Week in Lithuania. N-plant invites bids for repository construction contract

Lithuania’s Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant (INPP), which was shut down a decade ago and is now being decommissioned, on Thursday, March 14, invited bids for the construction of a 100-million-euro near surface repository for low and intermediate level short-lived radioactive waste, known as the B25-2 project.

The winning bidder will have to build two groups of reinforced concrete vaults for a final disposal of up to 70,000 cubic meters of processed, packed in concrete containers and cemented radioactive waste.

Key decision made to rebuild railway to Latvia

Lithuania government approved on Wednesday, March 13, the Transport Ministry’s proposal to change the status of the 19-kilometer railway section between Mažeikiai and Renge, in Latvia, for it not to be considered a project important to national security, thus paving the way for Lithuanian state-run railway company Lietuvos Geležinkeliai (Lithuanian Railways) to sign a contract with the rebuilding tender’s winner, bypassing the Lithuanian government commission checking deals of strategic companies.

The government updated the list of specific installations and assets important to national security, leaving only railway lines on the border with Russia and Belarus. Thus, the list does no longer contains railway lines on borders with EU member states, Latvia in this case, but includes railway mains, three fuel stations and the Rail Baltic railway.

Bakas to head PM’s presidential election headquarters

Vytautas Bakas, chairman of the parliamentary Committee on National Security and Defense, will lead Lithuanian Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis’ presidential election headquarters, the prime minister told a press conference on Wednesday, March 13. His election headquarters will be advised by Zenonas Vaigauskas, former chairman of Lithuania’s Central Electoral Commission, as well as by lawyer Dominykas Vanhara.

The prime minister’s team will also include well-known photographer Marius Jovaiša. Skvernelis also said he had collected the necessary 20,000 signatures to stand for election. If elected president, Skvernelis would pay his first foreign visit to Poland.

Lithuania would back a delay of Brexit

Lithuania would back a delay of Britain’s exit date from the European Union if the UK requested one, President Dalia Grybauskaite said on Wednesday, March 13. The House of Commons on Tuesday, March 12, rejected the withdrawal deal agreed between Prime Minister Theresa May and Brussels and, on March 14, rejected a no-deal Brexit.

Removals from UK to Lithuania on the rise

With the Brexit deadline approaching, Lithuanian international removal service providers say their customer numbers have risen to a level last seen immediately after the referendum on Britain’s EU membership, the business daily Verslo Žinios reported on Friday, March 15. Henrikas Povilaitis, the founder of the Broliai Veža brand, says this is not a one-way migration as some people rush to move to the UK before Brexit, although the flow is not as intensive as that from Britain to Lithuania.

Vilnius University warns of malicious emails

Vilnius University on Thursday, March 14, warned that potentially malicious emails have been illegally sent from a Russian domain in its name.

The university said in a statement that the emails have attachments and have been sent from universitetas@s176679.smrtp.ru.VU recommended blocking the sender and not to open the attachments.

Vilna Gaon State Jewish Museum gets new director

Kamilė Rupeikaitė-Mariniuk has won the competition for director of the Vilna Gaon State Jewish Museum in Vilnius, having so far served as a deputy director, the Ministry of Culture announced on Thursday, March 14.  Rupeikaitė-Mariniuk will replace Markas Zingeris, who has led the museum since 2005, for a term of five years. The Vilna Gaon Jewish State Museum is a Lithuanian museum dedicated to the historical and cultural heritage of Lithuanian Jews and it has five branches.

MPs move to legalise hemp products

The Seimas of Lithuania on Thursday, March 14, took the first step towards legalising hemp products after giving its initial backing to proposed amendments with 62 votes in favour, four against and 33 abstentions.

The bill will now go to parliamentary committees for further consideration. Under the bill, the law will contain definitions of hemp products and also include a demand for hemp products to get certificates from a responsible institution, stating that the concentration of THC in them does not exceed 0.2 percent.

ECHR ruling expected to change international opinion on Soviet crimes

Lithuanian Justice Minister Elvinas Jankevičius expects that the European Court of Human Rights’ ruling that recognised repressive acts against Lithuanian partisans as genocide will change international opinion about Soviet crimes. The ECHR ruled on Tuesday, March 12, that Lithuanian courts were right to qualify Soviet repressive acts against Lithuanian partisans as genocide. The Strasbourg-based court dismissed a complaint filed by Stanislovas Drelingas, an 88-year-old former KGB agent, against his conviction of genocide for his participation in an operation in 1956 to detain Adolfas Ramanauskas-Vanagas, one of Lithuanian partisan commanders.

Lithuanian MPs put off vote on life prisoners

The Lithuanian parliament has removed this week a bill offering a hope of release to prisoners serving life sentences from Thursday’s agenda. The proposed amendments to the Criminal Code and the Code of Criminal Procedure would allow a life prisoner to ask a court to review his or her life sentence after serving at least 20 years.

The court would review the person’s behaviour in prison and would be able, but not obliged, to replace life imprisonment with a specific term ranging from five to ten years. The bill comes in response to the European Court of Human Rights’ ruling that Lithuania violates the rights of life prisoners by depriving them of any hope of release.

Over 100 inmates are currently serving life sentences in Lithuania.

North Macedonia’s parliament speaker visits Lithuania

The speaker of North Macedonia’s parliament visited Lithuania on Thursday, March 14, as the Seimas is set to vote on the Balkan country’s NATO membership. Talat Xhaferi, president of the Assembly of North Macedonia, took part in the Seimas’ sitting during the vote on the ratification of the country’s NATO accession protocol and will deliver a speech. The Lithuanian parliament launched the ratification procedure earlier this week. North Macedonia will become the 30th member of the Alliance once the protocol, which was signed in Brussels on February 6, is ratified by all NATO member states.

MPs move to introduce lay judges in courts

A total of 50 Lithuanian lawmakers, mostly from the ruling bloc, have drafted a constitutional amendment to introduce lay judges in courts starting in 2021. Juozas Bernatonis of the Lithuanian Social Democratic Labour Party (LSDLP) said in a press release that in other European countries, such as Germany, France and Sweden, the participation of lay judges in the administration of justice enhances confidence in courts.

Under the draft amendment, slated to come into effect on January 1, 2021, citizens sworn in as lay judges would hear certain cases alongside professional judges.

PM calls on minister to mediate in rows

Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis on Wednesday, March 13, called on Interior Minister Eimutis Misiūnas to mediate in disputes between law-enforcement officers’ trade unions and top police officials. The comment came after law-enforcement officers’ trade unions accused the interior minister of failing to cope with his duties and control the situation in bodies subordinate to his ministry.

Trade union officials criticised the heads of the Police Department for a lack of social dialog and problems regarding the existing system for remuneration, evaluation and motivation of officers, as well as expensive foreign trips by Police Commissioner General Linas Pernavas.

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