Treaty row will not delay Moscow visit

  • 2001-03-08
  • BNS
VILNIUS - Despite the fact that the Russian State Duma is continuing to drag out the ratification of the Lithuanian-Russian border treaty, preparations are being made for a visit by Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus to Moscow, scheduled for March 29-31.

On March 2, the president met Alvydas Medalinskas, chairman of the Parliament's Committee on Foreign Affairs, to discuss the visit. According to Medalinskas, the possibility of cancelling of the visit was considered, in protest at the Duma dragging its feet.

"It was discussed, then rejected", Medalinskas said. If the Russian MPs approved the long-postponed ratification of the treaty, Lithuania would naturally consider it a sign of goodwill in bilateral relations, he added.

During a visit Medalinskas made to Moscow two weeks ago, the chairman of the Duma's Committee on International Affairs, Dmitrij Rogozin, promised to discuss with his colleagues the treaty ratification issue on Mar. 2. But it was not referred to.

But Medalinskas said he was "cautiously optimistic" about the possibility that the committee would discuss the border treaty and present it to the Duma for ratification before Adamkus' visit. However, reports from Russia say this might be postponed until April.

Russia recently put forward several conditions for the ratification of the treaty related to the fate of the Kaliningrad region after Lithuania enters the EU.

Upon entering the EU, Lithuania will have to exercise stricter visa and border controls. Russia would like a similar system to the one that exists today to remain after EU expansion. Residents of the Kaliningrad region can currently enter Lithuania without a visa.

Lithuania expects to be ready to assume EU membership obligations by the start of 2004.

"I do not think that the ratification of the border treaty should be related to things like Lithuania's EU or NATO integration," Medalinskas said.

After returning from his visit to Moscow, Medalinskas confirmed the theory that some Russian politicians think Russia should not be hasty in ratifying the border treaty, as it would open the door to NATO for Lithuania.

Lithuania is expecting an invitation to the Alliance at the NATO summit meeting to be held in Prague in 2002.

According to the Parliamentary Committee on Foreign Affairs, Lithuania could start discussing some of Russia's proposals, but Russia should first make a goodwill gesture and start ratifying the border treaty.

Medalinskas suggested postponing any discussion of Russia's "conditions" if it became clear that it would fail to begin the ratification procedure before Adamkus' visit.

The Lithuanian-Russian land and maritime border treaty was signed in October 1997 by the then Lithuanian and Russian presidents Algirdas Brazauskas and Boris Yeltsin. The Lithuanian Parliament ratified the treaty in the fall of 1999.