Attention concentrated on energy and the European Economy Recovery Plan

1. How does the future of the EU after the Irish ‘No’ look like?

 

The Lisbon Treaty is a very important treaty to Lithuania. As the former Lithuanian Prime Minister Gediminas Kirkilas said – “by ratifying the Lisbon Treaty Lithuania has spoken for a strong, solid and united EU”.[1] Nevertheless, in Lithuania during the December European Council meeting, the attention has been concentrated on the European Council decisions concerning energy and the European Economy Recovery Plan. The Committee on European Affairs of the Lithuanian parliament called these two issues the most important to Lithuania.[2] Therefore the European Council decisions concerning the fate of the Lisbon Treaty did not attract much attention.

Little preparation for the European Parliament elections

Lithuanian parliament changed the order of the presidential elections, therefore the European Parliament elections in Lithuania will be held together with the second round of the presidential elections. According to the former chairman of the Lithuanian parliament, Česlovas Juršėnas, this measure has been taken in order to stimulate the participation of Lithuanians in the European Parliament elections and to save money.[3]

As the member of the European Parliament from Lithuania Aloyzas Sakalas claims, in Lithuania there is still little preparation for the forthcoming European Parliament elections as everybody is still occupied with the problems and affairs of the newly elected national parliament.[4] There are still little public talks upon who would be nominated by the national parties as candidates for the European Parliament elections. Only the Lithuanian conservatives, the Homeland Union – Lithuanian Christian Democrats,[5] which won the biggest number of seats in the autumn elections to the national parliament made public remarks on this subject. As the leader of the party and the Lithuanian Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius declared, the most serious candidates of their party would be the current members of the European Parliament – Vytautas Landsbergis and Laima Andrikienė.[6]

High participation in the European Parliament elections is not expected

A recently conducted national survey demonstrates that the participation in the elections to the European Parliament in Lithuania will not be high – 52 percent of inhabitants express their intention to go to vote during the European Parliament elections. The resolution of Lithuanians to vote during these elections is decreasing – this figure is lower by 20 percent compared to last year’s results.[7] According to another survey, while choosing which candidate to vote for, Lithuanians consider personality first, the candidate’s position on the Lithuanian issues second, and lastly, his experience in European matters.[8]

While the European Parliament elections get at least some attention, the same cannot be told about the formation of the new European Commission – this issue does not practically attract attention in Lithuanian media. Nevertheless, the current European Commission member from Lithuania, Dalia Grybauskaitė, is a favoured personality by the Lithuanian media and she often gets media coverage. The issues of the appointment of the High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy or possible scenarios of the further EU integration also do not receive attention.

2. Transatlantic relations renewed after President Bush: top priorities

 

Transatlantic relations should be strengthened

There is a general agreement in Lithuania that the transatlantic relations should be strengthened. During a meeting of the EU Foreign Affairs Ministers, former Lithuanian Foreign Affairs Minister, Petras Vaitiekūnas, emphasized that “for the EU it is useful to strengthen the cooperation with the USA. It is especially important to develop a strategic dialog and practical cooperation in such fields as the common evaluation of the threats and crisis management”. According to the Minister, crisis in Georgia and dependency on the single supplier of the energy resources, increase the importance of the transatlantic dialogue.[9]

The new Lithuanian government formed after the autumn elections to the parliament, further sustains this position – in its programme the new government set a goal to seek for strengthening the relations between the EU and the USA. According to the government programme, direct participation of the USA in Western, Central, Eastern Europe, and the Baltic region, is an important factor for strengthening both Lithuanian and European security.[10] Speaking about the priorities of the Czech Presidency it is always emphasized, that the Czech goal to strengthen the transatlantic dialogue completely matches the interests of Lithuanian foreign policy.

