Viewing cable 05VILNIUS87
Title: SCENE SETTER FOR A/S MAURA HARTY'S VILNIUS VISIT

IdentifierCreatedReleasedClassificationOrigin
05VILNIUS872005-01-26 14:16:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Vilnius
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 04 VILNIUS 000087 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SENSITIVE 
 
STATE FOR CA A/S MAURA HARTY FROM AMBASSADOR MULL 
AMCONSUL FRANKFURT FOR SALLY LINDOVER 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: PGOV PREL CMGT CVIS CASC ASEC LH
SUBJECT: SCENE SETTER FOR A/S MAURA HARTY'S VILNIUS VISIT 
 
REF: A. 2004 VILNIUS 382 
     ¶B. 2004 VILNIUS 867 
     ¶C. 2004 VILNIUS 1323 
     ¶D. 2004 VILNIUS 1548 
     ¶E. 2004 VILNIUS 1351 
     ¶F. 2004 VILNIUS 1427 
     ¶G. 2004 VILNIUS 1493 
 
SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED - HANDLE ACCORDINGLY 
 
¶1. (SBU) SUMMARY AND INTRODUCTION: Maura, it is an honor and 
delight to welcome you back to Lithuania, where we continue 
to benefit from your outstanding work as one of this 
Mission's "founding mothers."  Since your last visit, 
Lithuania has matured into an important partner for the U.S., 
with recent commitments to keep 100-plus troops on the ground 
in Iraq at least through this year; to lead an open-ended 
provincial reconstruction team in Afghanistan; and to promote 
democracy in other post-Soviet societies.  Its economy 
remains one of the fastest growing in Europe.  Despite 
economic growth at home, however, the interest of many 
Lithuanians in working abroad continues to cloud their 
eligibility for visas and contributes to a refusal rate of 
about 30 percent.  Disappointment about this is a prominent 
feature of all our interactions with the Lithuanian public, 
and political leaders sometimes signal it could hamper their 
ability to remain so pro-U.S.  Your visit will provide an 
excellent example of our commitment to dialogue on an issue 
that is painful for some Lithuanians, while affording an 
opportunity to underscore the legal constraints that bind our 
visa policies. 
 
¶2.  (U) I'm especially eager to introduce you to our 
outstanding entry-level and foreign service national staff in 
Vilnius, who are collectively the best I've seen in my 
career.  They are looking forward to hearing your mentoring 
thoughts and advice, both at the lunch for entry-level 
personnel and at our Embassy town hall meeting. END SUMMARY. 
 
------------------------- 
Political/Economic Review 
------------------------- 
 
¶3. (SBU) Following the impeachment of former President Paksas 
in April 2004 (ref A), Lithuanian voters elected former and 
now current President Adamkus to become head of state in June 
¶2004.  He was sworn in July 2004 (ref B), and remains an 
important anchor of Lithuania's strong pro-U.S. stance.  A 
former American citizen and regional director of the EPA for 
the Midwest for many years, Adamkus is particularly grateful 
for CA's success in breaking free his social security 
pension, which he earned from his many years working in the 
U.S.  Adamkus remains the most popular political figure in 
Lithuania - a status which his high profile role in mediating 
the recent Ukraine crisis only bolstered. 
 
¶4.  (SBU) Parliamentary (Seimas) elections occurred in 
October 2004, with the upstart Labor Party, led by 
millionaire Viktor Uspaskich, securing the most seats in the 
Seimas.  Prime Minister Algirdas Brazauskas successfully 
forged a coalition with the Uspaskich-led Labor Party (ref 
C).  Other coalition partners include Parliamentary Speaker 
Arturas Paulauskas's New Union and Kazimiera Prunskiene's 
Peasant Party.  President Adamkus has taken an active role in 
the formation of the cabinet, forcing the Social Democrats 
and Labor to pull back several of their more controversial 
candidates.  Parliament confirmed Brazauskas as PM on 
November 25, and confirmed the remaining members of the 
cabinet on December 13.  FM Antanas Valionis remains in the 
top spot at the MFA, although Social Democrat Gediminas 
Kirkilas replaced Defense Minister Linas Linkevicius. 
Minister of Interior Gintaras Furmanavicius, who has 
supervisory responsibility for migration issues, has signaled 
his eagerness to work closely with us in resolving the 
bureaucratic difficulties American residents face here. 
Although controversy clouded his appointment, with 
allegations swirling of his business dealings with an accused 
embezzler, Lithuania's investigative service has cleared 
Furmanavicius and there has been no additional evidence to 
substantiate these allegations (ref D). 
 
