A positive evaluation of the European Commission strategy document on the EU enlargement
Lithuanian Foreign Affairs Minister Petras Vaitiekūnas has positively evaluated the European Commission strategy document on the EU enlargement. As the Minister claimed “we agree with the Commission that we have to respect the obligations made for the countries seeking a membership in the European Union. The perspective of the membership in the EU is a strong impetus for these countries to continue the implementation of the necessary structural political and economic reforms. Consistent EU enlargement policy is a strong instrument of keeping peace, democracy and stability in the continent”.
Following the evaluation of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the progress reports of the countries provided by the European Commission are rather comprehensive and objectively evaluating the preparation of the countries for the membership in the EU and the fields named by the European Commission as requiring progress and the indicated remaining problems will help the countries to continue the consistent preparation for the membership in the EU.
Lithuania strongly supports the further EU enlargement
The main points of the Lithuanian position on the EU enlargement are:
The most important Lithuanian politicians declared their concern about the negative results of the Irish referendum. Chairman of the Committee on European Affairs of the Lithuanian parliament (“Seimas”), Andrius Kubilius, emphasised that the results of the Irish referendum might have a negative impact on the Lisbon Treaty ratification procedures in other EU member states, first and foremost in the Czech Republic. He claimed to be concerned about the further development of European matters. On the other hand he said that the negative Irish decision cannot be a handicap towards further development of the EU, for its further and deeper integration and enlargement. Both these elements are important to Lithuania. Shortly before the Irish referendum, with a fear that the Irish would vote ‘No’ for the Lisbon Treaty, one of the best know European Parliament members from Lithuania, Justas Vincas Paleckis, declared that in this case 4 million Irish people can prevent 496 million of the EU’s citizens from getting a new and much more powerful engine for the European Union.
Some of Lithuania’s politicians did not hide their surprise by stressing that Ireland is one of the EU member states that have profited the most from its membership in the EU.
The ratification of the Lisbon treaty in the Lithuanian Parliament is planned for the spring
On November 11, 2004 Lithuania was the first EU member state to ratify the Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe, which has now been replaced by the Lisbon treaty. Such a “rush” to ratify a new treaty was justified by many factors, but it was also criticized because at the time of ratification of the Constitution for Europe Lithuanian society was not well informed about this document. Therefore based on this experience Lithuania is not rushing to ratify the Lisbon treaty. The treaty will be ratified in the Parliament and there should be no problems for the ratification of this treaty. As the Lithuanian Foreign Affairs Minister Petras Vaitiekūnas said “the treaty will have to be ratified in the Seimas (Lithuanian Parliament) and I suppose it will be successfully done”.
Unemployment has grown drastically
Lithuania has been deeply influenced by the current financial crisis. One of the most problematic consequences of the crisis is a significant increase in the level of unemployment. Several years ago, Lithuania did not face the problem of unemployment, as its level was very low, but according to the latest data provided by the Lithuanian Office of Statistics, the level of unemployment was as high as 13.7 percent at the end of 2009. This means that Lithuania has the third highest unemployment level in the EU after Spain and Latvia. In this context, it is becoming harder for inexperienced and young people to find jobs and, in 2009, the unemployment level among the youth had reached 29.3 percent. The Bank of Lithuania estimates that the level of unemployment might reach up to 16.7 percent this year.
Closure of Ignalina nuclear power plant was not postponed
Greece should first prepare a stricter plan for saving
Lithuanian officials and society assert that Greece should expand its efforts against its economic troubles and that this should be a prerequisite for receiving aid from other EU member states.
Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite said, the “Greek situation and the decision of the EU member states to provide aid for Greece together with the International Monetary Fund is a good lesson to all states that they should treat their public finances with responsibility.” According to the Lithuanian President, by “becoming a Eurozone member, Greece has adopted important obligations to conduct responsible fiscal and monetary policy. When in big economic trouble, a state has to make responsible but not populist financial decisions, look for the ways out and only then expect help from other member states.”
Iceland’s accession is strongly supported and the Croatian accession negotiations should be finished as soon as possible
Lithuanian officials favour further EU enlargement and are convinced that bilateral disagreements should not influence the accession negotiations of the candidate countries – former Lithuanian Foreign Affairs Minister Vygaudas Usackas expressed his support for the European Commission’s estimation that Croatian accession negotiations can be finished in 2010. Lithuanian Foreign Affairs Vice-Minister Asta Skaisgiryte Liauskiene recently said that the Croatian accession negotiations should be finished as soon as possible.
Iceland was the first state to recognise Lithuania’s independence 20 years ago. Today Lithuania favours the integration of this state into the EU and, as Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite said, “Lithuania strongly supports the aspiration of Iceland to become an EU member state and is willing to provide all the necessary support for Iceland‘s accession negotiations.”
Lithuanians are happy that the new European Council President came to Lithuania for one of his first official visits
Considering the activities the new the President of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy, the event that called the most attention was that one of his first official visits as President of the European Council was made to Lithuania. Commenting on the event, Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite said it was very important that the new EU leader had chosen Lithuania for one of his first official visits. According to her, “this indicates that both small and big states are equally important to the EU.” However, there is no wide discussion on the changes to the role of the rotating council presidency, but, as Lithuanian officials state, it is in the interest of Lithuania that the visibility of the country holding the rotating presidency would be preserved and that non-formal meetings of the European Council would be held in it.
Opinions on Ashton’s work split
Institute of International Relations and Political Science, Vilnius University
Lithuanian politicians keep on talking intensively at all levels about the Lithuania’s difficult situation in the energy sector and Lithuanian energy security which will be endangered when “Ignalina nuclear power plant” – the main provider of energy in Lithuania – has to be closed according to the Treaty of Accession to the European Union. For example, during the October European Council meeting, the Lithuanian President, Valdas Adamkus, emphasized that without the electricity interconnections with Sweden and Poland, Lithuania can face energy bankruptcy. The Prime Minister, Andrius Kubilius, claims that the Russian and Ukrainian gas crisis has clearly demonstrated that each European state can face big problems of energy security. Following him, we have to do everything with the European Union that next year, i.e. after the closure of the “Ignalina nuclear power plant”, we will not come across such problems as Slovakia did.
Victory of the right-wing parties in the national elections
Institute of International Relations and Political Science, Vilnius University
Lithuania has always sustained an ‘open door’ policy regarding EU enlargement. Speaking about the further enlargement, Lithuanian officials most often concentrate on the EU Eastern neighbours. As it is laid down in the programme of the new government, Lithuania will support the efforts of Ukraine, Moldova and the states of Southern Caucasus to integrate in to the EU. Lithuanian Foreign Affairs Minister, Vygaudas Ušackas, emphasized that “it is necessary to keep the EU obligations for the countries, aspiring membership in the EU. At the same time it is essential to help the EU eastern neighbours to prepare for it properly”.
There should be no impediments for the further enlargement of the EU