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Week in Lithuania. Lithuanian MEPs disagree over EU refugee quota plan

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Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RU

Linas Jegelevičius for the BNN

The voting at the European Parliament (EP) in Brussels on Thursday, September 17, on distribution of 120,000 refugees among European Union (EU) member states, saw Lithuanian MEPs split in their opinions.

The European Commission‘s plan was supported by Liberal MEPs Petras Auštrevičius and Antanas Guoga, conservative Algirdas Saudargas and Social Democrats Zigmantas Balčytis ir Vilija Blinkevičiūtė.

Among those who voted against the proposed scheme were leaders of the Order and Justice party, the Labour Party and the Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania, Rolandas Paksas, Valentinas Mazuronis and Valdemar Tomaševski.

The leader of Lithuania’s conservatives, MEP Gabrielius Landsbergis, Bronis Ropė of the Farmers and Greens Party and the Labour Party‘s Viktor Uspaskich did not attend the meeting.

Lithuania‘s OECD accession requires reforms

Lithuania will have to implement reforms on its path to membership of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, OECD Deputy Secretary-General Mari Kiviniemi said in Vilnius on Thursday, September 17, adding that these reforms would benefit the country.

The accession process will show what concrete reforms will be needed, but changes will most probably be required in the areas of state-owned enterprise governance and anti-corruption, Kiviniemi said. Renaldas Vaisbrodas, Grybauskaitė‘s chief foreign policy advisor, also said that the OECD accession process was an opportunity for Lithuania to improve corporate governance and combat corruption. Last July Lithuania was officially invited to open membership talks with the OECD.

Order and Justice party wants parliament to weigh on refugee quotas

MPs from the ruling Order and Justice party have proposed to the Lithuanian parliament to express its opposition to a permanent mandatory refugee quota system and call on the government to launch consultations with Poland and other Baltic states on the formulation of a joint position.

«The Seimas of Lithuania is against the principle of mandatory commitments and obligations and calls on reaching as soon as possible a wide-ranging agreement of political powers and public organization on solidarity and joint solutions in the wake of the refugee crisis,» the draft document reads.

Lithuanian PM: Statements about cutting EU aid «unacceptable blackmail»

Lithuanian officials have different opinions on Germany‘s recent warnings about possible cuts in EU aid for member states that disagree with mandatory refugee quotas. President Dalia Grybauskaitė said such actions are forbidden by EU law and Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevičius called them «unacceptable blackmail». Meanwhile, Interior Minister Saulius Skvernelis says such warning have a basis.

The PM said he was surprised at the fact that German representatives had shifted to such «almost aggressive telling what other countries should do, without internal national-level discussions and by just sending orders from above». Meanwhile, the Interior Minister said that if «we are all solidarily making use of certain resources and common funds, then we should also be solidarily solving problems.»

The Government of Lithuania has already agreed to take in 1,105 refugees over the next two years. But Lithuania has spoken against calls from Brussels and Berlin to introduce a permanent mandatory migrant quota mechanism to deal with future crises. The Visegrad countries of Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Poland are the strongest opponents of the proposed quotas.

France bestows a reward on MP Gediminas Kirkilas

The French Ambassador to Lithuania, Mr. Philippe Jeantaud, has bestowed the French Legion of Honour on former prime minister and deputy speaker of the Lithuanian parliament Gediminas Kirkilas. Kirkilas is present chair of the European Affairs Committee in the Seimas, Lithuanian parliament. The French honoured Kirkilas for his role as a strong defender of European values. In the ceremony, the former prime minister reminded the audience of the long historic link between France and Lithunia.

But it was the more recent history, particularly the integration of Lithuania into the European Union, were Mr. Kirkilas played an important role. He was the chair of the Foreign Relations Committee in the Seimas from 2000 to 2004, an important period in which Lithuania finally acceded to the EU and NATO. Gediminas Kirkilas also was active in having Lithuania gain access to the euro and assuring the transparency of the European funds allocated to Lithuania. Most recently, he was an active player in Lithuania’s first Presidency of the EU Council.