The priorities for strengthening EU-USA relations are not really clear

Nevertheless, while speaking about strengthening the EU-USA dialogue, the priorities for strengthening this dialogue are not concretely named. Only member of the European Parliament from Lithuania, Justas Paleckis, elaborated more on the context of the EU-USA relationship. According to him, the USA is no longer able to fight with any threat to the planet alone. The same can be said about the rest of the world – it is not able to do anything without the USA. The USA and the EU can deal with the global challenges only cooperating with China, Russia, India and the states of Latin America and Africa. The following challenges in the agenda of the transatlantic cooperation are the most important: an efficient fight against the financial crisis, matters concerning energy security, rehabilitation of the international organisations, the reform of the United Nations Organization, and finally, stopping climate change. None of these challenges can be dealt with without the efforts from both sides of the Atlantic, according to Justas Paleckis.[11]

3. Financial crisis and challenges of global governance: the EU response

 

Attention is focused on the national level economic crisis

The issue of the financial crisis is widely discussed in Lithuania, both by the politicians and the public. Nevertheless, most of the discussions concentrate on the national level. The central issue in these discussions is the response of the new Lithuanian government to the crisis while the role of the EU in responding to the financial crisis is not widely deliberated.

There are only some remarks made publicly by the Lithuanian officials concerning the EU response to the financial crisis. In a press release published by the Lithuanian government, is it claimed that the Lithuanian government positively evaluates the European Council conclusion to form a group to coordinate the member states actions while dealing with the financial crisis.[12]

European actions are congratulated, but individual measures should also be applied

Lithuania supports the European Commission objective to foster the recovery of the European economy and at the same time holds a position that it is important to coordinate the actions taken to fight the financial crisis among the countries, but every state should take in to account its own situation before choosing concrete actions for fighting the financial crisis.[13]

An aspect which attracted most of Lithuanian officials’ attention, speaking about the European Economic Recovery Plan, was a proposition in the following two years to give an additional fivebillion Euros from the EU budget to the priority projects of electricity interconnections and high speed internet, because it is expected that Lithuania would get a share of these money. Lithuanian President, Valdas Adamkus, claimed that “the adoption of the European Economic Recovery Plan, which foresees to mobilise five billion additional Euros for the development of the energy infrastructure, would be important to Lithuania. This money would be used for the strategic Lithuanian projects – electricity interconnections between Lithuania and Sweden and between Lithuanian and Poland.[14] The biggest Lithuanian daily, “Lietuvos rytas”, wrote a similar remark that “it is the electricity connections in the Baltic region which are treated as the priority of EU projects, therefore it can be expected that a part of this money would go to these countries”[15].

Expected shifts in the international power

Speaking about the issue of the shifts of international power due to the financial crisis, it should be noted that the Lithuanian media tends to publish the articles and the comments of the foreign experts and there are little comments on the issue made by the Lithuanian officials or political scientists in the media. According to the member of the European Parliament from Lithuania, Justas Paleckis neither the USA, nor the rest of the world can fight separately with threats to the world. The only way for the USA and the EU to fight with these threats is to cooperate with China, Russia, India and the states of Latin America and Africa.[16]

According to a Lithuanian political scientist, only two scenarios are possible due to the crisis

Speaking about the consequences of the financial crisis for the EU, an interesting remark has been made by one of the popular Lithuanian political scientists, Kęstutis Grinius. According to him, there are practically only two ways for the EU governments to deal with the crisis. One way would be a total nationalisation of all the economy, but Europe is not yet ready for that. Such actions could appear in the end of 2013. The other way would be a total monetisation of financial assets – any financial assets should be bought from the banks, corporations and inhabitants for the cash according to their par value.[17]

 

 

 

