Lithuania in the News
1st December 2013
World Focus on Lithuania – the EU Eastern Partnership Summit Brings a Vast Gathering of European Leaders to Vilnius
Eastern Partnership Summit logo. Courtesy
Probably the most significant and politically important event during Lithuania’s Presidency of the Council of the European Union (EU) has been the EU Eastern Partnership Summit in Vilnius November 28-29, 2013. World’s attention was focused on Vilnius for this event, as the outcomes of the Summit were expected to have potentially enormous significance for Europe and the world for years to come.
The Summit brought together near 40 European key leaders – Heads of State or Government of all the 28 EU member states, as well as the Eastern Partnership countries of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine. Other important leaders who came to the Summit were the Presidents of the European Council, the European Commission, the European Parliament and the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs & Security Policy. Among the delegates also were numerous Foreign Ministers, EU Commissioners, various experts, academics, business leaders, and leaders of non-government organisations.
45 delegations had registered for the Summit, with some 800 journalists seeking accreditation. Over 1,500 delegates and journalists were in Vilnius for the Summit. Such a huge gathering of European leaders is a rare event anywhere; it shows the importance that was attached to this meeting. It was a vast undertaking for Lithuania, requiring much preparation, but in the end it brought much praise to Lithuania, including congratulations from the US Secretary of State John Kerry, who himself was in Vilnius not that long ago.
Ukrainian opposition leaders hold a press conference in Vilnius.
Photo courtesy
The political stakes were high. On the table were association agreements for Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova to sign with the EU. Georgia and Moldova had committed themselves to the signing, but on top of the agenda remained the question of whether Ukraine, the most important of the Eastern Partnership countries, would also sign the association agreement. This agreement was to set Ukraine on the path to an eventual EU membership and would have been a historic break with Russian influence.
Wanting to keep Ukraine, as well as Georgia and Moldova, within its sphere of influence, Russia exerted enormous pressure to stop them from signing the association agreements. Lithuania, as host for the EU Summit, also experienced strong Russian pressure, with boycotts of Lithuanian dairy products and artificial heavy customs inspections at the Russian border. These Russian pressure tactics received wide condemnation in Europe and beyond.
Ukraine seemed to be preparing to sign the association agreement, but Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich wilted under Russian pressure and unexpectedly at the last moment changed his mind about signing. In the end only Georgia and Moldova signed. Ukraine, in spite of not signing up, nevertheless still maintained that it is committed to sign in the future. A number of other agreements were also signed among the EU and the various Eastern Partnership countries.
Ukraine government’s last minute policy change caused tremendous disappointment and anger among the people of Ukraine. It caused massive protest meetings in Ukraine, still continuing, with the three major Ukrainian opposition leaders coming to Vilnius to demand that Ukraine’s President sign up. Other Ukrainians in Vilnius organised a protest action against President Yanukovich’s buckling under pressure.

Further information: 27-30/11/13