Lietuva in brief - 2008-11-19

  • 2008-11-19
New parliamentary members currently on trial in criminal cases have been given legal immunity after getting sworn in as members of the 2008-2012 Seimas (Lithuanian parliament). Viktor Uspaskich and Vytautas Gapsys of the Labor Party and Rokas Zilinskas of the National Resurrection Party have been given immunity. Chairman of the Labor Party Viktor Uspaskich and his former deputy chair Gapsys are on trial for fraudulent bookkeeping, with the party suspected of failing to include in the books over 24 million litas (6.96 million euros) in income and 23 million litas in expenditures and pay over 4 million litas in taxes. Former journalist Zilinskas is charged with a violation of public order, by insulting and resisting 7 police officers. The Central Electoral Committee had removed Uspaskich, Gapsys and Zilinskas' legal immunity granted to candidates for parliament under a request of the courts, however the elected MPs re-obtained it by getting sworn in as members of the new Seimas. The Prosecutor General's Office has previously confirmed plans to address the Seimas with the plea to remove parliamentarians immunity for those who are on trial. The Seimas is the only body able to remove legal immunity of one of its members.

Labor Party leader Viktor Uspaskich established a group for closer relations with Russia during the first Seimas meeting on Nov. 17. Uspaskich, born in the Russian city of Arkhangelsk, said about 20 members of the newly elected parliament had registered for the group. "Russia is a country [with] which we should have pragmatic and mutually-beneficial relations," the Labor Party's leader told the Baltic News Service. A group previously existed, but Uspaskich said it was weak and inefficient. As formation of foreign policy is primarily the task of the president and the government, the Labor Party's leader said that the parliament's contribution to the improvement of relations would be better dialogue between the two countries. "Warm relations are impossible without constant communication," he said. Uspaskich rejected suspicions that his attention to relations with Russia was due to his business interests in the country.

Lithuanian citizens holding biometric passports may now travel to the United States without visas under the new Visa Waiver Program. Vice-consul of the U.S. Embassy in Vilnius, Michelle Hoyt, told BNS that the new procedures allow visa-free travel to the U.S. for Lithuanian citizens who have registered on the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) and received a positive reply.

Lithuania's Permanent Delegate to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Ina Marciulionyte, has been officially presented in the UNESCO headquarters in Paris as a common candidate for the Baltic States for the director-general's post for 2009-2013. Lithuania's Ambassador to UNESCO, Ina Marciulionyte, became an elected member of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee in 2004, which she chaired during 2005-2006. Marciulionyte is currently deputy chair of the UNESCO Executive Board, chair and member of various UNESCO taskforces.

Chairman of the Lithuanian Jewish Community Simonas Alperavicius will be conferred the Grand Cross of Merit for his long-term dedication to Lithuanian-German relations and reconciliation of German and Lithuanian Jewish communities, the German Embassy in Vilnius said.