Most countries have only one Independence Day. Lithuania has just celebrated the 102nd anniversary of the restoration its national independence. On March the 11, we will celebrate the 30th anniversary of our regained independence.
The fact that Lithuania marks national independence twice a year speaks first and foremost of the difficult historical burden imposed on her by the 20th century. The past has taught us that periods of tranquility, peace and prosperity are often replaced by catastrophic upheavals and to avoid them, we need to prevent dangerous conflicts without delay. For this reason, we never sit back with our arms folded; we are always focused on the security of our country and the entire region. This is the essential precondition for Lithuania’s continued growth and unimpeded social development.
I am delighted to note that namely in the area of security we have reached a breakthrough. In line with its commitment to NATO, Lithuania allocates 2 percent of GDP for defense and intends to steadily increase this spending to 2.5 percent. It is of utmost importance that allied troops are stationed in Lithuania, including a battalion-sized U.S. rotational force. Together we stand ready to respond to any challenge to collective security, if needed. Fully aware of its responsibility and commitment to strengthen peace and security in the world, Lithuania is actively engaged in international missions in Afghanistan, Mali and the Central African Republic as well as the Atalanta and Sophia operations.
Recent NATO summits demonstrate that the Alliance has the will and the ability to increase its defense potential. Close cooperation between NATO countries is Lithuania’s security guarantee. We support the U.S. presence in Europe, because together we can counter the emerging threats more effectively. Europeans, too, must take on more responsibility for their own security, but this cannot be done at the expense of a strong transatlantic bond.
Like all EU member states, Lithuania strives for a strong and competitive Community that listens in to its citizens and their concerns. We support the Community’s key initiatives targeted at a deeper internal market, cohesion and good neighborly policies.
Lithuania takes a principled position that the EU’s new ambitious agenda needs to have adequate financial support. We stand for a fair and balanced multi-annual budget that responds to the financial needs of both traditional policies and newly emerging challenges.
We also want to make discussions on the EU’s future more focused on issues that are close and relevant to every European: the delivery of specific political objectives – not the Community’s institutional architecture.
It is very important that our discussions about the common future are not overshadowed by the withdrawal of the United Kingdom. Lithuania regrets that Brexit has happened, but it respects the decision of British people and seeks to preserve an ambitious partnership with London, especially in trade, foreign policy, security, and defense.
Finally, when speaking about the future of Europe, we cannot agree with voices that favor freezing the further enlargement of the European Union or stopping it entirely. We support the accession of countries that fully comply with the membership criteria we have set and we hope that we will start negotiations with two more Balkan states in the near future.
As Lithuania strives to expand the space of peace and stability across Europe, it also actively supports Eastern Partnership. We are ready to fully assist those eastern European countries that are moving forward on the path of democracy, human rights and freedoms, and free market-driven development. Therefore, I would like to take the opportunity to invite you all to Ukraine Reform Conference which will be held in Vilnius this coming July.
Lithuania makes no secret of its ambitions to go on with rapid economic development and contribute to Europe’s growth. It means that we will continue towards high added value, with special focus placed on innovation, digitalization and green investment. We are proud that we have emerged as a leading European center of financial technologies. We also see very good prospects for health sciences.
We want to remain active in the European Union, diversify trade and expand economic cooperation. We realize that those who do not move forward eventually start moving backwards. Therefore, we strive to be open, attractive and competent.
Neither does Lithuania see economic prosperity without secured energy independence. We are currently implementing an ambitious project of synchronizing power grids with continental Europe.
As we move quickly to ensure energy independence, we are also concerned about the construction of the Ostrovets nuclear power plant in our immediate neighborhood, just 40 kilometers away from Vilnius. Clearly, it is an open challenge to the whole European Union and a serious test for the Community’s core values.
We trust the European Union because it has always been a leader when speaking about compliance with international safety standards. After the Fukushima accident, the Community initiated stress tests for nuclear power plants under the most unfavorable conditions. This past December, EU leaders agreed that installations in third countries had to conform to the highest international safety and environmental standards. The Ostrovets nuclear power case once again brings to our notice that nuclear threats do not stop at state borders and that nuclear safety must be ensured on a global scale.
I would like to underline that Lithuania seeks peace and stability not only at the regional level, but also globally. Our foreign policy is based on the fundamental principles enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations and in other international treaties. We will continue to accentuate the necessity to respect the principles of international law in both bilateral relationships and multilateral cooperation formats.
