Posts filed under ‘South Europe’
As the BNS informed the Lithuanian parliament has urged European Union nations to support Iceland’s aspiration of joining the organization.
Some 106 parliamentarians voted in support, two were against and four more abstained in the Thursday’s ballot on the resolution, which “calls upon national parliaments and governments of all EU countries to support Iceland’s objective of joining the European Union, asking the European Commission (EC) to state its opinion by the end of 2009 on Iceland’s readiness to open membership negotiations.” The majority of those against were Euro-sceptical MPs.
The resolution also recalls and appreciates Iceland’s support to the Lithuanian nation and country when Iceland was the first Western democracy to recognize Lithuania’s restored independence in 1990.
The parliament also expressed “hope that Iceland would be ready to start the talks in early 2010,” declaring determination to share experience of its EU accession talks.
Lithuania’s Foreign Minister Vygaudas Usackas is flying to Reykjavik later on Friday in sign of support to Iceland.
The Baltic state’s diplomats say that EU nations have not yet reached common grounds on the Icelandic EU membership application: Nordic countries have advocated urgent accession, while some Southern European nations do not want Iceland to be an exception and suggest it should be admitted according to regular procedures. In this case, Iceland would be in the same group of EU aspirants with Albania.
Last week, Iceland submitted an official application to the EU’s presidency Sweden on accession to the organization.
It appears that a new war in Caucasus began. The news is still coming in as I write. However, there are very peculiar coincidences. Quite a lot of major catastrophes, around Russia started during the major events in the world.
Well, lets start from 1956, the Red Army crushes the Hungarian revolution only few days apart from the Sues Crises. The same army invades Afghanistan in 1979 during festivity time in the West, on Christmas.
In January of 1991 the Soviet troops attempting to crash the Lithuanian surge for independence almost simultaneously with the Operation Desert Storm in the Gulf. Here we go again, the Russian controlled South Ossetia is participating in the War with Georgia on the day of the Opening of the Beijing Olympics.
Is it coincidence? All of those conflicts have very peculiar coincidence, in all of those events Russia took part in one or another form.
One more coincidence, many events, which shock the modern Russia took in August. 1991, August 19, the Putsch in Moscow, and the collapse of the USSR, 1998 the Russian financial crises begun, August 7 1999 the short war in Russian Caucasus, August 12, 2000 the sub Kursk-141 dramatically sinks.
Then August 24 2004 two airliners in Russia, carrying a total of 89 passengers, and just in few days later the Beslan strategy. Then the death of the writer Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn just few days ago. Is this the last disastrous event in Russia this August? It looks that not…
The Russian TV channel ‘Russia Today’ starting its news bulletins with THE WAR, showing documentaries on horrible Georgians and a villain Saakashvilli as those documentaries were prepared some time in advance. Medvedev just declared: Russia will not tolerate deaths of its compatriots. Just now (1415 LT time) the same TV channel just announce that the Russian troops have been seen in South Ossetia… Is this also a coincidence?
Lithuania was the sole of 27 EU member states, represented in the European Union’s (EU) General Affairs and External Relations Council’s (GAERC) session in Luxembourg last week to dissent to the proposal to begin talks with Russia over the new partnership agreement.
The countries decided that EU-presidency holder Slovenia’s Foreign Minister Dimitri Rupel arrived to Vilnius to further harmonize stances on the issue. Amongst those who arrived to Vilnius were the Swedish and Polish Ministers of Foreign affairs. However, another issue for the Lithuanians was of another importance, expression of support to Georgia. The plan was that all ministers should visit Tbilisi on Monday and show their support to Georgia.
However, the Lithuanian diplomats had have heard a warning from Slovenian Foreign Minister Dimitri Rupel that he would accompany his Lithuanian, Polish and Swedish colleagues to Georgia only if Lithuania abandoned its proposals to the mandate of strategic talks between the European Union and Russia. An anonymous Lithuanian diplomat expressed his disappointment by saying “How can one propose such exchange? It is incomprehensible whether the proposal from the European Union’s presiding country Slovenia indicates the entire EU’s stance on Georgia or is it a lame Slovenian proposal aimed at forcing Lithuania to give up its legitimate requirements in the discussion of the negotiating position of the EU-Russian strategic partnership agreement”.
However, after discussion in the Stikliai hotel the Lithuanians claimed that the EU had agreed with all Lithuanian propositions with some amendments. The Lithuanian FM stated that the EU solidarity exists not only in declarations but also in reality. Still he remained that the positions will have to be agreed with the other 23 Member States. The Slovenian MF noted in the press conference that: ‘All Europeans States and the EU Members understand Lithuanian position. And I can easy tell that I understand the Lithuanian concerns’. So, what are those demands?
