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Vol 2, No 21
29 May 2000
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Lithuanian News Review News from Lithuania
All the important news
since 20 May 2000

Mel Huang

Politics and foreign affairs

Vilnius hosted a conference for the nine NATO-aspirant countries, which together called on the Alliance to remain committed to eastern enlargement. NATO Secretary General Lord Robertson also attended the conference, while politicians of all walks from the US saluted the declaration. Both presidential candidates, Democrat Al Gore and Republican George W Bush, praised the move and powerful Senate Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Jesse Helms also threw his considerable weight behind the group's aspirations. The group of nine foreign ministers (Albania and Macedonia were represented by deputies) called on NATO enlargement to occur again in 2002. Officials from NATO and member states also praised the so-called "Vilnius statement" from the meeting of the North Atlantic Council in Firenze (Florence) during the week.

Slovak Prime Minister Mikulį Šurinda also visited Vilnius to discuss Euro-Atlantic integration as well as a mutual problem faced by both countries: EU pressure for them to shut down controversial nuclear power plants. Šurinda said that Slovakia is interested in buying electricity from Lithuania, despite the only export route being via Belarus and Ukraine.

Lithuanian officials are indignant after Belarus appointed Soviet General Vladimir Uskhopchik as deputy defence minister. Vilnius accuses Uskhopchik of being a principle at the January 1991 massacre in Vilnius by Soviet forces, and he has been indicted for that. Belarus had refused to extradite him to Lithuania.

Swedish Prime Minister Göran Persson made a quick visit to Vilnius, to kick-off his government's "year of the Baltic". He promised at least SEK (Swedish Krona) 50 million (USD 5,538,687) to aid the shutdown of the Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant.

Head prosecutors from countries of the Baltic Sea region met in Copenhagen to discuss cases relating to war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity. The meeting was initiated by new Latvian Prosecutor-general Jānis Maizītis, who was confirmed by the Saeima earlier this month.

President Adamkus travelled to Slovenia to discuss bilateral ties, as well as Euro-Atlantic integration. Adamkus met with President Milan Kučan to discuss NATO integration and also met with caretaker Prime Minister Janez Drnovdek, Državni Zbor Speaker Janez Podobnik and Ljubljana Mayor Viktorija Potošnik.

In his unending quest, Seimas Chairman Vytautas Landsbergis pushed through a bill demanding compensation from Russia for the Soviet occupation.

The city council of the western region of Šilutė is aiming to remove Mayor Algirdas Balčytis. Balčytis, of the New Alliance (Social Liberals), was accused of corruption in the form of funnelling money to private companies.

Six right-wing fringe parties are close to linking up for the autumn general elections. The Christian Democratic Union, the National Democratic Party, the Democratic Party, the Nationalist Party, the Republican Party and the Freedom League are involved in the talks.

And as the two left-wing parties - Social Democrats and Democratic Labour Party - reaffirmed their coalition for the upcoming elections by merging their parliamentary factions, former President Algirdas Brazauskas became the group's honorary chairman. This further fuels the rumours that Brazauskas is using this as a way to return to politics, though this has been denied so far. The link has upset former Social Democrat leader Aloyzas Sakalas, who has decided to quit as faction leader.

There is also conflicting information on what happened at a lunch between Lithuanian and British officials. Some media reports indicate that Lithuanian Ambassador Justas Paleckis downplayed the importance of NATO integration, with which the visiting Finance Minister Vytautas Dudėnas voiced discontent. There has been controversy about the long-standing ambassador to Britain, including timing of rotation.

The European Union provisionally closed the five "easy" chapters of negotiations with Lithuania.

Economics and business

The fruit is ripening in the long-running talks between over supply to Lithuania's Mažeikių Nafta US company Williams International and Russia's oil giant LUKOil. A protocol of intent was signed between the two companies on setting up joint ventures on supply and marketing. However, the issue of selling a stake in Mažeikių Nafta to the Russian oil giant did not progress. Some analysts are also questioning the deal itself, even going as far as suggesting dubious intent.

Sweden's energy giant Vattenfall pulled out of the deal to lease Kaunas's heating utility Kauno Energija, after the deal became unfavourable. In the meantime, France's Dalkia has taken over the spot, and officials want the talks to accelerate. Also, gas provider Lietuvos Dujos has cut the company off, due to debts.

The Seimas passed a restructuring plan for power utility Lietuvos Energija, which will allow for privatisation. The plan breaks the utility into several companies, dividing distribution, transmission and generation. Some critics warned that this could mean the mothballing of the Elektrėnai CHP, which is used only when the Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant is down. The plant, however, could be vital in the Ignalina shutdown scenario planned to start in 2004 or 2005.

The three Baltic stock exchanges launched their joint website this past week, at www.baltic-exchanges.com. The three bourses are also in talks to join the pan-Nordic NOREX exchange.

The total state debt at the end of April was LTL (Lithuanian Litas) 13.032 billion, down about LTL 149 million. However, this is still about 29 per cent of the anticipated GDP for 2000.

Social and local interest

The director of troubled social insurance fund SoDra, Vincas Kunca, resigned this past week. At the same time, the fund was late in paying pensions again this month, continuing its recent trend.

A day-long strike by transport workers in Vilnius left the town in chaos, though city officials patched things up quickly, and the unions have since called off future action and ended the strike by the evening rush hour.

Teachers in the northern town of Rokiškis went on strike at a critical time - during exams. Many teachers have not been paid since earlier this year, as the municipality remained in a budget crunch. Exams, however, were held with replacement and substitute teachers.

Farmers could be provoked to action again as the government earmarks about LTL 10 million for compensation for frost and drought damage. Agriculture experts predict damage at about LTL 250 million in this tense election year.

And in other news...

On 15 May, Lithuania celebrated the 80th anniversary of the first meeting of the constituent assembly. The celebratory events were attended by dignitaries from other parliaments, including Bundestag Speaker Wolfgang Thierse.

Lithuania celebrated Partisans' Day for the first time on 20 May, marking the sacrifice made by the thousands of partisans who hid out in the forests after the Second World War, fighting for Lithuania's freedom during Soviet occupation.

Is Russian President Vladimir Putin really linked to Lithuania? According to a woman living in the town of Jonava, yes. She claims that Putin is an illegitimate son of her late husband. Though there appears to be little truth or relevance in this story, it has caught some attention due mostly to its strangeness.

A laptop belonging to an FBI agent was stolen in Vilnius, during a seminar for Baltic security services.

Exchange rates
As of 29 May 2000

currency Lithuanian
litas (LTL)
1 US dollar 4.00
1 British pound 5.89
1 German mark 1.86
1 euro 3.65

Mel Huang, 29 May 2000

Moving on:


Baltic News Service (BNS)
The Baltic Times
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
Reuters news on Yahoo
Lietuvos Rytas
Lietuvos Aidas
Kauno Diena


Jan Čulík
Foreigners, Who Needs Them?

Brian J Požun
in Slovenia

David Fanning
Russian Music:
Still Experimenting

Oliver Craske
Their River,
Their Poison

Catherine Lovatt
Preserving a Nation

Michael J Kopanic Jr
Rooms to Let

Václav Bělohradský

Elke de Wit
Experimental Spaces

Miroslav Gadgovski
Python Invades

Apostol Apostolov
Global Music,
Local Trends

Culture Calendar:

Terrorists or Freedom Fighters?

Czech Republic