Brussels' guidance on Kaliningrad transit political, not legal – Lithuanian MP

  • 2022-08-31
  • BNS/TBT Staff

VILNIUS – The European Commission's guidance on the transit of sanctioned goods between mainland Russia and its Kaliningrad exclave is political, not legal, Raimundas Lopata, chairman of the Lithuanian parliament's Committee for the Future, said on Wednesday. 

The Liberal MP discussed the issue with the EU executive body's representatives last week.

"The Commission has confirmed that this clarification does not follow directly from the regulation of sanctions, but is a document prepared at a highest-level EC request (and) prepared together with Lithuania and coordinated with it," Lopata told reporters on Wednesday. 

"Obviously, the document is not binding on Lithuania, but Lithuania, in preparing it, has taken responsibility for its implementation. This clarification is more of a political document than a coherent legal document that would logically follow from the regulation of sanctions," he added.

The Commission's updated guidance in July allowed Russia to transport sanctioned goods to and from Kaliningrad by rail via Lithuania for the exclave's needs. 

Lithuania halted the transit of some Russian goods to Kaliningrad after the EU's sanctions on Russia over its invasion of Ukraine came into force.

Vilnius said it followed the European Commission' earlier guidance that banned the transit. 

Lithuania and the Commission began consultations on new guidance after the ban on the movement of Russian steel and ferrous metals to the exclave, put in place in June, triggered an angry response from Moscow and threats to retaliate.

According to Lopata, the political context of the document is Russia's war in Ukraine, so the government and President Gitanas Nauseda should take responsibility for the updated guidance and apply it temporarily.

"(This is) temporary, for as long as the political circumstances for the transit remain in place and (...) there remains a risk of provocations against Lithuania due to the war in Ukraine," he added.

The MP said that it would be logical to review these circumstances every six months.

MEP Petras Austrevicius of the Lithuanian Liberal Movement believes that the exclusion of rail transit from the sanctions is a "legal interpretation".

"It is based on political motivation to find a solution. Because it seems that the pressure from Russia and the desire of some member states to find a quicker solution (...) did exist," he said. 

However, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told BNS in an interview earlier in August that the updated guidance was in line with the EU executive body's previous guidance.

The EU imposed certain restrictions on Russia over the war in Ukraine, but the sanctions documents did not say clearly if they apply to transit shipments to Kaliningrad.