Kelionės į Londoną metu, kadenciją baigęs prezidentas Valdas Adamkus dalyvavo European Concil Foreign Relations Londono biuro surengtoje diskusijoje „Kaip atgaivinti transatlantinius ryšius?“ Siūlome susipažinti su Jo Ekscelencijos kalba susitikimo metu.
European Council on Foreign Relations
Excellences, researchers, friends,
First, let me say that it is a great honor for me to be talking here, at the European Council on Foreign Relations. The Council has clearly established itself as a well-known and respected European think-tank that contributes meaningfully to the debates on foreign affairs of the EU. I am delighted to see many goods friends among the members of the Council.
Second, I am glad I could speak here on a subject which is really close to me who lived on both sides of Atlantic. I sincerely share those fundamental values which unite us here in the European Union and in the USA.
During my two terms as a President of Lithuania I worked not only to consolidate those values of freedom of choice, rule of law, personal rights and other freedoms in my country but also to support them in our Eastern neighboring countries which choose to the way of liberal democracy.
This is the subject I would like to address here in more detail. In 2004, Lithuania and other countries in Central Europe and Baltics joined the EU and NATO, in other words, the transatlantic security community and the common market of Europe. We celebrated this as a return to our normal place after fifty years of being prevented by force from participating in this community of free nations of the West. I supported this strategic goal without any reservations and I still think this has been one of those few moments when our country moved forcefully towards achievement of a goal which united us all.
After we did that, we directed our efforts in two directions. First, we tried to consolidate our membership in the EU and NATO to make it more than just a formality, to adhere in practice to the norms and principles of those organizations.
Of course, we experienced some failures, like any democracy we have been tempted by short-term political motives, especially as elections approached, at the expense of strategic imperatives such as accumulating reserves of public finances during the times of economic growth or dedicating more resources to collective defense. But if we benchmark ourselves to other members of this transatlantic community, we are doing quite well.
Especially, if we look into the indicators of economic growth and how we coped with the recent crisis, – actually, one of the three severe crises which Lithuania experienced since 1990, – we can position ourselves as part of the dynamic region of Northern Europe. I think the main imperative now is to continue along this path.
The other important direction was to maintain attention to our neighbors in the East and to extend support to them as we have been supported in our strategic aspirations. Although some people tend to juxtapose moral values and pragmatic interests, I am convinced that in the case of reforms of our Eastern neighbors we have both moral imperatives and pragmatic interests supporting each other. It is our duty to help those societies which want to follow the ideals of liberal democracies.
It is also in our interest to have Europe whole and free, especially in our neighboring region. Integration of countries like Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia into the EU and transatlantic community is one of the most powerful instruments to achieve that. That is the reason for my numerous trips to Kiev and Tbilisi and other places where reforms have been advanced and public voiced its desire for change. You know very well what happened during those Orange and Rose revolutions.
Your also know and I am perfectly aware that such changes are difficult. Systemic changes bring benefits to many, but they also bring loses to a powerful few. Sometimes those few are powerful enough to resist such changes. Especially if those, who advance ideals of freedom and democracy are tempted to make shortcuts.
Pursuit of grand ideals then can turn into quite messy politics. This is what we have seen in our Eastern neighbors and the main concern is that people in those countries might become disillusioned. They might think that democracy, rule of law and other principles of free society are inseparable from permanent political instability, political revenge and oligarchic behavior. We know that his is not true and this should not be so.
Besides, it is not only messy domestic politics but also complicated geopolitics which makes transformation in our Eastern neighbors difficult. During my second term as a President of Lithuania I worked especially hard to support reforms in those countries. This was a sincere support of a friend who believes in those values that he promotes, who lived his whole life believing in them.
We have been criticized as focusing too much on the Eastern neighborhood policy, for emphasizing too much those values of free society. We have also been criticized that in our support for the Eastern partners we tended to criticize Russian leadership too much. But I can offer some observations now that our country has tried different policies. We have seen emphasis on values during some years. We have also seen attempts at pragmatic policy towards Russia, even calling it a re-set of relations with Russia hoping that this would also help our Eastern neighbors. Alas, there has been no change in the effectiveness of our different tactics. Moreover, what we see now is the Russian authorities’ crack down on our Eastern partners in restricting their trade with Russia and also in recent weeks applying very sudden and nontransparent checks with respect to Lithuanian exports to Russia. Is this the way that neighbors should treat each other?
Of course, not. The only explanation for such recent behavior of Russia’s leadership – and I want to stress leadership here, not Russia as a country – is that its regime can not tolerate our Eastern partners’ choice of European direction. They see EU’s policy of Eastern Partnership as a competitive geopolitical project rather than an extension of European values into EU’s neighborhood. Therefore they initiated Eurasian customs union to provide an alternative offer for our Eastern partnership friends, who by definition can not do both. Now they are obliged to choose and I hope their choice will be based on values as much as on economic interest, as we did about twenty years ago.
I sincerely wish that we could welcome them as associated countries of the EU even though the Vilnius Summit in November might not be the final stage of the association process. But I am convinced that such a new step towards closer relationship between them and the EU would be to the benefit of their people, and to the benefit of Europe. I also think that US would only gain from such a closer relationship between them and the EU.
Now, let me say several words about the so much talked Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. I will leave the economic aspects and nitty-gritty of possible EU and US agreement for the experts here. But I would like to stress several things. Like many leaders of the EU and its member states I see this agreement as having the potential to deliver something transformative for our economies in terms of market access, regulatory compatibility and rule-making.
I am convinced that we should be striving for an ambitious trade and investment deal that will boost the transatlantic economy, delivering jobs and growth for both Europeans and Americans. This is crucial at the time of continuying uncertainty about the prospects of economic growth and exit from the crisis, which continues in some EU states already for six years or so. If we are serious about restoring growth in Europe, we should see the transatlantic partnership deal as a key instrument to do that. Besides, there are sectoral issues which I see as crucial for providing a push to or economi development and energy security such as improving conditions or even creating them for trade in natural gas which due to shale gas revolution has become several times cheaper in the US compared to Europe. Importants of such gas would not only beneft our household consumers, but would also add to the competitiveness of our industries.
If we are serious about strategic imperatives of maintaining this unique relationship which bonds EU and USA, we should strive to conclude the transatlantic partnership as soon as possible, maybe already by the end of next year or at least before the next presidential elections in the US. This is ever more important now when we witness rapid changes in the global security and economic environment.
As noted some time ago by Zbigniew Brzezinski, the deal could “shape a new balance between the Pacific and Atlantic oceanic regions, while at the same time generating a new vitality, more security and greater cohesion.“ I do agree with this and I think it is important that we see that there is more than economics to this partnership. It would strengthen US attention to Europe which still has some issues to be sorted out.
As I already said, I spent a significant part of my life on both sides of Atlantic working to advance the ideals of liberal democracy and market economy which makes our transatlantic community a vibrant and attractive place. I strongly believe that transatlantic alliance will survive all the challenges to come, both domestic and external. I thank you for your attention and would be interested to hear your expert opinions.
President of Lithuania Valdas Adamkus
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