Minister Linkevičius reminds India of promise to open embassy in Vilnius

The promise was made way back in 2005 by the then external affairs minister of India K Natwar Singh.

Currently the Indian mission for Lithuania is based out of Warsaw in Poland.

Increasing economic ties – Indian exports to Lithuanian growing by 40 percent in 2013 and cultural exchanges – 300 Indian students already studying in Lithuania with an additional 150 expected to land there to a single university in Kaunas this year, is now making it very difficult for those looking for an Indian visa.

Sources say “lack of funds” has prevented India from opening the embassy in Vilnius.

In an exclusive interview to TOI, foreign minister Linas Linkevičius said Lithuania opened its embassy in New Delhi in 2008, amidst the deepest financial crisis of modern times.

Linkevičius told TOI: “Despite the economic crisis, when our GDP was contracted by nearly 15 percent, we opened an embassy in India. We have slowly and steadily clawed out of that ditch with economic figures being the best in the European Union. The World Bank’s Doing Business 2014 report ranks Lithuania in the highest position in Central and Eastern Europe, and the 6th highest in the European Union. Lithuania has been ranked the 17th best country in the world, ahead of the likes of Germany (21st) and Estonia (22nd). With bilateral and economic ties between India and Lithuania growing steadily, it is time for India to start an embassy in Vilnius.”

Linkevičius extended a warm and open invite to his counterpart in India Sushma Swaraj to visit Lithuania.

He added: “With cultural interest towards India growing among Lithuanians – its love for Rabindranath Tagore’s work, ayurveda and a tremendous similarity between Sanskrit and Lithuanian language, an increasing number of academics and scholars are visiting India. Around 3,000 Lithuanian citizens travel to India each year. For visas, they have to send their passports to Poland which is inconvenient. An Indian mission in Vilnius will be highly welcome. India must not look at Lithuania’s size alone.”

An increasing number of Indian business houses are now venturing into Lithuania and expanding operations in the Baltic region.

The Doing Business 2014 report saw Lithuania jump from 27th in 2013 to 17th best in the world. The report objectively evaluates the business climate in 189 economies each year, using data to compare business regulation environments.

One important reason for Lithuania’s improved overall position is a dramatic improvement in the ease of starting a business. Ranked 107th in 2013, Lithuania is now the 11th best location in the world for starting a business.

Substantial government reforms, initiated in 2012, are believed to be behind this shift. While previously it took 20 days and 7 different procedures to start up a business, it can now be done through four procedures, in a maximum time of six days.

Lithuania is also all set to adopt the euro as its currency from January 1, 2015.

The European Council last week announced the decision allowing Lithuania to adopt the euro as its currency. The decision enlarges the euro area to 19 member states, including all three Baltic states.

Algirdas Butkevičius, prime minister of Lithuania said “Lithuania’s consistent efforts have paid off. Today the eurozone has opened the door for us. The adoption of the euro has been Lithuania’s strategic step to foster national economic growth”.

Olli Rehn, commission vice-president responsible for economic and monetary affairs and the Euro, said “Lithuania’s readiness to adopt the euro reflects its long-standing support for prudent fiscal policies and economic reforms. That reform momentum, driven in part by Lithuania’s EU accession 10 years ago, has led to a striking increase in Lithuanians’ prosperity: the country’s per capita GDP has risen from just 35 percent in 1995 to a projected 78 percent in 2015”.

Meanwhile from Wednesday, Indian and Lithuanian diplomats will be able to visit each other’s countries without visas. July 30th was the official date of entering into force of the bilateral agreement on exemption from visa requirement for diplomatic passport holders.

The agreement was signed by India’s external affairs minister and foreign affairs minister of Lithuania in New Delhi on November 10, 2013.

The new regime allows the diplomats to stay in the territory of the other Contracting Party for the maximum period of 90 days within 6 months. This provision will not apply on the diplomats working in India and Lithuania, who will remain subject to the procedure of diplomatic accreditation.

The visa free arrangement for the diplomatic passport holders is already a third bilateral document between India and Lithuania signed since 2011.

India and Lithuania established diplomatic relations in 1992, followed by the opening of the Lithuanian diplomatic mission in New Delhi in 2008.

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