Lithuanian Presidency of the Council of the EU: 33 facts that everyone should know

24 October 2014, Last updated at, 14:03 EEST
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author: BFL

On Monday, Lithuania starts its Presidency of the Council of the EU, and the country undertakes the responsible task for the very first time after the EU entry. These historic 6 months of the Presidency in Lithuania and abroad will see numerous events related to the Presidency, as Lithuania becomes the focus of attention for international politicians and officials.

Who constitutes the team of the Lithuanian Presidency of the Council of the European Union (EU)? What goals do we seek over the next 6 months? What are the key events to be held in Lithuania and abroad? Here we have 34 of the most interesting facts related to the national Presidency.

184. The period in days (1 July to 31 December) that Lithuania will preside the decision–making process in the EU.
The first. Lithuania will be the first Baltic State to hold the Presidnecy of the Council of the EU. Latvia will take over in 2015 and Estonia in 2018.

Trio. We are taking over the Presidency from Ireland and will hand it over to Greece. These three Member States form the Presidency Trio, with the objective to ensure continuity in implementing the joint 18 months Presidency programme. Lithuania welcomes the successful Irish Presidency.

Expanded family. 1 July marks an important day not only for Lithuania but for Croatia as well. Today is the day when Croatia officially becomes a new EU Member State, thus expanding the community to 28 Member States. Croatia, welcome to the team!

Start. Croatia on the occasion of joining the EU will also be welcomed by the President Dalia Grybauskaitė. The President will attend festivities on the occasion of Croatian membership in the community on 1 July in Zagreb, together with other EU leaders. On the occasion of the start of the Presidency, today at 9.00 a ceremony of flags hoisting will be held by the Government, with  the attendance of the Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevičius, members of the Cabinet, foreign ambassadors and other guests. In Brussels at 11.00 a press conference will be held, where the permanent Irish representative to the EU will hand over the Presidency to Raimundas Karoblis, Lithuanian permanent representative to the EU.

Duty. The key task of each Presidency includes not only representing its own interests, but also that of a fair intermediary. Each Presidency must seek the agreement of all EU Member States and the EU institutions regarding EU legislation and joint activities. This is also what determines the success of the Presidency.

Benefit. The Presidency is a real opportunity to demonstrate that we can run the development of EU rules as well as any other EU Member State. This is also an occasion to strengthen our position in the EU, present our country and its achievements, and for every Lithuanian citizen to learn more about the EU processes, to raise and deal with the relevant issues, and to feel like true citizens of Europe. This is also an excellent opportunity for businesses to present their products and services.

Priorities. The Lithuanian Presidency of the Council of the EU will focus on the three goals of credible, growing and open Europe. The Presidency’s efforts will be directed at further strengthening the ground for financial stability, continuing work to establish the banking union and implementing new agreed rules on economic governance. Further integration of the single market, including energy, the focus on digital agenda and measures for better employment opportunities, in particular for youth, will make the European economic and social model more solid. Lithuania will promote closer integration of the EU and its Eastern Partners, the continuation of the enlargement policy, free trade with strategic partners and effective management of the EU external borders.

Agenda.  Lithuania expects an extensive and complex agenda. The workload will be even greater than usual as we are presiding at the end of an EU institutional cycle, where the European Parliament and European Commission will seek to complete work started before the 2014 election. In terms of the EU Presidency, Lithuania will have to “manage” some 560 issues on the EU agenda, and seek compromises acceptable to all. Besides the regular EU legislative agenda, there will be another only seven-yearly task for the Presidency, related to the several dozens of EU legislation on the implementation of the EU multiannual budget (2014–2020). Lithuania will also need to reach agreement regarding the annual EU 2014 budget.

Budget. In the period of 2012 to 2014, the State budget has allocated LTL 214 million to the Lithuanian Presidency of the Council of the EU. The budget of the Lithuanian Presidency is one of the smallest, and similar to that of the Irish, Cyprian and Slovenian Presidencies, thus raking among the most cost efficient.

Guests. It is expected that during the Lithuanian Presidency of the Council of the EU some 30 thousand guests will visit the country.

