Azubalis: Northern and Eastern Directions in Lithuanian Foreign Policy Strengthen Each Other

By Petras Vaida (July 23, 2012)

At the annual meeting of heads of Lithuanian diplomatic representations in Vilnius on 18 July, Lithuanian Minister of Foreign Affairs Audronius Azubalis emphasized that Lithuania’s active involvement in Northern Europe, strategic ties with Central Europe and support for the EU integration of Eastern European countries had to be skilfully adjusted in Lithuanian foreign policy, reported BC Lithuanian MFA.

“This year we coordinate the activities of Nordic Baltic Eight (NB8) and implement many bilateral and multilateral projects. Together with other countries of the region we are organizing high-level summits and consultations. The goal is clear: we must engage in practical activities to accelerate regional integration,” Azubalis said.

He also underlined that when following the good Scandinavian economic and social models “we are not trying to change our Lithuanian identity and cannot turn away from our long-standing friends.” “Smartness in the region means capabilities to match new frameworks for cooperation more flexibly,” the Minister said.

He believes that the two regional directions in Lithuanian foreign policy – Northern and Eastern – do not interfere but rather complement and strengthen each other.

“Lithuania’s strategic goal of mobilising democratic countries in Eastern Europe remains unchanged. We contribute greatly to the consolidated effort that keeps Eastern Partnership countries, especially Moldova, Georgia and Ukraine, on their path of reform,” Azubalis stressed.

He also highlighted the importance of ethical neighbourhood. According to the minister, its key precondition is responsible and ethical attitude towards our own citizens and civil society in neighbouring countries.

“Value-based policy is the only reliable, pragmatic and long-term solution for such countries as Lithuania. Therefore, our instructions for good neighbourhood are simple: let’s remain decent, do not transgress the limits of healthy competition and demand the same from our neighbours,” Azubalis said.

When speaking about European policy, the Minister called on following the Nordic direction, but keeping the balance, i.e., developing ties with Southern countries and protecting national, ethnic and cultural autonomy.

He also underlined that Lithuania and entire Europe had to develop specific strategic relationship with the U.S. American foreign policy stabilizes global coexistence and supports democracy throughout the world.

However, Azubalis believes that it would be not fair to demand the U.S. to cover all European security costs. “Everyone should take up the responsibility in the world, including us. The new NATO security guarantees granted in Chicago prove that long-term solidarity in such areas of tension as Afghanistan, Iraq or the Balkans increased Lithuania’s security,” the Minister said.

When speaking about new features of diplomacy, Azubalis called on the participants of the meeting to make use of the good experience that was gained during the Chairmanship of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and the Presidency of the Community of Democracies to take full advantage of the new opportunities in multilateral organizations as the United Nations. He said that the main challenge for Lithuania next year was the upcoming Presidency of the EU Council.

The Minister wished Lithuanian diplomats wisdom and perseverance, and emphasized the positive impact of the on-going personnel policy reform on their results.

“I know that by working together we will strike a positive balance, not only in Northern, Central and Eastern Europe, but also in the Lithuanian energy sector, economy, people’s wallets and mood. This is the essential goal of a policy which is oriented toward an ethical neighbourhood, smartness in the region, balance in Europe and responsibility in the world,” Azubalis summed up.