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Saturday 20.01.2018 | Name days: Aļģirds, Orests, Oļģerts, Alģis
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Week in Lithuania. Lithuanian President’s Office seeks to evict late President’s millionaire widow

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Following several repeated warnings, Lithuanian President’s office has turned to court asking it to evict former president’s millionaire widow from a luxurious residence in a prestigious part of Vilnius.

The president’s office says that «Brazauskienė had made a commitment to return the state-owned property once her fixed-term lease ended on October 12, 2015. However, neither following the termination date of the contract nor during the additional period after the deadline did Brazauskienė vacate the premises,» the presidential press service is quoted by Lithuanian media.

Brazauskienė will be able to live in the house in Turniškės until the court’s ruling becomes effective. President Grybauskaitė has said that she intends to move out of the presidential residence in Turniškės when her term of office ends.

NGOs lambast Lithuania over refugee selection criteria

Lithuanian officials in charge of resettling refugees from Syria in Lithuania have said they will use selection criteria like family status and religion to ensure smoother integration. The criteria are discriminatory, say experts though many Lithuanian officials, like Interior Minister Saulius Skvernelis would prefer Christians resettling rather than Muslims. Deputy Minister of the Interior Elvinas Jankevičius later hurried to add that religion would not be used as a criterion. Instead, he said, Lithuania would select families from different regions of Syria to resettle.

However, legal experts and NGO representatives say that bringing in migrants of particular familial status and religions would represent discrimination and, moreover, would not guarantee successful integration. Asylum law expert Lyra Jakulevičienė of Mykolas Romeris University notes that there are no scientifically proven relation between education or religion and the rate of success in adapting to a different cultural environment.

«It has been shown scientifically that such correlations are very weak and vague: No one can tell with any certainty that Christians will integrate better in Lithuania than Muslims or that a person with a university degree will find a job more easily than the one ready to accept any kind of work.»

While she admits that most EU countries will use criteria like family status, education, health or cultural background, such practices are discriminatory and fail to provide asylum to those most in need of help.

Professor Egdūnas Račius, a Middle East expert at Vytautas Magnus University in Kaunas, is also critical of suggestions that Lithuania should only accept Christian refugees. He says that, if anything, Sunni Muslim community has the longest history in Lithuania and Sunni Islam is recognized by the state as a traditional religion. According to Račius, Lithuania’s Sunni community is 700 years old and would have «no problem» integrating Sunni Muslim refugees.

ECHR ruling: Soviet killings of Lithuanian partisans not genocide

There is no basis for equating post-war Soviet persecution of partisans in Lithuania with genocide, the European Court of Human Rights has ruled. The Strasbourg-based court issued a ruling in response to a case of former Soviet security officer Vytautas Vasiliauskas who was convicted for taking part in persecution and execution of guerilla fighters who organized resistance to the Soviet occupation of Lithuania after World War two.

Lithuania has said that repression and mass deportation of Lithuanians by the Soviet authorities in the 1940s and 1950s amounted to genocide. Vasiliauskas was charged with genocide for taking part in the deportation of anti-Soviet resistance fighter Jonas Būrininkas. Lithuanian courts argued that Vasiliauskas worked in institutions of repression that sought to destroy partisans who played a crucial role in resisting Soviet repressions against the Lithuanian nation. He was sentenced to four years in prison, but the sentence was suspended due to his old age

Proposal on «zero per mille» alcohol limit for all drivers

Interior Minister Saulius Skvernelis says, in the long-run, Lithuania will have to reinstate the rules requiring drivers to be completely sober.

«I believe the discussions are going in the right direction and we will have to introduce a zero per mille limit for all road users because we see that sometimes people find it hard to set the limit themselves,» the minister told.

The provisions of the Code of the Administrative Offences that entered into effect at the beginning of 2015 stipulate that drivers of taxis, motorcycles, quad bikes and commercial vehicles, as well as drivers who have less than two years of experience, can drive only when completely sober. Other drivers cannot exceed 0.4 per mille alcohol limit. From April 1, 2016, the average level of drunkenness (over 1.5 per mille) will be subject not to administrative, but criminal liability.

Defence ministers to observe exercise in Lithuania

Defence ministers and army commanders of Belgium and Luxembourg came to Lithuania to observe the international military exercise Baltic Piranha. On Thursday, October 22, the delegations visited troops in Jonava and Gaižiūnai training ground. A meeting of army chiefs and defence ministers took place in the Ministry of National Defence on Friday, October 23. Belgian Defence Minister Steven H. M. Vandeput and chief of the army General Gerard Van Caelenberge are part of the delegation as well as the Defence Minister of Luxembourg Etienne Schneider and army chief General Romain Mancinelli.

