Continuous support for the EU ‘open door’ policy

Lithuania
Institute of International Relations and Political Science, Vilnius University
 
Lithuania has always sustained an ‘open door’ policy regarding EU enlargement. Speaking about the further enlargement, Lithuanian officials most often concentrate on the EU Eastern neighbours. As it is laid down in the programme of the new government, Lithuania will support the efforts of Ukraine, Moldova and the states of Southern Caucasus to integrate in to the EU.[1] Lithuanian Foreign Affairs Minister, Vygaudas Ušackas, emphasized that “it is necessary to keep the EU obligations for the countries, aspiring membership in the EU. At the same time it is essential to help the EU eastern neighbours to prepare for it properly”[2].
 
There should be no impediments for the further enlargement of the EU
 
According to the Lithuanian politicians, there should be no impediments for the EU enlargement, and the Irish ‘No’ should not stop this process. Earlier, former Lithuanian Prime Minister, Gediminas Kirkilas, said that there is an enlargement fatigue felt somewhere in Europe, but he encouraged not to give up to this political fatigue.[3] The then state secretary of the Lithuanian Foreign Affairs, Ministry, Deividas Matulionis, after the Irish ‘No’ to the Lisbon Treaty, said that this fact should not become an impediment for the further enlargement of the EU.[4] As the former Lithuanian Foreign Affairs Minister, Petras Vaitiekūnas, claims, “we have to do everything to provide a transatlantic perspective to our Eastern neighbours, so that the Georgian scenario would not repeat”[5].
 
Support for enlargement not only among the politicians, but also in the society
 
In concern to the public opinion, the majority of Lithuanians also favour further EU enlargement. As the Lithuanian Foreign Affairs Minister Vygaudas Ušackas claimed to the European Commissioner for enlargement, Olli Rehn, different public opinion surveys indicate that Lithuanians are among the biggest supporters of the further enlargement of the EU.[6] A recently conducted national public opinion survey demonstrated, that 59 percent of Lithuanians think that the new members should be allowed to join the European Union, while only 13 percent of the respondents do not agree with this statement.[7]

Lithuania most of all would like to see Ukraine and Georgia in NATO
 
Lithuanian officials also favour an open door policy when speaking about the NATO enlargement. It is usually Ukraine and Georgia whose membership in NATO is most actively discussed in Lithuania. Giving a lecture at the “NATO Defense College in Rome”, the former Lithuanian Prime Minister, Gediminas Kirkilas, said that Georgia and Ukraine deserve a NATO Membership Action Plan.[8] The new government, formed after the autumn elections to the Lithuanian parliament, declared in its programme, that Lithuania would support Ukrainian and Georgian efforts to prepare to become members of NATO in a short run.[9]
 
Strong support for different initiatives to strengthen relations with the EU Eastern neighbours
 
Lithuania supports different EU initiatives to foster and strengthen relations with the EU Eastern neighbours, and this is one of the most actively discussed issues in the Lithuanian European agenda. Lithuania’s historic experience with the EU Eastern neighbours allows Lithuania to make a significant input in this area of EU policy.
 
Before the December European Council, speaking about the Eastern Partnership, the government declared that it supports the new initiatives for strengthening the relations with the EU Eastern neighbours.[10] Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus supposes that during Czech Presidency Lithuanians should keep on seeking the development of the ambitious, efficient and wide Eastern Partnership.

A stronger European Neighbourhood Policy is necessary after the Georgian conflict
 
In the programme of the new government, it is stated that Lithuania will demonstrate initiative and will keep on conducting an active Eastern neighbourhood policy.[11] There is an agreement in Lithuania that after the Georgian conflict, this policy should be strengthened. As the undersecretary of the Lithuanian Foreign Affairs Ministry, Žygimantas Pavilionis, claimed that – after the Georgian conflict a more proactive EU policy towards its Eastern neighbourhood is necessary.[12] Speaking in a meeting of the EU Foreign Affairs Ministers, former Lithuanian Foreign Affairs Minister, Petras Vaitiekūnas, has also emphasized an imperative to adopt all the necessary decisions to strengthen the EU relationship with Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia and Belarus. According to the minister, it is essential to consider seriously the perspective of Ukrainian membership in the EU, to give new quality to the EU-Moldavian relations, and to reevaluate the relationship with Belarus.[13]
 
Recently adopted “Strategic directions of the Lithuanian policy in the European Union for the year 2008-2013”[14], which give a perspective on the Lithuanian European priorities in a short run, also pays much attention to the issue of the EU Eastern neighbourhood. It is claimed in this document, approved by the Lithuanian government, that Lithuania should continue on paying much attention to the EU Eastern neighbours – it should aspire to facilitate visa regimes for Georgia and Belarus, and should actively stimulate the EU to find ways to solve frozen conflicts in Moldova and the Southern Caucasus.[15]


 



[1] Ibid.


