Macron’s Lithuanian charm offensive

French President Emmanuel Macron came to town. After a 19-year break, he became the first French leader to embark on an  official state visit   to Lithuania. Many in the country still remember the “missed a great opportunity to shut up”  statement by his predecessor, Jacques Chirac, back in 2003. On Monday, the French leader came bearing gifts (a book by Romain Gary for his Lithuanian counterpart Nausėda) and a  new perspective on Russia.

All well,  said Nausėda, bigging up the French president’s leadership. Nevertheless, he added, Macron may be left disappointed in the end.

In Vilnius, the French leader had a busy schedule – he promised to  act on Belarus  , pledged to help kickstart an  OSCE mission   in the neighbouring country, met with the leader-in-exile Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, and  received a honorary degree from Vilnius University.

TIT-FOR-TAT WITH MINSK

After Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania expanded  their sanctions   against Minsk officials,  Belarus responded   in kind – 100 (still unnamed) officials from each of the three Baltic countries have been blacklisted from entering Belarus.

Meanwhile, the Belarusian authorities launched a  criminal investigation   into tax evasion of a Lithuanian company. Details are scarce for now.

NO NEED FOR A COVID-19 TEST

Lithuania has eased travel restrictions, no longer requiring arrivals to present a  negative Covid-19 test   before entering the country. Temporary residence permits will also be processed remotely, predominantly aimed at easing relocation procedures for Belarusians fleeing the regime, according to the Interior Ministry.

BELARUSIAN REFUGEES

But is Lithuania ready to accommodate them? Less than a 100 people have used the so-called humanitarian corridor to enter Lithuania, but the country is bracing itself for a potential flow of thousands. If the worst-case scenario does happen, Lithuania would need to build  temporary refugee camps  , according to the Interior Ministry.

PISSING OFF NEIGHBOURS

Smoking in private balconies   is set to be banned in Lithuania as of 2021 – second-hand smoke and littering are some of the reasons cited for the ban that the Lithuanian parliament has been seeking since 2014.

CHINA HAS ENTERED THE CHAT

Data leaked to researchers revealed that a Chinese firm has been collecting information on 2.4 million people worldwide, including  504 in Lithuania.   The firm’s clients allegedly include Chinese defence and intelligence agencies.

ELECTION FEVER

Lithuania’s parliamentary elections are getting closer. As the country’s social media space fills up with memes from the daily debates hosted by LRT, we bring you a few more nuanced articles by our colleagues and contributors:

– Despite a criminal investigation and a short-lived exile in Russia of its founder Viktor Uspaskich, Lithuania’s  Labour Party   is set to make a comeback in the October parliamentary election.

– Does the election hold any promise for Lithuania’s LGBTQ community? While some major parties have backslid on issues like legalising same-sex partnership, LGBTQ voters and allies have more choice than in any previous election,  argues Simonas Bartulis.  ECONOMY DIPPING, MINIMUM WAGE SLIPPING  Representatives of Lithuanian employers and trade unions have hit an impasse in the yearly negotiations to agree on a  minimum wage raise  . Trade unions are seeking to raise it by 56 euros, to 663 euros a month before tax. Government representatives have proposed 642 euros. Employers are asking for the raise to be postponed altogether due to the pandemic.

Meanwhile, recent projections have revealed that Lithuania’s  GDP dip will be among the smallest   in Europe, according to the country’s central bank.

EDITOR’S PICKS:

– Around 60 percent of all accommodation offered on Booking.com in Lithuania are  operating illegally  .

– Who was Lithuania’s coronavirus  patient X?   LRT and the National Public Health Centre investigate.

– Can Lithuania become a  regional leader  ? The crisis in Belarus has become a test case for the country.

– Many Russian political refugees have found a shelter in Lithuania. While many of them represent the liberal political flank, some do not fit in the category. Mikhail Pulin, a former member of the banned  National Bolshevik Party (NBP), is one of them.

– How did Russia aim to resurrect the USSR basketball league, and how did it become a tool for the Kremlin? Read  here  .

– The picture of Yauhen Zaichkin lying on the ground in Minsk, unconscious with eyes wide open, resonated across the world. Falsely proclaimed as the first victim of the Belarusian regime, he is in fact alive – and sheltering  in Vilnius.

– A woman in Lithuania found a  king mushroom   weighing 1.6 kilogrammes. “I was speechless. I just looked at it silently.”

LRT.LT

One Comment

  1. Stephanie Stephanie Saturday, October 3, 2020

    Lithuania has money to build a military base for Americans, build a refugee center for Belarusans, but doesn’t have money for begging Lithuanian pensioners (I wonder how many pensioners are begging on Minsk streets)?????
    And let’s remember how Macron acted against the protesters in his country, the “Yellow Vests”!

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