Lithuania's Movement Into the Twenty-First Century

Lithuania can be compared to the Republic of Ireland in terms of land mass and population, although it is the largest Baltic State. It has enjoyed a long and colorful history, with the twenty-first century being no exception.

The beginning of this century started peacefully enough with a visit in June 2001 by the Dalai Lama. The following year, however, was one of extreme importance to this country when it was asked to join the European Union in October. The next month, November, Lithuania was also asked to join NATO followed the very next day by a visit from the first United States president to visit this nation.

Apparently the Lithuanian people were very much in favor of joining the European Union as they demonstrated in May 2003, when 64% of the people turned out to vote on the issue. An incredible 91% of those voted in favor of membership. In 2004 Lithuania became a member of both the European Union and NATO, two important events in this country's modern history. On the other hand, internal politics did not fare so well as the current Lithuanian president was impeached for violating the nation's constitution as well as his presidential oath. The president made the mistake of dealing with some rather shady Russian business partners. Interestingly enough, he was acquitted by the Lithuanian Supreme Court the following year. However, they did not rescind his impeachment.

The year of 2006 was also eventful, although not in a particularly positive way. This newly admitted European Union member became the first to have its request to replace its own monetary system with the euro declined because of the country's inflation rate. During this year the Prime Minister and his coalition government were forced to resign because of corruption charges. On a more positive note, the Queen of England visited the country with her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh.

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In November 2007 the title European of the Year was given to the Lithuanian president, no small achievement. In December the country joined the Schengen zone which permitted travel to and from the other Schengen countries without any border restrictions. Also in December, the Lithuanian Television and Radio Commission placed a ban on any broadcasting of the ratio station, the Voice of Russia.

The year 2008 saw two Lithuanian athletes win silver and bronze medals at the Beijing Olympics, in the pentathlon, while the country outlawed any public display of Soviet and Nazi symbols.

In 2009 the country celebrated the fact that the name of Lithuania was mentioned exactly 1,000 years ago in written texts. FlyLAL, the country's airline, suspended its services because of escalating debts. Lithuania's first female president, nicknamed the Iron Lady, was sworn in on July 12.

In 2010 Lithuania celebrated its twenty years of independence from the Soviet Union. Finally, in 2011, the country commemorated the centenary of the death of Mikalojus Konstantinas, painter and composer.

So this Baltic nation has had its share of triumphs and tragedies heralding the start of the twenty-first century. Its entrance into NATO and the European Union were important milestones in encouraging the Lithuanian people to bond with its more immediate neighbors and the world community.

Copyright Stanislas Klass 2010