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Vol 2, No 33
2 October 2000
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News from LithuaniaNews from Lithuania
All the important news
since 23 September 2000

Inga Pavlovaitė and Mel Huang

Most successful ever

It has been the most successful Olympic Games for Lithuania ever as two more medals arrived this week for its athletes. Virgilijus Alekna won Olympic gold in men's discus and Diana Žiliūtė bronze in women cycling. Alekna, who works as a presidential bodyguard, fulfilled his long-held dream after a dramatic and close competition by throwing the discus 69.3m, becoming Olympic champion. Now he said he will aim for the world record.

Žiliūtė won her bronze in group cycling when each participant had to cycle 17.1 kilometres seven times, in total 119.7km, about which she later said was "hell." Žiliūtė earlier this year won the world championships.

The entire country was extremely excited about the record-breaking results and greeted the athletes at Vilnius Airport as national heroes. The country's leaders sent greetings and promised substantial financial awards for the medallists. Lithuania has two gold and two bronze medals as of time of writing.

The Lithuanian basketball team nearly pulled off the upset of the century, losing in the semi-finals to the US "Dream Team" 83:85. The spectacular game went to the final seconds, and the game-winning three-pointer missed the bucket. The US team already took notice of Lithuania from an earlier game that pushed the "Dream Team" to near defeat. The Lithuanian team defeated their long-standing rival Yugoslavia to reach the semi-finals, and will take on Australia for the bronze medal game. Lithuania won the bronze in basketball in 1992 and 1996.


Resolution "a mistake"

Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius said that the Seimas resolution legalising the declaration of renewed independence made by the 1941 rebellion government was "a mistake." The resolution's passage had angered many Jewish organisations and officials, which led to threats of pull-outs from delegates to the upcoming Vilnius conference on plundered Jewish properties. The Seimas later voted it out of existence.


Case concluded by death

Aleksandras Lileikis, accused of genocide during the Second World War, died this week in Vilnius. He was a chief of the Vilnius security police, which was subordinated to Nazi authorities, and was accused of collaboration in murder of 75 Jews. After his death, his case will be closed. The Prosecutor General's Office expressed regret that with the death of the accused, the verdict in this case of such importance to historic justice will not be passed.


Protecting the nuclear plant

The Seimas passed a programme for the protection of the Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant. The plan lays out organisational, legal and technical means to ensure safety of the plant. Such a program is mandatory under the law on national security. According to officials, most of the money allocated will go to the strengthening of the state border 30 kilometres from the plant. Some LTL (Lithuanian litas) 9 million (USD 2.25 million) will be given to the programme in the next couple of years.


Catholic Church plea

Lithuanian bishops have urged people to actively participate in parliamentary elections because passiveness and refusal is incompatible with Christian values and can lead to the misuse of voting power. The address, read at Sunday mass, encouraged people to vote for honest and competent candidates, to think and choose carefully. Although there was no mentioning of names, bishops expressed unequivocal support for Lithuania's Euro-integration.


No transition periods, say officials

The Lithuanian government has withdrawn its requests for transitional periods in talks with the European Union connected with free trade agreements. Both these requests were originally placed in the negotiating position on the chapter for external relations. Earlier, all the three Baltic states requested to maintain the preferential trade agreements on agricultural products according to free trade agreement between Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, but after Estonia has unilaterally withdrawn its request without consulting others, Lithuanian chief negotiator Vygaudas Ušackas said that there are no grounds to argue for the necessity of a transitional period.

The other transition period withdrawal involves a free-trade deal with Ukraine. From the beginning of the year, negotiations on eight chapters have started, with five being preliminarily closed and three—external relations, competition and cultural and audio-visual policy—still open.


Power Bridge to gain ground?

Lithuanian Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius and Polish Prime Minister Jerzy Buzek signed a joint letter to the European Commission and the EBRD on financing the so-called "Power Bridge" to link the power grids of the two countries. Experts think that the project will be profitable and useful only if the EU finances half of it, since the link will enhance the common European electricity market and EU countries will be able to sell electricity to the Baltic states as well. The sum needed for the project is estimated from EUR 380 to 410 million.


