The decision was adopted by five committee members representing the ruling center-left parties. Meanwhile, opposition representatives walked out of the room, committee member Andrius Mazuronis of the ruling Order and Justice party confirmed to BNS.
"Pursuant to the procedure, the committee's approval was needed. Now the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will see to it that the government adopts a resolution on the establishment of diplomatic relations," Mazuronis said.
In his words, Lithuania remains the only EU member state that has not established diplomatic relations with Cuba. Lithuanian diplomats say such relations are necessary for the development of tourism and economic ties.
Figures by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs show that over 1,000 Lithuanian citizens visit Cuba every year.
According to the MP, representatives of the ministry underlined that establishing diplomatic relations does not mean appointing an ambassador or opening an embassy in the country.
"Despite the fact that this country still has problems in the area of human rights, we are of an opinion that, by not having diplomatic relations, we are losing the opportunity to communicate and make an impact. Lithuania has already established diplomatic relations with almost all countries of the area of the Caribbean Sea," the Ministry of Foreign Affairs noted.
Meanwhile, representatives of the Seimas opposition believe that the committee's decision was hasty and made without consulting more politicians or requesting an analysis of the existing situation from the Lithuanian Embassy in the United States.
In a separate opinion, MPs Audronius Ažubalis, Kęstutis Masiulis, and Emanuelis Zingerus of the opposition Homeland Union–Lithuanian Christian Democrats said that Lithuania started its EU presidency with the establishment of relations with a communist dictatorship. In their words, the Freedom House and other global human rights organizations have named Cuba one of the most non-free and repressive communist dictatorships in the world.
Meanwhile Lithuanian Minister of Foreign Affairs Linas Linkevičius says that diplomatic relations with Cuba are necessary for interests of the State of Lithuania.
"We are holding the EU presidency. We are the only in the EU who don't have such relations. (...) The world is bigger than Europe. Cuba is leading the Group of Latin American and Caribbean Countries as of the start of this year, coordinating the agenda, moderating positions. We will need the support of these countries as a candidate to the United Nations Security Council. The vote will take place in October. But that's not some transaction at the expense of values," Linkevičius told journalists on Wednesday.
Linkevičius has underlined that the adopted decision does not change Lithuania's attitude to human rights or other values.
"I would like to stress once again that diplomatic relations do not mean a change in the value vector or attitude to human rights. I am surprised by such statements. These are very irresponsible statements, and if they reach the public, I would say, those Seimas members who are doing that are acting in a very irresponsible way," the foreign minister said.
According to Linkevičius, around 1,000 Lithuanian tourists visit Cuba every year, and if they have problems, it's difficult to help them due to the absence of diplomatic relations.
"We have diplomatic relation with many countries and the situation in some of them, unfortunately, is not very good," he noted, adding that the final decision on the establishment of diplomatic relations with Cuba will be made by the government.