Lithuania has ordered the state-owned railway company not to sign a contract with a China-owned bridge builder, citing “national security interests,” signalling an escalation of tensions between Beijing and the small Baltic nation.
Puentes y Calzadas Infraestructuras, a subsidiary of China Road and Bridge Corporation, last year won a Lithuanian tender with the lowest bid of 62.5 million euros ($55.2 million).
Lithuanian Railways cited “connections to China” as one of the risks of the contract, according to the Baltic News Service, which reported the Vilnius government’s order not to sign the contract.
China is pressuring Lithuania after it allowed Taiwan to open a de-facto embassy in Vilnius. Beijing has cancelled imports from the EU member state.
The tensions prompted Lithuania’s president, Gitanas Nausėda, to describe the office move as a “mistake”, saying he wasn’t consulted about a name change to Taiwan.
However, Gabrielius Landsbergis, Lithuanian foreign minister, told Lithuania Radio & Television he coordinated “all steps” with the president.
“Not only was everything discussed with the president before the opening of the representation, but all steps were actively coordinated,” Landsbergis said.
The bridge contract is another controversy for Lithuanian Railways, which is already under pressure over its carriage of Belarusian fertilisers through the country in defiance of US sanctions against Minsk.
Separately, Lithuania has made its debut at Food Taipei, an annual trade show in Taiwan. Lithuanian beer, birch water, chocolate and various snacks are on display.
Last week, a Taiwan agency purchased a consignment of Lithuanian rum that had been banned by China.
- George Russell
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