Landscape and Climate
Population and Language
Lithuania is the largest of three Baltic States, the other two being Latvia and
The territory of Lithuania (65,300 sq. km) is larger than that of Belgium,
Denmark, the Netherlands, or Switzerland.
70% of Lithuania's territory is arable land and 27.6% is forest. The
countryside consists of lowland plains and hilly uplands. More than 2,800 lakes
occupy 1.5% of the country and 722 rivers run through the region. Lithuania
also has 99 km of Baltic Sea coastline used for recreation and nature
The climate is midway between maritime and continental. The average daytime
temperature in January is - 4.9°C (23°F), in July + 17.2°C (63°F). The growing
season varies between 169 and 202 days.
Major cities include: Vilnius (542,297 inhabitants); Kaunas (378,943); Klaipėda
(192,954; Šiauliai (133,833); and Panevėžys (119,949).
The population of the country is 3.5 million. 67.2% live in urban areas and
32.8% in rural areas. Population density is 53.5 people per square km.
The population's ethnic composition is: 83.5% Lithuanians; 6.3% Russians; 6.7%
Poles; 3.5% people of other nationalities (Byelorussia's, Ukrainians, Latvians
The official state language is Lithuanian which is derived from Sanskrit and
belongs to the Baltic family of Indo-European languages.
11 March 1990 - Lithuania re-establishes independence.
17 September 1991- Lithuania is admitted into the United Nations.
14 February 1993 - Algirdas Brazauskas becomes the country's first freely
31 August 1993 - Last Russian troops leave Lithuania.
4 January 1994 - Lithuania becomes the first Baltic State to apply for NATO
12 June 1995 - Lithuania signs a Europe [Association] Agreement with EU.
October-November 1996 - Parliamentary elections result in a pro-business
governing coalition comprised of the Conservative and Christian Democratic
4 January 1998 - Valdas Adamkus, a former high-level U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency official, is elected President.
1 February 1998 - Lithuania becomes an Associate Member of the EU.
December 1999 - Lithuania is invited to start negotiations for joining the EU.
October 2000 - Parliamentary elections, after which a new government is formed
by the new policy coalition consisting of Liberals and Social-liberals.
July 2001 - A shift to the left - a new coalition of social democrats and
social liberals forms a new government.
Lithuania's local currency is the Litas (LTL), equal to 100 Lithuanian cents.
On 2 February, 2002 Lithuania re-pegged the Litas to the Euro at the rate of
3.4528LTL/EUR, thus ending the Litas-US dollar peg, which lasted for almost 8
years. The Litas will remain in circulation for a few more years with a view to
replacing it by the Euro in 2007-2008.
Official State Holidays
1 January (New Year's Day); 16 February (Lithuania's Independence Day); 11 March
(Restoration of the Lithuanian State); Easter (Sunday and Monday); 1 May
(Labour Day); First Sunday in May (Mother's Day); 6 July (Coronation of King
Mindaugas); 15 August (St. Mary's Ascension Day); 1 November (All Saints' Day);
and 25-26 December (Christmas).
The Republic of Lithuania is an independent democratic state. The foundation of
the social system is enforced by the Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania
adopted in 1992 by referendum which also establishes the rights, freedoms, and
duties of citizens. Under that law, sovereign state power is vested in the
people of Lithuania and is exercised by the Seimas (Parliament), the President
of the Republic, the Government, and the Courts. Lithuania was able to grant
full citizenship rights to all ethnic groups in Lithuania soon after the
restoration of its independence. This initial effort by the Government to
involve all Lithuanian citizens in the political process has contributed to the
stable political and ethnic environment.
The Seimas is a one-chamber parliament which: considers and enacts amendments
to the Constitution; passes laws; adopts resolutions for the organisation of
referenda; announces presidential elections; forms state institutions provided
for by law; appoints and dismisses their chief officers; approves or rejects
the candidature of the Prime Minister proposed by the President of the Republic
of Lithuania; considers and approves the Government program submitted by the
Prime Minister; establishes or abolishes Ministries upon the recommendation of
the Government; appoints judges to and the Chairperson of the Constitutional
Court; appoints and dismisses the State Controller as well as the Chairperson
of the Bank of Lithuania; announces local government elections; approves the
state budget and supervises its implementation; approves state taxes and other
obligatory payments; ratifies international treaties to which the Republic of
Lithuania is a party; and considers other issues of foreign policy. The Seimas
consists of 141 MPs who are elected for a four-year term. The Seimas elects its
Speaker and Deputy Speakers.
The President is the head of state and performs all duties that he or she is
charged with by the Constitution and the law. The citizens of the Republic of
Lithuania elect the President of the Republic of Lithuania on the basis of
universal, equal and direct suffrage by secret ballot for a five-year term. In
January 1998, Lithuania again made history by being the first European country
to elect an American citizen as its president. Mr. Valdas Adamkus, a
Lithuanian-born former high-ranking U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
official who had lived in the United States for almost 40 years and advised two
U.S. presidents, won a narrow election victory and renounced his U.S.
citizenship before being inaugurated. He emphatically reiterated Lithuania's
two main foreign policy goals: NATO and EU membership.
