ASPEN - An honorary consulate has been established in Aspen for the government of the Baltic country of Lithuania.
Dr. John Prunskis, a part-time resident of Aspen, will head the office. He addressed the Aspen City Council on Monday evening.
Reached by phone on Tuesday, Prunskis said the goal of the consulate will bring about more awareness of Lithuania and also the European Union to business interests that frequently visit Aspen.
"We want to develop ties with democratic countries on a business, cultural and political level," he said.
Prunskis is a U.S. citizen who lives primarily in Chicago. His parents immigrated to the United States from Lithuania before he was born.
To serve as honorary consulates, he said, people have to be citizens of the country in which they are posted. Career consuls are residents of the country they represent.
He said he visits Aspen once or twice a month during ski season and a few times during the summer.
For many centuries, the Lithuanian region fell back and forth between independence and annexation by neighboring countries. It was reestablished as an independent country after World War I. In 1940, it was occupied by the Soviet Union and later by Nazi Germany.
As World War II drew to a close, the Germans retreated and the Soviet Union reoccupied Lithuania. In March 1990, before the fall of the Soviet Union, Lithuania was the first Soviet republic to declare its independence.
Prunskis said the honorary consulate stands to benefit from Aspen's international blend of visitors and residents.
"You've got such a great mix of people who are part of the whole Aspen environment not to mention the Aspen Institute and the various meetings and seminars that occur year round in Aspen," he said. "It's that dynamic nature of Aspen that is really special."
Saturday was the official opening of the honorary consulate. A ceremony took place outdoors in Gondola Plaza, Prunskis said.
Zygimantas Pavilionis, the Lithuanian ambassador to the United States, attended the event, he added.