Following an online news report that the Lithuanian government would be suspending the Vilnius Conference Center (VCC) project, the Vilnius Council (led by he Mayor), passed a resolution on 25 August 2021, urging Lithuanian authorities to advance development of the VCC project and desecration of the Snipiskes Jewish cemtery.
The VCC Project has been condemned by human rights groups and Jewish organizations internationally.
The 2015 Seimas parliament resolution which green-lighted the VCC blueprint, has been defined by international lawyer Professor Alan Dershowitz as unconstitutional and wrong, as a matter of justice, historical preservation, basic decency and dignity of the dead. Alan Dershowitz is an emeritus Harvard Law School professor known for his work in constitutional law.
Professor Irwin Cotler, the Special Envoy for Preserving Holocaust Remembrance and Combating Antisemitism and a former Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, shares Professor Dershowitz's sentiments.
The 2015 Seimas resolution is a violation of:
According to the Rules and Regulations of the Vilnius City Council, calling for the advancement of the VCC project is illegal, as it is prohibited to promote an act which is a violation of the law. Accordingly, the respective resolution by the council is null and void.
Mayor Remigijus Šimašius is justifying his initiative to pass the council motion, as an effort to increase tourism. Ironically, the merits for investing in the conference center sector have never been worse. Travel restrictions remain a constraining factor on growth and Zoom has taken the sweet spot out the conference business. Most government sectors are down scaling plans for development in the sector, but yet remarkably the Mayor is touting a project that has significant downside risks.
The Mayor leads the City Council with a mandate from the Freedom Party, which he represents. Incredibly, the Freedom Party has an impeccable record when it comes to human rights and protecting freedom of religion. Many antisemitism monitoring groups are calling the mayor's actions a mutation of Durban Conference styled antisemitism. That conference initiative also used human rights as a platform to perpetrate wholesale antisemitism and hate.
The mayor is aware of the cultural violations which the conference center development constitute. He is cognizant of the opposition to the project, voiced by both the local and international Jewish community. See Lithuanian Jewish Community Cuts Ties to Controversial Cemetery Project He has, in true political fashion, provided lobbyists with assurances that the conference center will never happen. It is therefore difficult to measure which side of the coin the mayor is playing, other that to assess his position based on which side the metal has landed. Clearly, the City Council resolution is antisemitic and expressly targets the Jewish community.
The conference center proposal, on its breach of human rights and freedom of religion consequences alone, should be sufficient cause to disqualify it as an option.
Pointedly, savvy investors did express concern about capacity limitations which the Snipiskes location would have on further development possibilities. Somehow this restriction did not factor in with City Council's resolution. Any clear-thinking economist would under normal circumstances conclude, after a simple cost-benefit analysis that a conference center is non-starter. It's unclear at what point the council lost the way.