On 12 March 2017, the Seimas hosted the international parliamentary meeting Europe and the United States: Reaffirming Transatlantic Solidarity. The objective of the meeting, which was co-organised by the Parliamentary Forum for Democracy, was to discuss the worrying global trends towards a decline of democracy, and new challenges and prospects for transatlantic cooperation.
The international parliamentary meeting began with a welcome address by Prof. Viktoras Pranckietis, Speaker of the Seimas, who stressed that Lithuania was united in its self-resolve and believed in the future of the transatlantic relations in the face of new challenges to security and our values. The Speaker of the Seimas took note that all political groups in the Seimas saw eye to eye on Lithuania’s foreign and security policy. Therefore, right upon its election, the Seimas adopted resolutions confirming the consistency and continuity of Lithuania’s foreign, security and defence policy, its commitment to NATO, and its strategic partnership with the United States of America. It has already been agreed to increase our defence spending to reach 2 % of GDP by 2018 and to go even beyond that. The Speaker of the Seimas also noted that Lithuania was determined to give full support to Ukraine and other Eastern Partnership countries.
Prof. Pranckietis observed that participants of the Forum had long raised the questions regarding the visible threats to democracy and the growing imperialistic ambitions in the East. He noted that Lithuania was particularly concerned about the security situation in the region due to the annexation of Crimea, the war in eastern Ukraine, and the increasing threats of terrorist attacks in Europe. “Today we see clearer than ever that only uniform assessment of threats equals successful response to them,” stressed Mr Pranckietis.
Emanuelis Zingeris, Chair of the Parliamentary Forum for Democracy and Head of the Seimas Group for Inter-Parliamentary Relations with the United States of America, recalled several important historical facts related to nations’ fights for freedom and democracy. He proposed that the five countries – Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Poland, and Finland, due to mark the centenary anniversaries of their independence in 2018, come up with a common date for this important celebration and mark this day together, thus demonstrating solidarity and commitment to our shared values.
Prof. Vytautas Landsbergis, President of the Supreme Council – Reconstituent Seimas, talked about the importance of the transatlantic relations, the solidarity of the EU, the United States and Canada, and the need to strengthen it. He believed that a lack of solidarity might bring many challenges and disasters to the world. Prof. Landsbergis also urged the Forum to adopt a document condemning the construction of the dangerous Astravyets nuclear power plant in Belarus and to strive for the nuclear power plant to be moved, insofar as possible, further east and well away from Vilnius.
Anne Hall, U.S. Ambassador to Lithuania, addressed the audience in Lithuanian to congratulate the country on its 27th anniversary of the restoration of independence. She underlined that “the transatlantic ties that bind Europe and the United States are grounded on our common legacy – a legacy of fighting for and defending the freedom”. The Ambassador said that President Trump and the new U.S. Administration strongly supported NATO and would be unwavering in their commitment to the transatlantic alliance. Ms Hall noted Lithuania’s progress in national defence and energy security and said that Lithuania was a reliable partner. The Ambassador also assured that the U.S. commitment to NATO and Article 5 of the Washington Treaty was ironclad
Andrius Kubilius, Deputy Chair of the Seimas Committee on European Affairs, focused on Ukraine in his speech. He said that the key factors preventing Ukraine from stepping up democratic reforms were related not so much to the domestic problems but rather to the current external situation, namely, the aggressive attempts by Russia to rebuild the empire, the retreat of democracy in post-Soviet Eastern Partnership countries, and the changed and less courageous West compared to what they were at the end of the 20th century. Mr Kubilius was convinced that the aim of Vladimir Putin was to prevent successful development of such countries as Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia. He emphasised, however, that our objective was to have a clear strategy, which would prevent Mr Putin from winning in those countries. He highlighted the importance of bilateral relation, economic support, and other assistance, which had been elaborated in the decisions of the joint meeting of the Seimas Committees on European Affairs and on Foreign Affairs approving the initiative A New European Plan for Ukraine and Lithuania’s support measures for Ukraine.
The second session began with a video address by Elmar Brok, Member of the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the European Parliament, who was unable to attend the event in person. He shared his insights and referred to Lithuania’s efforts to pursue democratic reforms despite the challenging situation after the re-establishment of independence as a role model for countries currently undergoing similar reforms. For the video address by Mr Brok (in English) click here.
Juozas Bernatonis, Chair of the Seimas Committee on Foreign Affairs, mainly focused on the Eastern Partnership. He noted that once Lithuania and other Baltic and Central European countries became full-fledged members of the transatlantic community, the new border line of the Western democratic world in Europe shifted eastwards. This particular space had always been and continued to be a battle-ground for major global powers. Mr Bernatonis pointed out that the international community should therefore focus in particular on the Eastern Partnership countries. The Chair of the Committee believed that the transatlantic community must have a clear strategy in this region. It should not allow drawing of any new dividing lines in Europe; defend the right of Eastern Partnership countries to determine their future; enhance the capacities of Eastern partners to better deal with the emerging security challenges; and support the implementation of democratic reforms based on a precondition that only the success of Eastern Partnership countries may, in the long-term, stimulate democratic change in Russia as well. He highlighted that successful implementation of this strategy depended on firm political decisions and thus appreciated that Lithuanian political parties did not divide themselves into position and opposition in terms of their stance on key matters of the Lithuanian foreign policy.
The representatives of Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine, who also took the floor at the meeting, stressed the importance of transatlantic cooperation and unity. Borys Tarasyuk, Deputy Chair of the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, said that lately, hostility towards Europe within Europe itself could be observed and that statements supporting dissociation from Europe could be heard in the US. Mr Tarasyuk believed that such confusion directly benefited the Kremlin. The Ukrainian politician urged that the differences be set aside and called for strengthening of transatlantic solidarity.
When referring to the transatlantic cooperation, Žygimantas Pavilionis, Chair of the Seimas Subcommittee on Transatlantic Relations and Democratic Development of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, underlined that the current geopolitical situation required looking for new and more effective forms of parliamentary cooperation. He believed that working in different groups would allow achieving better results. In this context, Mr Pavilionis mentioned the Trilateral Assembly of Lithuania, Poland and Ukraine, the Nordic–Baltic cooperation, and engagement with the Visegrad Group and the Black Sea countries.
The meeting was concluded by adopting a declaration laying down key provisions outlined by the participants.
Please find the photos by Džoja Gunda Barysaitė, Office of the Seimas, attached. For more photos click here.
On 12 March 2010, the Seimas hosted the Convening Meeting of the Parliamentary Forum of the Community of Democracies, where the Vilnius Declaration was signed. Parliamentary representatives from more that 30 countries signed the Declaration and established the Parliamentary Forum of the Community of Democracies, thereby commemorating symbolically the victory of democracy achieved by the Lithuanian Supreme Council – Reconstituent Seimas 20 years ago and promoting further democratic development in the world through its activities. For more information (in English) click here.