to some degree of independent monitoring but monitoring either proves regularly ineffective or proportionate sanctions in case of infringement do not follow.
 2
 1

The rules for party and campaign financing do not effectively enforce the obligation to make the donations public. Party and campaign financing is neither monitored independently nor, in case of infringements, subject to proportionate sanctions.
Party Financing
7
Political parties may receive financial support from the state budget, membership fees, bank loans, interest on party funds and through citizens’ donations of up to 1% of their personal income tax, as well as through income derived from the management of property; the organization of political, cultural and other events; and the distribution of printed material. State budget allocations constitute the largest portion of political parties’ income, as corporations are no longer allowed to make donations to political parties or to election campaigns. All donations exceeding about €11,800 must be made public and there is an expenditure limit (about €765,000) linked to the number of voters. Attempts by the ruling parliamentary majority in 2018 to change state budget allocation rules to secure funding for the newly established Lithuanian Social Democratic and Labor party, part of the ruling parliamentary coalition, failed after the president vetoed the parliament’s effort to borrow additional funds.

Campaign-finance regulations are detailed, and sanctions for violating the law were recently increased. However, since third parties can potentially circumvent the legal prohibitions and directly finance electoral campaigns, following the 2016 parliamentary elections, the OSCE suggested clarifying the term “third parties” for campaign-finance purposes, and extending regulations affecting donations, expenditure limits and reporting requirements to cover these groups. For instance, the Lithuanian Central Electoral Commission found the Liberal Movement guilty of gross violations of the law on campaign financing because of a financial donation received from a third party during the electoral campaign. Furthermore, implementation of the rules should be more closely monitored and enforced. For example, the Labor party, part of the 2012 to 2016 coalition government, was taken to court for failing to make public about €7 million in income and expenditure through the 2004 to 2006 period. After several years examining the case, the appeals court found two party members and one party official guilty of fraudulent bookkeeping, though they escaped prison sentences. The Lithuanian Prosecutor General’s Office has appealed this ruling to the supreme court. Also, in November 2018 the Central Electoral Commission ruled that the Lithuanian Social Democratic party had seriously violated the campaign-finance regulation by exceeding the limit for political advertising during the 2016 parliamentary elections, sanctioning the party with a 6-month suspension of funding. The party announced that it will appeal the decision.

Citations:
OSCE/ODIHR Election Assessment Mission Report on the 2012 parliamentary elections in Lithuania, see http://www.osce.org/odihr/98586.
OSCE/ODIHR Election Assessment Report on the 2014 presidential elections in Lithuania, http://www.osce.org/odihr/elections/116359?download=true.
OSCE/ODIHR Election Assessment Mission Report on the 2016 parliamentary elections in Lithuania, see http://www.osce.org/odihr/elections/lithuania/296446

Do citizens have the opportunity to take binding political decisions when they want to do so?

10
 9

Citizens have the effective opportunity to actively propose and take binding decisions on issues of importance to them through popular initiatives and referendums. The set of eligible issues is extensive, and includes national, regional, and local issues.
 8
 7
 6


Citizens have the effective opportunity to take binding decisions on issues of importance to them through either popular initiatives or referendums. The set of eligible issues covers at least two levels of government.
 5
 4
 3


Citizens have the effective opportunity to vote on issues of importance to them through a legally binding measure. The set of eligible issues is limited to one level of government.
 2
 1

