Lithuania: country overview26 June 2012
by Ina Dimireva -- last modified 03 March 2014
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.
Year of EU entry: 2004
Member of Schengen area:Yes
Political system: Republic
Capital city: Vilnius
Total area: 65 000 km²
Population: 3.5 million
Listen to the official EU language: Lithuanian
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 unicameralLithuanian 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 World Trade Organization and joined the EU in May 2004. Despite its EU accession, Lithuania's trade with its Central and Eastern European neighbors, and Russia in particular, accounts for a significant share of total trade. Foreign investment and business support have helped in the transition from the old command economy to a market economy. The three former Soviet Baltic republics were among the hardest hit by the 2008-09 financial crisis. The government's efforts to attract foreign investment, to develop export markets, and to pursue broad economic reforms has been key to Lithuania's quick recovery from a deep recession, making Lithuania one of the fastest growing economies in the EU. Lithuania is committed to meeting the Maastricht criteria to join the euro zone, which the government expects to achieve by 2015. Under the Conservative Party's leadership, Lithuania raised the monthly minimum wage in 2012 nearly 25% over 2011. Despite government efforts, unemployment - at 12.4% in 2013 - remains high.
Source: European Commission, CIA - The World Factbook