Posts filed under ‘Belarus’

Lithuania’s grey cardinal interviewed on relations with US, CIA prison and more

Lithuanian web site Delfi on 12 January published an interview with Albinas Januška, a former state secretary of the Foreign Ministry, former adviser to President Valdas Adamkus and Prime Minister Gediminas Kirkilas, and signatory to the Lithuanian Independence Act. 

Some commentators call him Lithuania’s grey cardinal and a mastermind behind so called group called the ‘Statesmen’ (Valstybininkai).  This very rear interview with a man who is known for being the main Lithuania’s foreign policy strategist, but his influence in Lithuanian politics was also huge.

The interview is omitted.  Commentator Vladimiras Laučius conducted it.  

Foreign Policy Is Too Personal
(Delfi.lt) About a year ago, current Foreign Minister Vygaudas Ušackas announced his plans to “open new page in relations with Russia.” Have you noticed any changes?

(Januška) Usačkas is talented and brave. Visions and innovations are necessary. There indeed are some new initiatives. But it is important not to make a mistake and not to imagine oneself as the forerunner of a new historical period.

It seemed that the country was mature enough, that it had opened a sufficient number of “new pages,” and that we had the right to expect to have a predictable, stable, but also sharp and expansive foreign policy.

The biggest mistake is that we again chose to have relations with the Kremlin based on the tête-à-tête principle. This is why we are a member of a modern empire – the EU, to speak with Russia as an equal. A powerful rival against an equally powerful rival. The Kremlin’s foreign policy is based on the principle that one has to divide and rule, because when Russia deals with everyone separately, it is stronger. Our current policy helps Russia strengthen its interests.

I would like to remind you that when Adamkus and [former Minister of Foreign Affairs] Petras Vaitiekūnas were in power, they had added to the EU-Russia negotiation mandate some issues that were important to us and other EU countries: Russia’s commitment to observe the requirements defined in the Energy Charter, the possibility to renew the delivery of oil via the Friendship [Druzhba] pipeline.

Read all article

January 22, 2010 at 12:07 am Leave a comment

Russian Charter bid may threaten Lithuania’s security

As the BNS informed a Russian NGO’s bid to start issuing so-called Russian Charters to nationals living in foreign states may come as a threat to Lithuania.

The Baltic state’s re-elected Member of European Parliament conservative Vytautas Landsbergis on Saturday thus commented to BNS news of the endeavour.  “This may become a dangerous thing, but this will depend on Russia’s policy and on how many people get tempted by this Russian Charter. It can lead to ample provocations,” the MEP said. 

The Russian Charter will act as a document confirming voluntary commitment to the state and people of Russia, the country’s regnum.ru web portal said on Friday.

Landsbergis picked at the notion of making commitments to a foreign state, when, in fact, one is a citizen of yet another.  “It would be strange if Lithuanian citizens would make commitments to the state of Russia. By undertaking such commitments the citizens would be hypocritical. This comes as a black-hearted move on their (Russia’s – BNS) part, one aimed at provoking and unsettling the state of Lithuania,” the conservative spoke. 

Landsbergis didn’t dismiss the possibility that the idea to start issuing the document in question was coordinated with the Russian authorities.

“I don’t think Russian authorities were kept in the dark. This should rouse anxiety among neighbouring states, especially Ukraine and Belarus,” said the MEP.

According to Landsbergis, the Polish Charter may have served as a poor example in this particular case.

The charters will be issued first of all to Russians living in the Baltic States, Ukraine, Moldova and Kazakhstan, the Russian portal said.

It is necessary to take action that the approximately 30 million of Russians living outside the country maintain their ties with the historic homeland, are supported and defended, Leonid Shershnev, head of the foundation which initiated the bid, told the portal.

Recipients of the charter are likely to be eligible to certain privileges, including economic ones, like discounts.  The portal notes this practice as being in place in other countries as well, referring to the Polish Charter.

A number of Lithuanian poles living in the Vilnius region, including former MP and future MEP Valdemar Tomasevski and MP Michal Mackevic, have the Polish Charter.

News of Lithuania’s MPs having the Polish Charter spurred initiatives to question whether this document is compatible with an MP mandate and whether it is in line with the country’s Organic Law, however the Seimas voted against addressing the Constitutional Court over this matter.

