2020.09.03 10:30

Lithuania drafts aid plan for Belarusians: student scholarships and easier visas

LRT.lt2020.09.03 10:30

The Lithuanian government approved a provisional aid plan for Belarusians suffering from repression at home. In addition to offering scholarships to Belarusian students and simplifying visa procedures, Lithuania looks to welcome Belarusian IT businesses.

Foreign Minister Linas Linkevičius, who presented the plan at the Cabinet meeting, said that up to 100,000 euros from the government's reserve will be given to the Health Ministry to provide humanitarian aid.

“[The money] will most probably be used for medical treatment,” he said.

Read more: After internet outages, Belarusian tech firms consider moving to Lithuania

The Cabinet gave each minister a week to look at how their ministries could contribute financially to various measures as part of the plan.

One of the proposals is to offer 100 government scholarships for Belarusian students to study in Lithuania.

The Foreign Ministry suggests naming the scholarship scheme after Konstantinas Kalinauskas, a nineteenth-century leader of the national revival in Poland, Lithuania and Belarus and one of the commanders of the 1863–1864 uprising against Tsarist Russia, Linkevičius said.

Separate funding will be provided to the European Humanities University (EHU), a Belarusian university in exile in Vilnius, by the end of this year.

Read more: Lithuania grants entry to 64 Belarusians fleeing persecution

“We are planning to allocate 200,000 euros for this purpose,” Linkevičius said.

The foreign minister confirmed that the government is looking for ways to simplify issuing visas to Belarusian citizens.

Easier conditions for starting business

Economy Minister Rimantas Sinkevičius said 21 Belarusian IT businesses had approached his ministry about working in Lithuania.

About half of them are large companies that could move their head offices to Lithuania – instead of other Eastern European countries, such as Ukraine – but cannot open a bank account due to strict money laundering prevention regulations, according to Sinkevičius.

“If you can't open a bank account, you can't register a company, if you can't register a company, you can't invite employees,” Sinkevičius said.

“I think legal amendments should be drafted to allow foreign legal entities to open accounts in Lithuanian banks,” he said.

Interior Minister Rita Tamašunienė said the authorities were working on making it easier for Belarusians to come and work in Lithuania, such as simplifying national visa procedures, lifting some requirements and allowing online visa applications.

‘Some polishing up’ still needed

The Cabinet formally endorsed the plan, but it “still needs some polishing up”, Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis said.

“I can't give you the total amount yet, but we made decisions on financial support for the EHU, scholarships for 100 students, and treatment and rehabilitation services for repression victims, and legal assistance,” Skvernelis told reporters on Wednesday.

“We also decided to look for possibilities to make Lithuania the best place for Belarusian high-tech businesses that have decided to leave Belarus,” he noted.

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