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Wednesday 20.09.2017 | Name days: Marianna, Ginters, Guntra

Week in Lithuania. PM proposes alcohol sales by bank cards only

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At a meeting with Lithuanian business figures on Tuesday, March 14, Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis presented the idea of allowing payment for alcohol by bank cards only.

«We should consider the possibility of allowing people to buy alcohol only if they pay by bank cards and limit the number of alcohol sales licenses – all of the instruments will allow monitoring whether the alcohol consumption levels in Lithuania are declining. If the result is positive, we will be able to give up our plans of establishing specialized stores,» Skvernelis said in a press release issued by the Lithuanian Business Confederation.

Stasys Kropas, president of the Lithuanian Banks’ Association, said he supported the Skvernelis’ idea but acknowledged it would require investments. Commercial banks operating in Lithuania seek card payments to replace cash operations, as the country’s level of payments by bank cards is the lowest in the Baltic States.

MEP Balčytis quits Brussels job

MEP Zigmantas Balčytis has decided to give up his MEP mandate to pursue an international career. In his words, life has delivered a yet another unexpected challenge – an invitation to join an international organization where Balčytis will have to spend part of my time in Europe and in the US. The field of operations is economy of world countries, finances, forecast and simulation. Under the Social Democratic Party’s list, Balčytis’ slot in the European Parliament should be filled by Gediminas Kirkilas, the incumbent parliamentary vice-speaker, while the latter should be replaced by Bronius Bradauskas. Balčytis also announced his plans to leave the race for chairman of the Lithuanian Social Democratic Party.

Lithuania picks Fusedmarc for 2017 Eurovision contest

Fusedmarc band has been selected to represent Lithuania at this year’s Eurovision song contest in Kiev in May with its song Rain of Revolution. The national entry was picked from seven finalists during the national finals last Saturday. The winner was determined by votes from the jury and the audience, which both gave the highest number of votes to Fusedmarc. The Eurovision song contest will take place in the Ukrainian capital Kiev on May 9-13. Last year, Donny Montell of Lithuania finished 9 th in the contest.

Ex-CEOs among suspects in Alstom bribery case

In cooperation with the UK law-enforcement, the Lithuanian Special Investigation Service (STT) is conducting a large-scale corruption and bribery investigation involving, among other things, a 200-million-euro project carried out by France’s engineering group Alstom at the Lithuanian Power Plant in Elektrenai and 43 million euros worth of reconstruction of the Kaunas hydro power plant, STT spokeswoman Renata Saulytė has confirmed. STT on Wednesday, March 15, carried out searches at the homes of Rymantas Juozaitis, a former CEO of Lietuvos Energija (Lithuanian Energy), and Pranas Noreika, a former CEO of Lietuvos Elektrine (Lithuanian Power Plant). So far, no detentions were made.

According to STT, there are suspicions that offenses of large-scale corruption and bribery were committed during the implementation of high-value international projects at the-then Lietuvos Elektrine and Lietuvos Energija between 2004 and 2009. The Alstom Group several years ago was charged in the UK with corruption in Lithuania. Lietuvos Energijos Gamyba (Lithuanian Energy Production), formerly Lietuvos Elektrinė, said in 2014 that UK bodies had asked in 2013 for information on projects launched at the power plant in 2005 and involving Alstom as a contractor.

LVŽS, SD initiate MP impeachment

The ruling Lithuanian Farmers and Greens Union (LVŽS) and the Social Democratic Party are initiating impeachment against Social Democratic MP Mindaugas Bastys.

More than 40 parliamentarians say that it is necessary to establish possible violations of the MP in light of the information provided by the State Security Department that has barred Bastys from accessing classified information. Meanwhile, the opposition aims to form an ad hoc commission for a more thorough analysis of the possible national security threats of Bastys’ links with Russian energy companies and criminal figures.

Police crack heroin supply chain in Vilnius

Vilnius police have cracked a heroin supply channel from the Middle East to the Roma settlement in the Lithuanian capital organised and conducted by a Tajik national in close contacts with Roma people in Lithuania. The investigation also busted a heroin wholesale point at the entrance to the Vilnius Roma settlement, which supplied the drugs to the Roma community. In the course of the operation, Vilnius police officers apprehended and seized the largest-ever amount of heroin – more than 20 kg, which is enough to produce about 200,000 doses of drugs. It is estimated at over 1.2 million euros, the Vilnius County Police said on Wednesday, March 15.

Ambassador visits burial site near Mowcow

Lithuania’s Ambassador to Russia Remigijus Motuzas and officials of the Foreign Ministry have visited a memorial place including graves of a few Lithuanian interwar ministers in the outskirts of Moscow. The so-called special NKVD site titled Komunarka includes graves of former interior ministers Kazys Skučas and Julius Čaplikas, former justice minister Antanas Tamosaitis and other Lithuanian nationals repressed and killed by shooting in the 1937-1953 period.

According to the list drafted by the Andrey Sakharov Centre and the public organisation Memorial and subsequently confirmed by documents, some 150 victims of Lithuanian origin could be buried in the mass graves in the location. The victims should include prominent Lithuanian interwar figures: ministers, officials of the Lithuanian Embassy, police and customs, as well as other top-ranking officials, the Lithuanian Foreign Ministry said.

