Artūras Zuokas

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Artūras Zuokas
Artūras Zuokas1.JPG
Mayor of Vilnius
In office
2011 – present
Personal details
Born (1968-02-21) 21 February 1968 (age 46)
Kaunas, Lithuania
Nationality Lithuanian
Political party Lithuanian Liberty Alliance - Liberals

Artūras Zuokas (born 21 February 1968 in Kaunas) is a Lithuanian politician. He is the Chairman of the political party Lithuanian Liberty Alliance - Liberals,[1] and is the Mayor of Vilnius.

From 2008–2009 he was a member of the Seimas (Lithuanian Parliament), and from 2000–2007 he was the Mayor of Vilnius.

Zuokas graduated from the secondary school in Jonava. He then worked as an independent reporter for Independent Television News as a war reporter in Iraq, where he taped the bombing of the Baghdad TV Tower during the First Gulf War. In August 1991, he brought recently captured footage from the site of the Medininkai Massacre to the official meeting between the president of the United States George Bush and Soviet Union president Mikhail Gorbachev in Moscow, which caused concern from the American side about the use of force against freedom-seeking nations.[2]

Election as Mayor, 2000[edit]

Zuokas was one of the campaign managers for the Liberal Union of Lithuania in the 2000 Seimas elections. His party placed second, winning 36 seats. It formed an alliance with the New Union (Socialliberals) and Rolandas Paksas (the leader of the Liberal Union and Vilnius city municipality mayor, became the Prime Minister). There were two candidates from the Liberal Union for the vacant mayor's post: vice-mayor Algirdas Kudzys, and Zuokas. On 15 November 2000, the council voted 27–18 to make Zuokas, aged 32, the youngest mayor in the history of Vilnius.[3]

Election as Mayor, 2011[edit]

In March 2010, Zuokas expressed his willingness to become the mayor of Kaunas, the second-largest city in Lithuania, but only if Lithuania would introduce direct elections.[4]

Before the municipal election of 2011, famous English actor Jeremy Irons expressed his support for Arturas Zuokas and invited people to vote for him in a short video about his experience in Vilnius.[5]

After a successful 2011 municipal election campaign in February, Zuokas once again became Mayor of Vilnius as his party won the most votes and gained 12 seats in the 51-seat Vilnius city council.

Mayoral projects[edit]

Vilnius City Municipality building

A number of projects championed by Zuokas have since been started or completed:

  • In 2011, Vilnius city introduced four eco buses with routes in Vilnius' Old Town.[9]
  • Artūras Zuokas came up with the idea of buying a Greek island. The Mayor suggested that businesses and corporations could raise the money to register an island as belonging to the Lithuanian government. The island would host a tourism bureau, spa, museums and theatre. It would serve both as a Mediterranean resort for Lithuanians and a great global advert for Lithuania.[10][11]
  • The Mindaugas Bridge over the Neris River was completed for the 750th anniversary of Mindaugas' coronation in 2003. It was part of an effort to reconstruct Žalgiris Stadium, Žalgiris swimming pool, and the Vilnius Palace of Concerts and Sports in Žirmūnai. The projects are in progress.
  • The reconstruction of Gediminas Avenue was completed.
  • An underground parking lot under the Municipality Square has been opened.
  • A two-level crossing was built to ease traffic jams for Pilaitė residents.
  • A new municipal building was opened on the right bank of the Neris River. Zuokas revitalized and supported Rolandas Paksas' idea to build a new commercial center in Šnipiškės. The municipal building has been joined by the new Europa Tower and shopping center. Construction was funded by selling old administrative buildings scattered around the city.[citation needed]
  • Construction of the Constitution Avenue is complete.
  • Užupis and Malūnai Streets in Užupis district were reconstructed and water supply pipes were replaced.
  • Artūras Zuokas influenced the establishment of the Ministry of Fluxus in Vilnius, which later moved to Kaunas.
  • Following the shooting down of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 over Eastern Ukraine on 17 July 2014, Mayor Arturas Zuokas urged bikers around the world to join him in tying ribbons with the colors of the countries of the victims onto their bikes. All three hundred Vilnius city bikes had orange ribbons for the Netherlands, red and white ones for Malaysia attached to them along with a black ribbon to remember and honor those who had been killed.[12][13]

Awards and honors[edit]

Zuokas is the recipient of numerous international and national awards and honors. He was decorated by President Jacques Chirac of France in 2001 with the National Order of Merit, and by President Vaira Vike-Freiberga of Latvia for his contribution to the betterment of bi-lateral relations.

He was twice elected Vice-President of the Organization of World Heritage Cities. The Junior Chamber International recognized Zuokas for his administrative achievements by naming him one of the "Ten Outstanding Young Persons in the World" in 2002. The U.S. Baltic Foundation honored his achievements in 2003 and the Balzekas Museum in Chicago, Illinois named him "Man of the Year". Local awards have included "Friend of Architects". He is a three-time recipient of the popular Vilnius "Iron Wolf" award.

In 2003, Zuokas was bestowed with an honorary degree from the Gediminas Technical University.[14]

In August 2011 Zuokas raised attention to illegal parking in bike lanes by staging the destruction of an illegally-parked car by a BTR-60 armoured personnel carrier in a Vilnius bike lane running along Gediminas Avenue.[15] The stunt was performed in cooperation with a bucket-list show aired on Swedish TV6, and the hosts Erik Ekstrand and Mackan Edlund sat in the back of the armored vehicle.[16] Later that year he was awarded an Ig Nobel Peace Prize for "demonstrating that the problem of illegally parked luxury cars can be solved by running over them with a tank".[17][18]

References[edit]

External links[edit]