EU urges Russia to end ‘unjustified’ customs checks on Lithuania
The European Commission on Tuesday urged Russia to lift new time-consuming customs checks on Lithuanian goods, after the EU member accused Moscow of discriminatory measures.
“There appears to be no justification for such action by the Russian authorities that substantially disrupts trade,” the European Commission’s office in the Lithuanian capital Vilnius told AFP.
“We look forward to the Russian authorities immediately lifting such unjustified restrictions.”
Russian customs agents began unexpected, detailed inspections of Lithuanian cargo on Thursday, according to Ricardas Malkus, head of the Baltic state’s lorry drivers’ association.
He said the customs checks take up to two days and dramatically drive up costs.
Lithuania appealed to EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton on Tuesday, asking her to call on Russia to “stop applying discriminatory measures” that are out of step with Moscow’s commitments under the World Trade Organization.
The spat comes amid tensions between Russia and the EU over ties with post-Soviet states.
Lithuania took over the EU’s six-month rotating presidency in July, and has actively promoted the bloc’s Eastern Partnership programme for former Soviet states.
Moscow sees the programme as encroaching on its sphere of influence.
Launched in 2009, the partnership is aimed at bringing post-Soviet Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine closer to the EU by strengthening trade ties.
Lithuania, which was the first republic to break free from the crumbling Soviet Union in 1990, hopes to clinch a landmark association and free trade accord with Ukraine during November’s Eastern Partnership summit in Vilnius.
The move poses a challenge to Russia, which wants to expand its own 2010 Customs Union — an EU-type common market in the ex-Soviet bloc — that it shares with Belarus and Kazakhstan.
Analysts in Vilnius suggest the Eastern Partnership summit could well be the reason.