VILNIUS/BUDAPEST (BosNewsLife)– EU member state Lithuania has made a formal protest to Russia over supplementary border checks amid growing tensions between Moscow and neighboring states that seek closer ties with the European Union.
The Foreign Ministry said it summoned the Russian ambassador to Lithuania to demand an end to “discriminatory measures” against Lithuanians and businesses.
Russia has tough inspections on goods originating from Lithuania, an ex-Soviet republic with a large trucking and warehousing industry due to its strategic location between Russia and the European Union.
It already started subjecting Lithuanian-registered cars to lengthy border checks in August.
That saw the number of those crossing into Russia dropping by 90 percent. Industry officials said that under new rules introduced this week no loaded Lithuanian truck cleared customs in Russia since Thursday, September 12.
These tensions come after Lithuania’s Foreign Minister Linas Linkevičius said Moscow’s pressure on Ukraine was “unacceptable”, after Russia halted Ukrainian goods.
The European Commission, the EU’s executive, has also expressed outrage that Russia banned imports of Moldovan wine and spirits, citing quality concerns.
The Commission is preparing to clinch association agreements with Armenia, Moldova and Ukraine in November, which are seen as crucial towards eventual EU membership.
However Russian President Vladimir Putin wants them to join a “Eurasian Union” – a trade bloc similar to the European Union, but without commitments to democratic values and open competition which are conditions for EU membership.
EU Enlargement Commissioner Štefan Füle has condemned Moscow’s actions. “Any threat from Russia linked to the possible signing of agreements with the European Union are unacceptable,” he told the European Parliament this week.
“This applies to all forms of pressure including the possible misuse of energy pricing, artificial trade obstacles such as imported such as import bans of dubious WTO compatibility and cumbersome customs procedures,” Füle stressed.
The commissioner also mentioned Russia using “military cooperation and security guarantees” as well as “the instrumentalisation of protracted conflicts” to put pressure on former Soviet states.
Despite the stand-off Ukraine, which was ruled by Moscow for centuries until 1991, says it wants even closer ties with the EU.
Besides signing an association agreement, it is also expected to clinch a deal on free trade.
(BosNewsLife’s NEWS WATCH is a regular look at key general news developments from especially, but not limited to, (former) Communist countries and other autocratic states impacting the Church and/or other compassionate professionals).
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