Viewing cable 07VILNIUS13

07VILNIUS132007-01-08 10:01:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Vilnius
DE RUEHVL #0013/01 0081001
R 081001Z JAN 07
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 VILNIUS 000013 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/04/2017 
Classified By: Pol/Econ Chief Rebecca Dunham for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d 
¶1. (C) Summary.   Lithuania is in a race to meet Schengen 
requirements by early 2008, the anticipated date of Schengen 
expansion.  Despite a contracting and spending spree in 
December 2006, Lithuania will struggle to meet the early 2008 
deadline for implementation of Schengen requirements at its 
border checkpoints.  End Summary. 
Lithuania rushing to meet Schengen requirements 
--------------------------------------------- -- 
¶2. (C) Commander of the State Border Guard Service Saulius 
Stripeika told us that Lithuania will struggle to implement 
the necessary upgrades to meet its Schengen requirements by 
early 2008.  On the margins of an EXBS donation ceremony 
December 19, Stripeika and his staff described an 
interministerial conference the government had held earlier 
that day on Lithuania's entry into the Schengen space. 
Stripeika said that Lithuania's support for Portugal's 
proposal to open the Schengen space to the ten new members of 
Europe by 2008 had been a political decision on the part of 
the GOL, but that the government institutions charged to 
implement reforms in fact need more time.  The Ministry of 
Interior's Director for EU Affairs, Olegas Skinderskis, 
admitted to us January 8 that meeting the Schengen 
requirements by early 2008 would be a challenge, but that the 
government would do everything it could to make the date. 
¶3. (SBU) According to the Interior Ministry, 72 percent of 
Lithuania's Schengen Facility funds for 2004-2007 (Euro 179 
million in total) was obligated in December 2006, as the 
Ministry rushed to move on reforms following the EU's 
December 5 decision to allow the ten new members to enter 
Schengen under a modified version of Schengen Information 
System I.  (The EU's failure to implement the Schengen 
Information System II had postponed Schengen's enlargement, 
drawing sharp criticism from the GOL.)  Parliamentarian 
Petras Austrevicius complained publicly January 8 that the 
GOL had rushed the procurements through in the final days of 
December and that the projects were not well-planned and 
likely not to be implemented effectively.  Vice Minister of 
the Interior Ciupaila said the GOL would be unable to 
implement electronic surveillance of Lithuania's border with 
Belarus and the Kaliningrad region of Russia by the time the 
GOL wants to enter Schengen.  It would be possible to cover 
only about 60km of the 1000km of border with Russia and 
Belarus with the currently allocated funds.  He suggested 
that the funds instead be used on other Schengen upgrades and 
that the border surveillance project be implemented with 
2007-2013 EU funds. 
Lithuania must improve security along external borders 
--------------------------------------------- --------- 
¶4.  (C) Director of the Interior Ministry's International 
Relations and EU Department Olegas Skinderskis told us that 
Lithuania did have a commitment to improve security along the 
border with Belarus and Russia, but that implementation of 
the electronic surveillance project was probably not 
necessary to enter Schengen.  "It just means we'll have to 
use more people," he said, refuting public comments by Member 
of the European Parliament Justas Paleckis that if the border 
remains insecure, "the doors to Schengen will open later." 
Asked whether he was worried about entering Schengen as 
anticipated in 2008, Skinderskis told us, "we have to see, 
but it is our goal," adding that the press had taken a "glass 
half empty" view of the situation.  The Interior Ministry 
noted that the GOL also must install surveillance hardware in 
the Curonian Lagoon and the Baltic Sea, upgrade its 
international airports, develop and integrate a digital radio 
communication system, and in some cases construct or 
reconstruct external border checkpoints by early 2008 in 
order to enter Schengen at the earliest possibility. 
¶5. (SBU) Speaking of the border checkpoints, Stripeika told 
us in December that the Border Guards were rushing to meet 
their procurement goals, but that construction and equipment 
upgrades of external checkpoints are only the first step. 
Lithuania still must develop and introduce a national 
Schengen information system, which requires laying the 
regulatory bases to apply Schengen rules, he said.  This will 
require an interministerial process at least, he said, and 
may require action by the parliament.  Once adopted, new 
rules and new equipment will require training programs that 
the service has not begun to consider, he said.  Skinderskis 
agreed that based on recommendations by the European 
Commission, he believed implementation of the national 
Schengen information system to be a greater challenge to 
Lithuania's Schengen hopes than physical security. 
¶6. (C) The MFA's point man on Schengen integration, Head of 
VILNIUS 00000013  002 OF 002 
the Consular Department Vaidotas Verba, complained to us in 
June 2006 that the political scrambling following the 
government's collapse that summer impeded the government from 
moving forward on executive functions required to implement 
Schengen reforms.  The government was incapable, he said at 
that time, of making the necessary interministerial 
decisions.  He expects the Consular Department to be able to 
meet its obligations under the Schengen Accords and views 
recent GOL Schengen-compliance efforts as a firm step in the 
right direction. 
¶7. (C) Political will for joining the Schengen space as a 
sign of deeper integration in the EU remains strong, even if 
the bureaucracy has failed to move quickly to implement 
Schengen requirements.  A failure to join the Schengen space 
at the earliest time the EU allows would be a setback for the 
Kirkilas government.  Like Lithuania's failure last year 
(under the previous government's watch) to qualify for the 
Euro, such an outcome would be construed here as a GOL 
failure to meet its central strategic goal of integrating as 
quickly as possible into important European arrangements.