Lithuanian PM urges EU to open 'real' membership talks with Ukraine, Moldova by July

  • 2024-05-13
  • BNS/TBT Staff

VILNIUS – Lithuanian Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte on Monday called on the European Union to open "real" membership talks with Ukraine and Moldova by the end of the first half of the year. 

"We must start real negotiations on EU membership for Ukraine and Moldova as soon as possible – in this half-year," Simonyte told reporters after a meeting with her Estonian and Latvian counterparts in Vilnius.

"We must keep our promise to the people of Ukraine and Moldova and use this historic moment to expand Europe's space of success for our own security, among other reasons," she added.

Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda has said that EU membership negotiations with Ukraine and Moldova must start in June this year.

The three Baltic prime ministers met in Vilnius on Monday as Lithuania takes over the presidency of the Baltic Council of Ministers.

According to Simonyte, the three leaders also discussed security and defense of the Baltic region, support for Ukraine, sanctions against Russia and Belarus, and the implementation of regional infrastructure projects.

"Our countries share the same view of the situation; the security of our region is directly linked to Ukraine's victory and we can't get tired. I believe that we'll not get tired of helping Ukraine in its fight," she said. 

The Lithuanian prime minister said that the EU has to continue to step up pressure on Russia and Belarus, expand its sanctions against the aggressor, and look for ways to prevent their circumvention.

According to Simonyte, Russia's economic performance indicates that the bloc's sanctions are effective and have a "direct and long-term impact."

"We agreed on the need to continue to increase pressure, to strengthen Russia's international isolation, to consistently tighten sanctions, to mobilize efforts in the region, in the EU and globally to prevent attempts to circumvent the sanctions," she said. 

Simonyte said that the Baltic leaders also agreed that at NATO's summit in Washington. D.C. in July, the three countries will have to "demonstrate unity in beefing up defense capabilities", and to implement their defense plans "in accordance with all criteria".

"At least 2 pct of GDP (on defense funding in NATO countries) is not a ceiling, but an absolutely necessary minimum. This is what all allies must allocate to defense," she said.

According to the Lithuanian leader, NATO countries need to agree on how to boost the defense industry and step up cooperation with the Indo-Pacific region. 

Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas said that Western allies must find ways to use frozen Russian funds to support Ukraine, and that it is also important for the EU to impose its 14th package of sanctions "as soon as possible".

In her opinion, the EU's next long-term budget should give more attention to defense financing and promoting the defense industry.

"That is why we are also need to quickly find ways to raise capital to boost European defense industry, this being defense bonds or any other alternative," she told reporters in Vilnius.

Latvian Prime Minister Evika Silina said after the meeting that the three Baltic countries agreed on common priorities and actions in the run-up to NATO's Washington summit.

"Stronger deterrence and defense remains the top priority," she said. "This needs NATO unity, more allied military presence in the eastern flank, more military industry, high readiness," she said. 

The Baltic Council of Ministers, the coordinating body for cooperation among the Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian governments, was established in Tallinn in 1994.