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Remarks by President Valdas Adamkus at the Discussion "Russia and its Neighbours", World Economic Forum in Davos


2008.01.28

26.01.2008

I am delighted that the meeting in Davos every time offers an opportunity for a dialogue on current issues. This year is no exception.

They are energy, international interaction of stability, resources, distribution and, of course, international political relations, and how they impact our cooperation.

The topics which we are dealing with are essential to find a common understanding, common benefits and acceptable ground rules for future cooperation.

Rapidly changing international social-economic-political configurations in some cases restructure its alliances, create new opportunities and, at the same time, allow us to re-examine present positions and expectations.

Since we are a close neighbour of a big country like Russia, tonight I will be very objective when dealing with an almost insurmountable task: to address and probably answer the question “What kind of Russia does the world expect?” It would be easy and simple to say: creative, cooperative, sharing, respecting the values and choices of its neighbours and contributing to building a common future based on common principles.

Lithuania is well aware of the importance of a democratic, open and stable Russia with tolerant society and responsible government. We do not have to search far to understand if Russia is prepared to take on a global role: all we have to do is take a look at its relations and, in some cases, problems with neighbouring countries. If issues are not resolved at this level, how can we expect them to be settled at global level? It is quite obvious that Russia has problems when dealing with almost all of its neighbours: the Baltic States, Poland, Ukraine, Georgia, and even Belarus. Since most of the countries in the world are small – like Lithuania – what kind of conclusions will they make when considering Russia’s claims to be a global power?

The main task, that we are solving today in Brussels and in Vilnius as well as in other Western capitals is how to encourage Russia to make a wider step towards democracy without undermining its internal balance.

To my mind, our relations with Russia should be based on these basic principles:

Elaborating the dialogue with Russia: how Russia itself understands its role and responsibility in the 21st century.

It is necessary to allow Russia define the level of its global responsibility itself and accordingly to define our relations with Russia. If Russia is seeking global responsibility and a global role, there are some benchmarks to be overcome:- to withdraw troops from Georgia and Moldova, which is foreseen under the Istanbul Agreements;- to ratify the Energy Charter; - to follow the promises made when joining the Council of Europe; - to follow intergovernmental agreements with other countries, including the Baltic States.

In case Russia today is not ready to implement these agreements, we should not under coercion from Russia conclude new agreements, especially when these agreements sweep away our previous commitments. There is no necessity to rush with the new EU-Russia Partnership and Cooperation Agreement, the so called post-PCA, as well. The relationship of the international community with Russia should correspond to the level of Russia‘s readiness to commit to the international community.

Strengthening cooperation with Russia’s neighbours, particularly those that have embarked on the road of democratic values.

The more there is democracy and stability at Russian borders, the better for Russia itself. Therefore, countries that have decided on the path of democracy (Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova and other neighbours of Russia) should be given support in every possible way. In this respect, a special role is allocated to the European Union and NATO – two structures that have already proved their ability not only to stabilize the situation in Russia’s neighbourhood, but also to create real preconditions for long-term prosperity.

I am confident that cooperation between the EU and NATO with Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova and other countries in the region could be even more dynamic. Total integration of these countries into the Euro-Atlantic space is our common long-term strategic objective, and also that of Russia.

Strengthening international community’s common vision on the development of relations with Russia.

Although all of us agree on our strategic goals, we sometimes have a different approach to the way of reaching them. We should not be afraid of the diversity of views and opinions, but we should nevertheless decide on how to reach a common solution and design a common policy. This particularly applies to the EU and NATO. Different opinions are publicly voiced, but there is no political format as yet to put them within the framework of a political process.

I see a major need to initiate such a discussion and not to restrict it within a strict time-table. If we, the leaders of EU member states, can negotiate an agreement on the Reform Treaty even until 5 am, why cannot we spend more time speaking about our relationship with Russia, which is no less important to the future of Europe? The Reform Treaty has been drawn up by the European Convent and several groups of wise men; but where is a group of wise men to find a way for getting on with Russia?

We have, first of all, to define a clear-cut-position within the EU and only then move on with new propositions towards our partners in Russia.

Therefore it is our duty to remind the international society about unnecessary tensions and to jointly plan how to engage in a constructive dialogue. We, Russia’s neighbours, are the most interested in a new quality of relationship with Russia. It is a difficult task but the one that we must accomplish.

H.E. Mr. Valdas Adamkus, President of the Republic of Lithuania

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