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Week in Lithuania. Seimas discusses state recognition to Lithuanian Neopagans

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The Lithuanian parliament has started debates on a proposal to grant state recognition to Romuva, a religious community of the ancient Baltic faith. The proposal on Thursday, May 24, passed the first reading in the Seimas and will now go to parliamentary committees.

The state may recognize a non-traditional religious association as a part of Lithuania’s historical, spiritual and social heritage if it is backed by society and its teachings and rites do not run counter to laws and morality. Such state recognition is granted by the Seimas after the Justice Ministry gives its opinion. The ministry has stated that Romuva as a religious community promoting ethnic culture makes a significant part of Lithuania’s cultural and religious life, noting that it has been the country’s fastest growing religious community lately.

Ruling parties move to lower yes-vote threshold for dual citizenship referendum

The leaders of the Lithuanian Farmers and Greens Union (LFGU) and its junior government coalition partner, the Lithuanian Social Democratic Labour Party (LSDLP), announced this week they will seek to lower the yes-vote threshold for a dual citizenship referendum.

It is proposed that the same requirement should apply to all binding referendums: a proposal would be deemed as approved if more than half of voters who turned out, but at least one-third of all citizens with the right to vote, voted in favour. The amendments are being submitted by LFGU Chairman Ramūnas Karbauskis, Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis and LSDLP Chairman Gediminas Kirkilas. Currently, people who left Lithuania after it regained independence in 1990 cannot hold dual citizenship, apart from a few exceptions. That provision can only be amended by referendum.

Agreement between Lithuania and Poland

Gas transmission system operators Amber Grid of Lithuania and Gaz-System of Poland signed on Thursday, May 24, an agreement to invest into Gas Interconnection Poland-Lithuania (GIPL), thus starting the construction stage of the project.

New justice minister intends to start discussions on LGBT rights

New Justice Minister Elvinas Jankevičius intends to initiate discussions on sexual minorities’ rights, although he does not reveal his position on these issues. Liberal politicians in Lithuania have repeatedly tabled proposals to legalize civil partnership of same-sex couples, but these initiatives never reached the adoption stage at the parliament. Those in favour of regulating by law same-sex relationship say that homosexual couples in Lithuania are now discriminated against, because such people have no right to inheritance or automatic access to information about their partner’s health in an emergency, and they cannot represent each other in court proceedings. Lithuania this year scores better in a survey on LGBT rights, but still lags behind many EU member countries.

Ministry: EC probe to help control Gazprom’s behaviour

Lithuanian Energy Minister Žygimantas Vaičiūnas says that the European Commission’s investigation into Gazprom’s operations in Central and Eastern Europe will help to better control the Russian gas giant’s behaviour in the European gas market. The European Commission took into account a considerable part of Lithuania’s proposals, which turned Gazprom’s earlier-proposed symbolic commitments into instruments that will actually function in the market,” Vaičiūnas said in a press release. According to Vaičiūnas, Lithuania will continue to look for ways of compensating for the losses incurred by Lithuanian gas consumers. PM Saulius Skvernelis does not rule out contesting the European Commission’s decision not to fine Russia’s gas giant Gazprom, saying that the same criteria should apply when deciding on anti-trust infringements.

Lithuanian truck collided with train in Italy

A Lithuanian driver managed to jump out of his truck before a train crashed into it in northern Italy. Two people died and 18 were injured when the train derailed after hitting the Lithuanian-registered truck near Torino. The truck was heading to a warehouse nearby. The Lithuanian company owning the trucks says that the truck was accompanied by three cars and two of these cars had passed through the crossing before the heavy vehicle entered it.

Lithuania to be late for implementation of new EU data protection rules

Lithuania has failed to adopt necessary laws in time for the start of the application of the European Union’s new data protection rules on Friday, May 25. Nevertheless, the European Commission says Lithuania won’t be late very much to start implementing the rules, but it plans to keep an eye on the situation and take action, if necessary. The regulation is applied directly and does not need transferring into national law but countries had to reform their national data protection institutions to get ready for its application.

Intelligence agency turns to prosecutors

The Lithuanian State Security Department (VSD) turned on Wednesday, May 23, to the Prosecutor General’s Office over allegedly unlawful disclosure of intelligence information. The media earlier this month made public a part of the information on businesses’ influence on political processes that the intelligence agency had provided to the country’s top officials and the Seimas Committee on National Security and Defense.

President describes influence probe as selective

President Dalia Grybauskaitė says that the ongoing parliamentary investigation into businesses’ influence on political processes is selective as it does not cover links between the current ruling bloc and businesses. The president also says that the findings of the probe will have no legal consequences and that these findings could be used by the defense in a major political corruption case involving MG Baltic and several political parties.

EU Commission calls on Lithuania to improve tax collection

The European Commission has recommended that Lithuania improve tax collection, the quality of the education system and the tax and benefit system. The Commission released on Wednesday, May 23, its recommendations based on a detailed analysis of the Lithuanian economy and on the country’s national reform and stability programs.

Russia bans entry to Lithuanian PACE rapporteur

Emanuelis Zingeris, a Lithuanian lawmaker appointed by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) as a special rapporteur for the Boris Nemtsov murder case, has been banned from entering Russia. The lawmaker said that the Kremlin’s decision derailed his plans to go to Moscow to collect material on the murder of the Russian opposition leader, adding that he will now have to do so remotely.


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