Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, Fellow Citizens of Lithuania, Dear Europeans,
It is a great privilege for me to welcome you all to a conference on the future of Europe.
This past year was truly difficult for the European Union. The challenges are many: climate change, migration, fluctuating geopolitical situation. Russia’s persistent aggression, the rising power of China, efforts to weaken the values of democracy and multilateralism – these are the challenges that we face every day.
The COVID-19 pandemic has developed into an unprecedented test for us all. In the upsurge of the second wave of the virus, Lithuania – together with many other European countries – has closed again for quarantine.
But let me remind you that every crisis opens new opportunities, too. Jean Monnet, one of the founding fathers of the European Union, said: “Europe will be forged in crises, and will be the sum of the solutions adopted for those crises.”
The future of Europe is our common responsibility. We are building a future for Europe together. And we are doing it each and every day.
And that is where the Conference on the Future of Europe comes in. Today, I invite you to launch a very important discussion about the European future, and to start it here in Lithuania.
Just recently, I have introduced the Vision of Welfare Lithuania. I underlined that our country must be a strong, fair, green and innovative EU member state.
It is my firm belief that Lithuania’s success and well-being will depend in major part on the progress that the European Union makes. The Conference on the Future of Europe should also contribute to this. So, what should we expect and what should we aspire to?
First, I believe that Europe’s policies must be concrete and result-oriented. They should not only help Lithuanian citizens and businesses to overcome the complicated challenges of the pandemic, but also create the conditions for transition to a green economy and digitalization.
We have a clear plan – an ambitious strategic agenda and the necessary resources: the agreement reached this past July on the next EU financial framework and the recovery fund.
Second, proposals for institutional change should be based on real needs and respond to the expectations of our citizens. Experience shows that closer collaborative work is possible within the framework of the existing EU Treaties. It is crucially important to include national parliaments in the discussion process – and I am very pleased to point out that the Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania is actively involved in ongoing national discussions.
The third and I believe the most important aspect to this conference is the greatest possible inclusion of all citizens. We need to strengthen contacts between the Europeans and the institutions that serve them. It is yet another opportunity to listen to our people, to discuss European policies and to create the European future together.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
When we think about the future of Europe, we need to understand that without a prosperous Europe there can be no prosperous Lithuania. Europe is our family.
It is true that this family has its own particularities. We do have disputes and diverging views. But the most important thing is that communication in the European Union is based on shared values: freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law, respect for human dignity and human rights.
It allows us to better understand each other, to strengthen trust and confidence. It allows us to dream about the future together.
Today, we are fully aware that knowledge and innovation are the most advanced tools in global competition. I am delighted that research and innovation will be among top priorities in the new EU multiannual financial framework. The words that Europe must lead the new wave of innovation now sound increasingly stronger.
Digitalization offers unique opportunities for Lithuania and for Europe. The pandemic demonstrated that investment in IT infrastructure and focus on the business environment were the right decisions. Lithuania is already among global leaders in information and financial technologies. We need to use the half billion of euros allocated for the implementation of the Lithuanian digital agenda with great responsibility and precision in order to get the greatest benefits.
Yet another fundamental area of European policies – the European Green Deal – is also directly related to delivering the Vision of Welfare Lithuania.
The European Union’s and Lithuania’s objective to create a climate neutral economy is very ambitious. The Green Deal will have a huge impact on both Lithuania and other EU member states. Therefore, we need to find solutions that suit us all for implementing the 2030 climate goals and subsequently the climate goals for 2050.
We must build up the competitiveness of EU member states and fight unfair competition from third countries that do not keep to the highest environmental or nuclear safety standards.
Finally, it should be noted that the green and digital European tomorrow must be secure. Only a stable and secure environment can enable the development of all European skills and capacities.
The pandemic has highlighted changes in the global geopolitical situation. Relations between the United States, China, Russia, and Europe are changing. Regrettably, authoritarian regimes still exist. But we also see the awakening of civil society in our closest neighborhood, Belarus. All this directly affects Europe and Lithuania. We cannot ignore global problems and stay on the outside.
The pandemic has increased the need to fight hybrid and cyber threats. It is clear we must strengthen the EU’s communication policy. We made the first steps in this direction five years ago. I am proud that Lithuania was one of the initiators of creating the first European Commission’s unit to fight disinformation.
The European Union should not only respond to global developments, but also build a more secure neighborhood and promote respect for human rights and democracy through an active stand. Europe’s unified voice and joint actions are necessary to respond to the crises in our neighborhood, especially in Eastern Partnership countries.
It is clear we also need more effective measures at the European level to stop the operation of the unsafe Ostrovets Nuclear Power Plant in Belarus and to protect the health and well-being of EU citizens. I call on Europe not to tolerate non-compliance with international nuclear safety and environmental standards at the Ostrovets Nuclear Power Plant and to prevent the unsafely produced electricity from entering the EU market.
I am convinced that in its fight against global challenges, the European Union should continue supporting the system of multilateralism built on international rules and democratic values. Transatlantic partnership remains the cornerstone of our defense and security architecture. The European Union should avoid new initiatives that would compete with or duplicate NATO’s activities. Instead, they should complement each other.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
We will have to make every effort to manage and overcome the public health and economic crises in the shortest term.
However, as we look ahead to the future of Europe, we must uphold its values, unity, resilience and, of course, create a competitive Europe.
I invite you all – representatives of non-governmental organizations, businesses, political, cultural and municipal institutions – to seek the best possible solutions for the European future. Together, let us find answers to the questions: What kind of Europe can meet our expectations the best? How can Lithuania and its citizens contribute to enriching Europe?
Let all the people in Lithuania enjoy the benefits of EU membership and feel responsible for the Community’s future!
Thank you! I wish you all a fruitful discussion.
Last updated 2020.11.10 10:12Back