Ahead of the NATO Summit in Vilnius: What Vilnius Residents and Visitors Need to Know

NATO vėliava prie savivaldybės

Nuotr. S. Žiūros

This summer, on 11-12 July, Vilnius will host the most important and biggest event in Lithuania’s history – the NATO Summit. As in other countries that have hosted the summit in the past, traffic restrictions and other changes affecting the normal rhythm of city life are expected in the capital. Vilnius City Municipality shares the most relevant information for Vilnius residents and visitors.

The event, to be held at the Lithuanian Exhibition and Congress Centre LITEXPO, will take important decisions on the security of the Alliance that unites 31 member nations. For Vilnius to host so many high-ranking guests and journalists intending to cover the meeting is a significant and important event. Residents are invited to plan their trips in advance for 11-12 July.

The fact that 31 NATO countries have jointly decided that the 2023 NATO Summit should be held in Vilnius is a recognition of Lithuania’s role in the Alliance. In almost 20 years of NATO membership, Lithuania has proven to be an active and reliable member of the Alliance, actively participating in NATO operations and missions, and consistently strengthening resilience and cyber security.

“This meeting is a historic opportunity for Vilnius and Lithuania to showcase themselves on the international stage. The capital already has experience in organising high-level international events—the Pope’s visit, the presidency of the European Union as well as several visits by presidents and monarchs of other countries—but this time world-wide media attention will be significant. Of course, it is inevitable that this event will also be the most demanding in the last decade in terms of security, scale, and intensity. Vilnius residents and visitors will face a huge challenge due to the changes to mobility in the city, so I encourage residents to familiarise themselves with the restrictions in advance and to plan their journeys to minimize inconvenience,” says Vilnius Mayor Valdas Benkunskas.

In Vilnius, we expect to meet not only the leaders of European countries, but also the leaders of the USA, Canada, and NATO partners from Japan, South Korea, Australia, and New Zealand.

What to expect and look forward to in Vilnius

During the NATO Summit, traffic and mobility restrictions will apply to the Old Town, Vilnius Airport, individual areas of the Naujamiestis Eldership as well as the approaches to the Lithuanian Exhibition and Congress Centre LITEXPO. Some neighbourhoods or streets will be closed completely and some temporarily, so residents are encouraged to check the details as the Summit approaches.

Restricted areas will be pedestrian-only and closed to all vehicles, including bicycles and electric scooters, so residents and businesses are urged to make sure they have the necessary equipment in advance.

Businesses operating in these areas will be able to carry out their activities, with certain exceptions, which include outdoor sales and other activities. Restrictions on outdoor outlets and cafés will be announced closer to the event.

Access to medical facilities, places of worship, educational establishments (kindergartens) or other institutions located in the restricted area will be on foot only.

Restrictions on special transport

Waste transporters will take care of clearing the containers just before the traffic restrictions are imposed. Taxis, cabs, parcel carriers and couriers will not be allowed to enter the closed areas. Only special vehicles with permits—police, the Dignitary Protection Service (DPS), providers of medical (ambulance) services, the fire service, and the city’s emergency services— will be able to enter these areas.
Public transport will be restricted near the Lithuanian Exhibition and Congress Centre LITEXPO on 11-12 July, and public transport in the Old Town on 10-12 July will travel to the bus and railway stations; however, there may be changes in the routes to bypass the Old Town or certain sections of streets.

All the latest information about the Summit and the traffic restrictions is available here: vilnius.lt/NATO

Standard practice in all countries

Over the past decade, NATO summits have been held in Warsaw, Madrid, Brussels, London and many other cities. All of these summits, in line with NATO security protocols, have involved the highest security measures and traffic restrictions, such as the closure of major streets in the city centre and elsewhere, the rerouting of buses and other vehicles, traffic and parking restrictions, and the recommendation that residents use the metro. All persons in restricted areas were identified in order to prevent potentially dangerous behaviour.

“I encourage the residents of the capital to become ambassadors for their city. We have a historic opportunity that comes once a decade or even less often. Almost three thousand diplomats and politicians from Europe and beyond will be attending, as well as around two thousand representatives of the international media. Many of them will be seeing Vilnius and Lithuania for the first time, and the meeting will be broadcast globally, so we have a unique opportunity to help our guests fall in love with our city and invite them to come back,” says Vilnius Mayor V. Benkunskas.