At the North

23 April 1998


by H.E. Mr. Valdas Adamkus
President of the Republic of Lithuania

Mr Secretary General,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Thank you for the privilege of meeting you at the North Atlantic Council. It is both enormous satisfaction and big responsibility.

By the will and mandate of the Lithuanian people I became President of the Republic of Lithuania. I am here to reconfirm the principle aspirations of our state and its people, which are: integration into the European and transatlantic structures, political and economic co-operation and good neighbourly relations. During my term in office, I will make every effort to ensure that Lithuania becomes a member of NATO and the EU. Our well-considered and pragmatic strategy of foreign and national security policy gives us a strong reason to believe in the feasibility of implementing the aforesaid policy.

Today we do not want the security and stability in Europe to be based on self-reliance and defensive barriers. I believe that such Europe belongs to the past. We live in a different world - the world in which security stems from openness and removal of barriers. Political and economic co-operation, good neighbourly relations, shared goals and values, as well as enhancement of the atmosphere of respect and confidence both within the region and throughout the world, are no less and most probably even more important. Since the re-establishment of independence, Lithuania has set its foreign policy on these principles.

Political developments of the recent years have proved the significance of joined, co-operation and integration oriented efforts to European security. The expanding atmosphere of confidence and good-will erodes the foundations of long-standing threats and conflicts. We seek to be an integrated part of the on-going developments. Moreover, we are in the vortex of these historic integration processes. The heads of Central and Eastern European states who assembled in Vilnius, the capital city of Lithuania, last year, declared their clear-cut determination to strengthen the atmosphere of confidence in the region which, at present, is in search of guidelines for the future. It is not only our accomplishment, but also the achievement of Europe as the whole. I want to reassure you of Lithuania's commitment to the creation of the continent that is undivided and at peace.

Ladies and Gentlemen,


In the past, heads of state designed the security maps of Europe and of the world as they saw it fit. This practise of the past should never repeat itself. I would like to emphasise therefore that the enhancement of security and stability zone should be all-inclusive and proceed without delay. Lithuania shares the feeling of success of its neighbour Poland, as well as of the Czech Republic and Hungary. It is a particular pleasure to see the Ambassadors of the three states present along with the members of the Alliance at this meeting. I am convinced that membership of these states in NATO will strengthen the Alliance and at the same time will ensure the continuity of its 'open door' policy. I hope that the Washington Summit next year will mark the conclusion of the first wave countries admittance process, as well as the further expansion of security and stability zone, which will also encompass Lithuania. There is no special Lithuanian security. There is one, common European security.

I take delight in the progress made by Lithuania and its mature, modern approach to present-day realities. Our economy is growing. In 1997, GDP increased by 6 per cent and inflation was 8.4 per cent. The confidence in Lithuania is increasing. The volume of investments has grown significantly over the recent years. During the first ten months of 1997 alone, investments into Lithuania's economy amounted to US$400 million and by now exceed US$1 billion.

Rapid economic development, increasing foreign investments and the growing competitiveness of the Lithuanian economy in the European market allowed us to increase defence spending, to modernise Lithuanian defence forces and to seek interoperability with NATO. For these purposes, the Lithuanian Parliament has significantly increased the defence budget which amounts to 1.5 per cent of GDP in 1998. It is planned to reach 2.0 per cent by the year 2000 and 2.5 per cent by 2005. Consequently, bigger funds were allocated to the acquisition of major equipment, such as anti-tank and anti-air weapons, communication systems and transport.

This month I paid my first official visit to Poland. There I witnessed the results of profound multi-faceted co-operation between Lithuania and Poland, which develops in parallel with the expanding trilateral Baltic political and economic partnership. I am personally determined to transform the Lithuanian-Polish co-operation into a still closer partnership, advancing at the same time towards the membership of the European Union and NATO and extending the benefits of practical co-operation across the region.

