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Week in Lithuania. Lithuanian parliament passes Magnitsky act

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The Lithuanian parliament adopted on Thursday, November 16, the so-called Magnitsky legislation banning entry to foreigners involved in large-scale corruption, money laundering or human rights violations.

The bill was unanimously passed with 91 votes in favour, making Lithuania the fourth country in the world after United States, Estonia and Canada to adopt the Magnitsky legislation.

The amendments to the Law on the Legal Status of Aliens are to come into force next January, which means that a blacklist of such individuals will be compiled and become effective next year.

Under the amendments to the Law on the Legal Status of Aliens, a foreigner will be banned from coming to Lithuania for up to five years if there are serious grounds to believe that he or she has committed a serious or very serious crime against a person in a foreign country and human rights and freedoms have been violated as a result of this, has committed a corruption offense or has been involved money laundering, or is on the national list of foreigners denied entry to a EU, EFTA and NATO member state.

A decision on banning entry to such a foreigner will be made by the interior minister at the foreign minister’s proposal.

The law also allows not informing a foreigner about the decision to blacklist him or her if that would undermine the interests of state security, defence and public security and of prevention, investigation, detection and prosecution of criminal offences.

Government to discuss 3 alternatives for raising doctors’ wages

Lithuania’s government will discuss three alternatives of raising wages for doctors, Health Minister Aurelijus Veryga said on Thursday after negotiations with representatives of doctors. In his words, the finance minister should provide calculations within two weeks on the cost of the ministry-proposed option of increasing salaries by 20 percent starting May, as well as the costs of the proposals made by the Union of Lithuanian Doctors and the newly-established Lithuanian Medical Movement. The minister says the government will consider the third alternative proposed by the Lithuanian Medical Movement – increasing salaries for all doctors by 30 percent starting January 1. This would require at least 204 million euros.

ESO plans to invest EUR 219 mn

Lithuania’s Energijos Skirstymo Operatorius (Energy Distribution Operator, or ESO) plans to invest around 219 million euros in installing some 2 million smart electricity and gas meters within five years. Ignas Pranskevičius, director of the Service Division at the state-owned electricity and natural gas distribution company, says that smart meters will help households save at least 7 perc ent of electricity per year. According to the director, a pilot project that involved installing nearly 3,000 smart meters in Lithuania has shown that smart metering allows households to control their energy consumption and save money.

 Court opens MP Pukas’ impeachment case in his absence

The Lithuanian Constitutional Court decided on Thursday, November 16, to open MP Kęstutis Pukas’ sexual harassment impeachment case in his absence. Pukas has presented a medical certificate to the court to justify his absence and is represented by his lawyers, Giedre Maksimaityte, the Constitutional Court’s spokeswoman, said. Also present in the court are MP Dovile Šakalienė, the head of a special parliamentary commission that has concluded that there are grounds for launching impeachment proceedings against Pukas, as well as the commission’s office staff and witnesses. The hearing is being held behind closed doors.

The Seimas back in May asked the court to give its opinion on whether Pukas violated the Constitution, but the process was not opened due to the lawmaker’s illness, which also stalled the parliament’s hearing of Prosecutor General Evaldas Pašilis’ request to strip the parliamentarian of his immunity in a case in which he is suspected of sexual harassment and violation of the rules for keeping firearms.

Seimas votes to award Freedom Prize to nun, dissident

The Lithuanian parliament decided on Thursday, November 16, to award the Freedom Prize to Nijole Sadunaitė, a Roman Catholic nun and former Soviet-time dissident. The motion was unanimously passed with 113 votes in favour. Sadunaitė, 79, was convicted by the Soviet regime in 1975 for making copies of and spreading the underground Chronicle of the Catholic Church in Lithuania. The woman, who chose to become a nun after school, was sentenced to three years of imprisonment in a maximum security labour camp and then to another three years of exile. Upon her return to Lithuania, Sadunaitė  involved herself in the publishing of the Chronicle and faced further persecution by Soviet security officials.

Gentvilas to run for Lithuanian Liberal Movement leader

MP Eugenijus Gentvilas, the caretaker chairman of the Lithuanian Liberal Movement, has confirmed that he will run for the post of the opposition party’s leader in next month’s election. Gentvilas informed his party about the decision on Wednesday, November 15, the Liberal Movement’s spokeswoman Dovilė Tuskenytė said. MP Vitalijus Gailius, chairman of the parliament’s Anticorruption Commission, earlier this week became the first to announce his intention to run in the Dec. 9 election. The Liberal Movement has been hit by infighting recently amid an ongoing corruption investigation by law-enforcement bodies and the Central Electoral Commission’s decision to deprive the party of a six-month grant from the state budget.

Government to proceed with the demolishing on the Curonian Spit

The Lithuanian government decided on Wednesday, November 15, to put an end to efforts to approve adjustments to the Curonian Spit National Park’s maintenance plan, which means that illegal buildings on the sand dune peninsula, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, will be pulled down. According to the prime minister, the owners of buildings to be demolished for not complying with the Curonian Spit environmental requirements should be compensated for the damage by the authorities that gave the green light for the construction of these buildings.

Lithuania wants Via Baltica turned into smart road

Lithuanian Transport Minister Rokas Masiulis plans to discuss the idea of turning the Via Baltica international highway into a smart road with his Latvian and Estonian colleagues. Lithuanian Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis said in early September that the Via Baltica between Kaunas and Warsaw would likely be fully renovated by 2023. Road accidents are frequent on the Lithuanian part of the highway where goods vehicles account for about a third of the traffic.

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