Lithuania’s EU Presidency: Accomplishments and Persistent Challenges
On Thursday, February 20, The German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF) hosted a roundtable discussion with Lithuanian Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs Vytautas Leškevičius. The event was attended by members of the diplomatic corps, U.S. government officials, academics, and leading analysts. GMF Senior Transatlantic Fellow Ambassador Temuri Yakobashvili moderated the discussion, which focused on the Lithuanian presidency of the EU Council in 2013.
Initially focused on reigniting transatlantic relations, the Lithuanian presidency shifted its priority to strengthening the EU and its credibility. Over the course of Lithuania’s term, 147 legislative acts were adopted, three times more than the average presidency, as was the next seven-year EU budget. Lithuania also managed the membership processes for Turkey, Serbia, and Montenegro while setting the framework for a common energy market to be established by 2014. The limited successes of the Eastern Partnership (EaP) Summit in November 2013 revealed the shortcomings of the EU’s policies towards Eastern Europe. The ongoing developments in Ukraine only reinforce this position. The EU must modernize their efforts and consolidate resources with its primary partner, the United States, in order to present a clear and firm plan for Eastern Europe.
As the discussion continued, the focus shifted to the protests and ongoing violence in Kyiv. The potential EU responses discussed were comprised of carrots, such as a comprehensive financial package and a path towards visa liberalization, and sticks, in the form of targeted measures such as sanctions. While many opinions were given, there was a specific emphasis on offering Ukraine assistance deliberately aimed at ameliorating the short-term costs of a closer association with the EU, so that the government will remain dedicated to achieving the long-term goals of integration. However, without organized action from the United States and the EU in Europe’s Eastern neighborhood, achieving a real solution in Kyiv and beyond may remain a challenge. A clear, transatlantic approach is required for finding real and sustainable policies for engaging Eastern Europe and Eurasia.