Problems with Mažeikių Nafta
The Seimas has refused to go ahead with a resolution proposed by the opposition on a Constitutional Court decision concerning certain aspects of the Mažeikių Nafta sell-off deemed in violation of the Constitution. The opposition pushed the government to implement the Court's decision, made earlier this autumn, and warned that any delay damages Lithuania's national interest. A representative from the ruling coalition has replied in turn that the opposition-sponsored resolution does not pay attention to the possible consequences to Mažeikių Nafta and the state budget.
Prime Minister Rolandas Paksas announced that the government will consider this question, although the Constitutional Court decision can be regarded as a legal basis for the change of contract with the American-controlled Mažeikių Nafta.
In the meantime, Mažeikių Nafta operations have been stopped since its Russian supplier was unable to deliver promised crude for processing. According to the contract, LUKOil Baltija was supposed to deliver 430,000 tonnes of crude, but only 230,000 tonnes actually reached Mažeikių. One day of stoppage at the company costs LTL (Lithuanian Litas) one million.
The Seimas has rejected the draft 2001 budget, prepared by the old government under Andrius Kubilius. The Parliament wants an additional LTL three billion that the government must find in 15 days, in order to satisfy all the demands from all the various Seimas committees and other state institutions.
Almost half of the requested sum comes from the Parliament's Education and Science Committee, headed by Social Liberal Rolandas Pavilionis, rector of Vilnius University. He has also proposed a controversial law on long-term financing of education and science that is dividing the ruling coalition almost exactly in half. He proposed that 1.5 per cent of GDP should be spent on education in next year's budget, with an increase to two per cent later.
In addition, the president-led State Defence Council recommended to the cabinet to keep the commitment to spend 1.95 per cent of GDP on defence in 2001. This was seen as a matter of credibility in the eyes of international partners, and, financially, that would mean a higher budgetary expense of LTL 100 million more than this year. Signs from the government indicate that it will probably not dare to decrease defence spending, but it is unclear whether the Seimas will accept it.
The government has analysed the draft budget but no definite decisions have been made as of yet. Finance Minister Jonas Lionginas noted that investment programmes and some other expenses, such spending on the agriculture sector, are to be reviewed. Prime Minister Rolandas Paksas has earlier stated that he wants to see the new budget confirmed by Christmas and feels that it is the most important task of the new government in its first hundred days.
Museum of computers opens
The only computer museum in the country was opened in Vilnius this past week. It is mainly sponsored and maintained by IT company Sintagma. The museum reflects the history of computers in Lithuania, which was closely connected with counting machines producer Sigma during Soviet times. In the exhibition, there are the forefathers of today's computer perforation counting machines of various generations produced in Lithuania. Among them is the first Lithuanian computer Rūta (the name of the traditional Lithuanian flower), which was extremely popular and in production for ten years.
Judicial reforms to follow
The Seimas has finally adopted a law that returns the right to appoint the prosecutor-general to the president as a bid to make the prosecutor more independent of the legislature. So far, no one prosecutor-general has served out a full term, since every new parliamentary majority sought to put its own man in the post. Such is most likely to be the fate of the incumbent prosecutor-general, Kazys Pėdnyčia, since President Valdas Adamkus has already started talks with other possible candidates. Opposition from the Conservatives has protested that this is a thinly disguised way to get rid of a good professional.
More cases in Strasbourg
The European Court of Human Rights has accepted for consideration more cases against Lithuania from its citizens, who claim human rights violations by state institutions. Politically, the most scandalous case is from ex-MP Audrius Butkevičius, who argues that his presumption of innocence was violated after then-Seimas Chairman Vytautas Landsbergis and Prosecutor-general Kazys Pėdnyčia announced that he was guilty. A well-known businessman, Arvydas Stašaitis claims that his four-year long imprisonment was illegal. Ex-Prime Minister Adolfas Šleževičius is complaining of the long investigation of his case, as it lasted for more than four years and never ended up in court.
The cases that will be considered in the Strasbourg court have, arguably, been the most politically charged in recent Lithuanian politics, and the verdicts could have wide implications.
New head for Centre Union
After its dismal performance in the Seimas elections, where it did not pass the required five per cent barrier, and subsequent soul-searching, the Centre Union almost unanimously elected a new chairman, economics professor Kęstutis Glaveckas, who is working as the chairman of the Seimas Budget and Finance Committee.
Glaveckas said that the party will have to rethink its policies and make its governance more democratic and closer to the people. He was reported to believe strongly in its chances for the next elections.
Phone prices up
Monopoly telephone company Lietuvos Telekomas (Lithuanian Telecom, LT) has announced a sharp rise in tariffs starting next year. For example, local calls will be LTL 0.03 more expensive, and the one hour of free calling will abolished. The government is said to be arranging a meeting to protest the rise, at least until LT agrees to make concessions to Internet users. The rise would also negatively affect the budget, which does not account for the new tariffs.
More deaths in gangsters' paradise
Ex-police chief of Panevėžys Vladimiras Kudijanovas was found dead in his flat this past week. The death is suspected to be a suicide, most likely after allegations in the press that the ex-chief stole a book; however, other possibilities are not being excluded.
Prime Minister Rolandas Paksas has visited Panevėžys and spoke to officials about the worsening, and seemingly uncontrollable, gang situation in the fourth largest city in the country. Two high-ranking legal officials were gunned down in an apparent execution just weeks ago.
And in other news...
- The government approved positions for three more EU negotiations chapters on energy, co-operation in home and justice affairs and financial control. The aim is to approve all the positions by the end of the year.
- Swedish-owned company Tele-2 has won the third GSM mobile phone licence competition, which will increase competition with current Lithuanian mobile phone service providers.
- The most popular politician in Lithuania is Prime Minister Rolandas Paksas, whose supporters have increased by 12.5 per cent in the last two months. In the meantime, Seimas Chairman Artūras Paulauskas and President Valdas Adamkus are losing popularity, according to public opinion surveys released this week.
As of 30 November 2000
|1 US dollar||4.00|
|1 British pound||5.70|
|1 German mark||1.78|
Inga Pavlovaitė, 30 November 2000
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