The Polish Charter can be acquired by those who declare in writing their will to pertain to the Polish nation and who can prove that at least one of their parents, grandparents or great grandparents were of Polish origin or had Polish citizenship.

“The Polish Charter is a document proving your Polish origin. The charter provides its holders with the rights stipulated in the the Law on the Polish Charter adopted by the Polish Sejm on Sept. 7 2007,” reads an official brochure of the Polish Charter.

Persons holding the charter can receive long-term visas free of charge, get legal employment in Poland, carry out economic activities under the same conditions as Polish citizens, have rights to free education, emergency medical assistance, 37 percent discount off railway tickets, free access to state museums and priority right in applications for financial assistance from Polish state and municipal budgets for supporting Poles living abroad.

A brochure on the Polish Charter also underlines that having one is not the same as having Polish citizenship.

The Polish Charter can be acquired by those who declare in writing their will to pertain to the Polish nation and who can prove that at least one of their parents, grandparents or great grandparents were of Polish origin or had Polish citizenship.

Source BNS

July 13, 2009 at 2:21 pm 2 comments

Happy First Millennium – Lithuania!

1000In 1009 Lithuania’s name (Lituae) was first mentioned in the chronicles of ancient German town Kvedlinburg in reference to the death of missionary St. Bruno.

Lithuania on July 6 is marking its millennial Statehood Day.  This small nation, sandwiched between great Germanic and Slavic giants managed to survive against all odds in the world.  It experienced its glory days for few centuries with it medieval empire which stretched from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea.  Some historian argue that if there was not such an empire there would not have been Belarusian and Ukrainian nations today.

It was carved up, occupied and slaughtered for few centuries to revive again and again.  It is a story of a small and great nation which held on to this piece of land next to the Baltic Sea and managed to survive.  This is why it is amazing.  Lithuania, together with its Baltic sisters managed to survive.  Despite of all difficulties at the moment we will rise like phoenix out of ashes.  Crisis are coming and going, but such nations are here to stay and prosper.

Celebratory events taking place throughout the day will be attended by Queen of Denmark Margarethe II, King Harald V of Norway, King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia of Sweden.

Other distinguished guests will include President Olafur Ragnar of Iceland, President Valdis Zatlers of Latvia, President Lech Kaczynski of Poland, President Viktor Yushchenko of Ukraine, President Tarja Halonen of Finland, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Legate of Pope Benedict XVI and Dean of the College of Cardinals, Prime Minister Andrus Ansip of Estonia, and Russia’s Minister of Culture Alexander Avdeyev among others.

Lithuania’s millennial celebration kicked off at noon with a Flag Hoisting Ceremony in Daukanto Square, next to the Office of President of the Republic of Lithuania Valdas Adamkus, with a Holy Mass at the Vilnius Cathedral to follow, the president’s press service said in a statement.

The Holy Mass will be followed by a symbolic ceremony marking the opening of a reconstructed Royal Palace of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and a farewell to participants of the Millennium Song Festival “Song of the Centuries”, the statement says.

Later in the day the action will move over to the Museum of Applied Arts, where the honorable guests will visit millennial exhibitions on display, namely “Lithuania in Ancient Historical Sources”, “Wawel in Vilnius. From the Jagiellonian Dynasty to the end of the Republic, and “The Art of Balts”, and will attend lunch hosted by President Adamkus.

In the evening, guests will deliver addresses in Lithuania’s Millennial Song Contest, and later attend dinner hosted by Adamkus in the President’s Office.

July 6, 2009 at 2:27 pm 4 comments

Lithuania is Among Top Five Enemies of Russia

Lithuania is among the top five enemies of Russia. This was revealed by a recent public opinion poll in Russia. One can say that the notion of Lithuania as an enemy was inculcated into the heads of common Russians by the Kremlin’s propaganda. This is true, but it does not change the essence of the issue. Unlike in 1990-1991, today Lithuania would not be able to count on moral support from Russians, which was one of the reasons why we were successful in our quest for independence. Later, when we were negotiating over the withdrawal of Russian troops from Lithuania, favourable opinion about us among common Russians was also a very important factor.

