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EU Parliament members urge action to defend Lithuania against Russia

BC, Vilnius, 09.10.2013.Print version
The actions of Russia against Lithuania are a challenge to the European Union, thus a unified European response is needed – such a point of view was expressed during European Parliament debate on Tuesday about Russia's discriminatory attitude towards Lithuanian carriers, informs LETA/ELTA.

Russia on Monday halted all dairy imports from Lithuania in a trade row over the country's bid to draw ex-Soviet nations such as Ukraine closer to the European Union, as AFP reported.


''What will the world think if the EU does not defend the country presiding over it?'' Latvian MEP Roberts Zile, from the European Conservatives and Reformists Group, asked during the debate.


''Either Russian state institutions are being run irresponsibly, or Russia is at the highest level breaching its international commitments,'' said MEP Radvile Morkunaite-Mikuleniene, urging Europe to be vigilant. ''The pressure directed against Lithuania by Russia, as the EU Eastern Partnership initiative's locomotive, is a challenge to EU solidarity.''


Inviting European Parliament members for a gesture of solidarity, Morkunaite-Mikuleniene treated her European Parliament colleagues with Lithuanian cheese, which Russia now has banned.


MEP Daniel Caspary (Group of European People's Party) from Germany urged not to look at the actions of Russia just as an economic issue, but understand that it is actually trying to torpedo the EU Eastern Partnership initiative, therefore, a common European response is needed.


Lithuanian MEP Leonidas Donskis called Russia's actions a ''campaign of revenge'' and an attempt to punish Lithuania for the upcoming Eastern Partnership Summit in Vilnius. He reminded that the Soviet Union carried out an economic blockade against Lithuania in 1990 after it had declared the renewal of its independence, but that now Lithuania has a different status – it is a member of the European Union. ''Thus we must react as if the whole EU has been attacked,'' he said.


MEP Vilija Blinkeviciute also called upon the EU to react and "work together to put an end to such discriminatory policies today and in the future."


"This is a matter and challenge for the entire EU, as well as a challenge to the global trade system," said Lithuania's Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Vytautas Leskevicius. ''We do not know what is going to happen if there will be no reaction. Such a situation cannot not be tolerated. Solidarity with Lithuania is the least Europe could and should do."


''Russia's is not easing up its pressure, but only increasing it. Thus, our response must be appropriate and strong,'' Lithuanian MEP Laima Andrikiene said, urging the EU's highest officials to summon the Russian ambassador for an explanation, as well as evaluating possibilities on taking other sorts of action against Russia, like, for example, also drawing up something similar to the United States' Magnitsky list.


Furthermore, Lithuanian MEP Vytautas Landsbergis said that he sees the actions of Russia as discontent over the fact that ''its former colonies are moving closer to Europe, not Eurasia''. He also urged the EU to come together for a common response to the current situation.


Meanwhile, European Commissioner for Trade Karel De Gucht noted that the measures introduced by Russia violated the regulations of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and promised to raise this issue during the WTO meeting scheduled on October 18 in Geneva. He said that any trade restrictions must be grounded and proportional, and agreed to the request of the parliamentarians to summon the Russian ambassador to explain the situation in the nearest future.


As AFP reported, Russia on Monday halted all dairy imports from Lithuania in a trade row over the country's bid to draw ex-Soviet nations such as Ukraine closer to the European Union.


AFP pointed out that the decision is the latest in a long series of attempts by Russia to use trade as a weapon against countries it views as part of its geopolitical domain but which are switching their allegiance to Western Europe. It also threatens to deal a damaging economic blow to Lithuania, that directs 85% of its dairy exports to its giant eastern neighbor.


Both Ukraine and neighboring Moldova hope to sign landmark association and free trade agreements with Brussels during a November 28-29 summit in the Lithuanian capital. But Moscow wants to draw Ukraine into a Russia-led economic union that also includes ex-Soviet Kazakhstan and Belarus.

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