EU must embrace new members for strength, says Lithuanian President
Lithuanian President Gitanas Nausėda urged the European Union to continue supporting Ukraine and to keep its doors open to Moldova, Georgia, and Ukraine, stating that the fight in Ukraine is not just for Ukrainians, but for freedom.
In a series of speeches by EU leaders to European lawmakers in Strasbourg, he emphasized that the most effective way to expand the space for peace, stability, and prosperity in Europe has been and will continue to be the further enlargement of the EU. Nausėda added that such things could not be taken for granted anymore and that embracing new members would make the EU stronger.
Last year, Ukraine and Moldova were allowed candidate status, which the Lithuanian president welcomed. He claimed that the next target of Russian President Vladimir Putin would be the Baltic countries and Poland, and possibly Romania.
Nausėda highlighted Lithuania’s massive public support for Ukraine, stating that his country donates almost 1.5 percent of its GDP to Ukraine. He also spoke about Lithuania raising €6m to buy a combat drone last May and €14m for tactical radars in February.
Nausėda stated that the European Parliament was the first international institution that stood by the Baltic states, condemning the Soviet occupation of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania in 1983.
Lithuania was occupied by the Soviet Union for much of the second half of the 20th century, and it became the first Soviet-occupied state to declare the restitution of independence in 1990. It took another three years for the Soviet army to completely leave the country of almost three million people.
The Lithuanian president argued that while the world “rejoiced” overcoming the Nazi regime, it overlooked the crimes of the Soviet totalitarian regime. He also pointed out that these crimes went unpunished and allowed the Soviet Union and later Russia to glorify perpetrators of war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and other crimes against humanity. Nausėda believes that the “distorted memory of the Second World War was instrumentalised in Russia and beyond to justify the atrocities committed today.” He called for sanctions against Russia to be strengthened and those responsible for the crimes of aggression against Ukraine to be held accountable.
Nausėda believes that it is deeply distressing that unspeakable terror has returned to Europe and that unexposed evil kept in silence year after year not only poses a constant threat to fundamental European values but also prevents the Russian people from confronting their own past. The Lithuanian president stated that those responsible for crimes of aggression need to be held accountable and is one of the EU countries supporting the setting up of a special international tribunal to investigate these crimes.
Prosecuting the crime of aggression means going after the top military and political leadership. However, any court able to do that needs broad international support. So far, no EU consensus has emerged on what type of tribunal to back on the international stage. Nevertheless, the Lithuanian president has voiced his opinion that justice and accountability must be served for the sake of humanity.
Support for Ukraine
The Lithuanian president’s call for support of Ukraine comes amid tensions between Ukraine and Russia, with Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014, support for separatists in eastern Ukraine, and an ongoing conflict that has claimed thousands of lives. The EU has been a strong supporter of Ukraine, offering financial aid, political support, and visa-free travel for Ukrainian citizens.
However, the EU has also faced criticism for its slow response to the conflict, and some member states have been accused of not doing enough to support Ukraine. In particular, Germany has been criticized for its close ties with Russia and its support for the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, which critics argue will increase Europe’s dependence on Russian gas.
Nausėda argued that the world should not allow history to repeat itself, calling for a more effective European security and defence policy to protect the continent from potential threats.
In addition to his calls for the EU to continue supporting Ukraine and keep its doors open to Moldova, Georgia and Ukraine, Nausėda also spoke about the importance of strengthening the EU’s relationship with the United States.
“We need the United States as a partner for a better, more stable world,” he said, adding that “it is time to restore the strong transatlantic bond”.
He emphasized the importance of working together to address global challenges such as climate change, cybersecurity, and the COVID-19 pandemic, saying that “we need to act together, as global problems require global solutions”.
Nausėda’s speech was well-received by MEPs, with many expressing support for his calls to strengthen the EU’s relationship with its Eastern partners and to take a more proactive approach to addressing security threats.
Some MEPs also called for more concrete actions to support Ukraine and other Eastern partners, such as providing more financial and technical assistance, and increasing pressure on Russia to respect international law.
Nausėda’s speech comes amid growing tensions between Russia and Ukraine, and concerns about Russia’s increasingly aggressive behavior towards its neighbors.
In recent years, Russia has annexed Crimea, supported separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine, and been accused of involvement in a series of cyberattacks and disinformation campaigns aimed at destabilizing Western democracies.
The EU and its member states have responded with a range of measures, including economic sanctions, diplomatic pressure, and support for Ukraine and other Eastern partners.
However, many policymakers and analysts argue that more needs to be done to address the root causes of the conflict and to prevent further escalation.
Renew focus on diplomacy
In his speech, Nausėda called for a renewed focus on diplomacy and dialogue, saying that “we need to engage with Russia, even if it is difficult”.
He also emphasized the importance of maintaining a united front within the EU, saying that “we must not allow ourselves to be divided by our different interests and priorities”.
Overall, Nausėda’s speech highlighted the challenges facing the EU and its Eastern partners, but also the opportunities for greater cooperation and partnership.
As the EU looks to the future, it will need to continue to work closely with its partners in the East, while also addressing the broader global challenges that affect us all.