Archive for November, 2007
Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus was announced absolute leader during the awards ceremony of The Europeans of the Year in Brussels on November 27.
The Lithuanian leader was originally nominated in the category of Statesman of the Year 2007, however, received the main title of the awards – the European of the Year.
This is the first time when the main title went to an official of a new member of the European Union (EU), the presidential press service said.
The awards ceremony held in the Egmont Palace in Brussels in late hours on Tuesday was attended by about 200 top-ranking officials including members of the European Parliament, commissioners, state leaders and prominent EU officials. Adamkus said with joy that even a small country can achieve much.
“I am honoured and humbled by accepting the European of the Year Award. This award is a symbolic expression and support for the efforts through which we have always sought to advance and strengthen European values. These values are essential to live by if we want Europe to remain both as the hope and the reality of peace, freedom, and prosperity for millions of people not only on the continent, but across the globe,” said the Lithuanian president. “The European Union Reform Treaty agreed on a step toward the realization of this goal. The European leaders came together, united in their desire to have a strong Europe, and presented to the citizens of Europe a new Reform Treaty, which makes the European Union better positioned to translate the challenges of today into the opportunities of tomorrow. For these I would like to pay special tribute to my colleagues Mrs. Angela Merkel and Mr. Nicolas Sarkozy.”
He also thanked the Europeans who supported his candidacy and efforts.
“I will admit that together with you I feel strong for taking the mission of negotiator. It is a sign and mandate for all – don’t fear challenges and overcome difficulties together,” said the Lithuanian leader.
The European of the Year awards is organized since 2001 by the European Voice weekly of The Economist group. Every year, European Voice nominates 50 Europeans for their merits in nine fields – Commissioner, MEP, Statesman, Diplomat, Campaigner, Business Leader, Achiever, Journalist and Non-EU Citizen. One of the nominees becomes the European of the Year.
Nominees are selected by senior editors of European Voice in cooperation with a special jury, which this year included Swedish foreign minister, Belgian and Maltese presidents, professors and representatives of The Economist group. Internet votes had a decisive vote in the selection of winners.
Adamkus is not the first official of Lithuania to win the honourable title. In 2005, EU Financial Programming and Budget Commissioner Dalia Grybauskaite became the Commissioner of the Year.
The yearlong Russian national support program intended to encourage Russians living abroad to voluntary return to their homeland interested few Lithuanian Russian-speakers.
During the forum “Integration of Compatriots 2007″that took place in beginning of Nov in Moscow, it became evident that only 130 individuals returned to Russia, home of 140 million inhabitants, through the program for reclaiming fellow countrymen, which lasted one year, daily newspaper Lietuvos Zinios reports.
The press representative for the Russian Embassy in Vilnius Jevgenij Ustinov also confirmed to Lietuvos Zinios, that very few individuals responded to Vladimir Putin’s invitation. The representative of Moscow plead that the situation is such because the program’s effectuation started only in the beginning of this year.
Ustinov has remarked that he entire program is coordinated by the Russian Federal Migration Agency and its subdivisions in agencies of various foreign countries. Since no such agency exists in Lithuania at the moment, the program for bringing back fellow countrymen is coordinated by the consular bureaus. Lithuanian Russians display no interest in the program upheld by Putin.
“I haven’t heard that any one of us would like to go to Russia. We have already taken roots in Lithuania – we have chosen our country”, – said the head of the Lithuanian-Russian Cultural Center Tatjana Jasinskaja.
MP Vladimir Orechov thinks that Russia will have a difficult time alluring compatriots living in European Union (EU) countries.
“The youth is looking towards Europe. Those that have a job and can sustain themselves with it will certainly not be interested in living in the present Russia. That goes especially for those living in Lithuania, which in essence has very favorable living conditions for foreign-born individuals”, – the MP has said.
Russians make up around 6 percent of about 3.4 million Lithuanian inhabitants, and the absolute majority of Russians living in Lithuania have chosen Lithuanian citizenship.
According to the data of the statistics department, the biggest number of Russians left Lithuania between years 1989-2000 -the general number of Russian-speakers then decreased from 344.5 thousand (9.4 percent) to 219.7 thousand (6.3 percent).
Over the seven months of this year, 543 inhabitants left for Russia, however 540 entered Lithuania from the same country.