Citizens have no effective opportunity to vote on issues of importance to them through a legally binding measure.
Popular Decision-Making
8
Lithuanian citizens can propose policies and make binding decisions on issues of importance to them through referendums and petitions. Since the reestablishment of Lithuania’s independence in 1990, there have been 12 referendums, although only five of these have been successful (including the 2004 referendum approving Lithuania’s membership in the European Union and the 2012 consultative (advisory) referendum on the construction of a new nuclear power plant). The most recent referendum took place in June 2014 but failed due to low voter turnout. It was initiated by a group of citizens and aimed both at restricting the sale of land to foreign citizens and at reducing the number of signatures required to trigger a referendum to 100,000. Today, to call a referendum, a total of 300,000 signatures of Lithuanian citizens with the right to vote must be collected within three months. For the referendum to be valid, more than one-half of all voters must participate. A referendum to amend the constitution to introduce dual citizenship has been called by the parliament. The referendum will be held together with the 2019 presidential elections provided that the Constitutional Court confirms its compliance with the constitution. The idea of extending voting beyond one day to increase the chance of yielding a sufficient turnout to make it valid has been debated. Citizens also have the right to propose a legislative initiative (by collecting 50,000 signatures within two months) that, if successful, must be addressed in parliament. Only two citizens’ initiatives secured the necessary signatures to be debated during the 2012 to 2016 parliament. One initiative proposed to control alcohol consumption, while a second proposed a ban on electricity supplied from the new Belarus nuclear power plant to Lithuania. A right to petition also exists, giving individuals the ability to address the parliament’s Petition Commission.

Access to Information

#7

To what extent are the media independent from government?

10
 9

Public and private media are independent from government influence; their independence is institutionally protected and fully respected by the incumbent government.
 8
 7
 6


The incumbent government largely respects the independence of media. However, there are occasional attempts to exert influence.
 5
 4
 3


The incumbent government seeks to ensure its political objectives indirectly by influencing the personnel policies, organizational framework or financial resources of public media, and/or the licensing regime/market access for private media.
 2
 1

Major media outlets are frequently influenced by the incumbent government promoting its partisan political objectives. To ensure pro-government media reporting, governmental actors exert direct political pressure and violate existing rules of media regulation or change them to benefit their interests.
Media Freedom
9
Lithuania’s media are not subject to government influence. Private newspapers and independent broadcasters express a wide variety of views and freely criticize the government. Though the media’s independence is generally respected by the incumbent government, there have been a few recent attempts to restrict media freedom.

In Reporters Without Borders’ 2018 Press Freedom Index, Lithuania was ranked 36 out of 180 countries for press freedom, a fall of five positions compared to 2014. Despite this generally satisfactory situation, court decisions and prosecutors’ orders are sometimes a threat to media independence. The courts ruled that Lithuanian intelligence services had acted illegally in 2013 and 2014 by tapping the phones of journalists from the Baltic News Services. The parliament (Seimas) is alleged to have meddled in the operations of the public broadcasting service, Lithuanian Radio and Television, by setting up a special parliamentary inquiry commission to investigate the activities of the broadcaster. The commission found ineffective and opaque operations and suggested changes to the governance of the state-funded Lithuanian Radio and Television that could politicize appointments to its Council and a new Board whose establishment was proposed in the recommendations. The conclusions of the committee were not approved by the parliament during its plenary vote in November 2018; the parliamentary Committee of Culture was assigned to improve the content of the report. In September 2018, Lithuanian authorities discontinued the practice of providing free data from the Center of Registers for requests from journalists, but this decision was later reversed after reporters appealed to government officials. In addition, media independence could be compromised as the government remains a key advertiser, and that a large proportion of media outlets are owned by a small number of domestic and foreign companies. Similarly, regional media is dependent on local government for advertising and other types of support, which might restrict their ability to criticize local government.

With the aim of combating hostile propaganda and disinformation, the Lithuanian authorities introduced modifications to the Public Information Law that impose a penalty of up to 3% of a broadcaster’s annual income for spreading information that is deemed war propaganda, encouragement to change the country’s constitutional order, or an encroachment on the country’s sovereignty. This national-security decision restricted the broadcasts and rebroadcasts of some Russian TV channels in Lithuania. In March 2015, the Vilnius Regional Administrative Court issued a three-month ban on broadcasts by two Russian television channels that violated Lithuanian broadcasting regulations. The European Commission backed the Lithuanian authorities.

Citations:
2018 WORLD PRESS FREEDOM INDEX, see https://rsf.org/en/lithuania

To what extent are the media characterized by an ownership structure that ensures a pluralism of opinions?

