Participants of Polish-Lithuanian Academy’15

PARTICIPANTS FROM LITHUANIA:

aneleANELĖ AUSIEJŪTĖ – Student at Institute of International Relations and Political Science, junior member of Corp! RePublica, could be briefly described as accomodating, outgoing and a team-worker. Fluently speaks Lithuanian and English, still trying to master the German language and feeling ambitious about someday learning Russian.

Gailė_Budvytytė_LLAGAILĖ BUDVYTYTĖ – 2nd year student of Political Sciences at Vilnius University, Institute of International Relations and Political Science. A member of students’ corporation RePublica. This summer is going to start working with U.S. company Southwestern Advantage. Speaks Lithuanian (native) and English, some Russian and is learning French.

emilijaEMILIJA MUSTEIKYTĖ – 1st year student in the Institute of International Relations and Political Science at Vilnius University. Member of student fraternity “RePublica” and Association of Sport Volunteers in Lithuania. Speaks Lithuanian (native) and English.

ingridaINGRIDA PETRAUSKAITĖ – student of Political Science at Vilnius University. Student representative and a member of Corp! RePublica. Interested in international relations, history, literature and music.

sarunasŠARŪNAS STECKIS – 3rd year Bachelor student in Vilnius University, Institute of International Relations and Political Science. Member of student corporation “RePublica”. Long time participant of Polish-Lithuanian Academy.

Academic interests – international relations, conflict studies, history.

zilvinasŽILVINAS ŠVEDKAUSKAS – a last – year student at the Institute of International Relations and Political Science, the Chairman of Institute’s students’ corporation “RePublica” and a frequent participant of Polish – Lithuanian Academy. Interested in Lithuanian minorites in Poland as much as in Islam in Morocco.

mano nuotraukaRŪTA DAKTARIŪNAITĖ – Bachelor‘s degree in Political science and master‘s degree in Comparative politics at Vilnius university. Speaks Lithuanian, English and German.  Interested in borderland communities, ethnic identity and cultural memory.

vytautasVYTAUTAS MIKULĖNAS – Bachelor’s degree in Political Science at the Institute of International Relations and Political Science of Vilnius University, multifold involvement in Polish-Lithuanian academic youth projects, interested in nationalism and international affairs in Central and Eastern Europe and Middle East.

ievaIEVA PETRAŠKEVIČIŪTĖ – BA student at the Institute of International Relations and Political Science at Vilnius University, the coordinator of the Polish-Lithuanian Academy’15 and a member of Institute’s students’ corporation “RePublica”.  Has a broad interest in both political and social issues especially domestic policy and history of Central and Southeast Asian countries.

Participants of Polish-Lithuanian Academy’15

Participants of Polish-Lithuanian Academy’15

PARTICIPANTS FROM POLAND:

ANNA HERMAN – Bachelor’s degree in International Relations at Cracow University of Economics, intern in the Małopolska Institute of Local Government and Administration, volunteer in CAniaHivil Initiatives Development Centre, participant in international training courses (Poland, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Germany), project coordinator and member of the board of a student research circle. Speaks Polish (native), English and Czech (basic).

ŁUKASZ KOŁTUNIŁukaszKAK – Legal counsel trainee, PhD student at the Faculty of Law and Administration at the Jagiellonian University, interested in Eastern and Central Europe and political philosophy.

JAGODA SJagodaSTĘPNIEWSKA – Student of Russian Studies at Jagiellonian University in Krakow. Speaks Polish, English and Russian. Interested in diplomacy, history and culture of Russia and Balkans.

Krystyna_TetianiecKRYSTYNA TETIANEC – student of international relations at Jagiellonian University. Speaks Polish, English, Lithuanian and Russian. Interested in public relations, EU – Russian relations and diplomacy.

MARM_SmietanaIOLA ŚMIETANA -Student of International Relations at Cracow University of Economics. Duty editor in V4+ group. Activist of project group at the Jagiellonian Club and Ośrodek Studiów o Mieście Nowy Sącz.

nadiaNADIA URBAN – Student of both Romanian and French Philology at Jagiellonian University. Currently working at Museum of Contemporary Art in Cracow. A freelance translator and hyperpolyglot-wannabe. On one hand passionate about literature, art and Balkan spirit, on the other hand – interested in international politics and diplomacy. So far speaking English, French, Romanian and Polish (native).

