Minister resigns after drinking bout
Deputy Interior Minister Juozas Galginaitis resigned this week, after it became clear that he was unable to attend consultations with the European Commission following a night of heavy drinking. The consultations involved two chapters in the EU membership negotiations.
The minister has declined to talk to the press, but the Lithuanian ambassador to the EU has shed some light on the incident. He stated that he found Mr Galginaitis lying in his hotel bed a couple of minutes before the consultations were about to start. Galginaitis was unable to speak, according to the ambassador, so the latter appointed another official to head the talks with the Commission.
Apparently, a day before in the European Parliament, the minister was also not in the best condition and dozed off during talks.
Mr Galginaitis held this post since 1999.
Another interior deputy minister, Ramunas Darulis, is currently undergoing hospital treatment. He also has been involved in a scandal. His concerns a visit he made to a provincial town, during which he called local teachers "noisy hens."
Oil spill in the Baltic
Butinge oil terminal witnessed another accident that means more sea pollution. This week, during work on a damaged pipe, approximately 100 litres of oil products spilled into the Baltic Sea.
Currently, there are three areas on the sea surface covered in oil products, each two kilometres long and 80 metres wide, in total about 16 hectares of pollution. Wind carried the pollutants in a northwest direction towards Latvia. It seems that the Klaipėda port ship has managed to contain the two oil-drenched areas by putting a barrier around them. With the permission of Latvian authorities, the same has been done to the third area.
It was originally proposed that a barrier be built while work was done on the pipe. However, terminal specialists apparently declined the offer saying that the work was safe.
This is the second oil accident in a matter of days. Last week, three tonnes of raw oil were spilt while being placed on board a Norwegian tanker.
Latvian authorities have expressed great concern over the incident and want to speed up negotiations on a treaty involving compensation for ecological disasters.
More grass roots protests
The country this week was full of protests against increasing prices and other economic difficulties.
In Klaipėda, a crowd of several thousand people attacked a building of Lietuvos Telekomas (Lithuanian Telecom) in protest against the rising cost of communications and heating. The protestors managed to avert a head-on confrontation with the police even after more officers were brought to the site. The protesters said they would boycott the new payments and lift telephone receivers simultaneously across the city in order to disrupt communications.
In the meantime, the protests of farmers in the south have completely blocked a border passing point at Kalvarija. The police were not forced to act, as the crowd has agreed to step aside and wait a couple of days for government action. The protestors did, however, manage to paralyse border traffic for about six hours. The farmers want a return to subsidised sugar prices and aid for a working sugar plant in Marijampole, which is in deep financial trouble.
Theatre triumphs in Venice
Shakespeare's Othello, directed by one of the most famous contemporary Lithuanian directors, Eimuntas Nekrosius, has triumphed in a prestigious European biannual theatre festival in Venice, Italy. Enthusiastic critics and an enchanted audience lauded the three-hour performance, which started a special session on the synthesis of arts and a retrospective on Shakespeare at the festival.
Director Nekrosius said he was delighted by the great success of the actors and especially proud to represent his country abroad, as it was the first time his work was supported by the Lithuanian government. The leading actors were jubilant and proud upon their return home.
The performance will soon embark upon an international tour, but will be shown in Lithuanian only in autumn.
Chief inspector able to resume post
The Vilnius district administrative court announced that Visvaldas Rackauskas, sacked last year from the post of chief inspector, could return to his job. Allegedly, the interior minister who dismissed him acted unlawfully. In fact, by firing Rackauskas, he assumed a presidential responsibility.
Mr Rackauskas was dismissed hastily last year on the basis of a rather abstract article in a statute of the interior ministry about improving service. He is to receive LTL (Lithuanian litas) 21,472 (USD 5400) in compensation. The (ex) chief inspector said he would think about returning to the job.
Disease prevention measures taken
New measures have taken effect in Vilnius Airport in an attempt to prevent the spread of foot and mouth disease in the country.
Now, all arriving passengers must pass through special disinfected carpets that will neutralise potential viruses carried on their shoes. Bringing any food products into the country has also been prohibited. The last time the disease was registered in the country was in 1982.
In the meantime, the BSE scare has increased the price of pork, chicken and other food products. The index of consumer prices has been driven up quite sharply, according to the Department of Statistics. It rose by 0.2 per cent in February, in comparison to a 0.2 per cent decrease in January.
Gambling law considered
The Seimas has, in principle, agreed to a law that would legalise gambling in the country. However, already about 200 amendments to the law have been registered in the Parliament.
So far, it is agreed that only stock companies would participate in the business, winnings would not be taxed and no restrictions would be applied to the gambling venues.
The government has forecast that it will garner revenues of about LTL 25 million (USD 6.25 million) from the legalisation.
And in other news...
- Fourteen state awards were distributed at the Academy of Sciences to scientists working in the fields of physics, biomedicine and technology.
- Information technology corporation Motorola has announce that it wants to sell its 35 percent of shares in one of the biggest Lithuanian mobile operators, Omnitel.
- Internet provision through dial-up lines has become one of the most successful ventures in the Internet market in Lithuania. In February alone, the number of new subscribers climbed to 1250. Lithuanian Telecom projects the number will increase to one million in three years.
- Director of the Lithuanian National Opera and Ballet Theatre Vytautas Juozapaitis has resigned amidst a prolonged conflict between artists and administrators. Nevertheless, the premiere of Tchaikovsky's Pique Dame at the National Theatre was a huge success.
Inga Pavlovaitė, 12 March 2001
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