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2020.09.16 12:00

Baltics in competition for Belarusian IT firms

LRT.lt2020.09.16 12:00

Since the August 9 Belarusian presidential election, the country's booming IT sector has faced internet outages and a climate of repressions. Seeing the opportunity, the Baltic states have turned to attract some of the 1,500 firms that may seek to relocate.

Both Latvia and Lithuania have moved to simplify the visa application process for workers. Riga has created a dedicated team to deal with the enquiries, while Lithuania has introduced an online application process. Estonia, meanwhile, has not enacted any additional measures, according to the country’s public broadcaster ERR News.

Read more: Lithuania publishes relocation guide for Belarusian firms

"Enterprise Estonia makes value propositions to companies for which there is a real possibility that they can create new well-paid jobs in Estonia,” the country’s investment promotion agency told ERR.

“When bringing in foreign investments to Estonia, caution and certainty are required that these companies create added value for our country,” it said.

Estonia’s Interior Ministry has so far ruled out simplifying the visa procedures, while the country’s Foreign Ministry has declined to comment.

Kristi Raik, head of the Estonian Foreign Policy Institute, told ERR that the country “does not have the same level of contacts and ties to Belarus as Lithuania does”.

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

Allowing e-money accounts

Invest Lithuania, the state investment promotion agency, has criticised the red tape it says is hindering the relocation process and called on the government to streamline the procedures to open a local bank account and provide visas to workers as well as their families.

As of mid-September, around 60 Belarus-based tech companies and 2,000 professionals were interested in moving to Lithuania, according to the agency.

One of the barriers to relocation are Lithuania's anti-terrorism and anti-money laundering regulations that forbid third-country companies from opening bank accounts without being physically in Lithuania.

In response, Lithuania’s Economy Ministry proposed on Tuesday to allow Belarusian companies to open e-money accounts.

"We are really now actively analysing, as EU regulation is also affecting our legislation, on whether there's a need to have a bank account to establish a company, or an e-money account would be enough,” Economy and Innovation Vice Minister Marius Skuodis told BNS.

"E-money institutions are in some cases more flexible, despite being subject to the same requirements," he added.

Read more: Belarusian IT firms want to relocate to Lithuania but face legal challenges