10
 9

Diversified ownership structures characterize both the electronic and print media market, providing a well-balanced pluralism of opinions. Effective anti-monopoly policies and impartial, open public media guarantee a pluralism of opinions.
 8
 7
 6


Diversified ownership structures prevail in the electronic and print media market. Public media compensate for deficiencies or biases in private media reporting by representing a wider range of opinions.
 5
 4
 3


Oligopolistic ownership structures characterize either the electronic or the print media market. Important opinions are represented but there are no or only weak institutional guarantees against the predominance of certain opinions.
 2
 1

Oligopolistic ownership structures characterize both the electronic and the print media market. Few companies dominate the media, most programs are biased, and there is evidence that certain opinions are not published or are marginalized.
Media Pluralism
7
Lithuania’s electronic and print media markets are characterized by a mix of diversified and oligopolistic ownership structures. Ownership structures are not transparent. Publicly owned electronic media (the state-funded National Radio and Television) to some extent compensate for deficiencies or biases in private sector media reporting. According to Transparency International (the Vilnius office), some media entities are more transparent than others. In 2007, the organization singled out Verslo Žinios and Valstiečių laikraštis among the print media and the Lithuanian Television from the electronic media for transparency, while print publication Respublika and Baltic Television were criticized in this regard. In 2014, the Journalists’ and Publishers’ Ethics Commission criticized print publications Respublika and Lietuvos rytas for failing to comply with professional ethics in publishing public information. In some cases, business conglomerates own multiple newspapers and TV channels. Media-ownership concentration has been increasing over the last several years due to the purchase of media outlets by domestic and foreign companies. Five groups of media companies (Delfi, 15min, Lietuvos rytas, Verslo žinios and Alfa) dominate the media market. In addition, although state and municipal institutions cannot legally act as producers, the Druskininkai municipality finances a newspaper that is freely distributed to locals by working through an educational organization. In 2014, the Vilnius district court ruled that the Druskininkai municipality broke the law by publishing this newspaper. Between 2015 and 2016, other news of ruling municipal politicians limiting the independent reporting of regional media or close connections between ruling parties and regional media outlets surfaced, evidencing that on the municipal level pluralism of opinions is limited. According to Transparency International’s Vilnius office, about 25 Lithuanian politicians and civil servants have stakes in the country’s media companies. Ramūnas Karbauskis, the co-leader of the ruling Lithuanian Farmers and Greens Union, recently sold his shares in the newspaper Ūkininko patarėjas. The population has a relatively low trust in media, with 37% of respondents indicating that they trust and 23% stating that they do not trust media, according to a December 2018 survey by Vilmorus.

Citations:
See the 2007 Report of Transparency International (the Vilnius office) in http://transparency.lt/media/filer_ public/2013/01/22/skaidresnes_zinia sklaidos_link.pdf
See information by the Journalists‘ and Publishers‘ Ethics Commission http://www.lzlek.lt/index.php?lang=1&sid=371&tid=400

To what extent can citizens obtain official information?

10
 9

Legal regulations guarantee free and easy access to official information, contain few, reasonable restrictions, and there are effective mechanisms of appeal and oversight enabling citizens to access information.
 8
 7
 6


Access to official information is regulated by law. Most restrictions are justified, but access is sometimes complicated by bureaucratic procedures. Existing appeal and oversight mechanisms permit citizens to enforce their right of access.
 5
 4
 3


Access to official information is partially regulated by law, but complicated by bureaucratic procedures and some poorly justified restrictions. Existing appeal and oversight mechanisms are often ineffective.
 2
 1

Access to official information is not regulated by law; there are many restrictions of access, bureaucratic procedures and no or ineffective mechanisms of enforcement.
Access to Government Information
9
The principle of freedom of information is upheld in Lithuania’s constitution and legislation. For instance, the Law on the Provision of Information to the Public states that, “Every individual shall have the right to obtain from state and local authority institutions and agencies and other budgetary institutions public information regarding their activities, their official documents (copies), as well as private information about himself.” Appeals can be made to an internal Appeals Dispute Commission and to administrative courts. Legal measures with regard to access to government information are adequate, and do not create any access barriers to citizens; however, citizens often fail to take advantage of their right to use this information.

