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2015.09.08 13:45

PM: Seimas should address Constitutional Court over land sale referendum

  Lithuanian Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevičius stated on Thursday that the Seimas should turn to the Constitutional Court for an explanation whether the referendum on ban of land sale to foreigners would be consistent with the country’s organic law.

Lithuanian Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevičius stated on Thursday that the Seimas should turn to the Constitutional Court for an explanation whether the referendum on ban of land sale to foreigners would be consistent with the country’s organic law.

“As a democratic country, we have to respect the will stated by people; however, as politicians, we should turn to the Constitutional Court for an interpretation whether such decisions, if they are made, are in line with the Constitution,” the Prime Minister told the radio station ‘Žinių radijas’.

On Monday, the Central Electoral Commission said that the steering groups submitted more than 300,000 signatures of Lithuanian citizens that were required to start a referendum.

In the Thursday’s interview, Butkevičius did not give a direct answer as to whether the vote will take place. “You put the question in a very strict way. I can say that the Seimas will start discussing the proposal of the Central Electoral Commission,” said the head of the government.

In his words, the conclusions of the parliament’s Committee for Legal Affairs and the Legal Department of the parliament’s office will be key in the discussion.

Under the law, the parliament must consider setting a date of a referendum during the next meeting after receiving the conclusion from the election watchdog.

The law also envisages a provision that, should a parliament-formed group of experts conclude that the text of the citizens’ demand to announce the referendum run counter to the Constitution, the parliament should make the conclusion public but it cannot be the reason for refusing to hold the referendum.

On the other hand, critics of the referendum note the Constitutional Court interpretation announced in January that without changes to the Constitutional act on Lithuania’s membership in the European Union (EU), “there can be no amendments to the Constitution that would deny Lithuania’s EU membership commitments”.

Upon joining the EU, Lithuania committed itself to allowing land sale to foreigners, with the transitional period due to expire in May. Meanwhile, the steering group wants a binding referendum to incorporate the ban into the Constitution.

The referendum also suggests lowering the threshold of the number of signatures required for referendums from 300,000 to 100,000.

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