[2] Lithuanian Foreign Affairs Ministry: Lietuvos užsienio reikalų ministras su Europos Komisijos plėtros reikalų generaliniu direktoriumi aptarė ES plėtros klausimus (Lithuanian Foreign Affairs Minister has discussed the issues of the EU enlargement with the General Director of the European Commission for enlargement affairs), press release, 25 January 2009, http://www.urm.lt/index.php?-1068680572 (last access: 25 January 2009).


[3] The lecture of the Prime Minister Gediminas Kirkilas at the “NATO College of Defense” in Rome: Challenges for the security of the transatlantic society in the 21. century, 2 October 2008, is available at: http://www.lrvk.lt/main.php?id=aktualijos_su_video/p.php&n=6645 (last access: 25 January 2009).


[4] Lithuanian Foreign Affairs Ministry: Ministerijos valstybės sekretorius su Rumunijos Parlamento Europos reikalų komiteto nariais aptarė aktualius Europos Sąjungos klausimus (The Secretary of the Ministry has discussed the topical EU issues with the members of the Committee on European Affairs of the Rumanian Parliament), press release, 2 July 2008, available at: http://www.urm.lt/index.php?-605769503 (last access: 25 January 2009).


[5] See: Naujas Šiaurės ir Baltijos valstybių vaidmuo, stiprinant ES Rytų kaimynių transatlantinę integraciją (New role of the Nordic and Baltic states in strengthening the transatlantic integration of the EU Eastern neighbours), 11 September 2008, available at: http://www.euro.lt/lt/naujienos/apie-lietuvos-naryste-europos-sajungoje/... (last access: 25 January 2009).


[6] Lithuanian Foreign Affairs Ministry: Užsienio reikalų ministras susitiko su Europos Sąjungos plėtros komisaru (Foreign Affairs Minister has met the European Union Commission member responsible for enlargement), press release, 27 January 2009, available at: http://www.urm.lt/index.php?-343207303 (last access: 28 January 2009).


[7] Lithuanian government: Viešosios nuomonės tyrimas: didžiuojamės turėdami valstybę, esame žingeidūs, kritiški ir atviri (Public opinion survey: we are proud to have a state, we are curious and open), press release, 1 July 2008, available at: http://www.lrvk.lt/main.php?id=aktualijos_su_video/p.php&n=6374 (last access: 25 January 2009).


[8] The lecture of the Prime Minister Gediminas Kirkilas at the “NATO College of Defense” in Rome: Challenges for the security of the transatlantic society in the 21. century, 2 October 2008, is available at: http://www.lrvk.lt/main.php?id=aktualijos_su_video/p.php&n=6645 (last access: 25 January 2009).


[9] See: Vyriausybės programa: užsienio politikoje siekti ES solidarumo, partnerystės su JAV, geros kaimynystės su Rusija (The programme of the government: to seek for the EU solidarity, partnership with the USA and good neighbourhood with Russia in foreign policy), 4 December 2008, available at: http://www.euro.lt/lt/naujienos/apie-lietuvos-naryste-europos-sajungoje/... (last access: 25 January 2009).


[10] Lithuanian government: Premjeras A. Kubilius pristatys Lietuvos pozicijas Europos Vadovų Taryboje (Prime Minister A. Kubilius will present the Lithuanian positions in a European Council meeting), press release, 11 December 2008, available at: http://www.lrvk.lt/main.php?id=aktualijos_su_video/p.php&n=6912 (last access: 25 January 2009).


[11] See: Vyriausybės programa: užsienio politikoje siekti ES solidarumo, partnerystės su JAV, geros kaimynystės su Rusija (The programme of the government: to seek for the EU solidarity, partnership with the USA and good neighbourhood with Russia in foreign policy), 4 December 2008, available at: http://www.euro.lt/lt/naujienos/apie-lietuvos-naryste-europos-sajungoje/... (last access: 25 January 2009).


[12] Lithuanian Foreign Affairs Ministry: Konferencijoje Europos Sąjunga raginama vykdyti aktyvesnę politiką Moldovos ir kitų Rytų kaimynių atžvilgiu (In the conference European Union is stimulated to conduct a more proactive policy towards Moldova and other Eastern neighbours), press release, 17 October 2008, available at: http://www.urm.lt/index.php?417973118 (last access: 25 January 2009).


[13] Lithuanian Foreign Affairs Ministry: Užsienio reikalų ministras: atėjo laikas priimti esminius sprendimus dėl santykių su Europos Sąjungos Rytų kaimynėmis (Foreign Affairs Minister: the time has come to make essential decisions upon the relationships with the EU Eastern neighbours), press release, 8 September 2008, available at: http://www.urm.lt/index.php?-1315342569 (last access: 25 January 2009).


[14] See: Lietuvos “penkmečio planas”: eurozona, elektros tiltai, pažabota emigracija ir aukštųjų technologijų suklestėjimas (Lithuanian “five year” plan: Eurozone, electricity interconnections, managed emigration and the prosperity of the high-technologies), 29 September 2008, available at: http://www.euro.lt/lt/naujienos/apie-lietuvos-naryste-europos-sajungoje/... (last access: 25 January 2009).


[15] Ibid.