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Lithuania - Foreign Relations

It is usually said that the Lithuanian security policy is Euro-Atlantic, based on the membership of our country in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. This is the main guarantee of Lithuanian security; however, the foreign security policy is much broader. Lithuania is also an active member of the European Security and Defence Policy and Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe; we are participants in many agreements and conventions promoting security and stability.

Lithuania has become a member of NATO and the European Union during the time when the security system is changing fundamentally. This allows for active participation together with other allies in the process of defining and shaping new European security and defence policy. On the other hand, membership in the European and transatlantic organisations provides Lithuanian security policy leverage and opportunities that we never had before. Proper and effective use of them is an everyday work and responsibility of diplomats working in the field of security policy.

Lithuania's sole foreign policy concern in 1990 was to gain international recognition of the restored Lithuanian state. However, efforts directed at Gorbachev on the one hand and the Western powers on the other hand bore no fruit. Gorbachev could not afford the political cost of recognizing Lithuanian independence, nor did he believe in Lithuania's right to statehood.

The West's attitude, according to Egon Bahr, a German foreign policy expert, was "We'll throw you a life preserver after you learn how to swim." Gorbachev informally agreed not to use force, and the West did not push him to permit Lithuanian independence. However, after the Vilnius massacre of January 13, 1991, which revealed that Gorbachev had authorized attempts to overthrow Lithuania's government, Western states broke ranks. The first was Iceland, which declared that it recognized Lithuania's sovereignty. Iceland had extended recognition in 1922 and had never reneged on it.

Lithuania became a member of the United Nations (UN) on September 17, 1991 and is a signatory to a number of UN organizations and other international agreements. Lithuania gained membership in the World Trade Organization on May 31, 2001. Lithuania officially became a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) on March 29, 2004 and joined the European Union (EU) on May 1 of the same year. Lithuania is a member of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which it chaired in 2011; the Community of Democracies, which it chaired during 2009-2011; the North Atlantic Council; and the Council of Europe.

The largest trading partners are Russia, Germany, Poland, Latvia and other nearby and European countries. The United States, with about 500 million USD in total trade turnover from January to October 2009, ranks fourteenth. Lithuania's largest import, by far, is crude oil.

Lithuania uses its membership in both NATO and the EU to promote security and democracy in Eastern and Central Europe, in particular with its near neighbor Belarus; Lithuania supports Belarusian pro-democracy activists, many of whom are based in Lithuania. President Grybauskaite had been described as "disappointed" in Belarus -- in particular with the potential Lithuania-Belarus border treaty agreement. Lithuania "broke spears and twisted arms" to bring an agreement to the table only to see it whither because of Belarusian inaction on earlier promises of openness.

By 2010 there was no energy in the President's office to push the agreement further, for several reasons. One, the requirement that Lithuanians register with local police authorities once they get across the border is too onerous; and two, there is concern that once a Lithuanian gets a successful business or business relationship up and running, the Government of Belarus will step in and drive it out. Some suspect the Belarusian KGB had a hand in vetoing any movement toward an agreement fearing Lithuanian influence, business or otherwise, inside its borders. There was also a worry that Lithuanian businessmen might bring back from Belarus the old Soviet mentality or method of conducting business, i.e. bribes and corruption as common practice.

There have been complaints from the Polish community in Lithuania over the problems with official spelling of Polish names, a failure to resolve Polish property claims and other issues. Lithuania has agreed its land borders with Latvia, Belarus, Poland and Russia. The maritime border with Russia (Kaliningrad) remains undetermined. An agreement on the demarcation of the maritime border with Latvia was signed in July 1999.

The Baltic States have developed a wide network of co-operation. Inter-governmental co-operation is managed in the framework of the Baltic Council of Ministers. Heads of State and Government meet regularly - at least once a year. Co-operation focuses on areas such as trade, economic relations and EU/NATO integration.

Cooperation between three Baltic States is based on the trilateral Treaty on Concord and Cooperation, signed on September 12, 1934 in Geneva. The Declaration on Unity and Cooperation, signed on May 12, 1990 in Tallinn, in full scope restored the cooperation between Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. Pursuant to the Geneva Treaty the Baltic Council was established in 1990. The Baltic Council of Ministers (BCM) – the institution of trilateral intergovernmental cooperation was established at the meeting of Baltic Prime Ministers on the 13th of June 1994.

The Baltic Council of Ministers (BCM) – the institution of trilateral intergovernmental cooperation - was established at the meeting of Baltic Prime Ministers on the 13th of June 1994. The BCM was reformed and adjusted to the changed environment, when the Baltic States joined the EU and NATO. The structure of the BCM takes into account political interests and gives a possibility to manage the trilateral cooperation. The BCM operates under the guidance of the Prime Ministers’ Council, and the Cooperation Council, which comprises the ministers of foreign affairs, coordinates the activity of the Committees of Senior Officials (CSO). Pursuant to the Terms of Reference the Committees of Senior Officials act at five areas of cooperation at the expert level.

If necessary, The Task Forces are established by the Prime Ministers’ Council. The Prime Ministers’ Council determines specific task to be performed by the Task Force in definite time frame. The Secretariat arranges the activities of the BCM. The Secretariat comprises the officers of the foreign ministries of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, who are responsible of the cooperation of the Baltic States. The Secretariat acts on the initiative of the chairmanship in the preparation for the meetings of the Prime Ministers‘ Council and Cooperation Council. The chairmanship of the BCM is starting from the beginning of every calendar year. The country holding the chairmanship is engaged in directing the work carried out on all levels of cooperation.

The Baltic Assembly (BA) is an international organization, established on 8 November 1991, which aims to promote cooperation between the parliaments of the Republics of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. BA works under the Statute, which entered into force on 31 October 1993. The Agreement on Baltic Parliamentary and Governmental cooperation between Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia was signed on 13 June 1994 in Tallinn. The Protocol amending this agreement was signed on 28 November 2003 in Vilnius.

The Baltic Council is an annual joint meeting hold by the Baltic Council of Ministers and the Baltic Assembly. This meeting includes a session of the Baltic Assembly, a meeting between the Presidium of the Baltic Assembly and Cooperation Council of the Baltic Council of Ministers, a meeting of the Cooperation Council of the Baltic Council of Ministers, and the report of the Chairman of the Cooperation Council to the Baltic Assembly session on cooperation between the Baltic States during the previous year, on activities related to the resolutions adopted by the Baltic Assembly during the year in question, and plans for further cooperation.





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Page last modified: 19-07-2021 18:28:10 ZULU