Lithuania’s underlying policy is to maintain friendly relations with all countries. Only the path of cooperation will help us resolve problems that are often beyond the scope of individual countries. It would be disastrous for us to act individually and ignore common interests in a world of increasing interdependence, growing flows of people, goods and capital, and fast-developing digital technologies.
Lithuania seeks to expand cooperation across different initiatives, some of which we have initiated ourselves. In the United Nations, we have implemented initiatives aimed at promoting respect for international law and protecting the civilian population, especially women and children, in military conflicts. In continuation of its activities started as member of the Security Council, Lithuania will seek membership in the Human Rights Council for 2022-2024. Like earlier, we will use every opportunity to emphasize the need to promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms.
I would like to take the opportunity to point out that a special conference on the right of children and youth to a future will take place in the first week of June to mark the International Child Protection Day. The conference – held under the patronage of the First Lady of Lithuania and UNICEF – will focus on the challenges that children and young people face today. It will also address such issues as the integration of children with disabilities, the need for modern education systems, the impact of climate change and new digital technologies.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
At the end of thirty years of reestablished independence, Lithuania stands self-confident, proud of making its national security stronger and paving the way for continued economic prosperity. At the same time, it soberly assesses the current change of mood in international politics. Taking it into account, we have set ourselves three key objectives for the future.
First, Lithuania must take a more active role in preventing the development of negative international conjecture scenarios, including uncontrolled migration, unrestrained deterioration of the environmental situation and the divisive emergence of irreconcilable, competing geopolitical and economic blocs in the world.
We continue to see Western countries who share common values as the most reliable guarantor of international order. We must maintain the unity and resolve of democratic nations as a counter-balance to any attempt to violate international law or multiply military threats in our neighborhood and around the world. Lithuania is and will continue to be a supporter of a strong transatlantic union because we see it as the cornerstone of Western strength.
I would particularly like to emphasize that we will maintain peace in the world by respect for international law – not by force. Lithuania has a clear interest to ensure that sanctions against those countries that do not keep to international law are lifted only in response to a definite change of behavior. On behalf of Lithuania, I call on all states to respect national sovereignty and territorial integrity, to refrain from hybrid war and any attempts to influence the political process in free countries.
Lithuania’s second objective is to seek global partners while retaining an active role in Europe.
Lithuania’s long years of orientation to the West, based on its historical experience, unequivocally reflects who we are and where we have always wanted to be. We want to continue our active involvement in the discussion about the future of the transatlantic space as our closest political and value-based environment.
On the other hand, orientation to the West should not curb our dreams and ambitions. Therefore, in the future, Lithuania’s foreign policy will be strongly focused on economic diplomacy and new avenues, first and foremost, in economic cooperation. I am delighted that Lithuanian business people have started to discover Asian, African and Middle East markets.
The third immediate task for Lithuania’s foreign policy is developing soft power. Firstly, it means strengthening the positive image of the Republic of Lithuania around the world. This year, as we celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Reestablishment of Lithuanian Independence, we will speak much about Lithuania’s most recent history and our plans for the future.
We will also have to rebuff any attempts by unfriendly forces to fabricate the history of Lithuania and the other Baltic States. We are ready to critically and fairly evaluate our past, but we will not tolerate the attempts of some countries to spread false narratives. I deeply regret that history continues to be used for political gains and that efforts are made to get international organizations, such as the Council of Europe, involved. I therefore call for a common effort to resist manipulation so that nobody can falsify history.
I am convinced that the 30th anniversary of Lithuania’s regained independence is an excellent opportunity to remember that – differently from Western Europe – the end of World War II meant the beginning of new occupation to Lithuania and the other Baltic States. That’s why we say that the Second World War ended for us only in 1991 – when we finally reestablished independence.
We have the opportunity to learn from the painful mistakes of the past – we therefore cannot repeat them. We have the opportunity to build a strong foundation for general welfare and prosperity – we therefore cannot give in to those seeking to shatter the unity of democratic nations.
That is why I invite you to listen in to the words that are so dear to every Lithuanian citizen: “May both light and truth guide our steps!” These words are from the National Anthem of Lithuania, and I deeply believe in them. So let us continue forward guided by light and truth!
Last updated 2020.02.17 12:32Back