Lithuania joined the multilateral Open Government Partnership initiative in 2011. In 2012, 2014, 2016 and 2018, the Government Office developed action plans for improving open-government practices throughout the country. During the review period, Lithuania signed the Council of Europe Convention on Access to Official Documents (2015) and the U.N. Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-Making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters (2015). In 2016, the government approved three major initiatives to make public institutions more accountable to society, reduce corruption and increase transparency, while also increasing public engagement. However, implementation has been undermined by a lack of measurable targets and meaningful collaboration with civil society.

Information-access provisions in Lithuania cover all levels of the executive, yet exclude the legislative branch. The right to request information applies to citizens of and legal residents within Lithuania and European Economic Area states as well as foreign nationals with a residence permit (in contrast to most OECD countries, where there are no such legal restrictions concerning the status of participants). Following a complaint by 10 media organizations to the parliamentary Ombudsman regarding difficulties in accessing information, the Ombudsman issued a recommendation to the Ministry of Culture asking that journalists’ right to acquire information be promptly implemented. The OECD has recommended helping the country’s civil service to better understand the added value associated with access to information.

Citations:
OECD, Public Governance Review Lithuania- Fostering Open and Inclusive Policy Making Key Findings and Recommendations. 2015.
http://www.opengovpartnership.org/blog/ogp/2014/02/12/three-cohort-2-countries-will-not-receive-irm-reports.

Civil Rights and Political Liberties

#12

To what extent does the state respect and protect civil rights and how effectively are citizens protected by courts against infringements of their rights?

10
 9

All state institutions respect and effectively protect civil rights. Citizens are effectively protected by courts against infringements of their rights. Infringements present an extreme exception.
 8
 7
 6


The state respects and protects rights, with few infringements. Courts provide protection.
 5
 4
 3


Despite formal protection, frequent infringements of civil rights occur and court protection often proves ineffective.
 2
 1

State institutions respect civil rights only formally, and civil rights are frequently violated. Court protection is not effective.
Civil Rights
8
It is relatively easy for all residents to gain Lithuanian citizenship, and civil rights are officially protected by the constitution and other legislative provisions. However, there are some problems regarding effective protection of citizens’ rights. According to the U.S. Department of State, Lithuania’s most significant human rights problems include poor prison conditions, intolerance of sexual and ethnic minorities, and the lengthy detention of people awaiting trial. Additional problems include interference with personal privacy, domestic violence, child abuse, and libel and anti-discrimination laws that limit the freedom of expression. Lithuanian authorities do seek to prosecute or otherwise punish officials who committed abuses, and Lithuanian courts provide legal protection against illegitimate or unjustifiable interventions into personal life. However, on the Civic Empowerment Index, produced by the Civil Society Institute since 2007, Lithuania scored 37 out of 100 in 2016 compared to 33.4 in 2015. According to a 2018 Freedom House report, Lithuania scored 1 out of 7 on civil liberties – the best possible score.

Lithuanian society shows only an average interest in public affairs, while the social environment remains unfavorable for civic engagement. A total of 18% of the Lithuanian population indicated in 2014 that they had experienced violations of their rights, and again only 18% said they had taken action to protect themselves, indicating an insufficient degree of awareness of human rights.

Citations:
Country Report on Human Rights Practices for 2011 on Lithuania is available at http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/hrrp t/humanrightsreport/index.htm#wrapp er
The Index of Civil Power measured by the Civil Society Institute is available at http://www.civitas.lt/lt/?pid=74&id=78
Survey on the situation of human rights in Lithuania, http://www.hrmi.lt/musu-darbai/tyrimai178/visuomenes-nuomones-apklausos/
Freedom House Report on Lithuania 2018, available at https://freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-world/2018/lithuania

To what extent does the state concede and protect political liberties?

