The TOP-5 also includes the arrival of Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya to Vilnius, the launch of the Astravyets nuclear power plant and allegations against Grigeo over pollution of the Curonian Lagoon.

Lithuanian journalists believe that, globally, the most significant 2020 events include the COVID-19 pandemic, Joe Biden's victory in the US presidential elections, protests in Belarus, Britain's official withdrawal from the European Union and the Black Lives Matters protests over the rights of black people in the United States.

"Lithuania dealt with the first coronavirus wave last spring fairly successfully but irresponsible behavior of part of the society and the influence of the Seimas election on political decisions strengthened the detrimental impact of the second wave," Vaidotas Beniusis, editor-in-chief at BNS, says.

Among other significant events in Lithuania, journalists mentioned French President Emmanuel Macron's visit, law enforcement's suspicions against business representatives Valdas Sutkus and Mantas Zalatorius, the European Commission's funding for power networks' synchronization, the accident in the Center of Register's server room, energy company Ignitis' IPO, the update of NATO's Baltic defense plans, the disclosure by a whistleblower from the State Security Department of information about intelligence activity during the presidential election, the appointment of new Prosecutor General Nida Grunskiene, as well as Ramunas Karbauskis' decision to step down as an MP.

The survey on this year's key events involved more than 30 journalists from news agency BNS, the National Radio and Television of Lithuania (LRT), TV3, LNK, Info TV, Laisves TV, delfi.lt, 15min.lt, lrytas.lt, tv3.lt, lrt.lt, vz.lt, alfa.lt, Ziniu Radijas, Rusradio, radio station FM99, the Lietuvos Rytas daily and international media.

COVID and election

Vytautas Bruveris, a journalist from the Lietuvos Rytas daily, says the change of power following the recent Seimas election and the coronavirus pandemic were "undoubtedly the two most important life processes within the country, with all other events, and there have been many of them this year, in fact paling in comparison to them".

"Both of these processes are closely connected as the pandemic and the fight against it were probably not the decisive factor that had impact on the election results, but became one of the key topics during the political fight," Bruveris said.

Delfi.lt editor-in-chief Rasa Lukaityte-Vnarauskiene notes that the coronavirus pandemic has changed our daily life and work regime, has put a lot of pressure on the health system and has become a challenge for governments.

In her words, the world and Lithuania has gone through a wide range of emotions – from a panic and fear to defiance, and the pandemic will not only have economic impact and create gaps in schoolchildren's education, but will also have psychological consequences for the society.

"The pandemic of the century and the biggest health crisis are having the most significant and varied consequences for the life of the Lithuanian society, which is a real challenge for the society, government institutions, and they will have long-term consequences. The change of government and the Seimas election marks important political rotation in the state governance," Aurimas Perednis, a journalist at the Ziniu Radijas news radio, believes.

BNS editor Roma Pakeniene pays attention to the fact that the coronavirus pandemic has hit the global and Lithuanian economy, pushed the state's debt up, increased unemployment and caused hardships for the tourism, hospitality and aviation sectors.

Dalius Simenas of the Verslo Zinios business daily says the way the new center-right majority and government will manage to deal with the pandemic's consequences and move to the phase of economic upswing will determine their chances of winning the 2024 Seimas election.

LRT journalist Indre Makaraityte concludes that the pandemic has revealed Lithuania's weaknesses and also some strengths.

Focus on Belarus

Events in Belarus attracted major attention in Lithuania in the second half of this year. Lithuania gave refuge to Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya in August followed the rigged presidential election and also started pooling international support for the opposition. Moreover, the regime of Alexander Lukashenko launched the Astravyets nuclear power plant in early November.

LRT journalist Reda Gilyte says that support for Belarusians has once again showed Lithuania's foreign policy direction, and Tikhanovskaya's arrival in Lithuania "is sending a message to Europe and the world that the country is not only a passive observer of what is happening in the neighboring country".

BNS journalist Sarunas Sabaitis calls the launch of the Astravyets nuclear power plant another challenge for Lithuania's future, "which has not been dealt with effectively, unfortunately".

Allegations against Grigeo Klaipeda, a Klaipeda-based company, over the release of untreated wastewater into the Curonian Lagoon round up the TOP-5 of key events. Laisves TV journalist Birute Davidonyte says "it was not only the biggest environmental scandal in Lithuania, but it also encouraged others to get interested in environmental protection, and environmental offences of other companies later emerged, including the pollution of the River Neris, and members of the public started noticing and reporting various cases".

Marielle Vitureau, a reporter for Radio France Internationale (RFI) in the Baltic states, says French President Macron's September visit to Lithuania was important both politically and culturally.

"France could learn about Lithuania's current affairs, concerns and fears. It is important to do that directly, without any intermediary. The president's attention to Lithuanian culture is also important. Lithuania has its own place on the cultural map, and that is important long-term," Vitureau said.