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Wednesday 24.05.2017 | Name days: Marlēna, Ilvija, Ziedone
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Week in Lithuania. Vilnius to turn to court against French firm over EUR 200 million

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Vilnius

The Vilnius City Council decided on Tuesday, April 25, to turn to the Stockholm arbitration for compensation of damages caused by the French concern Veolia and its company Vilniaus Energija during lengthy lease of the city’s heating sector after they disagreed with the claim of about 200 million euros filed by the city.

Some 34 members of the council voted in support of taking the issue to the Stockholm arbitration, with no votes against and seven abstentions.

Vilnius Vice-Mayor Valdas Benkunskas said earlier on that, with the council’s approval, the claim to the Stockholm arbitration would be drafted within a few months.

At the end of March, the Vilnius municipality and VST filed a claim of around 200 million euros after Veolia and Vilniaus Energija (Vilnius Energy), the French group’s local subsidiary whose 15-year lease on the Lithuanian capital’s heating system has recently ended. Veolia and Vilniaus Energija rejected the claim in mid-April.

Veolia and Vilniaus Energija back in January 2016 initiated a dispute against Lithuania at the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) in Washington. The companies claim around 100 million euros in compensation from Lithuania for its allegedly unfair treatment and expropriation of the group’s Lithuanian assets.

Belarusian airspace violated by light plane piloted by Dane

The Belarusian airspace last week was violated by a light airplane P46T piloted by a Danish citizen that had taken off from the Vilnius airport, chiefs of the Lithuanian state company Oro Navigacija (Air Navigation) and the Civil Aviation Administration.Mindaugas Gustys, acting CEO or Oro Navigacija, said that the P46T airplane had taken off from the Vilnius airport and violated the route envisaged in the flight plan to fly to the Belarusian border and then turn back.Belarusian authorities registered the violation at 1:40 p.m. local and Lithuanian time on April 19. The airplane flew up to eight km into the Belarusian territory and three minutes later turned back and left the territory.Belarusian diplomats have handed a diplomatic note to Lithuania’s Ambassador to Minsk Andrius Pulokas over the incident.

President: Online voting wouldn’t ensure secrecy, security

President Dalia Grybauskaitė says that online voting in the country would fail to ensure confidentiality and security. According to her, in light of the geopolitical realities and seeing the enormous resources earmarked to cyber-attacks against democratic countries, we can conclude that online voting would be short on confidentiality and security. Lithuania’s government has envisaged that the information system for online voting should be worked out in the second quarter of 2018. The Justice Ministry says that Lithuanians should make their first online vote in the 2019 elections to local governments.

Memorandum on Baltic synchronization expected in June

Lithuania and the other states of the Baltic Sea region should sign a memorandum of understanding in June on synchronization of the Baltic states with continental Europe via Poland, said Saulius Skvernelis, Lithuanian PM, on Tuesday, April 25. The document should give an impetus to the preparations for synchronized work of the networks.

U.S. Jews‘ representative dislikes idea of museum  in Vilnius Sports Palace

The Vilnius Sports Palace, which has been built on an old Jewish cemetery, is not an appropriate location for a Museum of Jewish History, say members of the Jewish communities for Lithuania and the United States. According to Andrew Baker of the American Jewish Committee, who holds a high position in the foundation granting compensations for Jewish property, there is a consensus that Jewish cemetery is not a proper place for a museum. The representative of the American Jewish Committee expressed hope that the territory of the cemetery would be preserved as a memorial place or a park.The Sports Palace complex is in the territory of an old Jewish cemetery, which was in use between 1500s and 1900s – the greater portion of the cemetery was destroyed during the construction of the Sports and Concert Palace in 1970s, all surface boundaries of the cemetery were also erased.

Government still cherishes plans to move some ministries to Kaunas

The Lithuanian parliament on Thursday, April 27, rejected a proposal to relocate the ministries for environment and agriculture from the capital of Vilnius to the second-biggest city of Kaunas.A draft amendment calling for moving the headquarters of the two ministries to Kaunas in 2019 failed to pass the first reading with 28 members of the Seimas voting in favour, 21 against and 27 abstaining. But Saulius Skvernelis, prime minister delegated by the Lithuanian Farmers and Greens Union, says that the plans of moving the ministries of Environment and Agriculture to Kaunas had not been discarded, regardless of the party’s group voting against the proposal.

Lithuania to stage this year’s largest national military exercise

The Lithuanian Armed Forces and units subordinate to the Interior Ministry will train to operate jointly during Lightning Strike 2017, this year’s largest national military exercise kicking off in Marijampolė and Vilkaviškis, in the southwestern part of the country, on Friday, April 28. According to Major General Vitalijus Vaikšnoras, the commander of the Joint Staff, the exercise will involve 3,000 troops, 200 police officers and another 200 representatives of other institutions. Also, some 2,000 reservists will be called up for training on May 5.The most active phase of the drills will begin on May 2 and will continue in the streets of the towns until May 6.

Ministry to take steps to ensure hormone therapy for transgender people

The Lithuanian Health Ministry plans to take steps to ensure that transgender people have access to proper hormone replacement therapy and psychological counselling. The press release was issued after Health Minister Aurelijus Veryga met with representatives of the Lithuanian Gay League and the Human Rights Monitoring Institute. Tomas Vytautas Raskevičius of the Lithuanian Gay League says that the LGBT community agrees that the transitional period should focus on ensuring psychiatric counselling and hormone replacement therapy, with the issue of surgical sex change operations to be addressed at a later stage when the necessary laws are adopted.

