This Week in LT


Ties with Taiwan

As Lithuania and other EU member states build ties with Taiwan, China has been attempting to pressure the president of the European Parliament to derail a pro-Taipei report. Chinese ambassador to the European Union Zhang Ming wrote in a letter dated August 31 to European Parliament President David Maria Sassoli: “I hope that you can leverage your role to enable the European Parliament to fully appreciate the seriousness and sensitivity of the Taiwan issue”.

This came as the Members of European Parliament were drafting a non-binding report on Taiwan. On October 21, they voted almost unanimously to adopt the paper, which has urged the European Commission to “urgently begin” preparations for a bilateral investment deal with Taiwan. Beijing considers any international attempts to recognize the island nation, which it considers a breakaway province, to be its “red line”.

The letter, seen by the South China Morning Post, said there was “simply no room for compromise” and said the report would “constitute serious violations of the one-China principle as they exceed far beyond the scope of normal non-official economic and trade cooperation and cultural exchanges between the EU, its member states and Taiwan”.

Hungarian MEP Katalin Cseh, who acted as shadow rapporteur on the report, said the letter was “another reminder that China’s blatant disregard for democracy and democratic processes is very much our concern”.

Taiwanese officials and a business delegation are visiting the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Lithuania, which has recently drawn ire from China for building ties with the island nation. Beijing has now recalled its ambassador, while the Lithuanian envoy has also returned to Vilnius.

Balts Support Uighurs

Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania have joined a statement issued by the British Foreign Office, condemning China’s repressions against its Uighur ethnic minority. The Baltic states were among 43 countries  expressing concern about “the existence of a large network of ‘political re-education’ camps where over a million people have been arbitrarily detained”. “We have seen an increasing number of reports of widespread and systematic human rights violations, including reports documenting torture or cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment, forced sterilization, sexual and gender-based violence, and forced separation of children,” the statement reads. Together with the other countries, France called on China “to allow immediate, meaningful and unfettered access to Xinjiang [province] for independent observers”. Lithuania’s parliament has previously recognized the repressions against Uighurs as a “genocide”.

COVID Update

The fourth wave of Covid-19 in Lithuania will soon be the largest one since the start of the pandemic, according to the government’s review released on October 22. The number of infections, hospitalizations and deaths are rising in the majority of municipalities, although declines are recorded in in several municipalities in western Lithuania. October 19 saw the third-biggest daily case count since the start of the pandemic, and the weekly count rose by about 15%. Whether the trend will continue, will be clear over the next two weeks.

Over 72% of the population in Lithuania have acquired immunity through vaccination or having recovered from the virus. As the vaccine rollout is slowing and the number of cases is rising, the rate of immunization remains unchanged – about 1% of residents a week get vaccinated.

According to the review, people who decide not to get vaccinated face a ten-fold higher risk of dying, if they get infected. “Since the coronavirus spread season is only starting, it is highly likely that the majority of people in Lithuanian will have had contact with the virus by the spring.”

The number of hospitalizations has reached about two-thirds of the peak experienced during the last wave, according to the review. Seventy-five% of the hospitalized patients have not received a single dose of a coronavirus vaccine. Moreover, non-vaccinated people make up 80% of all Covid-19 fatalities. More than 75% of hospitalizations and deaths from Covid-19 are caused by 25% of non-vaccinated high-risk groups, according to the review produced by government experts and the country’s statistics service, Statistics Lithuania.

Forum on Democracy

The Lithuanian Foreign Affairs Ministry  is organizing a high-level forum “Future of Democracy” in Vilnius on November 19-20, 2021. The forum is being convened in response to worrying trends: the contracting of democratic space and the entrenchment of authoritarian regimes. It is expected to bring together ministers of foreign affairs, representatives of international organizations, freedom fighters, academics, and free media representatives from around the globe. The participants will seek to develop a set of concrete political measures which would help democracies build greater resilience and initiate revival of a global democratic narrative.

The forum will be held in light of the upcoming Summit for Democracy initiated by US president Joe Biden and planned for December 9-10, 2021. Lithuania expects the forum in Vilnius to contribute meaningfully to the preparation for the December Summit, with participation by Uzra Zeya, US Undersecretary of State for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights, and EU representatives. The forum will enable participants to offer their knowledge and experience laying the groundwork for the global discourse on the future of democracy.

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