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2021.07.23 08:00

LRT English Newsletter: Facebook diplomacy and human rights in the bin?

Benas Gerdžiūnas, LRT.lt2021.07.23 08:00

LRT English Newsletter – July 23, 2021

Despite saying that the new amendments will throw human rights “into the trash bin”, Lithuanian President Gitanas Nausėda signed the new law on migration nevertheless. He did urge the parliament to make amendments as soon as possible.

So what are the amendments, decried as “legal nihilism” by a former constitutional court judge and criticised by various NGOs in the country? Well, asylum seekers may be detained for up to six months, applications should be processed within ten days, while rights to movement and information are now also restricted. Vilnius officials say, however, that it is important to react swiftly to the “hybrid aggression” by the regime of Alexander Lukashenko.

FACEBOOK DIPLOMACY

Minsk has also capitalised on the opportunity. The Belarusian border guards, with state media not far behind, have accused Lithuania of migrant pushbacks, and threatening or even allegedly using firearms. The Lithuanian border guards dismissed the claims as “fake news”.The narratives of alleged human rights abuses and hypocrisy have also surfaced on Russia’s state media.

Meanwhile, with over 2,200 migrants detained this year so far, the asylum request backlog is growing, with the migration department looking for more personnel. So far, most requests have been denied.

After a less-than-fruitful trip to Ankara and Baghdad, Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis took to social media instead, posting a warning (in English, Kurdish, and Arabic) on Facebook to would-be migrants that “virtually no one would get asylum” and telling them to stay back. Lukashenko, meanwhile, offered to “help” stop the migrant flows – that his regime seems to have facilitated in the first place. Landsbergis called the faux outreach “blackmail”.

GRYBAUSKAITĖ – NEXT NATO CHIEF?

Politico Europe reported on Monday that Lithuania’s former president Dalia Grybauskaitė, known for her hardline rhetoric and firmness against the Kremlin, would fit the shoes of a next NATO chief. An adviser to Lithuanian President Gitanas Nausėda said that would be good news – “the more Lithuanian names we hear in similar contexts, the better for Lithuania.”

CHINA’S RED LINES

Lithuania and Taiwan announced earlier this week that Taipei would be opening a de facto embassy in Vilnius. This comes on the heels of Lithuania announcing plans for a trade office in Taiwan, which has already irked China. Following the latest development, Beijing officials have warned Lithuania not to cross China’s red lines, according to a state-controlled tabloid, Global Times.

JABS AND QUARANTINE

With vaccination beginning to stall and coronavirus numbers starting to rise, Lithuania is now talking of a new quarantine. This time, however, it would only apply to those without immunity (ie, vaccines), according to Health Minister Arūnas Dulkys.

With hundreds of thousands of unused doses, Lithuania is now planning to start giving third shots to vulnerable people. The country will also swap with Norway some of its Pfizer jabs for the single-dose Janssen's shots due to them being more popular among Lithuanians.

And you can now get jabbed on a bus without an appointment; soon, also on university campuses – as long as you are a student.

EDITOR’S PICKS:

– With mounting evidence of the benefits of shorter working hours, Lithuania's social democrats are calling to start trials for a four-day week and longer holidays.

– A Kaunas-based company has breached EU sanctions and supplied equipment for the construction of power plants in Russian-annexed Crimea, LRT Investigation Team has found.

– While banks in Lithuania boast of scooter-riding CEOs, their sustainability record tells a different tale.

– In a landmark study by Vilnius University (VU), researchers suggest that coronavirus vaccines are less effective for blood cancer patients, some of whom developed no immunity to Covid-19.

– As Lithuania's Klaipėda is preparing for its annual city festival this weekend, growing rates of coronavirus infections raise concern.

– The very first census of the Lithuanian Grand Duchy in the 18th century. Want to guess how many people lived in the territory of present-day Lithuania?

– And is there anything that Lithuania could learn from the Dutch university welfare system?

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Written by Benas Gerdžiūnas

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