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2019.08.23 10:26

Swedish Embassy says it didn't ask Lithuanian president to veto forest ownership restrictions

BNS 2019.08.23 10:26

The Swedish Embassy says it passed investors' concerns over amendments placing restrictions on forest land acquisitions to Lithuanian President Gitanas Nausėda's team, but did not ask the president to veto the bill.

On Thursday, the embassy confirmed the recent statement by the Lithuanian president's adviser Jaroslav Neverovič that the presidential office had received enquiries from the Swedish Embassy on how Lithuanian-based companies operating in the timber business should act.

“As the Embassy of Sweden has had a continuing dialogue with the Lithuanian institutions on Swedish investments – including in forestry – it was natural for the embassy to reach out to the president’s adviser to convey Swedish investors’ concern, but also to seek clarification on the impact [of the new law] on existing investments,” the embassy told BNS.

It underlined, however, that it did not ask to veto the bill, because it is Lithuania's domestic policy issue.

“However, it is up to Lithuania to decide on how to regulate its forestry sector and at no point did the embassy suggest or indicate that the president should veto the proposed bill,” the Swedish Embassy said in its statement.

According to the embassy, it was approached by several small and medium investors after the Lithuanian parliament adopted amendments on restricting forest land acquisition, and they expressed concern over ownership restrictions and the bill's impact on Swedish businesses in Lithuania.

“The Swedish companies view their investments in Lithuania in a long-term perspective and the proposed legislation created uncertainty regarding the rules in forestry sector in the future. They also expressed concern about the impact on the desire of foreign companies to continue to invest in the Lithuanian forestry sector, if such limits were put on the ownership of forest land,” the embassy said.

On Thursday, the parliament did not back President Nausėda's proposal to discard the bill that place restrictions on forest land acquisitions, marking the first time MPs have overturned the new president's veto.

In a vote of 90 to eight, the Seimas readopted the amendments, originally passed in late July. The law caps on the amount of forest land that can be purchased by one or a group of related owners at 1.5 hectares.

Nausėda proposed to leave in place the existing legislation that places no restrictions on forest land purchases.

Sweden's furniture production and trade giant IKEA owned around 20,000 hectares of forest land in Lithuania via the Romania-registered company IRI Forest Management SRL.