MP: Kremlin pressuring the Baltics

  • 2004-10-27
  • Baltic News Service
VILNIUS - Although Russia has ratified the accession of 10 new members to the European Union, it continues to pressure the Baltic states, a Lithuanian MP and leading foreign policy expert said this week.

In particular, Russia continues requesting that Latvia and Estonia respect the rights of their minority residents while rebuking Lithuania over cargo transit to and from Kaliningrad, said Gediminas Kirkilas, chairman of Lithuania's parliamentary foreign affairs committee.

While ratifying a document on relations with the enlarged EU last week, Russia's Parliament passed a statement expressing discontent over the current rules of Kaliningrad transit via Lithuania. In Kirkilas' words, Russia's policy on transit to and from the exclave has not changed despite the agreement struck between the EU, Russia and Lithuania.

"This definitely is a pressure policy [directed] toward Lithuania," Kirkilas, a Social Democrat, has said.

The Russian politicians doing this are "very radical," he added, though the main problem was the social and economic situation of the Kaliningrad region, which the Kremlin does not want to see and understand. However, Kirkilas does not think that the situation concerning the Kaliningrad region is more awkward at the moment than it has been before.

"We have our foreign policy, and we have considerable experience with negotiations in this field. The situation in under control," he said, adding that, upon forming a new government after the parliamentary elections, Lithuania's foreign policy priorities should not change.

Observers say that relations between the EU and Russia have recently cooled, and that an EU agreement with Russia on extensive economic cooperation might not be signed during The Hague summit meeting on Nov. 11.

Following the terrorist attack in the North Ossetian town of Beslan, which claimed the lives of several hundred hostages, the EU has rebuked Russia for using inadequate methods in the fight against terrorism.