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Week in Lithuania. Court annuls construction permit for Moscow House in Vilnius

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Inspectorate to annul the construction permit, issued back in 2008, for the so-called Moscow House in Vilnius.

The Vilnius District Court on Wednesday, December 21, also partially granted a request from the defendant, the Moscow Cultural and Business Centre – Moscow House, to give it three years to bring the building and construction documents into line with the legal requirements. The inspectorate wanted this to be done within a year.

Wednesday’s ruling may be appealed to a higher court. The inspectorate told the court that it had found a number of violations of building regulations in the construction project. The construction permit was issued by the capital’s local authority back in 2008.The local authority supported the inspectorate’s request for the annulment of the construction permit. Moscow House did not contest the inspectorate’s decision, but asked for more time to bring the project into line with the requirements.

The idea to build Moscow House in Vilnius emerged in July 2004 when Yuri Luzhkov, the then mayor of Moscow, attended celebrations of the 750th anniversary of the coronation of King Mindaugas in the Lithuanian capital. It was decided at that time to carry out a similar project in Moscow.

Constitutional Court to look into Belarusian citizen’s residence refusal

Lithuania‘s Constitutional Court will examine whether Lithuania violated the Organic Law by refusing a residence permit to a Belarusian man who married a Lithuanian male in Denmark. The hearings will be held at the request of the Lithuanian Supreme Administrative Court, which turned to the Constitutional Court in the framework of the Belarusian citizen’s plea against the unfavourable ruling of a court of lower instance. Another Vilnius court in May rejected his plea against the Migration Department’s decision to refuse him a temporary residence permit in Lithuania. Under Lithuania’s law, a foreign citizen can obtain a residence permit in the country if she or he is married to a Lithuanian citizen. However, same-sex marriages are not allowed in Lithuania.

Lithuanian court upholds fine for Gazprom

Russian gas concern Gazprom must pay Lithuania a fine of 35.651 million euros, which was imposed two years ago for refusing to sign a gas exchange deal with Lithuania’s state-owned electricity production group Lietuvos Energijos Gamyba (Lithuanian Energy Production, LEG) formerly known as Lietuvos Energija, the Supreme Administrative Court ruled on Thursday, December 22.The court upheld the fine imposed by the Competition Council in 2014, which is the highest fine in the country’s history.

In June of 2014, the Competition Council found that Gazprom’s refusal to negotiate with Lietuvos Energijos Gamyba on a natural gas swap deal in 2013-2015 prevented the Lithuanian company from purchasing cheaper gas from another supplier and thus breached a condition of a 2004 agreement on the acquisition and sale of shares in Lietuvos Dujos (Lithuanian Gas). Gazprom attempted to prove in court that the Competition Council misinterpreted a clause in the 2004 sanction for it to purchase a stake in Lietuvos Dujos and consequently started the probe and imposed the fine without a reason.

Lithuanian instructors deployed to mission in Iraq

A shift of six Lithuanian instructors was officially deployed to the operation in Iraq at a ceremony at the Armed Forces’ Gediminas Staff Battalion on Thursday.

According to Defence Minister Raimundas Karoblis, Lithuania preserves its name as a reliable ally and attends international operations that are aimed at boosting stability and security by sending its troops to the missions. The Lithuanian instructors will leave for the operation region in Iraq in January from Denmark together with the country’s contingent. The instructor team has been assigned to the Danish contingent to serve alongside Danish, Latvian and Estonian soldiers.

The Lithuanian mission will not be a combat one – they will train Iraq‘s security forces, conduct military training and teaching, as well as ensure safety in the training site.

Preparations for the mission were started nearly six months ago, with the instructors attending various courses in Lithuania and Denmark.

Executing ECHR ruling on Paksas requires Constitution changes

Without changing the Constitution, Lithuania cannot execute the ruling of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) on violated rights of impeached President Rolandas Paksas, Justice Minister Milda Vainiūtė has said. MP Petras Gražulis of the political group of the Order and Justice Party emphasized that Lithuania had to execute the ECHR ruling, regardless of the finding of the Constitutional Court.

Russian spying gear found

Spying gear of Russian intelligence services was this year found in computers of three Lithuanian state institutions, says Rimtautas Černiauskas, director of the National Cyber Security Service.

ECHR ruling on MEP Uspaskich

Home arrest did not prevent Lithuanian MEP Viktor Uspaskich, the founder of the Labour Party, from running for parliament, and the Labour Party helped him hide from justice by constantly proposing him as candidate, the European Court of Human Rights found. Uspaskich claimed to the court he could not run for parliament on equal conditions with others, as he was under house arrest as a suspect in the Labour Party’s bookkeeping fraud case.

In the summer of 2007, the Labour Party proposed him as candidate for local parliamentary elections, as he was still in hiding in Moscow. In September, he was detained at the Vilnius airport upon return to Lithuania – prosecutors wanted him detained for three months, however, the politician was placed under house arrest.

Alcohol prices due to sharp excise hike

The excise tax rate for strong alcoholic beverages will rise by 23 percent next March and that for wine and beer will surge by up to 112 percent, which will drive drinks prices up by up to 1 euro per bottle.

