Liberals lose Klaipėda
After Liberal party member Eugenijus Gentvilas resigned from the post of Klaipėda mayor to assume the office of economics minister, the stage was set for a fierce fight over who would be the next boss of the third largest Lithuanian city.
The Liberals, who hold a majority of the seats in the city council, failed to secure the post, as Centre party member Rimantas Taraskevicius, director of the building department in a financial corporation, was elected to the post. He received an overwhelming majority of 22 votes, while the Liberal candidate, jazz musician Vytautas Grubliauskas, received only seven votes.
The new mayor dismissed allegations of staying in the pocket of his previous bosses from financial circles and pointed out he is an insider and has been working in the city council for eleven years. He also promised to put the budget in the order, attract foreign investment and transform the structure of local government.
Ex-prosecutor general heads to Constitutional Court
The administrative court in Vilnius ruled it is now up to the Constitutional Court to decide whether Kazys Pednycia, the former prosecutor general, was legally fired.
Pednycia served as prosecutor general from 1997 until the end of the last year, when the Seimas passed amendments, according to which the prosecutor general was to be appointed by the president with the Seimas' approval. Consequently, after the appointment of a new man, Mr Pednycia lost his job. He maintains that he could only have been dismissed after the Seimas expressed a no-confidence vote, not after the adoption of a dubious and personalised law.
Mr Pednycia has not asked to be reinstated to his position, but he wants LTL (Lithuanian litas) 145,000 (USD 36,260) in compensation, as well as it to be recognized that laws have been violated.
Performers to strike?
Threats of a strike were issued at the National Opera and Ballet Theatre before today's scheduled premiere of Tchaikovsky's Pique Dame. The conflict between the artists and administration has been dragging on for a long time. Last autumn, for instance, there was a call for en masse resignation of the administration.
This time, the singers sounded serious. They demanded that either the director general, chief conductor and opera director resign or there will be no one singing at the premiere. However, it seems that the opera will open as scheduled, as the artists have decided to wait for a decision from the Minister of Culture, who is currently abroad.
Protests block state border
Despite freezing weather conditions, local farmers and the employees of a sugar plant, Marijampoles Cukrus (Marijampole Sugar), have begun an unsanctioned protest in the southeastern town of Kalvarija, on the road to one of the most important border passing points and threatened to block the point if their demands are not met.
The protestors are opposed to a decision made by the government to stop applying a minimal sugar price, as they fear this will destroy the sugar plant and, thus, threaten their livelihoods.
The demands of the protestors include the firing of the current agriculture minister and the retention of their jobs.
It seems that the crowds have stopped traffic on the road, as border guards diverted it to other points.
Education no longer free
The Seimas Education, Science and Culture Committee, headed by Vilnius University Rector Rolandas Pavilionis, has proposed to abolish free higher education in the country by introducing a LTL 1000 (USD 250) annual fee for all students. The proposal, Mr Pavilionis said, would abolish inequalities between fee-paying and state-supported students, as well as between different subjects.
The Lithuanian constitution guarantees the right to free education for bright students, so, if the law is to go into effect, the Seimas would have to adopt a new constitutional amendment during the spring session. It is suggested that some number of the students be supported from the government budget, but the difficulty would be to prove that the rest are not bright enough to be worthy of this support.
Military proposes new centre
The Defence Ministry has decided to establish an armed forces logistics board in Ukmerge, in northeastern Lithuania, which will be responsible for the material supplies of the entire army.
The centre would be built by 2009 and cost LTL 34 to 35 million (USD 8.5 to 8.75 million). It is expected that the new military establishment, created on the territory of a former Soviet base, would generate jobs in the local community.
Agriculture goes electronic
It became clear this week that the Lithuanian government has purchased services from its own international agricultural trade agency that are about ten times cheaper in the private sector.
The agricultural ministry has paid LTL 700,000 (USD 175,000) of a special rural support fund for the creation of an electronic catalogue of Lithuanian food products. This was done without a public tender, although the law requires one if the sum exceeds LTL 150,000 (USD 37,500). However, the limit was lifted after a plea from Agriculture Minister Kestutis Kristinaitis, who argued that the purchase would allow for the completion of the project to put Lithuanian farming industry on the Internet.
Lithuanian Grammys handed out
Ten Bravos, the Lithuanian equivalent of a Grammy, were awarded last weekend for the seventh time. Popular groups appeared on the show, which lasted two hours and was attended by invited members of the public.
Voted upon by a 51-member commission consisting of music publishers, critics and journalists, most of the awards went to international English-singing group Skamp, namely for best group, best album and best producer. Marijus Mikutavicius won two awards, one for best singer and the other for best song of the year. The Debt Award for the contribution to the development of Lithuanian music went to 80s band Hiperbole.
Vilnius Mayor Arturas Zuokas and Seimas Chairman Arturas Paulauskas presented some of the awards.
And in other news...
- The Cabinet has proposed three constitutional amendments to the Seimas chairman, relating to the sale of land to foreigners, the extension of local government terms to four years and allowing EU citizens to stand in the local elections.
- The national association of car carriers, Linava, has expressed a wish to participate in the privatisation of Lithuanian maritime company Lisco, since the first sale to a Dutch company has been annulled.
- Czech airline company ČSA announced the resumption of flights between Vilnius and Prague.
- The board of Lietuvos Energija (Lithuanian Energy) has approved the contract with Russian company Inter RAO JES for the export of electricity.
- One of the largest private art galleries in the country, Vilnius-based Vartai (Gates), celebrated its tenth anniversary this week.
- Former chief negotiator for EU membership Vygaudas Usackas was appointed to become an ambassador to the US and Mexico.
- The Christian Democratic party and Christian Democratic Union have announced that they will unite into one political organisation on 7 April.
- The flu epidemic is not subsiding, as eight new places have been declared to be in emergency situations.
- After the announcement of the merger between Swedish banks SEB and Swedbank, the government has stopped negotiations over the sale of Savings Bank to Estonian Hansabank, owned by Swedbank. If the sale is allowed, the merged banks would control about 70 percent of the Lithuanian market, as SEB also owns Vilnius Bank.
- Four Lithuanian firemen died in a road accident in Poland on the way to training exercises in Warsaw.
Inga Pavlovaitė, 2 March 2001
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