EP president in Vilnius to pick up Freedom statuette, declines cash prize

  • 2024-01-12
  • BNS/TBT Staff

VILNIUS – European Parliament President Roberta Metsola is coming to Vilnius on Friday to pick up the Freedom statuette awarded by the Lithuanian parliament, as the EU legislative body has opted not to accept the cash prize. 

"Roberta Metsola will visit the Seimas on January 12-13," Viktorija Cmilyte-Nielsen, speaker of the Seimas, told the parliament's board earlier this week. 

"In Vilnius, she will meet with government officials and the president, and will have meetings here at the Seimas, and participate in commemorative events," she said.

Lithuania on Friday and Saturday is commemorating the Soviet crackdown on unarmed civilians in Vilnius on January 13, 1991.

The 2023 Freedom Prize will be presented to Petras Plumpa, a participant of Lithuania's unarmed resistance to the Soviet occupation regime, and the European Parliament in a solemn ceremony at the parliament on Saturday.

However, the European Parliament decided to accept only the statuette, a small replica of the Freedom Monument by sculptor Juozas Zikaras, and to leave the cash prize to the Seimas.

Radvile Morkunaite-Mikuleniene, vice-speaker of the Seimas, has said the European Parliament accepts the Freedom Prize as a moral award and recognition of its activities, leaving it to the Lithuanian parliament to decide what to do with the money.

The vice-speaker said she will suggest allocating the 11,000 euros to investigators of Russian war crimes and crimes against humanity in Ukraine.

The Seimas awarded the Freedom Prize 2023 to the European Parliament for "the current efforts to consolidate democracy and human rights, for the defense of the right of nations to free self-determination and sovereignty, for the unrelenting efforts towards historical justice, for support to the cause of Lithuania’s freedom and the aspiration of the Soviet-occupied Baltic States towards independence, for the diplomatic assistance to Lithuania that had just restored its independence, and for the contribution to EU integration". 

The Freedom Prize was established by the Lithuanian parliament in 2011 to honor "individuals and organizations for their achievements in and contribution to the defense of human rights, development of democracy, and promotion of international cooperation for the cause of self-determination and sovereignty of the nations in Eastern and Central Europe".

The prize is presented every year on January 13, when Lithuania marks the Day of the Defenders of Freedom.

The list of laureates includes Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, former Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus, Lithuania's first post-independence leader Vytautas Landsbergis, and Russian dissident and human rights activist Sergei Kovalev.