This Week in Lithuania – March 18

President Gitanas Nausėda meets with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy of Ukraine

Lithuania’s president in Ukraine

Lithuanian President Gitanas Nausėda made an official visit to Ukraine this week. President Nausėda and Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky co-chaired the bilateral Council and signed a joint declaration on Ukraine’s European perpectives. Ministers in Nausėda’s delegation signed bilateral agreements on cooperation in the fields of energy, transportation, social policy, and culture. Lithuania’s president also participated in the business forums Ukraine 30 and the Sixth Ukrainian-Lithuanian Economic Forum, and met Metropolitan Epiphanius, leader of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, as well as with Lithuanian servicemen on a military training mission in that country.

President Nausėda confirmed that Lithuania fully supports Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity as well as its efforts in withstanding seven years of Russian aggression. He noted that increased cooperation between NATO and Ukraine is essential, and Lithuania is actively assisting Ukraine in adapting its military forces and infrastructure to NATO standards. The presidents also discussed the Ukrainian Reform Conference taking place in Vilnius on July 7-8, which will be very important for setting Ukraine’s priorities for future Eurointegration.


Lithuania-Taiwan Forum

A group of Lithuanian public figures, including members of the government, have founded a Lithuania-Taiwan Forum, an initiative to deepen ties with the island nation that Beijing considers to be part of China. Former education minister Gintaras Steponavičius was elected the forum’s president during the council meeting on March 16. The association’s council also includes Deputy Foreign Minister Mantas Adomėnas, MEP Aušra Maldeikienė, Varėna Mayor Algis Kašėta, as well as lecturers from Vilnius University and Vytautas Magnus University. Economy Minister Aušrinė Armonaitė is also one of the 50 forum founders.

“The Lithuania-Taiwan Forum has pooled leaders from different areas who want to see value-based decisions in international politics and understand the challenges Taiwan is facing. The forum will contribute to the development of ties with Taiwan in different areas,” said Steponavičius. Government members’ involvement in the forum might anger Beijing which considers Taiwan part of China and has vowed to incorporate the island by force. Lithuania has no diplomatic ties with Taiwan, but the Lithuanian government has recently voiced plans to open a business representation in Taiwan to expand its economic diplomacy in the Asian region. A spokesman for China’s Foreign Ministry said earlier this month that Beijing “staunchly opposes any of the countries it has diplomatic ties with – including Lithuania – setting up official institutions in Taiwan and vice versa, and carrying out any form of official visit”.


Contraband Traffic Thriving Despite Covid

A Lithuanian man hauling about one ton of hashish was arrested in Latvia on March 18.

The value of the seized drugs was estimated to range from 4.5 million euros wholesale to 15 million euros retail, according to the Latvian police. The cargo was most likely being transported to Eastern European countries. The vehicle carrying the drugs had a Lithuanian license plate. The driver, a Lithuanian resident born in 1964, was arrested. Another two people were detained in Riga in connection with the record haul of hashish.

The Lithuanian Customs Departments reported that alcohol smuggling volumes soared in Lithuania in 2020, with 14.5 tons of illegal alcohol seized last year, up from 2.5 tons in the previous year. In early 2021, the State Border Guard Service (VSAT) reported that the country’s border guards last year recorded 526 smuggling incidents, up from 494 in 2019. In addition, border guards detained 631 suspected smugglers, up from 583 in 2019.