EU chief calls Lithuania's support for Ukraine example, inspiration for all Europeans

  • 2024-05-09
  • BNS/TBT Staff

VILNIUS – Lithuania's support for Ukraine sets an example for Europe and serves as inspiration for Europeans, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said in Vilnius on Thursday as the nation marks the 20th anniversary of its EU membership. 

"You opened your homes to thousands of refugees, and gave them full access to your economy. You crowdfunded to buy drones and radars for the Ukrainian Armed Forces," von der Leyen said in her speech at the parliament.

"And in proportion to GDP, Lithuania is one of the largest donors to Ukraine in the whole world. You are leading Europe by the power of your example. And today you are a true inspiration for all Europeans," she said.  

According to the Commission's president, the story of Konstantin Gudauskas, a Lithuanian journalist who was allowed to move out of Ukraine's Russian-occupied territory when the war began in 2022 but chose not to flee, shows how much Lithuania "cares for Ukraine's fight for freedom". 

"Instead, he decided to travel back and forth with his car, risking his own life, to save as many people as possible. He defied Russian bombs and checkpoints, and he brought to safety over 200 Ukrainian civilians. And now they call him 'the angel of Bucha'," she said.  

Von der Leyen noted that it took Europe too long to wake up to Russia's threat. 

"For many years, Lithuania warned Europe about the dangers of a revanchist Russia. After 2014, you told us that Putin would simply not stop. And Europe should have listened! It took us too long to wake up to the threat of Putin's Russia." 

"But today our Union stands firmly at your side, for freedom and against aggression."  

In 2021, von der Leyen said, the EU's eastern member countries faced an influx of migrants from Belarus, "but Europe stood united, and together we tackled the crisis". 

"And now we are joining forces again to boost our defense industry, with legislation here in the Seimas that resonates with our European Defense Industrial Strategy," she said. 


Von der Leyen noted that over 90 percent of Lithuanians voted in favor of joining the European Union in a referendum more than 20 years ago.

"And that choice has transformed not only your country, but all of Europe. Because with your accession, our Union went back to its roots," she said.

"Your history of resistance has made the Lithuanian nation unique. Unique in your love for freedom, in your support to other freedom-loving nations, and in your aversion to any form of coercion." 

"And since you joined, you reminded us what the European project has always been about. It is about our continent's path towards freedom. It is the story of democracies, young and old, getting stronger together." 

The Commission's president said Lithuania "had always been at the center of European history". 

"You always nurtured close ties not only with your immediate neighbors, but with Scandinavia, Central Europe, and further away to the Black Sea. The Iron Curtain had made all of this impossible. But now, Lithuania has reclaimed its rightful place in Europe. And it has been a homecoming." 

Von der Leyen described Lithuania as "a strong player in Brussels and a strong partner for all other capitals" and as "movers and shakers in European politics".  

"This is a country of innovators and entrepreneurs. And your talent is now recognized across the continent. Your start-ups have expanded well beyond your borders, and conquered European markets. Your capital, Vilnius, is a growing tech hub, which attracts people and investments from abroad," she said.

Lithuania's GDP has jumped from 50 percent of the EU average to almost 90 percent, the Commission' president noted.

"Lithuania has grown faster than any other new member of our Union. You have made the most of our Single Market," she said.