Labour Code to be put before Seimas next week

Amendments to Lithuania’s new Labour Code will be put before the parliament next week, the Lithuanian Farmers and Greens Union (LFGU) and the Social Democratic Party (LSDP) agreed on Wednesday, April 26. It is expected that the amendments will clear the first stage on Tuesday and will be then discussed at parliamentary committees.

New LSDP leader expects relations with LFGU to improve

Vilnius vice-mayor Gintautas Paluckas has been elected as the leader of the Lithuanian Social Democratic Party, the country’s largest party.During the first direct LSDP elections held on Saturday, April 22, Paluckas, 37, secured 5,190 votes, while his competitor, Economy Minister Mindaugas Sinkevičius, was supported by 4,781 members. The results are yet to be endorsed by the electoral committee for the party’s leadership.

The new leader said he would work to put more Social Democratic priorities on the agenda of the coalition government. Paluckas met the Lithuanian Farmers and Greens Union (LFGU) leaders on Wednesday, April 26, and said after it that the relations with the coalition partners had improved. Paluckas, PM Saulius Skvernelis and LFGU Chairman Ramūnas Karbauskis took part in a joint sitting of the two parties’ political groups at the Seimas and then held a smaller-format meeting. The LFGU has 56 seats in the 141-member Seimas and the LSDP has 19 mandates.

March of Living participants commemorates Jews‘ massacre

The traditional March of the Living  to honour the memory of victims of the Holocaust took place at the Paneriai Memorial in Vilnius on Wednesday, April 26.The march from the Paneriai railway station to the Paneriai Memorial, held for the 10th time, followed the route along which tens of thousands of Jews were marched to their deaths during the Nazi occupation.

Lithuanian Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis, who took part in the march, also underscored the importance of remembering both those who had murdered Jews and remained indifferent to the Holocaust and those who had saved them. More than 90 percent of Lithuania’s pre-war Jewish community of 220,000 people was killed during the Nazi rule of Lithuania.

Lithuania spearheads EU body’s LGBT persecution condemnation

At Lithuanian MPs‘ initiative, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe has condemned persecution of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons by Chechen authorities and called for an investigation into the matter.The text of the resolution was put forward to the Strasbourg-based organization by Emanuelis Zingeris and Kęstutis Masiulis, both members of the Seimas. Zingeris said that the resolution had been unanimously supported by parliamentarians from different political parties. Human rights activists and journalists from Russia briefed lawmakers in Strasbourg on the situation.

News sites hit by cyber attack

The Kauno.diena.lt, Klaipeda.diena.lt and Diena.lt news sites were the target of a cyber-attack on Tuesday, April 25. The websites began to experience disruptions at around 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday due to a denial of service attack (DDoS). The situation was stabilized, but a second attack started shortly, Diena Media News director Tadas Širvinskas informed.

Lithuania drops to 36th place on World Press Freedom Index

Lithuania has dropped one place to the 36th on the traditional World Press Freedom Index published by the organization Reporters Without Borders. Based in Paris, the organization said Lithuania’s media was “reputedly independent and free to criticize the government, but not always the big business interests.”Among the Baltic States, Estonia scored the highest point and ranked 12th, followed by Latvia in 28th. Poland was listed 54th, Russia 148th and Belarus 153rd.

Fourteen Syrian refugees arrive in Lithuania

Another 14 refugees from Syria arrived in Lithuania this week under the European Union’s (EU) program, the Migration Department said. As of this week, Lithuania has received 290 persons from Italy, Greece and Turkey under the EU program. Nearly two years ago, Lithuania committed itself to receiving 1,105 refugees from countries, such as Syria, Iraq and Eritrea.

Government gives go-ahead to new ambassador to UNESCO

Lithuania’s government on Wednesday, April 26, gave a green light to the appointment of art historian Irena Vaišvilaitė as the country’s ambassador to UNESCO.Vaišvilaitė should take the post from June 30. Her designation is yet to be approved by President Dalia Grybauskaitė. Vaisvilaitė has been serving as ambassador to the Holy See since 2012 after working as adviser to president Valdas Adamkus, editor of Radio Free Europe in Prague and editor of the Vatican Radio in Rome.

Ethnic minority school gets status of engineering gymnasium

Politicians of Lithuania’s capital city have given their final approval to restructuring of the Russian- and Polish-language Joachim Lelewel School, which will also provide it with the status of an engineering gymnasium. On Tuesday, April 25, the City Council’s unanimous approval ended a few years of restructuring, which had already gone to courts after a severe reaction from the school community and its supporters in the Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania, as well as even complaints to the Polish government.

Lithuania earmarks 10,000 euro in aid to Somalia

Lithuania’s Foreign Ministry has earmarked 10,000 euros in humanitarian aid to Somalia, with the money to be transferred to the United Nations (UN) World Food Program. Somalia is one of four countries at risk of hunger together with Yemen, South Sudan and Nigeria. The critical situation in Somalia was caused by a cumulative military conflict and drought, the Lithuanian Foreign Ministry said.

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