Lithuania and the foreign policy: what to do when you are on the bench?

Petras Auštrevičius
DELFI / Karolina Pansevič

Couple of weeks ago Lithuania’s former President Valdas Adamkus in his speech on regional leadership said that Lithuania gave up its leadership in the Eastern European and Baltic region which we have been demonstrating a decade before. According to the President, we, Lithuania, became a passive observer.

I will be more candid. Using basketball terminology in order to rate our foreign policy and our role and influence in the region – right now we’re warming up the bench and taking a risk to stay overboard at the next championship.

Leadership is not some hollow notion. It is an action. Sadly, speaking about foreign policy we have not seen a long while ago any actions, results, and achievements, especially the ones that we can gain from.

I have an obligation to speak the truth – most of the time we left with the same, minus our foreign policy helmsmen’s loud rhetoric. That is – empty-handed, without persuading anyone, missing 20 points. How are you going to convince somebody if you do not believe yourself or not trying 100 percent?

I’ll be blunt – our foreign policy efforts are being ridiculed. In the European Parliament I talk and chat with the representatives of the European Commission, commissioners, MEPs from other EU countries, and I totally get it that sometimes they have no clue what am I talking about and what I am trying to convey. The most striking example – Astravyets. Sure, I can start from the creation of the world, from Adam and Eve, but when finally are we going to see the results and advantage?

I’m sorry but that is a mess (to say the least). We live in a time of chaos and information wars. However, over and over again we see that Lithuania’s leaders cannot intelligibly and loudly articulate our position not only on the EU level but among our partners and closest neighbours. All of that looks hopeless and pathetic.

For many years we keep hearing that it’s somebody else’s fault. My answer – our partners are tired of our political inability, insincerity, and talking with our backs turned on them.

Let’s take, for example, the Baltic region. Just recently, Latvia jabbed us – they refused to be part of the agreement regarding liquefied natural gas (LNG) market in the Baltic states. Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis talked vaguely about plan B. What is the plan B? If we don’t have faith in our bipartisan talks with Estonia in the first place, if we do not expect that the EU will give us the blessing and support to buy out LNG ship „Independence”, – what are we doing then? This kind of activity is irresponsible at best.

„So what?”, maybe you will say. Well, we are going to pay more for the gas – such results of our foreign policy will affect most of the families and businesses.

One more blow to our foreign policy: this summer Latvian Minister of Foreign Affairs Edgars Rinkēvičs wished us “good luck” in competing for Belarusian freight. He also said it would be difficult to separate which electricity is from Ostrovets and which is from somewhere else. Latvians have their own reasons to flirt with Belarus – they are concerned for their ports, freight flow, jobs. And Lithuania, in this respect, is a competitor.

It is obvious to me that Latvians made a big mistake in trading Lithuania for Belarus, European solidarity and Baltic partnership for a short-term financial gain with an unpredictable dictator. However, when other states in the region see that Lithuania’s initiatives, e. g., boycotting electricity from Ostrovets are rejected by Latvians – is there any purpose at all to sit at the negotiating table? Are only our neighbours to blame in all this?

Back to Lithuania – I arrive at the conclusion that we are going to get out of this morass only after we start witnessing specific, wise, and, most of all, active work from our own leaders, joined together with our partners for a common purpose.

Petras Auštrevičius, Member of the European Parliament, Group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe

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