Even ten years later, when we were trying to join NATO, one of the arguments our politicians and diplomats used in the talks with the Western partners was a poll that showed the majority of Russians did not object to our membership in the alliance. The poll also said that our membership in the alliance would not harm Russia’s relations with NATO, something Moscow’s politicians were trying to claim. Therefore, Russian politicians drew certain conclusions and started fixing the mistake of their propaganda, which at that time still counter-positioned the “good” Lithuania against the “bad” Latvia and Estonia.

Thanks to the efforts by the Kremlin’s propaganda masters, in 2004-2005 Vilnius got involved in a fierce verbal war against Moscow. The war lasted till 2008 and did not produce anything good for Lithuania: The Druzhba [friendship] oil pipeline was not reopened, the talks over compensation for the occupation damages did not commence, the Medininkai murderers were not extradited. The only thing we achieved was the loss of allies in the EU.

Russia, meanwhile, gained a strong argument in the discussions with the EU and NATO. From dawn till dusk the EU and NATO were told: “Did we not tell you that by accepting those intrigue-loving Baltic states, you would gain a source of constant disagreements with Russia?”

In 2004-2005, Russians’ opinion about the Baltic States, Poland, Ukraine, and Georgia has started to get worse. This showed that harming the ties with the closest neighbours in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union was a deliberate and pre-planned policy of Moscow.

A fruit of this policy could be observed in May 2007, when during rioting by Russian-speakers in Tallinn hundreds of thousands of Russians, without having been urged by anyone, got involved in cyber attacks against Estonian websites. A year later, we witnessed another result of this policy in Georgia. That time, as the Russian tanks were rolling towards the neighbouring country, not only Vladimir Putin, but also millions of Russians, overcome by chauvinistic orgasm, were demanding to hang Mikhail Saakashvili “by his balls.”

If the Kremlin started some sort of a political or economic pressure campaign against Lithuania, the support from Russian citizens would be just as enthusiastic.

Source BBC Monitoring

June 20, 2009 at 11:08 am Leave a comment

Online museum to guide visitors through Communist regime crimes

An online Global Museum on Communism is being launched on Tuesday in view of shedding a light on the history of the Soviet regime and the inherent crimes against humanity, and commemorating victims of the regime writes BNS.

The Lithuanian government was among donors that contributed to the project in question, earmarking 15,000 litas (EUR 4,300). The website launch will be webcast on Tuesday evening from the US capital Washington.

Lithuanian Foreign Minister Vygaudas Usackas says that such projects help the humanity retain the historic memory, loss of which makes “reconciliation impossible.”

“We cannot forget the crimes against the humanity committed by the two largest totalitarian regimes of the 20th century – Fascism and Stalinism. Symbolically, the project is being launched this year, which does not only mark 20 years since the fall of the Berlin wall but also 70 years since the signing of the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact,” Usackas told BNS on Tuesday in comment of the project.

Victims of the Communist regime and their families will be invited to register in the website and share their experience. The museum will also feature papers by historians, also film recordings from key historic events.

The project was initiated by a Washington-based Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, established in December of 1993 by the US Congress in view of immortalizing the memory of those fallen victim to communism and those who fought to resist it.

Project donors include governments of other Eastern European states as well as private foundations and individual contributors.

The Lithuanian government previously allocated funds to the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation back in 2007 for an underway memorial in Washington erected to pay homage to victims of the regime.

June 19, 2009 at 10:38 am Leave a comment

Russia will decide whether we Lithuaina will have electric power

I would like to present you with absolutely brilliant analysis of the current and the short-term Lithuania’s energy market situation.  This article was written by Audrius Paciulis and published in the weekly ‘Veidas’ on September 15.

It is very likely that Lithuania will have a shortage of electric power in January-February 2010.   From 1 January 2010 – the time by which the Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant (IAE) has to be decommissioned – the main raw material for production of electric power in Lithuania will be natural gas imported from Russia. Even if its price does not go up, (which is highly unlikely), still, the main electric power producers in the country will be thermoelectric power stations, including the biggest power station located in Elektrenai. The price of electric power produced by this power station is four times higher than the price of the electric power produced by the main electric power supplier so far – the IAE.

A parliamentary election campaign has started in Lithuania. This is why all the political parties, including the government, are working in the election mode. This means that all their time and effort is dedicated to the election campaign and to the meetings with the electorate, and the routine work is ignored for the time being. The problem is that some issues that are vital, for example, the supply of electric power after the shutdown of the IAE, cannot be ignored.