łucjaŁUCJA HOMA – student of law at Jagiellonian University, bachelor in international studies. Manager of Demagog.PL, which fact-checks factual statements of Polish politicians. Interested in politics, social media, history and literature, loves mountains.

GosiaMAŁGORZATA KILIAN – student of Political Science at Jagiellonian University. Interested in new media, politics. Analyst in Demagog.org.pl project.

bartosz_swiatlowskiBARTOSZ ŚWIATŁOWSKI – PhD student of political science at the Jagiellonian University. Master’s degree in international relations (Jagiellonian University) bachelor in social policy (Jagiellonian University) and international relations (Tischner European University). Analysts in Diplomacy and Politics Foundation. Speaks Polish, English and Spanish.

adrianADRIAN RAJEWSKI – studied law and international relations at University of Warsaw, Autonoma University in Madrin and Babes-Bolyai University in Cluj-Napoca. Scholar of DAAD, CEEPUS, Action and Erasmus programs. Speaks Polish, English, Spanish and Portuguese.

Participants of Polish-Lithuanian Academy’15

Rail Baltica will provide a closer connection between Baltic States and the European single market

By Kristina Tetianec

During the “Rail Baltica – Business Opportunities in the Baltic States” conference, held on Monday, 18th of May, by Helsinki-Uusimaa Regional Council in Finland, the President of European Committee of the Regions – Markku Markkula said: “Efficient railway links to Central Europe are a key factor for strengthening the northern dimension of the EU and Rail Baltica is a core part of it.” In his opinion,  transport networks play a crucial role in the European Union because they provide a better access to regional markets and ensure competitiveness.

 

Rail Baltica is a high speed railway corridor project with a goal to integrate the Baltic States in the European rail network. It is one of nine priority projects of the European Union: Trans-European Transport Networks (TEN-T) and the biggest  transport infrastructure projects in Baltic States since the restoration of independence in the 90s of the past century.

A high speed railway corridor is expected to be built by 2024. However, according to Lithuanian Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevičius first results of this project will be visible this year. “I expect the European-standard gauge to be completed on time so that this line reaches Kaunas already this autumn. More than 90 percent of the scheduled tasks have already been completed” the head of government said.

The section from the Polish border to Kaunas (Lithuania) will cost EUR 380 million. What is more, the overall cost of the project crucial for the Baltic States and Poland project will be between EUR 3.7 billion and EUR 5.2 billion.

Source: Visegradplus.org

Klub Jagiellonski

 

Rail Baltica will provide a closer connection between Baltic States and the European single market

What is Polish-Lithuanian Academy?

Polish-Lithuanian Academy is an international students’ exchange between Polish and Lithuanian participants. The project is generally organised by non-governmental organization Jagiellonian Club from Poland and students’ corporation “RePublica” from Lithuania.

The idea of Polish-Lithuanian Acedemy emerged in 2009 and its 1st edition took place in Cracow. In November of the same year Polish students visited Vilnus, which was the 2nd edition of the Academy. In 2010 3rd edition of the Academy was held in Cracow. After several years, in 2012, 4th edition was organized in Cracow again. Ever since the Academy has been planned to become a cyclical project, and in 2015 the Academy starts with its 7th edition.

The Polish-Lithuanian Academy aims at fostering communication between Polish and Lithuanian youth by deepening their knowledge about the cultures, history, economic and social relations of both countries. While participating in the debates, organized seminars, excursions and various cultural activities the Academy will provide students with in-depth knowledge of the most important issues of the neighbouring countries.

For more information: http://www.republica.lt/, http://kj.org.pl/, http://visegradplus.org/

What is Polish-Lithuanian Academy?

Poland and Lithuania have top EU defence budget hikes

The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) reported on Monday (13 April) that Poland and Lithuania have top EU defence budget hikes in 2015.

