Ambassador gives up plans

  • 2000-11-16
  • TBT staff
VILNIUS - Austrian Ambassador to Lithuania Florian Haug has given up his intention to introduce the Austrian tradition of holding charity Vienna balls in Lithuania.

The tradition began in Austria in 1956. Haug said that the ball would not be held in Vilnius next year. In his words, such events cannot be organized in Lithuania until they are totally acceptable to both the public and the country's politicians.

The poorer part of the society and politicians representing them regarded the Vienna ball held in Vilnius last year as inappropriate given the current economic situation. The Respublika daily quoted Haug as saying that the purpose of Vienna balls would be reached only if the event raises considerable funds for social needs.

The Austrian Embassy had planned to hold the ball in the Vilnius city hall on Jan. 22 this year, but gave up its plans on the eve of the event after receiving threats from the radical Lithuanian Freedom Union to harm guests.

During the only Vienna ball in Vilnius, early last year, the leader of the radical organization Vytautas Sustauskas staged an alternative "beggars' ball" outside the city hall. Sustauskas was then jailed for 15 days for holding the non-sanctioned event.

Sustauskas told the daily Lietuvos Rytas that he had spoken with Haug and that Austria should instead hold a Lithuanian-style St. John's summer solstice festival on June 24 to promote Lithuania. He also said that Lithuania's businessmen socialize on weekends amongst themselves and that the Vienna ball would just be an opportunity for them to curry favor with elected officials.