¶5. (U) Lithuania boasts the distinction of being one of the 
fastest growing economies in Europe.  Last year, the country 
experienced 9% GDP growth, driven by domestic consumption and 
investment.  The growth rate slowed to 6.8% during the first 
three quarters of 2004, largely due to external factors, lack 
of investment, and a shortage of qualified labor, a majority 
of which has headed westward in search of higher paying jobs. 
Lithuania's economy still has a lot of catching up to do, 
since Lithuania's per capita GDP, at 46% of the EU average in 
2003, ranks second to last among new EU members.  Substantial 
inflows of capital from EU structural funds (over USD 1 
billion over the next three years) should help boost the 
economy further.  The GOL also hopes to encourage additional 
foreign direct investment.  The unemployment rate is high but 
consistently falling, dropping to 11.3% in the third quarter 
of 2004.  Lithuania joined the ERM II mechanism last year and 
already meets the EU Stability pact criteria for the 
introduction of the euro in 2007. 
 
------------------------------------- 
Lithuania Active in the "Near Abroad" 
------------------------------------- 
 
¶6. (U) Lithuania's accession to the European Union and NATO 
opened new opportunities for the GOL to engage with its 
neighbors to the east, most notably in the context of the 
EU's "New Neighborhood" policy.  Leveraging its historical 
experience as part of the Soviet Union, Lithuania seeks to 
assist former Soviet states transition to democracy and 
integrate into European institutions such as the EU and NATO. 
 
---------------------------- 
Lithuanian-Russian Relations 
---------------------------- 
 
¶7. (SBU) Lithuania's relations with Russia have cooled over 
the past few months, but remain driven by a pragmatic 
recognition that the country needs to work with Russia on a 
broad range of issues.  The NATO air-policing mission is of 
critical importance to the GOL, which remains concerned about 
Russian aspirations to disrupt NATO relations with its newest 
members (ref D).  Russia continues to complain about 
administrative difficulties with regards to Kaliningrad 
transit procedures, while the GOL believes that the Russians 
exaggerate and exploit any problems in an attempt to enlist 
the support of other EU member states for a Russian "free 
transit corridor" to/from Kaliningrad (ref E).  The GOL is 
urging the EU to hold a firmer line with Russia and is 
concerned that other EU capitals may manipulate elements of 
the Lithuanian-Russian relationship beyond EU and Lithuanian 
control. Most recently, Russian attempts to establish May 9 
as an internationally recognized day to commemorate the end 
of World War II have disturbed the Lithuanians, since May 9 
marked the beginning of the Soviet occupation of the Baltics 
(ref F).  Adamkus and the GOL are considering how best to 
respond to Russian President Vladimir Putin's invitation to 
the Lithuanian President to participate in May 9 celebrations 
in Moscow. 
 
--------------- 
Consular Issues 
--------------- 
 
¶8. (U) Since Lithuania regained its independence in 1991, 
over 500,000 Lithuanians have reportedly left the country, 
many of them to the United States, where a sizeable 
Lithuanian community already exists.  The Lithuanian 
government does little to discourage this exodus, as many 
politicians are convinced that the majority of Lithuanians 
will eventually return, betterand richer for their time spent 
overseas.  While the Lithuanian economy continues to grow 
rapidly, not all groups benefit equally from the growth. 
This factor, and the fact that most young Lithuanians desire 
to work abroad despite their country's excellent growth 
prospects, contribute to continuing emigration.  These 
factors will continue to drive post's NIV work, and refusal 
rate, in the future.  Immigration to Lithuania from both the 
EU and non-EU world, for both legitimate and illegitimate 
reasons, will continue to increase.  Significant numbers of 
illegal aliens continue to be apprehended at the 
Lithuanian-Belarusian border and in the port of Klaipeda. 
The influx of non-Lithuanians has already led to a small 
increase in the number of TCN applicants seen at post.  This 
number will most likely increase further over the next few 
years and will require greater vigilance in the screening of 
NIV applications. 
 
