Belgian Defense Minister visits Lithuania and Open Spirit 2016

The Belgian Defense Minister will attend the multinational mine countermeasures (MCM) operation Open Spirit 2016 and observe participating ships conduct MCM tasks in the Baltic Sea on May 26.

Minister of Defense Steven Vandeput will also meet the Lithuanian Defence Minister aboard the LNS Jotvingis to discuss security situation at the eastern and southern NATO borders, preparations for the upcoming NATO Summit in Warsaw, and bilateral military cooperation on land, in the air and at sea.

Belgian and Lithuanian navies have been cooperating for nearly 20 years. The first Belgian officers and military advisors actively contributed to the BALTRON project of the Lithuanian Navy together with other NATO allies.

The Belgian Navy takes part in the Baltic States-organised international mine countermeasures Operation Open Spirit in the Baltic Sea every year. Among other naval assets deployed to the mine countermeasures operation this year is the BNS Primula of the Belgian Navy. Defence Minister of Belgium S. Vandeput and his delegation are expected to visit the ship and meet with her crew.

Belgium has provided a number of rotations for the NATO Air Policing Mission in the Baltic States. The Royal Belgian Air Force Detachment opened the mission in spring 2004 when Lithuania became a NATO ally. In total, Belgium carried out three rotations of the mission and provided to augmentations to it operated from Estonia and Poland.

In October 2015 Belgium deployed a company-sized unit to train alongside Lithuanian and allied troops in Exercise Baltic Piranha in Lithuania. Also, one Belgian officer serves with the NATO Force Integration Unit (NFIU).