16 February 2003
Distinguished Heads of Diplomatic Missions,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a pleasure to welcome you at our traditional meeting here, in Vilnius. It is gratifying that you have joined us on this very special day for the Republic of Lithuania. Your countries have substantially contributed to building the State of Lithuania, and we are committed to maintain this spirit of solidarity.
The power of solidarity was especially evident last year. The decisions on the enlargement of NATO and the European Union have opened a new page in the history of Europe and, possibly, in the history of the whole world. The area of security and stability has markedly expanded in all directions, eliminating the gaps that had emerged after each revolutionary historic transformation. Now, it is crucial to keep up the momentum of this process.
This task is especially important today, when new lines replace the ideological divide that existed during the cold war. These lines emerge not on maps but rather in our minds and in our values. The divide between freedom and fear, law and terror, co-operation and non-compliance with international law has become clear in recent years as never before. And we can eliminate it only by expanding security, stability and co-operation.
In this context, enlargement of NATO and the European Union is a long awaited and a truly historic step. In Prague and in Copenhagen, Central and Eastern Europe was invited to join the other nations building a new modern world, based on integration and, most importantly, on common values. We hope that our countries will join successfully this process and will enrich it with new cultural and social dimensions.
Enlargement was and will be the engine of transformations in Europe and a source of its new strengths. The European Union has set for itself a goal of becoming an independent and influential power of the world, and we fully support the direction that it has taken. This qualitative leap the European Union can achieve only through deeper integration and elimination of obstacles to co-operation.
And one of the major obstacles on this way is the existing social and economic disparity between the current EU 15 and its future new members. True, enlargement has already brought benefits to Central and Eastern Europe: trade turnover more than doubled and economic development accelerated. In Lithuania alone, economy grew by almost 6 per cent last year. However, the results achieved are not yet sufficient for each citizen to feel a tangible improvement in his or her daily life.
It is no secret that we need extremely large investment in order to catch up with the rest of Europe. Lithuania and the other countries of the region strive for social and political cohesion that can be ensured by increasing structural support and by strengthening the Community institutions.
The future border areas of the EU need a new modern road and railway infrastructure, and a broader variety of services. Also, the existing network of regional ties in the Union should be preserved and further expanded. These are the tasks that the present and the future EU member states will have to address together. On the other hand, Lithuania and the other new members are aware of their huge responsibility for building a united, prospering Europe.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Europe that was mapped out in the decisions taken in Prague and in Copenhagen is still an unfinished business, and I believe this fact should not escape our attention. The security, wellbeing and international weight of Europe will depend to a large extent on the success of its co-operation with immediate neighbours and regions. This is a well-tested road, and the corner stone of the present and the future of Europe.
Today co-operation between Europe and America has an enormous influence on global development. This co-operation should be continued and strengthened as we work to ensure security in the world, fight against terrorism and solve the problem of disarmament of regimes that pose a threat to global security.
The nations in our region who had directly experienced captivity and oppression in the 20th century, know only too well that dictators must not be tolerated. On numerous occasions I expressed my support for all possible peaceful remedies. But we should not immerse into disputes and corroboration to prove that Iraq regime is hiding weapons of mass destruction. We all know that Saddam Hussein possessed these weapons and it is he who has to prove that they were destroyed. This taxing of the patience of the global community that we witness until now may bring us to the limit, which, if overstepped, will make peaceful resolution of the conflict impossible. I am convinced that the United States and Europe must and will find an acceptable solution. Lithuania, just like the other future members of the EU and NATO, stands ready to contribute to international efforts. Also, we will work further to strengthen the transatlantic link, so that it would become a fundamental value of not only the 20th but also of the 21st century.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
As I have emphasised on a number of occasions, good neighbour relations is one of the key priorities of Lithuania’s foreign policy. I am convinced that our experience in this area may bring benefits not only to our region but also to a uniting Europe. Lithuania took an active part in consultations and talks with the European Union and with Russia on Kaliningrad. This recent experience has shown that even the most complicated problems can be solved if we are guided by solidarity, seek to accommodate different interests and are committed to good neighbour relations. Lithuania is ready to substantially contribute in the future to the EU-Russia co-operation in all areas. As I have said on numerous occasions, Lithuania will continue to support the aspirations of Ukraine to join European structures.
The EU and NATO cannot forget their “new neighbours.” For many centuries these nations had been cut off from their roots, which form a part of the common European heritage. Their efforts to re-integrate into the European family should be extended every support. To achieve this, Lithuania intends to exploit in every possible way the existing bilateral contacts and regional co-operation structures. The initiative of Polish President Alexander Kwasniewski designed to strengthen co-operation between the Visegrad Group and the Vilnius 10 offers us new possibilities in this area.
Lithuania already contributes to the efforts of the Euro-Atlantic community to strengthen peace and co-operation in the Balkans, the Caucasus and in Central Asia. I am convinced that a stronger Lithuania and a stronger Europe will further expand contacts with countries in other continents and regions of the world.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Recent presidential and municipal elections in Lithuania have repeatedly testified to the maturity of democracy in our country. Lithuania advances along the road which it had chosen more than a decade ago and which leads to freedom, democracy, market economy and civic society. I am certain that Lithuania will successfully consolidate its place in the European and Euro-Atlantic structures. Likewise, I believe that our regional co-operation will grow and expand vigorously in the future. And I want to emphasize that after I complete my term as the President of the Republic of Lithuania, I am committed to participate actively in international affairs and to consolidate further the achievements accomplished during these five years of my office.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It was a great pleasure to work with you during these five years and I want to thank you all for co-operation. I have witnessed during this period how Lithuania has got stronger and has become an active player in international co-operation, and how the horizons of all of us have expanded. And each and every one of you has substantially contributed to this.
I take this opportunity to rejoice at intensive co-operation and personal contacts with the heads of the countries that you represent; at meetings that I had with your artists, businessmen and young people. Each of these steps and encounters, I hope, has increased our mutual understanding, brought Lithuania closer to other states and helped us set out the guidelines for future co-operation.
I would like to invite you to further maintain an active interest in Lithuania and to assist our leadership and our people in their strive for closer international co-operation. Our goal is a united Europe in a peaceful world. And I believe that your countries are also committed to this goal.
H.E. Mr. Valdas Adamkus, President of the Republic of Lithuania