Week in Lithuania. Lithuanian Interior Minister: Refugee resettlement is test for authorities and society
Refugee resettlement amid the deep-rooted prejudices in the society is an exam for state institutions and the civil society, says Lithuania’s Interior Minister Saulius Skvernelis.
At a discussion at the parliament on Thursday, September 24, he said: «The refugees are not animals, they are not statistical units, they are people, and the way our country is ready to receive them will formulate our image for our people and partners. A success story on this issue is an exam for the government, the Seimas, ministries and the whole civil society,» said the minister.
Skvernelis emphasized that a selection process, which Lithuania will take part in, is the main safeguard. «The main aspect of the process lies in the selection, our ability to take part in it; this will be the key and the main footing for the future. If we properly participate in the mechanism, threats and fears may vanish,» he added. Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevičius said at the discussion that 505 persons would be resettled to Lithuania next year.
Lithuanian PM says the public needs to have more information about the refugee crisis and hinted a «communication campaign» on the issue might be launched in Lithuania.
Meanwhile, Karolina Lindholm Billing, deputy regional representative at the UNHCR Regional Representation for Northern Europe, has called on Lithuania to set up special meeting points for refugees and members of the public to promote a positive attitude to refugees in Lithuania.
In her words, the UNHCR has told European institutions numerous times that the 160,000 refugees who have already come to Europe is not the final number and that everything would depend on the political situation in Syria and other hot spots. On Tuesday, September 22, EU interior ministers agreed on the additional relocation of 120,000 refugees in Europe over the next two years. EU members states had earlier agreed to share 40,000 refugees.
Russian army base in Belarus would fuel tension
A Russian army base in Belarus would worsen Belarus’ relations with Lithuania and would undermine Belarus’ goal to normalize its ties with NATO and the European Union, Lithuanian Minister of National Defence Juozas Olekas says. His comments came in response to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s order for the country’s Defence and Foreign Affairs Ministries to launch negotiations with Belarus on an air base in this strategically-convenient country.
«With no doubt, a new Russian army base in the territory of Belarus would fuel tension in our region and would have negative impact on bilateral Lithuanian-Belarusian relations and would also undermine Belarus’ goal to normalize its relations with the European Union and NATO,» the minister told BNS, a Lithuanian news agency.
Kaunas pledges to clean up old Jewish cemetery
The municipality of the city of Kaunas is beginning to clean up an old Jewish cemetery in Žaliakalnis, with identification and inventory of the graves planned at the start of the project, the municipality said on Thursday, September 24.
A task force has been set up to coordinate the project, it includes the city’s leaders and the municipality’s specialists, with consultations planned with representatives of Jewish (Litvak) communities of Lithuania, the Jewish Community of Kaunas, the Department of Cultural Heritage, the Maceva public establishment and other organizations. Established in 1861, the old Jewish cemetery was closed in 1952. It has been included into the Register of Cultural Heritage and is protected by the state.
EU commission takes Lithuania to court rail safety rules
The European Commission has taken Lithuania to the EU Court of Justice for its failure to establish an independent rail accident and incident investigation body. The Commission said in a press release on Thursday, September 24, that it had decided to refer Lithuania to the Court of Justice for failure to correctly transpose European rules on rail safety, under which the country was to establish such an authority by the end of April 2006.
Alminas Mačiulis, the government chancellor, told that the government in the spring of 2014 approved the Transport Ministry’s proposal to move investigators of transport accidents from the ministry-controlled bodies to the State Labour Inspectorate, but this issue has not been discussed at the parliament yet.
Parliament committee to investigate use of intelligence data
The Lithuanian Seimas’ Committee on Legal Affairs will carry out a probe into the use of criminal intelligence information. The committee has been asked to carry out such an investigation by 99 lawmakers.
In the words of Legal Affairs Committee Chairman Julius Sabatauskas, there have been cases in recent months when it turned out that information received by means of criminal intelligence is used when people are appointed to certain position and that information might be unreliable. The committee was ordered to carry out the probe by January 31, 2016.
Britons seeks dental treatment in Lithuania
Dental clinics in Lithuania reported an increase in patients from Britain getting part of the treatment costs reimbursed by the NHS. The British National Health Service (NHS) provides healthcare of which the vast majority are free at the point of use for people legally resident in the United Kingdom.
Patients elect to travel abroad where there are no excessive waiting lists. Waiting lists in England and Wales are reportedly at record long time this year – waiting many months to see a specialist increases the likelihood of complications resulting from late diagnosis and illnesses developing further.
Lithuania and Sweden to bolster security and defence cooperation
Deputy Minister of Land Defence Marijus Velička underscored Lithuania’s intent to strengthen military cooperation with Sweden and other Nordic countries in a range of areas at a meeting with State Secretary Jan Salestrand of Swedish Ministry of Defence at the Ministry of National Defence of Lithuania.
The state secretary of the Ministry of Defence of Sweden was also interested in the reform of the Lithuanian Armed Forces, the reinstated Continuous Mandatory Initial Military Service, and defence financing priorities. Representatives of the Lithuanian and Swedish Ministries of Defence also addressed bilateral and regional Baltic-Nordic cooperation.
It was agreed to enhance cooperation in the areas of air and maritime surveillance. Furthermore, Sweden has plans to send its representatives to the Baltic Defence College in Tartu (Estonia). The officials also agreed to intensify the cooperation in the Nordic-Baltic Assistance Programme framework for rendering assistance to Georgia and Ukraine.
Lithuanian PM wants to ban alcohol sales in gas stations
Lithuanian PM Algirdas Butkevičius, says a ban to sell alcohol in petrol stations would help reduce alcohol consumption. The Government has instructed the Ministry of Education and Science to more actively prepare social programmes aimed against alcohol consumption.
Butkevičius believes that there was not enough social advertising or education in kindergartens or schools. A ban to sell alcohol in petrol stations was adopted in 2011 but its entry into force was postponed to 1 January 2016.
This week the Government rejected Parliament’s proposal to suspend the amendments for three more years until 1 January 2019. Parliament Speaker Loreta Graužinienė has spoken negatively about the Government’s decision to ban alcohol sales in petrol stations.
Parliament speaker to set out to Germany to discuss refugee situation
A delegation led by Speaker of the Lithuanian Seimas Loreta Graužinienė will go to Germany in October to discuss the refugee situation. On October 11-15, the delegates are scheduled to meet with German Bundestag President Norbert Lammert, chairpersons of Defence and European Affairs Committees members of the Foreign Affairs Committee and the state secretary of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs.
Lithuania initiates OSCE discussion on Russian propaganda
Lithuania held a discussion on the threats of Russian propaganda during the OSCE meeting in Warsaw on Tuesday, September 22. The discussion focused on Russia-spread state propaganda and the threats of conscious disinformation to the OSCE-defended principles of the freedom of speech and media independence as well as democratic values, and also opinions on the impact of propaganda on OSCE countries, especially Ukraine and the Baltic states.