Visiting Germany and Iceland

  • 2011-08-31
  • By Rokas M. Tracevskis

VILNIUS - On Aug. 24, Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite visited Germany, and from Aug. 25-27 she visited brotherly Iceland. The Icelandic visit was an expression of gratitude for Iceland which, 20 years ago, in February of 1991, was the first country to recognize the re-established independent Lithuanian state – then it provoked some hysteria from the USSR’s leaders. During the current visit, Iceland’s President Olafur Ragnar Grimsson told Grybauskaite that there are no five Nordic and three Baltic countries anymore, but instead there is a family of eight countries. However, Grybauskaite’s meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Magdeburg attracted more attention because the EU’s financial perspective for 2014-2020 was discussed.

On Aug. 24, Merkel was awarded the Keiser Otto Prize in the Magdeburg Cathedral for her contribution to the further integration of Europe and, on the same day, the magazine Forbes ranked her the “most powerful woman in the world,” although many observers in the EU complain that the EU now lacks visionary politicians who would not be afraid to go against the narrow-minded electorate’s opinion. “I reject euro bonds because they are not a solution for this crisis,” Merkel said in her speech in the Magdeburg Cathedral – indeed, the euro probably needs a united EU fiscal policy first (and maybe the kicking out from the eurozone some of the EU’s southern countries), but no decisive steps are made in this direction yet.

At the award ceremony in Magdeburg, Grybauskaite gave the ceremony’s principal speech, the Laudatio. “I can honestly say that the future of not only Germany, but also of Europe as a whole, rests on her shoulders,” Grybauskaite said about Merkel.
Both leaders had a conversation about the EU’s financial perspective for 2014-2020, which is still debated inside the EU. On Aug. 25, Lithuanian Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius, commenting on the Magdeburg meeting, emphasized that French farmers still get more than twice higher EU subsidies for their production than Lithuanian farmers, which distorts competition inside the EU. “Such inequality between the so-called new EU countries, or the Central European countries, and the old EU states should disappear as soon as possible,” Kubilius said. He also pointed out that, according to the current, not yet final, EU financial framework for 2014-2020, only 400 million euros, instead of the required 900 million euros, are allotted for the closure of the old Ignalina nuclear plant – Kubilius promised a tough fight for an increase of this sum because the old nuke was closed on the initiative of the EU.

According to Lithuanian Foreign Minister Audronius Azubalis, Lithuanian-German relations are as good as ever before. Thanks to Germany (and the USA, of course) and despite (according to Wikileaks) resistance from Poland, the NATO defense plan for the Baltic States was officially adopted last year. The German Foreign Ministry consults with Vilnius before each German-Russian meeting, according to Azubalis.

It is a sharp contrast to the Germany of Chancellor Helmut Kohl. This August, the German magazine Der Spiegel published Kohl’s phone conversations with Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev from 1990-1991, where Kohl advised Gorbachev to keep the Baltic States within the USSR and, in another conversation that took place five days after the Soviet army-perpetrated killings of civilians in Vilnius on Jan. 13, 1991, Kohl told Gorbachev that the latter did the right thing. Since then, Lithuanian-German relations changed dramatically - Merkel said in Magdeburg that she would like to visit Lithuania’s resorts in the Curonian Spit next summer.