Situation in Belarus has divided people not only in Belarus but in neighboring countries as well. Thus, the question of whether Lithuania should take up leadership in shaping Belarus-targeted EU policy arises through people having different views on things.
U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo met with Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevičius in Washington on September, 16 and expressed his appreciation for Lithuania’s role in the situation around Belarus. He thanked Lithuania for its “leading role in ensuring the independence and territorial integrity of Belarus” and the democratic rights of its people. Such position has been heavily criticized by Belarus and Russia.
Last month, the Lithuanian government imposed a travel ban on Lukashenko and 29 other Belarusian officials for their role in vote-rigging and violence against protesters.
Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova stated that “the decision by the Lithuanian Foreign Ministry to ban entry to the country for Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko and a number of Belarusian officials serves as evidence of Western interference in the republic’s domestic affairs”.
Lithuania’s official position contravenes ordinary Lithuanians’ views on further developing of Lithuania-Belarus relations.
A study made by the Eastern Europe Studies Centre (EESC) in Vilnius has found that not all Lithuanians support their government’s position on protests in Belarus.
The EESC surveyed Lithuanians on their attitudes toward protests in Belarus that broke out following a contested presidential election in August.
According to the results presented on September, 18, there were only 30 percent of those who were in favour of Lithuania taking leadership. Another 25 percent were against.
Around 15 percent disagreed with the Lithuanian government’s position to side with the opposition protesters, while 39 percent had no answer to the question. Only 46 percent of the population agreed with it. About 20 percent of those surveyed disapproved of sanctions on the Lukashenko regime, 36 percent are not sure of answer, while less than a half of Lithuanians generally approved the idea.
The more so, 46 percent expressed concern about the possible Russian military intervention in the country. 20 percent negatively evaluated the EU’s response to the events in Belarus.
The study found that around 40 percent of Lithuanians thought that their country should maintain economic and diplomatic relations with Belarus even if Lukashenko remained in power. Around 40 percent were also in favour of seeking closer relations with the current Belarusian government.
The EESC surveyed the adult population in Lithuania on August 22 – September 4. The estimated margin of error of the results is 3.1 percent.
Thus, it is absolutely clear that official point of view does not coincide with Lithuanian population’s opinion.
Such a difference in views can significantly affect the outcome of the upcoming parliamentary elections, and could influence ratings of the current Lithuanian government.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Duran.