Maintaining good and friendly relations with Russia is one of our principal interests. Lithuania is interested to continue the active political dialogue with Russia and to develop practical, mutually beneficial co-operation within the framework of existing institutions, including the Lithuanian-Russian Inter-Governmental Commission. Recently I have put forward concrete proposals on how we could develop to a greater advantage the Lithuanian-Russian bilateral relations. They also underscore the right of Lithuania to freely choose its security arrangements. In striving for the enhancement of the atmosphere of transparency and mutual confidence, Lithuania is ready to make full use of the framework of existing mechanisms. We are prepared to effectively employ the confidence and security building measures provided by and beyond the 1994 Vienna Document of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe. We can also state that, being a member of the Alliance, Lithuania will remain to its neighbours a reliable and solid partner.

U.S. has always supported the Baltic States and we welcome U.S. interest and assurances supporting their independence, security and territorial integrity. Our shared vision of the future has guided us towards the signing of the U.S.-Baltic Charter. The active co-operation with the European Allies is very important as we prepare for membership in the EU and work towards greater interoperability in defence systems with NATO.

By recognising the progress towards greater stability and co-operation, achieved by the states in the Baltic region which are aspiring members, the Alliance has already contributed to stability and confidence in this part of Europe. But security in the Baltic Sea region cannot be addressed separately from the Euro-Atlantic integration processes and cannot be regionalised.

Lithuania participates in those areas of Partnership for Peace activities that primarily correspond to its integration goals. One of the main tasks of Lithuania's participation in the PfP programme is to achieve a high level of Lithuanian military forces' interoperability with NATO. I can note that democratic civilian control over the military forces has been established. Draft laws which are currently deliberated in our Parliament, will consolidate the already established practice.

We are well aware of the progress that should be made in certain areas in order to meet the criteria set for the membership: air defence, command, control and communication, logistics and infrastructure. We should proceed with harmonisation of our legislation relating to the Alliance's security and defence practice. Most important, we should pay an unceasing attention to the personnel policy - not only by co-ordinating our efforts, but also by training our military to think differently. We have already realised that nobody will solve our problems. However, in achieving interoperability with NATO, we appreciate the Alliance's support through the sharing of experience and providing advice. We are committed to proceed along the path of reforms. The Armed Forces Development Plan is a good guide. We are particularly interested to increase self-defence capabilities by developing small rapid-reaction units and mobilisable forces, thus making a considerable contribution to the stability in the region and in Europe.

For the fifth year, Lithuanian soldiers stand shoulder to shoulder with their American and European counterparts in the safeguard of peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina and share risk and success. Lithuania, through participation in the NATO-led peace keeping missions and by assuming the burden of difficulties, willingly pays this price for the prize of political stability and security in Europe. Lithuania welcomes discussions on a political-military framework for the NATO-led Partnership for Peace operations and the development of the CJTF concept, and is committed to make contributions to future operations. We welcome the increased role that Partners will play in decision making on Partnership for Peace issues. I am confident that following the implementation of the second round of Interoperability Objectives, agreed between Lithuania and NATO, the ability of the Lithuanian Armed Forces to contribute to the NATO-led missions will substantially increase. In this context, I can note that Lithuania is interested in the new strategic concept which, having recognised the core function of collective defence, would initiate planning and preparation of non-Article 5 missions. You can count on Lithuanian contribution.

Mr Secretary General,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

In 1944, the Soviet terror and suppressions made me leave Lithuania. I found a temporary shelter first in a war ravaged Germany, later - in the United States. I was among those who could take advantage of the possibilities offered by free society, and also share its responsibilities. The Alliance of the United States, Canada and the European countries guaranteed the security and stability of free nations, as well as ensured the growth of their well-being.

Although the Iron Curtain has separated Lithuania from the West, the Lithuanian people have retained their commitment to the values of democracy, freedom and the rule of law.

Victory of freedom over oppression and the end of the Cold War opened up the ways for our participation in the process of European unification. The NATO pioneering role in extending the hand of support and assistance to the formerly captive nations was instrumental in this process.

As we further pursue economic reforms, strengthen democracy and promote good neighbourhood, your understanding and support to our aspiration of the membership will facilitate the elimination of the last vestiges of the Cold War and will contribute to ensuring a lasting peace and stability in the Continent.

Thank you.

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