Lithuanians in the news
16th February, 2005
|Celebrating Lithuania’s Independence Day at New South Wales Parliament House|
Mr Viktoras Đliteris OAM and the Hon. John Aquilina MP
at NSW Parliament House during
Lithuania’s Independence Day celebration
"Today we are celebrating the 87th anniversary of the independence of the Republic of Lithuania. This past year saw many happenings in Lithuania’s history. Lithuania joined the European Union, President Rolandas Paksas was impeached and His Excellency Valdas Adamkus was re-elected for a second term as President of the Republic of Lithuania. Lithuania held elections resulting in a new coalition government being formed, led by the Labour Party. During a short time period Lithuania experienced a lot - going from one extreme to another - trying to guess which way would be right, which politician would better represent its interests. However, we are marching forward and, having acquired painful experience, we become more harmonious and more tolerant to our opponents. It also did no damage to Lithuania’s economy, which is the fastest growing economy in Europe.
I would like to take this opportunity to express a few thoughts, now that Lithuania is a member of NATO and the European Union. The ratification of the North Atlantic Treaty has deep meaning for Lithuania. Many people, who are no longer amongst us, thought and dreamt of such security guarantees. These will be important to coming generations. By becoming members of the North Atlantic Alliance, we enshrined the opportunity to preserve our independence that was restored 15 years ago. The losses of the last decades were too painful to Lithuania. The mistakes of the politicians had to be corrected by bloody rebellions and guerrilla warfare. The cost - half a million people. The Atlantic Charter, the Four Freedoms, the twelve Harry Truman points, the Declarations of Human Rights and other declarations of Justice and Freedom ask the whole world for help to implement their purposes. Therefore, more than 50 years after the establishment of NATO, Lithuania becomes a member and now, for the first time in our history, we can continue without fear the work of building our statehood (begun 80 years ago) to a successful completion.
The European Union:
I like history. They say that history never repeats itself. I hope you will permit me to share some thoughts with you from Lithuania’s past:
Seven hundred and fifty years ago, Pope Innocent IV crowned the ruler of Lithuania, King Mindaugas, giving our state equal recognition to that of other European kingdoms. In historical importance I would compare this to Lithuania again becoming an equal state within the European Union. One could say that we are being crowned for a second time. The legislators of today can learn much from the workings of the Lithuanian rulers of those days. For instance, let us open a letter written by the Grand Duke Gediminas of Lithuania in Vilnius 1323. The letter invites craftsmen and other specialists to come to Lithuania. This is what is written: "We want to give land to everybody listed herein. Let those who would like to come as farmers, work our land without paying tax. Let merchants come to our country and leave it without paying any tax, or customs duty, and do it freely, having all obstacles removed." Here we see: the acquisition of agricultural land without a transitional period, free movement of persons, goods, services and capital and free self-determination of individuals to acquire property and to freely dispose of it. It makes you think!
So much for the past. A little on Lithuania’s needs and foreign policy. Lithuania needs a strong European Union. Lithuania also needs a strong North Atlantic Alliance. Therefore, Lithuania is interested in harmonious relations between the United States and the European Union. This is a direction which Lithuanian diplomats will work with. Lithuania is interested in further broadening the boundaries of security and stability to the East, as well as promotion of democratic values there. Of particular significance to us is the democratic development of Russia. Closer cooperation between Russia and the Western World would open new possibilities for Lithuania in the region and in Europe.
Yet another interest of Lithuania is the membership of the Ukraine in the European Union and NATO. We also hope that Belarus will return to the road of democracy and link its future to the Euro-Atlantic structures. Lithuania will also seek to assist Kaliningrad in opening up to Europe and at the same time promote Russia’s openness to the Euro-Atlantic operation. I must not forget to mention the recent achievements of the President of Lithuania who, together with his counterpart from Poland, made three trips to Ukraine, acting as mediator between the two parties in the recent presidential dispute and the excellent peaceful final outcome achieved."