A European-Russian forum aimed at promoting economic and political cooperation between the European Union and its neighbors will be held in Vilnius this week. Organized by the Poland-based Institute of Eastern Studies and Vilnius University's International Relations and Political Science Institute for the second time already, the forum will take place March 23-24. IRPSI said the forum hoped to facilitate free and open discussions on political, economic and social issues. The event should bring together more than 150 top-ranking officials and experts from over 20 countries, including former German defense minister Volker Ruhe, NATO Parliamentary Assembly President Pierre Lellouche, Polish Deputy Parliamentary Speaker Marek Kotlinowski, Lithuanian Parliamentary Chairman Arturas Paulauskas, head of the Russian president's agency for interregional and cultural relations with foreign countries, Modest Kolerov and the Russian president's special envoy for EU matters, Sergey Yastrzhembsky.
Six British military helicopters will land in Vilnius on March 25 on their way home from an exercise in Norway, the British Embassy to Lithuania said. The squadron of six helicopters will transit the Baltic states en route to their base in Great Britain. The military unit will make a brief stopover in Riga for refueling purposes and proceed to Vilnius for an overnight stay. From Lithuania, they will fly over northern Europe to the British Royal Air Force Benson base in Oxfordshire County. The squadron includes three Royal Air Force Puma support helicopters, two Army Air Corps Gazelle reconnaissance helicopters and a single Army Air Corps Lynx utility helicopter.
Parliament is considering a possibility for the country's residents to turn in their unlawful firearms without being punished. As stipulated in the Interior Ministry's draft law on the voluntary handover and legalization of weapons, ammunition and explosives, which was approved for discussion on March 21, a person could escape criminal liability if he voluntarily turns in his unlawful items. The draft stipulates that weapons will be proposed for registration and possession permits, adapted for collections or sold. The legislation will last for a period of six months. Parliament aims to reduce the number of unlawful weapons, ammunition and explosives, as well as prevent their unlawful use. Unlawful possession of firearms or explosives carries a jail term of up to five years.
Parliamentary Speaker Arturas Paulauskas met with Belgian King Albert II in Vilnius on March 21 and thanked him for Belgium's support in efforts to achieve membership in Euro-Atlantic organizations. The parliamentary speaker said that Belgium was the first country to send planes to guard Lithuania's airspace and the other two Baltic states, after becoming NATO members in the spring of 2004. Paulauskas and the Belgian king discussed Lithuanian-Belgian relations, as well as cooperation prospects. The king also inquired about Lithuania's attitude toward nuclear energy in the Baltic region and the future of democratic reforms in neighboring Belarus.