Coalition tested to extremes
The fate of the ruling coalition is more fragile than ever. Bets have been placed throughout the country on the number of remaining days for its survival. Events in this week have been discouraging for the optimist.
Artūras Paulauskas, leader of the coalition partner Social Liberals (New Union) Party, has met for a business lunch with Algirdas Brazauskas, leader of the strongest opposition Social Democratic Party. Although both men maintain that nothing has been decided concerning a possible coalition between the two centre-left parties, it is clear that such a possibility is being seriously discussed at the highest level.
However, the other coalition party, the Liberals, led by Prime Minister Rolandas Paksas, is not giving up its part in the government. In a meeting with President Valdas Adamkus, recently recovered from an eye operation, Paksas maintained that the coalition is still viable and able to work. Adamkus suggested that the best way to silence critics is to show completed tasks.
The government accuses the Seimas of blocking the privatisation of the energy sector. The media have reported that Social Liberals are lobbying hard for privatisation that would favour local businessmen, some of them party members.
Seimas commemorates June 14
On 14 June, the Seimas commemorated the tragic events in 1941 when thousands of Lithuanian citizens were deported to Siberia and the Soviet Far East by Stalin's regime.
Seimas chairman Artūras Paulauskas presented the 60th anniversary of the deportations as an occasion to evaluate past experiences and tragedies without a desire for revenge. He also stressed how important it is to emphasise the achievements of an independent and democratic Lithuania. A minute of silence marked the memory of the deportation.
Civil insurance made compulsory
Lithuania is the last country in Central and Eastern Europe to require car insurance. This will change effective 1 March 2002 as mandated by a law passed in the Seimas this week.
The basic insurance sum will start at LTL (Lithuanian litas) 220 (USD 55) and will cover LTL 30,000 (USD 8250) in compensation. No exemptions apply to farmers' technical equipment, but they will be allowed to insure five transport units under one contract.
So far, about 20 percent of cars have the required insurance.
NATO door opens?
Lithuanian officials welcomed decisions from the NATO meeting in Brussels in which NATO leaders confirmed that the second wave of enlargement will take place at the summit in Prague in 2002. Countries will be admitted based upon their merits in democracy, and no country will have a veto right, said NATO Secretary General George Robertson.
Drug tests go ahead in schools
Effective 1 September, with the start of the new school year, children will be drug tested at school. So far, the program is voluntary. It is hoped that tests will underline that drug use is illegal. Officials also say that if a child refuses to undergo a test, they will inform his or her parents, who will have the right to decide about future tests.
Vilnius municipality put about 400 bikes on the city streets to promote a healthy and environmentally friendly means of transportation in the congested city centre. However, Vilnius' status as Baltic bike capital is far away. Shortly after the beginning of the program, 300 of the orange bikes disappeared, and the police have found about 25 broken. On the first day, not a single bike was returned to the marked stands.
Women's conference starts
A second international conference on Women and Democracy starts in Vilnius this week. It is a continuation of the 1999 meeting in Iceland and expected to draw about 500 representatives from 12 countries.
And in other news...
- Homeland Union (the conservative party) confirmed three candidates for the coming presidential elections. Vytautas Landsbergis is not among them.
- Lithuanian radio marked its 75th anniversary this week. It started as Kauno Radiofonas in 1926.
- Last weekend saw probably Lithuania's biggest biker festival at the Kaunas Bike Show Millennium when about 1000 participants roared through city streets.
- In another festival in Kaunas, bartenders competed to be best at running with beer glasses.
- Vilnius Mayor Artūras Zuoka installed a Web camera in his office to show his work day on the Internet in an effort to increase transparency in municipal business.
- According to the Finance Ministry, the state budget received 6.9 percent less revenue in the first five months than anticipated.
- Lithuanian and Russian MPs from Kaliningrad oblast founded a parliamentarian forum where the two sides will discuss bilateral and international problems twice a year, meeting either in Lithuania or Kaliningrad.
Inga Pavlovaitė, 15 June 2001
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