Sunday

23rd Jul 2017

Focus

Lithuania faces record legislative load for EU presidency

  • Vilnius will host the bi-annual Eastern Partnership summit in November (Photo: Valentina Pop)

Lithuania, a country of three million people bordering Poland, Latvia, Belarus and the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad, will take over the rotating EU presidency on 1 July.

"It won't be a surprise that our main priorities will mainly reflect the situation in Europe's economy," Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite told this website.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now and get 40% off for an annual subscription. Sale ends soon.

  1. €90 per year. Use discount code EUOBS40%
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

"We inherited a lot of issues. About 80 percent of our agenda will be mainly questions about the European economy, the European level of integration, growth and jobs and the free trade agreement with the US," she added.

A record 563 dossiers are currently in the legislative pipeline and have to be managed by the Lithuanian presidency. The next EU budget for 2014-2020 requires 75 separate bills alone to come into force as planned on 1 January.

With European elections scheduled in May 2014, most legislation has to be adopted during the second half of this year, as the European Parliament will have only three months left to work next year.

"In addition to all of this, the 'Lithuanian flavour' will be the Eastern Partnership, the Baltic Sea Strategy and external borders. In the Eastern Partnership, we seek to finalise association agreements with some states, including Ukraine," Grybauskaite said.

Through the Eastern Partnership, the EU is seeking closer relations and ultimately visa-free travel and free trade with Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan and, in the more distant future, Lithuania's neighbour Belarus.

Lithuania will host an Eastern Partnership summit in November. Andrius Krivas, Lithuania's vice foreign minister in charge of eastern relations, said the Vilnius event will be the "most important event of the ones hosted in Lithuania, as it happens only once in two years."

A highlight of the event would be for Ukraine to sign a so-called association agreement with the EU. "But the rotating presidency is not the only part in charge, decisions are made by member states and work also has to be done in Ukraine," Krivas said.

The main sticking point is what the EU calls "selective justice", the most prominent case being that of former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, jailed for alleged corruption for signing off gas contracts with Russia.

"The Ukrainian government has made some gestures recently with the release of two former ministers, along with other individuals. This is a positive sign, but EU member states continue to draw attention to the last case of selective justice: Yulia Tymoshenko," Krivas added.

Lithuania is also keen on improving EU relations with neighbouring Belarus, where the autocratic regime of Alexander Lukashenko is still subject to EU sanctions.

"Political prisoners are the most important issue that has to be solved in order to resume EU-Belarus relations," Krivas said. The will of the Belarusian diplomacy to resume ties with the EU seems to be "genuine," the Lithuanian diplomat said. But he admitted that there are "elements of both" predictable and erratic behaviour to the Lukashenko regime.

"We always stress the importance of what they have to do for Belarus to become a fully-fledged member of the Eastern Partnership," he added.

Even on a bilateral level, relations between Lithuania and Belarus are odd. A local border agreement allowing people from neighbouring villages divided by the Schengen border to travel visa-free within a 50km range, including to the Lithuanian capital, was signed three years ago, but never enacted because the Belarusian side did not implement all the necessary requirements.

In addition, Ales Bialatski, one of the political prisoners in Minsk was jailed due to a Lithuanian blunder, as his name was transmitted by the Lithuanian ministry of justice after Belarusians asked if he held any foreign accounts for his human rights NGO.

"It was a blatant mis-coordination between Lithuanian authorities. The person in question realised her responsibility and stepped down from the ministry of justice," Krivas said. Procedures have since been tightened so no other ministry sends any information to Belarus without the foreign ministry first double-checking the data.

"But of course, Bialatski is still in prison. He is one of the 12 political prisoners we constantly insist has to be released," Krivas said.

Low-budget presidency

With a budget of €62 million, the Lithuanian presidency is keeping spending relatively modest. Neighbouring Poland, by contrast, spent a whopping €115 million when it held the six-month EU chairmanship in 2011.

"We are very excited and enthusiastic for chairing our first presidency, but we are also realistic. Underpromised - overdelivered, that's my motto," said Vytautas Leskevicius, the deputy foreign minister in charge of the EU presidency.

