A Conversation with Linas Linkevičius, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Lithuania
Lithuanian conservatives who won the parliamentary elections promise to pay more attention to the Belarusian opposition
According to the results of the second round of parliamentary elections in Lithuania, the largest number of seats in the new Seimas will be received by the Fatherland Union – Lithuanian Christian Democrats party. They managed to get 50 of their representatives to the national parliament.
Lithuanian conservatives are expected to form a coalition with the Liberal Movement and the Freedom Party, which won 13 and 11 seats in the Seimas, respectively..
The Union of Peasants and Greens, which was the ruling party before these elections, as well as their former coalition partners, the Social Democrats, go into opposition.
It is not yet known who will become the next Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Lithuania. Linas Linkevičius, who held this post since December 2012, could not be elected to the new composition of the Seim.
Meanwhile, the leader of the Conservatives, Gabrielus Landsbergis, said that the country’s foreign policy, in the main, “will continue to be based on the same or similar principles on which it has been based so far.” And he explained: “this means a strategic partnership between neighbors, both with the Baltic states and with Poland, undoubtedly, a transatlantic link, which in general is the guarantor of our security”.
At the same time, according to Gabrielus Landsbergis, the Belarusian direction of Lithuania’s foreign policy may undergo some adjustment: “I think that attention to the Belarusian opposition should continue and intensify. I think that here we can strengthen this attention by providing real and financial and political assistance to those people who are now in Lithuania, fighting for the democratic future of Belarus, ”he said at a press conference following the second round of the parliamentary elections in Lithuania..
“We are trying to ensure that the sanctions against Belarusian politicians are of an all-European nature”
Elected to the Seimas for a new term from the party “Union of the Fatherland – Christian Democrats of Lithuania” Arvydas Anushauskas (Arvydas Anušauskas) believes that official Vilnius is already implementing these provisions to a certain extent. “When we learned about the falsification of the election results in Belarus, the Seimas of Lithuania adopted a corresponding resolution on the situation in this country. We maintained contacts with representatives of civil society in Belarus both before and after the elections. And we will continue to support them. And those people who ask for political asylum in Lithuania also find our support, “the Lithuanian politician said to the correspondent of the Russian service” Voice of America “.
According to Anushauskas, this support is of particular importance, since Lithuania is represented in all structures of the Euro-Atlantic community..
As for the policy of the future staff of the Foreign Ministry, Arvydas Anushauskas recalled that Lukashenka forced Lithuania to reduce its diplomatic representation in Minsk. “But I think that there will be continuity (with the policy of the previous Minister of Foreign Affairs – AP), and our more decisive voice in European institutions will also sound. Because we are trying to ensure that the sanctions we introduced against several dozen Belarusian politicians guilty of persecuting peaceful demonstrators were not only our initiative, but would be of an all-European nature, ”he stressed..
“When it comes to multilateral negotiations, Lithuania is not invited there”
Head of the Center for Socio-Political Criticism at Vytautas the Great Kaunas University, Professor Gintautas Mazheikis (Gintautas Mažeikis) shared his observation about the course of the election campaign in Lithuania. According to the interlocutor of the Russian service “Voice of America”, the events in Belarus and the attitude to protest actions in this country, “were, somewhere, in tenth place” in the speeches of politicians of all parties, with the exception of the “Union of the Fatherland”, which especially emphasized the Belarusian agenda.
Professor Mazheikis explains this by the fact that the current Lithuanian conservatives trace their “political ancestry” from the Sajudis movement, which was characterized not only by the desire to restore the state independence of its country, but also by the effective support of other national liberation movements on the territory of the then Soviet Union..
Assessing the actions of the previous government of Lithuania, which is ending its cadence, he notes: “Mr. Linkevičius has consistently, and at times even exponentially supported the opposition. And the fact that Svetlana Tikhanovskaya appeared in Lithuania is 80% merit of Alexander Lukashenko, but 20% is our merit, because Lithuania accepted her. And it turns out that the acting Belarusian countries can throw out anyone from the territory of the country, but who will receive these people how is another question. Naturally, there were preliminary agreements and the procedure for crossing the border was discussed. But we can say that there was no systematic support (of the Belarusian opposition) at the government level..
The rest of our government was silent, and the President of Lithuania did not show exceptional activity in this regard. Therefore, many commentators, including me, criticized our president for being passive in this matter, ”the Lithuanian expert emphasizes..
And he explains that, with the exception of Linas Linkevičius, the Lithuanian politicians of the first plan verbally expressed support for Belarusian civic activists and oppositionists, but did not take any effective steps. In addition, according to Mazheikis, the Belarusian agenda for Lithuanian politicians is connected not only with the support of the opposition, but also with criticism of the Astravets NPP, which is being prepared for the launch. “And, apparently, when it comes to activating our foreign policy towards Belarus, they (conservatives – A.P.) primarily mean this particular nuclear power plant..
But there is one more topic due to which Lithuania was criticized, including at the European level – this is too much publicity of our international policy and small successes in the behind-the-scenes negotiations. That is, we declared our position regarding the Belarusian opposition, and even earlier Ukraine during the Maidan, and it was “heroic diplomacy”. But when it comes to multilateral negotiations, usually no one invites Lithuania there, ”said the professor at the Vytautas the Great University. And he expressed the hope that with the arrival of the new government, this situation will change, given that Vilnius’s support for the pro-European forces in Ukraine and Belarus will remain at the same level..