November 2008 is the deadline for the Lithuanian thermoelectric power stations to inform Gazprom about how much gas they are going to purchase in 2010 and later on, when these power stations will be burdened with the responsibility to provide Lithuania with electric power. In order to do that, the thermoelectric power stations need to receive a clear reply from Leo LT how much energy and from which suppliers – thermoelectric power stations, hydroelectric power stations, or other suppliers – it is going to purchase electric power, and how much of this electric power it is going to import. However, just like its predecessor, the Lithuanian 0.3 TWh.

Moreover, we need to take into consideration that the Scandinavian electric power is produced mostly by hydroelectric power plants. It is cheap only during the rainy periods, but it is not cheap in winter, when Lithuania needs the electric power the most. We could import some more electric power from Latvia, which launched a new thermoelectric power plant with the capacity of 400 MW, and which is in the process of building another generator of the same capacity.

Of course, we can assume that when the economic recession starts and the prices of electricity go up, the residents and the industries will start saving energy, and the need for electric power in 2010 will be less by at least 1 TWh than forecasted (especially if nature has mercy on us and the winter is mild). It is very likely that Lithuania will have a shortage of electricity in January-February 2010. Of course, the consumers may not necessarily feel this shortage, but businesses (especially the companies that do not have their own power plants) will have to go on an electric-power diet.

And the most important thing is that after we shut down the IAE, which produces cheap electric power (the electric power purchased from the IAE costs 6.8 cents per kWh), the price of electric power will undoubtedly double, because the cost price of the electric power produced by the Elektrenai thermoelectric power plant, if the prices of gas remain at the same level, is about 27-36 cents per kWh. If we add to the cost price the 21 cents per kWh for supply and distribution, the 8 cents per kWh of pollution tax, and another 3 cents per kWh of the price increase because the Kruonis hydroelectric power plant changed its status and because there are plans to increase the prices of the electric energy distribution and transfer in 2010, we will have to pay at least 59 cents per 1 kWh of electric power (current price the private consumers pay is 33 cents, including VAT; business companies pay more Lietuvos Energija, LEO LT is not providing the electric power producers with this information.

“This is a traditional scenario and a traditional problem,” one well-known energy specialist told Veidas. “Lithuanian Energy used to do the same. First it would say it was planning to purchase electric power from the Elektrenai and other thermoelectric power stations. It would demand lower prices, and then, the very last moment, it would announce that it agreed with Russia on the import of a cheaper electric power.

As long as the IAE, which produces two-thirds of all the electric power generated in Lithuania, is in operation, such a scenario is possible. But the situation will change radically after 2010, because the main electric power producers will be the power stations working on gas on oil. And these power stations need to take care of their supplies in advance, because the gas supply contracts are made in advance, and it will not be possible to suddenly purchase a big amount of energy resources (or at least cheap energy resources) from Russia, because it itself is f! acing a shortage of electric power, especially in winter,” he added.

If the Elektrenai thermoelectric power station is working at full capacity, it can produce up to 8 TWh [terawatt hours] of electric power per year, and thus compensate for the capacity that will be lost after the IAE, which is producing up to 9 TWh per year, is closed. If we add the capacity of other power stations, Lithuania will be able to produce up to 11.23 TWh of electric power in 2010, which is the capacity we will need in 2010.

However, this means that a considerable increase in gas import will be needed to ensure that the thermoelectric power stations can work at full capacity. The increase should be from the current 0.7 billion cubic meters to 2.3 billion cubic meters of gas import in 2010. This means that the total Lithuanian import of gas will have to be increased from the current 3.03 billion to 4.9 billion cubic meters.

Theoretically speaking, there is such a possibility. The former chief of the State Prices and Energy Control Commission, Professor Vidmantas Jankauskas, told Veidas that when Lithuanian Gas was privatizes, it was agreed with Gazprom that it would guarantee gas supply until 2015. Moreover, there is a possibility to increase the volume of the gas import to 6-7 billion cubic meters.

But there are two problems. The first one is that the capacity of the gas supply network that is used to deliver gas to Lithuania and Kaliningrad is not sufficient to double the throughput. It would take about 1 billion litas of investments to increase the throughput. But we have not heard so far about any steps taken by the government in this direction, even though this need was expressed in November 2007, during the meeting of the parliamentary committees on European affairs, foreign affairs, and economy.

