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Week in Lithuania. Lithuanian PM: refugee integration is more important than burqa bans

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Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RUWith some Lithuanian politicians raising the question whether refugee Muslim women should be allowed wear burqas in public in Lithuania, PM Algirdas Butkevičius stepped in, saying that integration of refugees is a more important issue than the question of the head apparel.

In his words, the government’s decisions come «in the light of Lithuania’s international commitments in the field of human rights and religious freedom.» Earlier Artūras Paulauskas, a MP, told he would propose a ban on burqas, if the government did not take the step. He says wearing the traditional clothing in public may threaten public security, as the burqas make people wearing them impossible to identify. He also called for a discussion whether the Muslim refugees coming to Lithuania should be allowed to perform their religious rites anywhere or be restricted to specific places. Human rights activists have criticized the initiative, saying this would perpetuate negative stereotypes in the society and interfere with integration. Lithuania has pledged to accept 325 migrants, mostly Syrians, over the course of two years, as part of wider EU efforts to address the Mediterranean refugee crisis. According to the general census of 2011, over 2,700 Muslims resided in Lithuania.

Dolphins marvel beachgoers off the Baltic coast

A couple of dolphins have been spotted in the Baltic Sea close to the Smiltynė beach near the port city of Klaipėda. «I was pleasantly surprised to see two dolphins swimming free in the Baltic Sea near the coasts of Smiltynė. Over the 35 years I’ve worked at the Sea Museum, this is the first time I have seen the spectacular view,» said Saulius Karalius, senior ichthyologist at the Lithuanian Sea Museum. He confirmed that the dolphins were Atlantic bottlenose dolphins. «The Baltic Sea is indeed unsuitable for them to live and breed. It has a low salt level, furthermore, there would be problems with food. I am certain they came from the North Sea via the Denmark Strait,» Karalius added.

WWII-era explosives found in lake near Lithuanian capital

Mine sweepers of the Lithuanian Army were busy with neutralization of explosives found in the Totoriškių Lake near Trakai, some 30km west of the Lithuanian capital Vilnius. Two World War II-era explosives were found and removed from a depth of 3-4 meters close to a footbridge. The operation should be completed on Thursday, the Ministry of National Defence said.

Government to discuss Greek bailout next week if there’s a deal

If eurozone finance ministers agree on Friday, August 14, on a long-term assistance program for Greece, the Lithuanian government will discuss this issue on Monday. Remigijus Bielinskas, a spokesman for Lithuanian Finance Minister Rimantas Šadžius, told BNS, a Lithuanian news agency, that if an agreement on the program were reached, the minister would present this issue to the Cabinet on Monday and then discuss it with members of the parliament’s European Affairs Committee on Tuesday, August 11. The deadline for Greece to clinch a deal on its third bailout package is August 20, when the country is to repay 3.4 billion euros to the European Central bank.

Lithuania to expedite renovation bill settling

Lithuania has earmarked additional 50 million euro to settle with companies that have been carrying out renovation works.

the Public Procurement Office (VPT) checked more than 200 renovation contracts and found that in all cases state customers violated agreed deadlines to settle with contractors. Payments were on average made within 84 days, even though the law stipulates that they have to be made within 30 days.

Moscow wants Lithuania to extradite Nekrasov to Russia

Moscow hopes Lithuanian institutions will decide to extradite Russian opposition journalist Andrei Nekrasov who was detained in Cyprus and later handed over to Lithuania. Russia has launched a search for Nekrasov via Interpol. After arrival in Vilnius, the Russian national has applied for political asylum in Lithuania. The Russian citizen, who is with Lithuanian border guards at the Vilnius airport, told he was filling out his asylum application.

Environmentalists to inspect green waste processing

As of August 1, the environmentalists throughout Lithuania are closely monitoring whether the general public processes the green waste properly and whether it complies with the prohibition to incinerate that type of waste. Raids by the environmentalist will run until late September, while the officers will be informing the public on proper processing of the green waste, Lithuania’s Ministry of Environment reports. The environmentalists point out that anyone incinerating grass, fallen trees, leaves, hay, and other waste of the field-husbandry and horticulture is liable to a fine of up to 230 euro.

Lithuanian foreign minister in Ukraine

Lithuania’s Foreign Minister Linas Linkevičius said after meeting with Ukrainian leaders in Kiev on Thursday, August 13, that intensive shootouts continue in Eastern Ukraine regardless of the ceasefire and urged to go on or step up the sanctions on Russia. The minister told the shooting is three times more frequent than it was after the last round of the Minsk ceasefire negotiations. On Thursday, Ukraine said that Russian-supported fighters had fired shots at the governmental forces 153 times, which was the biggest scale of military action since the February ceasefire. According to the report, the clashes are about the road between the government-controlled Mariupol port and the city of Donetsk controlled by the separatists.

First refugees could reach Lithuania in January

Lithuania’s Interior Minister Saulius Skvernelis says that first refugees could come to Lithuania in January 2016. We expect them in early January, although all the legal procedures in the European Union (EU) have not been finalised yet, the minister told reporters on Wednesday, August 13, after a meeting of the Cabinet. Over the next two years, Lithuania will have to take in 325 migrants: 240 refugees from Eritrea and Syria, currently sheltered in Italy and Greece, and 85 more migrants from third countries.

Lithuanian government backs early e-terminal voting

The Government of Lithuania has backed amendments stipulating introduction of electronic voting terminals for early voting in general elections and referendum. The proposed amendments still need parliamentary approval. The Justice Ministry said the novelty will prevent voting violations and facilitate vote counting. The new measure will cost 350,000 euro.


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