As Lietuvos Rytas daily wrote last week, Lithuania decided not to approve the mandate for the EU-Russia negotiations until this mandate reflects Lithuania’s interests. This was the first time Lithuania has dared to fight for its interests in the EU with such fervour.
Vilnius demands to add to the energy declaration Russia’s commitment to observe the requirements provided for in the Energy Charter Agreement.
Moreover, Lithuania wanted the EU negotiations mandate to include the point that Russia should cooperate more actively in the field of renewing delivery of crude oil via the Friendship (Druzhba) Pipeline. This pipeline was closed in 2006 for “political repairs.”
As the Lithuanian Minister of Foreign affairs noted “Druzhba was cut off without an explanation. (…) We are worried that Russia is creating a precedent. Energy security and creating a precedent are issues of interest to the EU. This is not a bipartite issue. And we believe that the question of a precedent, and of how far one can go in not cooperating with one EU state is important to the entire EU as well. We have an alternative for Druzhba, but not one for gas”.
Lithuania also noted that Russia’s attitude toward its neighbours is related to the security of Lithuania and the entire EU. This is why Lithuania proposes a declaration on Georgia and Moldova.
Moreover, Lithuania would like to have a declaration on legal cooperation, which should promote constructive cooperation in the investigations of the 13 January 1991 events in Vilnius and the 31 July 1991 massacre in Medininkai, as well as of the disappearance of EU citizens in Russia. There is also an ongoing case of disappearance of Lithuanian businessmen Mr Jucys in Kaliningrad a year ago.
Lithuanian is also seeking to add an additional declaration to the negotiations mandate to compensate for the damages incurred by the persons deported from the occupied Baltic countries. Ensuring such support to the deported persons was one of the international commitments Russia undertook when it joined the Council of Europe.
Lithuania does not impose demands on Russia. It urges the EU to protect Lithuania’s interests, the same way it protects the interests of other EU members. Lithuania is not trying to change Russia, it is impossible, it simply tries to change the EU attitude towards Russia, in sake of the EU.
The another point is that Lithuania is a Member State, the same as Germany, France, Italy, Cyprus, Greece, Poland or Ireland who are also defending their interests by blocking decision making. However, Lithuania is standing not only for the ‘meet’ as the Poles did, but for the values of justice.
Lets see how it will go.
As the BNS reported the opponents to recognition reminded that Lithuania is especially active in supporting Georgia’s quest to maintain control over the separatist Abkhazia and South Ossetia territories, however the country’s stance with regards to Kosovo is completely opposite. “Why don’t Lithuanians want to grant independence to Ossetians and Abkhazians, while they do so with the Kosovo Albanians?” one of the MPs noted.
As the BNS reported the supporters stressed that the Kosovo case is completely an exceptional one, as Serbia had undertaken repressions against its own citizens, which have to be protected by the international community. The others stated that given such animosity between the Serbians and Albanians, there is nothing left other than separating the two sides of the conflict with national borders.
This was a second attempt after a fiasco in April 1, when the Lithuanian Parliament failed to recognise Kosovo. One of the main reasons behind the failure was that those MP’s who supported the recognition did not participate in the voting and chose to celebrate their colleague’s Sabatauskas birthday instead.
At first I was convinced that this was an April fools’ joke. Well, it was not – the Lithuanian Parliament Seimas failed to recognise the Kosovo Independence. The draft resolution was returned for improvement, even though some MPs were shrugging over what’s left to change. What have happened in Seimas?
As the BNS those parliamentarians who didn’t approve the recognition of a new state and raised the question of how Kosovo Albanians, which constitute an ethnic majority in the region, are different from other peoples striving for independence – the Kurds in Turkey, Basks in Spain, inhabitants of Abkhazia and South Osetia in Georgia.
The MP and member of Liberal Movement Party Austrevicius mentioned to the BNS that “It now seems that Lithuania has some sort of specific motives for disapproving Kosovo’s independence “.
The President Adamkus, who welcomed Kosovo independence already in February 17 was rather disappointed about the decision. Just before the President left for the for the NATO summit in Bucharest he issued a press release. In it the President maintained that a “such an irresponsible and unprofessional attitude towards a new state is detrimental to thus far coordinated and authority-carrying Lithuania’s foreign policy and degrading to our international prestige”.
