VILNIUS - Leaders of all 27 EU member states and 52 African countries were invited to the EU-Africa Summit held in Lisbon Dec. 8 - 9, an event aimed at strengthening political and economic ties between the two continents. But six nation's leaders were conspicuously absent from the events.
Presidents and prime ministers from Great Britain, Lithuania, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia and Cyprus did not attend the meeting, instead opting to send low-level delegations.
Unlike British PM Gordon Brown, who controversially boycotted the proceedings due to the presence of Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe, Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus was simply too busy to attend, according to his administration.
"His agenda did not permit him to attend the summit. He had internal commitments previously foreseen and planned, and were conflicting with the EU-Africa Summit," said the president's foreign policy advisor Simonas Satunas.
The president's press team said President Adamkus had other priorities but would not tell The Baltic Times his schedule for Dec. 8 - 9.
Meanwhile, Latvian Presi-dent Valdis Zalters and Estonian Prime Minister Andrus Ansip did attend the high-profile meeting, whose two-day agenda focused on human rights, peace and security, migration, energy, climate change, trade, infrastructure and development.
In Zalters' address to the delegation, he mentioned international human rights issues in African countries and said those who live in a totalitarian state can understand the advantages of democracy best.
"My country, Latvia, for example, was illegally incorporated into the Soviet Union for half a century. During this lengthy occupation, we were constantly made aware of what gross violations of basic rights and human rights, the lack of freedom of speech, insecurity and the prohibition on emigration mean," Zalters said.
Lithuania was represented at the summit by Laimonas Talat-Kelpsa, undersecretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Delegates in Lisbon adopted an Action Plan for 2008 - 2010 and a Joint EU-African Strategy.
"By making this step the European Union not only shows its ability to mold common policy towards neighbor regions, but also assumes initiatives to include the continent, where strategic interests of the world powers intersect, into [its] cooperation net," a statement from Talat-Kelpsa said.
The Estonian government's press service told BNS the meeting provided Estonia a good opportunity to develop ties with geographically distant countries, bilateral relations with which have so far been
The Lisbon summit was the second such forum of EU and African leaders. The first summit was held in Cairo in 2000.