Viewing cable 05VILNIUS1226

05VILNIUS12262005-11-21 14:24:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 UNCLASSIFIED Embassy Vilnius
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
E.O. 12958: N/A 
REFS: A) STATE 207082, B) VILNIUS 767, C) VILNIUS 410 
¶1. SUMMARY: We take the Department's message about the 
relationship between active public diplomacy and good 
consular work (ref a) seriously in Vilnius.  This post has 
an active consular public outreach program, with particular 
emphasis on public diplomacy aspects of Lithuania's Visa 
Waiver Roadmap (VWR).  We have arranged for stories in 
newspapers and on television, participated in an Internet 
live chat, testified at a parliamentary hearing, and begun a 
series of public events outside Vilnius.  In addition, we 
hold regular AmCit Town Hall meetings and issue a newsletter 
to the local Amcit community. These outreach methods provide 
different audiences with consistent, accurate information. 
Visa Waiver Roadmap Outreach 
¶2. Shortly after signing the VWR with the GOL in April (ref 
b), post created a VWR Public Diplomacy Plan.  Its goal is 
to explain the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), manage public 
expectations, and help Lithuania qualify for the VWP.  The 
Consular and Public Affairs Sections (PAS) agreed with the 
GOL to "launch a public campaign urging citizens not to 
overstay or otherwise abuse their tourist visas."  PAS and 
CONS coordinate closely on implementing the VWR plan.  After 
the public release of the VWR at a press conference, post's 
first outreach activity was a July 14 radio appearance by 
Consul and MFA Consular Department Director Vaidas Verba 
(ref A). Our central message, at that event and 
subsequently, is that individuals can influence Lithuania's 
future VWP eligibility by using their visas properly.  This 
point also features in post "megatalkers" that staff from 
the Ambassador down use as a guide for their public and 
press remarks. 
¶3. Since the Consul's radio interview, the Ambassador has 
done interviews with over a dozen newspapers, radio and 
television stations.  On at least six occasions, reporters 
raised the VWR, which the Ambassador typically addresses by 
emphasizing the steps Lithuania has taken, our enthusiasm 
for working with the GOL to help Lithuania qualify for the 
program, and how Lithuanians can hasten VWP eligibility. 
¶4. Using the new Consul's arrival in August and an 
opportunity to visit behind the interviewing window as 
hooks, PAS arranged for Lithuania's most-watched TV station 
LNK and its leading daily Lietuvos Rytas to review visa 
application procedures, including a tour of our waiting room 
and office area.  LNK's evening television news included a 
story on the August 30 tour and Lietuvos Rytas ran a long 
front-page article on September 1.  Other news services and 
papers picked up the story in shorter versions the following 
day.  Coverage focused on the basics of applying and the 
fact that procedures had not changed with the new Consul. 
¶5. PAS also arranged for a September 14 live chat on 
Lithuania's largest Internet portal DELFI.  DELFI is a news- 
oriented service targeting 25-39 year olds and has 
approximately 600,000 regular visitors.  The 10:30 to 11:30 
am open session, during peak readership time, was advertised 
by DELFI in the days preceding the event as an opportunity 
to ask the MFA's Verba and the new Consul questions about 
all matters consular.  They answered over 50 questions on 
issues ranging from applying for U.S. visas to the new 
biometric Lithuanian passport, mostly in Lithuanian.  Only a 
few inquiries had to be screened by the respondents as 
irrelevant to consular issues.  DELFI posted an article of 
highlights on their site, and newspapers around the country 
then picked up the story. 
¶6. On October 25, the Consul was invited to speak at the 
annual joint Seimas (parliament) and Lithuanian-American 
Community Commission session.  A member of the Seimas and 
Consul delivered prepared remarks regarding Lithuania's 
prospects for joining the VWP, after which a representative 
from the MFA Consular Department provided comment.  Consul 
then answered questions on the VWR and visa policy for 
approximately one hour.  This event was broadcast live over 
the Seimas website.  On October 28, the Public Affairs 
Officer participated in a moderated live radio show 
discussing the VWR with the same parliamentarian and the 
MFA's Verba.  The hour-long program provided an opportunity 
to emphasize our "open doors, secure borders" policy 
encouraging legitimate travel. 
¶7. Post organized a Visa Waiver Roadshow on November 3 in 
Alytus, the first in a series planned to take our message 
beyond Vilnius.  Verba and Consul were the featured 
participants.  The mayor's office advertised the event as a 
presentation on how and why Lithuanians should apply for 
visas, the importance of observing U.S. immigration law, and 
the GOL's efforts to meet VWP guidelines.  Following opening 
statements, the audience of 23 asked questions on a range of 
visa issues for 45 minutes.  Most importantly, the media 
spread the word throughout the region, with at least three 
articles conveying our message on the proper use of visas. 
Our next event is planned for a university in Lithuania's 
second largest city, Kaunas. 
AmCit Outreach 
¶8. Starting in December 2003, post has regularly organized 
AmCit town hall meetings.  Currently held every four months 
in the American Center, they are advertised by e-mail, 
notice in the consular waiting room, and an ad in the 
English-language regional newspaper Baltic Times.  Scheduled 
on Saturdays to maximize attendance (typically, at least 50 
AmCits show up), these meetings feature most of the country 
team. The ambassador starts with a brief overview of post's 
activities, and then opens the floor to questions, which 
cover a wide range of issues, many not consular-related. 
The most recent meeting on September 17 provided the 
Consular Section an opportunity to gather information on 
AmCits' difficulties in acquiring residence permits. 
¶9. Between town hall meetings, the Consular Section 
publishes an AmCit newsletter, which is sent by e-mail to 
those registered with the embassy.  Printed copies are also 
available upon request, and the most recent edition is 
posted to our website under the ACS page.  Each edition is 
up to seven pages long and includes articles from several 
Embassy sections, including Pol/Econ, PAS, Consular, and the 
RSO.  The Ambassador always contributes an article as well 
that summarizes noteworthy events at the Mission and in our 
bilateral relationship with Lithuania.  The current 
newsletter includes articles on residency permits, avian 
flu, and recent PAS-organized cultural activities. 
¶10. Lithuanians tell us that they notice the media 
appearances and events that we organize and participate in. 
We believe that our proactive outreach on the VWP issue 
helps to manage expectations of our intended audiences. 
More generally, we think that our consular-related public 
diplomacy provides better customer service to all of our 
clients, Lithuanian and American alike.  As a result of our 
ACS-related activities, for example, a long-term resident 
American and embassy warden who lives in Klaipeda (on the 
opposite side of the country) recently remarked that she 
feels more in touch with the Embassy than ever before.