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President Adamkus: ‘Being a member of the EU and NATO, Lithuania raises new strategic challenges’


2008.05.08

Thursday, May 8, Vilnius – The President of the Republic of Lithuania Valdas Adamkus received ambassadors of the Republic of Lithuania residing abroad.

The President raised an issue as to what else the diplomatic service could do in the general interests of the country, especially now that Lithuania’s strategic goals, i.e. membership in the European Union and NATO, had been achieved. 

 “A clearer understanding of this link would make every citizen of Lithuania feel stronger, like in the years of occupation or at the time when Lithuania was accepted to the European Union and NATO. This link between our foreign policy and aspirations of the people as a whole is considered by many as somewhat loose. We have heard and still hear questions like ‘What is Lithuania’s business in Georgia’, ‘Why do we need to talk about Holodomor?’,” talked the President.

 According to the President, this link is probably broken as far as clarification and communication is concerned. The President sees the causes of these communication gaps not in the performance of the diplomatic service but in the overall quality of politics which depends on the ability of politicians to talk clearly and reason their opinion rather than on diplomatic activities. The President underlined that Lithuania must voice its aspirations clearly and audibly.

 Talking about Lithuania’s membership in NATO and the European Union, President Adamkus underlined that national security was strengthened but principal problems remained unsolved. According to the President, Georgia's experience is a good lesson in how critical it is to have as many allies and as clear mutually-binding commitments as possible if Lithuania does not want to be left all by itself in controversial situations. 

 The President also underlined that the past four years revealed most sensitive areas of national security: energy, economic backwardness, infrastructural isolation.  “Yesterday we talked about the new nuclear power plant, electricity bridges, Via Baltica and Rail Baltica projects as something to be strived for. Today we are aware that pending solution of these issues Lithuania will be easily exposed to external pressures and very much dependent on its neighbours’ grace. At the same time we see that once we name the problem, be it the new nuclear power plant or other important projects, there automatically appear preconditions for active involvement of diplomats in the solution of such problems”, Valdas Adamkus said.

 The President expressed his concerns about preparations in Vilnius to become the European Capital of Culture. “To say nothing of the minor projects which our diplomats try to “sell” abroad but fail to find the right person in Lithuania to whom they could introduce a high-ranking visitor or major investor invited to the country. This is also a manifestation of the poor quality of the national policy”, said the President.

 In the light of these problems, the President named several strategic challenges to Lithuanian diplomacy.
 First and foremost, the President sees a need to spread western principles beyond Lithuania's borders.  “I do not see a better tool in this area than NATO and EU enlargement policy. Being a member in both of them, we may influence their decisions. Binding Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova and other countries in the region by as close ties as possible with the West in the field of trade and security is only an interim solution. However, even this solution will most likely be difficult to achieve without Lithuania’s active voice. Who else than Lithuania, together with the like-minded, was and will be wakening the West from the indifference to Eastern European affairs? Against this background, Lithuania’s position on the new agreement between the EU and Russia is logical, consistent and insightful”, said the President.

 The President suggests considering building an additional network of partnerships, something which might be called a ‘secondary’ security system aimed at securing Lithuania's defence interests.  “We had started building it even before accession to the EU and NATO. The Baltic Three, strategic partnership with Poland, targeted steps towards strategic ties with Ukraine, close transatlantic dialogue, all are the components of this network. Today, they could be complemented by closer ties with the largest EU Member States like Germany, France and Great Britain, and with strategic regional or global players like Israel, Kazakhstan, India and China”, said President Adamkus.

 Particular focus in the President's address was on the Baltic Sea Region. The Head of State welcomed the regrouping of the Ministry's resources so as to focus more on the nearest neighbours, Poland and Latvia. “However, the ‘cold’ North should neither be ignored. It is symptomatic that our exports to traditional markets in the Northern Europe like Denmark, Sweden and even Estonia has been going down in recent years. Does this mean that our businesses do not find niches in these markets or that they lose competitiveness or maybe they go for ‘easier profits’? Next year, Lithuania takes over the presidency in the Council of the Baltic Sea States; we must, therefore, think how to use this opportunity to consolidate the existing and build new partnerships”.

 According to the President, the near future will not bring a challenge larger than the dilemma of Lithuania’s energy security. “The Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant will, of course, be closed in accordance with our commitments to our partners, but leaving Lithuania with no options and dependent on a single supplier is not a good solution either”, stressed the President.

 The Head of State suggested ensuring Lithuania’s full and active contribution to the solution of global security issues. According to Adamkus, if Lithuania remains insular and deep down in its own problems, it will not be attractive to other partners. 

 According to the President, today Lithuania actively contributes to international security and stability. The presence of Lithuanian military and civilian personnel in Afghanistan, Iraq and the Balkans is a testimony of the country's maturity. “Our partners today keep asking us to continue these military and civilian missions and to increase our development cooperation budget. This means to us a great recognition and appreciation. Therefore, we should not hesitate repaying the debt to our partners who have helped and still help us a lot”, said the President.

 The Head of State raised a challenge to the diplomatic service in relation to Lithuania’s citizens who had moved to another state on a temporary or permanent basis. According to the President, certain legal requirements burden rather than facilitate consular work and, most importantly, cause many inconveniences to our nationals. The President underlined the need to amend or replace such outdated legal acts. 

 The President called on embassies to actively make contacts with Lithuanians living, working or studying in their respective countries, encourage them to join into Lithuanian organisations, organise various Lithuanian events and use any other means to urge our nationals to preserve their Lithuanian identity and the bond with their motherland.

 President Adamkus also underlined that leadership would be a necessity both during presidency in the Council of the Baltic States, OSCE and the European Union, and at the time, when we, drawing on foreign experience, would make proposals to Lithuanian politicians. “Your leadership, activeness and ingenuity is needed already today, when Lithuania tries to explain not only to its nearest neighbours but also to the whole European family what kind of relations we want to have with Russia and why our Eastern neighbour has been deaf for so many years to Lithuania’s claims to detain the killers in Medininkai and January 13 tragedies. You, Lithuania’s Ambassadors, must do everything you can to convey a message about Lithuania’s aspirations to Latvian, Estonia, Polish and other European people. This is a huge task that can be accomplished by our joint efforts only. I therefore hope that this joint task will mobilise the whole Lithuania not only the diplomatic service”, President Adamkus said.

Press Service of the President

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