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2020.04.01 13:30

Coronavirus measures must not cross constitution – Lithuanian president

Ramūnas Jakubauskas, BNS2020.04.01 13:30

Measures used to thwart the spread of the coronavirus must not undermine Lithuania's constitution, President Gitanas Nausėda has warned.

“It’s more important than ever to make sure our urgent decisions do not undermine our Constitution as crises come and go, and some bad habits or tendencies might stay longer,” the president told reporters outside the Health Ministry of Wednesday morning.

On Tuesday, the Lithuanian parliament debated a series of measures, including increasing penalties for breaking quarantine rules and allowing the authorities access to mobile phone users' location data.

“To tell the truth, several laws were not adopted yesterday and I would have probably vetoed them. […] The Law on Civil Protection and the changes of the Criminal Code,” President Nausėda said on Wednesday.

The recently proposed changes to the existing law would give government institutions the right to access electronic data on people's movement. The proposed amendments to the Criminal Code would increase prison terms for spreading diseases, and the proposed changes to the Law on Civil Protection would give the government the right to regulate prices and restrict access to goods or services during quarantines.

President Nausėda said that all laws “will have to go through the presidential office's filter in terms of human rights and also their compliance with the Constitution”.

“Today, we see efforts in some European countries as well to take advantage of the crisis to get more powers, and it's completely unclear what these powers will be used for in the future. These are dangerous tendencies, and they have already attracted the attention of the European Union,” he said.

‘Fiasco’

President Nausėda also slammed the parliament's failure to legislate higher wages for medical workers dealing directly with the coronavirus.

Read more: Lithuania's frontline medical staff to receive bonuses

“It's hard for me to speak about this matter unemotionally. It's a fiasco what happened in the parliament yesterday and we cannot call it anything else, that failure to agree on what was promised to medics, to increase salaries for people working in [coronavirus] hotspots,” Nausėda told reporters on Wednesday morning.

On Tuesday, Lithuanian lawmakers failed to back a proposal to up wages for medics working during quarantine by 50-100 percent.

The failure to pass the measure makes the public believe that the parliament cannot be trusted.

“I don’t really care who's to blame for yesterday's fiasco. Be it the right or the left, the top or the bottom. Everyone is to blame as the decision was not adopted,” the head of state underlined.

In his words, politicians failed to do their job and broke their promise to the country's health workers.

“I really hope they will have enough common sense and, finally, conscience to make that decision today, and we will stop angering the public where it's totally unnecessary, detrimental in every sense of this word,” the president said.

If lawmakers fail to do so, the president's office will take the initiative, Nausėda said.

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