The second problem is that we should negotiate with Gazprom the already rapidly growing need for gas supply now, so that we could reach an agreement in November. But the government is busy with the parliamentary elections, or does not have time, or does not see why it should take care of that, hoping to pass on this headache to the new government, which will be formed after the elections.

The Prices of Electric Power Will Double
And that is not all. We need to negotiate the much higher volume of gas import, and we need to negotiate the import of electric power, because up until now Lithuania has been importing the electric power it needed on an annual basis. So far, the biggest electric power exporter to Lithuania was Russia. For example, we are planning to purchase up to 1.25 TWh of electric power this year. A small amount of electric power is purchased from Latvia (during the high-water season, when the Riga hydroelectric power plant is working at full capacity).

After we build the electricity link with Sweden, we will be able to purchase more electric power from Scandinavia. The import of electric power was compensated for by the export of the cheap electric power produced by the IAE. But starting in 2010, when the IAE is closed, the forecast volume of import [as published] will decrease drastically from 1.42 to 0.8 TWh.

Moreover, we will have to look for other electric power suppliers. Russia, which according to forecasts will be consuming more electric power and will face a shortage of generating capacity, will be able to sell us only about 0.2 TWh (which is six times less than it sells us now). The import of electric power from Scandinavia should grow, from the current 0.06 per cent to 0.42 TWh.

The specialists who advised Veidas on the issue warn that the intention to purchase so much electric power from Scandinavia may turn out to be too optimistic. In their opinion, a real expectation would be a mere 0.1 TWh, in exceptional cases – up to Moreover, we need to take into consideration that the Scandinavian electric power is produced mostly by hydroelectric power plants. It is cheap only during the rainy periods, but it is not cheap in winter, when Lithuania needs the electric power the most. We could import some more electric power from Latvia, which launched a new thermoelectric power plant with the capacity of 400 MW, and which is in the process of building another generator of the same capacity.

Of course, we can assume that when the economic recession starts and the prices of electricity go up, the residents and the industries will start saving energy, and the need for electric power in 2010 will be less by at least 1 TWh than forecasted (especially if nature has mercy on us and the winter is mild). It is very likely that Lithuania will have a shortage of electricity in January-February 2010. Of course, the consumers may not necessarily feel this shortage, but businesses (especially the companies that do not have their own power plants) will have to go on an electric-power diet.

And the most important thing is that after we shut down the IAE, which produces cheap electric power (the electric power purchased from the IAE costs 6.8 cents per kWh), the price of electric power will undoubtedly double, because the cost price of the electric power produced by the Elektrenai thermoelectric power plant, if the prices of gas remain at the same level, is about 27-36 cents per kWh. If we add to the cost price the 21 cents per kWh for supply and distribution, the 8 cents per kWh of pollution tax, and another 3 cents per kWh of the price increase because the Kruonis hydroelectric power plant changed its status and because there are plans to increase the prices of the electric energy distribution and transfer in 2010, we will have to pay at least 59 cents per 1 kWh of electric power (current price the private consumers pay is 33 cents, including VAT; business companies pay more).

Source Veidas and the BBC Monitoring Service

September 23, 2008 at 6:55 pm 2 comments

Lithuania rated as having free press – Freedom House survey

As the BNS informed the Lithuanian press is seen as having one of the highest levels of free press among Eastern European and post-Soviet countries and is even ahead of counterparts in some of European Union’s (EU) old-timer countries.

According to the BNS this finding was revealed by the Global Press Freedom Survey 2008 announced by US-based NGO Freedom House, promoting global development of freedom.

BNS pointed out that as shown in the survey, Lithuania together with the Czech Republic share the second and third places ,both countries were rated 18, among Central and Eastern Europe as well as former Soviet Union countries according to freedom of press. Estonia is a leader when it comes to freedom of press in this group of countries, and received the rating of 16 in the report.

The aforementioned countries, together with slightly lower rated Hungary, Latvia, Slovakia, Slovenia and Poland, made it to the ranks of nations, which enjoy free press.

In a table containing global ratings, Lithuania together with the Czech Republic, Canada and Great Britain, all of which share the same rating, placed 25-28.

