Lithuanian FM and Bibi370.
(photo credit: Amos Ben Gershom GPO)
Israel’s burgeoning ties with Lithuania have yielded a close political
relationship, Lithuanian Economy Minister Evaldas Gustas told The Jerusalem Post
Tuesday in an interview at the Dan Hotel in Tel Aviv.
Since 2010, both
binational trade and tourism has doubled, and two new regularly scheduled
flights have just been set between the two countries.
There have been 30
official diplomatic visits in the same period, compared to only 20 in the 15
The reason for the change? “Israel understood that all these
medium-size and small countries have the same number of votes in the UN,”
Lithuanian Ambassador Darius Degutis said.
From the political end, that
has turned out to be a good investment. Lithuania, an EU member (and euro-zone
hopeful) has pushed for postponing regulations that would define Israeli
territory within the Green Line.
“We are supporting Israel in the sphere
that it could take part more actively in economic relations in the EU,” Gustas
said. “I have to say that we are talking with other member states to postpone
other decisions in the sphere.”
Although Lithuania is supportive of peace
talks and efforts by US Secretary of State John Kerry to improve the Palestinian
economy, it takes a backseat on such issues.
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No less important, Lithuania
is taking steps to restore relics of its powerful Jewish history, decimated in
Vilnius, where Jews at one point represented 45 percent of
the population, was “The Jerusalem of Lithuania.”
But more than atoning
for its Holocaust sins and attracting Jewish tourism, Lithuania is interested in
cooperating with the start-up nation to boost its hi-tech economy.
has already taken an active role in both helping develop and participating in
Lithuania’s annual BioMed conference, and the governments have cooperated to
expose their start-ups to one another.
Israeli start-up Wix recently
announced it would open an office there. In October, 17 Lithuanian startups
attended Israel’s DLD tech conference in Tel Aviv. Eight are in negotiations for
Israeli investors. One of them, TrackDuck, which creates a visual feedback
system for websites, joined Israeli accelerator The Elevator as a
“They have this soft approach where they organize events, bring
in mentors for different events,” TrackDuck CEO Edmundas Balcikonis told the
Post. “So the way Elevator came to Lithuania was because government-sponsored
Enterprise Lithuania, responsible for increasing innovativeness, invited
“Lithuania is becoming similar to Israel,” he said. “People are
very active from an entrepreneurial side. Maybe not as good as selling, but
there’s a certain cultural fit that I think works very well, and I think that’s
why Wix chose Lithuania.”
Israel may also have something to learn from
Lithuania. While Israel’s ranking on the World Bank’s “ease of doing business
index” has gradually slumped to No. 35, Lithuania has climbed its way to No.
The way it did that, Gustas said, was by putting its business
registration process fully online and making it two-three times faster to start
a new business.
Unlike Israel, they have managed to incorporate high-tech
into their daily economic details.
“When I got here four years ago it was
quite a shock,” Degutis said of his exposure to Israel’s paper-based banking
system. In Lithuania, about 90% of the banking is done online, he said.
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