He reminded the Parliamentarians “The most renowned lawyers, diplomats and politicians of the Euro-Atlantic community agreed that Kosovo’s case was unique and cannot, for many reasons, become a precedent for autonomy-seeking territories in Georgia and Moldova”.
So, what has had happened in the April Fools’ Day in Seimas? There are few explanations. The first theory worth of the April Fools’ Day is that the critical mass of the Parliamentarians did not participate in the voting since they were away… celebrating their colleague’s fiftieth anniversary. The MP is Mr. Sabatauskas, a Social Democrat and a head of an influential Seimas’ Committee of the Legal Affairs. I was shocked not because of the birthday as such, but after finding out that Mr. Sabatauskas is actually only 50! I would never give him more than 40!
However, another reason is rather controversial. Amid the growing interest of the Lithuanian businessmen in Balkan countries, Lithuania is considering opening a diplomatic mission in the region. As the PM Kirkilas said to the BNS the mission could be established in Serbia, with the diplomats representing Lithuanian businessmen’s interests in Montenegro, as well. “I believe that if we decide to open a mission, it will most likely be based in Serbia,” Kirkilas noted to the BNS.
Hence, keeping in mind Belgrade’s reactions to the countries, which are recognising the Kosovo independence a long work of establishing of the Lithuanian embassy in Serbia would certainly slip away for some time to come. The Lithuanian business lobby had put some pressure on the government to open the embassy as soon as possible. Never the less, the same Lithuanian business lobby was advising to the President Adamkus to attend the 60th World War Two celebrations in Moscow.
All situation is rather peculiar since the Lithuanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which acts hand in hand with the Presidential office almost, ignored Seimas’ April 1 decision regarding Kosovo. It looks as though this time the business lobby had prevailed over Lithuania’s strive to not to fall out of its allies choir in Kosovo affair. All Lithuania’s major allies in Nato and in the EU had recognised the Kosovo Independence already, including the USA, the Baltic States, most of the Nordic nations and Poland.
Even though the Seimas Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee MP Karosas acknowledged that the resolution over Kosovo will be adopted after amendments in few weeks, the April 1 decision rose some eyebrows in few capitals already. Who would claim that the Lithuanian politicians don’t listen to the basketball supporters!
It is only a matter of days before Lithuania officially will recognize the Kosovo Independence. Meanwhile the Lietuvos Rytas basketball club supporters raised a banner ‘Kosovo is Serbia’ during a match just few days ago. So, what is happening in Lithuania?
First of all lets talk big politics. According to the Lithuanian Constitution such an act could be adopted only by the Parliament (Seimas). However, some politicians argue that the President alone could do this.
Nevertheless, the President already congratulated Kosovars with their Independence and asked the Minter of Foreign Affairs to submit the recognition proposal to Seimas.Hence, Seimas will begun its spring session on the 10th of March. Then it looks that the matter will be solved soon after. When the Chairman of the Seimas’ Foreign Affairs Committee was asked why Vilnius is lagging behind its Baltic neighbours and does not recognise Kosovo now he replied that ‘this is not a sports race’.
Well said, because Lithuania and Serbia (maybe more accurately, ex-Yugoslavia) has a very long sports ‘love and hate’ relationship. This is of course about Lithuania’s second religion – HM basketball. Since the Soviet times every game between a Lithuanian team and an ex-Yugoslavian team (regardless BCs or on the National lever after we gained Independence) was a nerve rack. Lithuanians were good but the Serbs or Croatians could also play, and sometimes win. When the Lithuanians lost it was never our fault, it was the Yugoslavians who bribed the referees, and so on, and so forth.
We have one or two ex-Yugoslav basketball players here and our Lietuvos Rytas team is trained by a Serb Trifunovic. As we know the sports could be very political. A great manifestation of that was a match in Vilnius when some of the Lietuvos Rytas’ supporters raised a banner with a slogan ‘Kosovo is Serbia!’ The Serbian coach refused to comment on it.
I am not convinced that the supports thought about the politics, more likely they thought about a moral support for their coach. Same as the Kaunas’ Žalgiris suporters raised the Palestinian flag during a game with the Tel Aviv Maccabi team. I am quite convinced that when the Lietuvos Rytas will change the coach to not a Serbian, we will see the Kosovo flags flying during a match against a Serbian team. The Lithuanian sports fans are notorious of their Political Incorrectness. We should only remember when the Lithuanian national team’s football fans unveiled a large banner with a shape of African Continent in the French national colours with a slogan ‘Welcome to Europe’.