10
 9

All state institutions concede and effectively protect political liberties.
 8
 7
 6


All state institutions for the most part concede and protect political liberties. There are only few infringements.
 5
 4
 3


State institutions concede political liberties but infringements occur regularly in practice.
 2
 1

Political liberties are unsatisfactory codified and frequently violated.
Political Liberties
9
Lithuanian institutions generally respect the freedoms of assembly and association. In 2017, Lithuania obtained the best possible score from Freedom House on the issue of political rights and civil freedoms (1 out of 7). Lithuanian political parties operate freely, with the Communist party being the only banned grouping. Non-governmental organizations may register without serious obstacles, and human-rights groups operate without restrictions. In 2010, an appeals court ruled that Lithuania’s first gay-pride parade could go ahead on the basis of the right to peaceful assembly. This parade (a controversial issue in this majority Roman-Catholic country) was initially banned by a lower court due to concerns over potential violence. Another gay-pride parade was allowed to be held in the center of Vilnius in 2013. The freedom of religion is also largely upheld in practice, but certain government benefits are granted only to traditional religious communities. Workers may form and join trade unions, strike, and engage in collective bargaining, but slightly less than 10% of the country’s workforce is unionized. The supreme court has ruled that the right to strike can be used only after other measures provided for in the Labor Code have been exhausted. A new labor code, which came into force in 2017, provided additional instruments for the organization of strikes.

Citations:
The 2018 freedom rating of Lithuania by the Freedom House is available at https://freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-world/2018/lithuania

How effectively does the state protect against different forms of discrimination?

10
 9

State institutions effectively protect against and actively prevent discrimination. Cases of discrimination are extremely rare.
 8
 7
 6


State anti-discrimination protections are moderately successful. Few cases of discrimination are observed.
 5
 4
 3


State anti-discrimination efforts show limited success. Many cases of discrimination can be observed.
 2
 1

The state does not offer effective protection against discrimination. Discrimination is widespread in the public sector and in society.
Non-discrimination
7
Lithuania legislation is largely consonant with European non-discrimination standards. The country’s Criminal Code regulates racially motivated and xenophobic incidents and discriminatory acts. In 2013, Lithuania made it possible to conduct investigations into and prosecute domestic-violence offenses without the victim’s consent, and simplified the procedure for legal gender recognition based on the submission of medical proof of gender‑reassignment surgery.

The number of criminal acts deemed to be inciting hatred increased in 2011 compared to 2010. A number of state institutions are tasked with preventing various forms of discrimination, but their activities lack coordination. Furthermore, NGOs implement activities aimed at strengthening the participation and representation of specific vulnerable groups (e.g., the small Roma population and members of the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) community). Some awareness-raising campaigns have sought to prevent racial discrimination and promote tolerance, but these have been fragmented.

The impact that criminal cases, special-representation measures and awareness-raising campaigns have had on the elimination of discrimination is unclear due to the limited evidence available. Lithuania’s human-rights organizations, particularly the Lithuanian Center for Human Rights, claim that a lack of attention from state institutions, disproportionate budget cuts during the financial and economic crisis, and policy-implementation failures have undermined anti-discrimination and anti-racism efforts.

Some cases of discrimination or racist activities have been observed in recent years, including a resurgence of neo-Nazi activities (e.g., a public march held in 2012) that was emphasized by the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. Despite the adoption of anti-domestic-violence legislation, spousal and child abuse remain problems, as illustrated by a woman’s death in 2013 (due to a lack of response from the police emergency-response center). According to Eurobarometer surveys, combating discrimination effectively in Lithuania remains difficult due to a lack of public support. In addition, political opposition occasionally forms a significant barrier to the implementation and enforcement of equality legislation.

However, according to public opinion surveys, the perception of discrimination as a widespread problem is significantly lower than EU averages. According to 2015 Eurobarometer data, 29% of respondents in Lithuania agreed that discrimination on the basis of ethnicity was widespread, compared to an EU average of 64%, while 17% of respondents thought that religious discrimination was widespread, compared to an EU average of 50%.

