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Foreign Policy Research Institute

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The visit of the President of the Republic of Lithuania Gitanas Nauseda to Kyiv once again proved that his country is not a declarative but a real strategic partner of Ukraine

The working visit of the President of the Republic of Lithuania Gitanas Nauseda to Kyiv became an important diplomatic event of March. During the visit, a number of joint events with the participation of the leaders of two states were held, and eight bilateral documents were concluded. In addition, the President of Lithuania addressed the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, and the first part of his speech he delivered in Ukrainian. Nauseda assured Ukraine of Lithuania's support for Euro-Atlantic aspirations and the territorial integrity of Ukraine, including the initiative to create the Crimean Platform.

During the visit, a meeting of the Council of Presidents chaired by Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Gitanas Nauseda was held. They discussed the implementation of reforms in Ukraine, cooperation in the field of cyber security and countering hybrid threats, the situation in Donbas, emphasized the importance of providing Ukraine with a NATO Membership Action Plan. The President of Ukraine, in particular, noted that the issue of Donbas is not only the cessation of the war, but also the deoccupation and reintegration of the temporarily occupied territories, while the ultimate goal of the Crimean Platform should be the de-occupation of Crimea. Also, the Ukrainian side informed the Lithuanian partners in detail about the infrastructure projects «Large Construction» and «Large Restoration», calling on Lithuanian companies to join public-private construction projects in Ukraine.

After the Thirteenth Meeting of the Council of Presidents of Ukraine and the Republic of Lithuania, a protocol was signed, which reflects the main agreements reached. In particular, the common position on further development of strategic relations between Ukraine and the Republic of Lithuania was confirmed. The Protocol identifies practical issues of bilateral cooperation on international and regional policy and security, cooperation between Ukraine and Lithuania within international and regional organizations. The document reaffirms the importance of further strengthening bilateral cooperation in areas of mutual interest, namely defense and security, energy, transport and logistics, education and science, culture and tourism. It also emphasizes the importance of continuing Lithuania's contribution to the implementation of Ukraine's strategic goals on EU and NATO membership.

One of the main documents signed with the Lithuanian side was the Joint Declaration of the Presidents of Ukraine and Lithuania on the European Prospect of Ukraine. The document stipulates that, in accordance with Article 49 of the Treaty on European Union, Ukraine, like any European state that respects the values enshrined in Article 2 of this Treaty and undertakes to follow them, may apply for membership in the European Union in case of compliance with all conditions and obligations. According to the Deputy Head of the Office of the President, Ihor Zhovkva, this is the first document of this content, which was concluded by Ukraine with an EU member state. In his opinion, this Declaration in the near future, along with the Association Agreement, will have a prominent place in the history of Ukraine's full membership in the European Union. After all, the Declaration not only recognizes the right of Ukraine to apply for EU membership, but also enshrines the intentions of Ukrainian and Lithuanian leaders to make efforts for Ukraine’s EU membership prospect. Furthermore, the Lithuanian party assured of its readiness to support Ukraine when it applies for membership.

At the same time, the President of Lithuania called on the Ukrainian leadership to abandon the Belarusian electricity generated in Ostrovets, as the nuclear power plant is located near the Belarusian-Lithuanian border and can be used by the Kremlin as an instrument of political pressure on Belarus and the Baltic states. The Lithuanian side expressed concern over Belarusian electricity back in February. At that time the head of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine Dmytro Kuleba stressed that the disconnection of the Ukrainian power grid from the Belarusian and Russian ones and the connection to the European one, which should take place by the end of 2023, will contribute to energy security of Ukraine, Europe in general and Lithuania in particular. And this time the presidents agreed to coordinate energy policy, including with regard to the Belarusian nuclear power plant.

Lithuania is currently one of the main international partners, supporting Ukraine's Euro-Atlantic aspirations and, in fact, lobbying its interests in Europe. According to a poll released this month by the Democratic Initiatives Foundation, Lithuania ranks fifth among the countries that Ukrainians consider to be «the biggest allies». Relations between the two countries are gradually deepening at the bilateral and multilateral levels, in particular, in cooperation with Poland. In 2008, the Ukraine-Poland-Lithuania Interparliamentary Assembly was established. Then, in 2014, the Lithuanian-Polish-Ukrainian Military Brigade named after Kostyantin Ostrozkyy was created, which during its existence participated in a number of military exercises and passed NATO certification, which confirmed the brigade's readiness to carry out peacekeeping operations in accordance with Alliance standards.[1] A new step aimed at deepening relations was the establishing of the Lublin Triangle in July last year. This regional initiative, according to the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine Dmytro Kuleba, is aimed at cooperation not only in security, but also in the field of economy, trade, investment, tourism, infrastructure, «it will be about everything that can unite our countries, to make Europe even stronger in general».

For Ukraine, the creation and interaction within this format is an opportunity to become more proactive in international relations, expand opportunities to influence political processes in Central and Eastern Europe and strengthen its authority as a reliable partner. From the very beginning, the foreign ministers of Ukraine, Poland and Lithuania began to actively cooperate within the triangle, jointly condemning the suppression of demonstrations in Minsk after the presidential elections. It is worth noting that at the initial stage the possibility of Belarus' further accession to this format was considered, but this idea has been put on hold as long as the Lukashenko regime remains in power. In addition, in parallel with the development of the political dimension, a student movement, aimed at uniting the active youth of the three participating countries appeared. The students held several conferences, which, in particular, were attended by the representatives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine and Lithuania, and Polish scientists.

It can be concluded that the «Lublin Triangle» is an ambitious regional project with prospects for further development. For Ukraine, this format is an effective tool on its Euro-Atlantic integration path, as well as an opportunity to strengthen its own subjectivity in the international arena, while this is not the case with Eastern Partnership Programme, which does not outline the ways to ensure the security of participating states and specific prospects for further accession to the European Union.

Thus, the visit of President Gitanas Nauseda was another step-in deepening relations between Lithuania and Ukraine, which correspond to the content and spirit of the strategic partnership. As a result of productive negotiations, a number of bilateral agreements were signed, the most important of which was the «Joint Declaration of Ukraine and Lithuania on the European Prospect of Ukraine». In recent years, Lithuania has become Ukraine's main lobbyist in Europe, and the signed declaration is a clear confirmation of that.