Annual Activity Report 2023 of the MP Tomas Vytautas Raskevičius
1. Law on Civil Union
- On 23 May 2023 the Seimas approved the draft law on Civil Union at the consideration stage (i.e. the second vote), with 60 Seimas members voting in favour, 52 against and three abstentions. There is the last remaining vote to adopt the law.
- After three years of committee deliberations, expert assessments, discussions and public debates, there is still no overwhelming support for this draft law in the Seimas. However, even under these unfavourable circumstances, Lithuania has never progressed so far in the context of this legislation. I see this as the result of very successful efforts by myself and by the political group of Freedom Party.
- Cohabiting couples and different families living together – including same-sex families – need a legal solution, and that result is the adoption of the Law on Civil Union. The legal status of a “partner” would allow partners, who have entered into a civil union, access to more than 60 pieces of legislation that establish legal rights and obligations for the partners (e.g. the right to inherit without additional taxation, state support for first home ownership, etc.).
- I call on our coalition partners – the Speaker of the Seimas, Ms. Viktorija Čmilytė-Nielsen, the Prime Minister, Ms. Ingrida Šimonytė, and the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr. Gabrielius Landsbergis – to secure the necessary number of votes in their respective political groups for the adoption of the Law on Civil Union. I call on the Lithuanian Social Democratic Party political group in Seimas to follow its electoral programme and vote in favour of the Law on Civil Union.
- Considering that there is only one vote left in the Seimas, we will continue to count the supporting votes and, when the window of opportunity appears, we will submit the bill for the final vote, i.e. adoption.
- The bill of the Law on Civil Union is available here: bit.ly/3VMHgFJ.
2. Activities of the Human Rights Committee
- In 2023, the Committee on Human Rights summoned 29 meetings and two hearings on specific bills. You can find out more about the Committee’s agendas and the issues it deals with here: bit.ly/komitetas.
- The Committee on Human Rights examined whether Lithuania has an effective system to prevent sexual violence against children. During its parliamentary scrutiny, the Committee was interested in the implementation of the Council of Europe Convention on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse (also known as the Lanzarote Convention), the prevention of sexual abuse through quality sexuality education, the implementation of the Life Skills Education Programme, and other related issues. The Committee, taking into account the observations of experts and NGOs, made proposals to specific institutions to strengthen the prevention of sexual violence against children through quality education and accessible legal and psychological support services. The Committee also endorsed draft laws that will help to tackle the problem of child sexual abuse more effectively. The proposals aim to ensure that victims of sexual offences in criminal proceedings receive maximum access to affordable and quality state-guaranteed legal aid.
- The Committee on Human Rights has worked closely with ombudspersons’ institutions and tabled proposals to strengthen them. The Committee stressed the need for the Seimas and the Government to ensure adequate funding for these institutions, thus guaranteeing the independence of the ombudspersons and their decisions. The Committee also initiated relevant legislative amendments. For example, the Committee endorsed a draft law that would remove the possibility of legally appealing against the Equal Opportunities Ombudsperson’s decisions of a recommendatory nature, thus unnecessarily wasting the institution’s resources. The Committee also formulated and submitted proposals to the Ministry of the Interior to improve the system of the National Rapporteur on Trafficking in Human Beings by transferring this function to the Parliamentary Ombudsperson’s Office, thus ensuring the independence of the mandate.
- The Committee on Human Rights also focused on the rights of migrants and asylum seekers. During the spring session of the Seimas 2023, the Committee addressed the issue of de facto detention of migrants and made proposals to limit the possibility of detaining foreigners without a court decision and without an individual assessment. During the consideration of the proposal to legalise the practice of migrant pushbacks, the Committee’s efforts resulted in safeguards in the law that prevent the denial of the right to asylum and the use of the practice of pushbacks for those in genuine need of international protection. During the autumn session 20230, the Committee principally opposed a draft law proposing a maximum period of five months for the border procedure, i.e. de facto detention, as such a period is not only incompatible with European Union acquis, but also does not properly implement the Constitutional Court’s ruling declaring the existing provision to be contrary to the country’s fundamental law.
- The Committee on Human Rights also examined issues relating to freedom of conscience and religion. The Committee sought a definitive solution to the legal status of the Ancient Baltic faith community “Romuva”. In the light of the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) on this religious community, the Committee drafted a proposal to grant state recognition to Romuva. However, the Seimas chose to continue to leave the religious community in a state of legal uncertainty and did not grant state recognition, even though it meets all the legal requirements for this purpose. In order to address this problem, the Committee had initiated amendments to the Law on Religious Communities and Societies, which will provide for a clearer procedure for granting state recognition to religious communities. These amendments were approved by the Parliament.
- Once and for all MP Petras Gražulis is kicked out of the Parliament! The Seimas impeached MP Petras Gražulis and expelled him from the Parliament for breaking his oath of office and for grossly violating the Constitution. The impeachment process was initiated after I personally appealed to the Seimas to assess the situation when Petras Gražulis secretly voted for another MP without their knowledge. Ironically, MP Petras Gražulis attempted to distort the vote on the inclusion of the Law on Civil Union in the Seimas session programme of work.
