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Week in Lithuania. Vilnius Mayor Šimašius to run for re-election

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Vinius Mayor Remigijus Šimašius

Members of the Lithuanian Liberal Movement’s Vilnius branch have decided to nominate Remigijus Šimašius, the capital’s current mayor, as their candidate in next year’s mayoral election, giving him the mandate to form a public election committee.

The capital’s Liberals made the decision at their general meeting on Thursday, October 11. Šimašius was elected Vilnius’ mayor in Lithuania’s first-ever direct mayoral election in the spring of 2015 after defeating the incumbent, Artūras Zuokas of the Lithuanian Freedom Union (Liberals), in the run-off round.

Political corruption trial adjourned

The Vilnius Regional Court decided on Friday, October 12, to adjourn the proceedings in a major political corruption case involving MG Baltic, one of Lithuania’s largest business groups, to give time to a new defence lawyer of Arūnas Gustainis, a defendant, to read the case-file. The court is due to hold its next hearing on November 5.

Lithuania legalises medicines containing cannabis

The Lithuanian parliament voted on Thursday, October 11, to legalise medicines containing cannabis. The respective amendments were passed with 90 votes in favour, none against and three abstentions and will come into force next May. The amendments to the Law on Pharmacy and the Law on the Control of Narcotic and Psychotropic Substances will allow the medicinal use of such medicinal products if their safety and efficacy are proven by scientific research and if these products are registered. MP Mykolas Majauskas, a conservative lawmaker who spearheaded efforts to legalise medical cannabis, called the decision «historic».

PM honours memory of Jew rescuer Sugihara, Hiroshima victims

Lithuanian Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis, who paid visit to Japan this week, on Thursday, October 11, honoured the memory of Japanese diplomat Chiune Sugihara who rescued Jews from the Holocaust, and also paid respect to victims of the Hiroshima atomic bombing. Japanese Consul Sugihara lived in Lithuania’s Kaunas in 1939–1940 and together with Dutch Consul Jan Zvartendijk issued thousands of the so-called visas for life, rescuing at least 6,000 Jews. The PM also visited Hiroshima to honour the memory of victims of the atomic bombing, and laid a wreath at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial. He also met with Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui.

Court rejects Philip Morris’ appeal

US tobacco giant Philip Morris has failed in its bid to have a fine of 2,100 euros, imposed by Lithuania’s Drug, Tobacco and Alcohol Control Department for disguised advertising of its electronic smoking device IQOS, annulled. On Thursday, October 11, Vilnius Regional Administrative Court rejected the company’s appeal and upheld the fine imposed in March. Now Philip Morris is considering turning to the Supreme Administrative Court of Lithuania, Philip Morris Baltic said in statement.

Fiat Tipo Pope Francis used in Lithuania given to nuns

The Fiat Tipo Pope Francis used during his recent visit to Lithuania has been given to the Congregation of Missionaries of God’s Love Sisters. According to Fiat’s official distributor in Lithuania, Autobrava, the nuns received one of the six vehicles used by the pontiff in the Baltic states, with the remaining five due to be sold. Fiat Tipo prices start at under 13,000 euros.

Attempt on LRT’s independence poses threat to freedom of speech

An attempt on Lithuania’s national broadcaster LRT’s independence poses threat to the freedom of speech, President Dalia Grybauskaitė said on Thursday, October 11. Her statement came in response to the findings of an ad-hoc parliamentary investigation commission that scrutinised LRT activities, put before parliament on Thursday. The commission proposes changing the LRT management structure to make it more similar to that of state-owned enterprises. The findings call, among other things, for setting up a new management body, the board. LRT’s management fear such changes would pose threat to LRT’s independence. Therefore, its Director General Monika Garbačiauskaitė-Budrienė on Thursday turned to the head of the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), saying that the Lithuanian public broadcaster’s independence is under threat.

Usackas wants US army base in Lithuania

Ambassador Vygaudas Ušackas, a presidential candidate, plans to seek the establishment of an American military base in Lithuania, aimed at deterring Russia. Ušackas says Russia’s actions undermining Europe’s security architecture based on international law pose threat to Lithuania’s security, and there are no grounds to expect fundamental change in the relations any time soon. Ušackas also proposes setting the goal of increasing defence spending to 2.5 per cent GDP as early as in 2024 to bolster defence. Lithuania’s State Defence Council and the majority of parliamentary parties have agreed to reach this threshold by 2030.

Vilnius concludes talks with national stadium builders

The local authority of Vilnius said on Thursday, October 11, it has concluded talks with a consortium led by Axis industries on the construction of a national stadium in the Lithuanian capital. Vilnius’ municipal administration director Povilas Poderskis expects the city council and the Finance Ministry to greenlight the project, opening the way for starting next year the demolition of stadium structures left over from an earlier project in Ozo Street. The first stage of the project, involving demolition and designing works, is planned to take around a year to complete. Axis Industries, the winner of the concession contract, offered to build the national stadium complex for 79.9 million euros.

Central bank raises GDP growth forecasts

The Bank of Lithuania raised on Thursday, October 11, its GDP growth forecast for this year to 3.4 per cent, from 3.2 per cent previously, and revised up its projection for 2019 to 2.8 per cent, from 2.7 per cent. The central bank underlined the need for preparing to address future challenges and strengthening the economic growth potential to achieve robust long-term economic growth. The Bank of Lithuania expects inflation to slow down to 2.6 per cent this year, from 3.7 percent last year, and ease further to 2.2 per cent next year.

Lithuania bars third-country consultants from elections

The Lithuanian parliament passed on Thursday, October 11, a bill banning third-country consultants from advising Lithuanian political parties and candidates during elections. The respective amendments to a law on the funding of political parties were adopted with 93 votes in favour, none against and none abstentions. Under the amendments, only citizens of EU, EEA and NATO countries and companies, organizations and their units registered in these states will be allowed to provide services to political parties, candidates and referendum initiators.

Ex-KGB officer’s testimony

Mikhail Golovatov, a former KGB officer who is being tried in absentia for his role in the January 1991 bloody crackdown on protesters in Vilnius, said this week the Soviet army units came to Lithuania under a direct order from the last Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev. The high-ranking KGB officer on January 11-13, 1991 commanded a squad that stormed the TV Tower and the Radio and Television Committee building in Vilnius. He denied having used military force against civilians and asked the court to acquit him.


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