Lietuva in brief - 2008-03-26

  • 2008-03-26
A series of events were held in Vilnius to mark the 90-year anniversary of declaration of Belarusian independence. Belarusian organizations and societies in Vilnius celebrated their country's independence in a revival of a tradition that flourished in the Lithuanian capital during the pre-war period. President Valdas Adamkus took part in a solemn parliamentary meeting that also included speeches by historians and law specialists about Belarusian history, path to independence, democratic changes and place in the international community. Independence of the People's Republic of Belarus was declared on March 25, 1918, and Belarus restored independence on July 27, 1990.

Parliament started the procedure to ratify the Lisbon Treaty, also known as the European Union Reforms Treaty on March 20. Final ratification of the document is expected in April, which will make it part of Lithuania's legal system. In a preliminary vote, the treaty was supported by 103 of Lithuania's 141 parliamentarians, while four voted against and one abstained. Prime Minister Gediminas Kirkilas said that the Lisbon Treaty contains more than 90 percent of provisions of the previous European Constitution project. Lithuania was the first EU member to ratify the failed Constitutional Treaty.

President Valdas Adamkus condemned the recent skinhead march through downtown Vilnius that had been accompanied by slogans inciting ethnic hate. The president called the act "a disgrace to Lithuania." He said such things are intolerable and criticized lack of actions by the police officers on March 20. "A country that respects the law and declares democracy must ensure these rights. It is my understanding that such outbreaks are a disgrace to Lithuania," Adamkus told the press.

Lithuania's solid legal and institutional framework in place to tackle racism and discrimination is not being effectively applied, the United Nations special rapporteur on racism, Doudou Diene, said. Diene made this statement at a session of the U.N. Human Rights Council where he presented reports of his visits to the Baltic states, the Foreign Ministry announced. The U.N. special rapporteur has suggested amending the Criminal Code and increasing attention to the rights of the Roma community and new minorities of non-European descent.