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Week in Lithuania. Adamkus turns 90, speaks about election results

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Former Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus

Lithuania’s two-time President Valdas Adamkus celebrated his 90th birthday on Thursday, November 3. As dozens of birthday wishers kept lining up to wish all the best on the occasion to Lithuania’s most revered president, Adamkus seemed gleeful, robust and witty.

Former president expressed his wish to Almighty for another five years of life. «As a former sportsman, I’d rather set my goals at a modest mark at the stage,» he said.

Adamkus was born in Kaunas on November 3, 1926. He studied at a local school and was involved in the resistance movement for Lithuania’s independence during World War Two. Adamkus, who was 18 years old at the time, fled to Germany with his parents in July 1944. After graduation from the Lithuanian Gymnasium in Germany, he studied at the Faculty of Natural Science at Munich University.

Adamkus immigrated to the United States with his family in 1949. In 1960, he graduated from the Illinois Institute of Technology with a degree in civil engineering. In the US, Adamkus held a high-ranking position at the Environmental Protection Agency and was active in the public and political life of the Lithuanian expatriate community. Adamkus served two terms as president of Lithuania, in 1998–2003 and 2004–2009. Lithuania concluded its EU membership negotiations and was invited to join NATO during his first five-year term.

Commenting on the recent results of Lithuania’s general election, Adamkus said he was not happy with them. In Adamkus’ words, Lithuania is not yet taking full advantage of democracy.

«It will probably take more than a year and more than one election before we can say that we fully appreciate the opportunities that democracy provides to us and that our political life has already taken over the ideas of Western culture and follows them. Frankly, I am not glad about with the results of the elections,» the former president said. «I will probably not live long enough to see this,» he said.

Labour Code needs further improvement

Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaitė says that certain issues important for the social security of people remain unsolved after the parliament amended the country’s new Labour Code, calling for a further improvement of the package.  «The Seimas approved more than a third of the proposals I submitted when I vetoed the new Labor Code that had been bulldozed through. I will sign them (the amendments),» Grybauskaitė said. «However, this is only the first step and a partial improvement of the code. A number of issues that are important for the social security of people remain unresolved. Therefore, the Labour Code needs further improvement,» she said.

Ramūnas Karbauskis, chairman of the Lithuanian Peasant and Green Union (LVŽS), the party that triumphed in recent parliamentary elections, says that he will propose that the entry into force of the country’s new Labor Code be postponed for a half -year. In Karbauskis words, it will be among the first decisions that the new Seimas will make. Karbauskis does not rule out postponing the entry into force of the entire package of laws, the so-called «social model», for up to a year. The outgoing Seimas passed the new Labor Code, aimed at liberalizing labor relations, last spring. President Dalia Grybauskaitė vetoed some of its provisions, but the parliament overrode her veto. The Labor Code is to come into force next January.

Pentecostals recognized as religious community

Lithuania’s Seimas (Parliament) has granted the status of a religious community recognized by the state to the Lithuanian Evangelical Christian Union (Pentecostals). Lithuania’s first Pentecostal community was founded in Biržai in 1912, with bylaws registered in 1923. According to the latest census of 2011, 1,852 individuals identified themselves as members the Pentecostal belief, which includes 23 communities in Lithuania. Under the law, the status of a state-recognized religious community is granted to an applying community, if it counts more than 25 years, its teaching is in line with the law and morals, as well as it has support from the society. Up until now, the Lithuanian parliament has granted the status to the Lithuanian Evangelical Baptists and the Seventh Day Adventist Church. The application of the Lithuanian New Apostolic Church is still pending.

Ministry calls for faster processing of asylum applications

The Social Security and Labour Minister Algimanta Pabedinskienė has said following attacks on refugees in the refugee centre Rukla that asylum applications should be processed faster by migration authorities.

«The processing procedures take a rather long time here. We will indeed turn to the Interior Ministry and the Migration Department with a request to make the time of the procedures shorter, wherever possible,» the minister said Thursday, November 3. The minister believes it is necessary to lower the concentration of refugees in Rukla, which could have triggered the recent attacks on the immigrants from the Middle East relocated to Lithuania under the European Union’s (EU) program. Pabedinskienė cited the Estonian example where asylum decisions are made during the checks of the immigrants in refugee camps in Greece, Italy and Turkey.

Rukla elder weighs in on incidents

The elder of Rukla, a central Lithuanian town where a refugee reception center is located, says that a recent incident involving local and Syrian teenagers could have been provoked by the migrants themselves.  «To me, it looks like a provocation. It is no secret that most refugees regard Lithuania as an intermediate stop on the way to the rich Western Europe. And here’s an opportunity to complain that Lithuanian racists are treating them badly and that they can’t live in our country,» Gintas Jasiulionis , the elder, said. «However, the police investigation will answer all questions. If our children are to blame, they will have to take responsibility. If the other side (is to blame), they will have to take responsibility, too,» he added.

