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Week in Lithuania. Election watchdog’s decision puts budget grants for Liberals in question

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A total of 45,336 euros in the costs of the training organised by an Institute of Applied Politics owned by Sarunas Gustainis, a former MP and former member of the Liberal Movement, for the party should be recognised as non-monetary contribution, says a task force established by the Lithuanian Central Electoral Commission.

The commission explained that parties would otherwise get a green light to conceal some of their financing sources.

The task force wants the commission to find the Liberal Movement of having violated the law by taking an unacceptable donation during the campaign for the 2016 parliamentary elections, i.e., a contribution from the Institute of Applied Politics, a legal entity.

The ban on donations by legal entities to political parties was banned a few years ago, with only donations from physical entities allowed.

Meanwhile, Gustainis said in his response to the election watchdog that he was not linked in any way with the organization and financing of this or other projects of the Institute of Applied Politics he is the founder of.

If the Central Electoral Commission decides to support the group’s position, the Liberal Movement will risk losing nearly 300,000 euros in a budget grant. Grants from the state budget are the main source of funding of political parties in Lithuania.

Vilnius Mayor Remigijus Šimašius, the leader of the embattled Lithuanian Liberal Movement, is considering his future in the party post after MEP Petras Auštrevičius, MP Vitalijus Gailius and Marcijonas Urmonas resigned from his deputies earlier on Thursday, October 19.

Broader dual citizenship sees hurdles

Granting dual Lithuanian citizenship to a broader circle of individual sis only possible after changing the Constitution by way of a referendum, the Constitutional Court ruled on Friday, October 20. The parliament had asked the court to establish whether dual citizenship should be allowed for citizens who left Lithuania for EU and NATO countries after the country regained independence in 1990. According to the Organic Law, nobody can be a citizen of Lithuania and another country at the same time, except for individual cases stipulated by law.

Vilnius SocDems set to stay in coalition

The council of the Vilnius unit of the Lithuanian Social Democratic Council decided to continue their participation in the new ruling coalition formed by the Liberal Movement, saying they would see whether their proposals are reflected in the 2018 budget draft.

Lithuanians see trio in presidential race

Lithuanian residents mainly want to vote for Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis in the 2019 presidential race, followed by economist Gitanas Nausėda and Kaunas Mayor Visvaldas Matijošaitis, shows the latest poll conducted by RAIT. In the survey, more than 1,000 Lithuanian residents were asked to specify a person they will vote for in the presidential elections in 18 months, however, they were not given a list of candidates.

Inquiry into unlawful influence

The parliament on Thursday, October 19, authorised the National Security and Defence Committee to conduct an inquiry into possibly unlawful influence upon politicians, political processes and state institutions. The bid to assign the probe to the committee was supported by 80 of Lithuania’s 141 parliamentarians, while two were against and nine abstained. The committee is to present its conclusion by May 1.

Amendments for in-absentia trial of ex-bankers

The parliament on Thursday, October 19, passed amendments initiated by President Dalia Grybauskaitė that enable the country’s law-enforcement to put financial offenders who have fled the country on trial. Supported by 78 parliamentarians and one abstention, the adopted changes to the Criminal Code allow prosecution of persons for large-scale damage to the state. The amendments would theoretically make it possible to judicial proceedings of former bankers Raimundas Baranauskas, Vladimir Antonov and Vladimir Romanov who are in hiding from Lithuanian law-enforcement. Russia has granted political asylum to Baranauskas and Romanov, former shareholders of Snoras and Ūkio Bankas whom Lithuanian prosecutors want on trial for large-scale plundering.

Nine months’ revenues well above target

Lithuania’s central government and local authorities collected a total of 6.089 billion euros in budget revenue in January through September, which is 2.6 percent above the projected level and 7.3 per cent rise year-on-year. The central government’s budget revenue for the nine months came in at 4.898 billion euros, 1 percent above target and 6.8 percent more than expected, the Finance Ministry said on Thursday. Revenue from taxes totalled 4.535 billion euros, which is a respective increase by 0.3 per cent and 8.2 percent. Value-added tax (VAT) brought 2.587 billion euros into the state’s coffers, 1.6 percent above the projected level, while excise duties contributed 997.4 million euros, which is 11.7 percent above target.

Sending brigade to East Ukraine not right time

Lithuanian officials say it is still too early to discuss whether troops of the tri-national Lithuanian, Polish and Ukrainian brigade could be sent to a possible United Nations (UN) operation in Eastern Ukraine. The issue has been raised by the Ukrainian side, the Lithuanian Defence Ministry said. In early September, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin suggested that the UN forces in Eastern Ukraine could operate at the contact line. Kiev says the peace-keeping mission in Eastern Ukraine should ensure safety of the Ukrainian-Russian border, adding that Russians should not be involved in the mission.

Competition watchdog okays Rimi-Iki takeover deal

On Wednesday, October 18, Lithuania’s Competition Council gave a green light to buy a 100-percent stake in Iki’s operator Palink from Germany’s Rewe Group and other shareholders. The sanction envisages an obligation for Rimi Lietuva to sell 17 Rimi and Iki stores in Vilnius, Kaunas, Klaipėda and Panevėžys to third parties.

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