Small Lithuania has outsized role as EU faces Belarus crisis

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08/15/2020

Lithuania is relatively small by European Union measures, but it is playing an outsized role as protesters in neighboring Belarus face a brutal law enforcement crackdown following a presidential election they say was rigged. As the EU’s foreign ministers meet Friday to discuss the crisis, the Lithuanian government’s strong pro-democracy voice rooted in decades of resisting Soviet control also serves as a reminder of the bloc’s uneven response so far. Lithuania has given refuge to Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, the main opposition challenger in Sunday’s disputed election that Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko claims to have won with 80% of the vote after 26 years of authoritarian rule. “Our security cannot exist without the security of Belarus. We want to show that Belarus can count on Poland’s solidarity,” he said. But Poland’s voice at the EU level has been weakened by a perception that Poland’s own government is eroding democratic standards with laws giving the ruling party more power over the judicial system and anti-LGBT rhetoric.

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