More Europe in Lithuania or Lithuania in Europe?

By Eglė Urbonaitė

In autumn of 2008 Lithuanian Government approved the Strategic Guidelines of Lithuania’s EU Policy for 2008–2013. Since not too much time is left before Lithuania takes over the rotating EU presidency in the first half of 2013, the question arises: is Lithuania ready for presidency of the European Council? Does the country have enough human and financial resources for such a political challenge?

Presidency of the EU Council is a serious challenge for every member state. First of all it means that the country holding the Presidency is able (at least partially) to affect the overall organization. We must not also forget the unofficial policy of a “triplet”: the country holding the Presidency is assisted by the former and future presidency countries. In case of Lithuania this “triplet” would also include Ireland and Greece. This situation is partially useful since Ireland and Greece are not economically strong countries, thus, Lithuania has all opportunities to improve its role as a political mediator. The principle of a “triplet” not only ensures the continuity of the EU Presidency but also opens an opportunity for a country holding the Presidency to temporarily set out political priorities of the EU which are relevant for that country.

Every MemberState which takes over the Presidency shall identify priority EU policy areas. For that a country has to have political and administrative power. Political power is perceived as the ability to control the people, and legislative issues; whereas administrative power implies implementation of legal laws. The Open Method of Coordination (OMC) which is currently pursued in the EU is based on the two key principles. First of all its goals are common for all 27 countries; secondly, a country holding the Presidency can be controlled (any time) by the other 26 states. Therefore this country must fulfill the obligations, and every MemberState shall contribute to the implementation of the defined goals.


> Lithuania Map
Thus, Presidency of the European Council is a possibility for Member States to check their political potential. A state holding the Presidency shall be responsible for the organization of political events and for the schedule of meetings. Persons assigned by the above state shall represent it in relevant Council meetings, and submit relevant documents to the European Parliament and other EU institutions. In view of this, the question arises: will current Lithuania’s situation ensure adequate presidency of the European Council?

Last year Lithuania took over the Presidency over the OSCE, the EU structure responsible for the implementation of international security (fight against terrorism, arms control), economic and environmental (energy, communication, business), human (human rights, gender equality) and other goals. Did Lithuania passed the exam of chairing the OSCE that unites 56 participating countries? According to foreign minister Audronius Ažubalis, Lithuania‘s OSCE Chairmanship was successful. Lithuanian nationals worked in the missions in Bosnia, Kosovo, Tadzhikistan, Moldova,Ukraine, Albania; contributed to the election observation missions within the OSCE area. Extra budgetary contributions were made to support democracy and media freedom projects in Ukraine, Belarus, Central Asia and South Caucasus. Whereas Evaldas Nekrašas, professor of the Institute of International Relationsand Political Science, said: „I didn’t expect significant results, and I was right“. Although Lithuania was not a political innovator, the country managed to achieve the defined goals.

Today every Lithuanian ministry has persons responsible for presidency issues. They take care of relevant fields and each institution establishes representation teams. The key areas during Lithuania‘s presidency of the EU Council would include energy security, implementation of the Baltic Sea Region Strategy, Eastern Neighborhood Policy and protection of external borders of the EU.

Pursuant to the above mentioned Strategic Guidelines during its presidency of the EU Council Lithuania will seek to increase its political weight in the EU. The country has been pursuing this goal by raising higher requirements to human resources, effective market performance, energy integration of EU Member States and more active neighborhood policy.

Thus, the requirements are quite serious; in view of this, it is necessary to use the policy of a “triplet” as a protective factor, as well as the experience of other EU members that took presidency before Lithuania. Today the EU Council is chaired by the Danish Presidency. According to its plans, reduction of consequences of the economic downturn is one of the main criteria and the problem of budget for 2014-2020 is relevant for all Member States. According to Bendt Bendtsen, a member of the European People’s Party in the European Parliament, “the biggest challenge is without doubt the economic crisis. Not only in itself, but we also have to manage the crisis, get out of it in a meaningful way, so that we at the same time protect the environment and nurture future innovation in the EU”. Morten Messerschmidt, Vice Chair of “Europe of Freedom and Democracy”, said: “it seems that Danish Government is planning to introduce the same socialistic alternatives to the EU that they are pushing in Denmark. It is a dangerous strategy as it might weaken the entire EU-level of competition”. In view of this the question arises: is everything okay with the Danish program and priorities? Yet, the country holding the EU Presidency has more power to include own hot issues into the EU policy, therefore Lithuania will focus on energy security.

During the first half of 2013 there will be more Lithuania in Europe. According to media, the country takes all necessary actions to develop and implement its plans, whereas the experience gained during the Presidency of the OSCE helps to better understand the goals. Of course, it is also necessary to learn from the experience of the current EU presidency and not to get attached to the policy of a “triplet”.