It would be interesting to know how many ‘oppressed’ Russians from the other ‘Fascist’ Baltic States of Latvia and Estonia have embraced the spoils of this programme? If not many, then why is that?…
The Baltic States are situated next to Russia; hence this region feels the beating of the Russian bear pulse very well. The Western Kremlinologists and the experts on Russia ridiculed those Balts who warned the West that Russia is irreversibly moving away from the liberal democracy and that Mr Putin is not a ‘democrat’. Those warnings made only some months after Putin became the President were ignored and laughed at. Now it is not funny any more. Now Russia is on its route out from the Conventional Forces Europe treaty. Hence, lets listen that some Lithuanian annalists have to say on the subject.
As the BNS reports Russia’s withdrawal from the Conventional Forces Europe treaty and its efforts to restore its military influence in post-Soviet countries may transform the Baltic States into demilitarized “grey” zone, Lithuanian foreign policy analysts believe.
The foreign policy experts are convinced that Russia would carry out its threat to leave the treaty on Dec. 12, thus facilitating deployment of more military equipment in South Caucasus and then “probably with somebody else’s hands” trying to provoke Tbilisi to a military conflict, which could discredit Georgia’s opportunity of joining NATO before the Alliance’s summit to take place in Romania next April.
The analysts said on condition of anonymity that Russia was also ready to take into consideration the aim of Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin to remain in power “at any price,” therefore, would guarantee him the Dnestr region votes and withdraw its forces in return for his loyalty to the Moscow course.
At the same time, by artificially escalating issues of Iran and the independence-seeking Kosovo and triggering contraposition of Euro-Atlantic partners on these matters, as well as on energy and economic issues, Russia could offer the West its plan for return to the Conventional Forces Europe treaty – in return for a permit to Russia to set conditions of the agreement.
One of the conditions could be “setting of very low ceiling of military equipment for the Baltic states,” which would pull the balance of military power in the NATO-Russian border region away from NATO, as well as from the Baltic nations.
The analysts close to the Lithuanian Foreign Ministry believe that the West continue to have a certain degree of fear of “cold war” and would be glad to see Russia change its mind.
In their opinion, Russia’s true aims and intentions will clear up in the coming six months and are now clouded by the superb public relations, which cannot be resisted by all Western countries.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said back in the summer of 2007 that his country would stop observing the treaty, which restricts Russia’s military capacity in its European part – i.e., the number of tanks and troops close to the Baltic States. The parliament has endorsed the decision, which has also been officially forwarded to NATO.
Russia has not ratified the document and expressed preoccupation over NATO’s failure to do this, as well as the fact that the Baltic States have also not joined the treaty, which has been signed between the Alliance and the no longer existent post-Communist Warsaw pact.
Meanwhile, Lithuania has repeatedly stated its readiness to join the Conventional Forces Europe treaty under favorable conditions. Lithuania could only join the document signed in Istanbul after its enforcement, i.e., ratification by all 30 original members of the document. No new members including the Baltic countries may be allowed to join the Conventional Forces Europe treaty until its endorsement.
Five years after the final deadline that expired in 2002, Russia has not fulfilled one of the key conditions of the treaty – withdrawal of troops from Georgia and the Dnestr region in Moldova. Up until now, all NATO members held a position that they would not meet their obligation to ratify the treaty until Russia fulfils its commitments.
In August 1939, the Stalin-led Soviet Union and the Nazi Germany signed the so-called Molotov-Ribbentrop pact and its secret protocols on unlawful division of Europe. The deals enabled the Soviets to occupy the Baltic States for 50 years and appoint puppet governments.
Should the Balts be afraid again?
The Lithuanian President paid an official visit to Sweden. The visit lasted for two days. It appears that the visit was an absolute success. The President met with all heads of the Swedish state. The Energy was the main topic of almost all meetings.
The President met with King of Sweden Carl XVI Gustaf and they discussed energy and environmental problems. President Adamkus noted that the power bridge to Sweden was very important to Lithuania. “After the closure of Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant Lithuania will remain even more dependant on a single energy supplier and the use of environmentally unfriendly energy resources will increase,” said the Lithuanian President.