Citations:
Report on racism and related discriminatory practices in Lithuania can be found at http://cms.horus.be/files/99935/MediaArchive/publications/shadow%20report%202010 -11/ENAR%20Shadow%20Report_Lithuania_2011_FINAL_CONFIRMED.pdf
Information on Lithuania by the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination is available at http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/cerd/followup-procedure.htm
The 2018 freedom rating of Lithuania by the Freedom House is available at https://freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-world/2018/lithuania
European network of legal experts in gender equality and non-discrimination, Lithuania country report 2016: http://www.equalitylaw.eu/downloads/3737-2016-lt-country-report-nd

Rule of Law

#13

To what extent do government and administration act on the basis of and in accordance with legal provisions to provide legal certainty?

10
 9

Government and administration act predictably, on the basis of and in accordance with legal provisions. Legal regulations are consistent and transparent, ensuring legal certainty.
 8
 7
 6


Government and administration rarely make unpredictable decisions. Legal regulations are consistent, but leave a large scope of discretion to the government or administration.
 5
 4
 3


Government and administration sometimes make unpredictable decisions that go beyond given legal bases or do not conform to existing legal regulations. Some legal regulations are inconsistent and contradictory.
 2
 1

Government and administration often make unpredictable decisions that lack a legal basis or ignore existing legal regulations. Legal regulations are inconsistent, full of loopholes and contradict each other.
Legal Certainty
7
Overall, the regulatory environment in Lithuania is regarded as satisfactory. Its attractiveness was increased by the harmonization of Lithuanian legislation with EU directives in the pre-accession period, as well as by good compliance with EU law in the post-accession period. In the World Bank’s 2017 Worldwide Governance Indicators, Lithuania scored 81 out of 100 for rule of law, down from 82 in 2016. The Lithuanian authorities rarely make unpredictable decisions, but the administration has a considerable degree of discretion in implementation. Although administrative actions are based on existing legal provisions, legal certainty sometimes suffers from the mixed quality and complexity of legislation, as well as frequent legislative changes. For instance, during its 2012 to 2016 term, the parliament passed more than 2,500 legislative acts. A substantial number of laws (e.g., 40.4% of all the laws adopted by the 2012 to 2016 parliament) are deliberated according to the procedure of special urgency, which limits the possibility to thoroughly discuss proposals during the legislative process.

The unpredictability of laws regulating business activities, especially the country’s tax regime, increased at the start of financial crisis in 2008 – 2009 when taxes were raised to increase budget receipts. However, since that time, successive governments have put considerable focus on creating a stable and predictable legal business environment. The 2015 OECD report on regulatory policy in Lithuania recommended several measures to improve the regulatory environment for businesses. In addition, the new coalition government has pledged to introduce more predictable policies, for example, by applying a six-month rule to any proposed tax regime changes.

Nevertheless, in some cases, laws are amended during the last stage of parliamentary voting, generally due to the influence of interest groups, a process that increases legal uncertainty. In addition, state policies shift after each parliamentary election (e.g., in autumn 2016, the adoption of the new Labor Code was suspended), reducing predictability within the economic environment. This is particularly true for major infrastructural projects and social policy. For example, pension system rules are frequently amended, increasing uncertainty and reducing trust in the state. In addition, as parliamentary elections approach, legislators frequently become more active in initiating new, often poorly prepared legal changes meant to attract public attention rather than being serious attempts to address public issues. Although most such initiatives are rejected during the process of parliamentary deliberations, they often cause confusion among investors and the public. Furthermore, 80 out of 144 members of parliament were newly elected in October 2016. Their lack of experience and procedural expertise as well as lack of adequate understanding of responsibility is likely to undermine economic policymaking. The most controversial case in 2018 was a comment by the chairman of the Budgetary and Financial Committee of the parliament that one of the owners of the two biggest Swedish banks in the country should consider selling its shares because of the high concentration of Swedish banks in Lithuania. He was criticized by the president as incompetent and even the prime minister and head of the Farmers and Greens Union distanced themselves from his position.

