Speaker of the Seimas, Mrs Irena Degutienë, together with the Speaker of the Riigikogu of the Republic of Estonia, Ms Ene Ergma, and Speaker of the Saeima of the Republic of Latvia, Ms Solvita Aboltina, participated at the Parliamentary Seminar of the Baltic Assembly entitled “A Baltic voice in the European Union: strong enough?” held in Palanga on 11 May 2012.
Speaker of the Seimas noted that the beginning of the European Union membership for our states meant the attained strategic goal and finalisation of one stage of development. However, quite a number of new challenges and questions emerged at that stage.
“One of them was our interest to join the EU institutions and become full-fledged Community members. Perhaps all of you will agree that what each state wishes is to be not just an implementor of decisions but also the one who contributes to decision making. This is where the strategic goal of Lithuania and, undoubtedly, of all the Baltic States – a well-balanced European integration – stems from. Lithuania and not only Lithuania has repeatedly stated it would like to avoid the so-called “two-speed Europe” development model. In pursuing this goal, we need to strengthen our role within the EU. The question is: how? It is possible to find an answer to this only if a number of other questions are answered: does the European Commission, as a supranational institution, perform the role of a “friend” to small member states, thus helping to reduce supremacy of the EU’s big member states? Are we ourselves capable of efficiently creating member-state coalitions and actively engaging in their work so that we could contribute to taking EU’s major decisions? And, finally, have we learnt to act in Brussels environment, and, have we perceived the EU game rules?” – Mrs Degutienë asked.
In Speaker’s view, in some cases we could give a positive answer to these questions. “For example, the EC is Lithuania’s strong supporter in implementing the regulations of the EU 3rd Energy Package and in our aspiration to separate gas supply system from the vertically integrated monopolist’s property. And this is a true victory. Due to the initiative of the Baltic States, the European Council adopted decisions in 2011 concerning creation of a competitive and well-functioning EU internal energy market, which are important to the whole Europe, noting that following 2015, there shouldn’t be a single EU member state, Baltic States included, detached from Europe’s gas and electricity grids, while the EU Single Energy Market should be ready by 2015 as well,” – Mrs Degutienë said.
Speaker of the Seimas underlined that this was a common victory of the Baltic States, a kind of “success story” that should be carried on and implemented. “I believe this could serve us today in facing another problem – the proposal of some EU member-states to save the EU budget funds at the expense of the Cohesion and Agricultural Policy. All the three Baltic States should persistently emphasize that such attempts would even more increase the economic gap between wealthier and poorer EU member states. However, this is where one more strategic question arises. We often refer to the competing “French” and “British” EU visions. After Germany had played the leading role in curbing the eurozone crisis, we started hearing louder voices in support of the EU’s development according to the “German” model. The question thus arises: what is the EU vision projected by the Baltic States? Do we need federal Europe that would strengthen the positions of the Baltic States in their relations with the neighbouring countries which, in their own turn, seek to make use of the Baltic States’ weak sides? Or, maybe, on the contrary: moving towards the federal EU would limit our states’ political self-reliance?” – Mrs Degutienë said.
The Speaker said she was confident that the Baltic States should support strong EU institutions.
“However, only on condition that the latter help to keep the balance between the big and small countries’ interests. I suppose that the implementation of the EU policy should rest on the formula “Support to the EU integration where the states are weak against the pressure from the third countries”. We are interested in strengthening the EU negotiating power in its relations with the third countries. Nonetheless, the European integration should not wash away countries’ national basis and it may not lead to social and cultural levelling of the European states. To pursue this, we have to be united and to apply all political and organisational measures for the benefit of us all. I consider the approaching Lithuania’s presidency over the Council of the European Union as one of them. We should view it not only as a test of the country’s administrative capabilities but also as an opportunity to reflect and formulate the Baltic States’ strategic EU development vision seeking to enhance the voice of the small states, notably that of the Baltic States, within the EU institutions, as much as possible,” – Mrs Degutienë said.
Secretariat of the Speaker of the Seimas
Juozas Ruzgys, Adviser to the Speaker of the Seimas, tel. (+370 5) 239 6023; 698 42073