The Lights go out across Lithuania
If you're planning a trip to the country's capital you might want to pack some candles, after a tourist trade protest snuffed out the lights in the nation's hotels and cafes.
The protest was held against a massive tax hike on businesses in the country, in what could become the first shot in a wave of action that will affect tourists. For two hours on 11 June, from 10pm until midnight, lights were symbolically switched off in hotels and restaurants, with many owners pulling the plug on their sound systems as well. "Lithuania is Closing" announced the proprietors jointly of more than 200 companies, many based in Vilnius. If there's no kind of resolution between the tourist trade and the Government, business leaders have pledged that the blackout will return on 29 June and the weekend of 4 and 5 July. Business leaders want to hit hard the message of the burden of taxes just when the country will be celebrating its 1000th anniversary.
The tax that has ignited the protest is the Value-Added-Tax that has shot up from 5 to 19 per cent this year. Hotels and restaurants are arguing that, at a time when so many in the tourist industry are struggling to survive, this tax burden should be mitigated. The Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius has stated that VAT will not be changed and exceptions will not be made for hotels and other businesses