As a conflict in Ukraine is still ongoing, some Eastern European countries are working on plans and partnerships aimed to enhance security level in the region. What is more, the countries bordering Russia are planning to increase military outlay and spend at least 2 percent of their GDP on defence (NATO members). However, only 4 countries (UK, US, Greece and Estonia) have reached this target.

According to SIPRI, Lithuania is planning to spend €400 million, which is 50 percent more than in 2014. And Poland, which has granted €33 billion in 2013 for the 10-year plan of the military modernisation, is also going to increase military spending by 20 percent – €9.3 billion in 2015.

Budget hikes will also be recorded in Latvia (14.9 percent) and Estonia (7.3 percent). What is more, Estonia is also asking for a larger NATO contingent to defend its borders with Russia, behind which 40,000 to 80,000 Russian soldiers are taking part in military exercises.  “As soon as one country is left on its own, no country will feel secure after that” says – afraid of Russian aggression – President Toomas Hendrik Ilves.

Sources: Visegradplus.org

Klub Jagiellonski

 

Poland and Lithuania have top EU defence budget hikes

Lustration Process in Poland and Lithuania

In nearly all countries of Central and Eastern Europe, there have been and continue to be efforts to clarify human rights violations in the period of communist party rule. Though the efforts and the process in itself might seem to be the same, in reality countries have distinct ways carrying it out as is the case for Poland and Lithuania. Before having a closer look at the lustration process in these countries, some general questions regarding lustration are going to be answered.

What is lustration?

Lustration process literary meanilustration processng is “clarification through light and fire”, which implies that individuals are screened for responsibility in human rights violations, on the basis of documentation from the former secret services. Moreover, the lustration process might lead to decommunization, which is simply an exclusion, for a shorter or longer period of time, of certain individuals from important public functions.

To whom lustration is applied?

Lustration generally is applied to high rank politicians, heads of government offices, officials, officers in ministries, nominated employees, as well as lawyers, teachers, journalists and others who, during the communist party rule, took responsible positions and had an impact, were involved in or conducted serious human rights violations themselves.

Overview:

