Seimas solemnly launches the Presidency of the Council of the European Union

04 July 2013, Last updated at, 17:29 EEST
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The solemn sitting of the Seimas on 4 July 2013 marked the launch of the Lithuanian Presidency of the Council of the European Union.

In her welcome address, President Dalia Grybauskaitė noted that the Lithuanian Presidency of the Council of the EU proves that Lithuania is a reliable EU Member State and puts it on a par with other 27 Member States. “Lithuania is taking over the Presidency at a time of continuing economic difficulties in Europe. Unemployment, especially among young people, has reached a record high in Lithuania as well as in other EU Member States. We still need to work hard towards long-term financial stability that goes along with economic growth and structural reforms,” the Head of State said. In her words, Europe should move ahead slowly but steadily and both create an internal energy market and reach agreement on the European external energy policy. “Lithuania holds the Presidency of the EU Council, but initiative and concrete action are required from EU institutions and Member States alike.”

Vydas Gedvilas, Speaker of the Seimas, emphasized in his welcome speech that throughout the second half of 2013 Lithuania will be responsible for the agenda of the European Union and will have to address all issues relevant to Europe. “The Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania has already started implementing an active and ambitious programme of the Presidency. A total of nine parliamentary dimension events, including three significant interparliamentary conferences, will be held in the premises of the Seimas. Particular focus will be given to the following priorities of the Presidency: strengthening of energy security, effective implementation of the Baltic Sea Strategy, consolidation of closer relations with the Eastern EU neighbours and strengthening of security of external EU borders,” Mr Gedvilas stressed. In his words, the Presidency of the Council of the EU offers an opportunity to show the capacities of Lithuania to deal with difficult tasks and issues as well as to raise the profile of the country.

In his welcome speech, Seán Barrett, Speaker of the House of Representatives of the Irish Oireachtas, noted that at the end of the seventh Irish EU Presidency, Ireland, which is celebrating its 40th anniversary of EU membership, feels privileged to pass the baton to a country that will preside over the Council for the first time. Mr Barrett wished every success for Lithuania at this critical time when constant leadership of the Union through legislative and policy programs will be needed.

Ene Ergma, President of the Estonian Riigikogu, pointed out that despite the successful Presidencies of Estonia’s neighbours, Finland and Sweden, the Lithuanian Presidency is more significant for Estonia in many ways. According to Ms Ergma, Partnership in the European Union has created new forms and given additional strength to the cooperation of the Baltic States. “The almost successive presidencies of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia form a kind of chain through which we can carry on important and meaningful projects,” Ms Ergma said, noting that Lithuania’s Presidency priorities are very important for the European Union and need to be taken on board here and now.

Josip Leko, President of the Parliament of Croatia, which joined the European Union on 1 July 2013, said that Europe is still one of the most desirable places to live in and the EU is one of the most prestigious political and economic associations in the world. “We always knew that we wanted a society built on the values ​​applicable in the European Union and its member countries, a society in which human rights, a free market, the rule of law and the rights of minorities are respected,” said the leader of the Croatian Parliament. He stressed that the success of his country is seen as the success of the EU Member States that have always helped Croatia.

Solvita Āboltiņa, Speaker of the Saeima of the Republic of Latvia, wished every success for the Lithuanian Presidency and noted that Lithuania’s lessons will be extremely important and its results will bring benefits to everyone in Europe and beyond.

According to Bogdan Borusewicz, Marshal of the Senate of Poland, who also made a welcome address at the sitting, Lithuania is the fourth new member of the EU to take over the Presidency after the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland. “There are no more fears as to whether the new Member States will be able to cope with the new challenges. There is no longer any division into the new and old EU countries,” he said. In Mr Borusewicz’s words, the forthcoming Presidencies of Latvia and Estonia will be evidence of extraordinary changes.

According to Othmar Karas, Vice-President of the European Parliament who spoke at the solemn sitting, the European Parliament believes that Lithuania will be a successful mediator during the Presidency and the European Parliament will see Lithuania as an equal partner in negotiations. Mr Karas notes that the European Parliament welcomes the commitment of the Lithuanian Presidency to make progress on draft legislation. “We are also convinced that the Lithuanians will certainly show a clear leadership and extensive expertise in key issues. First of all, we have no doubt that this Presidency will leave its print in the EU cooperation with Eastern Partners and more specifically in the 3rd Eastern Partnership Summit this November in Vilnius.”

Petras Auštrevičius, Deputy Speaker of the Seimas in charge of organising the events of the parliamentary dimension of the Lithuanian Presidency, noted that the parliamentary dimension of the Lithuanian Presidency of the Council is a flagship of active parliamentary activities in the Union affairs. “I am convinced that the national Parliaments of the Member States should further play an active role in European decision-making, initiating public debate and shaping the public opinion,” Mr Auštrevičius said.

The solemn meeting of the Seimas was also attended by Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevičius, other members of the Government, former heads of state, President of the Constitutional Court Kęstutis Urbaitis, Members of the Seimas, Signatories to the 11 March Act of Independence, Members of the European Parliament elected in Lithuania, heads of foreign diplomatic missions, delegation of the Committee on the Affairs of the European Union of the German Bundestag, Vice -Marshal of the Polish Sejm Eugeniusz Tomasz Grzeszczak, and other distinguished guests.


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