A letter to Norwegian Ambassador in Lithuania 2007-06-20

2007 06 20

A letter to Norwegian Ambassador in Lithuania

To Mr. Steinar Gil,
Norwegian Ambassador in Lithuania

The controversy around the “Lietuva” cinema has intensified and are nowadays discussed at a high political level in Lithuania. Defenders of Lietuva stand against strong financial and political forces who aim at replacing the cinema with a project called “Paradise Appartements”. The reason why we contact you as the Norwegian Ambassador to Lithuania, is that among the group of investors some of them are from Norway.

We know that the investors already have contacted the diplomatic corpus to gather support for their case. We would like to use the opportunity to explain why we oppose the Paradise Appartments project and why supporting Lietuva is important. We are especially concerned about three topics in this case:

· the cultural importance of the “Lietuva” cinema to the citizens of Vilnius
· the historic significance of the site as part of the territory of the World Heritage City
· the lack of transparency in the privatization of the site and the subsequent rezoning of the property
The owners of Paradise Appartements claim that our protest is “making a tremendous harm” to their investment and stopping the development of the site. We believe that public participation is crucial when reaching decisions affecting public urban spaces and the future of cultural objects. It is also very important to inform the public thoroughly and on time about plans related to the restructuring of urban public spaces. Unfortunately, these principles has not been followed when decisions were reached regarding the “Lietuva” cinema.

About Lietuva:
§ Lietuva is the biggest non-commercial cinema in Lithuania and has one of the biggest movie halls in East Europe (for 1100 visitors).
§ The loss of Lietuva (last out of fifteen cinemas) is a severe blow to the cultural growth and international diversity of Vilnius. Lietuva was the main cultural centre with activities ranging from showing European, Lithuanian, non-commercial films and organizing international film festivals to retrospectives and concerts.
§ It has symbolic name value for Lithuanians, as it was named “Lietuva” during the soviet time, when this name usually was used togother with “soviet” or “soviet republic of”.
§ The square in front of the building used to be an important meeting place, a space for public performances and youth activities. The place is now accessible to Vilnius citizens, but will be eliminated by the property developers Paradise Apartments.

About the process:
§ The anticipated changes of Paradice Apartments violate the Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage, the European Archaeological Convention, the Convention for the Protection of the Architectural Heritage of Europe, as well as the European Landscape Convention, ratified by Lithuania. Besides, it contravenes with Lithuanian legislation.
§ Numerous civic proposals how to develop the cinema and the space around it, have been presented during the formal process of territory planning. None was takes seriously by the owners. The discussion was done in a totally simulative way towards implementing only one vision about living flats and commercial premises with underground garages (similar garages initiated by M2 Invest caused ruining of the house in old town) with increasing occupation of public space area against all the concerns of civic as well as culture, architecture and heritage specialists.
§ There is a massive public objection to this project. 7000 citizens has signed a petition which has been sent to the President of Lithuania, the Seimas, the Government and the Vilnius Municipality.

We do not expect any formal support from you in this case, but we encurage you and other representatives in Lithuania to be aware of lacking transparency in the privatization of public property, not only on the Lietuva case, but in Lithuania in general.


Informal civic movement “For  Lietuva” and public spaces

Rasa Kalinauskaite, Sarunas Bagdonas, Tomas Bakučionis, Tomas Tomilinas

Contact:  +370 686 27 469, totomi@lrs.lt; www.vilma.cc/lietuva