According to the Baltic Foreign Minister, Europe must stand up against China’s “illegal” pressure on Lithuania and foreign companies operating there or harming the international trade system.
Gabrielius Landsbergis told the Financial Times China has intensified its conflict over Lithuania’s ties with Taiwan to include harassment of European companies using Lithuanian-made components. He will tell EU foreign ministers of the harassment at a meeting on Thursday and Friday, he said.
“There must now be a very clear answer from Europe. Europe must say this is not the way to treat the internal market. This is a test for the rules-based international trade order. Europe must rise, ”Landsbergis added.
Lithuania is in the middle of a geopolitical row after Vilnius allowed Taiwan to open a representative office in its own name, rather than the usual evasion of naming it after its capital, Taipei.
China reacted angrily, recalled his ambassador and status downgrades of Lithuania’s embassy in Beijing, which stops Lithuanian goods at its borders, and European companies such as the German auto parts manufacturer Continental warn not to use components from the Baltic country.
China demands that Taiwanese governments refuse any treatment that suggests sovereignty. Beijing opposes any use of the country’s official name, Republic of China, or its geographical name Taiwan, which it sees as an attempt by Taipei to pursue de jure independence.
Landsbergis and other Lithuanian officials insist that Vilnius adhered to Beijing’s policies, but that it was free to establish commercial and cultural ties with Taiwan.
“Lithuania did nothing wrong, it did nothing illegal, we did not break any international obligations. It’s actually the other way around. “What is being done to our companies, the name of our embassy is being changed unilaterally, what is being done to European companies now, all this is most likely illegal,” said the Lithuanian Foreign Minister.
Taiwan has sought to mitigate Beijing’s anger through a $ 1 billion credit fund for Lithuanian-Taiwanese projects and a $ 200 million investment fund in the Baltic country and the purchase of 120 containers blocked at China’s ports.
Lithuania’s own position was confused last week when President Gitanas Nauseda said it was a “error”To name the office after Taiwan rather than Taipei. Landsbergis said the government was “in the process of aligning positions” with the president as both “saw the whole situation in a similar way”, although he did not provide any details.
Landsbergis said China’s “unprecedented” harassment of other countries’ companies showed the “urgent need to develop coercive instruments” in Europe and elsewhere.
“It is a test for the EU, but it is also a test for the west. As a Western society after World War II, we felt responsible for establishing a rule-based order for trade. It worked. Now we see it being tested, “he added.
Lithuania faces pressure, not just from China; Belarus and Russia threatens on its eastern borders. Landsbergis called Moscow a “geopolitical disruptor” and said the ripples of his action at the Ukrainian border Lithuania and its neighbors.
Vilnius is concerned about any concessions that could be made to Russia as well as about the possibility that Moscow could move its troops from Ukraine to Belarus, which is closer to Lithuania, he said.
“A very serious response must be sent to Putin,” Landsbergis said, stressing that he believed NATO would strengthen security in the Baltic countries if the situation escalated.