Week in Lithuania. Dual citizenship referendum to be held with presidential vote

The Seimas of Lithuania on Thursday, October 18, decided that a referendum on dual citizenship will be held on May 12 and 26 alongside the presidential election. 66 lawmakers voted in favour of this decision, and four abstained.

Based on the adopted resolution, the binding referendum will be held on the adoption of such an amended text of Chapter 12 of the Lithuanian Constitution. Representatives of the opposition and former Constitutional Court judge Vytautas Sinkevičius have expressed doubt that the Seimas’ decision to hold a referendum on two days two weeks apart might violate the constitutional principle of equality.

Parliament changes party funding rules

The Seimas of Lithuania on Thursday, October 18, adopted amendments to the law on party funding, thus paving the way for the Social Democratic Labour Party of Lithuania (SDLPL), which was established after the last general election, to get a state subsidy. The changes were backed by 72 lawmakers, one was against and one abstained. The Seimas had already tried to adopt this bill initiated by the ruling parties but failed to get a majority after the opposition blocked the bid and fewer than 71 lawmakers voted. SDLPL was founded earlier this year by a group of former members of the Social Democratic Party of Lithuania, who split from the party last year.

MEP decides against running for Vilnius mayor

Lithuanian MEP Antanas Guoga, earlier mentioned as the ruling Lithuanian Farmers and Greens Union’s potential candidate for Vilnius mayor, has announced its decision not to stand as a candidate in a direct mayoral election. He says he plans to continue work in Lithuania, developing and presenting abroad his fintech ambitions, attracting technology and education investment, providing ideas on closing the social exclusion gap. Guoga, 44, was elected to the European Parliament, being on the list of the Liberal Movement. He has funded Blockchain Centras Vilnius, a blockchain bureau, in Vilnius.

EU support to Lithuanian farmers

Direct support to Lithuanian farmers must reach the EU average or at least move toward that level, President Dalia Grybauskaite said on Thursday, October 18, criticising the bloc for not delivering on its promise. The president commented on a protest being staged by Lithuanian farmers in Brussels on Thursday to press their demand for higher EU direct payments. Lithuanian farmers held their protest together with their Polish, Latvian and Czech counterparts.

MO Modern Art Museum opened in Vilnius

MO Museum, a privately-owned new modern art museum built in place of a demolished Soviet-era movie theatre in Vilnius, was opened to the public on Thursday, October 18. Founded and financed by Danguolė and Viktoras Butkus, MO Museum displays a Lithuanian modern art collection dating from the 1960 up to the present day. Construction on the new, modern building, designed by Daniel Libeskind, was launched in the spring of 2017 after pulling down the Lietuva Cinema, which had stood there for more than five decades. Viktoras Butkus said last year that the total value of the project was estimated at 15 million euro.

Liberals squabble

The board of the Lithuanian Liberals Movement has annulled the Vilnius branch’s decision to run in next March’s municipal elections on the ticket of a newly-established public election committee. Vilnius Mayor Remigijus Šimašius resigned as the party’s vice-chairman during the board’s meeting. The mayor said he was sticking to plans to run for re-election as a public election committee’s candidate. The opposition Liberal Movement’s leadership also decided that any Liberal standing in municipal elections as a candidate of another party or a committee would have his or her membership automatically suspended.

Ruling party’s leader calls to resign

Ramūnas Karbauskis, leader of the ruling Lithuanian Farmers and Greens Union (LFGU), on Wednesday, October 17, threatened to initiate impeachment proceedings against MP Povilas Urbšys and called on members of the Chief Official Ethics Commission (VTEK) to resign. Karbauskis’ statement came after an article in the Delfi.lt news website about the circumstances surrounding the dismissal of Mindaugas Šiaurys as head of the VTEK Prevention Department. He said the article completely discredits VTEK as an institution, calling on its members to resign. The ethics watchdog has repeatedly looked into Karbauskis’ actions and has on several occasions ruled that he failed to declare his transactions within the time limit set by law.

EBU warns Lithuania

The European Broadcasting Union (EBU) has warned that linking the mandates of public broadcasters’ supervisory bodies to the terms of office of the appointing authorities may increase political interference. Monika Garbaciauskaite-Budriene, director general of the Lithuanian Radio and Television (LRT), turned to the EBU after the Seimas’ ad-hoc investigative commission on the Lithuanian public broadcaster’s activities had proposed to change the process of appointment of LRT Council members to link their mandates with the terms of office of the appointing authorities.

Major drugstore chains in dispute with watchdog

Limedika, Gintarinė Vaistinė and Norfos Vaistine, operating one of the largest drugstore chains in Lithuania, have turned to court with a request to order the Competition Council to return information which, they say, is not related to the ongoing probe into competition-restricting agreements, the competition watchdog launched earlier this year. The companies want the Competition Council to keep only information covering a period from Aug. 30, 2017. The dispute between the companies and the watchdog will be further heard by the court of first instance which had rejected the companies’ appeal, the Supreme Administrative Court of Lithuanian ruled last week.

Lithuania plans exports to Japan

Lithuania plans to export ready-to-bake food products and pets to Japan, the Agriculture Ministry said on Monday, October 15. The two countries’ agriculture vice-ministers agreed in Tokyo last week to immediately begin talks on certification procedures. Lithuania’s potential export products include pizzas, kibinai and similar ready-to-bake products containing poultry and cheese, the ministry said. The countries also expect to agree shortly on cat and dog export certification procedures, which will open the way for Lithuanian breeders to export pets to Japan.

FCIS finds illegal Ukrainian employee at supermarket

Lithuania’s Financial Crime Investigation Service has identified a Ukrainian citizen illegally working at a supermarket in Vilnius. Investigators from FCIS’ Vilnius Regional Board received information about alleged illegal employees providing cleaning services at a shopping mall near Vilnius Airport and inspected the facility last week. They found a man operating a cleaning machine at the Rimi shopping centre. The man was not officially employed and was doing all the work illegally. Based on the Code of Administrative Offences, such a offence carries a fine ranging from 1,000 to 5,000 euros.

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