Lithuania's Vice Minister of Environment Martynas Norbutas has come under fire for attending a seminar for post-Soviet countries in the United States.
Martynas Norbutas
© DELFI / Karolina Pansevič

The politician said the trip was an exceptional opportunity for high-ranking officials to present Lithuania's position. Meanwhile the opposition say representatives of the Lithuanian government should not attend events when representatives from "former Soviet Union countries" are invited.

The Foreign Ministry called this visit a human error.

Norbutas: it was an exceptional opportunity

Norbutas visited the United States on Jun. 3-10 at the invitation of several organizations operating in the US. He was the only representative from EU and NATO countries. Vice ministers of Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kirgizia, Moldova, Tajikistan, Ukraine and Uzbekistan also attended the "young leaders" program alongside Norbutas.

He said he had no doubt the visit was beneficial for him personally and for the country.

"Representatives of former Soviet Union countries were invited to attend the program. The aim of the visit was to promote democratic processes in these countries by showing that there are countries which have already accomplished what was discussed in the US. Lithuania was an example in many cases," the vice minister told BNS Lithuania.

In his words, the trip's costs were covered by the organizers – StrategEast Center and Open World Leadership Center.

Foreign Ministry: It was a human error

Gabrielius Landsbergis, leader of the opposition conservative Homeland Union – Lithuanian Christian Democrats, says he was bothered by the fact that Lithuania was describes as a former Soviet Union country in press releases.

"Are almost three decades of independence, with half of that time being EU and NATO members, not enough for us to not call ourselves a former Soviet republic? It's a shame that we do not respond and let confusing label be attached intentionally or by mistake. I believe state officials or politicians should not attend such format until Lithuania is correctly attributed to the club of EU members," Landsbergis said.

Lithuania's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a commentary to BNS Lithuania it's making every effort to eliminate the term "post-Soviet republic" from the definition of Lithuania, and also plans to ask the organizers to pay attention to the fact that Lithuania was occupied by the Soviets and the United States never recognized the occupation that lasted 50 years.

"Lithuanian officials are constantly invited to attend various training programs organized in the United States where, besides EU and NATO countries, representatives of other countries, for example, Georgia, Ukraine, Moldova, Kazakhstan etc. attend. We believe it was a human error in this case and misjudgment of the circle of countries whose representatives were invited," the Foreign Ministry told BNS Lithuanian, commenting on Norbutas' trip.

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