Sponsors. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has signed sponsorship agreements with 15 companies. The total support of all companies exceeds LTL 2 million. The guests will be transported by 180 BMW cars allocated for the period of 6 months of the Presidency by “Krasta Auto”. “Orlen Lietuva” will provide the fuel. “Birštono Mineraliniai Vandenys ir Ko” has provided 100,000 litres of “Akvilė” and “Vytautas” mineral water for the Presidency’s needs. “Baltic Data Center” will provide data storage and back-up copy services. “DHL Lietuva” will take care of the delivery of gifts of the representation. Other sponsors will offer various support to the Presidency.

Presidency team. The Presidency team includes over 1,500 civil servants in some 80 institutions. This includes 239 of them as chairmen (160 in the capital city, 73 in the permanent representation of Lithuania to the EU, six in Lithuanian missions / representations at international organisations), and some 270 as deputy chairmen of working groups. Another approximately 1,000 people will carry out other Presidency-related functions (acting as experts and coordinators).

Volunteers. Some 100 volunteers will assist the Presidency in running Presidency events, meeting arriving guests at the airport, and ensuring the smooth flow of events at the conference centres. Volunteers are mostly young people 16 to 35 years of age.

Liaison officers. 80 liaison officers will accompany heads of foreign delegations and will offer full support related to attending meetings in Lithuania. The recruitment of liaison officers is a regular practise of Presidencies of the Council of the EU.

Events. The six months of the Lithuanian Presidency of the Council of the EU in Lithuania will include over 200 events, over 20 of which are categorized as summits, over 160 expert-level meetings, 12 Parliament events, and over 70 meetings run by social partners.

Venues. The top level meetings involving Ministers, Heads of States and top EU officials will take place in three venues, i. e. the National Gallery of Art, the Litexpo Exhibition and Congress Centre, and the Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania. It was decided to hold the meetings in Vilnius due to the experience related to the previous Presidencies and in order to save funds.

Cities and towns. Expert-level meetings, involving the Heads of Agencies and Departments of EU Member States as well as senior officers will take place in Vilnius, and  other cities across Lithuania, including Kaunas, Klaipėda, Druskininkai and Trakai. Meetings of social partners run by representative of non-governmental and public organisations, and the research, business and cultural sectors will also take place in Marijampolė, Alytus and Anupriškės.

Brussels and Luxembourg. These are the places where Lithuania will hold more than 1,500 meetings over the period of 6 months: including meetings of the Council, committees of the permanent representatives, working groups, etc. The meetings will be chaired by the Lithuania Ministers, the Lithuanian permanent representative to the EU and his deputy, special attachés, and experts of public authorities, etc.

Opening event. The start of the Lithuanian Presidency of the Council of the EU will be marked by an opening event scheduled on 5 July in the Grand Courtyard of Vilnius University. Jose Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission, and members of the European Commission, Herman van Rompuy, President of the European Council, President Dalia Grybauskaitė, members of the Lithuanian Parliament and the Government, foreign ambassadors, Lithuanian members of the European Parliament, and other distinguished guests are expected to participate.

The Night of Culture. The festival marking the opening of the Lithuanian Presidency will move from the Courtyard of Vilnius University to the streets of the city. This is where the festival of the Night of Culture will take place on the night of 5 to 6 July. The festival will invite Vilnius residents and guests to attend 167 events, including artistic installations, music concerts, exhibitions, performances, and a wide range of other projects by Lithuanian and international artists.

Meeting of the Heads of State of the EU and Eastern Partnership (28–29 November). This is a key event to be held during the Lithuanian Presidency. It expects to see both the EU leaders and the Heads of State of the Eastern Partnership. In the meeting, is expected that the association agreement with Ukraine will be signed, and other important issues on cooperation between the EU and the Eastern Partnership countries will be solved.

ICT 2013. The conference on information and communication technologies as well as exhibition will be held along with the European Commission, and will take place in Vilnius on 6–8 November. Top information technology scientists, company representatives and strategy makers of digital technologies will discuss issues regarding the policy of European information and communication technology. This will be the largest event during the Lithuanian Presidency, expecting up to 4,000 guests.

High-level Energy conference (4–5 November). The conference will largely discuss the objective set by the European Council on 4 February 2011, i. e. to complete the implementation of the EU internal energy market by 2014. The conference has invited Ministers of EU Member States and candidate countries, as well as Ministers of the countries of the Energy Community, officials of the European Commission, and other high-level representatives.

Forum of the EU strategy for the Baltic Sea Region (11–12 November). Key topics of the event include environmental protection, growth and job creation. The forum will seek to discover the integrity of the Baltic Sea region strategy, consequently, the strategy, its objectives and benefits will be discussed in various aspects (including environmental protection, energy, social policy, communication and agriculture) and various levels (including regional, national and local self-government).