Ten candidates to vie for Labour Party’s top post

The Lithuanian Labour Party’s Council has named ten candidates for the vacant post of the party’s chairman, its caretaker leader, Vytautas Gapšys, said, noting that the list may not be final. The candidates include two members of the incoming Seimas, Petras Cimbaras and Valentinas Bukauskas, three members of the outgoing parliament, Artūras Paulauskas, Kęstutis Daukšys and Vydas Gedvilas, outgoing Culture Minister Šarūnas Birutis, outgoing Social Security and Labour Minister Algimanta Pabedinskienė and Širvintos Mayor Živilė Pinskuvienė, as well as Rolandas Janickas and Jonas Pinskus. Valentinas Mazuronis last month stepped down as the Labour Party’s chairman after the party failed to pass the five percent threshold in the multi-member constituency, where parliamentarians are elected by proportional representation from party lists, and won only two seats in single-member constituencies. The party will hold a congress on December 11 to elect a new leader.

Lithuania nods to Montenegro’s NATO accession

The Lithuanian parliament ratified on November 3 a protocol on Montenegro’s accession to NATO. NATO flag Ninety-eight members of the Seimas voted in favor of ratification and two abstained from voting. NATO foreign ministers signed the protocol on Montenegro’s accession in Brussels last May. The Balkan country will become the 29th member of the Alliance once the document is ratified by its parliament and all 28 NATO member states. The decision to invite Montenegro to join NATO has drawn anger from Moscow.

Ignalina NPP to set up panel for fundraising

The Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant (INPP) under decommissioning in Lithuania intends to set up a special committee that will search for possibilities of ensuring funding closure projects after 2020. INPP board should set up the special committee on November 23, Mantas Dubauskas, adviser to the Lithuanian energy minister, confirmed to BNS. In late September, the European Court of Auditors stated that Ignalina decommissioning projects were far behind schedule, therefore, the auditors suggested discontinuing the special financing program after 2020. According to calculations made by the European Court of Auditors, Ignalina decommissioning is still short of another 1.56 billion euro.

Iraqi family to fight stay in Lithuanian court

An Iraqi family of seven that has been relocated to Lithuania but refused a residence permit here has turned to court over the Migration Department’s decision. Refused both a refugee status and additional protection, the Iraqi nationals disagree with the plans to be deported and have taken the issue to a Vilnius court. Robertas Mikulėnas, director of the Rukla Refugee Reception Centre, said the deportation has been postponed until the plea has been processed. «There is a family that has been refused a residence permit in Lithuania and they have gone to court,» Mikulėnas said. Interior Minister Tomas Žilinskas said that the authorities established after the family had been already relocated to Lithuania that it was not under threat in Iraq and should therefore be considered economic migrants.

President frowns at ministry closure plan

With the Lithuanian Peasant and Green Union (LVŽS), the winner of the country’s general election, planning to close down the Energy Ministry, President Dalia Grybauskaitė says that its functions will not be scrapped and that the number of ministries is not important as long as the government works efficiently. When asked if scrapping the Energy Ministry, which controls companies carrying out strategic energy projects, would be reasonable in the current geopolitical situation, Grybauskaitė said that the ministry’s functions would be continued. Ramūnas Karbauskis, chairman of the party, the party that triumphed in last month’s parliamentary elections, has said recently the Energy Ministry, which, in words, was set up for a new nuclear power plant project, will be closed down and its functions will be transferred to a separate department at the Economy Ministry.

SD leader predicts deal with Peasants

Social Democratic Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevičius sees a good chance of reaching a deal with the Lithuanian Peasant and Green Union (LVŽS) on a new ruling coalition, but says that he is worried about the winning party’s pre-election proposals that would boost next year’s budget deficit if implemented. In Butkevičius’ words, the Social Democrats will place a high priority on maintaining fiscal discipline and they want the LVŽS to clearly state their position on this issue.

Lithuania to contribute to monument in Kiev

The outgoing Lithuanian government has decided that the country has to contribute to the restoration of the tombstone of Konstanty Ostrogski, a Grand Hetman of Lithuania and an outstanding military leader, in Kiev.

Members of the Cabinet agreed on Wednesday, November 2, that Lithuania could allocate up to 44,000 euro for the project in 2017 and provide further support in the future.

Under the command of Ostrogski, the forces of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and the Kingdom of Poland won the Battle of Orsha against the army of the Grand Duchy of Moscow in 1514. Historians describe it as one of the greatest military victories in Lithuania’s history. Ostrogski was buried in a monastery complex in Kiev, but the monument to him was destroyed in the 20th century.  A new monument is planned to be built in the same place as the old one.

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