Politics and foreign affairs
The Seimas passed a highly controversial resolution demanding that Moscow's pay
for damages caused by the Soviet occupation. The resolution calls on the government to set up a delegation for talks with Moscow on compensation by 1 September, while 1 October is the deadline to calculate the material damage from the occupation.
This also promoted a delegation from the Russian Duma to cancel a visit to Lithuania, and sharp rhetoric has been forthcoming from the East. However, Moscow's suggestion that the 1940 invasion was "lawful" has also brought more angry responses from otherwise less vocal parties.
On the same day, the Seimas voted to give a Presidential pension to Vytautas Landsbergis, chairman of the Seimas and the man responsible for restoring independence to the Supreme Council, upon his retirement. Opposition criticised the law, as they see it as designed for one person's benefit.
A scandal of immense implications in an election year is breaking out in Vilnius, as government authorities charge Vilnius city officials with mismanagement. Government officials accuse Vilnius of failing to transfer some LTL (Lithuaniann litas) 94 million to the state budget, but city officials fired back, saying that instead the government failed to transfer some LTL 100 million to the city. With the Office of the Prosecutor General looking into things, it could get very ugly. The controversy is cooling off the pre-election co-operation between the Liberal Union, the Centre Union and the New Alliance (Social Liberals).
A conference dealing with the crimes committed in the name of Communists was held in Vilnius. Envisioned by its organisers as a "second Nuremberg," a "trial" against Communist crimes was also held, though the proceedings remained adjourned until autumn. Participants of the conference included Seimas Chairman Vytautas Landsbergis, former Polish President Lech Wałęsa and Russian MP and human rights activist Sergei Kovalev; the latter issued an apology for Russia's occupation of the Baltics.
The Seimas threw out the bill that called for the diversion of LTL 148 million from defence spending to education. The bill, sponsored by the non-parliamentary New Alliance and put to agenda by a public petition drive, was called "anti-NATO" and "irresponsible" by the ruling coalition. However, New Alliance chief Artūras Paulauskas has stressed his desire for Lithuania to join NATO but said the crisis in the education sector is alarming.
The EU has temporarily closed five chapters of negotiations with Lithuania. The simple chapters closed include CFSP and audio/visual policy.
Lithuanian Defence Minister Česlovas Stankevičius hosted several members of his counterpart in Vilnius for a meeting of the Nordic and Baltic defence ministers, which was augmented by US Defense Secretary William Cohen. In speaking about future NATO enlargement, Cohen stressed that geography and history will not play a role, but, rather, the criteria willl be based on individual nations' achievements and integration efforts. Cohen and Stankevičius were joined by their counterparts, Jüri Luik (Estonia), Ģirts Valdis Kristovskis (Latvia), Björn von Sydow (Sweden), Hans Hækkerup (Denmark) and Tore Godal (Norway), as well as officials from Finland and Iceland. Cohen also met with various Lithuanian officials, including President Valdas Adamkus.
The breakaway "Modern" Conservatives of disgraced ex-Premier Gediminas Vagnorius found out how hard it is to break away, as they are having massive problems in getting the required 400 people to register the party. With only half of the membership rolls full, Vagnorius and allies are taking to the airwaves to promote their party.
With poll numbers showing scanty chances of passing the five per cent barrier in the October elections, the Christian Democrats brought back their outgoing leader and Foreign Minister Algirdas Saudargas to try to revive them before the elections. Some dryly commented that the opportunity actually came up when Saudargas lost the chance to become Lithuania's chief negotiator with the European Union to his deputy, Vygaudas Ušackas. With Saudargas now chairman of the party's board, the party's current chairman, Zigmas Zinkevičius, may resign from the post.
Finnish Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomioja made a quick visit to Vilnius to discuss Lithuania's EU integration. Tuomioja reaffirmed Finland's support for Baltic membership in the EU when meeting with President Valdas Adamkus and other officials. Tuomioja also said that Finland will donate EUR (euro) 1.5 million to the fund to partially shut down Ignalia Nuclear Power Plant.
Mayor of Berlin Eberhard Diepgen visited Vilnius to bring the two cities closer together. Diepgen met with his counterpart, Rolandas Paksas, as well as various national officials.
Economics and business
Originally thought to be a godsend to Lithuania's ailing economy and reputation, the IPO of Lietuvos Telekomas (Lithuanian Telecom) turned into a massive
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Descriptions like "disappointing results" and "not very successful" came from the mouths of officials who were flying high just a week before, as the government scaled the sale from the original 35 per cent of shares to a mere 25 per cent. Even the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) got involved and took about 7.7 per cent of shares in the company. Though the listing was put on the Lithuanian and pan-Baltic blue-chip list, the stock has fallen past the LTL three share price at points.
France's BNP Paribas has been chosen as the advisor for the privatisation of gas utility Lietuvos Dujos. The consortium, led by the French banking giant, said privatisation should start in six months.
Social and local interest
French police officials are very critical of their Lithuanian counterparts when it comes to human trafficking. French police voiced dissatisfaction with the lack of co-operation over the trafficking of women from Lithuania to France. A police official from Nice, who remained anonymous, even suggested that "the procuring and even the rape of women almost do not worry [Lithuanian] law enforcement."
The leadership of the Catholic Church in Lithuania voiced disappointment over a decision by the Constitutional Court, saying the practice of certifying teachers at schools run jointly by state and religious organisations is unconstitutional. The court challenge came from the parliamentary opposition.
And in other news...
A man in Kaunas lost his arm during a farming accident, but the arm was reattached eight hours later by microsurgeons in Vilnius. As an arm is not as exciting as other severed "members" on a male body, newspapers did not carry a photo of the reattachment procedure (for loyal news review readers, this is an inside joke).
No milk in Lithuania? Dairy farmers are threatening to start a strike beginning 20 June to protest government policy on milk prices. Farmers want a set price for milk, though government officials say that the actions of dairy farmers are not co-ordinated. Will there be milk?
Four teenage Satanists were arrested in Vilnius for defacing graves and even robbing them of crosses. The four teens, apparently all from well-to-do families, are in custody for vandalism.
Another old Soviet relic is off the books, as the Seimas removed the obligatory fine (of LTL 300 to 600) for drinking on the job. Officials say that there are better methods today that can be applied on a case-to-case basis by a responsible manager.
As of 16 June 2000
|1 US dollar||4.00|
|1 British pound||6.05|
|1 German mark||1.95|
Mel Huang, 16 June 2000
Baltic News Service (BNS)
The Baltic Times
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
Reuters news on Yahoo