EU moves to stop Lithuania blocking pact talks with Russia

April 25, 2008 at 2:12 pm 4 comments

After meeting with President Valdas Adamkus April 21, Vaitiekunas told the press that Lithuania’s stance has been communicated to the EU, and, in his opinion, Vilnius is not interested in vetoing or blocking Brussels-Moscow talks over commencement of strategic EU-Russia partnership treaty.

However, the Lithuanian Minister of Foreign Affairs Vaitiekumas said after the meeting: “In our opinion, talks with Russia, including Russia in EU affairs, and EU’s engagement in Russia’s affairs is desirable and the more intense the better. It is beneficial to us to have Russia as close as possible to the EU, as close as possible to European values, and this is the direction we want to work in, however not at the expense of Lithuania’s interests. And we hope, that they will be properly reflected in the negotiations mandate.’

As the BNS reported the European nations made efforts on April 22 to convince Lithuania to lift its objections to the opening of talks with Moscow on a key EU-Russia partnership agreement, diplomats said.

News agency Reuters noted that regardless of all applied efforts, no consensus has been found because Lithuania stuck to demands that any mandate of the European Commission (EC) for negotiations with Russia include assurances on energy supplies, cooperation over a missing businessman and movement by Russia on frozen conflicts in former Soviet republics.

EU foreign ministers will meet next Tuesday in Luxembourg hoping to agree negotiating the stance for a new “Partnership and Cooperation Agreement” with Moscow.

The wide-ranging pact will cover the key issue of Russia’s massive energy supplies for Europe.

Vaitiekunas noted that Lithuania is aiming for EU’s interior policy on issues of energy to be stated in one voice, constructively and based on existing juridical norms. He added that Lithuania’s interest of solving “frozen conflicts” should also not be forgotten.

According to the BNS the EU ambassadors meeting in Brussels on April 24 drew up a “compromise text” which “attempts to take into account the difficulties,” one diplomat said, adding that it remained to be seen whether Lithuania’s leaders would accept it.  The Lithuanian diplomat confirmed that Vilnius received the prepared text.

However, he refused to speculate on the likely response from Lithuania while praising the “understanding” shown by fellow EU nations.

The diplomat stressed that Lithuania would make every effort to reach agreement on granting the European Commission a mandate to open the talks with Moscow ahead of the EU foreign ministers’ meeting next week.

“We don’t want to block the talks,” an unnamed Lithuanian diplomat told AFP.

He also noted that Lithuania will make all efforts towards an agreement to present the EC with a mandate for talks with Moscow before next week’s meeting of EU foreign ministers.

On the other hand, another a Lithuanian diplomat quoted by Reuters asserted that a new proposal doesn’t yet mean a deal has been made.

“There is no deal, negotiations have just started… There may be pressure on us at the foreign ministers meeting but we will stand firm,” an unnamed Lithuanian diplomat said, adding Vilnius wanted firmer assurances than those suggested by current EU presidency of Slovenia.

Diplomats said the new EU presidency proposals sought to meet Lithuanian demands for assurances on the dormant-since-2006 Druzhba pipeline and on judicial cooperation.

The BNS informs that somewhat earlier, Director of the Foreign Ministry’s Department of Information and Public Relations Violeta Gaizauskaite had stated that Lithuania has pointed out to EU members its quest for consideration of its interests in talks with Russia, i.e. concern over energy security, Russia’s observation of international commitments, Russia’s judicial cooperation and that in solving frozen conflicts in Georgia and Moldova.

“We would like that all of our interests were considered in EU-Russia agreements and we have communicated this stance of ours to EU partners”, Gaizauskaite said to the BNS.Talks over EU-Russia’s strategic partnership will commence when the so-called negotiations mandate is approved. It is predicated that if EU partners reach an agreement on what issues should be included in the mandate; negotiations could begin the meeting of leaders of EU nations and Russia’s due to take place in Russia in June.

What are the reasons behind this Lithuanian position?  As one of the main Lithuanian dailies noted in its editorial that Vilnius don’t want to provide Russia with a benefit of the doubt in advance.  The Lithuanian analysts don’t expect a ‘new beginning’ in the Russia’s foreign policy under President Medvediev.  The Lithuanians don’t have any illusions that if they will sacrifice their interests now and agree to the treaty they will be able to return to the problems concerned later.  Having in mind that Kremlin acquired additional friendly face in Rome, and knowing positions of Germany and France, you cannot blame Vilnius of their sceptical attitude.

Sources Reuters, AFP, BNS

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Entry filed under: Baltic States, Economics, Energy, EU, Georgia, Lithuania, Northern Europe, Poland, Politics, Russia.

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