Central European Chairmen

By Arthur Dunn

Energy security is the main priority of Lithuania, as a future Chairman-in-Office of the OSCE.

Next year several states of Central and Eastern Europe will take significant presiding positions in the number of international organizations: Lithuania will succeed the Chairmanship at the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, Hungary, and then Poland – in the European Union.

Common business of the Chairmen-in-Office is the definition and public announcement of the agenda priority of their own missions.

But we shouldn’t expect special and extraordinary ideas from the three stated claimants. Their agendas are easily predictable without deep analysis. It’s worth to note only main issues, which are constantly focused on by corresponding foreign political establishments and logically analyze them, comparing with the scales of this or that international organization. Having made the kind a little work it’s easy to assume that for Vilnius, Warsaw and Budapest within the frameworks of the future cadence the main issues will include the issues of energy security, strengthening of economic stability of East European states.

Except for that, Poland and Hungary will be forced to focus on the issues of common European budget, and also won’t leave behind the most sound regional project of the united Europe, formulated for our region – the Eastern Partnership initiative.

However, there is no need to guess, as the corresponding Ministries of the listed states have already confirmed their preferences a few times directly or indirectly.

Operating actively in the OSCE three, Vilnius in the beginning of the year started formulating the moto of its Chairmanship: energy security – is the main priority of Lithuania, as a future OSCE Chairman-in-Office. The issues, as they say, weren’t put off till the next year. The Foreign Affairs Ministry of the country has actively promoted the inclusion of this subject into the agenda of the so long-expected December Summit of the Organization in Astana. ”Lithuania hopes that the issues of energy security will be included into the OSCE Summit agenda and will become one of the lines of its prospect chairmanship”, - claimed the Head of Ministry of Foreign Affairs Audronius Ažubalis  commenting on the August decision on the Summit convening. In the beginning of this autumn, this subject also became the main issue of the expert meeting on the OSCE line, held in Lithuanian capital. The discussion, on the one hand, has proved the urgency of the plot for the OSCE itself, the future of which is called by some experts even transparent, and on the other its acuteness for the region of Central and Eastern Europe in general.

The moderator of the discussion, a special representative of the OSCE Chairman-in-Office on the issues of transport Vytautas Naudužas called: “the OSCE shouldn’t play the role within the security assurance, but it should write its scenario”. According to the moderator, at the moment “there are principles and mechanisms, but there is no ideology of energy security, grounded on fundamental principles and interests of 56 OSCE member-states”. By this many disputants and speakers really understood that the intention sounded by Lithuania is mainly an announcement.

Many analysts think that this program has no real prospect within the “stagnating OSCE”. The Senior Researcher of the Jamestown Foundation, the author of Eurasia Daily Monitor Vladimir Sokor, a famous analyst in the sphere of energy security was absolutely clear: “the only one who is able to assure regional energy stability is probably only NATO”.

The September Conference of the OSCE in Vilnius gathered about 200 international organizations, business and academic circles representing all 56 states of the Organization. Except for the problem of energy security enhancement other subtopics were underlined – regional and interregional cooperation, openness within the development of energy market, state and corporate management, and also naturally the issues of energy sources diversification.

Generally the discussion has revealed nothing new, but only underlined the acuteness of the moment and the subject. The Head of Lithuanian Foreign Affairs Ministry A. Ažubalis called the Conference the “acceptance of the position by Lithuania not formally but morally”, noting by this that the OSCE is a unique organization where “Asia meets Europe and Europe meets the USA”.

Additional priorities of Lithuania revealed in the course of last discussion and comments, experts call transport and ecology. And in this the observers have even noticed the triumph of succession of the two Chairmen: Lithuania intends to develop the achievements of Kazakhstan in economic sphere and environment by inviting for the discussion on ecologically pure use of natural resources, assurance of green transport corridors, regional cooperation”.

The logic of this message was depicted in the suggestion of Vilnius to approve by the OSCE states the decision to hold Forum on the issue of economy and ecology next year. There, as Lithuania thinks, they could adopt the fundamental principles of interaction in the stated sphere. These principles should touch upon such issues as the use of natural resources for the economy development, transparency of energy market, development of infrastructural projects, in accordance with the demands of ecology, etc.. As Lithuanian diplomatic department notes officially the application of such principles will establish better conditions for the OSCE goals achievement – indivisible security, prevention and destruction of conflicts. Another “bridge” of the succession of the two Chairmen is the enhancement of the Asian OSCE dimension. This is also promised by Lithuania. This spring Mr. Naudužas and the Personal Representative of the Chairman-in-Office on ecologic issues, European MP Struan Stevenson already visited a number of Central Asian states, where they discussed with the officials of these states the current situation and prospects of cooperation in the sphere of energy, nature security and transport. There it was also claimed that in 2011 the region will be kept within the area of the Organization extra focus.

