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MEP Justas Paleckis Office

Pylimo Street 12-10, LT-01118 Vilnius, Lithuania
Tel. +370 5 266 3056
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Mail: biuras[at sign]paleckis.lt

Publications in Foreign Media, Speeches

Justas Paleckis: "Lithuanian debacle or a benefit for all?" (New Europe, 19 May 2008) (2008 05 19)


During the foreign ministers meeting in Luxembourg end of April, Lithuania, without any fear of ‘splendid isolation’, has thrown up a challenge. Taking over the baton from Poland, it is now Lithuania who blocked the start of negotiations on the EU-Russia enhanced strategic partnership agreement. The hurdles which could no longer be stepped over are long-standing and significant.

To get a green light for the negotiations mandate, Lithuania put forward four demands that should be incorporated into the EU’s negotiating position. Lithuania suggests consolidating Russia’s obligation to stick to the requirements of the Energy Charter Treaty, and that the energy declaration should be attached to the negotiations package. Russia is invited to take a proactive approach in cooperating with Vilnius to renew the supply of energy resources via ‘Druzhba’.

The troubled pipeline has been held hostage to a poor technical state ever since 2006, when Lithuania decided to sell its Mazeikiai Oil refinery not to a Russian but to a Polish enterprise. For the negotiations mandate to go ahead, Vilnius is eager to include the declaration on judicial cooperation as well. Such document would encourage Russia to cooperate constructively with the EU on criminal cases (inter alia, the events of 13 January 1991 in Vilnius; the Medininkai border checkpoint massacre of 31 June 1991; cases of EU citizens gone missing in Russia).

Lithuania is also aiming for Russia’s clear commitment to fulfil its promise, as outlined in the conditions for the Council of Europe accession, to assure the assistance for deportees of the occupied Baltic countries to return to their homelands. Likewise, Lithuania urges Russia to act according to its obligations with regard to the unsolved conflicts in Moldova and Georgia. All these problems raise a justifiable distrust of Russia’s good will in the protracted negotiations. True, many outsiders ask why Lithuania woke up to this call only now, just five months away from elections to Seimas (the Lithuanian parliament).

Lithuania made a courageous step. With solidarity from the EU states there is a chance of breaking the Russian wall of laid-back approach towards essential problems not only for Lithuania, but also for its neighbouring states and the EU as a whole. On the other hand, there is a need for favourable decisions to be taken and unnecessary branding avoided. The “cold war warrior” label was successfully removed from Poland after the change of government. Everybody who follows the European affairs knows how much damage the image of the country has suffered under the Kaczynski brothers, their anti-European attitudes and a genuine passion to pick the fight.

On this occasion some observers remind that the “liberum veto” principle (which is also used in the EU decision-making for the most important questions) has contributed to the collapse of Rzeczpospolita - the union state of Poland and Lithuania of XVI-XVIII century. Undoubtedly, the comparisons wobble. Even more so, if we go back a few centuries to the Republic of two nations.

The Poles tend to see and evaluate this union as some sort of a predecessor to the EU, whereas Lithuanians do it less enthusiastically. As for today, a compromise, I am sure, will be found. Vilnius understands it pretty well that the negotiations on, and subsequent signature of, the new EU-Russia agreement give a chance for a much broader bilateral commitments within the economy, energy, law and other fields, benefiting EU as a whole, but also all Member States including Lithuania.


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