[1] Lithuanian government: G. Kirkilas: Lietuva nori stiprios, solidarios ir vieningos Europos Sąjungos (G. Kirkilas: “Lithuania wants a strong, solidary and united Europe”), press release, 22 May 2008, available at: http://www.lrvk.lt/main.php?id=aktualijos_su_video/p.php&n=6237 (last access: 25 January 2009).
[2] Committee on European Affairs of the Lithuanian parliament: Europos reikalų komitetas pritarė Lietuvos Respublikos pozicijoms vykstant į Europos Vadovų Tarybos posėdį (Committee on European Affairs has approved the Lithuanian position for the European Council meeting), press release, 8 December 2008, available at: http://www3.lrs.lt/pls/inter/w5_show?p_r=4463&p_k=1&p_d=81730 (last access: 25 January 2009).
[3] Bernardinai (news portal): Europos Parlamento rinkimai vyks birželio 7d. (European Parliament elections will be held on the 7th of May), 2 December 2008, available at: http://www.bernardinai.lt/index.php?url=articles%2F88444 (last access: 25 January 2009).
[4] Lietuvos socialdemokratų partija (Lithuanian Socialdemocratic party): Aloyzas Sakalas. Lietuvoje partijos dar nesirengia Europos Parlamento rinkimams (Aloyzas Sakalas. Lithuanian parties still do not prepare for the European Parliament elections), 24 November 2008, available at: http://www.lsdp.lt/lt/index.php/straipsniai-ir-komentarai/interview/90-interviu/1790-aloyzas-sakalas-lietuvoje-partijos-dar-nesirengia-europos-parlamento-rinkimams (last access: 25 January 2009).
[5] Tėvynės Sąjunga – Lietuvos krikščionys demokratai.
[6] See: Kubiliaus favoritai rinkimuose – D. Grybauskaitė ir dabartiniai europarlamentarai (Favourites of Kubilius for the elections – D. Grybauskaitė and the current European Parliament members), 24 January 2009, available at: http://www.ve.lt/?data=2009-01-24&rub=1065924810&id=1232824411 (last access: 25 January 2009).
[7] See: Europos Parlamento rinkimuose ketina balsuoti pusė Lietuvos gyventojų (Half of Lithuanian inhabitants intend to vote during European Parliament elections), 7 October 2008, available at: http://www.zebra.lt/lt/aktualijos/lietuvoje/Europos-Parlamento-rinkimuose-ketina-balsuoti-puse-Lietuvos-gyventoju-2008-10-07.html (last access: 25 January 2009).
[8] See: Europos Parlamento rinkimai ateina į Lietuvą antrą kartą (European Parliament elections come to Lithuania for the second time), 19 December 2008, available at: http://www.paleckis.lt/Default.aspx?Lang=LT&Element=ViewArticle&TopicID=6&ArticleID=3013 (last access: 25 January 2009).
[9] Lithuanian Foreign Affairs Ministry: Lietuvos užsienio reikalų ministras: Europos Sąjunga turi stiprinti bendradarbiavimą su JAV (Lithuanian Foreign Affairs Minister: the EU has to strengthen the cooperation with the USA), press release, 5 September 2008, available at: http://www.urm.lt/index.php?-1151384726 (last access: 25 January 2009).
[10] 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/naujienos/4775/ (last access: 25 January 2009).
[11] Bernardinai (news portal): Justas Paleckis. Naujasis JAV prezidentas gręžiasi į Europą ir pasaulį (Justas Paleckis. the new president of the USA looks back to Europe and the world), 9 December 2008, available at: http://www.bernardinai.lt/index.php?url=articles/88743 (last access: 25 January 2009).
[12] Lithuanian government: Lietuva išsakys savo poziciją finansų krizės ir klimato kaitos klausimais (Lithuanian will deliver its position on the financial crisis and climate change), press release, 29 October 2008, available at: http://www.lrvk.lt/main.php?id=aktualijos_su_video/p.php&n=6753 (last access: 25 January 2009).
[13] 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).
[14] Lithuanian government: Prezidentas aptarė Lietuvos poziciją Europos vadovų tarybos susitikime Briuselyje (President has discussed Lithuanian position for the European Council meeting in Brussels), press release, December 9 2008, available at: http://www.president.lt/lt/news.full/9947 (last access: 25 January 2009).
[15] Lietuvos rytas (newspaper): Derybos Briuselyje – be pralaimėjusių (Negotiations in Brussels – without the loosers), 13 December 2008, available at: http://www.urm.lt/index.php?-2146360448 (last access: 25 January 2009).
[16] Bernardinai (news portal): Justas Paleckis. Naujasis JAV prezidentas gręžiasi į Europą ir pasaulį (Justas Paleckis. the new president of the USA looks back to Europe and the world), 9 December 2008, available at: http://www.bernardinai.lt/index.php?url=articles/88743 (last access: 25 January 2009).
[17] See: Kęstutis Grinius.JAV krizės pasekmės ES:kitų variantų praktiškai nėra, išskyrus karinį komunizmą arba fašistinę diktatūrą (Consequences of the USA crisis to the EU: there are practically no other scenarios except for the military communism or fascist dictatorship), 15 December 2008, available at: http://www.vartotojulyga.lt/lt/news/detail.php?ID=20050 (last access: 25 January 2009).