The Government is the highest authority of executive power. It is comprised of
the Prime Minister and the Cabinet of Ministers. The President of the Republic
of Lithuania, with the approval of the Seimas, appoints the Prime Minister.
Ministers are appointed by the President of the Republic on the nomination of
the Prime Minister.
Lithuania is divided into 10 regional administrative districts or counties, with
county governors appointed by the cabinet of ministers.
Total population - 3.5 million.
Labour force - 1.7 million, over two-thirds employed in the private sector.
Employee skills - 20.3% with university degrees, 24.4% with specialised
education (i.e. technical certificates).
Source: Lithuanian Department of Statistics
Lithuania boast high-skilled, very efficient and competitive workforce. Most
major foreign investors cite the high quality and productivity of the workforce
as one of the main reasons for investing in Lithuania, according to an LDA
survey conducted in February 2000.
Investors rate worker skill and productivity very highly:
"I found that working force is first of all very ambitious, very loyal and have
a very good knowledge about the situation.Most of them are very self-going,
take initiatives and are very result-oriented. They are nice people and we are
happy to have a lot of females in key positions, which is nice." (Bertil
Larsson, Chairman of Board of ILSANTA, a Lithuanian-Icelandic-Swedish
Lithuania's labour costs are one of the lowest in Central and Eastern Europe.
As of January 2002, the minimum monthly salary was LTL 430 (USD 107.50). The
average gross monthly wage in 2001 was LTL 1,128.4 (USD 282.1).
Trade unions exist in Lithuania, but are not very active. Since all trade
unions were associated with the former Soviet government, many disbanded after
independence was restored. It is estimated that less than 10% of workers belong
to some form of workers' organisation. Lithuanian citizens and persons without
Lithuanian citizenship, but permanently living in Lithuania and working under
employment contracts, have the right to enter into trade unions, but it is not
obligatory. Since the re-establishment of independence, Lithuanian unions have
been pragmatic. Little or no labour unrest has been reported.
Either with or without labour unions, employers must follow current legislation
of the Republic of Lithuania which governs all social security issues,
including minimum wages and obligatory social insurance by the employer etc.
Lithuania has one of the best-educated workforces in Central and Eastern
Europe. According to the Lithuanian Department of Statistics, its proportion of
graduates is one of the highest, with 4.03 university graduates a year per
1,000 inhabitants. All five major cities in Lithuania now have their own
University graduates 2001 - Fields of Specialisation
Total number of graduates 18,512.
Most education institutions are run by the state though several private
gymnasiums, lycees and other education institutions (including private business
schools) have recently been established. At present there are 22 institutions
of higher education with a total enrolment of 117,290 students.
Source: Lithuanian Department of Statistics.
Elementary, Primary and Secondary Education
The current system of secondary education is comprised of: elementary school
(grades 1 to 4); primary school (grades 5 to 9); general education secondary
school (grades 1 to 12), including 4 years of gymnasium which provides more
intensive education in humanities or sciences in grades 9 to 12; special
education institutions for children with special needs; youth schools which
provide basic education; adult education institutions (centres, adult education
divisions in schools of general education); and programs of secondary education
in a number of colleges.
At the beginning of the 2001-2002 school year, there were 2,159 schools of
general education, attended by a total of 576,377 pupils.
Compulsory education lasts until the age of 16. Since 1991, all teaching
materials used in elementary and secondary education have been replaced
according to the new social, economic and political conditions, as well as the
aspirations of Lithuanian society.
General secondary education is gradually being specialised. The two main
specialisations are the humanities and sciences.
Vocational training is provided by vocational and trade schools.
There were 84 vocational schools in the 2000-2001 school year, 82 of which were
run by the Ministry of Education. 47,000 pupils attended vocational schools in
2000-2001. The duration of study varies between two and four years. Students
who have reached the age of 14 are admitted to vocational schools.
Studies in vocational schools take place on 4 levels, which gives pupils the
opportunity to choose a program according to their present education and to
acquire secondary education.
One of the most important tasks of professional education reform is the
expansion of the curriculum. Narrow specialisation is being rejected and
replaced with a wider scope of training. Many vocational schools have ties to
places of employment and offer pupils study programs which are prepared
according to changes in the labour market.
In 1991, special secondary schools were abolished and replaced by specialised
colleges. College programs are designed for individuals who already have
secondary education. Studies last 3-4 years.
Colleges prepare specialists for all branches of the Lithuanian economy and
Adult education can be formal or informal.
Formal education applies to studies at state or other licensed institutions
which offer a regulated and controlled education. Diplomas or certificates from
these institutions are recognised by the state. Certificates from informal
institutions are recognised by employers, various organisations, and unions.
Presently there are 300 informal education and training institutions in
Lithuania. Most of them are private and accept pupils of all ages.
