A BRIGHT FUTURE IS THIS WAY: On April 8, Lithuanian Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius, along with 10 other presidents and prime ministers of Eastern and Central Europe, met with U.S. President Barack Obama.
VILNIUS - U.S. President Barack Obama invited the presidents of Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, and Romania, as well as the prime ministers of Poland, Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Croatia, Hungary, Slovakia and Slovenia to attend a dinner with him in Prague on April 8. The new nuclear disarmament treaty with Russia was signed by Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on the same day in Prague. Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite was the only person among the invited who refused to go, and the U.S. side was asked by Lithuanian diplomats to send a new invitation addressed to Lithuanian Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius. He went to Prague.
The official explanation of Grybauskaite’s refusal was the fact that prime ministers, not presidents, dominate among the invited. However, on March 25-26, during the European Council’s session in Brussels, Lithuania was represented by Grybauskaite, though only French, Romanian and Cypriot presidents went there while the rest of the 23 European Union countries were represented by prime ministers. The EU countries decide themselves who should represent them at the European Council - there are no personal invitations to such sittings.
During the press conference of April 9 in the Lithuanian government, Kubilius looked quite happy about his meeting with Obama. He expressed his satisfaction with Obama’s reassurance that the U.S. will play its role in Europe.
“History teaches us: in case of diminished participation of the U.S. in European affairs, a dangerous vacuum appears in Europe. I mean Europe, in a wider sense, including Russia,” Kubilius said.
There was a non-official murmur in Brussels expressing dissatisfaction that no representative of the EU institutions was invited to the U.S. president’s meeting with such a large number of leaders of EU states. Grybauskaite, who has very close relations with the EU institutions, probably decided that it is not worth heating the jealousy of ‘old Europe’ to ‘new Europe’ (using terminology by former U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld) especially now, when Russia, facing various threats from Islamic extremism and the growing economic superpower of China, has started to show some gestures of goodwill towards the West, including Poland and Lithuania.
Kubilius justified Obama’s choice of the invited countries. “The nuclear disarmament treaty, signed 20 years after the Cold War, has a direct link with the invited countries because we were the main victims of the Cold War,” Kubilius said.
Kubilius also said that he spoke with Obama about Chicago and basketball. “I told him that Chicago is the city with the biggest Lithuanian-origin population in the world. I didn’t check it, but I told him this,” Kubilius said, adding that “basketball is very important to Obama and he knows famous Lithuanian players.”