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Reviews

Opinions 2013 11 13

G. Kirkilas. The real problem in foreign policy – the lack of consensus

For more than a decade the politicians at least from the major Lithuanian political parties have kept the certain consensus regarding the major priorities of foreign and security policy, which became the major factor of the country’s success in integration to the EU and NATO.

Today, Lithuania as the Presidency country of the EU Council explains the necessity of such consensus to Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia and the other partners, and this is what is right.

We share our experience. Those countries do not have another way, because they are influenced by various external factors. The similar trends persisted during the integration of the Baltic countries into the EU.

Finally, without the wide domestic political consensus the EU partners practically do not have opportunities effectively to reform their economies, smoothly to adopt the European values or successfully to integrate the EU laws into their law systems. Lithuania as well as Latvia, Estonia and other Central European countries behaved similarly during their integration process.

However, today situation is no good, because we ourselves gradually are losing such consensus. I can't say that it happens in all the areas. For example, in the case of the Eastern Partnership as well as of the Lithuanian EU Presidency in general, the ruling coalition and opposition still keep the consensus and co-operation, and this is very important.

Nevertheless, it is evident that, for instance, in the case of Russia's pressure, which, as many experts agree, is related to the Presidency, we do not only have such consensus, we confront each other.

Why? In my opinion, there are several reasons. First, after joining the EU and NATO the country's major political parties have not clearly formulated the new priorities. For example, the tradition of signing the all parties agreement regarding the foreign and security policy before the Seimas elections 2008 were for some reasons blocked by the Conservatives, despite the fact that such agreements had been effective since 2000.

The other reason – after losing such consensus the too significant differences in the parties' positions regarding the neighbourhood, especially in the case of Russia, have arose.

Moreover, the part of these questions have been in the domestic political agenda for a long time and even in the electoral campaigns. The so called competition of patriotism was launched, the accusations regarding betrayals towards each other were renewed and etc. In other words, unfortunately we do not have the full consensus among the parties regarding foreign and security policy, as well as regarding the neighbourhood. All this respectively affects all the state institutions – they have lost the necessary interaction and integrity, and here the quarrels, who is responsible for what, arise.  

Here, the Conservatives are especially prominent, especially recently they tend to explain all the domestic questions using the Russia's factor. Even if it is partially true (although only partially),  securing the consensus remains necessary. At least externally we have to be more or less united and keep solidarity, because only then our voice will be strong. And in the opposite case, the unfriendly countries, knowing our weaknesses, will exploit them. Therefore, the outcome is contrary – those politicians, who worry too much about the Russia's influence and criticise each other in the domestic politics, in reality weaken the Lithuanian positions externally.
Have we maybe exaggerated the importance of domestic political consensus in the case of foreign and security policy? Maybe do we not need such consensus? We do have the ruling majority, the responsible institutions, don't we? Can we allow to ourselves a luxury to waste resources, to lose the power of interaction among the various state institutions? I think, no, because the EU enlargement is geopolitical, very significant and long process with various – and not always positive – implications and challenges.

The other question – is it realistic today to reach such consensus again? From the today's perspective, this does not seem feasible. However, to aim is necessary, we just need a political will and unifying leadership.

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