Lithuania is a country member of the European Union, located in the far northeast of Europe, within the Schengen Zone. Together with Estonia and Latvia, Lithuania comprises the Baltic States. The territory of Lithuania is bordered by two Member States – Latvia and Poland – and two non-Schengen countries, Belarus and Kaliningrad (Russia).
Once a part of the USSR, Lithuania was the first ex-Soviet country to disassociate from the Soviet Union, gaining its independence in 1991. Since then, the economy of Lithuania has strengthened with great speed, marked by significant growth of the GDP. One of the most important activities in Lithuania is the extraction of amber, a fossil resin used in jewellery making.
After their independence, Lithuania and the other Baltic States tried to reduce economic and political ties with Russia. Hence, they never joined the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) – an economic bloc formed by former Soviet Union republics. Instead, Lithuania and its Baltic neighbours joined the European Union (EU) and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), and finally, the Schengen Area.
The tourism industry in Lithuania has been strengthening since the country became an EU member and signed the Schengen Agreement. Because much of Lithuanian territory is covered by forests, a large part of travellers tends to search for eco-tourism alternatives.
One of Lithuania’s highlight which attracts visitors from all corners of the globe is the Aukštaitija National Park, famous for its lakes and ancient forests. Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, also charms foreigners with its rich architecture of Renaissance and Baroque movements.
The Baltic States (Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia) are a part of both the EU and the Schengen Area, which means all EU passport holders are free to enter Lithuanian territory without going through border checks. Likewise, Lithuanian nationals can travel through Europe visa-free. Non-EU citizens who are exempt from a Schengen visa (like Americans) can visit Lithuania for up to 90 days in every 180-day period. However, as of 2021, such travellers will have to bear a valid ETIAS.
In 2004, a large movement by many East European nations – including Lithuania, Hungary, and the Czech Republic, among others – brought new members to the European Union. Following its admission into the EU, Lithuania and the other Baltic States (Estonia and Latvia) joined the Schengen Area in 2007. This new phase in Lithuanian politics improved the country’s economy greatly, as well as created a series of opportunities for its citizens. The government of Lithuania has thus been actively engaged in all matters related to EU and Schengen policy-making.
When the immigration crisis hit Europe in 2015, Lithuania was one of the first countries to support the creation of a new migratory system to better manage the Schengen borders. Hence, Lithuanian Minister Žilinskas backed up the European Commission’s suggestion to introduce the ETIAS, aiming to enhance security across the Schengen Territory.
The European Parliament predicts that the ETIAS will start in 2021 and although the new immigration system will be a big change, it will not affect travel regulations for EU nationals. As a part of its approach, the ETIAS is directed at non-EU passport holders who up until 2021 don’t need a visa to visit the Schengen Zone.
By implementing a pre-travel electronic authorization, the ETIAS system will gather information from travellers and identify potential threats before they land in Europe. With this dynamic immigration procedure, the EU will give Lithuanian authorities more control over who is arriving and departing from the Schengen Territory.