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Top 10 events in Lithuania in 2000

  • 2000-12-21
  • Rokas M. Tracevskis
NEW GOVERNMENT: On Oct. 8 the center-right Liberal Union of Rolandas Paksas and the center-left New Union (Social Liberals) of Arturas Paulauskas announced their victory in the Lithuanian parliamentary election and agreed to lead the country's government. These two parties managed to form a majority in the Parliament with the support of small coalition partners of the Center Union and the Modern Christian Democratic Union as well as allies from the Polish Electoral Action and the Peasants' Party. Paksas became prime minister, while Paulauskas took the post of chairman of Parliament. A program of the Liberal Union became the foundation for the program of the new government.

OLYMPICS: Lithuania got two gold and three bronze medals at the Sydney Olympics 2000.

Daina Gudzineviciute took gold in trap shooting, while Virgilijus Alekna was the first among discus throwers. Birute Sakickiene and Kristina Poplavskaja came in third in the double sculls. Cyclist Diana Ziliute took bronze too. However, the biggest cheers exploded in Lithuania when Lithuania's men's national basketball team took bronze medals in Sydney. The Lithuanian basketball players repeated their bronze successes of the Barcelona and Atlanta Olympic Games.

NICE IS NICE: On Dec. 11 Lithuania celebrated its diplomatic victory at the EU's summit in Nice. Lithuania will have the same amount of votes, seven, in the EU's Council of Ministers just like Ireland, Finland and Slovakia. Germany, the biggest EU country, with a population 20 times bigger, will have only four times more seats: 29. Estonia and Latvia will have four seats each. The draft project gave only six votes to Lithuania. Officially, votes were distributed according to each country's population. On Dec. 10 France proposed only five votes for Lithuania while Ireland, having the same population of 3.7 million, was supposed to get seven votes. Vygaudas Usackas, Lithuania's chief EU negotiator, managed to convince EU heads that 3.7 in Ireland and 3.7 in Lithuania is the same figure and finally Lithuania got seven votes. It is one of the biggest achievements of Lithuanian diplomacy this decade, say political analysts.

DISASTER: In June, Lithuania experienced its worst maritime disaster. A refrigerator ship, the Linkuva, with 18 crew members aboard was lost in stormy Pacific waters some 220 kilometers south-west from the Mexican port of Acapulco after a hurricane. The ship was not found. Only two orange lifeboats bearing Linkuva's identification were pulled out of the water.

WTO: On Dec. 8 Lithuania was formally accepted as a member of the World Trade Organization. Lithuania was, the only country among EU candidate states, not a member of the WTO. President Valdas Adamkus expressed his satisfaction that Lithuania did not follow the example of neighbors and did not join the WTO by agreeing to all of its demands. "Now we join the WTO on much better conditions," Adamkus said.

NEW MAYOR: On Nov. 15, Arturas Zuokas, 32-year-old deputy chairman of the Liberal Union, replaced his party boss Rolandas Paksas as Vilnius mayor. In the early 1990s, Zuokas earned his money as a war-zone journalist reporting for British and American television networks from Iraq, Abkhazia, Osetia and Nagorno Karbakh. He says that he got used to hearing the sounds of flying bullets near his ears when he was crossing the Armenian-Azeri front line during the war in Nagorno Karabakh. Later Zuokas became a successful businessman. Now Zuokas, retired businessman and millionaire, occupies the influential post of mayor of the capital city.

CRAZY PILOT: On Oct. 22 Lithuania's leading acrobatic pilot Jurgis Kairys won the world cup. The final tour of the world cup was held near Tokyo, Japan. After this victory, Kairys even had started to speak about his presidential ambitions. He might be envious of Prime Minister Rolandas Paksas who is an acrobatic pilot too. Earlier, in September, Kairys flew his plane upside down under a pedestrian bridge that spans Kaunas' Nemunas River. Some 250,000 people came to watch this show in Kaunas.

ON WAY TO NATO: On May 19 the foreign ministers of Lithuania, Slovenia, Latvia, Estonia, Slovakia, Romania, Bulgaria and deputy foreign ministers of Macedonia and Albania signed a common document urging NATO to invite them to be full members in 2002. This act took place at the conference "NATO's Role in the Changing Security Environment in Europe," organized by the governments of Lithuania and Slovenia in Vilnius. Lord George Robertson, NATO secretary general, attended the conference.

"I believe that the enlargement of NATO to include other nations with democratic values, pluralist political systems and free market economies should continue. [...] Russia must never be given a veto over enlargement," George W. Bush, then-candidate for the U.S. presidency, wrote in his letter to this conference.

HE MOVED TO A BETTER WORLD: On May 28, Vincentas Sladkevicius, 80, the only cardinal of Lithuania's Roman Catholic Church in the 20th century, died. President Valdas Adamkus called him a "pillar of the Catholic Church of Lithuania and the whole country." In 1957 Soviet authorities deported Sladkevicius, bishop of Kaisiadorys, to remote Lithuanian villages for 23 years, but other priests regarded him as a bishop anyway. After his blessing, the anti-Soviet underground activists started to publish the "Chronicle of Lithuania's Catholic Church" in 1972.

This publication continued to be issued in underground circles until the late 1980s. Pope John Paull II nominated Sladkevicius to the rank of cardinal in 1988. Sladkevicius' speech about independent Lithuania before a crowd of 100,000 during the unveiling of the restored Liberty statue in Kaunas in 1989 had been a turning point in the national liberation movement.

SHIP ARRESTED: On Nov. 10 navy ships of Equatorial Guinea threatened the Lithuanian cargo vessel Rytas with 39 crew members aboard, ordering it to sail to the African country's port of Malabo after accusing it of illegal fishing in its waters. The vessel is a cargo ship and is not equipped for fishing activities. The vessel was carrying a cargo of frozen fish and fishmeal from Mauritania to Cameroon. Equatorial Guinea's military demanded $500,000 in cash and started to unload fish from the Rytas. Since then the Rytas and its crew have been detained in Malabo.