He said the model of presidency they are adopting is a "Brussels-based presidency," meaning giving Brussels-based diplomats a maximum of leeway to negotiate and act on the 563 files to be tackled.

"Since the Lisbon Treaty was adopted, no EU presidency has had that many dossiers on their table. We tripled our staff in Brussels, we now have some 200 people there, not only diplomats, also special attaches who are experts on various files, coming from the respective ministries," Leskevicius said.

Lithuania unveils EU presidency logo

With less than two months to go before taking over the rotating EU presidency on 1 July, Lithuania has unveiled the logo that will brand its EU meetings.

Lithuania: In the EU spotlight

Lithuania takes over the EU presidency on 1 July. EUobserver talks to the country's leading politicians about its austerity policy, its euro plans and relations with eastern neighbours.

EU urges UK to clarify its Brexit positions

EU and UK negotiators presented their Brexit positions to identify common grounds this week, but that was made difficult by the scarcity of UK position papers.

News in Brief

  1. Polish parliament adopts controversial justice reform
  2. GMO opt-out plan unlikely to go anywhere in 2017
  3. Slovak PM threatens to boycott inferior food
  4. France takes Google's 'right to be forgotten' to EU court
  5. Turkey accuses German companies of supporting terror
  6. Israel's Netanyahu caught calling EU 'crazy'
  7. UK does not collect enough data to expel EU nationals
  8. Polish president threatens to veto justice reform

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Jewish CongressJean-Marie Le Pen Faces Trial for Oven Comments About Jewish Singer
  2. ACCAAnnounces Belt & Road Research at Shanghai Conference
  3. ECPAFood waste in the field can double without crop protection. #WithOrWithout #pesticides
  4. EU2017EEEstonia Allocates €1 Million to Alleviate Migratory Pressure From Libya in Italy
  5. Dialogue PlatformFethullah Gulen's Message on the Anniversary of the Coup Attempt in Turkey
  6. Martens CentreWeeding out Fake News: An Approach to Social Media Regulation
  7. European Jewish CongressEJC Concerned by Normalisation of Antisemitic Tropes in Hungary
  8. Counter BalanceOut for Summer Episode 1: How the EIB Sweeps a Development Fiasco Under the Rug
  9. CESICESI to Participate in Sectoral Social Dialogue Committee on Postal Services
  10. ILGA-EuropeMalta Keeps on Rocking: Marriage Equality on Its Way
  11. European Friends of ArmeniaEuFoA Director and MEPs Comment on the Recent Conflict Escalation in Nagorno-Karabakh
  12. EU2017EEEstonian Presidency Kicks off Youth Programme With Coding Summer School

Latest News

  1. Dutch coalition talks lengthiest in 40 years
  2. Polish parliament steps up showdown with EU
  3. EU urges UK to clarify its Brexit positions
  4. Law expert: direct EU powers have become too complicated
  5. Winter is here for Spitzenkandidat, but he'll survive
  6. Mafia money pollutes the EU economy
  7. Central Europe should be wary of Brexit stopping
  8. Poland's 'July coup' and what it means for the judiciary

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EPSUEP Support for Corporate Tax Transparency Principle Unlikely to Pass Reality Check
  2. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament Improves the External Investment Plan but Significant Challenges Ahead
  3. EU2017EEPM Ratas: EU Is Not Only an Idea for the 500mn People in the Bloc, It Is Their Daily Reality
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCloser Energy Co-Operation Keeps Nordic Region on Top in Green Energy
  5. ILGA-EuropeGermany Finally Says Ja - Bundestag Votes for Marriage Equality!
  6. EPSUJapanese and European Public Sector Unions Slam JEFTA
  7. World VisionEU, Young Leaders and Civil Society Join Forces to End Violence Against Girls
  8. UNICEFNarrowing the Gaps: The Power of Investing in the Health of the Poorest Children
  9. EU2017EEEstonia to Surprise Europe With Unique Cultural Programme
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Talks Should Insist on Ending Reprisals Vs. Critical Voices
  11. European Free AllianceEFA Is Looking for a New Intern
  12. Malta EU 2017Conservation of Atlantic Tunas: International Measures Become EU Law