Even thought the Lithuanian media is covering the Kosovo events well, I am not sure that many Lithuanians too concerned what is happening there. However, the media and the politicians are quite united in support of Kosovo case. First of all, Serbia is portrayed as the last bastion of the Russian influence in the Balkans. Hence, this automatically puts Serbia ‘on the wrong side of the fence.’ Second of all, the commentators argue that this is not an ideal solution to the problem but it is the best in this complex situation.
However, there is a feeling in the air that the Serbs put their bet on the wrong horse, starting with Milosovech and ending up with the Russians. Nevertheless, the Lithuanians congratulated the outcome of the Presidential elections in Serbia.
But the biggest talk in town at the moment is not Kosovo, it is the Vilnius Book Fair, the International Baltic book fair. Reading books is once again become a fashionable past time in Lithuania. This year the Fair welcomed the acclaimed American novelist John Irving (read an interview with him) and the most popular living Norwegian writer Per Petterson.
P.S. I am not sure that many from the general public aware that the Kosovars are the Muslims. Having in mind that absolute majority of the Lithuanians have a ‘reserved’ attitude towards the Muslims, their view of Kosovo would alter. Paradox is that a ‘reserved’ attitude towards the other races than white does not obstruct Lithuanians’ fascination with the black NBA players. Furthermore, my generation’s never ending ‘love affair’ with Freddy Mercury goes on despite a very ‘reserved’ view towards the gay persons.
As the President’s press office announced the Vilnius Energy Security Conference 2007: Responsible Energy for Responsible Partners held on 10-11 October 2007 is broadcasted live by Internet via Windows Media and RealMedia.
As the BNS informed seven presidents, 12 ministers, top-ranking officials of the United States and the European Union (EU), as well as experts and representatives of energy companies will gather in Vilnius later this week to discuss global energy security and search for the framework for EU external energy policy.
Presidents of Lithuania, Poland, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Latvia, Romania and Ukraine, EU Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs, US Deputy Energy Secretary Clay Sell, representatives of governments of Belgium, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Spain, Great Britain, Kazakhstan, the Netherlands, Norway, France, Slovenia, Sweden, Turkey and Bayrammyrat Myradov, executive director of Turkmenistan’s presidential state agency for management and use of hydrocarbon resources, will participate in the conference – the Vilnius Energy Security Conference 2007: Responsible Energy for Responsible Partners - in the Lithuanian capital on Wednesday and Thursday.
French President Nicolas Sarcozy will not attend the event because he will be visiting Russia on these days. Russia delegated Ambassador Boris Tsepov despite the fact that the invitation was sent to President Vladimir Putin.
Agenda of the two-day conference organized by Lithuanian and Polish presidents, Valdas Adamkus and Lech Kaczynski, includes signing of two five-country agreements concerning cooperation among companies and ministries of Lithuania, Poland, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Georgia implementing the project of the pipeline Odessa-Brody-Plotsk-Gdansk.
It is expected to be the last step for launching the alternative project to Russia’s oil supply. Odessa-Brody-Plotsk-Gdansk is planned to be the first pipeline to link the Caspian Sea and the Black Sea regions with countries of the Baltic Sea region and become the new way of oil transit to Europe.
As the Presidential Press office reported the Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus’ speech at the session of the United Nations General Assembly did not name Russia, however, accused the country of wasting its rich natural resources on weapons rather than using them on democracy.According to the President’, Lithuania and the Baltic region is a success story in terms of establishing themselves in the international system, while some other countries in the region were not able to do that.
The President stated that; “We may only guess why these countries perceive the integration of democracies at their border as a national threat. We feel sorry for a society at large when its government chooses to spend the country’s natural riches for guns and not for democratic reforms. And clearly we should not tolerate the attempts to falsify historical facts about the Soviet occupation of the Baltic States or the denial of the deliberately caused Holodomor in Ukraine that killed millions”.
The President noted that some conflicts in the world were less visible but that did not make them less dangerous, adding that the UN should be more “visible and outspoken” in such regions. In Adamkus’ words, “frozen conflicts” in Eastern Europe and South Caucasus may become “very hot” one day unless we act immediately.“Let us not forget that it is not only the conflicts that are frozen, but frozen are the lives and dreams of the people living in those areas of artificial conflict. This is where the United Nations should be more visible and more outspoken. (…) However, our readiness to stand up and speak openly to the states if they cross the line is also an indispensable element of that effort”.
The 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.
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