By Edvardas Pocius. Originally published on 2012/09/30
A bit more than three weeks left until the parliamentary elections in Lithuania (28 October). 17 political parties and a four-party coalition will compete to form future government. Lithuania once again gets a chance to renew the priorities of its foreign policy. Let’s look into the election programmes put forward by the political parties and analyse how the parties are going to change Lithuania’s foreign policy.
At first it has to be noted that on 20 September only 13 out of 18 election programmes were available publicly. The programme of the ruling political party, the Homeland Union-Lithuanian Christian Democrats (HM-LCD), is also missing. However, a monitor of the conservative division of the party, Jurgis Razma, said that the HM-LCD will continue its politics in case of an electoral victory. Other major political parties, which might form the future government, have already submitted their political programmes. Therefore, it is now possible to predict whether the outcome of the elections could lead to some evolutions in the Lithuanian foreign policy.
Continued support for EU
Most Lithuanian political parties converge on supporting the position that the EU and NATO should remain guarantors of Lithuania’s security. However, no details are given on greater integration and new security priorities (i.e. the establishment of an international military training centre). This might be a consequence of the current economic situation.
The Labour Party, the Liberal Movement and the Liberal and Centre Union promised to increase the defence expenditure and fulfil the NATO requirements, but this seems to be another attempt to pursue old goals rather than a statement of new priorities.
Regarding security matters, the Lithuanian Social Democratic Party is going to pay more attention to the EU’s Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP). The party aims to ensure that CSDP will not challenge NATO policies, an unprecedented situation that the party wants to avoid. However, it is unlikely that Lithuania would want to give more power to CSDP as the state’s goal to keep the NATO’s air police mission in Lithuania has undermined any possible priority change.
Undoubtedly, the EU remains highly important for the Lithuanian foreign policy. The future government will probably aim for a greater integration of the member states’ energy markets. Moreover, Lithuanian political parties might encourage the creation and implementation of common energy and migration policies as well as EU enlargement in the Eastern Europe.
Stronger Baltic cooperation?
Most of the political parties consider increasing bilateral cooperation with the countries in the region of the Baltic Sea. However, clear goals have only been mentioned in the context of Poland and Latvia, despite the fact that these two countries and Lithuania have kept a rather cool diplomatic relation. In this case, the problems of ethnic minorities might be solved and the implementation of cultural diplomacy would be considered important.
The Lithuanian Social Democratic Party is the only party which has pledged to reload diplomatic relation with Russia. One of the main and well-known problems in the bilateral relation is the Lithuania’s goal to receive compensation for the harm caused during the Soviet regime. Indeed, according to the Lithuanian constitutional law, a newly-elected government has to claim compensations. Therefore the reload of bilateral relation with the Russian Federation would necessitate constitutional changes.
To sum it up, it can be argued that there won’t be any major changes in the Lithuanian foreign policy after the parliamentary elections in October. Lithuania will hold the EU Presidency in the second part of 2013, the EU will stay important economically and NATO will remain the most important security guarantor. The ideas inscribed on the Lithuania 2030 strategy and the so-called Global Lithuania concept will remain relevant. Independently from the future ruling political party or coalition, the bilateral relations with Poland and Latvia will get better, as Lithuania will eventually have to ensure an efficient and stable neighbourhood. Diplomatic relations with Russia will entirely depend on the domestic legal changes and Lithuania will depend on the EU’s position on Belarus when speaking about greater cooperation with this country.
Regarding countries in other regions, Lithuania will depend either on its international partners, or other countries who are willing to cooperate. There might be a new form of relationship with China, since the Asian state sees the access into the Lithuanian market as a new way for Chinese goods to further access the bigger European market. Moreover, Chinese interest in the Baltic country can be proven by the public diplomacy currently carried out in Lithuania by China.
As an economically small country, therefore not politically influential, Lithuania has to carry on its current foreign policy. This should be good news for the state’s partners, since it shows that Lithuania is a stable country which has got mid- and long-term strategies and is ready to achieve its goals.
However, the lack of a renewed political agenda will diminish the country’s chance to show its capacity to be a leader either in the region or regarding certain policies. An alternative might be useful not only for the state’s image in the international arena, but also for the economy, since innovations attract investors and other benefits.