The parliament on Thursday, December 22, approved the excise duty hike with 95 votes in favour, none against and 19 abstentions. The excise tax rate for wine and other fermented beverages is set to increase by between 97 and 112 percent and that for beer by 112 percent. As a result of this, the price of fermented drinks with an alcohol content of up to 8.5 percent will rise by 14 percent, or 21 euro cents, per 0.5 litres, and the price of stronger drinks will go up by 17 percent, or 74 cent, per 0.7 litres. The price of beer will increase by 9-13 cent per 0.5 litres. The draft 2017 budget envisages that the excise duty hike will next year generate around 45 million euros in additional revenue.

Lithuanians‘ spending

Total spending by Lithuanian tourists in foreign countries rose by 9.6 percent in January through September 2016 year-on-year to 686.2 million euros, preliminary figures from Statistics Lithuania showed on Thursday, December 22. Spending by domestic tourists travelling inside Lithuania with at least one overnight stay and by one-day tourists grew by an annual 2.5 percent to 133.6 million euros, the statistics office said.

The total number of foreign trips by Lithuanian tourists rose by 4.9 percent in the three quarters year-on-year to 1.538 million, with the number of personal trips up by 4.4 percent to 1.231 million, or 80 percent of the total number, and that of business trips up by 6.7 percent to 307,500 trips. Spending by Lithuanians on holiday and leisure trips abroad increased by an annual 9.1 percent to 535.3 million euros and spending by those on business trips was up by 11.3 percent to 150.8 million euros.

Seimas congratulates Trump

The Lithuanian parliament on Thursday, December 22, passed a resolution congratulating U.S.President-elect Donald Trump and wishing him every success in performing his duties and meeting the international and domestic policy commitments. The Seimas adopted the resolution with 88 votes in favour, none against and eight abstentions. In the document, the parliament underscores the role of the United States and its president in ensuring security and stability in Europe and thanks the U.S. for its constant and resolute policy of non-recognition of the occupation of the Baltic states.

Lithuanian military purchases used trucks

Lithuania is buying off-road vehicles, trucks, other vehicles and equipment from the Netherlands to renew its military fleet, the Defence Ministry said on Thursday, December 22. Under a contract signed in December, more than 200 military vehicles, including Mercedes-Benz off-road vehicles and DAF trucks, and pieces of equipment are to be delivered to Lithuania by the end of next year, it said. The vehicles, which are used but in good technical condition, will be distributed among various units of the Lithuanian Armed Forces. The total value of the purchase is 1.95 million euros. This is the fourth such military procurement contract between Lithuania and the Netherlands.

Fewer Lithuanians gave bribes in 2016

Some 16 percent of the Lithuanian population have admitted paying a bribe over the past year, shows a survey published by the Special Investigations Service on Wednesday. In 2014, the number was 24 percent. No significant change has been observed in the payment of bribes by business figures – 5 percent in the latest survey and 6 percent in 2014.In this year’s survey, 6 percent of public servants admitted having paid a bribe. The group was not interviewed in the 2014 poll.

Lithuania sees off military police officers to Afghanistan

A farewell ceremony for six military police officers going to Afghanistan on a mission took place in Vilnius on Wednesday, December 21. Among participants of the ceremony were officials of the ministry and the Armed Forces, families of the troops and other guests.

PM to pay first foreign visit

Lithuania‘s Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis will make his first foreign visit in the post to Latvia, the government confirmed. During the stay in Riga on January 12, the new head of the government will meet with Latvia’s President Raimonds Vējonis, Prime Minister Maris Kučinskis and Parliamentary Speaker Inara Mūrniece.

The meetings will address bilateral cooperation, security policy, regional infrastructure projects, the European Union’s (EU) agenda and regional cooperation. Lithuania’s new Parliamentary Speaker Viktoras Pranckietis has also chosen Riga as the destination of his first foreign visit in the capacity.

EU‘s Brexit negotiator in Lithuania

The European Commission‘s (EC) senior negotiator for the Brexit deal, Michel Barnier, came to Lithuanian capital Vilnius on Wednesday, December 21. Barnier met with Lithuania‘s President Dalia Grybauskaitė and discussed the European Union‘s stance on the conditions of Britain‘s withdrawal from the community. The meeting was part of Grybauskaitė‘s official agenda. At a meeting with Britain‘s Prime Minister Theresa May last week, the Lithuanian president said that Lithuania would seek all possible post-Brexit guarantees for Lithuanians living in the United Kingdom. Lithuania’s community in the UK includes about 200,000 people.

Number of probes into pornographic content up

The number of probes launched into information including pornographic content has increased in Lithuania this year, the Office of the Inspector of Journalist Ethics said on Tuesday, December 20, which conducted 79 probes into the subject this year. In response to calls from law-enforcement officials to analyse information that was suspected to contain pornographic content, the office this year checked 405 hours of audiovisual information ad more than 16,900 photographs. No pornographic content was established in six cases. In 2015 pre -trial investigations into production, possession and dissemination of pornography, the office conducted 67 analyses and checked 205 hours of audiovisual content and 5,200 photographs, which is half of the number of this year’s materials.

New Labour Code to come into force next July

Lithuania‘s new Labour Code, which is part of the so-called social model package, will come into force next July. This was decided by the parliament on Tuesday, December 20, in a vote of 78 to 14 with 30 abstentions. Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis assured lawmakers that his government is doing all it can to obtain the European Commission‘s approval for recognizing the social model as a structural reform, which would allow setting a slightly higher public finance deficit budget target. The new prime minister said earlier this month that the social model, a package of legislation on labour market and social insurance reforms, would be improved by next July to give six months to businesses and private individuals to adapt.

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