Lithuania is the largest of the three Baltic States, covering an area of 65,300 square kilometres. It has a population of 2.8 million people (2016). The capital of Lithuania is Vilnius. Lithuania celebrates its national day on 16 February (Independence Day).
Lithuania declared its independence from the Soviet Union in 1990. Lithuania adopted its constitution in 1992 and is a parliamentary democracy. It has a unicameral parliament (the Seimas) with 141 members elected for four years, and a presidential head of state elected directly for a five-year term. Executive power is vested in the Government of Lithuania, headed by a Prime Minister appointed by the President and approved by the Seimas.
On 17 May 2009, former European Union Budget Commissioner, Dalia Grybauskaite, was elected Lithuania's first female President. In May 2014, Mrs Grybauskaite was re-elected as President, with 59 per cent of the vote.
Parliamentary elections were held in Lithuania on 9 October 2016, with a second round held on 23 October in constituencies where no candidate had won a majority in the first round of voting. The elections were won by the Lithuanian Farmers and Greens Union, which won 54 of the 141 seats in the Seimas, up from just a single seat in the previous election. Homeland Union finished a distant second, with only 31 seats thought the largest share of the national vote. The Social Democratic Party of Lithuania, which had been the largest party in the previous Seimas, finished third, with 17 seats. Their coalition partners, the Labour Party and Order and Justice, picked up 2 and 8 seats, respectively.
On 22 November 2016, President Grybauskaite appointed Saulius Skvernelis Prime Minister, to lead a coalition government formed by the Farmers and Greens Union and the Social Democratic Party. Prime Minister Skvernelis assumed office on 13 December 2016, when the Seimas approved the government’s program.
Lithuania acceded as one of ten new members of the European Union (EU) on 1 May 2004. In a referendum in May 2003, 91 per cent of Lithuanian voters supported EU accession.
In November 2002, Lithuania was invited to join NATO in the organisation’s single largest enlargement. Lithuania became a full NATO member on 2 April 2004. Lithuania joined both the United Nations and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in 1991, the World Bank in 1992 and the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in May 2001. Lithuania joined the euro zone on 1 January 2015.
Lithuania's GDP grew by 2.3 per cent in 2016. GDP growth in 2017 is estimated to rise to 2.8 per cent. Unemployment was 7.9 per cent in 2016.
Australia recognised Lithuanian independence in August 1991. The Australian Ambassador in Warsaw is accredited to Lithuania. Australia has a Consulate in Vilnius, headed by an Honorary Consul. Since October 2008, the Lithuanian Ambassador in Tokyo has been accredited to Australia. Lithuania has Honorary Consulates in Sydney and Melbourne.
The relationship between Australia and Lithuania is underpinned by agreements covering Trade and Economic Cooperation (1993) and Investment Promotion and Protection (2002). According to the 2016 census, there are approximately 16,300 people in Australia who identify as being of Lithuanian descent.
In March 2015, Lithuanian Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Linas Linkevičius, visited Australia and met with Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Hon Julie Bishop MP. In December 2011, then Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Hon Kevin Rudd MP, visited Vilnius to attend an OSCE Ministerial Meeting.
Bilateral economic and trade relationship
Two-way merchandise trade between Australia and Lithuania in 2016 was $57.6 million. Exports from Australia to Lithuania in 2016 totalled $8.9 million, mainly animal feed and electrical circuits equipment. Imports to Australia from Lithuania in 2016 were $48.7 million, mainly wood and wood manufactures, furnishings and electrical distributing equipment.
Last updated: September 2017