IN THE NAME OF THE EU: Some 20 million litas will be needed in 2012 to prepare 20 halls in the Palace of Lithuanian Grand Dukes for the Lithuanian EU presidency-related meetings in 2013.
On Nov. 10, the Lithuanian parliament adopted priorities for the coming Lithuanian EU presidency: employment, pan-EU financial matters and the EU’s energy security. Lithuania will be the first Baltic State to hold the Presidency of the Council of the European Union. More than 3,000 meetings will be organized in Brussels, Luxembourg and Vilnius under the Lithuanian EU presidency during the last six months of 2013. Lithuania plans to spend less on its EU presidency than has any other country which presided over the EU in the past and, therefore, the majority of EU meetings will take place in Brussels and Luxembourg, not Vilnius.
However, some 500 ministers, EU commissioners and other high-ranking officials will be attending some 200 meetings in Lithuania and the total influx of visitors related to the Lithuanian EU presidency will be 40,000 people. That will provide some 25 million litas’ (7.2 million euros) profit to the Lithuanian tourism industry.
Such figures were presented by Lithuanian Foreign Minister Audronius Azubalis and Linas Dicpetris of Ernst&Young Baltic in the Lithuanian Foreign Ministry on Nov. 4. Azubalis said that the Lithuanian state will spend 214 million litas on its EU presidency-related matters. “It is our obligation,” Azubalis said. “The spending can be close to zero, finally,” Dicpetris said, pointing to the income to the state budget related to conference tourism and benefits from promotion of the country due to the Lithuanian EU presidency.
The main venue for the high-level EU meetings in Vilnius will be the Palace of Lithuanian Grand Dukes, which is still under construction. On Nov. 4, Loreta Grauziniene, chairwoman of the parliamentary committee on audit, visited the palace. “The palace should be ready by the middle of 2013. Otherwise, the state will need to spend twice more for renting conference halls elsewhere in Vilnius,” Grauziniene said. Some 20 million litas are needed in 2012 to prepare 20 halls in the palace for the EU presidency-related meetings, which means that one-third of the palace’s 60 halls will start functioning in 2013. Currently, the draft budget for 2012 envisages 14 million litas for the palace’s construction next year.
On Nov. 17, Panevezio Statybos Trestas (this construction company is controversial due to speculation by the media and some MPs about its allegedly overpriced work on the Palace of Lithuanian Grand Dukes) stated that it will conduct its work in the palace at a price of 29 million litas, instead of an earlier claimed 32 million litas, by May 2013. This means that the EU leaders will probably be able to meet in the palace, which has now been in the re-building process already for a decade, among purchased antique Italian furniture and ancient Flemish wall-textiles. On Oct. 18, during the presentation of a book on the triumphal celebration in Vilnius due to the recapturing of the town of Smolensk for Lithuania in 1611 (then three arcs of triumph were built in Vilnius to celebrate this military victory), historian Jurate Kiaupiene said in the Palace of Lithuanian Grand Dukes, “An arc of triumph should be built for those who are rebuilding the palace when this palace will be finished.”