Speech by Irena Degutienë, Speaker of the Seimas, delivered at the Seminar of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly on Eastern Partners: Contemporary Challenges and Future Prospects


Ladies and Gentlemen, members of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly,

Let me welcome you all assembled here to discuss the issues we all consider to be relevant and once again explore possible development trends. Although the problems and issues I am going to raise today are not new in the context of either NATO’s role in today’s world or democratic development in Europe, these are the questions discussed on a number of occasions, yet they have still been unanswered, particularly because our life and political and geopolitical realities bring their own corrections.

Unfortunately, the recent political changes in the region that seemed so promising did not reach the extent that the democratic world would expect. As a result, current geopolitical processes in Eastern Europe make us speak about diving lines that still exist. Nevertheless, it would be a huge mistake to consider this problem the problem of Eastern Europe alone. It is evident that in this context, the construction of a safe and democratic value-based joint architecture of European security has not been completed yet. I want to stress “joint security architecture”.

The countries in the region are geographically, historically, and politically located between two very different geopolitical areas: the European Union, on the one hand, and increasingly growing political, economic, and military integration processes on the other. This is really not just a simple race between different political and economic organisations. This is the key and fundamental rivalry between different political and value systems, different concepts of democracy, and the resulting models of political activity. If the European Union and NATO fail to find the means for Eastern partners to escape the geopolitical trap, the development of the European security system will unfortunately be completed by the other powers.

In order to prevent this scenario, NATO, together with the European Union, must further pursue the so-called open door policy. The prospect of NATO and EU membership is the best way to encourage the countries in Eastern Europe to follow a democratic path. My observations are based on the dozen-year long experience of the Baltic States, when the membership prospect was a driving force for rapid change in the Baltic States, rather than on a conceptual puzzle of political science. Is it not a sufficiently self-explanatory example? I hope the discussion at the Seminar will help you answer this question.

It is evident that a geopolitical space, rival to NATO and the EU, is emerging in the post-Soviet region. Russia seeks to become the central power over these processes. Nevertheless, the rallies attended by thousands of people in Russia are an evidence of internal changes. Probably, this may eventually mean a real potential of democratisation in Russia. This is also an open question for us all.

Another Eastern neighbour Belarus is heading towards an increasingly deeper self-isolation. In geopolitical terms, this country has got itself into a deadlock since, due to the economic crisis and international isolation, its dependence on the Eastern neighbour is growing. The growing dependence means the takeover of the control of the major companies in Belarus. The stability of the economy in Belarus depends on foreign loans. This leads to the loss of control over political and economic processes in this country. We might ask what our role in this situation is. Do we have a recipe how to turn the development of this country to a different direction? Being loyal to democratic values, we must clearly state that the essential condition for resuming dialogue with Belarus is the release and rehabilitation of all political prisoners. In addition to this, Belarus needs systemic changes rather than show-off campaigns offered by the regime when it needs financial loans from the West or when its relations with the East deteriorate.

Ukraine is still at the crossroads of two different integration areas and sometimes it seems that Kiev seeks to keep the balance and manoeuvre between them. However, Ukraine must understand that there is no intermediate approach or intermediate option between the European Union and the Eurasian Union or between democracy and restrictions of democracy. Historical experience shows that in this part of Europe, it is impossible to remain “an intermediate territory” for a long time and preserve one’s identity and national sovereignty. Ukraine must remain on the European path since the Eurasian choice will swamp it deeper and deeper and finally it will be more difficult to get back on track. This, I repeat, is not the problem of Ukraine alone. We must also ask ourselves what can be jointly done to prevent Ukraine from becoming an intermediate territory.    

I see the aspirations of Moldova as a potential for a success story in the region. We must find ways to help Moldova implement the foreign policy with European Union integration, chosen by its pro-western government. For this purpose, we do not need to reinvent the wheel; similarly to other Eastern partner countries, Moldova should be given a clear membership prospect by the Euro-Atlantic security organisations.

Ladies and Gentlemen, my statements today constitute questions rather than general observations or conclusions. These are the questions that arise and we need to answer today. Otherwise the other geopolitical powers will answer them and do it to their own benefit. I sincerely hope that the arguments expressed in the presentations and discussions of today’s Seminar will translate into concrete actions as soon as possible so that we can achieve our common goals.

I welcome you, the participants of the Seminar, once again and wish you every success.         



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