Good relations with neighbours have always been one of the most important goals in foreign policy, as publicly declared by Lithuania. It seems, however, that in 2012 these relations will also be, like never before, the greatest diplomatic challenge for our country. Of course, everybody’s eyes are primarily turning towards the relations with Poland – in fact, they have greatly worsened much earlier, Marius Laurinavičius wrote in lrytas.lt.
It was at the end of 2011 that the odd war of rhetoric turned into the specific actions reflecting the deteriorating relations – Poland announced that it was withdrawing from the project of a new nuclear power plant construction in Lithuania.
Thus, the emotional background of the relations between the neighbours overflowed for the first time, destroying that particular instance of co-operation – cooperation that both countries have recently called not only strategic, but also essential for them in the energy sector.
Actually, Vilnius politicians and diplomats are trying to demonstrate that they do not care about the decision of Warsaw: purportedly, the nuclear power plant will still be built without the Poles, so it is not worth paying attention to the partner’s ‘whims’.
Mr Ažubalis, the Lithuanian Minister of Foreign Affairs, was even more straightforward. When recently speaking about the relations with Poland, he proudly stated that “we do not need an elder brother”. He also noted that this position was “placid and decorous”.
It is strange… During his last year’s chairmanship at the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), Mr Ažubalis must really have learnt as to what was considered a “placid and decorous” position in diplomatic terms.
It is neither diplomatic nor decorous to throw around figurative epithets, especially if they can appear insulting to somebody.
On the contrary, what the Conservative Party member should have learnt during his chairmanship at the OSCE is that if there is even the slightest tension between the countries, it should not be enhanced by careless statements.
It can even be said that, during the chairmanship at the OSCE, Lithuania and its Foreign Minister did rather well in performing a difficult role of a conflict suppressor.
Why is it that Mr Ažubalis is acting oppositely when this experience needs to be applied in solving Lithuania’s relations with its neighbours?
Is it only because he is certain that his voters would like such statements better, even if they further frustrate Warsaw? Is it what the Lithuanian Minister of Foreign Affairs is thinking about in this election year?
Mr Ažubalis would probably retort that there are even more figurative and no less insulting words coming from Warsaw.
Admittedly, the Minister would be right. The top officers in Poland – particularly, Mr Ažubalis’ colleague Mr Sikorsky, the Minister of Foreign Affairs – are also known for their picturesque statements and often transgressing pressure upon Lithuania.
Except that, does Lithuania really need to follow a bad example? The answer would be obvious merely upon recalling the perpetually declared goal of maintaining good relations with its neighbours.
It is arguable as to how Lithuania could improve its relations with Poland, and whether it is at all possible in the current state of affairs.
However, there are not any steadier initiatives to change the situation, and the willingness to continue the war of rhetoric is evident – just that no one could probably pinpoint the benefit of all this to Lithuania.
What is even worse is that the relations with Poland are not an exception. Communication with Latvia might take a similar path.
Suddenly, Riga expressed doubt regarding the synchronisation of the electric energy system with the West. This messes up the plans of Vilnius. The Latvian stance on participating in the new nuclear power plant project has also become ambiguous.
The Lithuanian politicians and diplomats are sure that “it is just blackmail”. Professedly, this is how Riga is demonstrating its dissatisfaction with the reluctance of Vilnius to support the idea of building a regional liquefied gas terminal in Latvia.
Are Lithuania’s partners to blame again? Thus, one should not be surprised if a war of words, similar to that with Poland, would also begin with Latvia.
After all, the electors must be shown that the “Lithuanian government would never succumb to pressure” – especially, when there is a visible lack of rational proposals and ideas for solving the problems.
In such a context, it is certainly worth recalling the words that the Estonian President T.H. Ilves said during the interview for Lietuvos Rytas: “We sometimes ask: where does the solidarity of the Baltic states lie?” “I think that the solidarity can be, and even has to be, measured in millions or even billions of euro invested by the countries in the joint projects.”
“I hope that the Baltic states have already grown up, and that they can communicate on a serious basis. Full-rate cooperation requires investment. Without investment, only words remain.”
Could we possibly hear the same from the Lithuanian leaders and diplomats with regard to the relations with the other Baltic states and Poland?
Actually, Lithuania should be looking towards Estonia also due to its relations with Russia.
Tallinn is not fighting the wars of words with Moscow, but it is equally trying to struggle free from dependence on its big neighbour regarding the energy sector. Estonia is preparing to build a liquefied gas terminal, and it is going to dissolve Eesti Gas.
At the same time, however, the Estonians managed to negotiate for their country a gas price that is 15 per cent lower than that for Lithuania. Is this not an inspiring example?