Viewing cable 10VILNIUS118

10VILNIUS1182010-02-25 11:52:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 UNCLASSIFIED Embassy Vilnius

DE RUEHVL #0118/01 0561152
R 251152Z FEB 10
E.O. 12958: N/A 
¶1. Summary: A cross section of municipal, business, and civil 
society leaders in Visaginas and Utena told the Ambassador on 
February 10-11 that the recession continues to hit the region 
hard, with negative impacts on families and communities and 
prompting increased immigration.  The closure of the Ignalina 
Nuclear Power Plant coupled with the economic downturn is 
giving local governments and socially focused NGO's more than 
they can handle without additional  funding.  The GOL itself 
is not a big player in financing local NGO's, therefore these 
groups must rely on help from local governments, who are cash 
starved themselves, and intermittent donations from abroad. 
¶2. The NGO's, largely run by women, welcomed not only the 
news of the April visit of Ambassador at-Large for Global 
Women's Issues, Melanne Verveer, but also the announcement of 
the new Community of Democracies working group on women's 
issues, to be co-chaired by Lithuania and the United States. 
End Summary. 
¶3. Visaginas Mayor Vytautas Rackauskas is dealing first hand 
with the twin problems of an economic slowdown and the phased 
closing of the local Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant (INPP). 
Unemployment remains in the low double digits but Rackauskas 
is prepared for the situation to get worse before it gets 
better.  He noted that the incremental privatizing of land in 
the region appears to him to be hindering investment because 
new owners are not necessarily interested in leasing to 
factories or other large scale business operations.  The 
Ambassador also traveled to the INPP itself, met with 
longtime Director Viktoras Shevaldinas, and received a 
briefing on the plant and its decommissioning process, spread 
out over the next 15 to 20 years and costing between one and 
two billion EUROS. 
¶4. In Visaginas February 10, the leadership of Third Age and 
Visaginas Community Foundation, along with the Social Support 
Department of the Visaginas Municipality, described the human 
story behind the INPP closing.  Many times the 'earner' 
leaves his family and seeks employment in major cities or 
abroad, leaving broken families.  The demand for social 
services from the city government, even for basics such as 
the heating bill, is also on the rise.  Jolita Zabulyte, the 
chief specialist for the Visaginas Social Support Department, 
serves as the link between the city and the NGO community. 
She said generally NGO's are involved in community activism, 
for instance Third Age retrains mid career professionals left 
unemployed by the closure of INPP.  The city, on the other 
hand, aims to reach out to the vulnerable -- children in 
orphanages or elderly in day care or homebound.  The city 
budget for this outreach however is very tight and may get 
cut again in 2011. 
¶5. In Utena February 11, board members of women's issue 
umbrella NGO "Ievos namai" (House of Eve) described a similar 
financial and social situation in their city.  Lolita 
Kaminskiene said "Ievos namai" is getting funding from the 
government of Norway however the board members are now 
looking for money in France and Italy because the Norwegian 
support may be ending this year.  She also characterized the 
instances of single motherhood and domestic abuse as high as 
they have ever been, underscoring that there is need for both 
legislation and education to curtail domestic violence.  The 
police are reluctant to get involved in domestic problems. 
(Note: the city of Utena, according to its Mayor Alvydas 
Katinas, is weathering the economic recession, however that 
is not translating into increased funding for these NGO's. 
End note).  The NGO members were delighted to hear of USG 
interest in women's issues, the appointment of Ambassador 
Verveer, and Lithuania and the U.S. co-chairing a group on 
women's issues in the Community of Democracies.  They sought 
USG assistance in establishing links with women's NGO's in 
the U.S. working on issues similar to theirs, especially 
domestic violence. 
¶6. Ambassador also paid a visit to Amcit and longtime 
Lithuanian resident Sister Dolorita Butkus, who manages Saint 
Clare's Patient and Respite Hospice in Utena city.  Sister 
Butkus gave the Ambassador a tour of the facility, which is 
also suffering from a lack of adequate funding.  She said the 
GOL has cut its funding to hospice care nationwide by 11 
percent.  Saint Clare is funded primarily by donations from 
the Lithuanian-American community in the U.S. 
¶7. Note: Sister Dolorita made a specific request for used bed 
sheets, pillows, and wheel chairs and assistance in 
renovating a floor of an adjacent building, which the hospice 
recently received from the city government, possibly from the 
U.S. armed forces.  Ambassador has relayed the request to 
EUCOM and the Pennsylvania National Guard, Lithuania's State 
Partnership Program partner.  End note. 
¶8. One group of entrepreneurs attempting to buck the trend of 
young people leaving the region operate out of the Visaginas 
Regional Business Incubator (VRBI) complex.  They have chosen 
to stay and, benefiting from the discounted rent offered by 
the VRBI leadership, are building IT and marketing start-up 
companies that reach across Europe.  One owner, Genrih 
Sarbaj, reported problems dealing directly with U.S. 
suppliers, who generally point him to their European 
headquarters operating in Western Europe, and from whom he 
receives only tepid interest in exporting to Lithuania. The 
young entrepreneurs expressed great interest, however, in 
establishing contacts with young entrepreneur groups in the 
United States, to establish organizational and potential 
business links, and sought USG assistance to find interested 
¶9. While in Utena, the Ambassador donated English language 
children's books, part of the USG "1,000 Books for 
Lithuania's Millennium Program," to the Utena Public Library. 
¶10.  The head of Lithuania's Ethno-cosmology Museum, which 
hosts one of the largest telescopes in Northern Europe, 
outlined the Museum's plans to host a major exhibition on 
"Cosmic Achievements," and sought a contribution from NASA of 
an exhibit or educational materials relating to NASA's work 
in space (information relayed to NB, we appreciate your 
passing on to OES for appropriate action).