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Vol 2, No 29
4 September 2000
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News from Lithuania
All the important news
since 25 August 2000

Mel Huang

Politics and foreign affairs

Prime Ministers from the Nordic and Baltic countries met in Pärnu, Estonia, to discuss regional co-operation, with IT issues and e-commerce high on the agenda. Also high on the agenda were EU and NATO integration for the Baltics, to which the premiers all pledged their support. In attendance were Poul Nyrup Rasmussen (Denmark), Mart Laar (Estonia), Paavo Lipponen (Finland), Davíð Oddsson (Iceland), Andris Bērziņš (Latvia), Andrius Kubilius (Lithuania), Jens Stoltenberg (Norway) and Göran Persson (Sweden).

Foreign Ministers from the Nordic and Baltic countries met in Middelfart, Denmark, under a new name, "8," instead of the "5+3" moniker used in years past. Again, EU and NATO integration played a large role in the talks, with the EU CFSP chief, Javier Solana, joining them for the talks. Solana was upbeat about the Baltic states' chances of getting into NATO and the EU soon.

The Seimas held an extraordinary session to examine a host of bills vetoed earlier this summer by President Valdas Adamkus with mixed results. During the session, the Seimas successfully overrode the veto on a controversial wage bill for civil servants, parliamentarians and judges, which would ignore seniority from the Soviet period and, as a result, severely lower wages for many judges. However, the Parliament failed to override changes to the mass media law that would have created a special inspectorate, which opposition MPs are calling a "censor." The Seimas also agreed to the changes proposed by Adamkus in a law on polygraphs, while the Parliament and President reached an agreement on the status of the Klaipėda Port area.

As political parties and coalitions register their candidates and lists for the October general elections, several anomalies have been discovered by Electoral Commission officials. For example, the Russian Union has lost two candidates, because they are underage (25 is the minimum age), and a convicted criminal on its candidate list had his crimes publicised, as dictated by law.

Several parties also held conferences to finalise their lists. Various parties, such as the Christian Democratic Union, decided to go at the elections alone. Several groupings were also formed, including a nationalist unit linking the Young Lithuania movement to the Democratic Party. Other large parties, such as the Centre Union, have also finalised their lists.

Lithuania received the first three of its 67 renovated armoured-personnel carriers (APCs) from Germany during the week. The vehicles were renovated in Neubrandenburg and were ceremonially received by Deputy Defence Minister Romas Kilikauskas.

President Valdas Adamkus travelled to Krynica, Poland, to take part in a regional economic conference. In his speech, Adamkus discussed the challenges of globalisation and the need to strengthen trans-Atlantic ties for security in Europe.


Economics and business

One of Sweden's largest banks, Skandinaviska Enskilda Banken (SEB), has announced it wants to take full control of Vilniaus Bankas, a bank in which they currently hold a 42 per cent stake. SEB said they will do the same for other banks they control in the Baltics, namely Latvia's Unibanka and Estonia's Ühispank. As SEB is offering LTL (Lithuanian litas) 40 per share for Vilniaus Bankas, the stock naturally made the news. It closed at LTL 33 the day of the news, up 13.8 per cent.

The total state debt in July dropped by LTL 204 million to LTL 12.834 billion, or about 29.1 per cent of this year's expected GDP. A great majority of the amount, over 80 per cent, is actual loans, while less than 20 per cent is loan guarantees.


Social and local interest

The hunger strike at the Inkaras footwear factory has been going on for nearly one month, as wage arrears keep protestors from food (and some from liquids). The issue has gripped the nation and sparked a debate on why people continue to work for no money and how business interests can divert funds to avoid paying off arrears. Foreign journalists are shocked at the situation.

Seimas Chairman Vytautas Landsbergis said he will not object if prosecutors drop charges against a "beer drinker from Pasvalys" who sent a death threat to him over a televised address on the situation with Inkaras.

New Union (Social Liberals) politician Eduardas Sabilinskas is being accused by workers at the Ţalgiris metal tools plant in Vilnius of trying to instigate a similar hunger strike. Sabilinskas apparently represents one of the plant's creditors. Workers say they are owed LTL 8.5 million in arrears. Elsewhere, workers at the Litoda leather factory in Plungė have announced a two-week hunger strike in protest against wage arrears.

There are nine millionaires among Lithuania's political and government elite. The top spot is filled by former European basketball great Rimas Kurtinaitis, who declared his assets at LTL 9.68 million. He is followed by Economics Minister Valentinas Milaknis, a former businessman that declared assets of LTL 5.05 million. In third place is the head of the Peasants Party, Ramūnas Karbauskis, with assets at LTL 4.87 million.


And in other news...

Lithuanian football clubs were all eliminated from the race to win the UEFA Cup in the preliminary round. Ekranas Panevėžys got blown out 0:4 by Lierge of Belgium, with an aggregate loss of 0:7. Ţalgiris from Kaunas did not do much better, losing to Poland's Ruch Chorzów 0:6, with a 2:7 aggregate.

Arvydas Ozolas, who was collecting signatures in Šiauliai to be a National Social Union candidate, was shot in the buttocks with salt charges by a disgruntled Second World War veteran. The unnamed veteran, who fought against the Nazis, though it was repugnant for the group to campaign (despite being unregistered and, thus, illegal) using symbols very similar to the Nazi swastika. The National Socialists have held several rallies in recent months with prominent and extremist guests, such as Kaunas Mayor Vytautas Šustauskas.

Circulating on the Internet in Lithuania is a bizarre computer game called "Russian Roulette with Česlovas Juršėnas," who happens to be the leader of the leftist Labour Democrats (LDDP). Party officials are calling for an investigation into the strange game featuring the former Seimas speaker, who is left with a gaping gun wound to the head at the end of the game.


Exchange Rates
As of 1 September 2000
Currency Lithuanian lita (LTL)
1 US dollar 4.00
1 British pound 5.80
1 German mark 1.82
1 euro 3.56


Mel Huang, 1 September 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


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Handling Milošević

Jens Boysen
Germany's Radical Right

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Slovenian Political Heat

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Polish Presidential Election

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Estonian Military Confusion

Delia Dumitrica
Romanian Return to the Old Days?

Jan Čulík
Czech Media Privitisation

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Feudalism and Communism

Pál Závada,
the best-selling Hungarian author

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Hungarian Corruption

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Yugoslav Film

Delia Dumitrica
Hungarians in Romania

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Czechs and Germans

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Post-Communist Disappointment

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