Poland
The first post-Communist Polish government did explicitly reject a policy of lustration, exemplified by Mazowiecki’s famous inaugural pledge to draw a ‘thick line’ under the Communist past. However, calls for a more radical approach were already growing louder in 1990-91 and came from Solidarity’s right wing, which felt excluded from the Mazowiecki government. Meanwhile, with little fanfare, considerable personnel changes were being made in a number of important spheres of public life. For example, verification commissions were set up all levels of the legal system to examine individual service records and removed 10 per cent of prosecutors and 33 per cent of the staff in the office of the General Prosecutor.
The short-lived, more radically right-wing government of Jan Olszewski decided in 1991 that the interior ministry should vet all elected officials for links to the Communist secret services, and prepare a bill for a more encompassing lustration. This process culminated in the denunciation of 64 members of parliament (including many veterans of the democratic opposition) by Interior Minister Antoni Macierewicz. The furore that followed led directly to the downfall of the Olszewski government.
Later that year, six proposals were under consideration in the Polish legislature, the most substantial of which was a bill drafted by the Congress of Liberal Democrats. Other centrist and liberal parties were not ready to support it, so it died along with the other bills in committee.
Lustration then resurfaced throughout the 1990s The matter’s periodic resurgence peaked in December 1995 with allegations that the ex-Communist premier, Józef Oleksy, had been a Soviet and Russian spy. In response, Poland adopted a lustration law in June 1997, which covered all elected state officials from the president downwards, including parliamentary candidates, together with all ministers and senior state functionaries above the rank of deputy provincial governor; judges and prosecutors; and leading figures in the public electronic and print media. As a result of amendments passed in 1998, the law’s scope was stretched to include all barristers, bringing the total number of officials subject to lustration to approximately 23,000.
The law on lustration bans from office for 10 years those persons caught lying about their past. The law requires officials to provide sworn affidavits concerning their possible cooperation with the secret police. The public interest spokesman (lustration prosecutor) then verifies the affidavits and brings suspected cases of misrepresentation before the lustration court, a special three-judge panel whose decisions may be appealed. Several high-profile cases have come before the court.
In 2000, Parliament agreed on a chairman for the Institute of National Remembrance (IPN), a body mandated by the lustration law to organize all Communist-era secret police files and eventually give citizens access to their files. From the 2004 Annual Report of the IPN (the last report available in English):
The prosecutors of the Institute’s Commission continued previous investigations as well as launched new investigations in recently revealed crimes committed between September 1, 1939 and December 31, 1989. The notion of crime against the Polish Nation embraces the Nazi crimes, Communist crimes, crimes against peace, humanity and war crimes committed on persons of Polish nationality – disregarding the place of crime, as well as crimes committed on persons of other nationalities, provided the crimes had been committed on the territory of Polish State. On June 30, 2004 the prosecutors of IPN Divisional Commissions conducted 1,359 investigations, including 363 cases of Nazi crimes, 918 cases of Communist crimes and 78 cases of other crimes (war crimes and crimes against humanity). The Institute’s archives amounted to 79,920.65 meters of acts. Since the first applications were submitted on February 7, 2001 till June 30, 2004 15,485 persons have asked to access their documents produced by security apparatus. In the period covered by this report, the IPN archival office has realized 8,205 applications for accessing documents/status of grieved person (three times more than in the previous year). 2,658 persons have been declared to be grieved parties and 5,063 were denied that status due to lack of documents collected purposely and secretly by security services and in the case of 484 persons (5%) IPN archivists have found documents proving cooperation with security services. The grieved persons have access to all materials found in IPN archival resources, there is no time limitation nor a non-disclosure provision. Before the documents in a form of a copy are disseminated, the personal data of grieved persons, other persons – including functionaries, employees and agents of state security services – are being blackened.
In January 2005 Rzeczpospolita’s journalist Bronislaw Wildstein published on the Internet a list of people who may have collaborated with the Polish security service during the communist years. Nearly 240,000 surnames of people whose files are kept in Poland’s Institute of National Remembrance, which is in charge of the archives of the country’s security service, were published. The list includes staffers, informers, and people they planned to recruit. The publication alarmed the Polish special services, for along with the names of former agents the names of currently active spies were published. The website list was an enormous popular success, but much remains unclear about why individuals have been included in it.
In February 2005 the appeals court in Warsaw overturned the two-year suspended sentence handed down by the district court in May 2004 to former interior minister Czeslaw Kiszczak for his role in the 1981 killings at the Wujek mine. In August the district court determined that the case was a ‘Communist-era crime’ that should either be heard by the institute for national remembrance (IPN) or be dismissed on the basis of an expired statute of limitations. In October the Katowice distict court again began hearing testimony, including that of General Wojciech Jaruzelski, who testified that Kiszczak had not authorized the use of firearms at the Wujek mine.

Lithuania

According to the Lithuanian mass media, in 2005 there were more than 1,000 personnel, all employees of the KGB, and about 4,000 former secret agents of the Soviet special services in Lithuania left un-lustrated. The ‘Law on the registration, recognition, reporting, and protection of identified persons who secretly collaborated with the former special services of the USSR’ was passed by the Sejm (parliament) in 1998 and amended in 1999. It demands that the former employees of the KGB and other Soviet special services inform a special commission of that status and be registered by it. During the established year and a half term close to 1,500 ex-agents and employees came to the commission on lustration. Their names are kept secret. The names of those who didn’t come to the commission were supposed to be published. The law bars former KGB members from legal practice and working in banks, and also restricts their opportunities for taking jobs in private companies. But after promulgating the law, the Lithuanian government did not launch any further actions to screen former KGB members, and the law was quietly dropped, probably because of the lobbying by former employees of the Soviet special services occupying very high posts in the Lithuanian state structures.
In late 2005, committees of the Lithuanian Parliament started to discuss a new edition of the law in which new terms of lustration and principles of formation of the commission will be implemented.

Prepared by the article “Part II Lustration in Central and Eastern Europe” written by Daan Bronkhorst

Lustration Process in Poland and Lithuania

Andrius Krivas: Lithuania does not stand alone

By Bartosz Światłowski

Manipulation of frozen conflicts; 2008 Russia’s war against Georgia; illegitimate annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula and ongoing support to the operations of armed separatists in the Luhansk and Donetsk regions of Ukraine – all of this shows Russia’s disregard of the most fundamental principles of the world security order and makes Russia today a major threat to European and global peace and security – says Andrius Krivas, Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Lithuania.

