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Lithuanian report Lithuanian report
by Euro Reporter
2011-06-27 07:48:49
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Lithuania approves compensation for confiscated property

Lithuania's parliament agreed to pay $52 million over 10 years to compensate for properties confiscated from Lithuanian Jews by the Nazis and Soviets. International and Lithuanian Jewish organizations have been pushing for compensation since 2002. The bill, which was passed by the parliament on Tuesday and still must be signed into law by the president, would make Lithuania one of the few countries with a restitution law on the books. Outside of Germany and Austria, European countries have been slow to sign on to any kind of agreement that would involve restituting property taken illegally from Jews during the Holocaust years. A compensation deal in Poland fell apart in March. Lithuanian Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius praised the bill's passage in a radio interview, calling it a demonstration of goodwill and "understanding of the tragedy the Jewish community suffered during the Holocaust," Reuters reported.

The properties in question are currently in the hands of the Lithuanian government. The government reportedly would begin paying into a special compensation fund starting next year. The funds will be used in part to restore Jewish heritage sites. In addition, $1.25 million would be paid directly to Holocaust survivors next year. Faina Kukliansky, deputy chair of Lithuania’s approximately 3,000-member Jewish community, told Reuters that the spirit of the bill was more important than the amount. "This is what the state can afford at this stage," she said. The World Jewish Restitution Organization, which is charged with securing restitution in countries other than Germany and Austria, said that the law offered “a small measure of justice.” “While the amount which will be paid over the next decade represents only a small fraction of the value of the communal and religious property which was owned by the Jewish community prior to World War II, the passage of the law is historic, reflecting the Lithuanian government’s recognition of its moral obligation to return or provide compensation for stolen Jewish property,” the organization said in a statement.

The American Jewish Committee, which supported the Lithuanian Jewish community in its quest for compensation, greeted the bill as "a hard fought victory." Rabbi Andrew Baker, AJC’s director of international Jewish affairs, said that delays were largely due to concerns over domestic politics and nervousness about a populist, anti-Semitic backlash. Baker cited the efforts of U.S. Ambassador Anne Derse and her predecessors as instrumental in winning over Lithuania's legislators. According to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, Lithuania's pre-war Jewish population were about 160,000, some 7 percent of the country’s total population. Lithuanian Jewry was nearly wiped out during the Holocaust, and Lithuanian perpetrators as well as German killing squads were key to the genocide.


Lithuanian scientists 'clean up' project at 2011 EUREKA Innovation Award

A Lithuanian-led EUREKA environmental technology project has scooped this year’s EUREKA Innovation Award, announced in a ceremony in the Israeli capital this morning. Israeli television presenter Yigal Ravid, handed over the prize – a trophy and a media package worth 15,000 euro - to a delighted Monika Kavaliauske, Manager at JSC Biocentras, a Vilnius-based SME, which led the project E! 2522. It is well known just how damaging oil can be to nature. It is also well known just how difficult it can be to clean up after a spill or contamination. Removing an oil spill or contamination from soil is hard and requires very different techniques to removing oil from water. A Lithuanian company, Biocentras, together with academic partners from Latvia and Lithuania, developed a technique that has so far cleaned over 22,000 tons of soil without the need for potentially harmful chemicals or genetically-modified technologies. This natural process transforms contaminated soil so that it can be used again for growing all kinds of plants.  Many of the existing solutions for the problem of cleaning contaminated soil rely on chemicals. For highly contaminated soil, larger amounts of chemicals are required, meaning that the potential for side-effects on the surrounding environment are increased. Other solutions use genetically-modified bacteria which have their own potential problems, including a lack of public trust.

In contrast, once the non-genetically-modified bacteria from the E! 2522 OPTISOIL CLEAN project have done their work, they simply die and become food to other forms of life. This provides a totally natural solution, known as biodegradation. The role of Biocentras is therefore one of optimising the use of the bacteria to provide the right amount and the best possible conditions. Not only are the process cleaner and more natural, but their internal studies suggest that it is one of the most efficient methods currently available.  The developed technology can be applied to soil contaminated by any concentration of oil or oil products. Usually biodegradation can be effective in 20 to
50 g/kg of pollution, and sometimes up to 100 g/kg. However, Biocentras manages to clean up oil sludge with up to 300 g/kg of pollutants.


Inflation ‘isn’t stable,’

Lithuanian inflation “isn’t stable” and consumer prices will probably rise 0.2 percent in June, central bank Governor Vitas Vasiliauskas said. While the Baltic nation meets the inflation target for euro adoption, “our position on the inflation front isn’t stable,” Vasiliauskas told parliament in Vilnius today.

Lithuania, which in 2006 became the only nation rejected for euro adoption, risks missing its goal of joining the single currency in 2014 as rising commodity prices fuel inflation. Consumer-price growth accelerated to 5 percent last month, the highest in two years.

Vasiliauskas said rising wages and strengthening domestic demand may become “an unsafe price accelerator” as global commodity prices rise. Further fiscal consolidation is “inevitable” to contain price-growth, he said. Inflation will probably exceed the level necessary for euro adoption for the next two years and represents the biggest risk to joining the currency, Vasiliauskas said June 9.

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