What is the goal of Lithuanian foreign policy?
The largest Lithuanian daily Lietuvos Rytas on the 13 of September published its editorial on the Lithuanian Foreign Policy, which according the daily is loosing direction. Have a look at one side of the debate taking in the Lithuanian media at the moment. Hence, what is the goal of Lithuanian foreign policy?
This unexpected question has arisen again this week during the annual congress of the Lithuanian diplomats in Vilnius.
The Lithuanian diplomats, President Valdas Adamkus, and other influential politicians were discussing the best possible ways to implement the foreign policy goals.
However, after paying attention to what was going on during the behind-the-scenes meetings, as well as to the official declarations by the state leaders, a blasphemous question arose: Does Lithuania indeed know what these goals are.
Last week, the president in a way outlined certain benchmarks for the changes in the country’s foreign policy.
He declared that it was necessary to continue the so-called Eastern policy. However, he stressed that it was important to pay more attention to the more active relations with the Western European countries.
A single declaration by the president perhaps would not be seen as a shift in the direction of the country’s foreign policy, if not for the fact that it sounded like an echo of the criticism the Lithuanian diplomats have been receiving so far.
There have been talks that Vilnius pays too much attention to such countries as Belarus, Ukraine, Georgia, or Moldova, that it does not communicate enough, and that perhaps it is too cold in its friendship with the most powerful EU countries, such as Germany, France, and the United Kingdom.
Lithuania‘s European Commissioner Dalia Grybauskaite has even said that all Lithuania has managed is to have relations only with the “poor.”
This is why we could consider Adamkus’s strategic diplomatic goal as a certain new foreign policy vision: “The selected benchmarks are clear: as much Europe as possible in Lithuania and as much Lithuania as possible in Europe.”
It looks like this formulation will transform the previous idea proposed by the then acting President Arturas Paulauskas. The idea was that Lithuania would seek to become some kind of regional centre.
However, despite the fact that some of Lithuania‘s achievements have been impressive, this idea has been seen, at least in the public domain, as a silly misunderstanding, rather than a thought-out foreign policy goal.
Perhaps this is why the Lithuanian foreign policy goals that have been mentioned this time are much more mundane.
“As much as possible of the strong, open, and democratic Europe beyond our eastern border and in the entire world, which should be built on the stable transatlantic foundation. Our goals are democracy, security, stability, and wellbeing,” the president said.
In other words, one of the main foreign policy goals of Lithuania, even if it is an EU and NATO member, remains the need to ensure a secure environment. And one would find it difficult to argue against that.
However, even when we seek this goal, it looks like the newly formulated Lithuanian foreign policy goals will be more pragmatic.
The goal is that, besides security, the Eastern policy would give Lithuania more tangible benefits.
“Lithuania‘s Eastern policy has to give concrete dividends to our businessmen and our people. Looking back at our own road to the EU, whose widest segment was going through the Scandinavian countries, we can see that the Scandinavian investments in Lithuania won the businessmen from these countries considerable tangible benefits that grew several times. Such a model could and should be actively applied in our relations with Ukraine, Moldova, and Georgia,” Adamkus explained.
Foreign Minister Petras Vaitiekunas has also confirmed that the attitude of the country’s “wheelmen” with respect to foreign policy, at least on the level of ideas, has indeed changed.
I have stressed that our foreign policy should be more oriented toward solving domestic goals. There is a chance to focus foreign policy on solving domestic problems,” he said after meeting with the president last week.
By saying this, the minister has in a way outlined the main foreign policy goal of any country, obvious to anybody. This goal is the wellbeing of the country’s citizens. And all the rest are certain measures to achieve the goal.
However, in Lithuania, it seems that many persons still find it difficult to understand such a goal.
Our country’s diplomacy has indeed had many achievements, and these have been prominent achievements. Moreover, we have to admit that our foreign policy is far from being that sphere in Lithuania where we could find the most problems.
However, despite all that, it is still difficult to get rid of the thought that the aim of one policy or another is certainly far from seeking the wellbeing of the citizens.
I doubt anybody would challenge the fact that sometimes there are certain attempts to search for a certain niche for the country’s diplomacy. This happened with Lithuania‘s aspiration to become a regional centre.
Sometimes our diplomacy is influenced by the wish to make a spectacle of ourselves. This was what happened when our country’s parliamentarians ratified the EU Constitution, even though the majority of them had not even read it.
Sometimes the strategy is decided perhaps by a too narrow view by some officials. This was what happened in Japan, the giantess of the East, in which, not so long ago, Lithuania had the same number of diplomats as it has, for example, in Georgia.
It could be that the same will happen with the idea that has been declared more and more clearly, that Vilnius has to become a stronger supporter of European integration. And the supporters of these ideas in Lithuania do not even try to reply to the simplest questions asked by experts.
For example, will the Lithuanian people indeed have better lives, if Brussels regulates not only the areas that have been assigned to it so far, but also migration, taxes, or many other spheres?
Will it indeed help to increase, for example, Lithuania‘s competitiveness and its wellbeing?
They should be obliged to answer these and similar questions each and every time. Then the foreign policy goals will become much clearer.
The article is translated by the BBC Monitoring