Lithuania: country overview26 June 2012
by Ina Dimireva -- last modified 25 January 2017
On 11 March 1990, Lithuania became the first of the Soviet republics to declare its independence, but Moscow did not recognize this proclamation until September of 1991 (following the abortive coup in Moscow). The last Russian troops withdrew in 1993. Lithuania subsequently restructured its economy for integration into Western European institutions; it joined both NATO and the EU in the spring of 2004. In January 2014, Lithuania assumed a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council for the 2014-15 term; in January 2015, Lithuania joined the euro zone. The most important sectors of Lithuania's economy in 2015 were wholesale and retail trade, transport, accommodation and food services (32.5 %), industry (22.6 %) and public administration, defence, education, human health and social work activities (14.3 %). Lithuania's main export partners are Russia, Latvia and Poland while its main import partners are Russia, Germany and Poland.
Geographical size: 65 286 km2
Population: 2 921 262 (2015)
Population as % of total EU: 0.6 % (2015)
Gross domestic product (GDP): € 37.124 billion (2015)
Official EU language(s): Lithuanian
Political system: parliamentary republic
EU member country since: 1 May 2004
Seats in the European Parliament: 11
Currency: Euro. Member of the eurozone since 1 January 2015
Schengen area member? Yes, Schengen Area member since 21 December 2007.
Presidency of the Council: Lithuania has held the revolving presidency of the Council of the EU once in 2013.
Lithuania is the southernmost of the three Baltic states – and the largest and most populous of them. Lithuania was the first occupied Soviet republic to break free from the Soviet Union and restore its sovereignty via the declaration of independence on 11 March 1990.
The Lithuanian landscape is predominantly flat, with a few low hills in the western uplands and eastern highlands. The highest point is Aukštasis at 294 metres. Lithuania has 758 rivers, more than 2 800 lakes and 99 km of the Baltic Sea coastline, which are mostly devoted to recreation and nature preservation. Forests cover just over 30% of the country.
Some 84% of the population are ethnic Lithuanians. The two largest minorities are Poles, who account for just over 6% of the population, and Russians, who make up just over 5%. The Lithuanian language belongs to the family of Indo-European languages.
The capital, Vilnius, is a picturesque city on the banks of the rivers Neris and Vilnia, and the architecture within the old part of the city is some of Eastern Europe's finest. Vilnius university, founded in 1579, is a renaissance style complex with countless inner courtyards, forming a city within the city.
The Lithuanian president is elected directly for a five-year term and is active principally in foreign and security policy. The unicameral Lithuanian Parliament, the Seimas , has 141 members.
Lithuania's most famous culinary export is perhaps cold beet soup. Potatoes also make a regular appearance on menus, popular dishes being potato pancakes and Cepelinai – potato dumplings stuffed with meat, curd cheese or mushrooms.
Lithuania gained membership in the WTO in May 2001 and joined the EU in May 2004. Lithuania's trade with the EU and CIS countries accounts for approximately 87.3% of total trade. Foreign investment and EU funding have aided in the transition from the former planned economy to a market economy. The three former Soviet Baltic republics were severely hit by the 2008-09 financial crisis, but Lithuania has rebounded and become one of the fastest growing economies in the EU. Lithuania's ongoing recovery hinges on export growth, which is being hampered by economic slowdowns in the EU and Russia. Lithuania joined the euro zone on 1 January 2015 and is under review for membership in the OECD.
Source: European Commission, CIA - The World Factbook