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2015.09.08 13:45

Land Referendum Date Fixed

Algirdas Acus2015.09.08 13:45

 Lithuanian Parliament set the date for the referendum on a ban of selling land to foreigners on 29th June. Mainstream politicians argue that such ban would conflict with Lithuania's EU commitments and the Constitution.  

 Lithuanian Parliament set the date for the referendum on a ban of selling land to foreigners on 29th June. Mainstream politicians argue that such ban would conflict with Lithuania's EU commitments and the Constitution.

The draft resolution on the referendum date was backed by 79 Seimas members, four voted against and 19 lawmakers abstained.

Although the referendum date has been set, it might be stopped by an initiative to address the Constitutional Court, proposed by the Seimas Legal Affairs Committee.

Before joining the EU, Lithuania made a commitment not to ban the sale of land to foreigners, and the ban will expire in May, following a transitional period, unless voters decide otherwise at the                  referendum.

The initiators of the referendum propose to incorporate in the Constitution a ban on the sale of land to foreign nationals and legal persons, and have collected 300,000 signatures in favour of the referendum.

Campaigners argue that lifting the ban could drive prices beyond the reach of locals. The referendum has been initiated by the Lithuanian Nationalist Union and the Lithuanian Peasant and Green's Union, led by Ramunas Karbauskis, one of the biggest farmland owners in the Baltic States.

 It is the first such popular initiative to succeed since the country declared its independence from the former Soviet Union in 1991.

Ownership of land is a very emotional issue to Lithuanians as they have suffered from a row of occupations in course of the country’s history. Opinion polls showed that two-thirds of Lithuanians opposed selling land to foreigners.

The ruling Social Democrats and the main opposition Homeland Union parties strongly oppose the idea of referendum, as well President Dalia Grybauskaite, who insists that voting in favour of the ban would equal to voting against Lithuania's EU membership.

A 50 percent turnout is needed for the referendum to pass a binding decision, which, according to organizers, could be difficult since many people in June choose to leave for holidays.

 SHOTLIST

Vs of discussion in Parliament

Soundbite (Lithuanian)

JULIUS PANKA, one of the referendum initiative leaders:
 Even in the worst dream, nobody could have dreamt that everything would be so dragged out. June is most unsuitable time. However, referendum has passed through Parliament, and I really hope that no more obstacles will be put in the way of our iniative.

Vs of farming land

Soundbite (Lithuanian)

ALGIRDAS BUTKEVICIUS, Lithuanian Prime Minister:
 I hope that Lithuanians are tinking and wise enough, and there will be no referendum.

More of land

Soundbite (Lithuanian)

ANDRIUS KUBILIUS, leader of the oppositional Conservatives:
 By way of washing its hands and blessing such referendum and thus distancing from the problem the Parliament has clearly imposed huge responsibility on nation's shoulders.

More of Parliament