As the BNS writes according to freedom of press, Lithuania is ahead of EU old-timer France, Spain, Greece and Italy, who have also been attributed to the category of countries having free press.

Data of the survey illustrated that Finland and Iceland, both rated 9, have the highest level of free press, while Turkmenistan 96, Burma 97 and North Korea 98 are on the opposite end of the list. These countries received the last places on the list – 193-195.

Lithuania‘s neighbours notorious for persecution of the press – Russia 78 and Belarus 91, were assigned to a category of countries without freedom of press, and placed 170 and 188, accordingly.

 

May 5, 2008 at 10:37 am 2 comments

Lithuanian border guards retain two Russian nationalist activists for illegal border crossing

K. Goloskokov and A. Dugin from NashiOnce Lithuania joined the Schengen are in 21 December of 2007 there were some concerns that the newly backed border will become a cross point for illegal immigrants from the Asian countries.  However, the first high profile illegal intruders appeared to be the political extremists from Russia.

As the Lietuvos Zinios daliy reported the Lithuanian border guards detained two activists of the Russian nationalist movement Nashi, for illegal crossing of the border. Last week the Lithuanian border guards, detained two Russian nationalist movement Nashi commissars Konstantin Goloskokov, and Anton Dugin after illegally crossing the border at the district of southern Lithuanian town of Varėna.  Following arrival to Belarus, the men attempted to enter Lithuania, with plans to get to Estonia. Their on-foot crusade to cross the border started on the evening of December 31. They crossed the country’s border at Varėna district, in the territory of Aleksandras Barauskas’ pike.

As the Lietuvos Zinios reported at about 1800, border patrol officers noticed the foot tracks of two people coming from the direction of Belarus and heading in the way of Kalviu village located in Lithuania. After having followed the footsteps for about 1 kilometre from the state border, the officers caught up to and detained the violators.  The intruders were initially detained for 2 days, after which, Varėna City Court allowed arresting the two men for the duration of two months.

The violators face a monetary fine, arrest or imprisonment for up to two years for illegal crossing of the border. Goloskokov and his comrade were on their way to Estonian capital Tallinn, where they were to participate in a ceremony at the so-called bronze soldier monument.  Since the Estonian government has rejected the visa applications of the “commissars” they decided to use all spoils of the Schengen agreement and once crossing the Lithuanian border to reach Tallinn undetected since all border checking between the three Baltic States don’t exist.

Well, they were unlucky same as the other registered 484 violations of the state border last year.  The amount of intruders deceased by 23 % since 2006 according to the State Border Guard press release.  As the press release states 623 attempts to illegally cross the Lithuanian border were recorded in 2006 and 805 in 2005. The statistics indicate that the efforts to enhance the border guard infrastructure by efficient instalment of various control instruments and modern security technologies has led to decrease in illegal border crossings for the third consecutive year.

Hence, it appears that the Eastern part of the Schengen are is in a good hands.  However, now we will have to wait for the official and unofficial Russian reaction, where the Lithuanian Border Guards will be portrayed as Nazi villains, who detained our heroes who made a sacrifice and instead of celebrating the New Years celebration they chosen to walk to Tallinn from Varėna!  The two commissars could well become the New Presidential campaign icons, since the Lithuanian media has warned that the Kremlin is ‘backing’ something for Lithuania.  

January 7, 2008 at 8:51 pm 2 comments

New centre of gravity within the Euro – Atlantic organisation is evolving

NATO and EU flagsThe blog would like to represent you with analysis from Mr Vladimir Socor, from the Jamestown Foundation, on the latest meeting of the The New Friends of Georgia group in Lithuania.

The New Friends of Georgia group of countries conferred in an enlarged and upgraded format on September 13-14 in Vilnius. This meeting shows that a strong nucleus of eight countries has developed within the European Union and NATO (alongside the United States in the latter case), supporting an active policy by the two organizations in Europe’s East generally and toward Georgia in particular.

Initiated in 2005 in Tbilisi by the three Baltic states, Poland, Ukraine, Romania, and Bulgaria, the New Friends’ group has matured this year. Georgia’s Black Sea neighbours Romania and Bulgaria joined the EU, while the Czech Republic and Sweden have joined the New Friends of Georgia group.  The meeting in Vilnius was the first held at the level of ministers of foreign affairs in full format. The EU’s Special Representative for the South Caucasus, Peter Semneby, participated as an observer, while his Swedish compatriot, Minister of Foreign Affairs Carl Bildt, brought Sweden to the table for the first time.

