Italian Embassy discussed

  • 2002-07-25
  • Rokas M. Tracevskis

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has promised to help Lithuania sort out a row with Russia over ownership of its pre-war embassy in Rome.

Upon returning from a visit to Italy last week, President Valdas Adamkus said Berlusconi would intervene in the dispute that began when the Soviet Union forcibly annexed Lithuania in 1940 and took over its prewar embassy in the Italian capital.

Today, the building houses the Russian Consulate General, and Lithuania has been demanding its return since the 1991 Soviet collapse.

Speaking to reporters at Vilnius International Airport on July 19, Adamkus said he peronsally appealed to Berlusconi to help settle the matter.

"He replied, 'Since you are asking for my direct intervention, I will intervene into the matter,'" Adamkus said.

A similar situation with Lithuania's prewar embassy in Paris was solved last year during French President Jacques Chirac's visit to the Baltic states.

Latvia and Estonia also lost prewar property to Russia in Rome and Paris.

"I told Berlusconi that a similar issue in Paris was solved very smoothly after I met Chirac last year," Adamkus said. "I think this issue in Rome will be solved very quickly."

Adamkus said he thought a copy of the Paris solution - a monetary settlement from the host state to be used toward the purchase of a new embassy building - would be an appropriate way to end the impasse.

Latvia and Estonia also signed agreements in Paris on compensation. Russia retained control of the Paris buildings in those deals.

Lithuania, along with Latvia and Estonia, have appealed for reperations from the host governments for their role in displacing Baltic diplomats.

As in France, authorities in Italy moved Lithuanian diplomats out of their embassy in 1940 and handed the building over to the Soviet Union.

Today, the Russian diplomats who use the building cannot be removed because they enjoy diplomatic immunity.

Lithuania values the building, in the center of Rome, at 10 million euros ($10.1 million) to 13 million euros.