We can also add the success of the international Conference “The role of Logistics on the Way Asia - Europe” held in Almaty in the first half of the year. This Conference was under the patronage of the Foreign Affairs Ministry and the Ministries of Transport and Communications of Kazakhstan and Lithuania.

It’s also noticeable that the development of its priorities Lithuania tightly knits with the development of common regional approach. In September the President of Lithuania Dalia Grybauskaitė met with the President of Latvia Valdis Zatlers  and the President of Estonia Toomas Hendrik Ilves. This was a traditional meeting of the Heads of Baltic states and this time with the participation of the President of Poland Bronislaw Komorowski. The Presidents discussed the options of regional cooperation strengthening, the prospects of the accomplishment of strategic projects in the sphere of energy and transport, security policy, current issues of the EU and NATO.

According to the Lithuanian President the platform for the development of common approaches was the “Report of the Wise Men of Baltic and Northern states” (NB8 Wise men report), which concentrated on the search of efficient ways to deepen the cooperation between Northern and Baltic states, and also in the choice of joint projects within the sphere of foreign policy, security, defense, economy, science and education.

D. Grybauskaite underlined that the active role pf Poland has a special meaning not only within the solution of energy issues of Lithuania and other Baltic states, but also within the promotion of regional cooperation and praising of successful development of the total Baltic region. The President of Poland in his turn underlined that active and good relations of Poland with Baltic states as an important priority of the foreign policy as well as the development of joint solution of energy problems. “Poland and Baltic states are a significant part of the EU, connecting Russia with the rest of Europe by roads and transit, that is why our states should lead a common EU policy”, noted Bronislaw Komorowski. And except for that Poland suggested its assistance within the development of agriculture in Baltic states. This all demonstrated the difference between his line and the line of his predecessor, although he also supported the promotion of regional cooperation however with remarks.

It’s well known that Poland and Lithuania have their own problematic agenda. The situation of national minorities in Lithuania and Poland, common foreign policy priorities, succession of bilateral cooperation and strategic partnership – this is not just a regular list. Sometimes it anticipates also a pretty complicated discussion.

Lithuania has its problems within a so-called area of intercultural dialogue: its relations with Polish national minority according to experts and officials have ambiguous character.

Commissioner on human rights of the Council of Europe Thomas Hammarberg already addressed in the beginning of 2010 Lithuanian Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius on the issue of spelling Polish second names in Lithuanian national passports and the absence of two-language topographic signs. Advising committee of the Framework Convention on the protection of national minorities has concluded that in case of Lithuania the absence of bilateral public signs in definite areas is not compatible with the provisions of the Convention. There are disagreements between Law on state language and the Law on national minorities, which also according to Thomas Hammarberg should be resolved.

Not long ago before the dispute attracted the Commissioner on Human Rights of the Council of Europe, the claim related to the discrimination of Polish minority in Lithuania was received by the Head of European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso.

Polish minority in Lithuania is being discriminated. Polish people are not allowed to speak their language in official establishments in the areas, where up to 80% of people of Polish origin live. They are not allowed to name the streets in their native language – rebelled the representative of the Election action of Polish people in Lithuania and the delegate of the European Parliament Waldemar Tomaszewski. And in May 2010 the Association of Polish People ion Lithuania addressed with a special statement on the issue of fining citizens for the use of native language in public places. There it states that Lithuania violates the undertaken obligations in accordance with the Framework Convention of the Council of Europe on the protection of national minorities: “We should regrettably state that Lithuanian Republic the officials of which fine people for the use of their native language has become an unprecedented case in the European Union, and in this respect it is mentioned more often during international forums and this discredits out state”. The Association has also established a special bank account for the payment on fines for the use of Polish language in public places.

This summer the situation around the rights of Polish minority in Lithuania has become even more acute. On July 6th the European Parliament adopted the resolution in which it calls Lithuania to respect the legislation of the EU, and also addresses to the European Commission in case of necessity to start special legal procedure against Lithuania.

Let’s note that being aware of that some experts reasonably suggested Lithuania to borrow the practice from the Chairman-in-Office of the OSCE - Kazakhstan. No matter how paradoxical it is, but exactly Kazakhstan with a lower rating of theassurance of political rights and  civil freedoms than in Lithuania, appears like a more convincing supporter of the OSCEvalues concerning tolerance, non-discrimination and intercultural dialogue.

In Kazakhstan Polish minority is pretty significant (at the moment about 40 thousand people or 0.3% of the population). Its significant part come to this country in the result of violence deportations during Stalin regime in 1930 – 1940-ss, mainly from the territory of  West Ukraine and West Belarus. And Poland has been always grateful for the tolerance and humanism of Kazakh people, demonstrated towards the exiled Polish people.

Last Polish-Lithuanian Summit contacts, the real intention to resolve the situation, open the prospects to normalize the established relations gradually.

Today Poland and Lithuania are simply destined to cooperate within all the spheres, despite the complicated facts of history.