The President also attended the Lithuanian-Swedish business round-table discussion where he delivered a welcoming speech “Lithuanian-Swedish Economic Ties: Opportunities Lie Ahead” and invited more Swedish business to invest into Lithuania. The President of the Republic underlined that the Lithuanian-Swedish partnership would not be able to reach its fullest potential if either of the countries did not solve energy security issues. “I sincerely believe that our both countries can consolidate their partnership in energy, especially electricity. In doing so, not only would we strengthen bilateral and Baltic-Nordic economic ties, but we would also make our energy markets more competitive,” said the Head of State at the business forum.
The President met with Speaker of the Swedish Parliament Per Westerberg and the delegation of members of the Parliament, to speak about the energy issues again. On the second day of the visit to Sweden President of Lithuania Valdas Adamkus participated in a round-table discussion on energy issues. “New energy projects are very important to Lithuania. If we do not eliminate energy islands, we will not be able to create a single European Union energy market,” said the Lithuanian President. “I am pleased to see successful cooperation with Sweden in finalizing the feasibility study on the power link between our countries.”
President Adamkus noted that the implementation of this commercial project would contribute to the creation of the Baltic Energy Ring. According to the Head of State, the power link will be of considerable value to Lithuania – it will ensure power supply after the closure of Ignalina nuclear power plant.
At the opening ceremony, the Lithuanian President noted that with the fall of Communism some of the stereotypes created by the immense Soviet propaganda machine did not fade away. “A considerable part of Europe does not yet know the full story about what happened to peace and freedom loving nations across Central and Eastern Europe after the end of World War II. Today’s exhibition “War After War” fills, in part, the “gray areas” of history and increases understanding between our two nations,” said President Adamkus.
Swedish Minister of Education Jan Björklund, who participated at the opening of the exhibition, mentioned that Swedish school history programs would include not only a chapter on holocaust but also about crimes of Communist regime and resistance fights.
The President of the Republic Valdas Adamkus met with Prime Minister of Sweden Fredrik Reinfeldt. This was the last meeting of all tip They discussed topical issues of the Baltic Sea region.Speaking about energy projects, the Lithuanian President noted that the electricity link with Sweden will be of key importance for ensuring reliable power supply after the closer of Ignalina nuclear plant and in case of power supply shortage.
“Earlier we were treating energy solely as an issue of our internal policy. Today, we feel the necessity to join the Baltic Sea region into a single electricity network, therefore, Electricity Bridge with Lithuania is of great significance to Sweden as well,” – said Prime Minister Reinfeldt.
“If we build the electricity bridge to Poland and implement electricity link project with Sweden, we will have done a considerable work not only for Lithuania but for the security and stability of the entire Baltic region and we will enhance the European Union energy solidarity,” underlined President Adamkus.
At the meeting, the President and Prime Minister discussed about problems which Lithuania would face after the decommissioning of Ignalina nuclear power plant as the use of environmentally unfriendly energy resources will increase.
Speaking about plans to built a gas pipeline from Russia to the Western Europe under the Baltic Sea, President Adamkus highlighted the risks of the project to the Baltic Sea ecology. According to the Head of State, all Baltic States need to aim for independent assessment of the environmental impact of the Northern gas pipeline.
The conversation also focused on prospects of consolidating the Baltic Sea region. Prime Minister Reinfeldt asked the Lithuanian President to pay attention to the Baltic Sea strategy proposed by Sweden where the EU should have a bigger role.
The bottom line of all trip was that Lithuania is trying hard to connect Lithuania to the Scandinavian Electricity market. And it seems that this is going to happen even before the link with Poland will materialize. It could be said that it is a question not if but when Lithuania is going to be united with the Scandinavian electricity grid.
As the BNS reported Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus and Finnish Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen have expressed certitude that a united energy network of Baltic and Nordic countries would be created in the future.
During a meeting with Vanhanen in Vilnius on Monday, Adamkus stressed that the vital task for Lithuania and the rest of the Baltic region was to liberate from the dependence on one energy resource.“Through energy bridge projects with the Scandinavian country we can develop a common energy network,” said the president.
The Finnish prime minister seconded his opinion, stating conviction that “a united energy market of Baltic and Nordic countries will be created in near future. It is just a matter of time.”
Adamkus also stressed that it could use the experience of Finland, which is currently building a nuclear power plant, in the implementation of the new nuclear power plant project.
