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Mystery surrounds 'Snow Summit'

  • 2008-01-23
  • By Laima Vaiga
VILNIUS - Over 20 high-level politicians, diplomats, foreign policy strategists and analysts from European and NATO countries gathered in Trakai Jan. 17 - 18 for an informal meeting to discuss challenges to Euro-Atlantic dialogue.
Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus, the Latvian, Swedish and Polish foreign ministers, the Czech deputy prime minister, analysts from the UK, Italy, U.S., France, Romania and Germany, and representatives of the EU attended.

Joseph R. Wood, Deputy Assistant to U.S. Vice-President for National Security Affairs, and Daniel Fried, Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs, represented the U.S. at the meeting.
The goal of the summit was to consolidate debates about NATO and EU policy on the most topical issues in the Euro-Atlantic strategic community, the Lithuanian Foreign Ministry announced in a Jan. 18. press release. The agenda also covered energy security, relations with Russia and resolution of so-called "frozen conflicts."

Dubbed the "Snow Summit," the meeting was the first of its kind, yet very little information about the event was released due to its informal nature. Many participants preferred to remain unnamed.
One of the few sources of information about the event was a Foreign Ministry press release that conveyed Lithuania's pride in hosting the event without revealing the substance of the discussions.
"We are happy that so many high-level thinkers accepted our invitation. First of all, this illustrates that Lithuania is acknowledged and appreciated in Europe and the U.S. as a reliable initiator and implementer of events of this nature. On the other hand, this also shows that the Euro-Atlantic community needs these sorts of discussions," Foreign Minister Petras Vaitiekunas said in the Jan. 18 release.

The Baltic Times spoke to Violeta Gaizauskaite, director of the Foreign Ministry's Department of Information and Public Relations, who was able to provide some background on the event.
"For the purposes of free discussion, all participants were invited as private persons, representing their personal view on problems," said Gaizauskaite.
"The informal discussion that took place in Lithuania is in many ways unique," she said, noting that the idea to have such a meeting was a purely Lithuanian initiative.

Gaizauskaite said the goal of the meeting was to generate ideas for reviewing NATO and EU political strategy rather than to adopt specific decisions, that the objectives were met and that ideas born in Trakai genuinely enriched defense and foreign policy strategists' debates on most important issues.
"All the participants considered the meeting in Trakai particularly successful," Gaizauskaite said.
Lithuanian foreign policy analysts had previously noted that Euro-Atlantic integration in Eastern Europe and the Southern Caucasus is stalling and expressed their hope this meeting would revive them, BNS reported.
For his part, Vaitiekunas called for the international dialog to continue.
"I hope that the debates that started in Trakai will be continued and such informal meetings will take place in various EU and NATO countries," the foreign minister said.
The Lithuanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs also used the occasion of the meeting to hand awards to several of the participants.

"The Star of Lithuania's Millennium" awards were given to those who considerably contributed to the adoption of the Baltic-U.S. Charter 10 years ago. The recipients were Wood, Fried and U.S. analysts and NGO leaders Ronald Asmus, Bruce Jackson, Stephen Larrabee and Robert Nurick.
Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski and Director of Polish Presidential Office Mariusz Handzlik received badges of honor for strengthening of Polish-Lithuanian partnership.
Edward Lucas, deputy editor of the Economist, also received an award for strengthening strategic transatlantic partnership.

The meeting's participants were also received by Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus and Prime Minister Gediminas Kirkilas.