VILNIUS – Lithuania is leaving the 17+1 format, which is an important format for economic and political cooperation for China. The format mainly involves Central and Eastern European countries.
The decision was on Saturday confirmed to BNS by Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis who called the format "divisive".
"Lithuania no longer considers itself to be a participant of the 17+1 format and is no longer taking part in this initiative. Looking in general from the EU's perspective, it's a divisive format, therefore, I would urge all EU member states to seek a more effective 27+1 attitude and cooperation with China. Europe's unity is what makes it strong and influential," Landsbergis said in his sent comment.
The 15min.lt news website was the first to break the news of Lithuania's decision to exit the 17+1 format.
Lithuania has been participating in meetings under the 17+1 format since 2012. Besides Lithuania, EU member states also involved in this format include Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Greece, Hungary, Latvia, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia.
Critics say the cooperation format is creating a split among EU member countries. Proponents see it is a useful tool of communication with China for Lithuania.
China's investments in Lithuania and bilateral trade have not yet reached a very large scale, but China's rail freight shipments via Lithuania increased to a record level last year.
Lithuania's intelligence services have warned earlier that China expands its influence around the world by consolidating support on international arena for political issues key for Beijing.
Last Thursday, MEPs slam the recent Chinese sanctions against EU lawmakers and decided not to consider any talks on ratifying the EU-China agreement (CAI) while they remain.
On the same day, the Lithuanian Seimas adopted a resolution condemning "crimes against humanity" and "the Uyghur genocide" in China.
Vilnius also called on "the United Nations to initiate a legal inquiry into the Uyghur genocide in Xinjiang detention camps" and on the European Parliament and the European Commission "to review the EU's cooperation policy with China and formulate a clear position on China's massive, systematic and serious human rights violations, crimes against humanity and the Uyghur genocide.
In response to that, the Chinese Embassy called the Seimas resolution "another shoddy political show based on lies and disinformation".
According to the embassy, the resolution constitutes "gross interference in China’s internal affairs".