Viewing cable 08VILNIUS697
Title: LITHUANIAN CITIES REJECT EC'S TOLERANCE TRUCK

IdentifierCreatedReleasedClassificationOrigin
08VILNIUS6972008-08-22 15:48:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 UNCLASSIFIED Embassy Vilnius
VZCZCXRO6744
RR RUEHAG RUEHAST RUEHDA RUEHDF RUEHFL RUEHIK RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHLN
RUEHLZ RUEHPOD RUEHROV RUEHSR RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHVL #0697 2351548
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 221548Z AUG 08
FM AMEMBASSY VILNIUS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 2689
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
UNCLAS VILNIUS 000697 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: PHUM PREL SOCI LH
SUBJECT: LITHUANIAN CITIES REJECT EC'S TOLERANCE TRUCK 
 
REF: VILNIUS 579 
 
¶1.  Summary.  The mayors of Lithuania's two largest cities, 
Vilnius and Kaunas, denied permission for the European 
Commission's "For Diversity, Against Discrimination" truck to 
set up its event in public squares.  Instead, the 
pro-diversity campaign was relegated to a supermarket parking 
lot in Vilnius on August 20 and a small event at a university 
library in Kaunas on August 22.  The campaign attracted 
limited media coverage and was largely unsuccessful because 
of its inability to use a central location.  At the event in 
Vilnius, a "skinhead" threw a firecracker at the stage. 
Police arrested him.  End summary. 
 
¶2.  Vilnius Mayor Juozas Imbrasas refused a permit for the 
"tolerance truck" to use municipal land for the second year 
in a row, citing the cities inability to ensure security. 
(Note:  In July, Ibrasas had said that as long as he is mayor 
there will be no "advertising for sexual minorities.")  In 
Kaunas, Lithuania's second largest city, Mayor Andrius 
Kupcinskas also refused a permit for the truck.  He publicly 
explained the decision by saying that a "homosexual festival 
may cause many negative emotions" and that Kaunas is a 
traditional city. 
 
¶3.  The EC found a private partner in Vilnius, the 
Swedish/Dutch-owned supermarket chain Rimi, which allowed 
them to use a parking lot for the event.  The event included 
a press conference, traditional Roma dances, a poetry 
performance by a disabled man, and an open discussion period. 
 In Kaunas, the EC worked with Vytautas Magnus University to 
host a "living libraries" event with members of minorities 
and groups that face discrimination telling personal stories 
and answering questions.  One of the EC organizers, Jurgis 
Vilcinskas, Press Officer for the EC's office in Vilnius, 
told us that he was pleased with the event because it 
attracted media attention to this serious issue. 
 
Media and NGO Reactions 
----------------------- 
¶4.  The Vilnius event generated, at best, superficial and, at 
worst, patronizing media coverage.  Some of the coverage was 
thinly veiled criticism that emphasized, for example, that 
the Roma at the event were too shy to speak to the media and 
that the disabled people at the event were happy to live in 
Lithuania.  The implicit message from the media was that 
discrimination is not a problem in Lithuania. 
 
¶5.  Margarita Jankauskaite, of the Center for Equal 
Advancement (an NGO), told us that the whole event was a 
"fiasco."  The mayors' statements were appalling, she said, 
and without help and better understanding from policy makers 
information campaigns will continue to be ineffective.  She 
said it was "a really sad situation" that the EC and NGOs had 
to rely on private business because they received no public 
support.  She also lamented the media's lack of serious 
discussion about the issue of discrimination. 
 
¶6.  The Lithuanian Gay League did not participate in the 
Vilnius event as a sign of protest, to show that they would 
not compromise and thereby appear to accept the city's 
decision.  Jankauskaite, the NGO representative, was 
genuinely concerned, however, that the minor incident of the 
skinhead throwing a firecracker on stage would likely have 
become a major incident if there had been a homosexual 
presence at the event.  Jankauskaite believes that the 
skinheads are organized, that they were watching the event, 
and they would have converged and reacted violently if the 
event had focused on homosexuality. 
 
¶7.  To illustrate the political context, it is worth noting 
that also on August 20 four minor nationalist political 
parties merged to form the Lithuanian National Center.  The 
new group stated that its main goals are to make instigation 
of ethnic hatred an administrative rather than a criminal 
offense, to nullify Lithuania's ratification of the Lisbon 
treaty, to keep the national currency (the Litas) and never 
accept the Euro, to maintain mandatory service in the 
military, and to encourage Lithuanians to have "pure 
national" families.  (Comment:  Even after the merger the new 
group is still quite small, although its existence 
illustrates there is still a market for this type of 
sentiment in Lithuania.) 
 
LEADER