- We did not support the socially unjust tax on real estate. In order to broaden the taxpayers’ base (i.e. the number of people paying the tax), it was proposed to reduce taxes for those with large and expensive properties. We have also registered proposals to exempt first-time homebuyers and to abolish unjustified tax exemptions, e.g. the exemption of religious communities on commercial properties.
- The Seimas has initiated the appeal to the Constitutional Court about the compatibility of the Istanbul Convention with the Lithuania’s Constitution. I hope that the interpretation of the Constitutional Court will put an end to the endless scaremongering and speculation about the ratification of this international treaty, and will contribute to tackling the epidemic of domestic violence and violence against women in Lithuania.
- The political group of Freedom Party unanimously supported the ban on fur farms in Lithuania. We were also the only group in the Seimas that unanimously did not support the legalisation on night vision scopes in hunting forest animals.
- The Seimas approved amendments to the Law on Citizenship initiated by the political group of Freedom Party, which ensure that children of Lithuanian parents born abroad can retain their Lithuanian citizenship. In 2024, a referendum will decide on the retention of citizenship for all Lithuanians living abroad.
- In response to the high-profile cases of illegal felling of trees in Vilnius, I have registered amendments to the Code of Administrative Offences proposing to increase the fines for illegal felling of urban greenery five times.
- The Seimas did not approve the Government’s proposal to abolish the law censoring alleged “homosexual propaganda”. To protest against the Seimas violation of the rule of law, freedom of expression and freedom of speech, I organised a civil disobedience action during which I publicly burned three works of literature about LGBT people. After the failed vote in the Seimas, the Ministry of Justice initiated an appeal to the Constitutional Court to clarify whether the provisions of the Law on the Protection of Minors from the Detrimental Effect of Public Information are in line with the main law of the country.
- The political group of Freedom Party did not support the legalisation on migrant pushbacks. A country must protect its borders and not be blackmailed by neighbouring dictators, but we must not forget that we are a democratic country governed by the rule of law. The Constitutional Court has clarified that the proposed measures for the automatic de facto detention of foreigners who illegally crossed the border without a court decision were unconstitutional.
- I have registered amendments to the Electoral Code proposing that the fact of a political party’s criminal record be indicated on the ballot paper. Political corruption not only undermines confidence in the political system, but also contributes to the erosion of democratic processes. Voters therefore need to know the principal facts about the political parties that they are voting for.
4. Other activities
- I gathered more than 22k votes in the Vilnius mayoral election. I took the 4th place, and the Freedom Party won 9 seats in the Vilnius City Council. This election campaign was an incredible experience that allowed us to talk not only about human rights issues, but also about the Western direction of the future of Vilnius. Thank you for your support!
- At the General Congress of the Freedom Party in June, I was elected to the Party’s Council and appointed as the Deputy Chairperson for the second term. The priority for the next two years is to make sure that the political group of Freedom Party in the next Parliament is bigger than it is now. There is still a great shortage of free and courageous people in the Seimas today!
- Together with our colleagues from the Freedom Party, we took part in the Vilnius Pride 2023 March for Equality. We were the only parliamentary group that not only expressed solidarity with this civic initiative, but also marched alongside people seeking changes in the field of human rights.
- The political group of Freedom Party is the most transparent in the Parliament. “Transparency International” announced that the political group of Freedom Party is the most active in informing the public about meetings with the groups of interest and registered lobbyists. I personally attended 66 such meetings during my term of office, all of which were made public. For more information, see: manoseimas.lt.
- I implemented a survey of an eldership of Naujamiestis residents, involving more than 800 people in the district. The most pressing problems for residents of Naujamiestis are the state of the infrastructure (e.g. streets, pavements, etc.), the lack of green spaces and the lack of parking spaces. A summary of the survey results and suggestions on what we can do together to tackle these problems, can be found here: bit.ly/3RMu2IG.
- At the end of the year, the Lithuanian Council of Youth Organisations presented me with an award for my work in the field of human rights, and the Vilnius Union of Youth Organisations Round Table named me the Youth Authority of the Year. It is very important for me to know that young people see our efforts to build a more open Lithuania of the future. Thank you – you are already the Lithuania I want to live in!
- The Freedom Party has nominated Dainius Žalimas for the President! I believe that Professor Žalimas is an example of political leadership that looks to the future and does not pander to the darkness of the past. I know that he will be the President who is fair to all. You can find out more about our Presidential candidate and join his team here: www.dainiuszalimas.lt.
- Total draft laws submitted – 23.
- Total times voted – 1,637.
- More than 99 % of plenary sittings attended.
- More than 25 TV and radio appearances.
The official daily agenda of Tomas Vytautas can be found here: bit.ly/raskevicius.