Lithuania - Belarus, Introduction

For my work I travel a lot. Germany, Belgium, France, Swiss, Austria, sometimes Italy. With the establishment of a Rail Freight Corridor from the Netherlands to Poland and Lithuania I have to visit these countries now as well. That's when my interest in the EU-borders grew.

Vilnius where I have a meeting once or twice a year is near the Lithuanian - Belarusian border. This is an interesting and very well guarded border. I didn't expect or realise that before my first visit. Fences, cameras with infrared detection, watchtowers, 'state border protecion zones' of 300 to 400 meters where you're not allowed to be, State Border Buards along the whole border. Villages on both sides of the border are strictly separated from eachother since this became an EU-border, people living in houses close to the border had to leave their houses as the area became part of the border protection zone. The Lithuanians do everything to protect their borders, heavily financied with EU-money.
But why?
Looking at the website of the Lithuanian State border guard service you get an idea what's behind this protection and securty. This border (as much as other EU borders I guess) is populair for refugees and smugglers: People from Moldavia, Georgia and other rather poor Eastern countries try to enter the EU via Belarus and Lithuania. Besides that, there is a lot of smuggling of cigarettes and other goods from Belarus to Lithuania. Maybe the fact that this is a new border plays also a role. Until 1990 the border between Lithuania and Belarus was a sort of inland border, under the Soviet governance and rules. Now that Lithuania is part of the EU scince 2004, this changed radically and the measures they took are radical as well. When you compare the protection of this border with the EU border Poland - Kaliningrad (Russia), it's complete different! That border has no fences, no cameras and no 'protection zone', at least not in the woods and the low-crowded agricultural areas. Just the about 15 meter strip at the border is not accesable in most cases.
Nevertheless, the Lithuanian border guards are friendly to me and if you respect the rules, they are willing to help you. At least, that's my experience. During my first visit to the Lithuanian – Belarusian border, I was quite stupid and not aware of the 'no-go zone'. They caught me, but after their first euphoria of cathing me the treated me friendly -although I had to pay a mild penalty.
During my second visit, I asked them for help and they fully supported me by joining me during my trip along the border.
More information about the State Border Guard Service and their work can be found on their own website, and also on this website under the chapter . Here you find some characteristic pictures that I took from their news site.
On my own website I publish some of them as well, which I do with permission of the Institution.
Untill now I was only twice there, but I hope to visit this border in 2015 once or twice more.