Reviewing proposals prepared by Georgia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the New Friends group of countries agreed to work jointly as well as in their national capacities to promote the following Euro-Atlantic and Georgian goals: 

Regional Security and Stability
Noting that Georgia’s security, democratic stability, and integrity constitute major European and Transatlantic interests, the group called for policies to be premised on that fact. Georgia’s internal reforms, “a successful example in the region and beyond,” substantiate Georgia’s aspirations to closer Euro-Atlantic ties.

Strengthening Georgia’s ties with NATO and the EU would contribute to regional security and also help stabilize Russia-Georgia relations, the group noted. NATO AgendaThe New Friends (except Sweden, which is not a NATO member) support Georgia’s goal to advance to a Membership Action Plan (MAP) at NATO’s summit in Romania in the spring of 2008.

Based on Georgia’s performance on military reforms and its troop contributions to allied missions, the group concluded that Georgia already forms a significant element in Euro-Atlantic security and is prepared for the MAP. The Abkhaz and South Ossetian secessionist conflicts must not be turned into “an inhibiting factor or an excuse” for temporizing on Georgia’s integration into NATO. No country outside NATO [read: Russia] has a right to veto the alliance’s decisions, the group noted, as an indirect reminder to several West European governments in the context of the MAP debate.

EU Neighbourhood Policy
The meeting called for adjusting the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) more closely to Georgia’s internal reform performance and to the EU’s own interests in the region. Facilitation of travel visas and access of Georgian exports to the EU are priority goals. The EU’s current visa policy toward Georgia offers easier access to Russian passport holders (from Abkhazia and South Ossetia as well as from Russia), as compared with Georgian passport holders.

This policy is “unfair and counterproductive, it undermines Georgia’s territorial integrity and European security interests,” the group observed. It called on the EU countries to give the European Commission a mandate to negotiate trade and visa facilitation agreements with Georgia. 

Unresolved Conflicts
In his intervention, Romanian Minister of Foreign Affairs Adrian Cioroianu noted the parallels between the unresolved conflicts in Georgia and Moldova. He underscored the common interests of Romania and Georgia in resolving those conflicts on the basis of Georgia’s and Moldova’s territorial integrity and, as part of that process, ensuring Russia’s compliance with the 1999 Istanbul agreements to fully withdraw Russian forces from Georgia and Moldova.

However, “Russia wants a new treaty [on conventional forces in Europe] that would consign Russia’s commitments to oblivion. Romania wants no foreign troops unlawfully stationed in its neighborhood, and we have a common interest with Georgia in this regard,” Cioroianu declared (Mediafax, September 14).

The Romanian minister announced his country’s full support for Georgia to advance to MAP at NATO’s Bucharest summit. Such support is procedurally important, as the summit’s host country significantly influences the event’s agenda.

Shortly before the Vilnius meeting, Georgia’s New Friends acted effectively as a group already at the EU’s meeting of foreign affairs ministers in Portugal on September 8-9. There, the group’s countries called on the European Commission to begin negotiations with Georgia on travel visas and trade and on the EU to adopt a stronger collective position toward Russia’s ongoing intrusions into Georgia’s air space.

The New Friends are stepping into a role vacated by the old group of “Friends of Georgia.” Formed a decade ago by the United States, Germany, Britain, and France, that group soon lost its effectiveness and ultimately its relevance by admitting Russia into its ranks and reinventing itself as the United Nations Secretary General’s Friends on Georgia.

From that group, only the United States consistently adheres to the original policy priority while the other three Western powers have (in varying degrees) relegated Georgia to lesser priority status in their policies.

The Vilnius meeting amounts to a political signal that a new centre of gravity has evolved within Euro-Atlantic organizations regarding policies in Europe’s eastern neighbourhood.  The United States and the New Friends of Georgia can together form a critical mass for shaping strategy and policy toward Georgia and in Europe’s East.Euro Asia Daily Monitor, September 17, 2007 — Volume 4, Issue 171

September 19, 2007 at 12:40 pm 1 comment

What is the goal of Lithuanian foreign policy?

Lithuanian flag iiiThe 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

September 18, 2007 at 12:48 pm 1 comment

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