Finally adopted

On Tuesday, the Seimas passed a new criminal code that has been in preparation for many years. This is the first criminal code prepared independently by Lithuanian professionals this century. Although some additional laws are still needed to put the code into force, it was undoubtedly a historic day in Lithuanian legal history. Sadly, due to low participation, only 36 Seimas members voted for it. In the heat of the election campaign most of them were absent.


Priorities for the next year

For the first time since the restoration of independence, the 2001 national budget has been formed according to the principles of strategic planning. Prime Minister Kubilius said that there are five top budget priorities: integration to the EU and NATO, attempt to carry out a balanced budget, creation of an information society and improvement of business conditions.


Immersed in campaigning

The controversial far-right mayor of Kaunas, Vytautas Šustauskas, has taken unpaid leave until 9 October in order to devote himself fully to the election campaign for the Lithuanian Freedom Union, which he leads.


Big issues forth

The social democratic coalition led by former president Algirdas Brazauskas has delivered petitions with 60,000 signatures from citizens, urging the state to retain control of strategic economic objects (such as utilities and large state-owned banks), reduce VAT for heating and increase the minimum tax-free income. If the Central Electoral Commission confirms the authenticity of the signatures, the proposals go to parliamentary debate. The coalition also met with the representatives of sporting organisations and discussed ways to improve the situation in Lithuanian sports.


Verdict passed on Communism

On 27 September, an international tribunal investigating the crimes of Communism presented its verdict in Vilnius, using testimonies from two sessions of the tribunal in June and September. Organisers claim that the process was aimed at future generations so that they would not tolerate crimes by Communist regimes against humanity. They are committed to continuing the investigations, and also hope that secret Russian archives will be opened for further investigations. The verdict was sent to other states' parliaments and international organisations.


Heading for Kosovo

On Monday, a 30-strong infantry unit left Klaipėda for Kosovo to participate in peacekeeping operations. This is the third Lithuanian mission in Kosovo, and the unit will be deployed for three months alongside NATO troops for guarding, patrolling and back-up assignments.


And in other news...

The Seimas also adopted several amendments to law on the Klaipėda port area, making it a free port.

Judges from the three Baltic countries are taking part in a seminar in Vilnius on software copyright issues. Some 60 judges are participating, including 40 from Lithuania.

A part of the assets of Lithuanian Radio and Television (LRT) will be seized due to mounting debts of LTL 3.8 million (USD 950,000).

An European information centre opened in Šiauliai with the aim of informing people in the region about EU integration and EU issues, promoting interest in the enlargement process and providing information for businesses and NGOs. The centre is partly supported by the German government.


Exchange Rates
As of 30 September 2000
Currency Lithuanian lita (LTL)
1 US dollar 4.00
1 British pound 5.89
1 German mark 1.80
1 euro 3.52


Inga Pavlovaitė and Mel Huang, 2 October 2000

Moving on:

Lietuvos Rytas
Lietuvos Aidas
Baltic News Service (BNS)
Kauno Diena


Andrew Stroehlein
Europe vs the

Mel Huang
Lithuanian Climax

Magali Perrault
One Year on in Austria

Wojtek Kość
Polish Elections

Sam Vaknin

Prague protests:
Jan Čulík
Beat the Foreigners

Agentura Tendence

Slavko Živanov
The Serb View

Alexander Fischer
The Eye-witness View

Brian J Požun
The Local View

Dejan Anastasijević
The Opposition View

Natalya Krasnoboka
The Russian View

Andrea Mrozek
The German View

Eleanor Pritchard
The Macedonian View

Catherine Lovatt
The Romanian View

Beth Kampschror
The Bosnian View

Oliver Craske
The UK View

Gusztáv Kosztolányi
The Hungarian View

Brian J Požun
The Slovene View

CER Staff
The Regional View

Martin D Brown
Czech Historical Amnesia

Gusztáv Kosztolányi
Hungarian Oil Scandal

Dusan Djordjevich
Life in Serbia

Andrej Milivojević
Two on Serb Politics

Peter Hames
The Sound of Silents

Andrew J Horton
Explosive Yugoslav Film


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