Lietuva in brief - 2006-11-15

  • 2006-11-15
NATO will continue to patrol Baltic air space and will not demand that Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia acquire fighters to protect their air space themselves, NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said during a recent visit to Vilnius. "It must be clear that air policing will go on, that NATO has a responsibility for all its members, not only the Baltic members," Scheffer told journalists after meeting with Lithuanian Foreign Minister Petras Vaitiekunas on Nov. 10. "As long as I am secretary general of NATO, there will be no signal that the Baltic nations should take this responsibility on themselves," he said, adding that the purchase of fighter jets would be a poor investment as they are "tremendously expensive." Older NATO members have been taking turns patrolling Baltic air space since the three countries joined the Alliance in 2004.

Latvia and Poland are believed to be Lithuania's best neighbors and allies, according to a poll conducted by Vilmorus pollster. Sixty-one percent of respondents say that Latvia was Lithuania's best friend and ally, while 53 percent believe that Lithuania's best friend is Poland. Other nations lagged well behind Latvia and Poland. Germany was named by 25 percent of respondents, while Great Britain and the United States both got 24 percent. Other friendly nations included Iceland (21 percent), Ireland (20 percent), Sweden (18 percent), Denmark (10 percent). Russia was seen as Lithuania's best friend by only 6 percent of respondents, Belarus earned support of 5 percent and the former Soviet Republic Georgia received 3 percent.

Interior Minister Rimantas Sukys has been criticized for meeting with former economy minister Viktor Uspaskich, who is wanted on suspicion of fraud and has asked for political asylum in Russia. Sukys met Uspaskich in Moscow, where the ex-minister and former Labor Party chairman lives, and urged him to return to Lithuania and cooperate with prosecutors investigating charges against him. Some politicians saw the Moscow meeting as putting political pressure on Uspaskich, and blamed Sukys of exceeding his powers and interfering with the pre-trial investigation. Sukys denied the accusations, saying his only will was to save Lithuania's reputation. "Uspaskich is the only Lithuanian citizen asking for political asylum in another country, and has been a member of Parliament and a minister. I do not want this case to disgrace Lithuania as a democratic country, so I asked him to come back," Sukys told Parliament.

The Constitutional Court, in its Nov. 13 ruling, said that 23 provisions of the law on citizenship contradict the Constitution. The court stressed that the law should limit the possibility of granting dual citizenship, which currently is a widespread phenomenon, rather than have it stand as an exception. The court also said that the law on citizenship, which allows a person to restore Lithuanian nationality without renouncing citizenship of another country, violates the constitution. At the same time, the court noted that just because many provisions of the law on citizenship conflicted with the constitution, this does not serve as grounds to question earlier individual decisions on Lithuanian citizenship.