Incoming Lithuania PM vows strong economy, defence

Saulius Skvernelis, a former police chief and interior minister, secured the approval of 90 lawmakers in the 141-seat Baltic state parliament. 

Incoming Lithuania PM vows strong economy, defence

World Bulletin / News Desk

Lithuania's new prime minister vowed to fight social inequality and boost defence in the face of a sabre-rattling Russia as he won parliamentary approval on Tuesday.

The 46-year-old centrist immediately vowed to curb social inequality and slow emigration to richer Western European nations like Britain.

"More people must feel economic growth. It's a huge challenge," he told lawmakers. 

He also pledged to meet a NATO target to devote at least two percent of annual economic output to defence spending by 2018.

The Baltics have been concerned about a resurgent Russia since it annexed the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine in 2014.

Lithuania reinstated limited conscription last year, with an annual draft of more than 3,000 men between the ages of 19 and 26 for a nine-month period. 

Skvernelis said he would discuss increasing the numbers with the president and military chiefs.

Lithuania is especially concerned about Russia, whose highly militarised Kaliningrad exclave borders the country.

But President Dalia Grybauskaite will remain the key decision-maker on security and foreign policy, according to Ramunas Vilpisauskas, director of the Institute of International Relations and Political Science in Vilnius. 

"Foreign and defence policies are going to continue their current course while economic and social policies might focus more on regional developments and pension reform," he told AFP.

Skvernelis now has 15 days to present a cabinet consisting of the Peasant and Green's Union (LPGU) and junior partner, the Social Democrats.

Skvernelis led the LPGU to its general election victory in October but is not a party member. 

Last Mod: 22 Kasım 2016, 15:26
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