Presidents talk fish, spill and expansion
Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga has come to Lithuania this week on an official state visit to meet with President Valdas Adamkus and other officials. Remarkably, talks were in English, as both presidents grew up in English-speaking countries after the Second World War;Vike-Freiberga in Canada and Adamkus in the United States. The presidents discussed fisheries problems, the unratified border treaty, Latvia's letter about the oil spill at Butinge oil terminal and integration into EU and NATO.
In the meantime, Chairman of Parliament Arturas Paulauskas has gone to Warsaw to meet with Polish leaders. In talks with his Polish counterparts, Paulauskas proposed that parliament speakers from Poland, Lithuania and Russia meet to discuss Kaliningrad in light of EU enlargement.
11 March commemorated
Illness and a mayor's inauguration on 11 March subdued activities celebrating Lithuania's 11th year of independence.
In Vilnius, President Valdas Adamkus and Prime Minister Rolandas Paksas were unable to attend commemorations because of illnesses. In Kaunas, a huge inauguration ceremony for the new mayor, Egidijus Tamasauskas from the social liberal party (New Union), sidelined Independence Day celebrations.
Reputation lost in Denmark
One of Lithuania's best friends, "Baltic sister" Denmark, has retaliated this week with xenophobic statements after a wave of crime committed by Lithuanian citizens put Danish people on alert.
Police have asked that motorists follow cars with Lithuanian registration numbers and report their movements within Danish territory. In cases of suspicion, they have been encouraged to contact the police immediately. Police have also clarified how to recognise Lithuanian cars.
In the meantime, Danish far-right Folkepartei representatives have argued that Lithuanians should require visas to enter Denmark, in order to protect the country from an influx of criminals. Other mainstream parties have not supported their proposals.
On the contrary, Danish Prime Minister Poul Nyrup Rasmussen has pledged to lobby hard for EU membership for all the Baltic states when Denmark has the EU presidency during the second half of 2002.
President whistled down by farmers
It was one of the most controversial face-to-face meetings between hugely popular President Valdas Adamkus and the public.
Adamkus gave a speech in a farmers' association meeting in Vilnius, where he talked about the necessity for a realistic agricultural policy not based on protection from imports through quotas and taxes. He also said that farmers should understand that it is not possible to go back to the regulation of the market. The President spoke about the need to rethink the subsidy policy that is now bankrupting the state, as the country cannot afford to protect farmers at the Western level.
Farmers protested with whistling and angry speeches, accusing the government of rural genocide. They promised to block border points if prices were not set at an adequate level. They mostly complained about the corrupt, incompetent and uncoordinated administration that resulted in chaos on the market and a free hand for profiteers. Farmers gave the government a month to show their readiness for meaningful reforms.
An investigative commission looking into the accident at Butinge oil terminal on 6 March has confirmed that approximately three tonnes of oil escaped into the sea, when a pump broke during an oil transfer from the terminal to a Norwegian ship. Two days after the accident, a Klaipėda rescue ship managed to collect only about three percent of the spilt oil, about 103 litres. They did so by spreading special material that dissolves oil into microscopic parts, preventing it from ending up on the shore.
However, after a change of wind direction, the remaining oil was carried farther away into the sea and is thought to be on the bottom. It is expected that after warm-up it will come ashore.
The commission has been unable to establish why the pump broke, since technically it was supposed to hold up to 590 tonnes. At the time of the accident, the weight was only 104 tonnes.
Last autumn, Lithuania's local authorities sent a complaint to the Strasbourg-based congress of local and regional government at the Council of Europe. They were dissatisfied with the government's decision to delegate a number of functions to local authorities without any additional financing.
Congress experts confirmed this week that the complaint was legitimate and proposed several remedies for legal protection, financing and relations between local authorities and the central government. They visited the country in January and are coming back at the end of March to assess progress in the situation.
The most controversial issue for local authorities is the debt problem. The government has proposed a law, whereby local government debt is recognised as state debt, but the Seimas has returned the law to the government for revision.
And in the other news...
- The Ministry of Finance has successfully sold the first government securities with a seven-year maturity period on the domestic market.
- Egidijus Brickauskas, advisor to Minister of Foreign Affairs Antanas Valionis, was dismissed after he left the scene of an accident last month. The minister said Brickauskas had lost his political confidence.
- Twenty-five Lithuanian teachers will go to work in Great Britain for the next year, through a programme of the state job centre.
- In the provincial town of Utena, a joint company with Germany has started to produce thermo-isolation materials in high demand on world markets.
- Government has decided to establish the Lithuanian Institute, designed to promote the country abroad, organise international culture and art programmes and, in general, enhance world awareness of the country.
- British week starts on 16 March, with photography, design and pottery exhibitions, British movies and musical events. British diplomats have guaranteed that no British food produce would be brought into cultural events.
Inga Pavlovaitė, 16 March 2001
- Archive of Lithuanian news reviews
- Archive of articles on Lithuania
- Browse through the CER eBookstore for electronic books
- Buy English-language books on the Baltic states through CER
- Return to CER front page