On January 20, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Lithuania Linas Linkevičius visited Warsaw by invitation of the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Poland.
“Poland is one of the most important strategic partners of Lithuania. We are neighbours with hundreds of years of experience as a common state, and we are NATO and EU allies. The development of the bilateral relationship with Poland is one of the core priorities of the new Government. We are ready for an open dialogue with Poland on all issues. Only through sincere and open talks we can solve the issues of bilateral concern,” noted the head of the Lithuanian diplomacy.
During the bilateral meeting with the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Poland Witold Waszczykowski the bilateral issues, security in the region, situation in Ukraine, relationship with Russia, implementation of the Eastern Partnership policy, the main issues on the EU agenda and strategic energy and transport projects were discussed.
During the meeting, Minister Linkevičius noted that Lithuania and Poland had created a solid base of bilateral institutions, which could serve as a foundation for development of the dialogue on all issues. “We must use it more efficiently, by involving all interested ministries and other governmental authorities,” stated the Lithuanian Minister of Foreign Affairs.
The discussion with the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Poland was largely focused on the security situation in the region.
“Keeping in mind the current geopolitical situation, which is difficult to predict, and Russia's aggressive behaviour, cooperation between Lithuania and Poland acquires even greater importance. Both countries are facing similar security threats, as well as common challenges, therefore active cooperation in the fields of defence and security is a natural interest of our countries. We are in the same boat, and, therefore, must stand together,” added Linkevičius.
He thanked Poland for multiple participation in the NATO Air Policing mission and leadership in the region in the security and defence areas.
The ministers emphasised the necessity to further enhance cooperation in the energy and transport fields, particularly for implementation of the joint infrastructure projects. Minister Linkevičius said: “The electricity link with Poland has significantly contributed to the abolition of isolation of Lithuania in the electricity sector. The role of Poland remains crucial for further implementation of the projects important for the entire region, such as synchronisation of the Baltic States electric systems with the continental European networks, a gas link between Lithuania and Poland and the Rail Baltica project.” He also encouraged to take common action concerning the Ostrovets nuclear power plant project in Belarus, which is implemented in a non-transparent way and without compliance with the international requirements for nuclear safety and environmental protection. “There were as many as six incidents in the past years related to implementation of this project, which raises serious concerns. This is the problem that is relevant not only to Lithuania or Poland, but to the entire region and Europe,” stated the head of the Lithuanian diplomacy.
The ministers of foreign affairs agreed that both countries should to remain the driving force of implementation of the EU Eastern Partnership initiative. “We must actively work together in order to allow this initiative to become the priority not only in our region but throughout Europe. It is our task to urge our Eastern neighbours to carry forward the reform process and support them in this field. At the same time, we need to fulfil our own obligations, such as ratification of the Association Agreement with Ukraine and granting a visa-free regime to Georgia and Ukraine,” emphasised Minister Linkevičius. The Minister also highlighted the need to maintain a unified sanctions policy against Russia until full performance of the requirements of Minsk agreements and to continue provision of support for ensuring the Ukrainian territorial cohesion and the reform process in this area.
The Ministers also exchanged views regarding policies towards national minorities. “The Lithuanian Poles, just like the representatives of other national communities, are a very important part our society and our state. In the same way as Lithuanians in Poland,” said the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Lithuania.
Linkevičius informed that Lithuania had more than 70 schools, where the teaching language was Polish. In Lithuania, citizens of Polish descent can receive education in the Polish language from the pre-school to university level, which is unique. “The situation of the Lithuanian living in Poland also requires special attention, particularly in such areas as education and support to the cultural centres and media,” stated the head of the Lithuanian diplomacy.
The Minister presented to his Polish counterpart a copy of the letter from the Lithuanian organisations in Poland addressed to the Ministry of the Interior and Administration of Poland expressing concerns about reduced financing for the Lithuanian national minority in 2017.
The ministers also discussed the possibility of retransmitting the Polish TV channels in Eastern Lithuania.
Another issue raised during the meeting concerned renewal of activity of the bilateral intergovernmental commissions in such areas as foreign and security policy, education, culture and economy.
Lithuanian Minister of Foreign Affairs also visited the Powązki military cemetery to pay tribute to the memory of the victims of the January Uprising of 1863 and the plane crash under Smolensk taking the lives of the then President Lech Kaczyński and his delegation.
Minister Linkevičius also participated in the discussion organised by the Polish Institute of International Affairs and the Embassy of Lithuania in Poland.