There are 4 adult education information centers in Lithuania which provide
information about education programs and qualification improvement courses for
adult education instructors.
Currently there are 22 state institutions of higher education in Lithuania: 15
state universities and 7 state colleges as well as 4 private universities and 9
private colleges. Higher education can be pursued by individuals with a
secondary school graduation certificate or an equivalent document.
Approximately 10,000 secondary school graduates, or 40%, are accepted by
institutions of higher education each year.
The Lithuanian Seimas (Parliament) approves all funds for academies and higher
Research and higher education reforms are targeted toward the international
recognition of the programs of Lithuanian higher education institutions and
activities of research institutes, for that study programs, degrees, and
academic titles to be recognised abroad, especially in the countries of the
In 1994, Lithuania signed the UNESCO Convention on the Recognition of Courses,
Diplomas and Degrees in the European region. In reforming higher education and
modernising study programs, many higher education institutions are successfully
participating in the European Commission's TEMPUS program. Preparatory work has
already begun to join the European Union's comprehensive education, higher
study and research programs LEONARDO and SOCRATES
The European Union has recognised Lithuania as the prime transport centre in
the region linking the EU with the East. The EU's transportation commission
designated two international transport corridors running through Lithuania
among ten priority transport corridors in Europe. Both North-South road and
rail routes connecting Scandinavia with Central Europe, and East-West routes
linking the huge Eastern markets with the rest of Europe, cross through
Lithuania has one of the best infrastructures in Central and Eastern Europe. A
network of European standard 4 lane highways link major industrial centres. The
port of Klaipėda, one of the few ice-free ports on the Eastern Baltic, has
received EBRD and European Investment Bank funding for a USD 200 million
expansion. Lithuania has 3 international airports. Beside Lithuanian Airlines
and Air Lithuania, 10 other international airlines provide service to and from
Lithuania and worldwide connections. Zokniai airport near Šiauliai is one of
the largest cargo airports in Europe.
Port of Klaipėda - Expanding to Meet Growing Cargo Flows
The port of Klaipėda has been designated the EU's regional priority port - the
only port in the region to receive funding from the EBRD and the European
Investment Bank to finance major expansion projects.
The port has steadily increased cargo handling over the past three years from
14 to over 17 million tons and handles 20% of the cargo passing through all the
Eastern Baltic ports. After current upgrades are completed, the capacity of the
port will grow to 40 million tons annually.
Source: Klaipėda State Seaport
There are regular cargo-ferry lines including rail and Ro-Ro ships between
Klaipėda and Flesenberg, Mukran and Kiel (Germany), Ahus and Kalrshamn
(Sweden), Aabenraa and Fredericia (Denmark).
Prime Air Travel and Cargo Services
Vilnius International Airport, the most modern in the Baltics, is located just
minutes outside the city centre. Lithuania has 2 national airlines: the soon to
be privatised Lithuanian Airlines and Air Lithuania. Main destinations include
most major cities in Eastern and Western Europe as well as some direct
destinations in the Middle East. Lithuania's other passenger airports are
located in the cities of Kaunas and Palanga.
Kaunas airport is the busiest cargo airport in Lithuania - handling 2/3 of the
country's air cargo.
The former military airbase at Šiauliai has gone through a major modernisation
implemented by Philips of the Netherlands. The airport is the only one in the
Baltics able to handle the largest cargo planes without any restrictions.
Modern Rail and Road System
Lithuanian shippers have taken advantage of the country's modern rail and road
system resulting in total transport flows that are among the busiest in the
Since 1994, the average traffic density on Lithuanian roads has increased by
15-20% per year. Lithuanian freight operators have increased their
international shipments almost 16-fold from 1993 to 1997. In 2001 it made 45
Between 1995 and the end of 2001, traffic on Lithuanian railways went up by
12.3% (up from 26 to 29.2 million tons). 51.9% of traffic is made up by transit
The main telecommunications firm is the Lithuanian Telecom, with 1,200,000
subscribers. It has been privatised through an acquisition of 60% of shares by
Amber Teleholdings, a Swedish/Finnish consortium.
A number of companies provide mobile communication services throughout the
country. Founded in 1991 Omnitel (now controlled by Sweden's Telia and
Finland's Sonera) is the biggest mobile communications company in Lithuania and
in the Baltic states, controlling 60% of the Lithuanian market. Bitė GSM
(founded in 1995 and now owned by the TDC group) is the second biggest mobile
communications operator in Lithuania with 218,000 subscribers. Tele2 - the
third mobile operator, founded in 1999 by the Swedish corporation Tele2 AB, is
rapidly gaining ground. Now about 80% of Lithuanian residents may access its
services. The mobile communications market in Lithuania is growing fast. At the
start of 1996, there were only about 15,000 total mobile phone users in the
country. By the end of 2001, the figure had grown to 980,000.
There are a number of Internet providers servicing a rapidly growing Internet
and e-mail market.