“The European budget is not big – it accounts for about one percent of the EU countries’ aggregate GDP, so each euro in that budget should serve as an incentive,” the Lithuanian president says.
Madam President, you are leaving for Brussels this week to attend an EU Council summit. What’s on the agenda?
The summit will essentially be dedicated to discuss Europe’s economic situation and to adopt a very important European strategic investment package proposed by the new European Commission president, which is EUR 215bn in investment over the course of three years. This is exactly what Europe needs, because the European economy is losing steam. We also keep hearing and seeing that global trends are somewhat similar – economy is slowing down in many regions of the world.
This will doubtlessly affect Europe and Lithuania, therefore a plan to attract investment and create new jobs is important. The best part of our discussion will focus on that. We will not be talking only about actual investment, we will also discuss setting up strategic investment funds, reducing red tape, developing the EU’s domestic market, finishing the development of the EU’s energy market, the single digital market, deeper integration of the financial markets. These are all key topics that are very important.
Second, we will definitely discuss foreign policy, starting with the situation in Ukraine, how and why the peace agreement is not observed, what should be done to make it stand. We will also discuss assistance to Ukraine in implementing reforms, further EU financial, humanitarian and expert aid to Ukraine.
And third, there are certainly many issues in the world that the EU is involved in. These include joint EU action on fighting Ebola as well as resisting international terrorism, humanitarian and medical assistance in the fight against ISIS.
Madam President, let’s talk more about the investment plan for Europe proposed by the European Commission. What is its significance to Lithuania and the entire EU?
I do hope it will be important, because what we are talking about here is giving a momentum to the entire mechanism. We are not talking about cash, there is little cash in it. The key is to start a snowball effect, so that each euro attracts 15 euros in investment from various sources. These include the European Investment Bank, the private sector, etc. The European budget is not big – it accounts for about one percent of the EU countries’ aggregate GDP, so each euro in that budget should serve as an incentive.
Whereas we in Lithuania can expect and take part in securing funding for renovating our energy infrastructure, roads, seaports, transport. Lithuania has included into the plan as many as 24 projects in energy, IT, scientific research, environment, transport, construction. We’ll wait and see how it goes, because what we need is not just money but also the know-how. It should provide a mechanism, administrative expertise, knowledge how to involve the private sector.
This will be the first EU Council chaired by former Polish prime minister Donald Tusk. What are your expectations for the new EU Council president?
We are truly glad that the new president is a person from our region who knows the issues relevant to the region. I mean all kinds of issues, including economic ones. Particularly issues related to energy – like the need to integrate the Baltic-Polish region into the infrastructure of Continental Europe.
He [Tusk] is an experienced politician who will definitely make effort to reconcile the interests of all member states. We hope that he will help make the interests of our region well represented and defended.