• October 25, 2018
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Linkevičius: We will not support sanctions against Poland under Article 7

Cooperation between Lithuania and Poland is crucial for the security of both countries, Lithuania will not support the sanctions against Poland as part of the procedure mentioned in Article 7, however believes that there are reasons to strengthen those sanctions imposed on Russia, said the head of the Lithuanian Foreign Ministry Linas Linkevičius.

‘Always, even when not everything in our relationships was easy, I thought that we had more in common than different – regardless of history or different issues that always appear between neighbors. We have many strategic goals that are important for the national security of both countries. We are in the same cart in NATO because both the Baltic States and Poland are the part of the same defense plans and exercises. If we do not cooperate with each other, it will harm our security,’ said Minister Linkevičius in an interview given on Wednesday at PAP during the Warsaw conference on the security of the Warsaw Security Forum.

He added that the necessity of cooperation refers not only to the issue of military security, but also to the implemented joint transnational infrastructure, energy, gas, railway or road projects. The fact that they are implemented, as well as the growing number of visits at various levels, are proofs of the improvement of the situation in Lithuanian-Polish relations.

When sked about the position of Lithuania regarding the activities of the European Union institutions towards Poland in connection with allegations of violation of EU values, Linkevičius assured that his country would not support the imposition of sanctions provided for by Article 7 of the EU Treaty. ‘We are concerned about these activities and we would like some common solution to be found. We are not among those who will ultimatum or threaten by this article, and we will not join them. In other words, we do not support these drastic measures, but we are in favor of dialogue and solution to this conflict,’ he said. When asked if this means that Lithuania will not support a possible sanction request, he replied: ‘As I said, we will not vote for activating this.’

The head of Lithuanian diplomacy believes that a multi-speed Union already exists in practice because there are countries in the eurozone and beyond it, in the Schengen zone and outside it, belonging to NATO and not belonging, and Lithuania wants to actively participate in integration, but he warned against exerting too strong pressure to strengthen the cooperation that could be a decentralizing factor. He also said that one should be careful with the opening of EU Treaties because many things can be done without starting negotiations on their changes, according to the authorities of Vilnius.

Linkevichius admitted that Lithuania is concerned about objections from various EU countries regarding an extension of the sanctions imposed on Russia after the annexation of Crimea. ‘Of course it concerns us. Especially the fact that from the beginning it was not easy to find a consensus on this matter, and we do not have a whole range of resources that we can use. There are many mistakes that have been made after the aggressive behavior of Russia. You do not need to go far into history – just remind the war in the South Caucasus in 2008, when 20 percent of the Georgian territory was occupied practically without consequences, annexation of Crimea, an aggressive behavior in other parts of the world. If we back out again, reject the pressure we have, we will encourage Russia to continue this policy,’ he encauraged.

He reminded that according to the arrangement, sanctions are to apply until Russia has fulfilled the Minsk agreement, and if any circumstances arise, they should be extended. In the opinion of the Lithuanian minister, there are grounds for introducing further sanctions. ‘There are new elements: cyber attacks, chemical attack in Salisbury, case of Oleh Senec, threats against other states. Those are activities that can not be left unnoticed. Of course, we will support those who raise the issue of additional sanctions, although we know that it will not be easy,’ he announced.

When asked whether in his assessment the level of security of Lithuania has changed since the assumption of power in the US by Donald Trump whose statements about Russia and Vladimir Putin often arouse controversy and anxiety, Linkevičius replied: ‘It certainly did not fall, because regardless of what has been said, tweeted or declared, we should analyze the real actions. Also we can admit the greater military presence, more financial resources for security and growing cooperation with the Americans on security issues.’ However, he added that Lithuania can not watch Americans, but should do its own homework on defense spending issues. Although, as he emphasized, those issues in Lithuania have strongly improved in the last few years.

Translated by Irena Lehenka within the framework of a traineeship programme of the European Foundation of Human Rights, www.efhr.eu.

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