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Week in Lithuania. Lithuania asks Germany to return 1918 independence act to Vilnius

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Liudas Mažylis

Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevičius on Thursday, March 30, asked his German counterpart Sigmar Gabriel to return an original copy of Lithuania’s Act of Independence of February 16, 1918, which had been found in Berlin’s diplomatic archives, to Vilnius.

Liudas Mažylis, a political science professor at Vytautas Magnus University, found the copy of the Council of Lithuania’s resolution on the restoration of an independent state of Lithuania in the German Foreign Ministry’s archives on Wednesday, March 29. Historians believe that Jurgis Šaulys, one of the 20 signatories, handed the copy to German diplomats 99 years ago. It is thought that several original copies of the resolution were signed, but the whereabouts of the others are unknown.

A chemist by profession, Mažylis, 62, joined the Lithuanian liberation movement Sąjūdis in the early 1990s and in 1997 began to teach political science at Vytautas Magnus University in Kaunas. Mažylis was elected to the City Council of Kaunas in 1990 and later ran in several elections on the Christian Democrats’ list.

The president of MG Baltic, Darius Mockus, says that the business group will keep its promise to pay a million euros to anyone who finds an original copy of Lithuania’s Act of Independence of 1918 if the document is returned to the country.

«Once the authenticity is verified and (the document) is received, the award will be paid as promised. The condition is simple: to find and return it to the Lithuanian state. Finding information is a necessary but insufficient condition,» Mockus said.

Kaunas selected as European Capital of Culture 2022

Lithuania’s second-biggest city of Kaunas is named the winner of the contest for the European Capital of Culture 2022 title during a ceremony at the Ministry of Culture on Wednesday, March 29. Kaunas bid under the slogan «ConTEMPOrary Capital», an allusion to the city’s identity as Lithuania’s temporary capital during the interwar period. Its main competitor, the port city of Klaipeda, which teamed up with the resorts of Neringa and Palanga for the project, presented itself as a meeting place and a changing and vibrant city. Kaunas and Klaipėda were short-listed from among six Lithuanian cities and towns that had submitted their bids.

Baltic ministers discuss security cooperation

The three Baltic foreign ministers, on a visit to Washington, have discussed cooperation issues with US President Donald Trump’s National Security Advisor Herbert McMaster, the Lithuanian Foreign Ministry said on Thursday, March 30. The officials also discussed further assistance to Ukraine.

Belarusian bus veers off road, none is injured

A Belarusian bus with around 20 children on board early on Friday, March 31, slid off the road in Lithuania, police said. No one was injured in the accident, which occurred in slippery conditions on the Vilnius-Panevėžys highway near the village of Šilgalis at around 5:45 a.m. Police said that the children had been temporarily accommodated in a nearby hotel.

Mayor wants Jewish History Museum

Vilnius Mayor Remigijus Šimašius has proposed building a Museum of History of Lithuanian Jews next to the Vilnius Congress Hall. He said prime minister also supported the idea. In the mayor’s words, the idea is yet to be discussed with the Jewish Community of Lithuania. About 90 per cent of Lithuania’s pre-war Jewish population of around 208,000 was killed during the Nazi German occupation between 1941 and 1944.

Georgian president asks Lithuania to defend its interests

Georgia’s President Giorgi Margvelashvili has asked Lithuania for defence of the country’s interests in NATO. «I would like to bring Georgia to your attention. On my behalf and on behalf of Georgia, I am convinced that you will protect our country’s interests. I am certain that Georgian issues will be raised thanks to you,» Margvelashvili said at a joint news conference with Lithuania’s President Dalia Grybauskaitė in Vilnius on Thursday, March 30, ahead of the NATO summit in Brussels. Georgia actively seeks membership in the Alliance; however, the aspirations are opposed by Russia that aims to keep its influence in the post-Soviet territories.

Vilnius submits 200 million euro claim to Veolia

The city of Vilnius has submitted a 200-million-euro claim to Veolia and Vilniaus Energija (Vilnius Energy). The French group’s local subsidiary’s 15-year lease on the Lithuanian capital’s heating system has ended this week and now Vilnius seeks compensation for damage it says the French have caused to the assets during the lease period. Vilnius deputy mayor Valdas Benkunskas said that if the claim were rejected, the capital’s local authority and VST would initiate a dispute at the Stockholm arbitration court.

Court issues arrest warrant for family shooting suspect

A court on Wednesday, March 29, issued a three-month arrest warrant for Egidijus Anupraitis who is suspected of shooting dead his parents, grandmother and uncle. The Kaunas District Court granted a prosecutor’s request for the 26-year-old man’s arrest because of a high risk that he might flee the country.  Anupraitis says that he cannot remember the circumstances of the murders,. The young man is suspected of fatally shooting his mother, father, grandmother and father’s brother. Their bodies were found in the family’s home in a village in the district of Kaunas on Monday, March 27, but the shootings are believed to have occurred on Saturday evening. The suspect’s grandfather was found with a gunshot wound in his leg and was taken to a hospital.

Taurantas proposed as new ambassador to OSCE

Lithuania’s government on Wednesday, March 29, gave a green light to the designation of diplomat Aurimas Taurantas as the country’s envoy to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and other international organizations in Vienna.