Event closing the Year of Citizens (13 December). 2013 is the European Year of Citizens. As Ireland took over the Presidency of the EU Council in early January, an event opening the European Year of Citizens was held in Dublin. It is expected that the closing event of the Year of Citizens in Vilnius will attract up to 300 participants from various European non-governmental organisations. The event will also include an international conference with the guest speaker Viviane Reding, Vice-President of the European Commission.

Cultural programme abroad. The second semester of 2013 will involve Lithuanian diplomatic representative offices across the five continents to present Lithuanian culture and art; also the exhibitions specifically designed for the Lithuanian Presidency will introduce to the national photography, cinema, architectural and natural monuments. Over 150 cultural events will take place in Europe and around the world, including 68 concerts, 42 exhibitions, 4 performances and 17 cinema presentations. For example today, an interactive exhibition on UNESCO heritage, “Lithuania in the mail parcel”, opens in the NATO capital, Brussels.  

History Book. Book of Lithuanian History by professor and ambassador Alfonsas Eidintas, professors Alfredas Bumblauskas and Antanas Kulakauskas, and doctor of history Mindaugas Tamošaitis has been published in six languages, including English, German, French, Polish, Russian and Spanish. The book will be presented as a gift to foreign diplomats, politicians, civil servants; at the moment, everyone with an interest in history can download the book for free on the the internet.

Logo. The Lithuanian logo symbolises a united EU, with Member States both willing and able to cooperate, fostering common European values and able to tackle any challenge. The colours of the logo are a reminder of Lithuanian connections to the Baltic Sea and north European region, while the blue band in the European Union flag is a symbol of shared values and work. The circle of the logo is connected by a garland of yellow, green and red – the colours of the Lithuanian national flag. This connection demonstrates that in the second semester of 2013, the responsibility for holding the Presidency of the Council of the EU is entrusted to Lithuania. Based on the idea of Simona Mykolaitytė, selected by visitors to the DELFI news portal, the logo was developed by graphic designer Kotryna Zilinskienė.

Gifts. The ministers and other top-level officials will receive works of arts by Lithuanian graphic authors or special 50 litas silver coins issued on the occasion by the Bank of Lithuania. Members of lower level delegations will find gift basket with three small yet practical gifts, including a reflector, a universal mobile phone charger and a small box of cheese with a black plum flavour (during the warm season) or warm mittens (in the late autumn and winter). All guests and journalists will receive sets of stationery, including notebooks and pens. Lithuania as every other Presiding countries will also present a traditional protocol Presidency gift to key persons of the Presidency, a tie for the gentlemen and a scarf for the ladies.

Postage stamp. On the occasion of the Lithuanian Presidency of the Council of the EU, Lietuvos Paštas has issued a new postage stamp. The background displays the flag of the European Union, and in the centre there are the flags of the Member States. The special postage stamp for the Presidency was designed by artist Indrė Ratkevičiūtė. The postage stamp will be issued in 80,000 copies with a nominal value of LTL 2.45.

Postcards. Lietuvos Paštas on the occasion of the Lithuanian Presidency of the Council of the EU has also published special postcards. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs together with the news portal DELFI organised competition of photography called “Greetings from Lithuania”. 650 submissions were received, and visitors of the DELFI portal selected the five most popular pictures. These pictures decorate the postcards that guests of the official events can send back home postage-free.

Social networks. The message of the Lithuanian Presidency of the Council of the EU will also be made widely available on the Internet for the next 6 months. The latest news, information about the Presidency events, pictures and videos will be available on the official website, as well as on the official Presidency accounts on Twitter and Facebook social networks. Twitter account @EU2013LT (also known as “Vilnius account”) will be used to report Presidency-related news, live stream from events in Vilnius and generally keep its followers up to date with Presidency material coming from Lithuania. At the same time @EU2013LTpress (also known as “Brussels account”) will do the similar activity with news and events coming from Brussels. Both accounts will tweet mostly in English language. In addition to this, Lithuanian Presidency has a special Facebook account “ES Pirmininkavimas”, dedicated to spread less formal news and engage wider Lithuanian audience in the Presidency and European issues not only by posting fresh news, but also organizing quizzes, posting galleries of pictures and much more.

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