With Lithuania assuming the European Union presidency on Monday, what will it bring to the table? The Baltic states have been some of the most democratic and prosperous market economies in Europe since their independence from the Soviet Union. There is a very strong indication that with Lithuania at the helm of the EU it will try to bring the East closer to the West. The EU will now hope to capitalize on Lithuania’s historic ties with eastern neighbors to clinch a landmark association and free trade accord with Ukraine and finalize talks on similar deals with Armenia, Georgia and Moldova. This will very likely anger Russian politicians as they will view this as a threat to their sphere of influence. Things are very tense right now with the global uprisings preoccupying the interests of many world powers. The last time the West attempted to expand its influence this far into the East was when the United States urged Latvia and Estonia to join NATO. Just as then, Russia will be the first to oppose such proposals. But that won’t stop the Lithuanian president from inviting Ukraine, Georgia, Armenia, and Belarus to a summit of the so-called Eastern Partnership in Vilnius at the end of November.
here are many things that will fall on the shoulders of the Lithuanian EU president , Dalia Grybauskaite. Grybauskaite estimates that around 85% of the agenda for this presidency was inherited from the past, referring especially to the financial crisis and the extension of the banking union. Additionally, around 70 different laws have to be introduced for the EU budget from 2014 to 2020— no small task for a leader from a country comprised of only 3 million people. Most important for Grybauskaite will be her ability to promote Lithuania to the rest of the European Union and its non-member neighbors. Speaking about the benefits of the presidency, Dalia Grybauskaite said, “It would open up invaluable opportunities for Lithuania. After nine years of EU membership we can test our capacities and demonstrate that we are not only good members of the European family, but also excellent neighbors.” Presidency also means enhancing the country's visibility and awareness, therefore the presidency will contribute to promoting the name of the country and will bring economic benefits.
Although it has not yet become a eurozone member, Lithuania has been more successful economically than many other EU countries during the eurozone crisis. “Lithuania is a fresh breeze, an innovative and vital voice in the EU family,” the country’s minister of foreign affairs Linas Linkevicius recently stated. The austerity measures being pursued in the rest of the EU clearly haven’t been producing the results that elites were anticipating so maybe a change in leadership can bring about a new course. The Baltic States have the track record of successful economic plans, but it remains to be seen whether Lithuania be able to translate this into a scale fit for a continent inhabited by approximately 503 million people. It will be a difficult agenda for the Lithuanian president to oversee, but I think that Lithuania at the helm of the EU will bring a breath of fresh air and innovation to a system that has been struggling since the economic crisis of 2008.