President congratulates Netherlands

President Dalia Grybauskaitė on Thursday, March 16, congratulated the Netherlands following moderate politicians’ victory in Wednesday’s parliamentary election. «Hup Holland! Congratulations, #Netherlands!», she tweeted. Partial vote counts showed that Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte had defeated his far-right rival Geert Wilders. Following last year’s Brexit vote in the UK and the election of Donald Trump as US president, the Dutch election was closely watched amid fears of a rising wave of populism in Europe, especially as the presidential election in France and the parliamentary election in Germany approach.

Discussions on new labour code finished

Representatives of the Lithuanian government, employers and trade unions signed an agreement on a number of issues during the last meeting of the Tripartite Council on Wednesday, March 15, the Social Security and Labour Ministry said. The issues agreed on include the regulation of vacations, the right to an unemployment benefit, the maximum working time and the division of functions between labor councils and trade unions, as well as the criteria for selecting members of the Tripartite Council. However, the government, employers and trade unions failed to find a consensus on such issues as the staging of strikes and lockouts, fixed-term employment contracts, work schedules, collective contracts and conflicts of interest.

Several sexual harassment victims go after MP

Three young women on Wednesday, March 15, filed a complaint with the Lithuanian Prosecutor General’s Office, claiming that they had been sexually harassed by Kęstutis Pukas, a member of the Seimas. The lawyer said that one of the women had previously worked as an aide to Pukas at the Seimas and the other two had tried to get the job. Elena Martinonienė, spokeswoman for the Prosecutor General’s Office, confirmed that the complaint had been received. She added that a woman had also filed a separate complaint containing similar allegations. In the face of an impeachment motion amid sexual harassment allegations, Kęstutis Pukas does not intend to step down as a member of the Seimas even though the speaker of the Lithuanian parliament has twice called on him to do so.

Lithuania proposes new ambassador to OSCE

Diplomat Aurimas Taurantas should be appointed as Lithuania’s envoy to the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and other international organisations in Vienna. He should take the position and replace ambassador Giedrius Čekuolis who was recalled from the post at the end of 2016. Under the draft resolution prepared by the Foreign Ministry, 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 Organisation. Taurantas, signatory of the March 11 1990 Independence Act, has served as Lithuania’s ambassador to the Czech Republic, the United Kingdom and the Council of Europe.

Seimas accepts ethics chief’s resignation

The Lithuanian parliament on Tuesday, March 14, accepted the resignation of Romas Valentukevičius, the head of the Chief Official Ethics Commission (VTEK) with 99 votes in favor, none against and none abstaining. Viktoras Pranckietis, Lithuania’s Parliament Speaker, called on Valentukevičius back in January to step down from the post he has held since 2014, but the head of the commission did not submit a letter of resignation until last week.

Valentukevičius came under criticism after he made a unilateral decision that Greta Kildišienė, who was then a member of the Seimas, was not under the obligation to declare that she was driving a car leased by her mother from Agrokoncernas, a company owned by Ramūnas Karbauskis, chairman of the ruling Lithuanian Farmers and Greens Union (LVŽS).

Probe into online comments after brutal murder

Police have opened an investigation into online comments after the recent murder of Ieva Strazdauskaitė. Ramūnas Matonis, spokesman for the police, said that the probe into instigation of hatred had been started on Monday, March 13, and was conducted by the Kaunas police. The police noticed that the media reports about Roma nationals being suspected of murdering Strazdauskaitė, 25, had triggered discriminatory comments online.

Lithuania to earmark 3 million euros

Lithuania will earmark another 3 million euros in support to impoverished countries of the world, the government decided on Wednesday, March 15. The Cabinet of ministers authorised Finance Minister Vilius Šapoka to sign a commitment document stipulating that Lithuania would mark 3 million euros to the World Bank’s International Development Association. Lithuania’s contribution in the new phase of the association’s resource addition process will be made in three payments in the 2018-2020 period. Lithuania joined the International Development Association in 2011, committing to contribute to its resources every three years. The government paid 2.4 million euros in 2012 and 2.47 million euros in 2015.

Prosecutor general wants MPs’ immunity lifted

Prosecutor General Evaldas Pašilis has asked the Seimas to strip two parliamentarians — Petras Gražulis of the Order and Justice party and Mantas Adomėnas of the conservative Homeland Union-Lithuanian Christian Democrats (TS-LKD) – of their legal immunity. Pašilis wants Gražulis’ immunity to be lifted as part of an investigation regarding a picket outside the home of Irmantas Mikelionis, a prosecutor, and that of Adomėnas in a private prosecution for defamation.

Three bid in stadium tender

Three Lithuanian and foreign companies or consortia have passed the pre-selection stage of the bidding process for a concession to build and operate a 90-million-euro national stadium in Vilnius. The fourth potential bidder, Italy’s Pessina Costruzioni, missed the deadline for submitting its application. Vilnius’ local authority said that it received proposals from Turkey’s KAYI Construction and a consortium of Axis Industries, Kauno Arenos, Venetus Capital and Cloud Architektai, and Vilniaus Nacionalinis Stadionas (Vilnius National Stadium), a company established for the project by KDS Grupe and Poland’s Budimex.

Prosecutors annul 38 findings

Prosecutor General’s Office has decided to annul 38 out of the 1,328 findings in 2016 and 2017 cases of violence against small children where the investigations were dropped. A total of 435 findings to discontinue the pre-trial investigations and 893 findings to refuse opening a probe were checked and subsequently 23 terminated probes were resumed. Furthermore, 15 new investigations were started.

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