Lithuanian LGBT community granted permit for pride march

The Lithuanian Gay League (LGL), an LGBT rights organization, has announced that Baltic Pride 2016 will take place in Vilnius in June, with the main events – the pride march followed by a concert – planned in central locations of the Lithuanian capital. The organization has secured a permit from Vilnius City authorities for an event of 1,000 people. The pride march will take place on 18 June, Saturday, along Gediminas Avenue. It will be followed by a rally and a concert in the Bernardine Gardens.

Lithuania joins PZH 2000 howitzer partnership project

At a session of the Land Combat Vehicles (LCV) Support Partnership of the NATO Support and Procurement Agency (NSPA) in Luxembourg, Lithuania joined the PzH2000 self-propelled 155mm howitzer user project by a unanimous agreement of Croatia, Italy, Germany, Greece, and the Netherlands – all the countries taking part in the project.

This will allow Lithuania ensuring upgrade of the self-propelled howitzers, installation of control systems and will allow reaching operational capacities on time. Head of the Department of Weaponry and Control Systems Artur Ploksto who represented Lithuania at the session stated that Lithuania’s involvement in the Land Combat Vehicles Support Partnership would ensure that the howitzers Lithuania had procured from Germany would be updated, C2 systems installed and full operational capability reached on time, Lithuania’s Ministry of National Defence said.

Lithuanian parliament toughens law against sexual predators

Seimas has adopted the amendments to the Law on Fundamentals of Protection of the Rights of the Child, aimed at preventing sexual offences against children. The new provisions were approved by 70 votes in favour, no votes against and three abstentions, the Seimas press service said. The amendments provide that persons found guilty of criminal offences against sexual self-determination and integrity of children, including sexual abuse, using a child for pornography, and purchase or sale of a child, are banned from working with children in the future. These persons will be prohibited from working or volunteering for institutions, companies and organisations providing social, educational, sports, and healthcare services for children.

The new provisions stipulate that a recipient of services, who concludes a contract with a self-employed person for the provision of services to a child, will be entitled to ask a provider of services to submit a certificate of criminal record. Accordingly, persons wishing to work or do volunteer work will have to hand in a certificate of records on a natural person in the Register of Suspected, Accused and Convicted Persons to an employer or an organiser of volunteer activities.

Lithuanian President granted papal audience

Next week, Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaitė will visit Italy and Vatican, where she will have an audience with Pope Francis. The presidential press service says that the president will have a discussion with the pope on ways to help people in conflict-affected regions, humanitarian aid issues and the Roman Catholic Church’s role in refugee aid. During her visit, Grybauskaitė will also meet with Grand Master of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta Matthew Festing.

Foreign Minister Linas Linkevičius will accompany the president during her trip to Vatican. Grybauskaitė last time met with the pope in March 2013, during his papal inauguration.

Lithuanian soldiers begin training in Spain

Military personnel from Lithuania and other countries of the NATO Alliance taking part in NATO Exercise Trident Juncture 2015 have redeployed to Spain, set up military camps in San Gregorio and are beginning to train according to the exercise scenario, Lithuania’s Ministry of National Defence said. Lithuanian contingent will be training urban area, defensive, offensive and stability operations as part of the combined Baltic Battalion until October 31. When that phase concludes, the Baltic Battalion will take part in a joint operation with battalions from Belgium, Germany, Italy, Spain and the United States under the lead of Pain’s Army Brigade Headquarters.

The tri-national Baltic Battalion (BALTBAT) comprises 2 companies contributed by Estonia, one company from Latvia and one from Lithuania, the total of approximately 1,000 soldiers and 250 units of military equipment. A Forward Support Company formed by Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania is providing support to the Battalion in the exercise location.

Russian band glorifying Crimean annexation plans tour in Lithuania

Lithuanian Interior Minister Saulius Skvernelis says Lithuania must follow law, not emotions when considering whether to allow entry for the Academic Ensemble of Song and Dance of the Russian Army named after Alexander Alexandrov. The ensemble is expected to tour the capitals of the Baltic States on December 6-10. The Alexander Ensemble, which is currently touring Central Europe, has sparked controversy for compositions glorifying the Red Army and the annexation of Crimea.

According to Skvernelis, representatives from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and security agencies will have to decide whether to grant visas to members of the Russian ensemble, taking into account potential threats to national security and public order.

«A person not loving Lithuania, to put it mildly, or coming from a non-democratic country are not sufficient grounds for denying a visa,» the minister told.

According to the interior minister, the public should evaluate how concert organisers perceive citizenship, given current geopolitical situation.

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