VILNIUS - What is the brightest country in Europe? Yes, the brightest? Well, for a few short minutes on the evening of April 30, there will be no doubt that the answer is Lithuania.In order to commemorate the country's historic EU accession, leaders in Lithuania have organized what may very well be the most unique (and eye-catching) event from among all the candidate states. Beginning at 9:40 p.m., practically every light in the country will be switched on for exactly five minutes, thus making Lithuania's the "brightest" entrance into the European club that any country has ever made.
While the brainchild of the New Union-Social Liberal political party, which serves as the junior partner in the ruling parliamentary majority, the idea for the event has expanded into a nonpartisan national movement that will be sure to light up the characteristically gloomy Lithuanian sky-at least for a few moments.
"It was the initiative of our party, but we conceived it as a nonpolitical event, and we've seen how people from all parts of society have become interested in the project," said Dangute Mikutiene, vice-chairman at New Union's campaign headquarters.
In the context of what will most certainly prove to be a highly symbolic evening, planners are hoping to have hit on an idea that merges lofty ideals of progress and enlightenment into one concrete and memorable image.
"I believe that several years after our accession to the EU, we'll see the full magnitude of Lithuania's brightness," said Foreign Minister Antanas Valionis during a press conference announcing the event.
Organizers have traveled around the country trying to convince those people in charge of some of the potentially brightest buildings-from skyscrapers to student dormitories to hospitals-to participate, and the national student union has pitched in to make sure that their members will turn the lights on at the crucial moment.
In addition, party volunteers have been distributing light bulbs in small towns and villages to promote the event and ensure a wide geographic distribution of light.
But to ensure that more than just future EU neighbors Latvia and Poland get a substantial zing from the light, Lithuania has contracted with the U.S. National Geophysical Data Center to have two photos-one from each of two U.S. satellites-taken of Lithuania during the decisive five minutes.
Scientists have estimated that the stunt should work if the regular output of light is increased by 30 percent to 40 percent, an amount that would make Lithuania really stand out as a beacon of light from the point of view of a satellite perspective.
Safeguards have even been taken against the possibility that the project does not fall victim to its most obvious enemy-clouds.
"Of course, we're hoping for clear skies. But just in case, an infrared picture will be taken, which we've been told will show similar results," said Mikutiene.
If all goes well, leaders are hoping for a dazzling - no, make that luminescent - debut on the European stage to put an end to the country's often murky politicalpast. Lets just hope that everybody remembers to say "cheese" for the satellite cameras.