Lithuania heeds Russia over obstructed navigation

Lithuanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has announced that it had sent a note of protest to the Russian Embassy in Lithuania over the repeated impediment of navigation of ships in Lithuania‘s exclusive economic zone in the Baltic Sea.

In the note, Lithuania expresses protest over the September 15 recurring «obstruction by the naval forces of the Russian Federation of the freedom of navigation,» the ministry said. According to the press release, «similar incidents had been reported not for the first time,” and the ministry urged Russia‘s relevant institutions» to ensure that peaceful shipping and legitimate economic activities in the Baltic Sea would not be hindered in the future.

Names of Holocaust victims to be read

The names of Holocaust victims will be read publicly in several Lithuanian cities and towns on Tuesday, September 22, on the eve of the Lithuanian Holocaust Remembrance Day. The Names initiative is being held in Vilnius for the fifth time now and this will be the first time when lists of Vilnius ghetto prisoners will be read at two locations: in the courtyard of the ghetto library and at the Skalvija movie theater.

Residents of Jonava, Molėtai, Švėkšna and Jurbarkas will take turns reading the names of Jews murdered in their towns. During World War II more than 90 percent of the 220,000 Jews living in Lithuania were exterminated, but the organizers of The Names is inviting the public not just to remember this statistic.

Anyone who wants to participates in the Names events, from school children to people old enough to remember this painful period in Lithuania‘s history. Last year, former Vilnius ghetto prisoner Fania Jocheles-Brancovski, for example, read the names of her family members.

Bills on e-prescription reaches Lithuanian parliament

Bills necessary for the introduction of the electronic health system have been put before the Seimas of Lithuania on Thursday, September 17, with e-prescriptions as one of the proposed novelties. The proposed amendments will change the existing provision that prescriptions can be produced only on paper. The healthcare minister will also get the power to define rules for issuing a prescription.

Presenting the amendments, Healthcare Minister Rimantė Šalaševičiūtė told lawmakers that an agreement has been reached with all major pharmacy chains to ensure access to the e-prescription system. The Seimas backed the health minister’s proposal to deliberate the bills as a matter of urgency, lawmakers will get back to the issue in October.

Three Latvians and a Russian busted in Lithuania for smuggling Asian migrants

Lithuanian border guards from Kalvarija Frontier Station on the Polish border on Wednesday detained four illegal immigrants from Vietnam accompanied by one Russian and three Latvian citizens, Lithuania‘s State Border Guard Service said on Thursday, September 17. The Russian and Latvian citizens were taken into custody and the Vietnamese immigrants were taken into the Foreigner Registration Centre in Pabradė.

A pre-trial investigation has been launched into human smuggling and the suspects are facing up to 8 years in prison. Lithuanian border guards have detained 17 Latvian citizens this year for taking illegal immigrants through Lithuania or accompanying them.Following the incident, Lithuania has stepped up patrol on its border with Poland after spotting a new refugee route from Southern Europe to Scandinavia, and has also taken other undisclosed measures, Renatas Požėla, head of the country‘s State Border Guard Service, said in an interview with BNS, a Lithuanian news agency.

EU foreign policy chief to arrive in Vilnius

Federica Mogherini, EU foreign policy chief, will pay her first official visit to Lithuania on Monday. Mogherini is scheduled to meet with Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaitė, Speaker of the Seimas Loreta Graužinienė, Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevičius, the foreign and national defence ministers and members of the Seimas, the European Commission Representation in Lithuania said on Thursday, September 17.

The EU foreign policy chief will also attend a discussion with representatives of NGOs, economic, foreign and security policy experts, organized by European Commission Representation in Lithuania. Mogherini and Lithuanian Minister of Foreign Affairs Linas Linkevičius will also hold a joint press conference.

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