Citations:
The Worldwide Governance Indicators of World Bank are available at http://info.worldbank.org/governance/wgi/#home
OECD, Regulatory Policy in Lithuania: Focusing on the Delivery Side, OECD Reviews of Regulatory Reform, OECD Publishing, Paris, 2015 http://www.oecd-ilibrary.org/governance/regulatory-policy-in-lithuania_9789264239340-en.

To what extent do independent courts control whether government and administration act in conformity with the law?

10
 9

Independent courts effectively review executive action and ensure that the government and administration act in conformity with the law.
 8
 7
 6


Independent courts usually manage to control whether the government and administration act in conformity with the law.
 5
 4
 3


Courts are independent, but often fail to ensure legal compliance.
 2
 1

Courts are biased for or against the incumbent government and lack effective control.
Judicial Review
9
Lithuania’s court system is divided into courts of general jurisdiction and courts of special jurisdiction. A differentiated system of independent courts allows monitoring of the legality of government and public administrative activities. The Constitutional Court rules on the constitutionality of laws and other legal acts adopted by the parliament or issued by the president or government. The supreme court reviews lower general-jurisdiction court judgments, decisions, rulings and orders. Disputes that arise in the sphere of public administration are considered within the system of administrative courts. These disputes can include the legality of measures passed and activities performed by administrative bodies, such as ministries, departments, inspections, services and commissions. The system of administrative courts consists of five regional administrative courts and the supreme administrative court.

The overall efficiency of the Lithuanian court system, in terms of disposition time and clearance rate, was assessed by the EU Justice Scoreboard as good. This indicates that the system is capable of dealing with the current volume of incoming cases. Lithuania is one of the leading countries in the European Union in terms of the length of proceedings: around 100 days is needed to resolve litigious civil and commercial cases in first instance courts. The consolidation of district and regional administrative courts will distribute cases more evenly. However, the number of cases dealing with the legality of administrative acts and judgments delivered by the administrative courts is increasing. The clearance rate of administrative cases and their disposition time increased between 2013 and 2014.

According to Vilmorus opinion surveys, public trust in the courts is low, but increasing modestly (27.7% in July 2016, increasing to 24.9% in September 2018 and 28.6% in December 2018). Public trust in the Constitutional Court is higher (46.5% in December 2018).

Citations:
The EU Justice Scoreboard, see http://ec.europa.eu/justice/effective-justice/scoreboard/index_en.htm
For opinion surveys see http://www.vilmorus.lt/en

To what extent does the process of appointing (supreme or constitutional court) justices guarantee the independence of the judiciary?

10
 9

Justices are appointed in a cooperative appointment process with special majority requirements.
 8
 7
 6


Justices are exclusively appointed by different bodies with special majority requirements or in a cooperative selection process without special majority requirements.
 5
 4
 3


Justices are exclusively appointed by different bodies without special majority requirements.
 2
 1

All judges are appointed exclusively by a single body irrespective of other institutions.
Appointment of Justices
9
The country’s judicial appointments process protects the independence of courts. The parliament appoints justices to the Constitutional Court, with an equal number of candidates nominated by the president, the chairperson of the parliament and the president of the supreme court. Other justices are appointed according to the Law on Courts. For instance, the president appoints district-court justices from a list of candidates provided by the Selection Commission (which includes both judges and laypeople), after receiving advice from the 23-member Council of Judges. Therefore, appointment procedures require cooperation between democratically elected institutions (the parliament and the president) and include input from other bodies. The appointment process is transparent, even involving civil society at some stages, and – depending on the level involved – is covered by the media. In a recent World Economic Forum survey gauging the public’s perception of judicial independence, Lithuania ranked 55 out of 140 countries. Based on the EU Justice Scoreboard, the perceived independence of courts and judges among the general public is around the EU average. Around 50% of Lithuanian respondents assessed the independence of courts and judges as very good or good in 2016 and 2017. Public trust was undermined by the perceived interference of government, politicians, and economic and other special interest groups, and respondents’ opinion that the status and position of judges does not guarantee their independence.

