Viewing cable 06VILNIUS540
Title: LITHUANIA HOLDS SUB-MINISTERIAL LEVEL DIALOGUE

IdentifierCreatedReleasedClassificationOrigin
06VILNIUS5402006-06-09 14:11:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Vilnius
VZCZCXRO3926
RR RUEHDBU RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHROV RUEHSR
DE RUEHVL #0540/01 1601411
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
R 091411Z JUN 06
FM AMEMBASSY VILNIUS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0265
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUEHSK/AMEMBASSY MINSK 1785
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 VILNIUS 000540 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
STATE FOR EUR/NB, EUR/UMB 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/08/2016 
TAGS: PREL LH BO
SUBJECT: LITHUANIA HOLDS SUB-MINISTERIAL LEVEL DIALOGUE 
WITH BELARUS 
 
REF: A. VILNIUS 175 B. VILNIUS 75 C. VILNIUS 442 
 
Classified By: Pol/econ officer Traver Gudie for reasons 1.4 (,d) 
 
¶1. (C) Summary.  Subcabinet-level officials from the 
Lithuanian and Belarusian Foreign Ministries held annual 
bilateral meetings June 1-3.  Discussions focused on the 
impending increase in visa fees for Belarusians, the closure 
of Lithuania's consulate in Grodno, and economic and 
environmental issues.  The discussions, which are permitted 
under the EU's agreed rules of engagement with the Lukashenko 
regime, mark the importance of ties between the neighboring 
countries, and Lithuania's commitment to keep working-level 
relationships with Belarusians alive.  End Summary. 
 
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Lithuania maintains low-level engagement of Belarus 
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¶2. (C) Lithuanian Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Albinas 
Januska and Belarusian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander 
Mikhnevich led their respective delegations in discussions in 
the Lithuanian seaside town of Palanga on economic, 
environmental, and consular issues.  Newly-appointed Belarus 
Division Head Gudynas provided a readout of the meetings.  He 
stressed that the annual consultations with Belarus reflect 
Lithuania's bifurcated Belarus policy.  The GOL pursues 
stronger international condemnation of Lukashenko's regime 
and support for the Belarusian opposition.  At the same time, 
it nurtures lower-level government contacts to protect the 
bilateral economic relationship and seek to influence a cadre 
of officials with Western ideas.  Although Belarusian 
delegates seldom deviate from the party line, Gudynas said, 
they privately acknowledge Lithuania's success and enjoy 
shopping in Vilnius's large mall. 
 
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Talks Avoided Democracy Issues 
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¶3. (C) Gudynas said that the consultations avoided sensitive 
political issues such as Lithuania's support for democracy in 
Belarus, since both sides are well aware of the other's 
position.  The Belarusian side had proposed as an agenda item 
and prepared talking points about the European Humanities 
University, an independent Belarusian University exiled in 
Vilnius, but did not raise it in the meeting.  The talks 
focused on visa fees, environmental concerns such as the 
pollution of the Nemunas river that flows from Belarus to 
Lithuania, outstanding commercial claims, and cargo transit 
between the two countries.  (Note: Belarusian trade accounts 
for about one-quarter of the volume at Lithuania's major 
port, Klaipeda.) 
 
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One Ministry, Two Belarus Desks 
------------------------------- 
 
¶4. (C) Gudynas told us that his appointment in May to the 
previously vacant post heading the MFA's Belarus Division 
effectively splits the Belarus portfolio between him and 
Renatas Juska of the Foreign Policy Analysis Department, the 
MFA's de facto lead on Belarus.  Gudynas will handle official 
contacts with the Belarusian government, a task for which he 
previously had responsibility in an Interior Ministry post. 
Juska will continue handling what Gudynas called the 
"underground work," contacts with Belarusian opposition 
members, training for youth activists, and information 
dissemination programs in Belarus.  This arrangement 
insulates Lithuania's low-level diplomatic contacts with 
Belarus, he argued, from its more aggressive pro-democracy 
tactics. 
 
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MFA: Rising visa fees will isolate Belarusian people 
--------------------------------------------- ------- 
 
¶5. (C) Both Belarusian and Lithuanian officials fear that a 
visa fee increase following Lithuania's anticipated entry 
into the Schengen zone (probably in January 2007) will 
effectively shut Lithuania's border to most Belarusians.  The 
harmonized Schengen fee of 60 euros is prohibitively 
expensive, Gudynas said, to Belarusians wanting to take the 
four-hour train to Vilnius to go shopping, attend courses at 
EHU, or participate in international conferences.  The GOL 
worries that "people-to-people contact" between Belarusians 
and other Europeans will fall dramatically, hurting efforts 
to foster democracy.  Since Lithuania reduced the visa fee 
from 20 to five euros, travel of Belarusians to Lithuania 
 
VILNIUS 00000540  002 OF 002 
 
 
more than doubled, he said. 
 
¶6. (C) Despite the GOL's attempts to lobby European partners 
(refs A and B), Lithuania accepts that there will be no 
general exception from Schengen rules for Belarus.  The GOL 
intends to appeal for exceptions for students, NGO members on 
business, those living within 50 km of the border, and 
first-time visitors to the EU.  The increase in visa fees and 
other Schengen rules are prompting Lithuania to close its 
consulate in Grodno, and the sides discussed practical 
questions about the property's disposal and moving consular 
services and personnel to Minsk.  Gudynas told us he was 
pleasantly surprised that the Belarusian delegation also 
supported exceptions to the rise in visa fees, although they 
will have little influence on any decision. 
 
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Lithuania to Increase Support for Civil Society in Belarus 
--------------------------------------------- ------------- 
 
¶7. (C) Although the GOL did not raise civil society at the 
bilateral consultations, Gudynas said that the MFA intended 
to step up its support for broad, "not necessarily political" 
civil society programs in Belarus.  Much of Lithuania's 
500,000 euros in assistance to Belarus leading up to the 
March elections paid for opposition efforts, like 
distribution of pro-opposition information and non-violent 
resistance training for youth groups.  "Now," said Guldynas, 
"we want to try harder to support civil society going from 
the bottom up, since we cannot do it top down."  One 
mechanism the GOL hopes to use is the proposed European 
Democracy Fund, which Lithuania pushed during the May 3 
Community for Democratic Choice summit in Vilnius (ref C). 
Lithuania has pledged 100,000 litas ($37,000) to the fund, 
which would give grants to support NGOs and civil society in 
Eastern Europe, and is looking for commitments from other 
partners.  Gudynas said that Lithuania has secured informal 
pledges from five other countries to support the Fund.  The 
MFA hopes to host a conference in Fall 2006 to solicit 
donations and nominate the Fund's board. 
 
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Comment 
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¶8. (C) The appointment of a new official to the MFA's Belarus 
Division and plans to redirect Lithuania's assistance to 
Belarus suggest that Lithuania's dualistic (or, less 
generously, schizophrenic) approach to its authoritarian 
neighbor is entering a less confrontational phase.  Our take 
is that this reflects the GOL's recognition that Lukashenko 
has survived the risks posed by the elections last March and 
is likely to remain in power for some time.  Lithuania's 
strategic interest in a democratic Belarus is unchanged, but 
its policy of periodic engagement remains in place. 
MULL