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Lithuania’s DNA: driven to grow, create and connect

Some may say that openness, cooperation, and drive towards positive change are firmly rooted in Lithuania’s DNA.

Seven centuries ago, Lithuania figured it could achieve more by collaborating with others. In his famous letters to the people of Europe, written in 1323, Gediminas, the Grand Duke of Lithuania, declared: “we open our land, our dominions, and our kingdom to every person of good will.”

In 2022, Lithuania remains open to collaboration, inviting the world to co-create global solutions in economy, culture, governance, and life. The bedrock of this proposal is the values espoused by the Lithuanian public: drive, constant growth, freedom to create, and connection to nature.

How do these values shape the accomplishments of the Lithuanian people? Here’s a look at some examples that illustrate the Lithuanian way of thinking and doing.

Drive: making the future happen today

Lithuanians love a good challenge – after all, ever since the country regained independence, they had to prove themselves to the world. Today, it is a place where the drive to excel and collaborative spirit meet to produce business innovations of global renown.

And, rest assured, Lithuania is not afraid to take a bold approach to get ahead. The country’s bustling financial technology (Fintech) sector is a case in point. Driven by the forward-thinking policies of the Bank of Lithuania, Lithuania has become one of the top ecosystems globally for developing and rapidly scaling innovative Fintech solutions.

“Being part of the European family, Lithuania has managed to retain independence of thought and freedom to create despite the challenges history threw at the country,” says Alex Gibb, a portfolio entrepreneur who traded London for Vilnius over a decade ago. “We’ve seen this with the Central Bank’s innovative efforts to create a Fintech hub in Lithuania, which has really thrived. I’m impressed how the foundations laid by the Central Bank have been seized upon by a talented workforce that is result-oriented, persistent and driven. The results are plain to see, with Lithuania now being recognised as a global Fintech competence centre.”

Now EU’s biggest Fintech hub, Lithuania seems to not only embrace the rapid changes in the financial services industry, but also lead the way when it comes to the hottest tech trends. For instance, the Bank of Lithuania has recently introduced LBChain, the first-of-its-kind blockchain sandbox, where innovators test their blockchain-based solutions under a regulator’s supervision. Already used by financial services providers, the platform also welcomes entrepreneurs developing blockchain solutions in the fields of energy, transport, and healthcare.

Constant growth: moving forward, non-stop

Lithuania’s most important resource is its people. And the knowledge and know-how that Lithuanians possess is fueling the country’s growth – talent is often the decisive factor cited by foreign investors that choose Lithuania for doing business.

Lithuanian talent has powered multiple foreign investment success stories. A leader in global payment services, Western Union established an operations centre in Lithuania in 2010, which is now the company’s largest site worldwide.

Jean-Claude Farah, Western Union’s President for the EMEA/APAC Region, has praised Lithuanian talent: “These are well-educated, multilingual people. In Lithuania, we have employees who we consider among the most talented throughout the corporation.” You can read more about Western Union and other companies that took to Lithuania at the Invest Lithuania website.

Statistics show that Lithuanians are particularly studious and hungry for knowledge – Lithuania is among the European leaders by the share of people with tertiary education, with 56% of people aged 25-34 having graduated from a university or college. The country also boasts the highest share of women in STEM in the EU –  52% of Lithuanian scientists and engineers are female.

All this talent and desire to continuously improve is reflected in the growth of high-tech industries in Lithuania. The country’s biotech sector is accelerating faster than almost anywhere else in Europe, growing by a rate 4.5 times faster than the EU average over the last decade. Similarly, Lithuania’s laser industry has enjoyed a stable year-over-year growth rate of 10-15%, and now holds more than 50% market share in the global ultrashort scientific laser market.

Freedom to create: bringing new ideas to life

Even under the restrictions of Soviet rule, Lithuanians managed to create spaces for artistic and personal freedom to prosper. Today, the country’s creators are making their mark on the global stage across artistic mediums, excelling at both classical artforms and the development of  new and exciting ways of expression.

Lithuanian artists are renowned for their ability to liberate art from the restrictions of tradition. The best example here is Jonas Mekas, an experimental filmmaker and pioneer of avant-garde cinema. Escaping war-torn Lithuania to arrive in New York, Mekas became a key figure within the city’s art scene. Together with a fellow Lithuanian, George Maciunas, he spearheaded the anti-conventionalist Fluxus art movement and met and filmed many of the most interesting and influential characters of the 20th century, including Salvador Dalí, Jackie Kennedy, Andy Warhol, and Yoko Ono. Over the course of a career that spanned more than 60 years, Mekas brought a new kind of sensibility to the film experience – from avant-garde provocations to documentaries to his celebrated diary films.

Thirty years after regaining independence, Lithuanians are still discovering new ways of expressing themselves, and these efforts often earn international recognition. In 2019, Lithuania triumphed at the Venice Biennale, one of the world’s prime contemporary art events. Awarded the Golden Lion for Best National Participation, the Lithuanian pavilion presented Sun & Sea (Marina), an opera-performance created by theatre director Rugilė Barzdžiukaitė, playwright Vaiva Grainytė, and composer Lina Lapelytė. The work featured carefree beachgoers singing about their daily lives in the age of climate change, a subtle but chilling reminder of the impending ecological catastrophe.

According to Laura Gabrielaitytė-Kazulėnienė, Lithuania’s Cultural Attaché in Italy, the country’s success in Venice put Lithuanian art on the radar of not only Italian, but also global audiences:

“The Golden Lion is a recognition that definitively situates Lithuania in the company of elite producers of contemporary art. Sun & Sea continues to be staged around the world, carrying both the message of Lithuania’s artistic excellence and an invitation to respond to the global climate challenges.”

Connection to nature: restoring inner harmony

Wherever you are in Lithuania, pristine nature is only a few steps away. Descendants of the ancient Baltic tribes – people that had instilled particular spirituality in the country’s forests, sea, rivers and marshes – Lithuanians have maintained a strong connection to nature ever since. The lion’s share (45%) of respondents to a recent survey, which solicited opinions about what makes life  in Lithuania so good, replied simply: “Nature is always close by!”

With this in mind, it’s no wonder that Lithuanians like to combine their digital lifestyle with nature getaways. With a third of the country covered in forest and more than 3,000 lakes, Lithuania offers plenty of opportunity to recharge away from the urban hustle and bustle.

“Most Lithuanians I know escape into nature whenever they can – from kayaking on weekends, to visiting their grandparents’ village to foraging for mushrooms or berries,” says Sally Chambers, whose tourism company Baltic Holidays has been bringing British visitors to Lithuania for 20 years. “Many Lithuanians still have close relationships with the older generations who hold the knowledge and experience of self-sufficiency and respect for nature as a provider. It is important that young Lithuanians inherit these values and skills, even if they are themselves growing up in a busy world dominated by technology and fast-paced urban environments. Nature is so accessible in Lithuania, it plays a huge role in Lithuanian traditions and stories, it is what Lithuania does best – unspoilt landscapes, natural materials and crafts, and local produce.”

But there is much more to the personal connection that many Lithuanians have with the natural world than spending time in nature. Lithuanian companies have hit some significant green economy goals, too – Utenos Trikotažas, for instance, is the first and so far the only garment maker in the world to meet Greenpeace’s strict environmental standards for textile production. Meanwhile, food producer AUGA group runs the largest vertically integrated organic farm in Europe, and has recently introduced the world’s first hybrid biomethane-electric tractor – a technological solution that contributes to eliminating pollution from the food supply chain, thereby allowing food to be produced at no cost to nature.