Mr. Vice Minister, you have been a Lithuanian foreign policy maker, you were twice in charge of the national defense ministry, acting as the Lithuanian Head of NATO Division, Minister Counsellor in the Permanent Representation of Lithuania to the Organization for Security and Co-operation and also counsellor in Embassy of Lithuania to the United States of America. You had plenty opportunities to watch major geopolitical events as you directly participated in them. Which one would you find most important from the perspective of Lithuania – an independent actor of international policy? Can you see any permanent, constant characteristics of Russia, USA, NATO and EU – the largest global policy players impacting this part of the world?

In the last decade of the 20th century, Lithuania lived through the most profound political and economic transformation: from being forcefully incorporated by the Soviet empire with its one-party dictatorship and entirely state-run economy toward an independent nation with a functioning modern democracy and free market economy that conducts an active and principled foreign and security policy based on the international law and shared values of the Western and Central European and North American democratic societies. The success of such transition was ultimately acknowledged and crowned by Lithuania’s admission as a full-fledged member to NATO and the EU, along with a group of other countries that met and implemented a similar historic and strategic choice. This success would not have been possible without the determined and generous support and advice by our partners and friends in Northern and Western Europe and North America nor without the tight network of mutual support and cooperation we developed with in the other Baltic States, Visegrad countries and other like-minded partners. The United States, both through NATO and bilaterally, has played a key role in providing security and stability in Europe. By its decades-long policy of non-recognition of the legitimacy of the Soviet occupation of the Baltic States and by supporting the set up and development of democratic institutions of our government and society, the US also became a key contributor to our success.

For about decade after the end of the Cold War it seemed that most or even all countries in Eastern Europe, including Russia, were moving in a similar direction by adhering to the political and societal values of Western democracies. It boded well for the future prospects of a united, secure and prosperous Europe and its ability to peacefully resolve remaining differences and, together with trans-Atlantic and other global partners, to deal effectively with local and regional conflicts and other traditional and new security challenges, such as terrorism, natural or technological disaster, or cyber threats.

Alas, early in the last decade Russia started deviating from those values and principles. The imprisonment of Mikhail Khodorkovsky in Russia, the deaths of Alexander Litvinenko in London and Sergei Magnitsky in Moscow, the persecution of participants of the Bolotnaya square protests, legal and other infringements on minority rights and NGO activities all proved that the Russian leadership was guided by anything but European values in its internal policies. It could be observed in the foreign and security policy of Russia as well: the failure to deliver on the OSCE Istanbul commitments to withdraw Russian troops from the territories of Georgia and Moldova; increase of Russia’s military activity, including large-scale exercises based on outrageously aggressive scenarios as well as unannounced and unidentifiable military aircraft overflights posing danger to the safety of civil aviation, unilateral withdrawal from conventional arms control arrangements; use of energy resources as leverage of interference in political affairs and decisions of neighbour countries; manipulation of frozen conflicts to the same effect; 2008 Russia’s war against Georgia; and, most recently, the 2014 Russia’s armed aggression against Ukraine, illegitimate annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula and ongoing support to the operations of armed separatists in the Luhansk and Donetsk regions of Ukraine – all of this shows Russia’s disregard of the most fundamental principles of the world security order and makes Russia today a major threat to European and global peace and security. Only a firm united stance of the US, NATO and the EU can effectively oppose this dangerous trend.

On 11 March 2015 Lithuania will celebrate the 25th anniversary of the proclamation of independence. Twenty five years provide a good perspective for the evaluation of Vilnius‘s to-date achievements in the consolidation of its international position. The first period dominated by accession efforts focused on NATO and EU membership is rather different than the 2004 – 2014 period that is more determined by individual policy makers. Lithuanian policy was then influenced by two different strategies: “New Foreign Policy” proclaimed in 2004 and pragmatic economization launched in 2009. The first strategy was based on the assumption that Lithuania will be the regional leader, while the latter one highlighted the need for consolidation of the young country’s position in the Western international organizations. Which of these programs do you feel more associated with? Has any of them turned out to be more effective? Should they be treated as complementary or different sets of beliefs about the regional and global position of Lithuania?

