VILNIUS – The European Union's cooperation agreement with Cuba is pushing its way through the Lithuanian parliament amid resistance from the opposition.
The parliamentary Committee on Foreign Affairs last week backed the agreement's ratification with the ruling parties' votes, and representatives of the opposition conservative Homeland Union – Lithuanian Christian Democrats left the room in protest during the vote.
Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius says Lithuania, which is the last in EU yet to ratify the pact, is not its enthusiast but should also not block the agreement alone.
Representatives of the HU-LCD claim that by ratifying the document, Lithuania would serve the Communist Cuba regime, and it has also called on using the stalling process as leverage to seek the EU's support on the Astravyets issue.
The Seimas is due to vote on the agreement's ratification later.
During the document's consideration at the parliamentary Committee on Foreign Affairs, Linkevicius said the EU's dialogue with Havana is aimed at weakening China and Russia's influence in the region.
"Other countries, which are far from being democratic, like China and the Russian Federation, are very much active in that region and they are interested in keeping Cuba in their sphere of influence, and if the EU and Cuba don’t talk, it’s much easier for them to do that," the minister said.
Linkevicius also underlined that countries actively raising human rights issues also see the benefit of cooperating with Cuba as a dialogue would be an opportunity to include the issue of political prisoners' rights into the agenda.
HU-LCD member Zygimantas Pavilionis says, however, that by ratifying the agreement, Lithuania would betray both Cuban political prisoners and also their supporters in the US Congress.
The opposition party also called on the ruling parties to use the "Cuban card" in pursuit of the EU's support regarding the Astravyets nuclear power plant under construction in Belarus, which Lithuanian deems unsafe.
The European Union and Cuba's Political Dialogue and Cooperation Agreement was adopted in Brussels in 2016, being the first EU-Cuban agreement. Lithuania is the last EU member state which has not ratified the agreement yet.
International agreements are ratified by the Seimas.