Foreign Minister Linas Linkevičius underlined the dependence of our future on all-inclusive, rather than divisive initiatives. ‘We have complains about the uneven distribution of economic wealth, but definitely the period of the EU membership has been particularly successful for our country leading to the substantial improvement in all quality indicators. Our standard of living was merely 48 % of the EU average right after our accession, but it has already reached 78 % this year,’ he said.
When talking about the reduced future financial framework, in particular reductions in the Cohesion Fund and the agricultural support, he noted that this could lead to more tensions in our national budget, but the aim was to prevent any shocks that would undermine our smooth development.
In Mr Linkevičius’ belief, when strengthening its security and defence, Europe should, first of all, build additional capabilities that could be used as modules in various operations by NATO or the EU, instead of creating any extra bureaucracy or duplicating NATO structures. ‘This would be correct in political, military, practical and even financial terms,’ he said.
In her speech, European Commissioner Vĕra Jourová stressed that today 500 million European citizens could enjoy the sense of unity, but at the same time stability and security were at risk. ‘Today we also face new threats to our stability and security from the inside and outside of the European Union. We have been confronted with a huge financial crisis, unemployment, untamed globalization, digital revolution, brain drain, finally, terrorism and migration crisis, and, of course, the hot topic of these days, Brexit,’ said the European Commissioner. She also highlighted the importance of countering disinformation and referred to Lithuania as an example in this connection, urging it to share its experience with other countries.
As to the building of a union of equal opportunities and equal obligations, the European Commissioner was convinced that we needed to also build more bridges between the West and the East in the Union. ‘We have to overcome the still existing economic and social disparities between East and West,’ stressed Mrs Jourová. She was convinced that we should have to put much more effort in creating economic opportunities by bringing more investments to the eastern part of Europe.
Gintaras Morkis, Member of the European Economic and Social Committee and Deputy Executive Director of the Lithuanian Confederation of Industrialists, noted that the achievements over the 60 years following the Treaty of Rome were enormous, but recent problems in Europe had become existential and forced the EU institutions to look for solutions.
He said that the European Commission had presented five possible future scenarios providing for action in the short term. ‘Most of the participants of the discussion on the White Paper agreed that Scenario 5 of doing much more together was a preferred option for Lithuania. This means that EU Member States should cooperate much more closely with each other in addressing not only economic and financial issues but also fulfilling common defence, security, and internal and external policy tasks. However, social and educational policies have also to receive equal attention,’ said Mr Morkis.
In the opinion of Gediminas Kirkilas, Chair of the Committee on European Affairs, even when there are different reference points, Lithuania, as an EU Member State, is mostly interested in strengthening its geopolitical security and the economic and social wellbeing of Lithuanian people. The Chair of the Committee also highlighted that strong parliamentary democracy was a prerequisite for the meaningful functioning of the current and future EU.