The two concepts do not contradict each other. Not only are they mutually compatible, but indeed mutually reinforcing. Lithuania has been doing its best to establish itself as a leader (rather than the leader) in our region in that it pro-actively serves the regional and global community by promoting internationally recognized values of freedom, democracy, human rights, rule of law, and international co-operation; and in that it shoulders its fair share of burden and responsibility for security, stability and prosperity in our own region and world-wide. In practical terms, it has been manifested in systematic sharing of Lithuania’s post-communist political and economic transition experience to interested partners in Eastern Europe; in principled advocacy for human right activists and organizations in countries suffering from authoritarian rule; in consistently building up our contribution, as a donor country, to the international development aid; in initiating, promoting and implementing important infrastructure and economic co-operation projects of regional significance; and in living up to our commitments within the UN, EU and NATO, including through direct participation in the international crisis management and peace support. Our regional and global partners appear to acknowledge such efforts by supporting, in recent years, Lithuania’s candidacy for important roles in such international forums as the Community of Democracies, the OSCE, the UN Security Council, and others; and by including Lithuania, along with other advanced partners, in such international clubs as the Schengen agreement, or the Euro zone, or the OECD, with which we are about to start accession negotiations.

Lithuania is often accused of pursuing the one issue policy. In other words Vilnius was criticized for excessively focusing on the Russian threat although the war in Ukraine and earlier conflict in Georgia proved that Lithuanians were right to fear the neo-imperial policy of Kremlin. Do you, however, see any threats resulting from such assertive, transparent policy oriented on the sanctions against Russia? Doesn’t Vilnius risk international isolation, economic crisis and, finally, increasing activity of Russian special services? Have you prepared a range of appropriate scenarios in case of unexpected developments in Ukraine?

Lithuania’s international relations and activities have always been multidimensional. They have emphasized the tasks and objectives of the EU integration, outreach to partners in our neighborhood and far beyond; addressed regional co-operation in the Baltic, Nordic-Baltic, Baltic-Visegrad, US-Baltic, CBSS and other formats, promoted economic exchanges, trade, investment, tourism, addressed all topical areas of international concern, ranging from disarmament, nuclear security and counter-terrorism to climate change and international development assistance. Much focus has been put on sharing our political and economic transition with those partners who chose to follow the same path. This broad approach has recently enabled Lithuania to successfully serve the international community and our integration partners in such roles as the Chairmanship-in-Office of the OSCE in 2011, rotating Presidency of the EU Council in 2013, and currently as a non-permanent Member of the UN Security Council (2014-2015).

What some of the foreign analysts and politicians may at times have misperceived as a “one-issue pre-occupation” is simply the fact that, due to natural reasons – geographic proximity, historic experience, etc. – we, like some of our regional neighbors, have deeper expertise on Russia and other Eastern European countries than do most of the old EU Member States. As a result, we tend to detect nascent problems coming from that direction earlier and with more precision than many others, which is not always immediately understood by all observers.

But of course Lithuania does not stand alone in face of Russia’s imperial ambitions. We are firmly anchored within the key institutions of the community of Western democracies: NATO and the EU. There is absolutely no question about Lithuania’s political isolation in this regard. If anyone is in danger of complete isolation, it is Russia, due to its ongoing blatant violations of the norms of international behavior. The more and more obvious aggressive political actions and imperial ambitions of the Russian leadership speak for themselves. Accordingly, more and more EU citizens, Western governments and political leaders follow Lithuania and other like-minded countries in recognizing the need for a profound revision of the Western institutions’ long-term approach vis-à-vis Russia, as well as the need for a new quality of the West’s political dialogue with Russia. Such dialogue should no longer be about accommodating or appeasing Russia and making concessions in search for compromises. The time for compromises is long over. Instead, such dialogue should be about stopping the aggression and about restoring peace, security and compliance with international law breached by Russia. Targeted economic sanctions, robust reinforcement of security of all EU Members, and NATO Allies, reduction of economic and energy dependency on Russia, and direct political, economic and military support to the EU’s AA/DCFTA partners should all be integral parts of such dialogue as means of persuasion and, if need be, dissuasion of the aggressor.

