Lithuanian MP: US support for candidates during election “could be stronger”

August 11, 2007 at 5:05 pm Leave a comment

Elections by ELTAAn interesting interview with MP Audronis Azubalis deputy chairman of the Seimas (parliament) Foreign Affairs Committee, was published in weekly Veidas magazine on 9 August.

The US Congress made a decision to soften US travel procedures for East Europeans. This decision renewed Lithuanias hopes of travelling to the EU without visas. However, the number of refused visas and visa overstays will have to be less than 10 percent. Of the East European countries, only Estonia and the Czech Republic meet this requirement.
Audronis Azubalis, deputy chairman of the Seimas [parliament] Foreign Affairs Committee, told Veidas that “the fact that Lithuania still cannot join the ‘exclusive club’ is a problem for Lithuania, not the United States.”(Laucius) The US is happy when the new East Europe actively supports US foreign policy. Yet, when they talk about a visa-free regime, they forget about the partnership.

(Azubalis) The US is concerned about illegal immigration in general. Even in relations with Mexico, which is a strategic partner of the US, they use a different tone when they are talking about illegal immigration from Mexico. Lithuania does not meet the requirements related to the allowable number of illegal overstays, while Estonia and the Czech Republic do. We can thank our citizens who continue to deceive the US Government. This way, they preclude other Lithuanians from travelling to the US without visas.

(Laucius) Russia’s influence in Lithuania‘s domestic affairs seems to be stronger than that of the US. during elections, we are always afraid of Russian money and Russian puppets. Meanwhile, support from the US is not very visible. Why?

(Azubalis) The US is a global player, and it actively implements its policies all over the world. I agree the US could be more active in this instance, yet the US plays according to the rules of democracy. The Americans will never act the way Lukoil did, when during the Mazeikiu Nafta [oil refinery] privatization process they were pumping money to bribe the media and politicians. US support for our democratic candidates during elections could be stronger, however.

There are few investments that would increase US interests in Lithuania. On the other hand, our country is close to the bottom among EU countries when it comes to foreign investment in general. What is the problem? Why is the situation in Slovakia, which underwent a period of populism and which made a pause on its path toward the EU, different? After all, it managed to attract a lot of investment during a short period of time. It means that, as with the US visas, we ourselves and our government are the problem.

Ireland’s economic jump was made possible due to an enormous amount of effort and money, which attracted foreign investments. I do not see such an effort in Lithuania.

(Laucius) Russia is effectively using its “energy diplomacy” in the region, but we do not see an adequate response from the US, even though we are NATO members. Everything is skewed in Russia’s favour.

(Azubalis) This is a natural result, because Russia is not alone — a portion of the EU is with Russia. The US cannot fight for the EU and us at the same time, because it has its own interests. However, is it possible to implement the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline project without the US political will and assistance? Of course not.. Europe cannot take care of the Nabucco project. Meanwhile, Russia continues to bribe certain countries (for example, Romania, Bulgaria, and Hungary). Where is the EU’s political will?

(Laucius) Lithuanian experts participate in EU missions in Indonesia and Palestine. They are involved in military operations in Bosnia, Iraq, and even Congo. Is the EU concerned with the region east of Lithuania, which is important to us?

(Azubalis) I think the EU began to think about this region during Germany’s presidency. Germany wanted to devote more attention to this region, but the EU’s “southern wing” had tamed Germany’s ambitions. Anyway, for the first time, the EU prepared a strategy on Central Asia. This happened during Germany’s presidency.

Yet, East Europeans still feel burdened by the old Soviet baggage. I think the backs of certain Western politicians were broken psychologically. They are unable to lift their heads and look at Russia with different eyes. We had hopped that Benita Ferrero-Waldner, European commissioner for external relations and European neighbourhood policy, would be more active (Austria was occupied by Russia and was surrounded by Soviet satellite states). Unfortunately, under her leadership, European neighbourhood policy is implemented very lethargically.

(Laucius) Perhaps the EU is incapable of conducting active foreign policy?(Azubalis) This is partially true. Certain EU members are afraid of the EU foreign minister’s post, which would help consolidate a common foreign policy. By the way, our neighbours — the Poles — and our partners (in many aspects) — the British — were against the post, too.(Laucius) Consolidated foreign policy may mean that big EU countries will simply force their will on other members. Even if it is pro-Russian will, which would be against Polish or Lithuanian interests.

(Azubalis) I think Brussels, not isolated countries, should have more power. Our party [Conservatives; TS] (at least certain party leaders) are for this. It is easier to convince Brussels than single member-states. Can Lithuania alone or together with the other Baltic states influence France or Germany, which have their own interests? I do not think so. We can influence Brussels, however.

(Laucius) Yet, France and Germany will influence Brussels more.

(Azubalis) In this instance, the vote-counting is the determining factor, and I support the Poles, who see danger in this. If Germany’s proposed system for counting votes had been accepted, Germany, together with four other countries (not necessarily large countries), would be able to have the decisive vote. I think we must admit that Poland and Lithuania gained a victory, because such a system was postponed.

I can say that our membership in the EU is useful to Russia. To have trained K-9s in strategically-important Western organizations is in Russia’s interests.(Laucius) And is Russia successfully working toward this goal?(Azubalis) Yes, it is. Russia also uses a lot of money for this purpose. If the Lithuanian political parties do not agree to prohibit political advertisements on radio and television by the next Seimas elections, I think it will be easier for Russia, because such advertisements hurt the parties the most. They hurt the parties’ independence and open the door for corruption. It is up to us, not the US or Russia. If we have enough political will to prohibit the advertisements and to have civilized, state-financed TV debates, we will have more order.

Source BBC Monitoring


Entry filed under: Baltic States, Central Europe, Economics, Energy, Estonia, EU, Great Britain, Latvia, Lithuania, Northern Europe, Oil, Poland, Politics, Russia, USA.

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