Lithuania’s president urges Baltic unity in relations with Russia
April 30, 2008

Tallinn – Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus called on the Baltic States to show unity in their relations with Russia during his two-day visit to the Estonian capital Tallinn, media reports said Wednesday. “Our unity would serve as an example of solidarity for other EU member states. Solidarity should be recognized as the core principle of a new relationship between the European Union and Russia, based on mutual respect and interests,” Adamkus said in his speech at the University of Tallinn.

The Baltic States and their EU partners should speak with one voice when it comes to the issues of energy security and assistance to other countries like Georgia that want to join Europe, he said.

His comments came as Lithuania blocked the beginning of talks on a strategic deal between the EU and Russia Tuesday because of ongoing disputes with Moscow.

Lithuania objects to Russia’s closure of the pipeline supplying Lithuania’s only oil refinery, its attitude towards judicial and international cooperation, and its treatment of Georgia.

The other two Baltic nations – Latvia and Estonia – understand the Lithuanian position, but believe negotiation with Russia is the best way to reach an agreement.

Any Baltic defiance of Russian pressure is made more emotional by their shared and bitter history.

Celebrating the 90th anniversary of their independence this year, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania began the 20th century under Russia’s tsars, but gained independence after World War I.

Then, after the Hitler-Stalin non-aggression pact in 1939, Soviet troops swept in and Stalin deported hundreds of thousands of Balts to die in Siberian gulags.

When Hitler’s troops marched through in turn, many Balts saw the Germans as liberators.

After the war there was an influx of Russian workers whose presence would, in time, be cited by the Soviets to claim that these states should never again get independence.