When it comes to the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine, our position has been clear and consistent from the very beginning. It is up to Ukraine (or, for that matter, any other partner) to choose the strategic direction of their foreign policy and economic integration as well as of the alliances they may wish to join. No country or group of countries has the right to impose such choices on sovereign countries or to punish them for the choices they made. We will always support Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. And we trust that it will be fully restored.

A foreign affairs minister of a small country located in the strategically crucial region – such as Lithuania – should consider specific modes of leveraging the country’s international status, i.e. how to improve its rank in spite of small potential, something that Winston Churchill used to define as “boxing in the higher-weight category.” Can you identify the areas, key directions, niches where Lithuania may seize the opportunity? Perhaps the tactics based on accommodation and generation of economic profits would be more effective?

As a small country with limited resources, one is bound to focus on quality rather than on quantity of one’s contribution to international peace, stability and well-being. But first things should come first. Global and regional security, international legitimacy, and the strength of democratic institutions in individual countries are among the indispensable key framework conditions for securing economic growth and profits, creating jobs and promoting mutually beneficial international trade, investment, partnership, co-operation and integration.

Lithuania’s “niches” for profiling itself as an active contributor to adequately addressing these challenges include our rich national experience of building up democratic institutions and a functioning free-market economy, as well as our experience of EU and NATO accession that both required to implement a lot of important reforms at home. Once achieved, the EU and NATO membership became important assets for our international policy. In co-operation with our allies and partners we consolidate our security, enhance economic stability, limit dependency on unreliable markets and suppliers; and we are in a good position to influence the formulation the common foreign and security policy objectives in each of these key institutions and to catalyse the support by bigger and more powerful partners with richer resources toward their realization.

It seems that the Balto-Scandinavian trend has prevailed in the Lithuanian foreign policy over recent years, which involved cooperation with the Nordic countries (under the NB8 formula). A number of commentators referred to Kazys Pakštas, a pre-war Lithuanian geo-politician who explained the rationality of the northern dimension of Lithuanian diplomacy seeking alliances with stronger countries-protectors. Would you agree that Ukrainians events have verified the sensibility of political capital investment in this part of Europe? Can Lithuania still count on the support of North in its efforts made in the EU and NATO? Another formula of this question could be the following: is it possible to say that despite its efforts Lithuania is generally part of the Central-European geopolitical code?

Nordic- Baltic cooperation for Lithuania is not just a goal, but a reality. Let’s name a few examples out of many: last year the LNG terminal construction was completed, a Norwegian company was the main contractor and Statoil will be a major gas provider, this year the NordBalt electricity connection will be finalized. We have joined the Nordic military cooperation platform Nordefco, and started our participation in the Nordic Battle Group.

It is important to note that the Nordic and Baltic countries are like-minded in many ways and different fields. We are pro-EU enlargement countries and open economies advocating free trade. During economic crisis we subdued our economies to strict fiscal discipline and introduced necessary austerity measures. Moreover, we are facing the same threats –Russia’s aggressive behaviour and increasing hostile propaganda, cyber security, etc. We are very active in voicing out support to Ukraine’s European choice and territorial integrity and produced joint positions on the topic. Not only did the events in Ukraine strengthen our regional perception, but they also showed that no region or country in Europe is immune to instability and turmoil. It does not matter where you draw geographical lines and what geopolitical codes you activate – now it is time for Europe to act as one region. For that matter, Lithuania deems it necessary to go hand in hand with the Baltic, Nordic and Visegrad countries as well as to maintain a very tight transatlantic link. Having in mind very complex geopolitical situation nowadays we should be united not just on the regional level, but also on European and transatlantic levels.

Lithuania adopted Euro on 1 January 2015. Originally, it was supposed to have been done as early as in 2007. Could you tell us why that date was not met? What benefits does Lithuania expect following the adoption of new currency? What kind of threats can you anticipate after bidding farewell to the litas?

