The pre-election campaigning officially started in Lithuania on Sept. 12. According to a new law, large advertising stands of politicians should be removed from public view. Chairman of the Chief Electoral Committee, Zenonas Vaigauskas, reported there were no serious violations of the law, but said special attention would be paid to possible bribing of the electorate. The general election is due to be held on Oct. 12.
Lithuania is ready to send more than 10 representatives to the European Union's peacekeeping mission in Georgia, the Foreign Ministry said. "A political agreement on the community's joint civilian mission in Georgia has been reached at the meeting of EU foreign ministers currently taking place in Brussels. A possibility remains that the format could be revised in the future," Violeta Gaizauskaite, a ministry representative said. She did not specify whether the EU would delegate representatives to the separatist regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia that have declared independence. All EU countries have stated a willingness to join the mission, providing 200 participants in total. Lithuanian Foreign Minister Petras Vaitiekunas is among the participants of the EU's General Affairs and External Relations Council, which is discussing EU assistance to Georgia after the armed conflict with Russia.
Lithuanians have collected 440,000 litas (128,000 euros) for Georgia, in addition to the 160,000 litas (46,000 euros) already donated. Sept. 14 marked the end of a month-long Lithuanian Red Cross Society fundraiser for Georgia.
Most produce in Lithuanian supermarkets is not locally grown because the government does not apply tariffs to food imports from Poland, Russia or Belarus, a Farmer's Union representative said. Lithuanian shoppers think they are buying locally grown vegetables at the supermarket, but Radio Vilnius discovered that most produce is foreign. Local vegetable growers have to sell at higher prices due to increased costs of fertilizers and fuel. "It is cheaper to import from Russia or from Belarus because we don't have import duties for those products. We are trying to manage that and we are talking to the Ministry of Agriculture, but so far we have no results," the union representative said.
The town of Siluva entertained around 20,000 pilgrims on Sept. 14 for a special Mass to celebrate the apparition of Mary in the town. The town receives about 100,000 visitors each year who visit the shrine, and some of whom walk to the town singing and praying. The Siluva apparition occurred in 1608 and is credited by religious scholars with helping restore Catholicism to the region. 80 percent of Lithuanians consider themselves Roman Catholics.