He should take the position and replace ambassador Giedrius Čekuolis who was recalled from the post at the end of 2016. Taurantas, 61, should be appointed to the position from April 18. He would become Lithuania’s permanent envoy to OSCE, the United Nations (UN) office in Vienna, the International Anticorruption Academy and the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization.

Irdaiva busted by financial crime squads, CEO detained

Lithuania’s Financial Crime Investigation Service on Tuesday conducted searches in the premises of Irdaiva, one of the country’s largest construction companies, as part of the probe of fraud suspicions in public procurement deals. Irdaiva’s CEO and sole owner Irmantas Kubilius has been detained. Searches were also carried out in premises of companies related with Irdaiva and Kubilius, as well as homes of their top executives.

The authorities are presumably probing the reconstruction tender of the Vilnius Concert and Sports Palace, where Irdaiva was the only company in talks, as well as renovation of a Kaunas hospital and other public procurement deals. Information provided by the Public Procurement Service suggests that Irdaiva received 136.2 million euros worth of orders in the 2008-2016 period, in addition to another 145.7 million euros as part of consortia.

Two Latvians killed in crash

An automobile and a cargo vehicle crashed on the Via Baltica highway on Wednesday morning, killing two citizens of Latvia, Marijampolė police said. The accident occurred next to the Pavengliška village in the Marijampolė district, southern Lithuania, at 8:17 a.m. local time with a Renault 307 with two Latvian citizens aboard drove off into the oncoming lane and crashed into a truck en route from Kaunas.

The driver of the truck was a citizen of Lithuania.  Both Latvians aboard the Renault were killed on the spot. The driver of the truck escaped unharmed.

PM says «situation serious», but LFGU isn’t splitting up

PM Saulius Skvernelis describes disagreements between the government and lawmakers on the planned higher education reform as a serious situation, but says that the ruling Farmers and Greens Union (LFGU) is not facing a split.

Skvernelis criticized Eugenijus Jovaiša, a LFGU lawmaker who heads the parliament’s Committee on Education and Science, for hurrying decisions on a merger between Vytautas Magnus University (VDU) and the Lithuanian University of Educational Sciences (LEU). The committee on Wednesday approved a draft Seimas resolution backing the planned merger, despite the government’s request to wait until its working group draws up a plan for reforming the higher education network. The plan will have to be endorsed by the parliament.

Lithuania wants to set up EU prosecutor’s office

Lithuania and another 12 EU member states have agreed to establish the European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO) to combat financial crimes. The establishment of the new body has been supported by Europe’s two most influential countries, France and Germany, as well as justice ministers from Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Finland, Greece, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia and Spain. They have written a joint letter to the heads of EU institutions. The EPPO would be responsible for investigating crimes affecting the EU’s financial interests, such as VAT fraud or money laundering.

Seimas wants more TV content in EU languages

Lithuania’s parliament has opened discussions in the requirement submitted by the opposition conservatives, suggesting that at least 90 per cent of rebroadcast television content should be dubbed or subtitled in languages of the European Union (EU), however, voted down the amendment to earmark half of television air to European production.

On Tuesday, March 28, the parliament approved for discussion the change that rebroadcast television content in official EU languages should make at least 90 percent of the packages offered to users, with the exception of specialized (theme) packages. According to the proposal, television programs rebroadcast in non-European languages is equalled to a content rebroadcast or distributed online in the official language of the European Union, if translated into the official EU language or broadcast with subtitles in the language.

LFGU spurs parties to sign emigration agreement

The largest parliamentary Lithuanian Farmers and Greens Union will seek that the agreement to curb emigration is signed by both political parties and public organizations and associated structures. «The proposal is to develop a national agreement, it would be signed on migration and demographic policies, this would not be an agreement among political parties but an agreement signed among political parties and public organizations and everyone who find the problems important,» Ramūnas Karbauskis, the leader of LFGU political group, told a news conference at the parliament on Tuesday, March 28.

Last week, Statistics Lithuania said that over 50,000 people emigrated from Lithuania last year, in addition to nearly 14,000 in the first two months of 2017. Experts say the main drivers behind emigration include moderate wages and, in part, social inequality.

Lithuania calls on Russia to release protesters

The Lithuanian Foreign Ministry on Monday, March 27, expressed its concern over the detention of peaceful demonstrators during nationwide protests in Russia against corruption and called for their release. The ministry emphasized that Alexei Navalny, the founder of the Anti-Corruption Foundation and one of Russia’s opposition leaders, and other members of the Foundation’s staff were among hundreds of people detained in anti-corruption rallies.

Pre-trial investigations opened over Blue Whale

Five pre-trial investigations over the online game Blue Whale that leads teenagers to committing suicide have been launched in Lithuania over the past two weeks. Ramūnas Matonis, spokesman for the Police Department, said the probes were opened in Alytus, Šilalė, Utena and Raseiniai. In his words, the police have no data about cases of deaths resulting from the game; however, there have been cases of injuries. A young girl attempted to jump off a bridge in Alytus, southern Lithuania, while a young female in Šilalė, western Lithuania, cut her arms.

The virtual game Blue Whale came to Lithuania from Russia, spreading via social networks where people create closed groups and pages. Fifteen teenagers in Russia are reported to have killed themselves due to the game.

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