Vilnius as the main “hub” in relations between the countries of the “Eastern Partnership” and the European Union
The Ostrovets NPP in his commentary on the results of the parliamentary elections in Lithuania was also mentioned by the associate professor of the Department of European Studies at St. Petersburg State University Dmitry Lanko.
He recalled that initially only Lithuania was noted as a decisive refusal to buy electricity from this nuclear power plant, but after the official results of the presidential elections in Belarus were announced, two other Baltic states joined this position, “which, in general, violates the economic plans of its further operation. Not that it will not work at all, but this is an unpleasant blow for the station, for which it will have to pay, “Lanko admitted in an interview with the Voice of America Russian Service..
Assessing the policy of the Lithuanian Foreign Ministry in previous years, he noted that Vilnius “has a tough approach to any Russian initiative, and first of all, in the European direction. And it is unlikely that the Russian position will meet with understanding of Vilnius now, when the representative of the Conservatives becomes the new Prime Minister of Lithuania, “- said the St. Petersburg expert on international affairs..
Dmitry Lanko also admits that under the new cabinet, Lithuania will want to regain leadership in promoting the European Union’s Eastern Partnership project, which involves the development of EU integration ties with six post-Soviet states: Azerbaijan, Armenia, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine.
“In autumn 2013, as we remember, Lithuania played unsuccessfully on this field. She made colossal efforts to organize the Eastern Partnership summit in Vilnius, and, figuratively speaking, the “diamond in this crown” was to be the signing by (Viktor) Yanukovych of an association agreement between Ukraine and the European Union. But the agreement was not signed, then Euromaidan and other events happened. But as a result, it looked like the summit prepared by Vilnius ended in nothing, ”Dmitry Lanko recalled the course of events..
Now, in his opinion, Lithuania is getting a second chance to activate the Eastern Partnership. “And if it happens that Lukashenka really leaves, and Svetlana Tikhanovskaya or someone else takes his place in Minsk – but she is the most popular contender at the moment – then Vilnius will be able to restore its position in the eyes of the leading countries of the European Union , primarily Germany and France, and, in fact, become the main hub through which, to the delight of Lithuanian diplomats, relations between Kiev and Brussels, Minsk and Brussels, Tbilisi and Brussels, and so on will be carried out. That is, the stakes are quite high, but it is another matter – it is not known what will come of it, ”Dmitry Lanko concludes with caution..
In turn, Arvydas Anushauskas believes that the future relations with the European Union will first of all be determined by the participants of the protest movement in Belarus. “Now these people are on the streets of Belarusian cities. Representatives of the Lukashenka regime announced that there is a war, and as I understand it, they mean a war with their people.
Lithuania supports civil society in Belarus, but all the same, the development of the situation in the country depends on its citizens, and on how successful their opposition to the Lukashenka regime will be. Lithuania does not interfere in the internal affairs of Belarus, but we loudly declared our support for democratic processes and civil society in the Republic of Belarus, ”said the Seimas deputy from the Fatherland Union – Christian Democrats of Lithuania party.
“Now there is a discussion about the so-called” Marshal Plan “to help the democratic forces of Belarus”
Another Lithuanian expert who commented on the Russian service of the Voice of America was Ramunas Stanionis – political adviser in the team of the member of the European Parliament Andrius Kubilius.
According to Stanionis, voices in support of the Belarusian opposition are quite loud within the walls of the European Parliament. “We have adopted several resolutions on the situation in Belarus and a report that clearly states the non-recognition of the presidential elections in this country. There were also several initiatives on further steps of the European Parliament with regard to Belarus, and now coordination is needed to agree on these steps. Various groups representing political parties are working in this direction, and I think that soon we will have a special commission that will consider practical steps to support a new democratic Belarus, ”he said..
Commenting on the desire of a number of European leaders to involve the Kremlin in resolving the Belarusian crisis, the VOA interlocutor suggests that, for example, French President Emmanuel Macron does not consider Lukashenko an independent politician. Therefore, he is looking for those who can put pressure on Lukashenka to resolve the situation. “It is possible that this very philosophy explains the actions of European leaders. And from the standpoint of the European Union, we are considering the possibilities of rendering assistance to the democratic forces of Belarus. And now we are having a discussion about the so-called “Marshall Plan” for these forces with the attraction of investments in all spheres of the Belarusian economy and to normalize the situation in the social sphere, ”the expert said..
Returning to the issue of Lithuania’s “special role” in the Eastern Partnership program, Ramunas Stanionis agreed: “We understand the aspirations of countries that want to become members of the European community – free, democratic, with a growing economy. We remember the times when we ourselves fought for independence, what problems we had in the economy and in the social sphere, and how we overcame them when we embarked on the European path of development. It is these memories that motivate us to help other countries that have chosen the same path..
The European Union has a number of ways to help these countries, and one of them is the conclusion of an association agreement. Now such agreements have been concluded with Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia, and we are closely monitoring the progress of reforms in these countries. If political and economic changes in Belarus go in the same direction, we will be happy to help this country as well. Of course, this should be a decision of the Belarusians themselves, but the European Union will always be with those who want democracy and economic growth, ”said Ramunas Stanionis, political adviser to the European Parliament.