Press release, 9 November 2012
On 9 November 2012, Irena Degutienë, Speaker of the Seimas, welcomed the participants of the 31st session of the Baltic Assembly at the Lithuanian Parliament.
The leader of the Seimas underlined that the Baltic Assembly has shared goals, common issues, has jointly planned the common future of the Baltic countries and the entire Baltic region and has jointly tried to turn the plans into reality. “Even though time alone can show whether our decisions were right, today I dare say that most of our completed tasks were appropriate and meaningful. Neither the problems, nor the political reality that made us address the issues we dealt with in the Baltic Assembly have changed. Therefore, our organisation still faces the same challenges we have openly considered on numerous occasions. May I briefly remind you of them”, Degutienë said.
The Speaker believes that one of the key challenges today is energy security. “There is still a pressing need to find the best and fastest ways to reduce our total dependence on gas imports, promote competition in the gas sector and address the issue of vertical monopolies. In addition, the Baltic States are still integrated with the Eastern European networks and not with the EU power systems. Therefore, it is of key importance to reach an agreement between our states on the strategic goal of reinforcing the independent energy production capacities and joining the synchronous grid of continental Europe. We will be unable to enjoy the full-fledged political independence as long as we are unable to consolidate our energy independence.”
The Speaker of Parliament highlighted that the efforts of the great powers to reshuffle the European security system raise concerns whether NATO and EU membership is a sufficient guarantee of absolute security. She urged everyone to put every effort to ensure this membership does not become formal. “The best way to do this is to reinforce the political and military visibility of NATO in the Baltic States and fully integrate the Baltic States with the EU. I insist that full-fledged integration is of key importance in order to avoid the phenomenon of a two-speed Europe. The Baltic Assembly has raised the issue of safe geopolitical environment for a number of times in reference to its Eastern European neighbours who are still at the crossroads of geopolitical interests. There are hardly any doubts that realities will not change in the near future and these countries will remain trapped between the two different political structures and worldviews, namely, the EU on the one hand, and the increasing economic and military integration, on the other.”
In the Speaker’s opinion, this means that the Baltic States will have to withstand and duly continue the competition between the differing value systems, political structures, and concepts of democracy. “If the EU and NATO fail to find ways to help their Eastern partners break free from the geopolitical trap, others will complete the creation of the European security system for us in a way that serves their own interests. This is why I continue repeating that the Baltic States need to be aware of their shared historical past and future prospects. We have been, still are, and will continue to be connected by shared interests and conditions. Therefore, failure to agree on trivial matters should not overshadow the potential for cooperation. After all, the benefit and progress of one state translates into benefits and progress of the entire region and problems faced by one state create problems for the entire region as well.”
The Speaker of the Seimas reasoned that the common Baltic position in the EU on issues like the CAP and the Cohesion Policy should be reinforced. “Yesterday the Seimas adopted a resolution stating that proposals to decrease the EU budget and, consequently, the Cohesion Fund resources may lead to further long-term negative consequences, including the increasing exclusion between the EU Member States. The resolution stipulates that during the tough negotiations on the EU Multiannual Financial Framework 2014–2020 a principled agreement should be reached on creating a level playing field for all the EU Member States in terms of the size of direct payments to farmers. This solution will prevent discrimination against the farmers of some individual EU Member States.”
The Speaker noted that during the negotiations on the EU budget all the three Baltic States are treated as a region with shared needs and interests; therefore, they should reinforce this image by demonstrating unity. “A remarkable example of united action is a campaign planned by the farmers of all the three Baltic States aimed at drawing the attention of the EU institutions to the fact that direct payments to farmers of the Baltic States are among the lowest in the Community. While they receive the lowest rates of support per hectare of cultivated land in the EU, the farmers of the Baltic States still need to compete with the farmers in the old EU Member States that receive far greater direct payments.”
The Speaker of the Seimas confessed she saw the future BA as a forum where the parliamentarians of the three Baltic States coordinate their actions and policies on the EU and NATO and stand for the joint Baltic approach to various issues of importance for the development of the said organisations. “In general, the BA should follow the Nordic model of close cooperation that has withstood the storms of history, so that our region becomes a community united by a shared view on economy, policy, and security. Time, history and our joint efforts will answer the questions I have raised today. In my capacity of an outgoing Speaker of the Seimas, I want to thank you all for our joint efforts and talks that have resulted in more unity, openness and trust in the BA and between our states,” Degutienë concluded. In her opinion, this is the most effective or perhaps even the only effective kind of cooperation.
Juozas Ruzgys, Advisor to the Speaker of the Seimas, Secretariat of the Speaker of the Seimas, tel: +370 5 239 6023, +370 698 42073