Dear ladies and gentlemen,
It is a great honour for me to address this Congress, which has gathered outstanding politicians, clergymen and academicians. Here, the old and the new members of the European Union on equal terms discuss the future of the European Union.
“Die Einheit Europas war ein Traum weniger. Sie wurde eine Hoffnung für viele. Sie ist heute eine Notwendigkeit für alle.” (The European unity was almost an unreachable dream. It was also a hope for many. Today it has become a need for all.)
These are the words of Chancellor Konrad Adenauer who precisely characterised the nature of the European integration.
Europe has travelled a long road to unification. From the 19th century Frankfurt Paulkirche, where the constitutional foundation for federalism and democracy in Germany was laid down, we have arrived to the signing of the Accession Treaty to the European Union in Athens this April.
We have to discuss many questions. Soon Europe will be larger, more culturally and economically diverse. We also have to project new members’ contribution to the Union’s development and the Common Foreign and Security Policy. Finally, we have to address the issue of the EU relations with its new yet old neighbours in the East.
I will share with you some of my thoughts on these points.
The Convention produced the draft Constitutional Treaty for Europe. Thanks to the President Giscard d’Estaing we now have a tangible vision for the future of Europe based on broad political agreement.
In terms of time, the Convention was just a short period in the European development. But in political terms, it has dispelled the fears of sceptics that the EU of twenty five will fail to reach compromise acceptable to all. Because of this, I am optimistic about reaching agreement at the Intergovernmental Conference.
Taking in ten new members in 2004, will mark a new stage in the political development of the European Union.
Yet, it poses a question: Will an enlarged Europe be able to reach agreement between its members that are in a different stage of economic and political development?
I personally do not doubt the ability of the Union to take wise decisions quickly. But for the well-being of our citizens enormous efforts are needed.
The first and the greatest challenge of the IGC is the agreement on the EU institutional system. Without solving it, the EU of twenty-five cannot expect to have strong leadership and agreement between all its members.
To quote Johan Wolfgang Goethe: “Die Demokratie rennt nicht, aber sie kommt sicherer zum Ziel.” (Democracy does not hasten, but it definitely reaches its goal.)
Finding a proper balance between the equality of member states and effectiveness in an enlarged Union is yet another challenge ahead of us. The equal rights and possibilities for all member states are preconditions to reach equality between the large and the small, the rich and less prosperous member states.
To implement the European Constitutional Treaty we need not only to agree on its text but also to make it a viable document that embodies a Europe of citizens.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The iron curtain that divided Europe for fifty years did not allow Lithuania and the other Baltic and Central European nations to join earlier the process of European unification. Those who lived in the eastern part of Germany (behind the notorious Berlin wall) would understand us better than anyone else. Therefore, today we embrace the opportunities that were outside our reach in the past with double zeal.
We already have a clear vision of Lithuania as an effective and responsible member, acting in unity with the other nations of the European family. Ensuring external and internal security of our state and economic prosperity of our citizens are the two underlying guidelines for our life in the Union.
Membership in the European Union will equip us with new powerful tools for the promotion and realisation of our national interests. And we have to apply them rationally in dealing with challenges that an enlarged Union will face in the future.
The end of the Cold War brought the fall of the Berlin wall and the dividing line between us disappeared, but it has uncovered the differences in economic development and living standards. This is a serious challenge and it causes our concern.
This gap cannot be closed overnight or covered by declarations. It is a reality of our present life, with which, however, we should not put up.
That is why our immediate task is to reduce differences in economic development in European countries. The sooner new members catch up with the present EU fifteen, the more competitive and stronger Europe will be. On the other hand, prospering Germany and the Hessian land would make any Lithuanian citizen feel more secure economically.
We should make the best use of all advantages offered by the EU single market. However, we will not be able to use it fully unless we connect energy, transport and telecommunications infrastructure networks of the new and the old Europe.
Solidarity and cohesion should remain the fundamental principles and the driving force of the well-being and political unity in an enlarged Union. They have served the purpose in the past, and we should not step aside from them in the future. The greatest mistake would be to allow the formation of the European centre and peripheries, which could appear with the growing distance between Brussels and the EU regions.
The next task, which is closely linked with our well- being and regional political stability, is the Union’s relations with its neighbours.
History has taught us that friendly and stable neighbouring regions are necessary for strong Europe.
Lithuania, the borders of which will account for one-fifth of the new EU border in the East, has a keen interest to participate in the development of relations between the EU and its new neighbours. Our duty is to share our experience in reforms and European integration with states seeking closer relations with the European Union.
The EU should be open to the new neighbours depending on the degree of their political will to integrate into Europe, harmonise their legislation with the EU acquis and to strengthen their administrative capacities. I want to believe that all EU nations will pay adequate attention to this issue, will demonstrate firm political will and provide adequate financial resources.
Thirdly, in my view, the vision of Europe that enjoys economic cohesion and lives in friendship with its neighbours should be a union of states and nations with common foreign and security policy.
Global political development requires careful co-ordination of European actions in external policy. This will demand the broad political will, new capacities and deeper integration.
In the past decades, the European Union has greatly progressed to unity. However, it seems that sometimes the Union lacks political will to develop a functioning common foreign policy. This issue was discussed at length in the Convention on the future of Europe. Difficulties that the present EU members experienced in the face of the Iraqi crisis have once again urged to tune the mechanism of the EU common foreign policy.
We often hear that in the face of the Iraqi crisis, the EU and the United States positions diverged. The candidate countries were even urged to side either with Washington or the European countries. But the very raising of this issue was wrong. It was an attempt to split America and Europe. I am convinced that a strong transatlantic link and a strong united Europe are two vital components for the European security.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Europe needs bold and wise decisions. We have to advance forward. Certainly, each of us has own vision of the future and perspectives based on national interests. But this is an advantage rather than an obstacle in the search for agreement.
May I remind you of the European interest, which has brought peace, well-being, confidence and finally more Europe to our life. Indeed, we have no other alternative but to join our efforts in order to find answers to these challenging questions.
Thank you for your attention. May I wish you fruitful discussions.
H.E. Mr. Rolandas Paksas, President of the Republic of Lithuania