The Lithuanian Presidency of the Council of the European Union 2013
The prestige of chairing the Presidency of the Council of the European Union for the Lithuanian Republic has for a long time served as confirmation of the country’s commitment to and prestige of participation in the EU. On the other hand, public support for the government’s policies was rallied on the claimed prestige for the country in holding the rotating Council Presidency.
Public discussions with an underlying stress on the difficulties this would pose and poor administrative capacity demonstrated the country’s hesitation regarding its low administrative and financial potential to match the efforts of the rich and self-confident countries. The recently introduced Troika mechanism that has the intention of enabling member states to share their experiences and ensure coherence on an 18-month platform appeared to be of great value for policy planners. The organizational and administrative success of the Lithuanian chairmanship of the OSCE certainly improved public resonance concerning the impending Presidency in the country, making it much more confidently self-assured.
The programme of the Council of the European Union for the Irish, Lithuanian and Greek Presidencies was endorsed on 11 December 2012 in Brussels. The Lithuanian calendar of Presidency meetings was approved on 23 October 2012 by the Governmental Commission on EU Affairs. Plans for the Presidency foresee meetings in Brussels and Luxembourg of the European Council, the Council, COREPER I and II, the Political and Security Committee, as well as informal high-level meetings in Lithuania during the Presidency period. According to the plan, more than 3,000 meetings will be organized during the Lithuanian Presidency with 16,000 delegates participating in the meetings in Lithuania.
In accordance with the Government’s programme, the country claims that Lithuania’s preparation for and Presidency of the Council of the European Union during the second half of 2013 will remain among the top priorities of Lithuania’s foreign policy. The country claims that during its Presidency, decisions should be made for the benefit of the entire EU in the priority areas set by Lithuania. The country’s government is maintaining the closest possible dialogue with the public, social partners, non-governmental organizations, and all political parties. The country is aware of restraining factors in the EU during the Presidency including an increased workload, elections in MS and agreement on MFF and its legislative package, the Euro crisis, and deeper discussions about the future of the EU. The Government’s programme outlines the necessity of ensuring financial stability, and restoring economic and financial confidence. The country claims further progress towards the Economic and Monetary Union, combined with the Banking Union (Single Supervisory Mechanism, Single Resolution Mechanism, Deposit Guarantee Scheme), economic governance and fiscal surveillance.
On the issue of the so-called Smart Growth and Jobs, the Lithuania Presidency plans to pursue progress to create an internal energy market (see the Presidency’s Progress Report). During the course of the Presidency, a deepening of the single market with the adoption and implementation of Single Market I and II, the Service Directive, and the creation of a digital market will be seen to carry great value. Youth employment remains a priority with the sorely needed social inclusion of young people into the labour market across all of Europe absolutely necessary, together with implementation of a youth employment package. It combines the stress on social investment for growth and cohesion with the Multi-annual Financial Framework, and an effective implementation of the EU Baltic Sea Strategy. And finally, a strong focus on development driven by modern energy, transport and Internet infrastructure to connect Europe (TEN-T, TEN-Telecom, CEF Regulations, presentation of energy PCIs) is clearly demonstrated.
For many years Lithuania has claimed intensive interest in the European Eastern Partnership, despite being only partially successful in the past. The country hopes for much more successful work during its Presidency, concerning Association Agreements, including DCFTA and visa liberalization, etc., all of which are clearly discernable. To add to the success, there are also great hopes for an EaP Summit in Vilnius, not to mention further work on an efficient and integrated management of the EU’s external borders with its “entry-exit” system and Registered Traveller Programme, the enlargement process, and a better co-ordinated external energy policy.
How effective and successful will Lithuania be in showing the EU member states its negotiating skills as an honest broker in light of this enormous task? The recent internal political ramblings over minority rights projected into international affairs with Poland draws a certain reservation. How will the country’s new left Government and Ministry of Foreign Affairs manage to maintain a stable course with its difficult to predict populist Presidential institution that is prone to conflict on issues of minority rights, diversity and respect for its citizens. Especially when the Presidential elections in Lithuania are due to follow the country’s Presidency in spring 2014. It might be that the process will make it increasingly difficult to co-ordinate co-operation in the Eastern Partneship for the country that since 2008 has earned a reputation as a stubborn imposer insead of a flexible deal broker. The recent Polish initiatives together with the Czech Republic, Germany and Sweden that left Lithuania aside is a warning sign for the policy planners in Vilnius.