Lithuania is the largest of the three Baltic States, covering an area of 65,300 square kilometres. It has a population of 3 million people (2014). 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.
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. Executive power is vested in the Government of Lithuania, headed by a Prime Minister appointed by the President and approved by the Seimas.
In December 2012, following mid-October elections, the Lithuanian Parliament approved a new centre-left Government led by Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevicius of the Social Democrat Party. The Government is backed by a majority of 85 out of 141 seats in the Seimas.
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 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. On 17 October 2013, Lithuania was unanimously elected as a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). Lithuania commenced its two-year term on the UNSC on 1 January 2014.
Lithuania's GDP contracted by 14.8 per cent in 2009 following the global financial crisis, but recovered with 1.6 per cent growth in 2010 and 6.0 per cent growth in 2011. GDP growth in 2014 is estimated to have been 2.9 per cent. Goods and services exports accounted for 79.7 percent of GDP in 2014. Unemployment was 10.7 per cent in 2014.
After narrowly missing an inflation target and having its application rejected in May 2006, Lithuania joined the euro zone on 1 January 2015.
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. Lithuania has Consulates-General in Sydney and Melbourne, headed by Honorary Consuls-General. Since October 2008, the Lithuanian Ambassador in Tokyo has been accredited to Australia.
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 2011 census, there are approximately 13,500 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, 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 2014 was A$38.4 million. Exports from Australia to Lithuania in 2014 totalled A$4.4 million, mainly in wool. Imports to Australia from Lithuania in 2014 were A$33.9 million, mainly comprising wood, furnishings and clothing.
Last updated: July 2015