The Farmers succeeded: the Social Democrats did a flip

Aurelijus Veryga
DELFI / Domantas Pipas

The coalition of Farmers and Greens Union and the Social Democrats did not seem very stable at first glance, their stability was questioned by PM Saulius Skvernelis. However, a vote on the amendments to the Law on Alcohol Control that was held on Thursday showed that, although squeaky, the coalition is moving forward.

The Social Democrats on Thursday morning announced that they will support the restrictions of alcohol sales time and the prohibition of advertising but other restrictions are not suitable for them.

“The Social Democrats oppose the ban on alcohol marketing in non-stationary cafes pubs, festivals and fairs as well as increasing the age limit up to 20 years” stated the Social Democrat report.

“We seek not only to reduce alcohol consumption in society but also educate a conscious society that is aware their rights and are aware of responsible consumption. Insurance and increase of age limit doesn’t develop consciousness, on the contrary it demonstrates the Government’s doubts and lack of respect for the ability of adults to decide responsibly” said Gintautas Paluckas, the leader of the Social Democrats.

According to unofficial data, the Social Democrats and Conservatives agreed to vote for the amendments proposed by Andrius Palionis, leader of the Social Democratic Group, claiming that it’s a way to knock down the Farmer aspirations.

However, everything went according to plan only in the beginning.

A. Palionis with his colleagues have proposed that alcohol would be sold to people over 18 years old.

The Farmers offered to raise the limit up to 20 years.

During the voting the Parliament A. Palionis was supported by 5 Order, 10 Liberal, 13 Social Democrats, 17 Conservative members and one MP from mixed groups and Polish group. However, the amendment was not approved, so the Farmer proposal to sell alcohol only from 20 years old was left.

Later, the Social Democrats began to behave the opposite then they have stated in their published report: for example, 11 Social supported the amendment of Ramunas Karbauskis, which states that at free events they decided to make specific areas, where alcohol up to 7.5 per cent could be sold and only people that are 20 years and older could get into them.

Social Democratic leader G. Paluckas stated to DELFI that Social democrats basically discussed not to support the creation of the alcohol trade zones in free of mass events and fairs. “In this case the situation is strange, why was R. Karbauskis amendment supported. We talked in the morning that the amendment of those “enclosures” is difficult” says G. Paluckas.

Gediminas Kirkilas said that the Social Democrats will propose amendments not to restrict the sale of alcohol in mass events to certain zones.

One Social Democrat told DELFI that because of the Law on Alcohol Control, Farmers and Greens union chairman Ramūnas Karbauskis and Minister of Health Aurelijus Veryga visited the Social Democratic group on Wednesday, and on Thursday morning the coalition partners met.

When he was asked why they publicized one message in the morning and then voted slightly differently, he answered briefly: “That’s what we agreed, it turns out, and yesterday we met with R. Karbauskis and A. Veryga. It’s true, we made a slight mistake.

One liberal considered that the Social Democrats possibly don’t want to lose the ruling position, posts of committee chairmen, and that’s why they agreed to support the amendments to the Law on Alcohol Control.

Social Democrats also voted for the whole bill.

Chairman of the Homeland Union-Lithuanian Christian Democrats Gabrielius Landsbergis also noticed the change of Social Democrats: “What had to happen overnight to Social Democrats that they went away from their own proposals, and I’m not even talking about the public promises of the PM.”

MPs on Thursday agreed on:

– Alcoholic beverages will not be sold to people under the age of 20 years.

– Mass events and fairs will be divided into paid and free. A special area will be created in free events, where weak alcohol, up to 7.5 per cent, will be sold and where people younger than 20 years wold won’t be able to get into. In paid events, the sale of alcohol in unrestricted to areas.

– Residents will not be allowed to carry and store alcoholic beverages publicly in visible packaging, except in places that sell alcoholic beverages.

– There will be limited time to sell alcohol: retail trade in alcoholic beverages and drinks in cafes will be allowed from Monday to Saturday 10-20 o’clock, and on Sundays 10-15 o’clock.

– The Parliament decided to ban any advertising of alcohol. But trademarks, information, and etc. is not considered advertising.

– After the vote, the Parliament has kept the provision that trade in alcohol non-stationary outdoor cafés, where it is necessary to obtain a license to sell alcohol during the holiday season, wouldn’t be allowed.

However Ramūnas Karbauskis told DELFI that Farmers will improve the provision before the adoption of the law that would prohibit sale of alcohol only for cafes, which appear only in summer in beaches, etc.

According to R. Karbauskis if the cafe has a license to sell alcohol but during the summer requests for an additional license for the convenience of sales, restrictions shouldn’t be applied to it.

Note: All the mentioned provisions will enter into force only if they Parliament will approve it in another vote, and if the amendments will be signed by President Dalia Grybauskaitė.

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