Europe and the EU

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Lithuanian Presidency at EU’s service

17 Jul 2013 - 15:36

Report of a Lithuanian EU Presidency event


The rotating presidency of the Council of the European Union is an excellent opportunity for a small country to present itself and gain more visibility within the EU. It also offers a window of opportunities to promote few topics of national or regional interest. Not in the case of Lithuania though, assured Mr. Vytautas Leškevičius, Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs, his audience at Clingendael, while presenting the six-month programme. Lithuania will foremost execute the rolling European agenda in active cooperation with its partners in the Trio Presidency. Although he admitted that the Eastern Partnership and the creation of a European internal energy market are high on the Lithuanian agenda, “being an honest broker ” is the ultimate objective.

While Europe is suffering an economic crisis, Lithuania seems to have overcome its problems and now lists among the three fastest growing economies . Since the Irish Presidency managed to reach an agreement on the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF), Lithuania is burdened with the follow up. According to Leškevičius: “This puts Lithuania under significant pressure, because around eighty legislative issues have to be solved relating to the MFF.” Lithuania sees this as a “pressing priority”, as the EU regains its credibility through financial stability.

Dealing with the European Parliament (which is heading its end of term), continuing and finishing the legislative agenda, will surely keep the presidency busy. In November the biggest challenges will be posed both politically and logistically. That month about five conferences will be organised in Vilnius, including the Eastern Partnership Summit. Lithuania hopes to sign a deep and comprehensive free trade agreement with Ukraine, and to start negotiations on such an agreement with Georgia and Moldova.



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Dutch EU interests

Subsequently, the floor was given to Robert de Groot, Director-General for European cooperation of the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs, to comment on the presentation of Mr. Leškevičius. De Groot grasped the opportunity to share some Dutch concerns with his Lithuanian colleague.

In accordance with Lithuania he pointed to the importance of an internal energy market, as “countries like the United States currently have much cheaper energy, making them more competitive.” He further added that every European country should reconsider its long term energy goals, as the energy market is changing rapidly due to the development of for instance shale gas. Regarding Eastern Partnership De Groot attached considerable weight to rule of law initiatives for neighbouring countries.

Like Lithuania, De Groot considered the relevance of credibility through financial stability, especially in relation to the creation of a Banking Union. He underlined the significance of it for Small and Medium Enterprises, which account for about 68% of all enterprises in the Netherlands. According to De Groot, the Banking Union requires two mechanisms to select banks; first reviewing, followed by a stress test.

Moreover, De Groot put forward the interest of subsidiarity. He announced that the Netherlands is preparing certain proposals to be put forward in the autumn of this year. He explained that the Netherlands does not want to change the process of European policies, instead, it wants the European Commission to increasingly focus on more significant issues. “We face enormous challenges in strengthening our economy again. The tasks of the Commission should not be as wide, but maybe focus on the most important areas.”

Finally, De Groot acknowledged mister Leškevičius’ consideration that “Lithuania has to deal with the European Parliament regarding about 580 dossiers.” According to De Groot one should not underestimate this, as nowadays “dealing with European Parliament has become the task of any EU presidency.” Given this legislative tasks, it remains to be seen how Lithuania can successfully fulfil its other objectives.