Barbed wire deal with Estonia caused a political storm in Lithuania

Lithuanian media and opposition accuse the government of buying "golden" barbed wire from Estonia. PHOTO: StrumiloFoto

A major political storm is brewing in Lithuania concerning a barbed wire tender from Estonia.

Critics say that the Lithuanian government wasted taxpayer money when it procured barbed wire from Estonia for double the market price. The Estonian side considers the matter to be a political struggle inside Lithuania.

Estonia initially donated 100 kilometers of barbed wire to Lithuania this summer.

However, it soon turned out that Lithuania, having become a target of a hybrid campaign orchestrated from Belarus, needs a lot more. The additional barbed wire was procured from Estonia, which deal the Lithuanian media and opposition are now criticizing. News portal lrt.lt reported, after talking to several barbed wire manufacturers, that the price of the August transaction – €10 per meter – was double the market price at the time. Lithuania paid Estonia a total of €2.2 million for enough barbed wire to cover 194 kilometers.

MP Rasa Budbergyte (Social Democratic Party) has vowed to launch an audit committee investigation into all summer crisis situation transactions. She has referred to Estonia’s shipment to Lithuania as barbed wire made of gold.

Both the Lithuanian government and the Estonian side parry criticism. It is suggested that because the barbed wire came through framework agreements, Estonia had no way to alter the price. Secondly, only Estonia could help Lithuania procure more barbed wire in just one month.

Susan Lillevälja from the Estonian Ministry of Defense’s communication department said that the price reflected increased demand as Latvia and Poland were also in the process of procuring barbed wire.

“The National Defense Investments Center (RKIK) forwarded price proposals to Lithuania to make sure the cost is acceptable. The Lithuanian interior ministry confirmed in writing that the price and conditions were acceptable and asked for the tender to be moved along. The entire process took RKIK just a few weeks that allowed Lithuania to take delivery of the necessary quantity of barbed wire faster,” Lilleväli explained.

MEP and former Estonian Defense Forces head Riho Terras (Isamaa) was not as restrained in his comment, describing the scandal as unseemly after Estonia had helped Lithuania. Terras added that journalists and opposition politicians do not tell the whole story in the article.

He stressed that the Lithuanian side accepted the price. “Perhaps they could have procured it for less a year from then. But it was not a question of price but speed of delivery at that moment. The Estonians had a framework agreement that allowed deliveries in a month,” Terras pointed out.

Lithuania wants to complete its border fence inside a year. The project is estimated to cost €152 million.

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