Sunday

22nd Apr 2018

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 for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  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.

Agenda

Whistleblowers, Syria and digital revolution This WEEK

The European Commission will present proposals to protect whistleblowers, combat fake news and organise the digital single market. The international community will gather in Brussels to discuss how to help Syrians in the current war and after.

Macron and Merkel pledge euro reform

France and Germany have pledged to forge a joint position on euro reform by June, despite German reluctance on deeper monetary union.

News in Brief

  1. Audit office: Brexit 'divorce' bill could be billions higher
  2. MEPs urge better protection for journalists
  3. Dieselgate: MEPs back greater role for EU in car approvals
  4. European parliament adopts new organic farming rules
  5. EU granted protection to half million people in 2017
  6. Report: Facebook to carve 1.5bn users out of EU privacy law
  7. Greek court ruling permits migrants to travel to mainland
  8. Commonwealth summit hopes for trade boost after Brexit

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersWorld's Energy Ministers to Meet in Oresund in May to Discuss Green Energy
  2. ILGA EuropeParabéns! Portugal Votes to Respect the Rights of Trans and Intersex People
  3. Mission of China to the EUJobs, Energy, Steel: Government Work Report Sets China's Targets
  4. Martens CentreJoin Us at NET@WORK2018 Featuring Debates on Migration, Foreign Policy, Populism & Disinformation
  5. European Jewish CongressKantor Center Annual Report on Antisemitism Worldwide - The Year the Mask Came Off
  6. UNICEFCalls for the Protection of Children in the Gaza Strip
  7. Mission of China to the EUForeign Minister Wang Yi Highlights Importance of China-EU Relations
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersImmigration and Integration in the Nordic Region - Getting the Facts Straight
  9. Macedonian Human Rights MovementMacedonians in Bulgaria Demand to End the Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  10. Counter BalanceThe EIB Needs to Lead by Example on Tax Justice
  11. ILGA EuropeTrans People in Sweden to be Paid Compensation for Forced Sterilisation
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsThe Danger of Standing Up for Justice and Rights in Central Asia

Latest News

  1. ECJ ruling set to end 10-year 'mouth tobacco' lobbying saga
  2. Whistleblowers, Syria and digital revolution This WEEK
  3. MEP friendship groups offer 'backdoor' for pariah regimes
  4. Macron and Merkel pledge euro reform
  5. Obscurity surrounds EU military fund's expert groups
  6. New EU party finance rules short circuit accountability
  7. Draghi to stay in secretive 'lobby' group
  8. Bulgaria offers lesson in tackling radical-right populists

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Must Work Together to Promote Global Steel Sector
  2. Swedish EnterprisesEU Tax Proposal on Digital Services Causes Concern for Small Exporting Economies
  3. Europea Jewish CongressCondemns the Horrific Murder of Holocaust Survivor Mireille Knoll in Paris
  4. Mission of China to the EUAn Open China Will Foster a World-Class Business Environment
  5. ECR GroupAn Opportunity to Help Shape a Better Future for Europe
  6. Counter BalanceControversial Turkish Azerbaijani Gas Pipeline Gets Major EU Loan
  7. World VisionSyria’s Children ‘At Risk of Never Fully Recovering', New Study Finds
  8. Macedonian Human Rights MovementMeets with US Congress Member to Denounce Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  9. Martens CentreEuropean Defence Union: Time to Aim High?
  10. UNESDAWatch UNESDA’s President Toast Its 60th Anniversary Year
  11. AJC Transatlantic InstituteAJC Condemns MEP Ana Gomes’s Anti-Semitic Remark, Calls for Disciplinary Action
  12. EPSUEU Commissioners Deny 9.8 Million Workers Legal Minimum Standards on Information Rights