Citations:
The 2018 Global Competitiveness Report of the World Economic Forum: http://www3.weforum.org/docs/GCR2018/05FullReport/TheGlobalCompetitivenessReport2018.pdf
The EU Justice Scoreboard, see http://ec.europa.eu/justice/effective-justice/scoreboard/index_en.htm

To what extent are public officeholders prevented from abusing their position for private interests?

10
 9

Legal, political and public integrity mechanisms effectively prevent public officeholders from abusing their positions.
 8
 7
 6


Most integrity mechanisms function effectively and provide disincentives for public officeholders willing to abuse their positions.
 5
 4
 3


Some integrity mechanisms function, but do not effectively prevent public officeholders from abusing their positions.
 2
 1

Public officeholders can exploit their offices for private gain as they see fit without fear of legal consequences or adverse publicity.
Corruption Prevention
6
Corruption is not sufficiently contained in Lithuania. In the World Bank’s 2017 Worldwide Governance Indicators, Lithuania scored 75 out of 100 on the issue of corruption control, down from 70 in 2016. The 2013 Eurobarometer poll revealed that Lithuania had the European Union’s highest percentage (29%) of respondents who claimed that they had been asked for or expected to pay a bribe for services over the past 12 months, compared to an EU average of 4%. In the Transparency International Corruption Perception index, Lithuania scored 59 out of 100 and ranked 38 out of 180 countries in 2017, down from 32 in 2015. According to the new Index of Public Integrity, Lithuania was ranked 25 out of 105 countries overall, but only 85 out of 105 countries for budget transparency.

One of Lithuania’s key corruption prevention measures is an anti-corruption assessment of draft legislation, which grants the Special Investigation Service the authority to carry out corruption tests. According to the Lithuanian Corruption Map of 2016, measured by the Special Investigation Service based on surveys, the institutions viewed as most corrupt were hospitals, the parliament, the court system, local authorities and political parties. Bribery is perceived to be the main form of corruption by most average Lithuanians, while businesspeople and civil servants respectively identified nepotism and party patronage as the most frequent forms of corruption. In September 2017, the Special Investigation Service investigated allegations of corruption involving Lithuania’s Liberal Movement and Labor party. The parties are suspected of accepting bribes and selling political influence. For instance, two Liberal Movement members are alleged to have accepted bribes of more than €100,000 on behalf of the party from a vice president of a major business group in exchange for political decisions that benefited the corporation.

According to the World Economic Forum, Lithuanian firms perceive corruption as one of the most problematic factors for doing business in the country. Since state and municipal institutions often inadequately estimate the risk of corruption, not all corruption causes and conditions are addressed in anti-corruption action plans. The European Commission has suggested that Lithuania develop a strategy to tackle informal payments in health care and improve the control of conflicts of interest declarations made by public officials. To advance its preparations for OECD membership, the country became a member of the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention in July 2017. Accession into the OECD in 2018 is likely to hold the focus on corruption prevention; also one of the key priorities during the two terms of President Dalia Grybauskaitė, the second of which will end in 2019.

Citations:
The Worldwide Governance Indicators of World Bank are available at http://info.worldbank.org/governance/wgi/#home
The Lithuanian Corruption Map is available at http://www.stt.lt/lt/menu/tyrimai-ir-analizes/?print=1
The 2017 – 2018 Global Competitiveness Report of the World Economic Forum: http://www3.weforum.org/docs/GCR2017-2018/05FullReport/TheGlobalCompetitivenessReport2017%E2%80%932018.pdf
The European Commission. Annex 15 to the EU Anti-Corruption Report: Lithuania. Brussels, 3.2.2014. COM (2014) 38 final.
the Transparency International Corruption Perception index is available at https://www.transparency.org/news/feature/corruption_perceptions_index_2017
The Index of Public Integrity is available at http://integrity-index.org/
The European Commission. Annex 15 to the EU Anti-Corruption Report: Lithuania. Brussels, 3.2.2014. COM (2014) 38 final.
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