¶9. (U) NIV applications seem to have finally leveled off, 
after a continuous decline since their peak in 2000.  That 
said, our NIV workload remains high.  While EU membership has 
opened up a new avenue for economic migrants seeking work, 
Lithuanians continue to look to the United States for illegal 
employment (ref G).  Unfortunately, Lithuania's EU accession 
has made it more difficult for us to ascertain a visa 
applicant's periods of stay in the United States as border 
officials no longer stamp the passports of returning 
Lithuanians. As we still do not have easy and quick access to 
DHS entry/exit records, Lithuanian entry stamps are often our 
only sure means of detecting signs of illegal employment in 
the United States, such as overstays or repeated six-month 
stays. 
 
¶10. (SBU) Despite the ongoing problem of visa abuse by 
Lithuanian visitors, complaints about our visa system are 
consistently the most prominent feature of all our contacts 
with the Lithuanian public.  Lithuanian political leaders 
repeatedly note that pressure on this issue could ultimately 
jeopardize the warmly pro-U.S. policies they pursue, and they 
consistently press for Lithuania's accession to the Visa 
Waiver Program.  The request to become a VWP country is a 
standard GOL talking point, although most officials will 
relent when presented with the U.S. legal requirements and 
the cold, hard numbers of Lithuania's B1/B2 refusal and 
overstay rate.  Lithuanian officials, particularly in the 
MFA's Consular Department, will frequently admit in private 
that VWP is not a realistic short-term goal. 
 
¶11. (U) Lithuania has one of the largest per-capita 
participation rates in the Work and Travel program in Eastern 
Europe.  Post processed 2,100 visas for the program in 
FY2004, approximately 27 percent of all visas issued by post 
in that year.  This is a decrease from last year's totals, 
due to competition from programs in the U.K.  Organizers are 
hoping to submit at least as many Work and Travel applicants 
in 2005. 
 
¶12. (U) Fraud continues to present a challenge, including 
forged Burroughs and Teslin foil visas and imposter 
travelers.  There are a number of ongoing investigations in 
Lithuania's second city of Kaunas involving fraudulent 
documents and imposter passports and visas, with links to 
counterfeit currency.  Our Consular section works closely 
with our RSO and local authorities on these investigations. 
The level and increasing sophistication of fraud continues to 
be the most demanding aspect of NIV work in Lithuania.  We 
are continually frustrated that these same rings after their 
arrests are quickly back in business in some modified form. 
The increased time spent in interviewing to screen for fraud, 
new processing requirements, and the increase in the number 
of applicants seen at post who were either refused change of 
status by DHS, turned around or deported due to prior 
violations, or who have serious hits in CLASS have increased 
not only the complexity of the visa process but also the 
overall time necessary to handle post's relatively small NIV 
workload. 
 
--------------------------------------------- --- 
ACS: Increasing with the popularity of Lithuania 
--------------------------------------------- --- 
 
¶13. (U) Now that Lithuania is officially part of the European 
Union, but with a cost of living still far below its Western 
neighbors, tourism will continue to increase.  More American 
visitors, coupled with a likely increase in the number of 
people who choose to settle in Lithuania, will further 
increase the demand for section services, from routine 
notarials to jail visits.  The increase in Americans residing 
in Lithuania has exposed a source of constant aggravation for 
American citizens - obtaining a residency permit.  The opaque 
and inconsistent requirements to obtain a residency permit 
have resulted in many American residents running afoul of the 
Migration Office, including several Fulbright scholars and 
students.  We expect recent meetings with the Minister of 
Interior and the head of the Migration Office to begin 
alleviating some of the hang-ups the U.S. Fulbright scholars 
and students have faced.  We will ask you to work this issue 
during your meeting at the Foreign Ministry. 
 
--------------------- 
Preview of Your Visit 
--------------------- 
 
¶14. (U) While your visit to Vilnius will be short, I believe 
your program will send an important signal of our openness to 
dialogue on the painful visa question, while allowing us an 
important opportunity to note the constraints which bind our 
policies.  You will meet with Vaidotas Verba, Director of the 
Consular Department, who will be keen to highlight our 
excellent bilateral cooperation and discuss areas of future 
cooperation.  As requested, you will meet our Entry Level 
staff over lunch at the DCM's residence.  These great new 
officers are looking forward to hearing your perspective on 
the consular function, the latest news from the Department 
and, above all, your advice on life in the Foreign Service, 
themes on which you could continue at a town hall meeting 
with Embassy staff.  I will then host a small dinner for you 
with Front Office and Consular Section staff.  On a 
professional and personal level, my colleagues and I are very 
much looking forward to your visit. 
MULL