The Polish President expressed his ‘regrets’ for the Electricity Bridge, and Adamkus is on his way to Sweden
The Polish President Lech Kaczynski expresses his regrets regarding still unsigned agreement between Poland and Lithuania with regards to the electricity bridge, and promises proceedings to take place “in the short run“. I would like to add no comment to that, because the Polish president is using his own time measurements, which are only known to him.
However the newly appointed Prime Minister to Poland Donald Tusk has decency to say that no specific dates for signing are clear. As the BNS reported after meeting with Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus in Warsaw on 11/11/07, Tusk reported to the press that the governments of both countries are trying to get the agreement on construction of the electricity bridge to Poland signed as soon as possible, however added that some issues still needed clarification, as this was a large project and required time and patience.
Tusk has said, that Adamkus “inherently optimistic as he is, mentioned that it would be great to start Christmas in a good mood”. Lithuanian president’s innuendo regarding the necessity to sign the establishment of the enterprise for construction of the electricity bridge was endorsed by the new Polish prime minister this year. “I would also like for the holidays to be followed by a good mood” Donald Tusk has said, however didn’t go on to name any specific dates when the agreement could be signed.
Simultaneously, Kaczynski kept repeating his promise of signing the agreement ASAP in a common briefing with Adamkus. “I feel sorry that the agreement has not yet been signed, but I am confident that it will be signed in the short run” Kaczynski has said.
Poland ‘s leader assured that he will do everything in his power to ensure the successful completion of negotiations over the electricity bridge. Kaczynski also noted having repeatedly spoken of this issue with members of the government-to-be, who are to be responsible for these energetic projects.
On the other hand the President Valdas Adamkus noted that agreement regarding construction of the electricity bridge is important not only to Lithuania, but Poland as well. “I can say with great pleasure that the position has not changed – Poland accepts this project as one of their underlying priorities and raises no doubts against implementation of this agreement this year” Adamkus reported to the press after the meeting in Warsaw on Sunday. However, it appears that the agreement is not that important to Poland for a time being, and it would not be surprising that the Poles are looking for a excite strategy from the both projects all together.
At the meantime the Lithuanians are searching for alternatives to Poland. The President of Lithuanian is paying a working visit to Sweden tomorrow. The Lithuanian Foreign Policy strategist seemed to discover that Sweden could to be ‘another’ possible route for Lithuania to the West. Well, a decade too late but better later than nether. It only remains to be seen if Sweden would like to become this ‘alternative’.
Lithuania has made it to the top-twenty list of countries worldwide in terms of security of equal opportunities for men and women, outmatching its neighbors and some of the EU’s old-timers.
According to the World Economic Forum that estimates economic, legal and social gaps between the genders, in 2007 Lithuania placed 14th, advancing by 7 places from 21 in 2006 as the BNS reported.Lithuania has been given a 72.3 percent score, while 100 percent means absolute equality and 0 percent — total discrimination.Latvia (73.3 percent) has moved up by 6 positions over a year to the 13th place, Estonia (70.1 percent) placed 30, one step above its position as of last year.
Lithuania’s another neighbour, Poland placed 60th, with a score of 67.6 percent.Lithuania and Latvia took the top position is a separate group of countries with average-earning population. In its report, the WEF says that the countries’ advance was primarily driven by smaller gender gaps in labour force participation and wages. This year, the rating covered 128 countries compared to 115 as of last year. In rating the countries, the WEF estimates equality of genders in four main categories: economic participation and opportunity, political empowerment, educational attainment and health and survival.
Just like in 2006, the top of the list contains Sweden (81.5 percent), Norway (80.6 percent), Finland (80.4 percent) and Iceland (78.4 percent), and the worst rating worldwide goes to Yemen (45.1 percent), Chad (53.8 percent), Pakistan (55.1 percent) and Nepal (55,8 percent).In the EU, the worst ratings were given to Italy (65.0 percent) at 84th place, Cyprus (65.2 percent), Malta (66.1 percent) and Greece (66.5 percent).The biggest improvement was made by Russia (68.7 percent), climbing from the 82nd place to place 44, and France (68.2 percent), advancing from the 70th to the 51st place. Nicaragua, Botswana and Mongolia demonstrated the biggest drop.