Lithuania could not adopt the Euro on 1 January 2007 because our inflation rate missed the EU target by just 0.1 percentage point… The successful adoption of Euro on 1 January 2015 is the result of consistent efforts for over a decade by several consecutive Lithuanian Governments, conducted boldly and honestly, sometimes amid adverse external economic and financial conditions, such as the 2008-2009 crisis.

When 25 years ago Lithuania regained its independence, we declared our return “back to Europe”. Today this motto has been crowned with the euro adoption. Lithuania’s accession to Eurozone was our legal obligation enshrined in the EU accession Treaty. It brings both economic and political benefits (among them – economic and financial security, better resistance to external economic shocks, greater incentives for foreign investments, including tourism; enhanced image of Lithuania as a reliable partner. In the present geopolitical context it also becomes an additional element of our “soft security”. We have joined one of the strongest economies in the world and together will be able to play a key role in shaping the financial and monetary policies of the European Union.

Joining the Eurozone is an important financial (economical) and geopolitical project – it completes Baltic region‘s integration into the monetary union. The euro can increase the region‘s stability in the face of geopolitical tensions. The euro makes Lithuania more attractive to foreign investors and brings assurance of lower risks. Having successfully dealt with the crisis, Lithuania can contribute to the top three tasks for the euro area today – reviving growth, boosting competitiveness, safeguarding financial stability. This mutual benefit of European integration is inscribed on the edge of the Lithuanian two euro coins – Freedom, Unity, and Well-Being. We see positive impact on national economy and financial stability as well – there will be no exchange fees, which saves time and administrative costs, we anticipate positive impact on long-term economic growth – in 2022 GDP is expected to be higher by almost 2 pct. versus the scenario without euro. We will participate with more influence in the EU decision making process where the key decisions are made by Eurogroup.

Lithuanian-Polish relations deteriorated in recent years. Despite development of economic, cultural, and social cooperation political relations and national relations in particular are far from being normal. What is the position of Poland in current policy of Lithuania? What instruments can both countries use to reduce mutual antagonisms and create reality in our region? Can energy and transport cooperation (energy bridges, Via Baltica, Rail Baltica) pursued by means of the platform such as V4 + Baltic States play a crucial role?

For Lithuania Poland has been and remains a major partner. We have very old historical and cultural ties, intensive economic cooperation, similar foreign policy agenda and excellent cooperation in the field of defence. We are working together very constructively in the EU, NATO and other formats. Of course, as neighbours and very close partners we have some open issues to be solved. But I would like to stress that what has been achieved between our countries, e.g. in the realm of security and defence co-operation, is unprecedented in our history and provides a very solid ground for further dynamic development.

Indeed, energy and transport cooperation is one of the key areas for our bilateral as well as regional cooperation. Solving the problem of the so called “energy islands” is a key interest of the whole EU. This is the main precondition for creation of effective and well integrated EU common energy market and important factor for strengthening European energy security. Electricity interconnection between Poland and Lithuania – LitPolLink – is our gate to European electricity networks and opportunity to synchronize our electricity system with the system of Continental Europe. Gas interconnection between our countries together with our LNG project and other initiatives in our region is very important contribution towards establishment of regional gas market. We always have a full agenda and agree on many topics during every meeting of the NB8 and V4 ministers. It is necessary that we always keep our eyes on a bigger picture, putting as many efforts as possible for the mutual understanding. We are open to any platforms that bring added value to our countries.

Relations of Lithuania and Poland in energy and transport spheres are certainly an example of constructive and mutually beneficial cooperation between our two countries. Bridges, that we have to build seeking to integrate Lithuania, and indeed all the Baltic countries, into a single EU energy market and transport network, go through Poland, therefore we hope that our cooperation and partnership in these sectors will only strengthen in the future.

For example, today with great pleasure we see the progress which has been achieved by Lithuanian and Polish enterprises in building LitPol Link project – which should be finished by the end of 2015. This project will also pave the way for our goal – Baltic States’ synchronization with the European Continental Network, which will increase energy security in the electricity sector of the whole EU. The same goes for our cooperation in the gas field – Gas Interconection Poland Lithuania – GIPL – should be implemented by 2019, and by implementing it Lithuania and Poland build a fundament for the creation of a common regional gas market.

 

Andrius Krivas: Lithuania does not stand alone